Your House Cat May Be a Champion

The MoKan Cat Show is coming up in March.  If your cat isn’t pedigreed, no worries!  Your house cat may still be a champion in the Household Pets category.

Showing your house cat

Is your cat one of a kind?  The great thing about mixed-breed cats is the almost unlimited diversity of coat length, markings, size, and disposition.  If your cat is unusual, beautiful, or even just sweet, you might consider putting him in a Cat Fancier Association (CFA) cat show.  There are no standards that cats in the household pet category must meet.  However, the CFA requires that cats not be declawed.  If over 8 months, cats in this category must be spayed or neutered.

If your cat meets these requirements and is in good health, she may be ready for the spotlight.  It’s important to plan ahead for the cat show.  There are some items that you will need to prepare, and if you’re coming in from out of town you will need to make reservations at a local hotel.  Preparation and participation can be a great project for the entire family.

Each show is different, so your first step should always be to contact the show organizers.   Some shows may not have a household pet category, and entry fees will vary. You will find a listing of shows on the CFA website.

Getting started

The show will provide a cage and chair for you.  According to the CFA, you should ask for a double cage when you register.  A single cage is 2 x 2 x 2 feet.  A double cage is twice as wide to provide more room for your cat to move comfortably.  You will need to provide cage curtains for the sides, back, and top of the cage.  Making cage curtains doesn’t have to be difficult, but you can let your creativity shine!  These curtains can be as simple as bedsheets, but they can be as elaborate as luxury draperies.   You can find instructions for making curtains online, even if you don’t sew.

In addition to curtains, you may want to decorate the top of the cage.  Many shows have a theme, and organizers will award prizes for the best cage decorations. Bring a towel to cover the bottom of the cage, and a cat bed. Bring your cat’s food, litter, and bottled water, plus litterbox, food bowl, and water bowl.  You may also want to bring your cat’s grooming supplies.  If it’s your first show, let the show clerk know.  You will most likely want to show up early for set-up.  You will find more information about showing your cat at the CFA.

Meow Madness 2018 MoKan Cat Show

This year the MoKan Cat Club will host their annual show on March 10.   The theme is “Meow Madness,” reflecting the college basketball championship season.  Prizes will be awarded for the best basketball-themed cage decorations.  The show will highlight 40 breeds of cats, and categories include the household pet.  It’s a family-friendly event.

Catch the Fever

Showing your cat can be a rewarding year-round hobby.  The CFA offers a Household Pet Recording Program.  Once your cat is recorded, he will be eligible to accumulate points and work towards more significant awards like Grand Household Pet.

Come out to the MoKan Cat Show and share your obsession with your feline friend.  And share your story with us!  We would love to see your favorite photos.

 

Featured image: Shutterstock

 

Diabetes in Dogs and Cats, Part 3: Treating Diabetes

For many pet parents, the thought of treating diabetes in their pet is overwhelming.   Up to 40% of cats and 60% of dogs will be euthanized within a year of diagnosis.  Treating a diabetic animal is challenging, but pets with diabetes can have an excellent quality of life with proper care.

Initial stabilization and treatment

The period of time immediately after a pet is diagnosed with diabetes may be particularly challenging.  Pets with complications of their diabetes, like ketoacidosis, or pets that also have other diseases may need to be hospitalized.  Most veterinarians put newly diagnosed pets on twice daily insulin injections.  With some types of insulin, once-daily injections may be possible.  Veterinarians adjust the dose based on blood glucose control.  Control is assessed using blood glucose curves.  This means that your veterinarian will assess blood samples at various times after your pet is fed and treated with insulin to determine how long the insulin is acting iand how well the dose controls the peak blood sugar.  Glucose curves may be done in the clinic or at home.

Just as it is in people, diet is a very important part of treating diabetes in pets.  Your veterinarian will most likely recommend a high-protein, low carbohydrate diet for a cat, or a high-fiber diet for a dog.  Exercise is also key.  Exercise helps your pet’s body use glucose more efficiently.  Increase your pet’s activity level gradually once diabetes is stabilized.

For the initial treatment phase, you will need syringes and insulin, and perhaps a blood glucose monitor and strips.  You may need to purchase a special diet for your pet.  Be prepared for frequent visits to your veterinarian during this time.  This period can be expensive, but there are options to decrease costs.  Pets with Diabetes is a good resource for parents of diabetic pets.

