‘Cat Wars’ Has Grisly ‘Solution’ To Free-Range Cats

There’s a book out called “Cat Wars,” and it actually calls for killing all free-ranging cats because they kill wildlife. The authors advocate killing “in the name of conservation,” and it’s true that domestic cats are an invasive species here. When has killing in the name of conservation ever worked, though? When did it ever jibe with conservation?

“Cat Wars” wants mass extermination “by any means necessary.”

Image by genocre, under Public Domain via Pixabay

I freely admit I haven’t read this book, and I’m going entirely off of this HuffPo story on it. “Cat Wars” was written by two avowed bird lovers and cat haters. These two are particularly scary when they talk about solutions to our problems with free-ranging cats:

“From a conservation ecology perspective, the most desirable solution seems clear—remove all free-ranging cats from the landscape by any means necessary.”

That phrase, “by any means necessary,” is particularly troubling in “Cat Wars.” They want unregulated and indiscriminate killing of free-range cats. Free-range cats aren’t just feral cats, either – they’re owned, outdoor cats and community cats that have caretakers.

It’s truly disheartening that there even has to be a war between cat lovers and bird lovers. We should be working with each other to solve the problem, not polarizing ourselves over it. And yet, here’s “Cat Wars,” making the issue even more polarizing. How? They demonize cat people as people who don’t care about wildlife or the environment, and they call for mass extermination.

I personally know very few cat people who don’t deeply care about either subject.

Does “Cat Wars” even address other methods for controlling and reducing cat populations?

I don’t know. I do know, from my own research, that the best methods for reducing the number of birds and other wildlife that free-ranging cats kill are all humane methods. First, there’s trap, neuter, return (TNR) for feral and community cats. There are also collars that are big and brightly colored, or that have bells or make other loud noises for owned, outdoor cats.

How anybody can claim to be an animal lover of any type, and advocate killing one species to save another, is beyond me. These people are massive hypocrites in my opinion. If they were truly interested in conservation, and feel the above methods are ineffective, they’d work with other experts to find better methods of reducing the free-ranging cat population.

If we could keep all cats indoors at all times, that would be ideal. It’s not realistic. Neither is the mass killing that “Cat Wars” wants.

I keep all my cats indoors – the only things they can hunt are bugs. While I strongly believe that keeping cats indoors is best, the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t work for every cat. It’s also a fact that even cats that have been indoor-only cats their entire lives can, and do, escape.

As such, I also advocate for TNR, and for parents of outdoor and indoor-outdoor cats to find collars and other methods of alerting wildlife to their kitties’ presence. Indiscriminate killing is not the answer.

The truth here is that the authors of “Cat Wars” aren’t conservationists at all. Again, I haven’t read this book and I’m getting my information entirely from that HuffPo story. But I was struck by a book that says we need to get rid of free-range cats “by any means necessary.” That’s frightening and disgusting.

6 Ways To Kitten-Proof Your Home

Do you have a new kitten, or are you considering getting a new kitten sometime soon? Basically, a kitten is like a small child. Anything she can get into, anything she can play with, anything she can capture, she will. So, before you give kittens the run of your house, you should try to kitten-proof your home as much as possible. This is both for her health and safety and for yours.

Kitten-proof your home by limiting her hiding places

The above picture is Kali when she was about four or five weeks old. She was the risk-taker. The explorer. And if she could find a way out of the pen in which we kept her and Chase, she would. And then she’d hide and we couldn’t find her. We’d tried to kitten-proof, but we didn’t put that speaker and her little claws together as a potential escape route.

So, the first thing you should do to kitten-proof your home is find all the possible hiding places your kitten could use. That includes places like inside the washer and dryer, behind them, under and behind furniture, inside closets, inside cabinets and drawers, and even inside furniture like your sofa or box spring. You kitten might be able to squeeze herself into nooks and crannies you can’t imagine.

Dr. Karen Becker recommends trying to limit her access to these kinds of hiding places as much as possible, especially when you’re not going to be home. This way, not only is she easier to find, but you also lower the risk that she’ll get herself stuck, and possibly seriously injured while trying to get out (this was our biggest worry with Kali). Also, when you’re doing laundry, check the washer and dryer very carefully before closing the door, to be sure she didn’t sneak in under all the clothes. Or just keep her out of your laundry room altogether.

