Is your kitty a “mighty hunter?” How does your cat hunt and what kind of big game does s/he capture? I’ve written about gift-bearing cats before to explain the whole idea behind why Sheba leaves mousy offerings just for you, URK! And I’ve written about hunting behavior of dogs, so it’s time to learn how cats hunt, below.
DO ALL CATS HUNT?
Seren may have the equipment and heritage to hunt, but her finely honed hunting expertise begins with the bowl and ends with (at a stretch) crickets. Oh, but she leaves the buggy drumsticks behind (must not have enough meat on ’em).
Karma-Kat prefers wasps. Ouch! And I have a friend with a cat and Shadow hunts and stalks…(wait for it…) DUST RAGS. Nom-nom-nommy-good. Oh, and he also hunts and chases my feet, ouch!
The ability to hunt requires skill and technique that can only be learned and earned through practice. Kittens hone technical skills through play with their litter mates, and by their mother’s example. If they’re indoor only cats, they may never get the chance to face off against a ferocious sparrow.
The outdoor kitties that do have to feed themselves generally have a low success rate due to poor nutrition or just because the odds are against them. They have much great success with ground-dwelling critters like mice, voles, and lizards since healthy adult birds can stay out of reach.
HOW CATS HUNT
Cats don’t need to be hungry to hunt. It’s the sound and sight of moving prey that provides the stimulus to chase and capture, a hardwired behavior as natural to the cat as purring. That’s one reason kitten play aggression that grapples your moving ankles can prove so energetic and intense.
Feline hunting behavior relies heavily on sight and hearing to locate prey. Cats use a couple of hunting strategies, depending on the prey they seek. Sometimes Kitty prefers ambush, and will crouch in a likely spot — perhaps with eyes glued to the mouse hole — and wait with infinite patience for prey to appear. Cats may return time after time to areas where their hunts have been successful.
HOW CATS HUNT WITH FISHING TECHNIQUE
Fishing requires patience, too. Typically the cat waits in a likely spot on the bank for a suitable candidate to appear, then uses a paw to scoop and flip the fish from the water. In shallow water, Kitty may wade in and use both paws by pouncing and grasping the fish.
Not all cats are able to perfect fishing technique, probably because of the visual perception difficulty regarding the water. But even dry-land-dwelling kitties use the fish-scoop technique down a likely hole that may yield something yummy.
HOW CATS HUNT WITH STALK AND POUNCE
The stalk-and-pounce method has many components. Once the prey is located, the cat quickly moves closer in a low to the ground pose, and then stops and freezes sometimes for endless moments while watching the prey. If the target moves farther away, the cat adjusts by ever-so-slowly creeping forward one paw-step at a time, even freezing with a foot in mid-air to avoid revealing herself. For the final rush, she gathers rear legs beneath her and treads in preparation for for a forward thrusting take-off. It may require several darting leaps before she’s near enough for the final pounce.
HOW CATS HUNT & PLAY WITH PREY
Rarely is the quarry dispatched right away. Often, it escapes and Kitty must attempt to chase it down for recapture. Cats often indulge in a great deal of pouncing and tossing of prey into the air, allowing escape only to recapture small game. This isn’t inherent cruelty and serves a couple of purposes. “Playing” with the prey is a way for the cat to practice her skills, and also tests just how dangerous that rat or snake might be. Properly socialized felines have learned to inhibit their bite through play with owners and other cats, and toying with the quarry helps them build up the necessary excitement for the coup-de-grace.
HOW CATS HUNT & KILL
Cats kill by biting the neck where the skull joins the spine, severing the vertebrae with the dagger-like canine teeth. They grasp the neck and use a “chattering” movement to position their bite accurately. In fact, cats frustrated in the hunt (i.e., watching from a window as squirrels play outside) often exhibit this chattering behavior which is actually the killing bite, in reaction to seeing out-of-reach prey.
Once the prize is dead and stops moving, the cat typically seems to lose interest for a short time. After the thrill of the hunt, the chase, and the kill, the cat needs time to return to an emotional equilibrium, and she may groom herself before claiming the prize. Then, she’ll carry the prey to a well-sheltered area to eat. Like your pillow.
Many years ago, I had my first run-in with ringworm when my German shepherd (age 12 at the time) developed ball patches. A dozen years later, my second personal experience happened when I adopted a stray kitten I named Seren. She had couple of crusty bald spots on her forehead. That’s actually pretty typical. Ringworm most commonly affects elderly or young pets.
