Kittens and male cats: Can they be good daddies?

Most female cats will make good mothers. They’ll feed, wash, and care for their kittens. But what about male cats? Do they make good parents, too, even when they didn’t father the litter? Many of us have at least heard that male lions kill all the cubs they didn’t father when they take over a pride. I’ve sometimes wondered if that extends to other feline species. Can kittens and male cats be good together?

One woman’s experience with kittens and male cats changed her whole outlook

Dianne Meriwether answered that question, which originally appeared in the question form Quora, in a blog post that appeared in The Huffington Post. In it, she said she would have thought that male cats did not make good daddies. Her experience involves a male feral cat that approached their house after her female cat had kittens in the house. She had always heard that male cats eat kittens, so this frightened her. She thought he was after a meal.

What happened, though, surprised her. At first, she held one two-week old kitten up to the screen door, and the male cat responded by rubbing his cheeks on the screen. She finally let him in when the kittens were about four weeks old. He spent time washing each of the kittens, while their mother spent time trying to stay out of their reach. He also taught them to hunt, and fend for themselves. They followed him everywhere.

Male cats can sometimes take over mama’s role in her absence, but it’s wise to be careful with kittens and male cats

The Nest has an article with its own take on whether male cats can make good daddy cats. Author Elle Di Jensen of Demand Media advises people to keep an eye on mothers and their kittens if male cats are around, because they may still pose some danger. She also discusses some anecdotal evidence that male cats have actually shown up at people’s doors with litters of kittens in tow. Kittens wouldn’t follow a cat that threatened them; they’d run and hide.

Other answers to the original question on Quora insist that male cats can’t be good fathers. The bottom line appears to be that there’s no one way to answer this question. So, if you have a new litter of kittens in your household and male cats around, protect them, and perhaps introduce the male cats very slowly when the kittens are older. If the males show any aggression towards the kittens at all, keep them separate.

Urine crystals in cats: What causes them and how do you get rid of them?

A little while ago, we noticed that someone was peeing on some of our furniture. Given that we’ve got two cats on fluoxetine long-term due to stress marking, I was worried that their medicine wasn’t working anymore. But then I noticed something odd when I treated the pee spots with Urine Away. They became sparkly, which I’d never seen before. The spots weren’t saturated enough to cause that, and I realized we might have a cat with urine crystals. Urine crystals in cats require veterinary diagnosis and treatment.

The first thing we had to do was take all four of our cats to the vet for testing because we didn’t know who it was. It’s always a good idea to take your cats in when new and worrisome behaviors appear. Urine crystals can be irritating to your cat’s bladder and urethra, making them feel like they need to go all the time. They can also lead to stones, which can cause life-threatening blockages, and cause UTIs. This is why it’s so important to take your cat to the vet if your cat is peeing outside the litter box.

What causes urine crystals in cats?

It depends on the type of crystal, but some causes are:

  • Urine pH is too high or too low
  • Dehydration
  • Dietary issues (which can affect urine pH levels)

How are urine crystals in cats treated?

This, too, depends on what caused the crystals. Sometimes, simply ensuring that your cat is getting adequate water is enough. Other times, your cat may need a change in diet, or even medicine, or some combination of all of this.

It’s important to note that urine crystals in cats may show an underlying problem. Your vet will work to determine whether that’s the case, and if so, recommend an appropriate treatment for it in order to stop the crystals.

So which cat of ours had the crystals?

It turns out that it was Chase with the crystals. All three of our other cats’ urine was normal, with the exception of Kali, who had a high pH. Chase did too, so it’s very likely his crystals were struvite crystals because those tend to form in urine that’s too alkaline (calcium oxalate crystals are more likely to form in urine that’s too acidic, according to our vet).

Our vet recommended we put some cranberry extract with vitamin C into his food to help acidify his urine and ward off infection. We did, and a month later, the crystals were gone. So we thought that was the end of it, and continued putting the cranberry in his food. For him, it seemed it was an open-and-shut case. Stay tuned…

**Please remember to call your vet if you notice any unusual or alarming behaviors!

Hearts that Purr is a ‘retirement’ home for homeless cats left behind

What do you do when something happens that makes it so you can no longer care for your cat? Some people have arrangements, but many don’t. One organization in Tucson, Ariz., known as Hearts that Purr, aims to help cats in this tragic situation.