Fragile or breakable items should be put away when you kitten-proof

You will also want to put away things you don’t want knocked over or broken as you kitten-proof, at least until you can teach her where she can and cannot climb. Cats climb, jump, explore, and they want to explore vertically as well as horizontally. Because of this, simply putting things out of reach, as you would for a young child, isn’t likely to work. Case in point – when we first brought Aria in, she jumped from the floor to the top of the mantle above the fireplace, and knocked our wedding goblets off. Of course, one of them shattered. We can replace it, but it’s not quite the same.

Putting these things inside cupboards, drawers and cabinets until she knows where she can and can’t go will help protect these things, and help protect her, too.

Be sure you keep cleaning supplies and anything else that might be toxic to her—like medicines and plants—locked away, or throw them out entirely if you can. She’ll get into anything and everything, especially when you’re not home to stop her.

Choking hazards should also be put away when you go through and kitten-proof

Other things you’ll want to put away, or make inaccessible or unappealing, are dangly things, and things she can swallow or choke on. Ribbons, rubber bands, hair ties, yarn, string, thread, needles, even packing peanuts, can all be dangerous for her. These may be things we don’t often think about, but with a kitten in the house, you should be very careful what you leave out. Put these things inside a latching drawer or cabinet to ensure she can’t get to them

Covering or hiding wires, cords and cables is necessary to kitten-proof your home

Another potential problem is the wires that are all over your house. Kali loves chewing wires. She chews them everywhere – we still haven’t been able to break her of it. So we’ve had to resort to putting things she doesn’t like on the wires because otherwise, she’ll just chew, and chew, and chew.

You can try bundling wires together in plastic tubes, but that may not stop your kitten from chewing them near the outlets. To truly kitten-proof this way, you should put something on the wires themselves that she doesn’t like. Unplugging wires you’re not using will help keep her safe as well.

To keep her away from them altogether, you can put something like Tigerbalm, or Vick’s VapoRub, on the surface of the wire, but test this first. Make sure she really doesn’t like the smell. The last thing you want to do is coat the wire in something she’s just going to lick off and possibly get sick from. Some cats really like menthol, so be sure it’s going to serve as a repellent before using it. This works for Kali, but not for Aria (but Aria’s not a wire-chewer).

You can also put aluminum foil, or something else noisy, down on the floor near the outlets, so she’s startled when she steps on it. The goal here is to make the environment surrounding your wires create negative associations, so she associates bad things with those areas or objects, and not with you.

This can also work for keeping her off the kitchen counters, and off of any furniture you don’t want her climbing. By the same token, you should replace what you’re taking away with acceptable outlets for climbing and chewing. So cat trees, shelves, and toys are a must.

Another kitten-proof method is putting strangling hazards out of reach

You will also want to get things with which she could potentially strangle herself out of reach. Cords on your blinds, and certain fabrics that she could put her head through, can be dangerous for her. In fact, one of our bed skirts has a hole in it, and when Kali was about six weeks old, she put her head through it, and then couldn’t get back out. She panicked and began struggling hard, turning over, and the fabric twisted around her neck. Fortunately I was right there and saw this happen so I was able to free her before she hurt herself.

After that, we tucked the bed skirt up under the mattress so that wouldn’t happen while we were out. To kitten-proof your home in a way that will help you avoid this potential tragedy, you’ll want to coil up cords and hang them on a tack or nail, or the curtain rod. Tuck away fabrics that she could stick her head through.

Finally, eliminating escape routes is a great way to kitten-proof your home

Her natural curiosity to explore will grow, so kitten-proof by blocking off or eliminating her potential escape routes. This applies even if you’re going to let her outdoors, because you don’t want her to slip out unnoticed. Chase once bolted out our back door faster than I was able to react. He only made it to the middle of the yard before he stopped and looked around in wonder, but had he run all the way to the back fence, he could have gone under it and been gone. You may want to consider an outdoor enclosure for her, especially if she just doesn’t seem happy staying inside all the time.

Aging Cats – Are Your Senior Cats Doing Well?

There are two aging cats in our house: Aria is 13, and Gizmo is 15, and we expect them to actually start showing their signs of aging anytime now. In fact, Gizmo has begun to show one those signs (beyond her formerly black whiskers) – she has arthritis in her left shoulder. However, neither of them has shown any indication that they’re seriously slowing down. To us, that means we have two cats that are aging well.