Treating diabetes in the long term

After your veterinarian stabilizes your pet and the dose is adjusted, you will need to continue to monitor your pet’s blood sugar frequently.  Some cats will experience diabetic remission.  This means that they will no longer require insulin.  Dogs will need to remain on insulin for life.  There are some non-insulin, oral therapies available for people with type 2 diabetes.  Unfortunately, no oral treatment has been approved for animals yet.

A number of other diseases may affect your dog’s response to insulin.  For this reason, it is necessary for your vet to monitor your dog’s health closely.   In  both cats and dogs, diabetes can lead to other health problems that pet parents should watch for.  Even welll-controlled diabetic dogs may develop cloudy eyes, or cataracts.  Cats may develop weakness in their legs, especially the hind legs. .Although it is commonly believed that a well-controlled diabetic dog or cat may have a normal life expectancy, there isn’t a lot of research on this topic.  It is certainly true that both cats and dogs with diabetes may live a full and happy life, just as people with this disease do.

If you dog or cat is diagnosed with diabetes, talk to your veterinarian and share your concerns openly. Your vet can help you find the support you need to provide the best possible treatment for  your pet.

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Do Dogs Feel Guilt?

Do dogs feel guilt?  If you own a dog, chances are you have seen the look.  When your dog greets you with head down, eyes averted, and crouching, you look around for the mess. You probably find garbage on the floor. But is the guilty response a reaction to a guilty conscience, or to you?  A new article in The Atlantic questions the widely-held belief that dogs can harbor a guilty conscience.

Popular culture and dog shaming

Whether or not dogs actually experience guilt in the same way as humans, people have capitalized on the guilty behaviors of their canine friends.  Dog shaming is a popular internet meme in which owners post images of their dogs with a sign detailing some recent misbehavior.  And it’s true.  Many of the dogs in these images look properly abashed.  Some trainers instruct dog parents to scold their dog even when they don’t catch him in the act.  Popular culture assigns the full range of human emotions and logical reasoning ability to our canine companions.

Admittedly, dogs do an impressive job of convincing us that they feel guilty or remorseful.  But does science provide any evidence?

Is there scientific evidence that dogs feel guilt?

In addition to our own intuition that dogs indeed experience basic human emotions like, joy, fear, anger, and disgust, there is reasonable evidence that this is the case.  There is less behavioral evidence to suggest that dogs feel more complex human emotions such as jealousy or guilt.  Much research has been conducted around the ways dogs relate to human emotions, but behavioral science has not prioritized studies to demonstrate whether or not dogs experience emotions.  However, the topic of dog guilt has been evaluated in some excellent and convincing studies over the past decade.

Horowitz, 2009:

Researcher Alexandra Horowitz studied 14 dog-human pairs and investigated the context of the so called “guilty look.”  In a series of trials, the dogs were shown a treat and instructed by their owners not to eat it.  The owner left the room and the dog was either allowed by the experimenter to eat or not eat the treat.  The owner was called into the room and told whether or not her dog ate the treat.

In two of the trials, the owners were deliberately given the wrong information.  The experimenter videotaped the entire trial and the dog’s responses were analyzed.  This study showed that dogs expressed the guilty look equally whether or not they had eaten the treat.  However, dogs that were scolded were much more likely to express the guilty behavior.  Interestingly, dogs that did not eat the treat but were scolded were more likely to look guilty.  The results of this study suggest that expression of guilt was associated with perception of the dog’s guilt by the owner.  It should also be noted that the three dogs whose owners routinely used physical means to scold them were three of the four dogs with the highest number of guilty behaviors.

Hecht, 2012:

A follow-up study with a similar design demonstrated that owners were able to correctly determine whether or not their dog ate the treat by how the dog behaved.  However, the study was set up in such a way that in a baseline trial owners were allowed to see whether or not their dog ate the treat.  These owners were allowed to scold the dog if she ate the treat during the baseline.  It is reasonable to think that these owners were likely biased by knowing their pet ate or didn’t eat the treat at the first trial.  This study also did not include experimental manipulation of owners’ knowledge about their dogs guilt.

Ostojic, 2015:

In this study, investigators repeated key feature of the Horowitz and Hecht experiments.  However, they controlled the baseline period in such a way that testing began only after all dogs learned not to take the treat while owners were in the room.  Similar to the Howoritz study, owners were sometimes intentionally given the wrong verbal and visual information about whether their dog ate the treat or not.  Ninety-six dog/human pairs were tested in this study.  The study showed that the owners were not able to detect whether or not their dog had eaten the treat based on their dog’s behavior more than they would have by chance alone.  This study also suggests that dog’s guilty behavior is more to do with our behavior than it is a guilty conscience.

