1. Behavior problems are the #1 cause of euthanasia in cats.
2. Cats with musculoskeletal injuries (sprains, torn ligaments) should be rested—just like athletes.
3. Cats don’t have as many back injuries as dogs have because their backs are more flexible. Still, older cats often have spine and joint arthritis.
4. Catnip is a plant from the mint family (see photo). Whether a cat becomes euphoric around it or not is determined by the cat’s genetics.
Eating & Drinking
5. Wild cats eat 10 to 20 small meals each day, with most of their awake time spent hunting. Because domestic cats don’t expend energy hunting, they have problems with obesity—50% of our cats are overweight.
6. Canned or homemade diets are often best for cats. Cats that eat dry food too quickly can vomit because their stomachs distend too rapidly. Cats also do better with the increased moisture that’s in canned or homemade food. Feeding your cat correctly helps it have the best health and the best personality.
7. Cats evolved as desert creatures, obtaining moisture from their prey—there are few sources of water in the desert. Your cat’s behavior is not going to change, so you need to provide moisture in its food. Without moisture, it’s easy for a cat’s urine to become concentrated and for crystals to form. If drinking doesn’t come naturally to your cat, feed moistened canned or homemade food to help keep the urine diluted.
8. Combing out a cat’s matted hair can hurt, so work slowly or it will remember what you did and may never let you comb it again.
Heart & Blood Pressure
9. The symptoms of heart disease are so similar to the symptoms of asthma that veterinarians need X-rays to determine which disease your cat has. Cats with either asthma, or heart disease, gag and cough so it’s easy to think they’re coughing up hairballs when they aren’t.
10. Heart murmurs are rather common in older cats. Many cats with murmurs also have hyperthyroid disease and are gloriously irritable.
11. Cats get high blood pressure just like people. Cats with kidney disease or hyperthyroidism have the greatest problem with high blood pressure. Cats’ blood pressure is higher in the veterinary clinic than it is in the cat’s home.
12. Mosquitoes that give dogs heartworm disease can also give cats heartworm disease. Usually cats don’t have as severe an illness as dogs have, but some are very ill.
13. Cats can have enlarged hearts for 2 reasons: The heart stretches out and becomes a flabby-walled sac (dilated cardiomyopathy). Taurine, an amino acid added to most cat vitamins, and cat food, prevents this. The heart may also be enlarged because the walls thicken and the outside dimension increases. Inside a thick-walled heart, there’s less room for blood (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). This type of heart disease can cause a blood clot that blocks the blood flow to the legs and causes paralysis. What you may notice if your cat has heart disease is that it doesn’t have any pep and isn’t behaving like its old self.
14. Some sick cats won’t eat regular cat food, but they will eat human baby food. Don’t worry, this isn’t spoiling your pet.
15. Cats that don’t eat for 24 hours may be sick; cats that don’t eat for 48 hours are quite sick. Many cats conceal their illness by hiding, so inspect your cat carefully if it is choosing to isolate itself.
16. Cats that don’t defecate for 24 hours may be sick; cats that don’t defecate for 48 hours are in trouble.
17. Cats should not be given aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen. They are not little people.
18. Pedigreed cats tend to have common medical problems.
19. Hyperactive thyroid glands are common in cats. The opposite—hypo- (under) active thyroids are common in dogs. Hyperthyroid cats can be extremely irritable, hyperactive, and ravenous.
20. Diabetes is common in cats and, just like in people, being overweight increases the likelihood a cat will develop diabetes. Diabetic cats urinate a lot and drink a lot (polyuria/polydipsia or PUPD). You’ll notice the litter box is heavier because there is more urine in it than normal.
21. Some cats are diabetic for a short time and recover. Other cats are diabetic for the rest of their lives and need insulin shots.
22. The cat’s liver has 4 lobes and can fill ¼ of the abdomen. Stomach, spleen, large and small intestines, bladder, pancreas, adrenals, kidneys, and reproductive organs fill the remainder of the abdomen. The liver takes up proportionately so much room because it has such a vital role in a cat’s health. When the liver doesn’t work well, many cats become irritable, confused, and depressed.
23. Kidney disease is the most common problem of older cats. Cats with kidney disease drink more and urinate more than normal. They lose their spunk and sleep a lot; many are distressed and in pain.
24. Hairballs can look like they came from either end of the cat—vomited or defecated. That’s because the hair “ball” is usually a hair “tube” so it can look like it’s fecal material.
25. Chewing is normal. Kittens’ first teeth, called deciduous teeth, are just like human baby teeth—they are all replaced by permanent teeth. While the deciduous teeth are falling out and being replaced— from 4-7 months of age—kittens chew everything in sight.