Signs to watch out for in aging cats

There are certain signs that indicate your cat’s health may be failing in her old age. Weight loss and lack of interest in playing are two of the biggest. Disorientation, interaction problems, sleep/wake disturbances,, house-soiling, and serious activity changes (DISHA) are other signs that your senior cat isn’t really aging well.

If she is, then she’ll be like Gizmo and Aria. Gizmo, despite her bad shoulder, still loves to play what we call “her game.” When she was a kitten and a young adult cat, she loved to chase us through the house and “catch” our ankles. She’d let us go, and then do it all over again. She doesn’t play it as often anymore, but she hasn’t stopped altogether.

Aria has a toy she still loves to play with – she was never really big on play aggression like Gizmo. She also shows heavy interest when we’re playing with our other cats, and she’ll lunge and pounce and chase with the best of them. She, too, belongs in the lofty class of aging cats that are doing so gracefully, although not as gracefully as Gizmo, we think. Why is that? She tires out far more easily than Gizmo, and she seems to have some difficulty moving already – something Gizmo didn’t show at age 13.

Changes in certain behaviors and looks may be still be normal for aging cats

Your cat’s appearance might change somewhat, even if she is aging well. One of the biggest telltale signs of an aging cat is something called lenticular sclerosis, which presents as a blue-white cloudiness of the eye pupil. Both Gizmo and Aria show this sign.

Decreased mobility and a decline in vision can also be normal things for aging cats, even though it may not appear so. Changes in eating and sleeping patterns may be present also. Basically, if your cat isn’t showing any DISHA signs (listed above) then she’s probably aging well. She might live to her 20s, or even longer!

On Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day – Our Kitty-girl

Chances are, if you have pets, you also have pets over the Rainbow Bridge. I know I do. Kitty, who was abused as a kitten and extremely defensive when we took her in, and whom I took to live with me after I moved out at 18, went to the Rainbow Bridge in December of 2006. Today is Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day, and I’m thinking about our little Kitty-girl.

For Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day, here is Kitty’s story

And little she was! She never weighed more than about seven pounds, but she was a stocky little cat. Muscular. Like she worked out so she could always defend herself. We don’t know what all her abusers did to her, but we do know that, at some point, they broke her tail and it healed that way. We could touch her tail, but one touch would usually cause her to tuck it away from us.

Other than that, she was just defensive. Her abusers had said something about her being vicious, and at first glance, it did seem like she was quite vicious. If you took all of her behavior together, though, then a different pictured emerged. Yes, she was prone to biting, scratching, growling and hissing. Yes, she did injure us. But she mostly hid, and only became “vicious” when we were trying to catch her and had her cornered.

She was actually just defending herself. “Vicious” is something else entirely.

Bringing Kitty to live with just me

When I moved out of the house, I lived for a year without a cat and I couldn’t deal. I needed a cat. I’d talked with my dad about bringing Kitty to live with me because we thought she might come out of her shell better if she was the only cat. When I first let her out in my apartment, she disappeared behind the couch. I left her alone, knowing that she’d come out when she was ready.

That night, she woke me up by mewing at me from the floor. She wanted me to watch her eat for some reason – it was almost like she was asking me for permission to eat, and she wouldn’t do it unless I was there. But that didn’t last for very long, and being an only cat, with only one human to deal with, did have the effect we wanted. She began to come out of her shell, and would even seek attention from me. That was something she’d never done before.

She had behavior issues such as stress marking, which I just dealt with because it was to be expected, I felt. She was never going to be anything other than on-edge no matter how quiet things were for her.

That went on for as long as we had her. She would act attention-starved sometimes, and just want to be left alone others. When we started bringing more cats into the house, she did much better than she’d been doing at my dad’s house, possibly because we were bringing cats into her house, and not bringing her into someone else’s house.

The night that Kitty left for the Rainbow Bridge

In 2006, she was 15 years old, and slowing down. We’d started feeding her wet food only because it seemed she had trouble eating the dry food. One night, I was folding laundry, and she was bouncing around the bed and driving me nuts like she always did when I folded laundry. Later on, she disappeared into the other bedroom and lay down by the heat vent, which was her favorite place to sleep in the winter. She never woke up.

