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Kittens

Ask Elizabeth: July 2013

I completely understand your thoughts on this matter, as recent developments have caused many owners (and cats … believe it or not!) to reconsider their habits and the effects that their lifestyle may have on native populations. The recent study suggesting that domestic cats are contributing to the demise of billions of birds and small mammals points out the fact that the interaction of domestic species with native wildlife is an important issue, one that requires careful thought and action.

Short Takes: April 2013

A survey of more than 50,000 U.S. households has uncovered a puzzling disconnect between cat owners’ beliefs and actions. Owners in 2011 said they increasingly consider their cats family members — 56 percent, up from 49.4 percent in 2006. Yet just 27.1 percent of owners say they took their cats to the veterinarian only when they were sick. Given that the feline population in the U.S. is approximately 74.1 million, about 20 million pet cats went without regular checkups and care in 2011.

A Commitment to Improving Well-being

Imagine veterinarians being able to sterilize feral cats by vaccination instead of surgery. Or to identify the connection between a relatively benign form of feline coronavirus and feline infectious peritonitis, which is nearly always fatal, with the hope of finding ways to diagnose and combat it. Or discover how and why vaccine-associated sarcomas may trigger DNA damage in some cats and how this damage may be used to predict which cases of the sarcomas are amenable to chemotherapy. These are just three of the many scientific studies funded by the Cornell Feline Health Center where, under the guidance of Director Colin Parrish, Ph.D., Professor of Virology, the goal of bettering the health of cats continues to be the focus and commitment, as it has been since the center opened its doors in 1974.

Ask Elizabeth: September 2012

I work at a large no-kill animal sanctuary with special-needs cats. Often when one becomes ill and stops eating, we tempt him or her with people food like baby food or boiled chicken. I have heard a lot of conflicting things about feeding cats baby food or straight meat. Someone recently told me that a good all-meat baby food and straight chicken are nutritionally complete, but I have read in a few places that cats need other nutrients like taurine and vitamins A and D or they will get very sick. Does straight meat provide full nutrition for cats? In the wild, how do cats get full nutrition if meat does not provide it all? What is the best kind of food for our dear kitties?

Fostering Kittens: An Important Job

Consider this: One cat and her offspring can produce a whopping 420,000 cats in just seven years. Each year, from April to November, hundreds of thousands of kittens are born — often to feral or stray moms that struggle to survive on our city streets, in the suburbs, and in rural areas across America. Without human intervention, most of these newborns will die or lead short, miserable lives. The moms that are not killed by cars, other animals, or disease, will repeatedly become pregnant, adding to the already crushing pet overpopulation problem.

Ask Elizabeth: March 2012

Female cats in heat can be quite promiscuous and will often mate with more than one male, a survival mechanism designed to increase the chances that mating will result in pregnancy. Studies show cats that mate only once get pregnant just 50 percent of the time. Cats are induced ovulators, meaning that the act of mating triggers egg release or ovulation. When cats ovulate, multiple eggs are usually released. Not all of the eggs are necessarily fertilized following a mating. Unfertilized eggs can be fertilized during a subsequent mating, or the next mating may result in the release of even more eggs which are then available for fertilization.

Ask Elizabeth: January 2012

We adopted a new kitten from a local rescue group last month, and she is just perfect. Although she had been tested for the feline leukemia virus and FIV by the terrific group that saved her from the street, we took her to our veterinarian right away so that she could be examined before we introduced her to our two older cats. After a clean bill of health, we brought Bunny home, and she has become a well-integrated part of the family. The problem is that before we scheduled her spay surgery, she came into heat. What a scene!

Kitten Care: Starting Off Right

Are you considering adopting a new kitten? While the love part is a no-brainer, the responsibility can sometimes come as a surprise. In addition to choosing high-quality food, litter and toys, a new owner must take a proactive role in the kitten’s health. During your new pet’s first year, a veterinarian will examine the kitten a number of times in order to identify and treat or prevent any potential health or behavioral problems. There is not a set list of medications and vaccines that every kitten should receive, so owners need to consult with their veterinarian before deciding what is appropriate and what may not be. But keeping your kitten healthy isn’t just about vaccines and medicine. Here’s what else you need to consider.

Short Takes: April 2011

Researchers studied the effect of distance and neighborhood-level demographics on the number of pet adoptions from an animal shelter ("Use of geospatial neighborhood control locations for epidemiological analysis of community-level pet adoption patterns," American Journal of Veterinary Research, 2010). The methods used to perform the study included client segmentation, geospatial tools, and epidemiological techniques that evaluated locations of 1,563 adoptions from an animal shelter in eastern Massachusetts.

Ask Elizabeth: June 2010

Kudos to you for adopting a special needs little fella. Bob most likely was exposed to feline panleukopenia virus, sometimes called feline distemper or feline parvo virus, either shortly before or shortly after birth. This exposure caused a condition called cerebellar hypoplasia, or underdevelopment of the cerebellum. The cerebellum is located at the base of the brain, is responsible for coordination of movement and plays a role in balance. Kittens that are exposed to panleukopenia virus during development of the cerebellum (generally the last two weeks of gestation up until about four weeks of age) wind up with a cerebellum that is too small and doesnt function properly. Cerebellar hypoplasia can result from exposure to panleukopenia virus itself or from modified live panleukopenia vaccines given to cats during pregnancy or to kittens prior to four weeks of age.

Short Takes: April 2010

Ingestion of foreign bodies - including string-like objects - is a common problem seen in feline veterinary medicine. Foreign bodies may cause partial or complete gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction, which results in disturbances of fluid and electrolyte balance as well as dehydration. Damage to the intestinal tract can also occur. This study ("Gastrointestinal foreign bodies in dogs and cats: a retrospective study of 208 cases" in the Journal of Small Animal Practice, 2009) reviewed the records of 208 cases of GI foreign bodies in dogs and cats that were brought in to the RSPCA Greater Manchester Animal Hospital in the UK from June 2003 to May 2007.

Ask Elizabeth: January 2010

Dear Elizabeth, My cat, Abby, recently had a litter of kittens and the kittens are so different from each other in terms of size, color and personality, that I think they must have come from different fathers. One kitten is fine-boned, white with grey patches and long haired, while two of the others are short-haired, stocky and black. Abby showed up at my door, pregnant, so I have no idea if she actually mated with more than one male. Is it possible that the kittens have different dads? And what is an average size litter for a cat? Abby had three kittens, which I think of as average, but the cat down the road recently had nine kittens!