Short Takes: 07/05

Neutering to assist endangered cats; osseointegration; confidence and color

More Neutering Means Less Introgression
Wildlife conservationists in Scotland are urging pet owners there to neuter their cats to reduce introgression (or pollution of the wild gene pool through cross-breeding) before the increasingly rare Scottish Highlands wildcat (Felis sylvestris sylvestris) disappears altogether.

As few as 400 Scottish wildcats with the classic features (dark stripes on the bodies; broad, blunt heads with amber eyes and pink noses; and three to five rings and a bushy black tip on the tails) may remain outside of zoos, according to Oxford Universitys Professor David MacDonald. Although smaller than wildcats, domestic cats in Scotland (Felis sylvestris catus) can successfully breed with their larger cousins. Then, there goes the gene pool.

Leaving no pun unturned, Professor MacDonald said that the wildcat population estimate of 400, if true, would catapult them to being absolutely at the top of Britains endangered wild animals list.


Tarheel Cat Pioneers Osseointegration
Ready for another vocabulary word? Try osseointegration. Thats whats happening in Raleigh, North Carolina to a cat that was born – not only the runt of the litter – but without back feet.

Surgeons at North Carolina State Universitys College of Veterinary Medicine designed a prosthesis made of porous spring steel, drilled into the cats right tibia, and installed the artificial part. As bone cells continue to grow into the pores of the prosthesis, osseointegration is occurring.

The technique has been tried in Europe with humans, mostly for lost thumbs and other digits. But the new foot for a Tarheel feline apparently is a first of its kind in the United States, and certainly a first for a cat named George Bailey.

The lucky kitty was named for the despondent banker who was coaxed off the Bedford Falls bridge in the classic film, Its a Wonderful Life. In the movie, George Baileys angel was named Clarence, while the feline Baileys guardian angel was veterinary surgeon Denis Marcellin-Little. The N.C. State veterinarian predicted that the feline-tested procedure may someday restore lost limbs to human diabetics. Sometimes having the prosthesis anchored into the bone might be stronger, more comfortable or more durable, said Dr. Marcellin-Little.

And CatWatch would like to nominate for angelhood the cats owner, Al Simmons. Although the veterinary college footed most of the bill (our pun, not theirs) for the experimental surgery, it was Mr. Simmons who adopted the disabled kitten in the first place.

He bonded with the spunky feline that would drag along with its sturdy front feet. Finally, Simmons declared: If theres something we can do to make his life a little easier, lets do it!

Thats some wonderful osseointegration.


Color Me Confident
Ginger-colored cats are less nervous and more active compared to black and black-and-white cats, which are less confident than ginger, tortoise and tabby cats. That is according to a survey of 1,800 British cat owners that was published in the 32-page FAB Felix Cat Personality Report, which is available free to download and print at

The Feline Advisory Bureau, which sponsored the survey, speculates that lack of confidence may account for higher rates of lower urinary tract disease among black cats – noting that stress is associated with urinary problems.