CAT ALLERGIES: THE CAUSE & HOW TO COPE
An estimated 10% of people are allergic to cats, occurring in about 25% of people with allergies, and twice as common as people with dog allergies. Contrary to popular belief people are not allergic to a cat’s fur.
People with cat allergies are allergic to proteins in the cat’s saliva, urine and dried flakes of skin known as dander. This protein, called Fel d 1, is impossible to avoid as it is continually produced by your cat. Female cats produce lower levels of Fel d 1 than male cats, and neutered males produce a lower level than unneutered males and kittens produce less than adult cats. Researchers have not yet found the purpose and function of this protein in cats.
Hypoallergenic cat breeds are a myth but certain breeds produce lower levels of Fel d 1. According to PetMD and other sources Siberian and Balinese are popular cat breeds as they produce lower levels of the protein. Some people can develop immunity to a specific cat or cats. According to Live Science some cat owners may grow accustomed to the allergens and their reactions diminish.
There are ways to reduce exposure in your environment. Here are a few tips:
#1 Purchase a HEPA room air cleaner. Cat allergens can linger for long periods of time, so a continuous filtering it out of the air will reduce exposure.
#2 Make your bedroom a cat free zone.
#3 Vacuum frequently with a HEPA equipped vacuum cleaner or one with microfilter bags.
#4 Replace air conditioner and heat vent filters on a regular basis.
#5 If possible bathe the kitty once a week or wipe down with wet cloth daily.
#6 Wipe down all hard surfaces and furniture frequently.
#7 Make sure litter box is scooped and cleaned as needed.
#8 Wash the cats bedding regularly.
Lastly, allergy medications such as antihistamines or shots can help and may be good treatment options in addition to the above. In closing it is worth mentioning that it is possible for cats to be allergic to humans….but that’s another article.
OUR OVERWEIGHT FELINE COMPANIONS
According to a survey by the Association For Pet Obesity Prevention 58 percent of America’s pet cats are overweight or obese. This is up from 25 percent cited in a 1994 published abstract by Pub Med US National Library of Medicine, meaning the obesity rate for cats has more than doubled in 25 years.
As people’s weights continue to rise, 72 percent of Americans are currently overweight or obese, so does the weight of our pets. How can this be when we seem to be so health conscious these days? This is a difficult and complex question to answer and will be discussed in an upcoming article. For now, I would like to address the potential health problems that an overweight cat may and is likely to encounter. Feline obesity risks range from hindering grooming and making it harder to use the litter box to more significant complications that being overweight can have on mechanical and metabolic functions of your cat.
The most common obesity related conditions for cats are:
#1 Bladder and urinary tract disease.
#2 Chronic kidney disease.
#4 Liver and gall bladder disease.
#7 High blood pressure.
# 8 Heart failure.
# 9 Hip and spine disorders.
Experts advise that a house cat needs to maintain the sleek fluid motion of its counterparts in the jungle. Viewed from above, healthy cats should have a distinct waistline with an inward curve between the rib cage and hips.
While free feeding seems easier and has become the norm with most cat owners this allows cats to eat at will and many will eat out of boredom. A cat’s instinctive routine is to search for food, hunt, catch and eat, groom then nap. Ideally we should consider this and incorporate playtime and exercise before feeding. This engages the cat mentally, physically and satisfies the instincts.
Cats are obligate carnivores which means their natural diet is comprised of 90 percent meat protein and 10 percent vegetable matter. So read cat food labels as carefully as you would when buying for the rest of your family and pay attention to recommended daily portions according to weight and age.
If you suspect your cat is overweight it may be time for a vet trip to determine your kitty’s metabolic health and correct any problems before they turn into major health issues. Obesity is not only bad for your cat but also your wallet as blood tests, medication, repeated vet trips can become very costly. The Association For Pet Obesity Prevention found that 90 percent of owners did not recognize that their cat had a weight problem. Pet insurers also report yearly increases in claims for conditions related to obesity. Most problems stem from pet owners not being aware or informed about health, nutrition and the importance of daily cat exercise and activity.
In closing, I urge you to do a little homework to keep your cat happy and healthy in the New Year and beyond.
BRINGING HOME YOUR NEW CAT
THE RIGHT STUFF
Make sure you have the necessary supplies. You will need a sturdy carrier, the carrier should be large enough for a grown cat to easily turn around inside. The carrier can also double as a safe hiding spot when kitty first comes home. The other essentials are food and water bowls, a litter box and litter, a scooper, a brush, food (canned and dry), a scratching post, a kitty bed and some simple toys. Choose toys like balls, catnip mice, and a few soft toys. Avoid toys with feathers and small eyes or tails that easily come off and can be swallowed. Wands should only be for supervised play.
SETTING YOUR CAT UP FOR SUCCESS
One way to help your new cat getting used to new surroundings is to limit the kitty’s space initially and then gradually expanding it as the cat learns your routine. Limit the space by confining the cat to one room where his/her food, water, bed, litter box, and toys are kept. This is especially recommended for a kitten so it does not get lost in your home or unable to find its way back to the litter box. Then gradually expanding the space as the cat gets used to the sounds, smells and routine of the household.
LITTER BOX TIPS
Establishing good litter box habits at the start will help future elimination issues. Be sure to choose a litter box that is appropriate to the size of your cat. Some cats like open boxes and others prefer covered boxed. The litter box should be scooped every day.
CAT PROOF YOUR HOUSE
Cats like to chase, climb, paw at things and in general explore their surroundings. These are normal cat behaviors. With that in mind you may want to secure wires and cords from electrical equipment. Blind cords that dangle should be ties up or tucked away so they do not entice your kitty. If you have a treasured item sitting on the edge of a shelf….you might want to move it. Household cleaners should be secured in cupboards or closets that are not accessible to the cat. Some houseplants, such as aloe, daffodils and lilies, can be toxic to cats. So if you have houseplants you will want to find out if they are toxic to your kitty. The ASPCA website has a complete list of poisonous and nonpoisonous plants.
Provide places to climb and look out windows which can be an endless source of entertainment. Cats also like places here they can “hide” and observe…a simple box will do.
With these few simple tips in mind you and your new companion should be off to a good start!!
THERE ARE MANY REASONS YOU
SHOULD SPAY OR NEUTER YOUR CAT!
Female cats that are spayed CAN’T get uterine cancers; their risk of mammary (breast) cancer is reduced by 25%; and they are less prone tourinary tract infections and hormonal changes.
Male cats that are neutered CAN’T get testicular cancer, and they live 40% longer than their unneutered counterparts. Unneutered male cats respond to the “call of the wild” and their desire to wander is fierce. Unneutered male cats may become aggressive toward other cats, increasing their risk of injury and becoming infected with feline leukemia and/or feline immunodeficiency virus. And don’t forget: unneutered male cats tend to spray urine, which STINKS!
Aside from the important medical reasons for spaying or neutering, there is also a serious overpopulation problem in the United States. An average cat has 1–8 kittens per litter, and 2–3 litters per year. During her productive life, one female cat could have more than 100 kittens. A single pair of cats and their kittens can produce as many as 420,000 kittens in just 7 years.