Ringworm is not a worm, it is a fungal infection of growing hair, dry skin, and sometimes the nails. There are many types, but about 95 percent of feline ringworm cases are caused by Microsporum canis. The condition also affects dogs and people.
The name comes from the ring-like lesions typically seen in human cases. Ringworm is a kind of biological contact dermatitis in which skin inflammation is caused by a substance produced by the fungus. The inflammation makes the skin inhospitable for the fungus, so it moves on to greener pastures. In people, the fungus grows outward away from the initial central inflammation in ever-widening rings, leaving the center to heal.
In cats, sores also grow outward from the infection, but rarely produce the ring pattern found in people. Ringworm in cats can look like a variety of other feline skin diseases, but hair loss is the most usual sign. Bald patches may develop in only one area, several spots, or cover the entire body. Ringworm is the most common cause of hair loss in kittens.
The fungus, called a dermatophyte, lives only on hairs that are actively growing. Infected hairs eventually break off rather than fall out, leaving a stubby appearance to the coat. Mild to severe scaling or crusty sores typically develop with varying degrees of itchiness.
HOW DO PETS GET RINGWORM?
Cats and dogs are usually infected by coming in contact with infected hair, but ringworm can also be spread by contact with contaminated grooming equipment or from the environment. Contaminated hairs that are shed into the environment can remain infective for months, and provide a reservoir for reinfection of recovering cats.
All cats can get ringworm, and the length of haircoat has nothing to do with the risk. Both longhaired and shorthaired cats are equally affected. However, the most common victims are immune-compromised, young, and debilitated pets. Puppies and kittens are affected most frequently. Some cats carry the organism without showing signs themselves, and spread ringworm to other cats and pets. If one pet in the household is diagnosed, all should be treated whether they are showing signs or not.
Ringworm in cats is diagnosed by identifying the fungus. The veterinarian may use a Wood’s Lamp to screen suspect cases; about half of M. canis cases will “glow” when exposed to its ultraviolet light. More cases are identified using a culture test which grows the ringworm fungus. A sample of debris brushed from the cat’s skin and fur is placed in a special medium designed to grow certain ringworm species. It may take up to three weeks before the test indicates a positive result.
During treatment, infective animals should be quarantined from those not showing symptoms. Otherwise healthy cats tend to self-cure in nine months to a year, but during that time, can continually expose other animals (and people) to the fungus. People who are immune compromised, very young or very old are at highest risk.
Shaving ringworm-infected cats to aid treatment used to be routinely recommended but today is based more on the individual situation. Shorthair cats with fewer than five areas of infection may be effectively treated without a full body clipping.
Topical preparations of miconazole are helpful, but medicating the lesion before diagnosis may interfere with proper diagnosis. Miconazole alone or in combination with chlorhexidine is effective. Cats typically are bathed twice weekly, ensuring the product remains at least ten minutes on the cat’s fur. Treat only after your veterinarian diagnoses the condition, and follow his or her recommendation.
Drugs that have been shown to be effective include griseofulvin, terbinafine, ketaconazole, and itraconazole. After ingestion, the drug is incorporated into the growing hair where it slows the growth of the fungus. Pills are usually given once daily for four to eight weeks, and should be continued two weeks beyond the time symptoms have disappeared. A vaccine is also available that may reduce the symptoms of the disease, when used in combination with other therapies.
DEALING WITH RINGWORM AT HOME
Ringworm fungus can live in the environment for well over a year, where it can continuously reinfect cats. For that reason, this infected environment must also be treated; however, fungal spores are difficult to eliminate. Studies indicate that common disinfectants like chlorhexidine and water are not effective. Concentrated bleach or one percent formalin (a formaldehyde solution) have been shown to be effective, but neither are very practical in a home environment.
Daily cleaning of all surfaces using a diluted bleach solution (one part bleach to ten parts water), along with thorough vacuuming is the most effective and practical environmental treatment for most cat owners. Dispose of the vacuum bag by sealing in a plastic garbage sack and removing it from the house.
Has your cat (or dog) ever had ringworm? How did you handle it? Do tell! Now, for catteries and shelters, it can be even more of a challenge–any tips for those folks?
