Archive from July, 2013

Cast a Spell on Me – Old Wives’ Tales: Fact or Fiction? (Part 2 of 2)

Jul 24, 2013 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Personal Opinion

If you missed it: Cast a Spell on Me – Is the Cat a God or the Devil? (Part 1 of 2)

What exactly is an Old Wives’ Tale?  And why do cats feature so prominently in them?  These tales are fables and legends passed on through the generations in an effort to explain the inexplicable or predict fate.  So many involve cats because, well, cats are the ultimate in inexplicable behavior and their general unwillingness to do humans’ bidding has resulted in the profoundly divided feelings so many people have for cats.

Old Wives’ Tales were rampant during the 1600s and on, and most were not in the cat’s favor, although the classic American warning to beware a black cat crossing your path was interpreted very differently over in Europe.  There it was seen as a sign of good luck and potential financial windfall.  Worry about black cats in the United States began during the Puritan times and derived from their association with witches and Satanism, and to this day, black cats frequently are the last to be adopted from shelters and rescue organizations.  There is still a pervasive belief that cats, especially black cats, are a source of danger and corruption.

Here are a few classics from the Old Wives’ Tales hall of fame, some of which might actually hold a kernel of truth:

Cats can place curses on pregnant women

This originated from the idea that cats are connected to the devil, and that they have demonic powers that allow them to be very dangerous and evil—particularly to pregnant women and young children—but able to avoid harm themselves.  The actual curse on pregnant women involved harm to the unborn baby.  This could be through stillbirth, mental impairment or generalized birth defects resulting in life-long problems or even death.  Obviously, a curse is a bit far-fetched.  What is less of a stretch, though, is what happens to pregnant women infected with a cat parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, which has been implicated in causing a wide range of infant birth defects.

Cats can kill young children with a single scratch

Well, we know bacteria can kill anyone during the right circumstances.  And in rural areas with poor nutrition and rudimentary medications, infected wounds from bacteria associated with cat bites and scratches can probably occasionally result in bad medical outcomes.  We also know cat scratch disease, Bartonella hensalae, can cause significant medical problems, and it would not be unheard of for a young child with a compromised immune system to become sick or even die from that bacterial organism.

Cats suck the breath from babies

Tragedy is always difficult to bear, and it is human nature to try to find an explanation.  Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is both tragic and unpredictable, and the Old Wives’ Tale of cats sucking the breath from infants probably derives from this event.  The danger to babies would come from an angry cat who was jealous of the newborn infant and upset about the loss of attention.  These cats would seek the opportunity to smother infants in their cribs.  Does this sound crazy?  Well, as recently as 2000, an infant death was originally attributed to the cat lying in the crib with the dead baby.  That cause of death was later documented as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but the myth about cats sucking the breath from babies is still—to this day—pervasive.  During the 1800s, women routinely testified at coroner’s inquests about their cats “sucking the wind” from infants and killing them by shoving their nose in the baby’s mouth while the baby was sleeping.  In 1929, a Nebraska doctor said that he’d seen “the family pet in the very act of sucking a child’s breath, lying on the baby’s breast, a paw on either side of the babe’s mouth, the cat’s lips pressing those of the child and the infant’s face pale as that of a corpse, its lips with the blueness of death.”  Pretty dramatic stuff!  But cats as we know are attracted to warmth, and may cuddle with a child, who might lack the ability to turn its head away or push the cat off, and the rest…

So, our relationship with the number one pet in America is complicated.  We have a much more matter of fact relationship with our dogs.  There is nowhere near the number of dog superstitions or phobias, and the dog was neither worshipped as a god nor was it demonized as an emissary of Satan.  Instead we find heroic dogs like Lassie and Rin Tin Tin.  Not so with the cat.  And because the relationship between cats and their humans has been so confusing, so unpredictable, it is easy to blame the mysterious and sinister cat for unexplained problems and maladies.  Everyone likes to find a reason for tragedy and misfortune, and for much of the last several centuries, the cat was a believable culprit.

Dr Cathy Lund

Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

City Kitty
18 Imperial Pl # 1B
Providence, RI 02903-4642

Phone: (401) 831-6369

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I am a Mighty Bug Hunter!