We learned from the vet that she’d had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and what had had happened was that her heart could no longer pump enough blood to keep her alive. She went very peacefully – there was no evidence at all that she’d been in any pain. And now she waits for us, along with all the other pets my family has lost, at the Rainbow Bridge.

Sometimes I think she visits me in the middle of the night. I’ll feel the bed shake slightly like it did when she jumped up on it, and I’ll look up, expecting to see a cat. There’s nobody there. So I believe that sometimes, she comes to me from the Rainbow Bridge to say hi, and tell me she’s still watching and waiting.

Do you have a pet at the Rainbow Bridge?

4 ways to increase your indoor-only cat’s happiness

We all know that cats need lots of stimulation to stay happy and healthy. If your cat is an indoor-only cat, the right types of stimulation may be hard to come by. You might have some toys and window perches, and maybe you have some carpeted shelves in your house like we do. If these don’t seem to be working, or you think you can do better, then perhaps you could take a look at these ideas for increasing your indoor-only cat’s happiness.

The right toys and scratching posts will help your indoor-only cat’s happiness the most

Do you know what types of toys your cat likes to play with the most? Does he like to chase things on the floor, like mice, or jump after things in the air and on the walls, like bugs or birds? The best toy for your cat is the toy that will speak to what type of prey he’d prefer to chase in the wild. Petplace has advice on how to determine which toys are best; simply buy several types of toys, and play with your cat with each one. Do this for several days. His level of interest will show you which toys are best for him.

Another way to enrich his environment is to give him scratching posts and perches, particularly near windows so he can see out. Choose posts that have different scratching surfaces, like a combination of carpet and sisal rope. The carpet can give him soft, comfortable places to lounge, nap, or watch outside, and the sisal rope gives him a good, durable scratching surface.

Petplace also talks about how to pick out great scratching pieces that can help your indoor-only cat’s happiness. They note that sisal rope is cheaper and more durable than carpet, and that it appeals to cats more than carpet does, too. Good scratching posts with different surfaces will help to satisfy your cat’s need to scratch, which keeps him more fulfilled, and it will also give him comfy perches.

What you choose (scratching pad, post, tree, condo, or playground) depends on your space and budget, but you should be able to find something that works and is affordable for you.

Catnip and cat grass may also help your indoor-only cat’s happiness

Another possibility for working on your indoor-only cat’s happiness is having cat grass and catnip plants in the house. About half of cats are susceptible to catnip (including all four of mine). One chemical in catnip, called nepetalactone, acts as a stimulant and produces the “high” that we see when cats start rubbing all over catnip toys. Catnip is also safe for your cat to eat (although too much may make him vomit and have diarrhea), so you can have it out and within your cat’s reach.

Cat grass is good because cats eat grass to help them rid their bellies of indigestible material, such as fur and feathers. Even if your cat never has any exposure to feathers, he does get fur in his tummy. The grass can help him to eliminate it.

Having these two plants around might keep your cat from chewing your other plants to smithereens. You can grow some yourself, or buy it from your local pet store. Just remember to put it out of reach occasionally, so that it has a chance to regrow after your cat eats some of it.

Interactive playtime also goes a long way toward increasing your indoor-only cat’s happiness

Finally, to really help with your indoor-only cat’s happiness, schedule playtime with him. Dedicate 10 to 15 minutes of playtime for him twice a day, every day, in addition to cuddle time. Both of these are great ways to interact with your cat, and help him to both get exercise, and relax. This interaction is important not just to stimulate him, but also to strengthen and reinforce your bond with him.

Indoor-only cats are stuck in the same environment day after day. While I would personally love to build a catio for my cats, it’s not practical for me right now and may not be practical for you, either. Therefore, it’s important to find other ways of maintaining your indoor-only cat’s happiness. Your job as his person is to make his environment as fun and stimulating as possible for him. He’ll be happier and healthier for it.

Politics Versus Cats Is Actually A Thing

When it comes to politics versus cats, cats definitely win, not just with me, but apparently, with the entire Internet. I don’t know about you, but politics, especially this year, is exhausting. It’s what I study and write about all day long for my day job, and, at the end of the day, I’d much rather watch videos of cats while cuddling with my cats, instead of go through more news that’s focusing heavily on politics.