Tomorrow (October 29) is National Cat Day and I hope this info will help some pet parents who must deal with this particular health condition. I’m sharing this information from my CAT IBD entry from Cat Facts, The Series 9 (I): The Pet Parent’s A-to-Z Home Care Encyclopedia which includes these topics:
Ibuprofen, Identification, Imaging (CT and MRI), Immune System, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Insect Bites and Stings, and Introducing Pets.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to the chronic inflammation of the small intestine and occasionally the stomach. The cause isn’t known, but it’s suspected that something prompts the immune system to misfire and attack its own cells. The inflammatory response plugs up the tiny microscopic filaments that line the surface of the intestinal tract and transfer nutrients into the bloodstream.
Chronic vomiting is the most common sign of IBD. Episodes may be sporadic and occur during times of stress, or vomiting can be continuous. The cat also may frequently strain to defecate but pass only small amounts of feces which may be blood streaked. The homeopathic remedies Nux vomica and Arsenicum are helpful to stop both diarrhea and vomiting.
HOW IS CAT IBD DIAGNOSED?
Diagnosis usually is made only after ruling out other causes for vomiting, such as giardia, trichomoniasis, heartworms, or a swallowed object. Conclusive evidence requires a biopsy of the intestine. A sample of tissue is removed surgically from the anesthetized cat for microscopic evaluation.
Sometimes a special instrument called a colonoscope is inserted into the cat’s rectum to view the tissue. But because only portions of the tissue may exhibit inflammation, even then diagnosis may not be definitive. The disease over the long term can result in scarring.
DEALING WITH CAT IBD
Some research supports the notion that a food allergy may be at fault, and in some cases a limited antigen diet may help the cat. Home prepared or even raw food diets have helped some cats.
Inflammatory bowel disease includes the damage or malfunction of the normal barrier protection in the gut. Damage can allow a kind of leakage of large protein particles, and give them contact with the immune system. Drugs to treat bacterial overgrowth or parasite infection may be prescribed. Immune-suppressing drugs may also be beneficial.
HOLISTIC OPTIONS FOR CAT IBD
Holistic veterinarians recommend dietary changes based on the individual cat. In one Morris Animal Foundation funded study, veterinarians at Colorado State University reported that probiotics improved/reduced diarrhea in up to 70 percent of cats.
Digestive enzymes or herbs may also be recommended. Because inflammatory bowel disease often damages cells in the intestine, supplements containing glutamine are thought to help rebuild the intestinal lining and aid in its function. For more information about alternative options, refer to New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats.
Medical marijuana today is also available for pets, but must be formulated so that pets receive the medical benefits of the hemp plant while reducing potential toxic concentrations of the herb. Hemp can be used to control pain and inflammation. Ask your veterinarian if this supplement may benefit your pet.
Has your cat been diagnosed with IBD? How do you manage the symptoms? Please share!
The book also won a special award. The Dr. Jim Richards Cornell Feline Health Center Veterinary Issues Award Winner,Sponsored by Cornell University’s Feline Health Center. It’s presented to the highestquality entry on the topic of technological advances, research, new medical developments, or innovations in feline veterinary medicine. Qualifying entries include single newspaper, magazine, or newsletter articles; columns or series of articles (print or online); blogs, a website, single books, or radio/television broadcasts. The award consists of $500 and a commemorative award.
This Cornell award is named for someone very special to the CWA and to me personally. Dr. Jim Richards was always available to me (and many other writers) whenever we had need of an expert quote or explanation of feline issues. He gave so much of himself, and was one of the inspirations for creating CWA, and Jim even gave the keynote banquet address some years ago at an awards banquet. At the time, he presented what was then called simply the Cornell Feline Health Center Award.
And then, Jim tragically died in a motorcycle accident. We presented him posthumously with the Shojai Mentor Award, because he did mentor so many of us. So this past weekend, to have my book honored with an award presented in his name…well, I’m rarely speechless but this nearly did it. 🙂
I have LOTS more to write about the happenings at the 22nd Annual CWA Conference events…but that will have to come later. With about 30 pounds (no joke!) in swag from CWA, BlogPaws and wonderful vendors, my Magical-Dawg, Seren-Kitty and Karma-Kat are in for a wonderful treat! Stay tuned.
I’m celebrating the release (and great reviews!) of my two latest books with GIVE AWAYS! Hey, you can enter for yourself, for your dog or cat, or tell others about the chance to win a PAW-tographed print copy of these books.
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, wouldn’t one of these books make a great gift for a pet-mom? *s*
Of course, if you don’t want to rely on chance, you can order Cat Facts here or for dog lovers, Dog Facts here for the pet-loving folks in your life, and get it to them in time.