What is Hearts that Purr?

Tucson.com says that Jeanmarie Schiller-McGinnis created Hearts that Purr to be an organization dedicated to cats that are left homeless due to illness or death. According to Schiller-McGinnis, cats that have lived with people for a long time don’t do well in shelters. This is especially true of senior cats. “They deteriorate rather quickly,” she said.

Because of that, once they go into shelters, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever come out. Hearts that Purr has two missions: The first is to provide a loving, caring environment for cats in these situations. The second is to educate the public about how important planning for your cat’s ongoing care is in the event you’re incapacitated.

This isn’t the first home for cats in this situation. Lincolnshire Trust for Cats is a retirement home for cats in these situations in the U.K. Founded in 1999, all of its cats once belonged to someone who either died, or is in a home themselves, and can’t care for their cats any longer. As of early March, they had 80 cats in their care.

Retirement homes for cats isn’t a new idea, but it is a good one

Japan has a concept retirement home for pets, as well, although last I heard, it was intended to be just for dogs. The law there requires people to care for a pet for its entire life, even though people might have legit reasons they can no longer do so. Aeonpet Co., created Japan’s retirement home as a way to address that problem.

Hearts that Purr got its start with two rescues that belonged to a 99-year old woman who died in 2013. She lived alone in a trailer in Cochise County, south of Tucson, and her biggest worry was for her cats. Schiller-McGinnis hadn’t yet opened Hearts that Purr, but she took them in anyway.

The two cats died within a year, but Schiller-McGinnis said that cemented her commitment to making this work. Schiller-McGinnis doesn’t just help cats who’ve lost their people, though. She also helps rescue cats at high risk for euthanasia from Pima Animal Care Center. They don’t turn any animal away, and they’re frequently overcrowded because of it.

We need more shelters like Hearts that Purr

Sadly, Hearts that Purr can only handle a certain number of cats, and Schiller-McGinnis is often forced to turn cats away. However, she’s hoping to expand her services, and possibly create some room, with a foster program that matches senior cats to senior citizens. Many seniors are isolated and living alone, and having a cat can provide a lot of companionship.

These kinds of “retirement” homes are a great idea for pets. Hearts that Purr isn’t unique in the U.S., but we could stand to have more like them.

Seasonal allergies in cats – What can you do?

Spring isn’t that far off, and so it’s time to start thinking about all the things that come with the season. That, unfortunately, includes allergies for a lot of us. Did you know that seasonal allergies in cats are a thing, too, though? Cats can react to the pollen and other triggers of our own annoying spring allergies. However, their symptoms are often different than ours. Seasonal allergies in cats are more likely to produce skin symptoms, rather than what humans experience.

Seasonal allergies in cats tend to look different than they do in people

According to PetMD, seasonal allergies in cats tend to show up as atopic dermatitis. Your cat might develop an itchy rash around his head and neck. He might also develop skin eruptions, and you might notice fur loss from excessive licking, grooming and scratching.

Allergies can be hard to diagnose, and it’s also very hard to figure out just what’s causing your cat’s skin problems on your own. If you notice skin issues, you need to take him to the vet to rule out other skin problems first. It’s not a good idea to assume that skin problems are merely allergies.

Cats can suffer from nasal allergies too, though

I remember one spring, it seemed I was getting up to little puddles of clear vomit pretty much every morning. I called my vet and she said she was seeing an unusually high rate of seasonal allergies in cats that year, and it was presenting more as nasal allergies than atopic dermatitis for some reason. The clear vomit was most likely from post-nasal drip. Of course, she also told me to closely monitor my cats for other symptoms to be sure I didn’t have some kind of infection going around my house, or other health problems requiring treatment.

Generally, though, nasal and respiratory symptoms are going to present in cats with weakened immune systems, and cats with other respiratory troubles. Kali, with her chylothorax, often coughs a lot more in the spring than any other time of year.