26. Cats can get cavities. Brushing prevents them. Your cat won’t mind having its teeth brushed if you start when it is young, use bribes, and handle it gently. Think of it this way: if a lady can teach a lion not to bite off her head in a circus act, you can teach your cat to accept a toothbrush.
27. Cats have their own toothpastes, such as CET Toothpaste. Don’t use human toothpaste because it foams, which cats don’t like. And, human toothpaste is meant to be spit out. None of us wants to encourage a cat to spit. Good cat toothpaste can be swallowed with no problem.
28. Yarn, dental floss, string, and Christmas tree tinsel can pleat, or cause folds in, the intestines of a cat and kill it. Some cats are driven to play with these things because they love to hunt.
29. Cat pregnancy lasts 63-65 days. The usual litter is 4, or fewer, kittens. How the mother (queen) treats the kittens influences their personalities.
Cat Scratching & Declawing Cat
30. Just like dogs bark, cats scratch. Scratching grooms the claws, stretches the muscles, and leaves scent messages for other cats. It’s normal behavior.
31. Declawing amputates a bone in the toe. Don’t take it lightly, just as you wouldn’t take lightly your physician amputating your toe. Cats without claws can have difficulty defending themselves outside, and they can’t climb trees to escape.
32. Scratching continues even after declawing. Some cats prefer to scratch vertically, and others horizontally, but all prefer rough fabric, sisal, bark or wood posts. Cats like their scratching posts located near sleeping, eating, or window areas with views of birdfeeders—these are the “high-end” cat real estate areas. Ideal scratching posts are tall—even to the ceiling—and sturdy.
33. Humans get acne when they’re adolescents; cats can get acne and have it all their lives. (Do they feel a psychological stigma?)
34. Cats with mites look “mangy.” Otodectes mites infect the ears. Notoedres mites infect the head and ears. Cheyletiella mites infect the trunk, and can live in the bedding for 3 weeks. Demodex mites, much less common in cats than in dogs, cause bald patches. Cats may not share food, but they will share mites.
35. Cats sneeze—just like humans and dogs. If sneezing is caused by an infection, the cat may sneeze thick yellow mucus.
36. Cats that socialize with men, women, and children when they are between 3 and 9 weeks of age become the best pets.
38. Cats are creatures of habit; they love routine.
37. Most cats are social and prefer to live in colonies when there’s enough food for everyone. Cats recognize each other and have favorite friends. Queens —the name for mother cats—can cooperate and raise kittens together
39. Cats are like teenagers: they value privacy. Give them a quiet place to sleep, and to go to the bathroom.
40. Cats communicate in 5 ways: touching, smelling, hearing, vocalizing, and seeing. Cats touch with their noses, they rub each other, and groom each other. This is communication through touching. Cats smell urine and feces to pick up signals about other cats; and they deposit urine and feces to communicate about themselves. Cats purr, trill, hiss, and meow to communicate vocally with us and with other cats. Cats hold their tails arched, their mouths wide open, their heads high to communicate with others. And cats know what another cat means when it holds itself with different postures—communication through vision.
41. Although cats have associated with humans for 4000 years, they aren’t fully domesticated.
42. Spaying cats helps prevent mammary cancer, which in cats is usually malignant. Cats are not nicer, or happier, if you let them have a litter of kittens before being spayed.
Toes & Feet
43. The average cat has 5 toes on the front feet, and 4 toes on the back. Cats with polydactyly, or extra digits, grow extra toes and have more than 5 on the front or 4 on the back. If the extra digit doesn’t touch the floor, the nail won’t be worn off by walking and can grow into the foot pad. Many New Englanders believe cats with extra toes have the best personalities.
44. If you want to teach your cat something, start young, go slow, and use bribes.
45. Pedigreed cats have been bred since the 1850's and have more predictable behaviors than mixed-breed cats. Pedigreed cats usually have common traits including energy levels, boldness, shyness, calmness and learning.
46. Inappropriate elimination—or urinating outside the litter box—is the most common complaint about cats. Cats eliminate in 3 ways: squat urination, defecation, and urine spraying. The typical housecat squat urinates twice a day and defecates once a day.
47. Cats prefer litter boxes that are at least 1.5 times the length of their bodies. If you cater to your cat’s desires, it’s more likely to use the litter box.
48. Cats prefer litter that is unscented, fine, and clumping; but they can change their minds overnight and stop liking a litter they used to think was fine.
49. Cats can have intestinal worms without our knowing it. Intestinal worms are greedy and absorb nutrients. Your cat may get into trouble looking for food because worms are robbing it of nutrients.
50. Jaguars and lions enjoy swimming. So do Abyssinian, Manx, and Turkish Van cats. In Burma and South China, there is a cat with long claws, the Bengali Mach-Bagral, that swims and fishes.