Useful facts and information about cats

Cats need grass

Most cats and kittens will eat grass when it is available to them, and cocksfoot grass seems to be favoured. The grass is a natural medicine for relieving bile and sourness. It also acts as an emetic and is the means of inducing the vomiting of hairballs. For those cat owners who live in accommodation without gardens, the grass can easily be grown in pots or boxes. Readers in Britain can obtain sufficient seed for six pots by sending a stamped addressed envelope to the Cats Protection League .

The close season for fleas

Although infestation by fleas and lice is most likely to occur in spring and summer, it can happen at any time during the year.

With the onset of winter and bird migration, and hibernation of squirrels and hedgehogs, fleas normally contracted from grass by cats and dogs tend to become less of a problem. However, fleas do have a remarkable ability to survive, particularly in centrally heated homes, for up to a year, or even longer. Therefore, animals showing evidence of fleas, or their droppings, in their coats, or who scratch persistently, may have become re-infested by fleas living in carpets, skirting boards or armchairs in the home. In such cases, effective treatment is essential; your vet can advise on the best medication.

Too many owners neglect to tackle the problem at once, for it can frequently be resolved by vacuuming all floors, coverings, washing all bedding and by the use of fly killers and insecticidal strips in the places where cats and dogs frequent, or rooms to which they have access.

Some organizations

But forgetting such shortcomings it is a happy thought that there are so many people concerned with the health and well-being of our friend, the Cat. In Britain, for instance, the Cat Action Trust (known as CAT) is exploring ways and means of limiting colonies of stray and semi-wild cats. In Denmark and Israel such cats are given ‘the pill’ in special medicated foods, but because of the risk of side effects and other practical difficulties, CAT has resorted to the more reliable method of trapping and surgical neutering, while another organization, Cats in Industry can be consulted where there is an indigenous wild cat population in foundries and workshops, which they will uplift, neuter and rehome. And there is FAB, not an abbreviation of ‘fabulous’ but of the Feline Advisory Bureau, a worldwide organization which cares entirely for the well-being of the domestic cat and propagates to its members information about illness, disease, and treatment in the feline which had, for many years, suffered as the poor relation of other domestic animal species. It has a comprehensive library relating to cat diseases and, being a registered charity, is happy to give free advice to all enquirers. With such help at their disposal there should be lots of healthy cats, and happy owners, in the future.

Some statistics Cats are increasing in popularity – (a ‘convenient pet’). Ownership: 19.1 per cent of all households in Britain included a cat in 1979 as against 18 per cent in 1975, and 17 per cent in 1966. Population: in 1979 there were 4,892,000 cats as against 4,714,000 in 1975 and

4,200,000 in 1966. Feeding: in 1979,90 per cent of owners fed tinned pet food some of the time.

Treatment of Cat Fleas

The most common form of ectoparasite is the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, and it is this type of flea that commonly infests a cat. However, in a caring-and-sharing way, cats living in households with clogs can often carry the dog flea Ctenocephalides canis, and, though increasingly rarely, the human flea, Pulex irritans. Cat fleas, dog fleas and human fleas can therefore be inter-changed around the family and it is usually one particular member of the family who seems to be preferred when cat or dog fleas are present. Fleas prefer to bite the species with which they are particularly identified but can be persuaded to bite other species though not, it appears, quite as severely.

From the pet cat’s point of view fleas are a nuisance as they bite the skin and suck the blood of the cat; in severe infestation they can cause anaemia and they certainly cause skin problems. Unless infestation is so severe that running fleas can be seen by simply brushing the fur against the grain, evidence of fleas is usually confirmed by identifying little black specks of flea dirt in the coat. This is usually only possible in light-coated cats.

Eliminating fleas is not quite as simple as some flea powder packs may encourage one to believe. Fleas usually lay their eggs in crevices and cracks in bedding, boxes and baskets, though occasionally they may lay them in the actual coat of the animal. Eggs fall out of the coat and when the conditions are right they hatch into maggot-like tiny larvae. These feed on bacteria and very small particles of food, turn into what is known as pupae and then emerge as adult fleas. The pupal stage is extremely resistant and can last for many months, especially in cold weather.

If a cat flea finds a suitable host it will absorb its food by biting through the skin and under these conditions can live for about three months. However, if the flea is living in extremely moist conditions, such as under a kitchen sink, without benefit of food from a passing cat, it can live for up to eight months. It is therefore true to say that in controlling fleas in cats the price of success is eternal vigilance. The cat should be regularly brushed and appropriate flea powders, or even shampoo in severe cases, should be used. The cat is highly sensitive to certain parasiticides and the best preparations to look for are those containing Dcrris Root or Pyrethrum (Pyrethrins). When infestation is severe all beds and bedding should be destroyed by burning and replaced. The cycle of application should be at about ten-day intervals when powder is thoroughly brushed into the coat, left for half an hour and then brushed out again thoroughly. During the cycle, the cat can be bedded on newspaper, which can be burnt at the time of application of the fresh powder. At the same time favourite cushions, chairs and warm corners on the floor should be vigorously cleaned with a vacuum cleaner. Eliminating fleas is a long and tedious process and even when you think you have eradicated them, somewhere lurking in a crevice will be a hungry pupa waiting for its mobile meal ticket to pass by.