Saturday, July 31, 2010

Does my tum look big on this floor? STS - the truth.

Dear George,
My name is Tom-Tom and I live in a lovely flat in Paris. I am very, very affectionate and always welcome everyone who comes to visit me. I stay with my friend, Mimi when my mum goes away and we generally get on very well but she won't let me share her croquettes because she says I am too fat. You can see she is warning me off in this picture which I feel is a bit mean. Do you think she should let me share her food?

Dear Tom-Tom,
We cats call this STS, or Saggy Tummy Syndrome. It is an increasingly common side effect of natural human adoration. In an attempt to please us, our de
votees cannot say no. They will go to any lengths to do what we want. It is gratifying. Very gratifying and, of course, natural.
Your delightful photo shows the results - the little (well not so little) pink love handles at the back of the body, the absence of "waist" or the area after the rib cage which should curve inwards up to the inner thigh). The extra weight is not evenly distributed (our humans know about that!) so the head and the paws and the tail all look unduly slim in comparison. And the bigger the belly, the less we want to move around - all that weight makes exercise hard work.
No croquettes. No. Not a single crumb of them.
Of course, I blame your human. (We cats always do). She is your enabler. But it is up to you to initiate change. Send her off to the vet (sorry, Tom-Tom) for a weigh-in and a large packet of prescription food. Don't let her forget the dispenser, usually a transparent cup with measurements on it. You might even purrsuade her to buy some baby scales. These are good at weighing cats. I am adding photo of Pushkin on his scales. You will find that if she places a little food on the scales, you will find it worth your while to sit on them.
Frankly, Tom-tom you need more exercise and it is your human's responsibility to help you get it. She must start making your appartement life more interesting by hiding your food so you have to run round the place to find it. There are also food dispensing balls she could make or make her own from an old loo roll and sticky paper. And she can j
ust throw food for you. No more just putting it in a bowl. It might also be worth your while to learn some tricks.
I heard from Fatty Pushkin the other day (his letter was in January). He is in his new home - still slimming down, still doing his interesting tricks of jumping over human legs and sitting up to do a high five. And his new pet human is taking him for walks on a lead. He is still FIV positive so cannot live at large. Take encouragement from him, Tom-Tom and start the slimming programme.

Friday, July 23, 2010

My nose is running and I am sneezing - is it a summer cold?

Dear George,
Can cats catch colds in the summertime? For the last two years I have developed some kind of strange "cold" symptoms in July. My Mom takes me to the vet and each time he gives my antibiotics. I hate going to the vet and I hate taking antibiotics.
Last year I had fever for about two days and my nose was running and I was sneezing a lot. This year it was just a runny nose. And in about a week or so everything was back to normal.
The only good thing about being sick is that I get pampered even more than usual (as you can see form my photo). But, if it was a cold, wouldn'tmy brother get sick too? Could it be allergies instead of a cold?
I usually go hunting in a ravine behind our house where my brother doesn't go. What do you think?
Love Minnie.

Dear Minnie,
I am not a feline veterinary expert but I have done some research for you on your symptoms. Without looking at your veterinary notes, I can only guess that your vet is treating you for an outbreak of cat flu, by giving you antibiotics to ward off secondary bacterial infections. These can be serious for cats who get cat flu. Take a look at for full details. This is generally labelled upper respiratory disease.
Regular vaccinations, which I assume you have had, should protect against the two kinds of 'flu, feline herpesvirus and feline parvovirus, but (like human flu vaccinations) cats can still get a milder form of the disease. Symptoms include sneezing and runny nose. Sometimes, cats have had 'flu in the past. Breeders may not reveal the fact they have had this disease and shelters may take in diseased kittens who then recover. The cats have apparently recovered. However, they are symptomless carriers but the symptoms may recurr if they are under stress. Tests for this are available.
However, cats can suffer allergies and the most common ones are flea allergies and food intolerance, which show themselves in an itchy skin. There is also something called feline allergic airway disease - these symptoms are coughing, wheezing and breathing difficulties. The only way this can be diagnosed is by eliminating the possibility of other disease, including cat 'flu. More tests, I am afraid. This is often labelled lower respiratory disease.
As well as the details, there is even more on this written by an expert on this, a vet called Danielle Gunn-Moore. You can find three long articles by her on a feline asthma website - They need careful reading. The fact that your brother doesn't catch the symptoms from you suggests an allergy is at least a possibility. Maybe you are coming across something in the ravine which gives you an allergic reaction - but you can't assume this safely without the tests. This website will take you through the process.
All this is a rather bad news for you, Minnie. It all seems to involve much more contact with the vet and we cats hate all vets, even those like Danielle who love us. I always bite the vet, when I can get in a quick nip - just to make the point that what is going on is an assault on my personal freedom! Incidentally, there's a lot of controversy on how often we should be vaccinated - the UK and USA differ on this. What is important is that if your owner opts for less frequent vaccinations she should make sure she gets the right brand of vaccination - I am not sure if the three-year type is available in the UK.
Yours gloomily when I think of vets,

PS. Do I detect a certain embonpoint around the tummy? Next week I will be discussing STS, or Saggy Tummy Syndrome in both humans and cats.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rabbit and cat - is the rabbit safe?

