From the April 2015 Issue
Scientists estimate that cats have lived with us for at least 9,000 years, and surveys show that many of the 45 million households in the U.S. today consider their 96 million cats bona fide members of the family. Yet after all these years, how well do we really understand cats? It turns out not that well, says Katherine Houpt, VMD, Ph.D., animal behaviorist and professor emeritus at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Cats body language is daunting for many of us to interpret, particularly because of their anatomy.
Manufacturers in the $1-billion pet supplement market would like cat owners to believe that an array of their products, ranging from glucosamine to fish oil to vitamin pills, will help our cats live longer, healthier lives. Whether those supplements are actually effective is not known. Few large-scale studies have been done, and governmental oversight and regulations do not exist.\nNutritionist Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., ACVN, ACVSMR, at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine believes there is little proof that many of the promotional claims about supplements are accurate; however, one study on deep-sea fish oil has shown it can be beneficial. Dr. Wakshlag, president-elect of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, explains more about the fish oil study in the sidebar on Page 5 and on supplements in general in the following Q & A. \n
If your cat is more than 10 years of age, and you see him arising from a nap in a puddle of urine or with a moist rear, he could have age-related urinary incontinence. The problem, frequently occurring in senior and geriatric cats, has several causes.\nIt often results from urinary bladder or sphincter problems, says Leni K. Kaplan, DVM, MS, a lecturer in the Community Practice Service at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. However, incontinence can also be related to anything obstructing urine outflow, such as a tumor or stone. The bladder may then over-distend, and the cat may leak if he remains in one place for a while.\n
A promising study about supplementing with deep-sea fish oil illustrates one of the challenges in conducting research on cats and why more research is done on dogs than cats.\nA study of 77 dogs with osteoarthritis found that, when compared to a placebo, The fish-oil treated patients improved significantly in many of the variables indicating a true but small relief in symptoms. Those dogs had improved in quality of life in locomotion and everyday situations, according to the report published in BMC Veterinary Research in 2012. Supplementation could be considered part of a total pain-relieving approach, especially for dogs who do not tolerate anti-inflammatory drugs, the researchers said. \n
Reports of dogs improving the social skills of children with autism have been widespread. A University of Missouri researcher, however, has found that any pet in the home can increase the childrens assertiveness, such as introducing themselves and asking for information. \nGretchen Carlisle, a research fellow at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the College of Veterinary Medicine, studied 70 families with autistic children ages 8 to 18. About half of them had cats. \nHer findings: Younger children bonded more strongly to smaller dogs than large ones, but parents reported strong attachments between their children and other pets, such as cats, fish or rabbits. It serves as evidence that other types of pets could benefit children with autism, Carlisle says.\nOne caution from behaviorist Katherine Houpt, VMD, Ph.D., at Cornell: Children may have difficulty distinguishing real from stuffed animals, especially small animals like cats. Be sure that the autistic child is gentle with the cat.
I recently fostered a rescue dog I was told had eaten the feces of a feral cat while being housed in another foster home. This cat subsequently had his stool tested, and it came back positive for toxoplasma gondii. The dog unfortunately defecated in my car while I was transporting him and I am concerned that I may have been exposed to toxoplasma while cleaning up the mess in my car. Do I need to worry about this?\n