Feline Hyperesthesia – What on Earth is That?

We’ve all seen our cats get twitchy and hyperactive from time to time, however, occasionally, it’s not normal behavior for a cat. Some cats may suffer from a rare disorder known as feline hyperesthesia, or “twitchy cat syndrome.” According to Dr. Karen Becker, feline hyperesthesia causes the skin on your cat’s back to ripple uncontrollably, along with other problems.

Signs and symptoms of feline hyperesthesia

With feline hyperesthesia, your cat may turn towards his tail and lick frantically, or even bite at it, like he would if he’d just gotten a bug bite. He might also take off running suddenly and out of the blue, like something’s after him. This happens all the time, not just the sometimes that we’re all used to with “kitty chaos hour.”

Your cat might also suffer from twitches and even muscle spasms with this disorder, and he’ll lick and bite repeatedly at his back, tail, and even his hind legs, according to PetMD. His eyes may be dilated during an episode, and he’ll behave in an agitated manner. He may also be very intolerant of your petting and scratching his back and tail; that could be the biggest sign that there’s something more going on than normal “kitty chaos hour.”

PetMD says that symptoms appear and disappear in episodes, and that your cat will behave normally between episodes. A veterinary exam usually uncovers nothing – no neurological disorders or problems, or anything obvious that could cause feline hyperesthesia. However, your vet will probably see damaged hair follicles, which result from your cat’s violent licking and biting.

Diagnosis and treatment

Dr. Becker says that diagnosis of feline hyperesthesia first involves ruling out other causes, such as flea allergy dermatitis, or severe dry skin problems. Sometimes, your cat might actually have an underlying seizure disorder that’s causing the problem. Also, cats with feline hyperesthesia may have lesions on the muscles along their backs, which could cause the sensation your cat is desperately trying to get rid of.

Your vet should do a full blood workup, perform a physical, and do other tests as needed to rule out various causes. Feline hyperesthesia can only be diagnosed once all other problems have been ruled out.

Keep in mind that, just because you see your cat’s back ripple, and he suddenly takes off running sometimes, doesn’t mean he’s got feline hyperesthesia. You’ll need to keep an eye out for other symptoms, particularly intolerance to having his back touched and scratched, and baldness from over-grooming or pulling fur out. However, if your cat does have feline hyperesthesia, treatment involves reducing his stress as much as possible.

Smoking Harms Cats, Too – What Can You Do?

Do you smoke? We know that smoking causes cancer, and that secondhand smoke is harmful, particularly to children. Did you know that smoking harms cats, too? Cats that live in houses where someone smokes are more prone to certain health problems, including obesity and certain types of cancers. Increasing numbers of smokers are conscious of the health risks to their families, but may not think that smoking harms cats in their houses, too.

Researchers are studying how smoking harms cats

An ongoing study at the University of Glasgow is documenting the health risks that smoking poses to cats. Dogs apparently can handle quite a bit of smoke before experiencing serious health issues, but cats are just the opposite. Even a little bit of smoking harms cats in profound ways. Clare Knottenbelt, one of the researchers involved in this study, said:

“This may be due to the extensive self-grooming that cats do, as this would increase the amount of smoke (chemicals) taken in to the body.”

Tobacco smoke does tend to linger on surfaces, along with all the chemicals in the smoke, and so cats are doing more than inhaling it. They’re ingesting it when they groom. Dogs don’t groom the way that cats do, so they wouldn’t take in the smoke the same way. In fact, this problem gets worse when smokers don’t wash their hands before handling their cats, because they transfer even more of the chemicals to their cats’ coats.

Another way that smoking harms cats is by causing lung damage. It can also contribute to, or exacerbate, asthma in both cats and dogs. There’s anecdotal evidence suggesting that these problems improve when pet parents quit smoking altogether.

What can you do if you’re a smoker?

Because smoking harms cats so much, doctors and vets recommend that smokers take the same precautions they would with their children. Don’t smoke indoors, and wash your hands after you smoke, and before you handle your cat. Quitting is, obviously, the best solution, but takes time. Be very careful with your cat if you smoke, so you can help keep her as healthy as possible, and consider quitting, for your sake, your family’s, and your pet’s sake.