When it comes to politics versus cats, cats win, hands down

I’m not trying to start a political discussion (fight?) here – whoever you like, dislike; whatever party you are or are not affiliated with, etc., is your business. What I’m looking at is a video from John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight,” that explores what’s happening to print journalism in the digital age, and the fact that people will more likely click on something to do with cats rather than something to do with politics. He says it boils down to this:

“It is clearly smart for newspapers to expand online, but the danger in doing that is the temptation to gravitate toward whatever gets the most clicks. The truth is, publishers are desperate. No one seems to have a perfect plan to keep newspapers afloat. Part of the blame of this industry’s dire straights is on us and our unwillingness to pay for the work journalists produce.”

In looking at the idea of politics versus cats, they both get tons of clicks, but it looks like cats get a lot more. For me, what I read about and watch on the Internet, on my own time, often comes down to politics versus cats. Cats just rule the Internet, however much we try to make more important news bubble up to the top.

How did cats come to rule the Internet, even over something as contentious as politics?

Gizmodo says that one of the reasons cats rule (as opposed to, say, dogs) is because their behavior affects us in a way that even the cutest of puppies can’t. Other baby animals are adorable, and even their adult counterparts have their adorable and hilarious moments, too. Cats, though? Their disinterest in the camera while simultaneously performing for it creates a weird barrier that doesn’t shut us out. So it piques our interest in a way that nothing else does.

Gizmodo also gets it right that the phrase “cat video” is pretty much synonymous with “frivolous time-wasting activity.” “Frivolous, time-wasting activity” is, in turn, synonymous with “relaxing,” is it not? Let’s face it, it is. So what about you, dear reader? Politics versus cats – what wins? For me, it’s cats, hands down.

Type 2 Diabetes In Cats – Lowering The Risk

It’s hard to know exactly how to prevent certain diseases in our cats. For instance, chronic kidney disease and type 2 diabetes are somewhat common in older cats. We have an idea of how to prevent type 2 diabetes in ourselves, but since dietary options seem so limited for pets, it might seem as though it’s impossible to even try to prevent type 2 diabetes in cats. However, an article by Dr. Jennifer Coates tells us how to minimize the risk.

The right diet is the biggest thing you can do to help prevent type 2 diabetes in cats

Despite seemingly limited options, the first thing to consider is, obviously, diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, and while they can process limited amounts of carbs for energy, their bodies aren’t designed to process large amounts on a daily basis. Yet, that’s what we do to them with commercial food, particularly dry food.

As with people, too many carbs for too long can cause insulin resistance, resulting in type 2 diabetes in cats. Dr. Coates says that cats need a low-carb, high-protein, moderate-fat diet to reduce that risk. There are commercial foods out there that provide this kind of balance; you don’t have to make your own cat food. You do want to look for a food with a higher percentage of protein than carbs, however.

Also, don’t think that “grain free” means “low carb,” because it doesn’t. Many grain-free foods still contain high amounts of carbs. So choose a food for your cat based on the amounts of protein, fat and carbs contained inside, and find one that has the highest percentage of protein possible. This will reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in cats.

The right amount of food can also lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in cats

Of course, diet is only part of the solution. Another other part is fixing the amount your cat eats. As with people, type 2 diabetes in cats is linked to weight. Dr. Coates says that obesity is probably the number one risk factor for diabetes, and feeding too much food can wipe out all the good you’re doing by feeding the right diet.

One thing you can do is feed your cat on a schedule, instead of free feeding him. If your cat is a kitten, then feed him with the goal of maintaining a slim body type. When he grows up and you’re ready to switch him over to adult food, you should ask your vet how much food he needs on a daily basis, and what an ideal weight for him is.

All cats are different, so an ideal weight for one cat may be overweight, or underweight, for another. Weigh him at least once a month, and fine-tune his portion sizes based on whether he should gain or lose weight.

These are two of the most important risk factors for type 2 diabetes in cats that you have control over. There are other risk factors, too, which you may not be able to control, and your cat may still develop diabetes despite your best efforts. However, as with ourselves, it’s wise to control what we can so that we minimize the risk of our cats’ developing certain conditions later in life.