To treat seasonal allergies in cats, you need to know what they’re allergic to

If your vet diagnoses allergies, one of the ways to find out what your cat is allergic to is with intradermal testing. This is similar to that wonderful test we humans undergo when an allergist is trying to find out what we’re allergic to. Cats are usually put under general anesthesia for these tests. Then your vet or veterinary dermatologist will shave a small patch of fur, mark it with a pen, and inject tiny amounts of potential allergens. After anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes, the vet will evaluate the test.

Since this test has a small rate of false positives, it’s generally the best way to figure out what your cat is allergic to.

One of the potential treatments for seasonal allergies in cats is a “vaccine.” According to veterinarians at PetPlace, your vet will inject your cat with some of whatever he’s allergic to, repeatedly, over a period of time. The goal here is to slowly reduce your cat’s reaction to the substances. If that doesn’t work, then your vet will probably treat him with steroids. There are also allergy soaps that can relieve itching and help sores and scabs heal, although that means giving your cat a bath. Cool compresses on the affected areas might help if you cat allows it. Resist the temptation to give your cat human medicines, like Benadryl, until you’ve talked to your vet though. It’s never a good idea to give cats human medicines without your vet’s guidance.

Cats’ eye color – Why cats’ eyes are so cool

Cats’ eye color is an endless source of fascination for me. We all know that some cats have eye colors like ours–such as blue–but many have eyes that are far greener than any human’s green eyes, and, of course, there are cats with stunning gold eyes. On the homepage here, I have close-ups of both Kali’s and Chase’s green eyes. All our cats have green eyes, which seems to be the most common color. But there’s actually much more to cats’ eye color than just whether they’re blue, green or gold. Much more.

Cats’ eye color may be linked to their coat color

Cats with “pointed” coloring (meaning dark coloring on the muzzle, tail and feet), tend to have blue eyes. Burmese cats tend to have gold eyes. Egyptian Maus have a unique shade of green for their eyes, while Russian Blues may have vivid green eyes. Tonkinese have aqua eyes. White cats often have blue eyes as well, but can also have green or gold eyes.

We had a Persian with emerald green eyes when I was a kid, named Aurielle. She was a shaded-silver chinchilla Persian – white with silver peppering along her back and tail, on her paws, and around her eyes. She looked a little like she was wearing eyeliner. Her brilliant green eyes are part of what helped make her “the queen” of the house because they made her gaze so intense.

Cats’ eye color tends to be more intense when they’re purebreds

On that note, purebreds are specifically bred to meet certain standards, and that includes eye color. According to Catster, breeders specifically breed to make their cats’ eye color especially vivid. Like Aurielle’s up there. She was a purebred, which could explain her unusually vivid eye color compared to most mixed-breeds I’ve seen.

Blue-eyed cats don’t have any melanin in their eyes

Kittens are born with blue eyes because the melanin in their irises hasn’t been switched on yet. As they grow, their eyes may stay blue if they don’t have any melanin. As light hits the structures of their eyes, it refracts and makes them look blue, and without melanin, that will always be the case. Generally though, they’ll start changing around four to six weeks. We thought Kali was going to have blue eyes when she was young, but her eyes just took a little longer than Chase’s to change to green.

White cats with blue eyes are often deaf compared to cats of other colors and other eye colors, however, this isn’t always true. Furthermore, white cats with odd eyes might only be deaf on the side with the blue eye, or not at all. And odd-eyed cats are just plain cool no matter what they look like. We had an odd-eyed cat. Kitty had one blue eye and one green eye. The edge of the pupil in her blue eye was far less defined than that of her green eye, which we always found interesting. Odd-eyed cats are generally white, or have what’s known as the white-spotting gene. That gene produces tuxedo cats and cats with big white patches. Kitty was blue-gray and white.

 

Cats’ eye color is just plain cool.

This Adorable Kitten LOVES Bath Time (VIDEO)

I don’t know about you, but my cats aren’t really fans of bath time. They try to cling to us, and they howl so loudly that residents of Idaho can probably hear them. Even the babies, Chase and Kali, whom we had to bathe several times when they were only three weeks old because they had fleas, absolutely hate bath time. But, contrary to my cats, this little kitten loves bath time!