WATCH Adorable Pets Reenact Christmas Films (VIDEO)

If you’re looking for some holiday cheer involving pets, look no further than this adorable YouTube video of cats and dogs re-creating Christmas classics. In this cute video, you’ll see cats and dogs dressed up as Santa, elves, the kids from “The Polar Express,” and even Kevin and the Sticky Bandits from “Home Alone.” If nothing else, seeing pets reenact Christmas films is a great way to get a good chuckle during the hectic pace of the holiday season.

Where did this video come from? SheKnows, a media company dedicated to empowering women, partnered with the Humane Society of New York and Petsmart for this venture, to encourage people to adopt a pet during this holiday season. As you watch these pets reenact Christmas films, remember all the unwanted pets that languish in shelters all year long.

Which pets reenact Christmas films here?

The pets used in the films aren’t necessarily pets up for adoption – many have their own social media pages on Instagram, along with their own email addresses. A few even have their own websites. These famous pets reenact Christmas films like “Elf,” “Love Actually,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “A Christmas Story,” “Frozen” (okay that’s not quite a holiday favorite yet), “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and more, all with hilariously and adorably altered names befitting their remade status. Watch it below:

Okay, so each reenactment isn’t really much of a reenactment. It’s more just some filming of cats and dogs in cute holiday costumes that sort of approach what was worn in each film. Nevertheless, for a couple of minutes tonight, watching pets reenact Christmas films would be a great way to take a quick break from all that cooking, baking and wrapping you’re doing.

If you are thinking of adopting a pet this holiday season as a gift for someone else, it’s important to understand that this can be a monumentally bad idea if it’s not done right. If you want to make a pet a gift, make sure that your intended recipient actually wants a pet, and is ready to care for one for its entire life. Take them to the shelter with you to pick it out. Yes, that takes the surprise factor out of it, but it’s never a good idea to surprise people with pets. This includes giving your children pets as gifts.

This little film is considerably shorter than any actual Christmas film, so it’s much, much easier to fit into your holiday schedule. So bring the whole family around and watch these adorable pets reenact Christmas films, even for just a couple of minutes.

Star Wars Cats Getting Jedi Training

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened on Dec. 18 to eager fans and rave reviews, along with pleas all over social media to not spoil the film for those of us who haven’t seen it yet. We’ve all also been dealing with all things Star Wars in commercials, as everyone has been capitalizing on the release of the long-awaited Episode VII. You probably wouldn’t have thought that cats would get much out of this, but apparently, there are cats getting Jedi training out there.

Wait, what? Cats getting Jedi training? Come on.

To be sure, the cats getting Jedi traning aren’t really, but they are getting “training” and playtime courtesy of Master Yoda, the great Jedi master himself, in this hilarious video. Yoda’s lightsaber is acting as a wand toy in this video, and the cats getting Jedi training are actually a bit bemused by it. Watch below:

What better way to celebrate Star Wars and give your cat some much needed playtime than something like this? If you think your cat would make a great Padawan, and later on, an amazing full-fledged Jedi knight, then perhaps Master Yoda is exactly who you need.

Introducing your cats to Master Yoda

Be sure to introduce your cat to Master Yoda slowly; cats, even Jedi cats, need time to get used to something new, and even more time if it’s going to move and make sounds, as Master Yoda does. The last thing you want to do if you’d like to see your cats getting Jedi training is to scare them. Don’t forget to tie something you’d find on a wand toy to his lighsaber so they have something to go after.

The toy itself is available at Amazon, and it’s battery-powered, so you can sit back and watch your cats getting Jedi training…at least until the batteries run out. Keep in mind that your cats still need your direct interaction, despite what Master Yoda can do, and this might not be the best toy to leave on while you’re not home. If you want to see your cats getting Jedi training, though, then make sure your cats get the absolute best Jedi training there is.

Cats at Christmas: The Joy, the Fun, and Everything Else

Cats don’t necessarily ruin Christmas, but they can make it a lot more interesting. They unravel the bows and ribbons on the presents. They knock ornaments off the tree, or sometimes just flat-out knock the tree down. They might try to eat your Christmas cookies and they’re almost guaranteed to try and eat your Christmas dinner. What’s a beleaguered cat parent to do with cats at Christmas?

One way to handle cats at Christmas

Chris Poole, parent of the famous Cole & Marmalade, has one answer for what to do with cats at Christmas. He decided to write a story about his cats at Christmas, and provide some entertaining video footage to boot.