Feline Ear Infections: Causes, symptoms, and treatments

Many of us don’t necessarily want to call our vets for every little concern we have about our cats, and some may not be able to afford a vet visit for everything. You might be able to treat small things, like minor feline ear infections, if you notice it early enough. Remember, though, that if your cat’s ears don’t improve, or they get worse, after you try treating them, you do need to take her to the vet.

What causes feline ear infections?

Ear infections are exactly what they say: An infection of the ear canal. Ear mites, allergies, tumors, foreign objects, generalized skin diseases, and trauma, can all cause feline ear infections. Yeast and other fungus can cause infections also.

Whether you decide to try treating it at home, or take your cat to the vet, depends on whether you can figure out what’s causing the infection. Injuries, tumors, and skin diseases all require a vet visit. Ear mites, if you know what they are, may not require a visit, but you will need to get an anti-parasitic from your vet to get rid of the mites.

In case you decide to treat your cat’s infection at home, PetPlace has some advice for you. The first thing to do is to evaluate her ears. Dr. Debra Primovic, of PetPlace, says that if you see bleeding, extreme swelling or redness, or discharge, you should take your cat to the vet. These symptoms mean that the infection is serious enough to need a vet’s intervention.

You might be able to help treat certain feline ear infections with the following steps (but you really need to call your vet):

If the above symptoms of feline ear infections are not present, but you see your cat tilting and shaking her head a lot and you suspect an infection, you can try the following:

  • Get a commercial ear cleaning solution, preferably from your vet. You won’t use this first, but you should have it available for when you need it.
  • Try cleaning debris out of the parts of your cat’s ears that you can see. You might have to restrain her, so wrap her in a big, fluffy towel, leaving only her head exposed. Use a soft cotton ball or gauze pad dampened with warm water to clean her ear lobes. Rub the pad or cotton ball gently across her ear lobes to remove dirt, wax, and other outer debris. This will help ensure that you don’t introduce more problems into her ear later.
  • After you clean her outer ear, start cleaning the cartilage with a cotton swab and warm water. Work to remove any dirt and debris that might be trapped there. Dr. Debra warns, though, that you should always be able to see the tip of the cotton swab. If you try to stick the swab down your cat’s ear canal, you could cause serious problems in addition to making her ear infection worse.
  • Once that’s all done, you’ll need to clean out the insides of her ears. To do that, you’ll need the ear cleaning solution you picked up from your vet. Flush a small amount into her ear, and massage the base. Then use a cotton ball to soak up the solution. Be careful, because massaging cats’ ears this way makes them feel funny. She’ll want to shake her head, and she definitely won’t like it.

You’ll also want to give your cat treats periodically throughout this whole process, the way you would when teaching her to tolerate having her nails clipped or dealing with any other unpleasant experience. If she associates a reward with the ordeal, then it’ll be easier to do next time.

It’s best to let a vet treat ear infections, though

Cleaning only works on feline ear infections if foreign debris caused it. If the infection continues after this treatment, then you need to take your cat to the vet. According to Dr. Lorie Hutson, there are often underlying causes that your vet will have to treat to clear the infection. The most common cause of ear infections in cats is ear mites, which you can treat with topical anti-parasitic medications like Revolution. Avoid over-the-counter treatments, because these can have serious side effects for your cat.

If your cat does not have ear mites, and the ear cleaning solution doesn’t help, your vet will look for the underlying cause, and treat that in addition to the infection. Many prescription treatments for ear infections in cats are ointments that you apply manually, and have antibacterial or antifungal properties, depending on what’s causing your cat’s infection.

In the end, though, if your cat is not improving within a day or two of cleaning, you should take her to the vet. Feline ear infections are like other infections in cats, and can become serious if they aren’t treated. Always call your vet if you have questions or concerns.


Giving Cats Brain Freeze Might Actually Harm Them

There’s a solid chance that you’ve gotten brain freeze once or twice (or ten million times) in your life. There’s also a solid chance that your cat hasn’t. One particular Internet trend is videos of people giving cats brain freeze, and it’s an absolutely hilarious reaction on the surface. Is brain freeze really harmless to cats, though?

The first thing to consider about giving cats brain freeze is what they’re eating

First off, a lot of people are doing this with ice cream, and cats tend to be lactose intolerant. My cats can get diarrhea something awful if they have more than a drop or two of dairy – hardly enough to induce a brain freeze. Experts, however, are divided as to whether giving cats brain freeze is safe or not, even when not using dairy.