These studies were not designed to determine whether or not dogs feel guilt.  Rather, they were designed to examine whether the guilty look expressed by dogs is related to our human behaviors.  Dogs may feel guilt.  Unfortunately, there is not yet good evidence that they do so.   There is good evidence that the behavior we think expresses guilt is more an indicator of our dog’s response to us.  This makes good sense in light of the ways in which dogs have evolved to read and react to human emotions.

Let’s come back to the garbage on the floor.  Your dog probably comes to the door with a guilty look, even before you have seen the mess.  Isn’t that an indication of guilt?  Perhaps.  But it may also be a reaction to a memory of the last time you scolded him for garbage on the floor.  He’s smart, and he has a good memory.  He can also, it seems, put two and two together.

bad dog good dog, border collie, black and white, dog sign, dog shaming, guilt
Bad dog or good dog? Dogs may express guilty behavior even when they are not guilty.

Hecht, J. et al, Behavioral assessment and owner perceptions of behaviors associated with guilt in dogs, Applied Animal Behav Science, 2012; 139: 134-142

Horowitz, Disambiguating the “guiltylook”: Salient prompts to a familiar dog behaviour, Behavioural Processes, 2009; 81: 447-452.

Ostojic et al, Are owners’ reports of their dogs “guilty look”influenced by the dogs’ action and evidence of the misdeed? Behavioural Processes, 2015; 111:97-100

Diabetes in Dogs and Cats Part 2: Diagnosing diabetes

What does diabetes look like in a dog or cat?  Diagnosing diabetes in our pets is relatively straightforward.  Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and laboratory tests.

Clinical signs of diabetes

See your veterinarian if you notice the following clinical signs.

Increased drinking

Increased urination

Dehydration

Frequent urinary tract infections

As we learned in the first part of this series, diabetes causes excess blood sugar.  When there is so much sugar that the kidneys can’t reabsorb it, the sugar is excreted in the urine.  The sugar brings a lot of water from the body along with it.  This causes your pet to drink more to compensate for the loss of body water.  Your pet may even become dehydrated.  Sugar in the urine makes an excellent environment for bacteria to grow, and urinary tract infections are common in diabetic animals.

Excessive hunger

Losing weight in spite of good appetite

Decreased activity or even lethargy

Vomiting

Decreased appetite

Sweet-smelling breath

Because the cells of the body can’t utilize sugar for energy in a diabetic animal, the brain will continue to send hunger signals even after a full meal.  Your pet may eat more.  However, your pet may still lose weight as the body uses proteins and fats to produce energy.  The process of breaking down, or metabolizing, fats may lead to a build up of certain types of chemicals, ketones, in the body.  Veterinarians refer to this condition as “ketoacidosis.”  Ketones in the body may be excreted in the breath.  You may notice that your pet’s breath smells sweet or fruity.   Lack of fuel, breakdown of body fats and proteins, and ketoacidosis can lead to an obvious decrease in your pet’s activity level.  In some cases, you may even notice that your pet seems lethargic.  Ketoacidosis may also cause your pet to vomit, and your pet’s appetite may decrease.

Cataracts

Increased sugar in the blood also causes increased sugar in the fluids of the eye.  This sugar acts to cause clouding of the lens.  Your pet’s pupils will seem less transparent and even gray or white.  A majority of dogs with diabetes may develop cataracts within 4-6 months of diabetes diagnosis (Beam, 1999).  Cataracts are rare in cats with diabetes.

Frequent Skin Infections

The increased blood sugar and debilitated state of pets with diabetes can lead to increased infections.  Often, dogs with diabetes have other problems at the same time that may cause skin issues or a decreased immunity to infection.

Diabetic neuropathy

Cats with diabetes may develop a problem with the nerves in their lower legs, most often the rear legs.  The legs may be weak and the cat may walk in a crouched position instead of on the toes.

Diagnosing diabetes with laboratory tests

If your veterinarian suspects that your pet has diabetes, she will recommend laboratory tests to confirm the diagnosis.  These tests include bloodwork for sugar levels.  Bloodwork will also rule out ketoacidosis or other diseases.  Your veterinarian will also test your pet’s urine.  In order to be considered diabetic, your pet must have elevated sugar in both the blood and the urine.  Your veterinarian may ask for a urine culture to make sure your pet does not have a urinary tract infection.  Early diagnosis and treatment is critical for the diabetic pet, so make sure you see your veterinarian as soon as possible when you notice clinical signs.