Dear George,
My name is Tutu and I am a lop-eared human - no, sorry, a lop-eared house bunny! My stable mate is Frederico the Cat. You may have met him already. I am 10 years old and he is a young whipper-snapper.
My humans seem to be very fond of him but he is a little b.....! I wish I could train him but he won't listen to me or obey anybody. Look at him in the photo. He thinks he's some great movie director!
What can I do? Can I trade him in? What do you think?


Dear Tutu

You have a bit of a problem.... Or you might have. Kittens brought up with house rabbits probably think of them as family and are probably going to be safe with them. Probably. That's the rub.
My attitude to rabbits, the natural cattitude, is to stalk, pounce, grab and eat them. In that order. It is literally hard wired into my brain. There's a neuroscientist, Jaak Panksepp, who has revealed that when you stimulate the seek-and-reward area of the brain, rats sniff and forage around, cats stalk and pounce. It's just the most enjoyable thing in life for felines. It is what a cat does.
So, your human shouldn't leave you alone with Frederico - just in case. (Any more than a large dog should be left alone with a baby or a toddler). Yes, it is probably safe almost all the time. But again it's that probably and almost. If you suddenly scuttled away extra fast, seeing you running might set off Frederico's chase instinct.
I don't think you should trade him in. As long as your human is sensible and doesn't let you play unsupervised, you will be safe. She should make sure that you are always in your crate or den when she is out of the house. Of course, if you were a giant rabbit, you could probaby chase and harass Frederico. But a French lop, which I think you are, just isn't big enough to turn the tables.
Cats and house rabbits can live together but only if the humans never forget that the cat is the predator and the rabbit is its prey.
Love (and I would love you in a gastronomic kind of way)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The latest New York hairstyle - should cats shave?

Dear George,
Your blog is getting better that any fashion magazine. Better then "In Style" or "Vogue"! I like to think of myself as a fashionista ....always interested in the last fashion trend!
Blue hues, hats, nail covers, etc. Really impressive! How about hairstyle?
But..let me introduce myself! My name is Bondocella and I live in New York! And ...look at my picture....THAT'S hot & trendy in NY!
What do you think? I personally would love to be a little more of a "shaggy cat" but my human thinks that this is cool (or hot...whatever). What do you think? What is trendy in UK?

Dear Bondocella,
Your photograph without the fur took me by surprise.
You look pretty good to me, Bondocella. I like the way that the beautiful fur round your face emerges from the shaved body - very very hot. Or rather, as we used to say, cool. Your human has been really thoughtful in making sure you don't suffer from heat stroke.
In the UK, where it is cold and wet most of the time, the only cats that need shaving are those who have neglected matted fur. So cats don't shave in this part of the world. Only humans shave. (You can see why. Their facial hair is so bristly and odd - neither proper whiskers nor proper fur.)
However, I do acknowledge that some cats need to shave, particularly if they are living in hot climates and have too much fur. Is it possible to have too much fur? I fear that in hot climates it is. Long fur, of the kind humans cannot grow for themselves, is extremely helpful for cats living in cold climates, but difficult for cats in hot places.
Once again, the fault lies with humans. If they had left our species alone, we would all have naturally adapted to whatever climate we live in. My ancestors in England might have grown slightly longer hair, while cats in Finland would be very furry indeed. New Yorks cats would be sleek and short haired.
Humans have stopped us breeding naturally and have invented all kinds of breeding programmes that result in long fur, snubby faces, weird coloured fur, strange ears, and even stumpy legs. Frankly, it is not right. Some of us now suffer serious health difficulties because of a limited gene pool.
It is moments like this that make me feel it was a mistake to domesticate humans. That we have domesticated monsters who now have too much influence in our lives. I mean, it isn't as if they have good pedigrees, is it? Celia is just a mongrel. There's no class there. So why should cats have to have pedigrees? I am happy to say that I don't. I wouldn't like to have so much hair that Celia had to shave me. On the other hand, I might look rather cool like you if she did.
PS. It's important not to let shaved or hairless animals to spend too much time in direct sunlight, according to a vet that works in Spain. They can be sunburned very easily.

Help for cats whose humans show behaviour problems.

This blog is devoted to the study of human behaviour. We cats, who live with this sometimes unpredictable and always feeble minded species, can benefit from seeing their behaviour in its proper scientific context. The study of feline dilemmas, training problems, and difficulties with humans, can only benefit all of us. All of us train our humans - to buy the right food, for instance, but many of us do not have knowledge of how to improve our training methods. The human species is obviously not as intelligent as the cat, but nevertheless can learn quite a lot - if properly managed. Topics of interest include the use of claw and order, purring as a human reward, rubbing your human up the right way, when to bite, spraying as a method of making our wishes known, ignoring the human, human harassment, human inattention and sheer human stupidity. I welcome your questions. Photos can be sent via my secretary's website, This blog has been chosen as one of the top 50 feline blogs by Online