It’s actually a little startling to know that any kitten loves bath time

At the time this video was made, Clover was only a few weeks old herself. She looks healthy but scrawny, as growing kittens do. Her person is gently cradling her while passing her back and forth under a faucet of warm water.

The way Clover behaves, it’s almost like the running water reminds her of her mama’s tongue washing her stomach. She paws at the air, and she sticks her tongue out like she’s trying to lap some of the water up. This precious kitten loves bath time so much that it’s like she doesn’t notice her fur is soaked.

According to the video, Clover was getting very messy while learning to eat her food. I have some experience with that, too, because Chase and Kali were always getting messy with their food when they were tiny. After their fleas were gone, we would clean them with a warm washcloth instead of do baths. It was just easier that way.

Not every kitten loves bath time, though

Nobody really knows why cats don’t like water, or being bathed. Some speculate that it has to do with where the domestic cat comes from, which is dry African desert. Because of that, they never developed the behaviors necessary to deal with water.

It’s also not always necessary to give cats baths, so if your cat can groom himself properly, isn’t covered in dirt regularly, and doesn’t have fleas or other problems that could require bathing, you may not have to worry about it.

Clover’s a year old now, but I really hope she still loves bath time.


Featured image via screen capture from embedded video

The Amazing Benefits Of Therapy Cats (VIDEO) (IMAGES)

Not many of you know that my day job is writing politics, and editing other political stories. For me (and for practically everyone, really), this particular election cycle has been tiring, grueling, and just all around miserable. I found myself drinking a lot more than I usually do. I would go to bed, wake up, and wish I could just crawl totally under the covers and stay there. My cats aren’t officially therapy cats, but through all of it, they provided a certain type of therapy that I really needed.

Therapy cats are gaining in popularity

In Los Angeles, Purina ran an experiment with therapy cats – or, in that case, kittens. Stressed-out people went into a clear box to sit down, and then came the kittens. Pretty much everyone involved said that they felt much better afterward, and how could they not? There’s practically no way a bunch of kittens is not going to help you relax.

Here’s the video of that experiment. It’s amazing:

If you need a certified therapy cat, you don’t have to go adopt one.  There are programs available to help you get your own cats certified as therapy cats. There are certain requirements that your cats have to meet, but if you’re willing to go through such programs, you don’t have to go about getting a new cat.

How my cats are therapy cats

You don’t really have to get your cat certified as a therapy cat unless you need to. Your cats are probably already your own personal therapy cats and kittens. I know mine are. Tonight, I was feeling particularly upset because an argument broke out between friends of mine on Facebook and I didn’t know what to do about it. I was worried they were going to expect me to take sides. I was worried they were going to jump on me because I wasn’t taking sides.

Fortunately, none of that happened. But at the height of my stress, I found myself pinned down with Kali in my lap.

How do you not relax and start to feel a bit better with this?

But Kali wasn’t the only cat to comfort me tonight. After she got up and left, Chase decided he wanted his own brand of cuddles (he’s a wool-sucker).

Of course, they don’t have to be in a purring, cuddling mood to provide therapy. We all know how easily feline antics can make us laugh and take our attention away from more stressful things. In short, cats are wonderful therapy animals, whether they’re certified or not. Mine have seen me through an awful lot.

Adorable ‘Vampire Cat’ Steals The Internet’s Hearts

So, there’s this cat on Instagram named Monkey, who could look like your run-of-the-mill, beautiful black cat if you couldn’t see his upper fangs. They’re so long Monkey looks like he could be a vampire cat – but fortunately, his killings are limited to leaves and various plants.

I only sort of have a vampire cat or two

We have two cats with long fangs, but not nearly as long as this vampire cat’s fangs. Monkey’s teeth extend so low that they’re easily visible, even when his mouth is as closed as he can make it. With Chase and Kali, you can see their fangs, but they’re shorter than Monkey’s so they’re harder to spot.

To be honest, I’m kind of jealous of Monkey’s person, Nicole Rienzi, here.

How did Rienzi come by this pretty vampire cat?

Rienzi was driving with her mother when Monkey, then a young kitten, ran in front of their car. She almost hit him, stopped, and got out to make sure he was okay. He was underweight, full of fleas, with both eyes infected and just all around filthy. Kittens that are alone in the world like that often are in this condition.