Dealing with our own cats at Christmas

This year, we’re not putting up our big tree because we no longer have a big tree. I’m not even sure we’re putting up the small tree, because we’re going out of town for Christmas and not taking the cats with us. Anybody have any idea what our cats will do to Christmas decorations when left all alone for the vast majority of the day? Yeah. We don’t want to think about it either.

The last time we just didn’t want to put up with our cats at Christmas was 2009, when Chase and Kali were a pair of rambunctious little kittens that were able to get into anything and everything, and made a point of doing so. Both of us were working outside the house at the time, and we really didn’t like the idea of coming home to a tipped-over Christmas tree with shattered ornaments everywhere.

If you have trouble dealing with your cats at Christmas, there are some things you can do. You can put up a cat-safe Christmas tree, along with other cat-safe decorations, so if your cats get into them it’s not that big a deal. You can also anchor your Christmas tree to the wall with wire in order to keep it standing no matter what your cats try and do.

But cats can be so much fun at Christmas, too

Even with all this, having cats at Christmas can be a lot of fun. When I was a kid, we had one cat that loved to play in all the ripped-up wrapping paper after we were done opening presents on Christmas morning. She was hilarious; she’d jump into the big pile of paper and disappear. It happened every Christmas.

Cats like to help with the cooking, and they like to keep us company on cold nights. They love helping us wrap presents, and even if they get in the way, their antics provide the light of amusement on cold, dark, winter nights. So, despite the problems, having cats at Christmas is a delight to treasure every year.

6 Reasons Why Cats are Awesome in Winter

It’s winter. It’s cold. For many of us, it’s dreary. The days are short, the nights are long, and it’s annoyingly cloudy all the time. Even with Christmas coming, winter is a difficult time of year. If you have cats, though, they can help you muddle through. Here are six reasons why cats are awesome in winter.

1. They’re warm and soft

One reason cats are awesome in winter is because they’re so warm and soft. Chase and Kali absolutely love to sleep with us, and there’s nothing more comforting on a cold night than crawling into a bed that already has a warm spot down by our feet. Cats’ high body temperature means that their warmth is good for even the coldest feet.

2. Their tails are warm, too

This is especially true of longer-haired cats. Have you ever had your kitty come and sit down with her tail across your feet? Have you ever noticed how warm it is? Cats, especially Maine Coons, Norwegian Forests, and other cold-weather breeds, have those long, fluffy tails for a reason. It helps keep them warm in cold weather. Chase, Kali and Aria all have these fluffy tails and they’re fantastic for warming up my cold feet.

3. Their unconditional love can help combat winter blues

I actually suffer from major depression, but it’s worse in the winter. Others suffer from seasonal affective disorder, which is depression in the winter. Depression is serious, and a cat isn’t a cure for it. However, nearly everybody gets a case of winter blues at some point, and this is another reason why cats are awesome in winter. It’s hard to be unhappy when your cat is gazing adoringly into your eyes and purring quietly as you pet her. Even if the uplift is temporary, it’s better than nothing.

4. Their antics are incredibly funny

Kali might be six years old, but she still does the sideways dance when she’s hopped up. Aria suckles on blankets in the oddest positions. Gizmo chases her tail. Chase comes running down the stairs with hair ties in his mouth. All of this silliness, fleeting though it is, can also help to life me out of a funk.

5. Cats are awesome in winter because of those antics, and this…

If you have a shorthaired cat, like Gizmo, you know she gets cold easily. Gizmo will sleep in a tightly curled ball, but if she can get into a blanket, or under a jacket or some other article of clothing, she will. So will Kali. There isn’t much more that’s amusing than walking into a room and seeing a blanket moving around on its own.

6. They will also seek you out for warmth

Our cats tend to be more cuddly in the winter, because they want to steal our body heat. What I’ve noticed, though, is that while our cats are trying to steal my body heat, I’m benefiting from theirs. I also get the added pleasure of having a cat cuddling on me and feeling their ears go from cold to warm. Cats are awesome in winter because of this mutual body heat theft.

What are some reasons you think cats are awesome in winter?