Jul 15, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

My name is Cleo. I live in Grand Rapids, MI. I live inside the house with 3 other cats. My mom is a vet. She doesn’t let me outside because she says there are too many risks in our area between traffic and getting into fights with other cats in our neighborhood. I know I would win those fights but she doesn’t trust me! So, instead I like to hunt in our house for bugs. We have air conditioning, but we still get some mosquitoes, moths, and other flying toys in the house periodically. Sometimes the mosquitoes bite me, but I don’t care. I keep hoping we get a bat in the house so I can catch a big flying toy- my mom says she sees that several times a year in her patients.

My favorites though are the bugs that crawl on the ground.  Spiders, sow bugs, the occasional cricket and other creepy crawlies give me hours of entertainment. After I catch them and play with them for a while, I like to eat them. (I even caught a mouse last year and left the best part (the head) for my mom. She wasn’t too thrilled. Sometimes I get no appreciation for all my efforts. Sigh.

Most of the time my mom never even sees what I am hunting as I find the basement and other out of the way spots are the best places to find my prey. When she sees me playing with what I catch, my mom usually takes them away from me before I eat them. She says I can get parasites and other infections from them. I am not sure what parasites are, but mom says they can make me sick. Those parasites are why she keeps me on a monthly parasite medication year around, and keeps my vaccines up to date even though I don’t go outside. She says I can even get some parasites from walking through dirt or digging in potting soil and then washing my feet afterward.  This is what she says I can get from:

  • Mosquitoes- heartworms
  • Fleas- tapeworms, Bartonella infection (cat scratch fever)
  • Mice and other rodents such as voles, rats: tapeworms, roundworms, lung flukes, and toxoplasmosis
  • Earthworms- roundworms
  • Cockroaches- roundworms
  • Snails and slugs- lungworms
  • Crayfish- lung flukes
  • Ticks- Bob cat fever (Cytauxzoon felis), Ehrlichia, Lyme disease
  • Dirt and potting soil- roundworms, hookworms
  • Outdoor water- Giardia
  • Bats- rabies

I figure I am not going to worry about those things because my mom does the worrying for me and keeps me protected with the monthly parasite preventative and my yearly vaccines. Bugs of the world be very afraid- Cleo the bug hunter is on the prowl!

Dr Tammy Sadek

Dr Tammy Sadek is board certified in Feline Practice by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. Dr Sadek graduated at the top of her veterinary class at the University Of Minnesota College Of Veterinary Medicine. She has practiced feline medicine and surgery for over 25 years. Dr Sadek is the owner and founder of two cat hospitals in the Grand Rapids, MI area, the Kentwood Cat Clinic and the Cat Clinic North.

In addition to her cat hospitals, Dr Sadek hosts a website dedicated to helping cat owners prevent and correct litter box issues along with other behavioral issues with their pets.

Dr Sadek is the author of several chapters in the book Feline Internal Medicine Secrets. Her professional interests include senior cat care, internal medicine, feline behavior, and dermatology.

Dr Sadek is currently owned by 5 cats. In addition to caring for all her feline friends, Dr Sadek enjoys traveling, jewelry making, reading fantasy and science fiction, and gardening. She lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and two soon to fledge children.

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End of Life and Quality of Life

Jul 7, 2013 by     11 Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

I would like to thank everyone for their kind wishes and moral support for Cosmo. If you would like to read more about him please click here for part one and here for part two.

He just turned 12 years old last week and has started acting very needy.  He has been screaming for attention at all hours of the day.  This is a little different than his normal behavior.  I petted him under the chin and noticed that he had small bumps that were not there a week ago.  His lymph node on the right shoulder is now enlarged.

I am planning on taking samples to prove that it is the return of the cancer.  I feel certain that is.

I am now at the crossroads of how do I proceed.  This is obviously a very aggressive cancer since it returned only 3 months after treatment.

Do I take him back for more surgery and treatment?  That option does not make sense since he has been through so much by this time and it will last less time than the previous.

Do I treat him as “hospice”?  I give him pain medication waiting until he stops eating and his quality of life is terrible.

I do not want him to reach the point of terrible quality of life.  I will need to make my decision of the correct time.  I have always told people that they will know the time.  I wish not to be selfish and keep him alive for my sake or for that of others.  This is a family decision.

He has been such a good friend and want to be respectful and say good bye before he is suffering.

Many thanks for everyone’s support and kindness.