Vampire Cat Monkey didn’t yet have his vampire fangs yet, so Rienzi had no idea she had such a unique-looking cat. She was going to find him a home, but ended up keeping him because he was giving her something she needed, too. It took about a year for his vampire fangs to grow in.

At that point, she took him to the vet to make sure the long canines weren’t a problem. Thankfully, they aren’t. They’re just very long. Long enough to suck blood, but Monkey only carries leaves and things around, since cats can’t suck blood.

Monkey has more than 24,000 followers on Instagram, and his “vampire cat” photos regularly get thousands of likes. Some of the photos are quite artistic, and others are Monkey just being a cat.

Giving Shelter Cats Boxes Reduces Stress

Shelters are loud, smelly, unfamiliar places, full of unfamiliar people, and cats that live in shelters suffer from high levels of stress. Scientists recently found that one of the reasons cats like boxes is because boxes make them feel safe. Now, some scientists believe that giving shelter cats boxes will reduce their stress, particularly if they’re new arrivals.

Giving shelter cats boxes helps them better adapt to the shelter environment

According to Phys.org, the authors of a study that was published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science specifically looked at new arrivals in a shelter in the Netherlands. They chose shelter cats because cats’ stress levels are quite high. What they found is that boxes did, indeed, help to reduce stress in shelter cats in the short term.

In the study, ten cats had boxes, and nine did not. At the end of their third day of observation, the cats with boxes had adapted to their new environment far better than the cats that didn’t have boxes.

Why is this? According to Wired, which put together the results of a whole bunch of studies on why cats like boxes, hiding is a behavioral strategy. Wired quotes one of the authors of the study mentioned above, who went on to say that hiding helps cats cope with stressors in their environment.

Giving shelter cats boxes gives them hiding places, too

Cats like boxes enough to find ways to get underneath them when they’re upside down.

Cats also have issues with conflict resolution, as Wired notes. So when they have the opportunity to engage in conflict or run away, they’re more likely to run away. If they can hide, then so much the better. Cats like to bluster, and they prefer to make their enemy back down without ever “firing a shot,” as it were. When that doesn’t work, they’ll try and run. In the wild, they often don’t fight unless they absolutely have to.

The implications for shelters are outstanding. Good shelters want to make their environments as stress-free as possible. For some cats, especially the more fearful, perhaps providing a box for the cat to hide in can help them adjust better, and behave better, thus raising their chances of early adoption.

Obviously, simply providing a box isn’t the whole solution. The whole solution is far more complex. But it’s a simple, low-cost way for shelters to temporarily address high stress levels in their cats.

Cat Urine Controls Mice, According To Study

Cats and mice. Cat and mouse. Games of cat and mouse. Everybody knows about cats and mice; it’s a stereotype that comes from the fact that cats chase mice, because mice are among domestic cats’ primary prey. They’re good meals, and they’re everywhere, so it’s only natural. However, it seems somewhat counterintuitive that mice would continue to inhabit the same areas of cats, after millennia of being cats’ prey. Yet, there they are. Why? It turns out that cat urine controls mice by way of a chemical found in it.

A chemical in cat urine controls mice? REALLY?

Yes, really. Cats actually might engage in a type of mind control with mice. No, they’re not telepathic, or at least, science hasn’t found them to be telepathic. According to an article on the BBC, research has found that when young mice are exposed to this chemical, they’re less likely to avoid cat scents later in life.

The BBC also says that the chemical can cause pregnant female mice to spontaneously abort. In other words, mice have an actual, physiological response to this chemical. Generally, the chemical increases all the signs of stress in mice, making them more fearful when they smell it.

The way that cat urine controls mice is bizarre, though

It seems, though, that when baby mice are exposed to this chemical during their most formative days, they produce even more stress hormone, but are less likely to react to it. Researchers believe this is because mice need to stay around humans, even though cats also live near humans.

In other words, this is proof of what we’ve always known about cats. They’re able to control minds. Right now, we just think cat urine controls mice. However, we could say that they control our minds, too, through certain behaviors (and not necessarily through their pee). How far that control goes, though, is anybody’s guess.