In Part 3 of this series, we will look at treatment options for cats and dogs with diabetes.

Beam S. et al, A retrospective cohort study on the development of cataracts in dogs with diabetes mellitus: 200 cases, Veterinary Ophthalmology, 1999; 2:169-172

Image: Adobe Spark

Strategies for Successful Pet Adoptions

In the recent post When A Pet Must Go, we discussed resources and alternatives to shelters that are available to pet parents who are struggling with their pets. Today, we will look at ways to make sure pet adoptions match the right pets to the best homes.  Two very different adoptions demonstrate what works and what to avoid when you are looking for a new pet.

Seamus

Last year a friend of mine rescued a shelter dog. Like many potential adopters, he scouted local shelter dogs online.  He fell in love with Seamus, a dog who looked like the perfect friend.  He and his partner went to the shelter, met Seamus, and took him home the same day.  Sadly, within two months of his adoption this boisterous, large-breed dog had to be rehomed. What went wrong?  How did a conscientious and exuberant adopter end up with a dog he couldn’t keep?  I spoke with my friend last week about his experience and the lessons he learned.

In December of 2016, my friend and his partner had just moved into a new home together.  They were looking for a dog to join their family.  They had set their sights on Seamus after viewing his photo online, and the shelter didn’t provide much history.  My friend knew only that Seamus was about 1.5 years old and that he had been on the streets for a while before coming to the shelter.  Seamus was recently neutered.  The shelter did not discuss the dog’s temperament or talk about the sort of home that would be best for him.

At home, Seamus was rowdy, and it was clear to my friend that he had not been properly socialized.  He was destructive when left alone.  My friend worked from home a couple of weeks in order to spend time with Seamus and acclimate him to his new home.  However, the behavior problems persisted, and Seamus ultimately became aggressive to my friend’s partner.  Fortunately, my friend was able to quickly rehome Seamus with a relative.  Seamus currently has plenty of space to work out his high energy, and he is doing well.

Sir Miles

Ultimately, my friend was able to adopt a dog suited to his lifestyle and personality. The lessons he learned from his experience with Seamus helped him approach this adoption very differently.  He and his partner looked at several different dogs, and they took their time to make a decision.  When they found Sir Miles, they visited him on multiple occasions at his foster home.  They even brought him to their home to see how he reacted.  His background was appropriate for the family.  He had been an owned dog, but his owner had to give him up because he was not able to spend enough time with him.  Sir Miles settled into his new home well, and he is a much-loved family member.  My friend has even met his former owner via social media and shares updates about Sir Miles with him.

The role of the shelter

One of the most important lessons my friend learned from his adoption of Seamus is that not every pet is right for every household. A good shelter will work with adopters to help them understand what breed or type of pet is best for them.  I spoke with Ms. Casey Waugh from Wayside Waifs to find out how her organization helps create adoption successes.  At Wayside Waifs, successful pet adoptions begin with intake of the animal.  The shelter collects information about every animal surrendered.  A behavioral team assesses and works with the animals.  There is even a running club that allows volunteers to run with dogs and assess whether they will make good running partners.  Adoption counselors use information about the adopting family and information about the animals in the shelter to make recommendations for adoption.  The group contacts landlords directly to ensure that renters will be able to keep their pet.

Potential adopters are encouraged to spend time with the pets at the shelter.  Those looking to adopt animals that have been in the shelter for a longer period of time may take the dogs home for a “Slumber Pawty,”  generally 7-days or less.  This helps ensure that the pet is a good fit in the home.  Finally, adoption counselors follow up on every adoption to identify and solve any developing problems.

Checklist for successful adoption

  1. Plan for adoption and don’t get caught up in the excitement of the moment.  Rushing to pick a new pet can lead to an emotional choice.
  2. Be realistic about your needs and abilities.  You may feel very compassionate and want to rescue a pet with behavior problems.  If you don’t have the experience or temperament to train or the budget to hire a trainer you and your new pet will not be happy.
  3. Be open with the shelter about your lifestyle.  The shelter will make better recommendations if they understand your needs.  If you don’t have a lot of time to spend with a new pet, be clear about that up front.
  4. Look at more than one potential pet and take the time to learn about their backgrounds.
  5. Spend time with the pet, in your home if possible.
  6. Stay in touch with the shelter and ask for help if you encounter problems.
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Six tips for successful pet adoptions

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