Dr Marcus Brown

Dr. Brown, founder of the NOVA Cat Clinic and co-founder of the NOVA Cat Clinic, received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1986 from the University of Illinois. Currently the medical director for Alley Cat Allies and is an active supporter in local, state and national feline organizations such as: American Veterinary Dental Society, American Association of Feline Practitioners, American Veterinary Medical Association and American Animal Hospital Association. Dr. Brown also contributed the creation of the Association of Feline Practitioners’ 2009 Wellness Guidelines for Feline Practitioners.

Dr. Brown enjoys continuing education and regularly attends seminars and conferences across the country focusing on the advancement in feline veterinary care. Dr. Brown also utilizes on-line discussion groups and veterinary networks to assist the clinic in maintaining the highest level of care and providing the newest treatments available in feline medicine.

NOVA Cat Clinic
923 N. Kenmore St.
Arlington VA 22201

Phone: 703-525-1955
Fax: 703-525-1957

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My Cat Has a Murmur?

Jul 3, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

What this abnormal cardiac sound means for your cat

Your kitty appears perfectly healthy. You take it in for a routine physical exam and the veterinarian informs you that your precious family member has a murmur.  How can this be?  What does this mean?  He runs around the house, eats like a horse and is borderline heavy on his weight.  This is a perfectly healthy cat!

A heart murmur is an abnormal sound that occurs as blood moves through the heart and the valves.  Your veterinarian detects it with a stethoscope during examination. Murmurs can be caused by congenital defects, acquired diseases such as hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, anemia or primary heart muscle or valvular diseases.

Some murmurs occur due to stress or excitement and elevated heart rate.  These murmurs are considered benign or innocent and do not cause problems with your kitty’s health.

Studies have shown that as many as 22% of “healthy” cats can have murmurs, unfortunately, the innocent murmurs cannot be differentiated from cats with actual heart disease. In addition, as many as 50% of cats with primary heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy) that present to the veterinarian in heart failure will not have a murmur prior to presentation.

So, what should you do? Follow your veterinarian’s advice.  If your kitty seems anxious at the clinic and the heart rate is elevated, your veterinarian may ask to just recheck your kitty on a different day or ask you to leave your kitty for the day so he/she can become acclimated to the hospital.

Your veterinarian may ask to run tests to rule out diseases outside the heart that can cause murmurs, such as checking blood pressure, a thyroid test or a CBC to screen for anemia.  In some cases, a blood test called an NT-pro-BNP may be performed as well.  This test looks for stretching or damage to the heart muscle.

If your cat has evidence of elevated or abnormal respiratory sounds, or if the NT-pro-BNP test is abnormal, your veterinarian may request to check thoracic (chest) x-rays or perform a cardiac ultrasound.

If blood testing is abnormal, treatment of the underlying disease can often times eliminate the murmur. If your cat is diagnosed with cardiomyopathy it may be mild and just require monitoring. If disease is more severe medication may be prescribed.

In some cases, no disease will be identified, but most importantly, by following your veterinarian’s advice, you will be armed with information regarding your kitty’s health that allows you to have peace of mind and be pro-active in his/her care for life.

Dr Cindy McManis

Dr. Cynthia McManis received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Texas A&M University in 1985. She developed her interest in cats during her first year post-graduation. She began to actively pursue more education and information regarding feline health care and joined the Academy of Feline Medicine in 1989. When the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners approved feline practice as a specialty board in 1995, she was in the first class to sit for the exam. She is 1 of 90 board certified feline practitioners in the country at this time. Dr. McManis founded Just Cats Veterinary Services in 1994.

Outside of her clinic cases, she is a feline internal medicine consultant for Veterinary Information Network, a web based resource for veterinarians all over the world. She has also served on several committees within the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). She established an ABVP residency site at Just Cats in 2008 and mentors new graduates as well as seasoned practitioners who are interested in achieving ABVP certification.

Dr. McManis is an avid triathlete and is constantly training for races. She completed her first Iron Man in May of 2012. She is owned by 2 home kitties- Amante (“Monty”) and La Mariquita (“Mari”), and 2 hospital kitties- Momma Kitty and O’Malley.

Just Cats Veterinary Services
1015 Evergreen Circle
The Woodlands, TX 77380

Phone: (281) 367-2287

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