Veterinarian Amy Cousino says:

“It’s pretty unhealthy for the cat. Cats have very similar nervous pathways [to humans].”

Brain freeze occurs in humans because we’re eating or drinking something that cools the backs of our throats too quickly. That causes a sudden change in the blood flow of the internal carotid artery and the anterior cerebral artery. Since our brains do not like sudden changes, the result is pain.

Since cats have similar neural structures to ours, it’s safe to assume that this same mechanism causes brain freeze in cats. Eric Doughtry, another veterinarian, says:

“There hasn’t been much research on feline brain freeze. I can’t imagine that [brain freeze] would be different in cats [than humans].”

Since brain freeze in humans is a momentary constriction of arteries, all it really does is just cause pain. It doesn’t cause long-term damage to your brain because your brain doesn’t lose blood flow for an extended period. The same may be true of giving cats brain freeze – it’s just painful for a moment or two, and then it passes without causing damage. Not much is known about this, though.

There’s something to be said for not intentionally causing your cat pain, though. I personally see this as similar to cats and cucumbers. Sure, it’s funny, but is that humor really worth hurting or scaring your cat? So while the jury’s out on the science of giving cats brain freeze, I see it as cruel.

Feline Genome Study Says Cats Are Still Partly Wild

Some interesting revelations have come from mapping the feline genome. We know that cats first started living among humans around 9,500 years ago. We know that the cats that were more likely to be friendly were the ones that farmers kept around for rodent control. What we didn’t know until very recently were the genetic changes that made domestication possible, nor just how domesticated our furry feline friends are, or, rather, aren’t.

The feline genome shows that our beloved cats are only semi-domesticated

An article in The Atlantic explains what this means for our own cats. Wes Warren, professor of genetics at Washington University and one of the study’s authors, says that the feline genome does, in fact, show that cats are really only semi-domesticated. The genes that control for things like hunting behavior remain largely the same as our house cats’ wild ancestors, while the genes for markings, grace and docility are what changed.

As far as genes that still allow for wild behavior, consider these facts: Domestic cats still have the broadest range of hearing among carnivores, which they need to locate prey. They still have extremely good night vision, so they can see their prey after the sun sets, or before it rises. And they still require a high-protein, higher-fat diet. What that implies is that domestic cats have not yet evolved enough to be entirely dependent on humans for food and survival.

We see this easily with feral cats, which are domestic cats in species, but wild in every other way. Feral cats must hunt for food, which means they must retain the abilities that make them able to hunt effectively, and to digest and use the nutrients they get from their prey without any nutritional supplementation from humans. Without the genes that help keep them wild, feral cats likely would not survive for very long.

The feline genome also explains how food can serve to train cats

One of the things that researchers found in the feline genome is that some genes contribute to behavioral changes when given food rewards. Cats that were able to learn new behaviors based on food rewards were those that ancient farmers kept around. These cats passed those genes on, which contributed to domestication, according to an article on the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s website.

So why the wild tendencies? There are a couple of different ideas for that. One is that domestic cats still interbreed with wild cats. Humans are not helping that; several designer breeds depend on interbreeding with wild cats. Such designer breeds include Bengal cats and Savannah cats. Bengal cats come from domestic tabbies and Asian leopard cats, and Savannah cats come from domestic cats and African servals. Asian leopard cats and African servals are both wild feline species.

But domestic cats that spend time outdoors, and that aren’t fixed, also breed with feral cats, and possibly with bobcats (though it’s uncertain that this actually happens). In other parts of the world, domestic cats may still interbreed with the Near Eastern wildcat, which is their direct ancestor. So the genes remain, because there’s sometimes a fresh supply of wildness injected into the feline genome.

The feline genome doesn’t tell the whole story, though

Another idea is simply that there hasn’t been the same evolutionary pressure on domestic cats that domestic dogs and other domestic species have seen. Plus, domestic cats haven’t been with us for nearly as long, and our coming together was more of an accident than it was intentional. We started living with canines for a reason. Cats just appeared around our grain stores because of the concentrated supply of prey.

Mostly, though, the feline genome tells that despite being one of the most popular pets in the world (fish are more popular, if you go by number of animals per household), much of what gives cats their reputation for being cold and aloof is the fact that they’re not fully domesticated. Yet.