How to Relieve Your Cat’s Dry Skin in Winter

Winter dry skin doesn’t just affect us. It can also affect our pets. Cats can suffer from winter itch just as easily as we can due to the dry air, and even drier heat in our houses. While you probably treat your dry skin with various lotions and moisturizers, you can’t really do the same with your cat. What are some ways you can alleviate your cat’s dry skin?

Things you can do at home to help your cat’s dry skin

The biggest and most important thing you can do for your cat is avoid bathing her at this time of year unless it’s absolutely necessary for some reason. Any soap you can use will strip her skin and fur of much-needed oils, exactly the way soaps strip your skin of oils. Her skin can also get flaky if you bathe her at this time of year. The best treatment for a cat’s dry skin is actually prevention, so don’t bathe her unless you absolutely have to.

Regular brushing also helps to reduce a cat’s dry skin, because it removes dry, dead hair and dander. Dead fur and skin can accumulate, even though cats groom themselves, and cause discomfort and itching. The drier her skin, the more dead fur and skin can accumulate in her coat. So help her out by brushing her regularly.

Another way you can relieve and prevent your cat’s dry skin is with a high-quality diet. We feed our cats a homemade raw diet that has a lot of water and some fish oil in it. Water helps keep our cats hydrated, while the fish oil helps maintain healthy levels of skin oils. You don’t have to feed your cat a raw diet to relieve her dry skin, but a feeding her a high-quality, wet food can do wonders for her, especially in the winter.

Remember, your cat’s dry skin may not be winter itch

If you see your cat scratching a lot, don’t assume that it’s just winter itch, especially if the scratching isn’t normal for her. She could have an underlying medical condition or a parasite that’s causing the problem. Inspect her fur and skin in the areas she seems to be scratching, to see if there’s a rash, a bite, or anything that might indicate a problem.

Also, if she’s scratching so much that she’s cutting herself, or giving herself bald spots, then there’s a problem. In any case, if you even think your cat’s dry skin might actually be something else, it’s important to call your vet. Skin conditions, parasites and other problems can’t be cured with brushing and diet. But if there’s nothing wrong, then the steps above can go a long way towards helping her with her dry skin.

Why do Cats Live Longer than Dogs?

The average lifespan of a domestic cat is 15 years these days, while the average lifespan of a dog is 13 years. We’ve known for a long time that cats generally live longer than dogs, but what we didn’t know until recently is just why that is, and it’s a little confusing because the general trend is that the larger the animal, the longer it lives. Most dogs are bigger than cats, and don’t live as long. Why do cats live longer than dogs?

If you’re curious like me, you’ve wondered why cats live longer than dogs many times. You might have cats and dogs and wondered that, or, like me, you’ve had small pets, too, like rabbits, and figured it out on your own that size and lifespan seemed to be connected. Regardless, I’ve been curious about this for awhile, as one of our cats, Gizmo, approaches the age of 15.

There’s research that explains why cats live longer than dogs

Research suggests that cats live longer than dogs because of their solitary nature. Dogs are pack animals. They live in groups, they travel in groups, they raise their young in groups. Cats, by contrast, live in colonies in some places, but in the true wild, prefer solitude. That cuts down on the spread of disease, resulting in a longer lifespan.

Another factor is cats’ sharp claws and natural agility. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I bear the scars of cats that were unhappy with me for whatever reason. I know what their claws and teeth do, and I’m pretty sure that you do, too.

Compare their teeth and claws to what dogs have. Dogs’ teeth and jaws are frightening and will cause considerable injury. They don’t have the needle-sharp claws that cats do, however; their natural defenses are limited to what they can do with their powerful jaws. Cats’ one additional defense makes them formidable enemies, and is a contributing factor to why cats live longer than dogs.

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Peterson

Why do pet cats live longer than pet dogs?

None of that really explains why house cats live longer than domestic dogs, though. The factor there may be that the breeding we’ve done with dogs, compared to what we haven’t done with cats, has shortened the lifespan of dogs. Dogs have been domesticated far longer than cats, and their breeds are far more disparate than cats.

When it comes to cat breeds, we’ve only been actively breeding for certain traits in cats for a little more than a century. They’ve only been domesticated for about 8,000 years, compared to the 30,000 or so for dogs. What we’ve done with dogs could easily contribute to why cats live longer than dogs, because certain dog breeds are prone to certain health problems.

So there are several reasons why cats live longer than dogs, despite the fact that most dogs are bigger than most domestic cats. As far as nature goes, it’s a bit of an anomaly, but makes some sense when you look at the reasons for it.

How to Make a Cat-Safe Christmas Tree

Christmas is coming, which means putting up trees and decorations that your cats love, and perhaps that they love knocking down. If you’re like me, then if you’ve got kittens in your house, you might actually be worried about putting up your tree this year. Never fear, though. There are ways to enjoy your tree and still have a cat-safe Christmas.

Christmas trees can be a problem for playful cats and kittens

In 2009, when Chase and Kali were just rambunctious three-month old kittens, we decided not to put up the Christmas tree because we were worried they would knock it down and hurt themselves while we were at work for the day. We were scared that they’d break the glass ornaments and get cut, and we wouldn’t find out about it until they were going to need trips to the vet to get the broken glass removed. In short, we felt that putting the tree up would be a monumentally bad idea, so we didn’t do it.

We actually didn’t put up any decorations that year, to protect both the decorations, and the kittens. These days, we put up the tree, and our cats love to lie underneath. We have to be careful about what ornaments we put on the lower branches, though, because they will knock them off. Some people also secure their trees to the wall or ceiling to keep their cats from knocking the tree over entirely.

Putting up a cat-safe-Christmas tree

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a cat-safe Christmas without worrying about these things? Cat Channel has a story that’s a how-to for how to build a cat-safe Christmas tree that your cats can even climb, to a degree. You should use an artificial tree (because live trees can be toxic to cats in several ways), and you can build or put platforms, or even a cat tree, right next to it so your cats can “climb” it safely.

Cat Channel recommends not putting lights on this tree, and using soft ornaments that won’t break, and also that you won’t miss if kitty claws see fit to damage them. In fact, writer Katrina Lotz recommends using cat toy ornaments, which you can find at Petsmart. That way, they can withstand your cats’ playfulness, and are safe no matter how much they’re batted, clawed, chewed, and knocked across the floor.

Lotz also strongly recommends avoiding or removing the lights from this tree, because cats like to chew the wires. A truly cat-safe Christmas tree will have no lights, and it also won’t have any tinsel on it (that includes tinsel garlands). Both of these are dangerous for cats.

You can have a cat-safe Christmas without limiting your decorations too much, if you know how to adapt some of them to your cats so they can enjoy them with abandon, but without danger. Follow these tips, and see how your cats treat your new, cat-safe Christmas tree this year.

Kitty Convict Project – Is YOUR Cat A Convict?

Is your kitty a convict? None of mine are, but they should be. Matt Inman, the creator of The Oatmeal, has created what he calls The Kitty Convict Project, and it is why your kitty should be a convict. The Kitty Convict Project aims to get parents of indoor-only cats to “dress” their cats in orange, so that they’re better seen and identified if they escape.

What on earth is the Kitty Convict Project trying to do?

By “dress” your cat, The Kitty Convict Project means put an orange collar or scarf on your cat, complete with her ID tags (like a convict). Orange is bright and reflective, and makes a cat hiding in bushes or undergrowth easier to see. Why is this so important? Because every year, 7 million pets go missing. 26 percent of dogs are found, though, while less than 5 percent of cats are found.

This disparity is partly because more dogs wear collars, but also because cats are harder to see. It’s also because we don’t often see stray dogs running around, while we all see stray cats. When someone sees a cat without a collar, they’re likely to just assume that it’s a stray. If it’s a dog, they’ll try and find out to whom it belongs.

The Kitty Convict Project also says the disparity is because cats are harder to see. Orange doesn’t blend in very well with natural surroundings, and people who see something orange in the bushes may go investigate. An owned cat that’s hiding is frightened, but she may come to you if she’s familiar with people.

This is as opposed to a feral cat, which a) won’t have a collar of any sort, and b) will run from you no matter what.

Now you know what color collar to get your indoor-only cat

I’m guilty of not having my cats wear collars and ID tags, even though it’s always a good idea. They are microchipped, but a collar with an ID tag plus a microchip is a your best chance of getting your lost cat home again. When we do get collars for our cats (and we will get them), they’ll be orange, so that if they escape, they have a better chance of getting seen.

To see what The Kitty Convict Project is trying to do in full, check out this neat infographic on their website.


Images courtesy of the Kitty Convict Project