Tag Archives: Cat Research

Arthritis Treatments For Cats — Add Tramdol To The List

Arthritis treatments for cats now include tramadol

A new study suggests vets can add tramadol to the list of arthritis treatments for cats. Reported by the Winn Feline Foundation, the study looked at 24 geriatric cats with osteoarthritis in at least one joint. Researchers found that cats who got 2mg of tramadol
every 12 hours had improved
levels of activity.

The most common arthritis treatments for cats are glucosamine supplements, Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs can have serious and sometimes deadly side effects. But tramadol, too, has drawbacks.

How Tramadol Works

Tramadol is similar to morphine. It blocks the opioid receptors in the brain that transmit the sensation of pain throughout the body.

Some side effects can include drowsiness and weakness, vomiting, constipation and loss of appetite. A tramadol overdose, the 1-800-PetMeds website warns, can be fatal.

If you decide to use tramadol for your cat, don’t stop it suddenly. Ask your vet how to wean your cat off the drug to avoid uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Other Arthritis Treatments For Cats

My favorite arthritis treatments for cats are injectable adequan (you can do it at home) and acupuncture. Other arthritis treatments for cats include massage and laser therapy. 
It’s been my experience that the glucosamine supplements are not very effective. But when a cat has arthritis, something is better than nothing.
Arthritis is painful, and walking and climbing with difficulty can have a dramatic effect on your cat’s quality of life. 
How do you know if your cat’s in pain? A cat with arthritis might hiss or growl when you touch his back. Other signs of pain include loss of appetite, depression, sleeping more than normal, hiding and sitting or crouching in an unusual position. 
Today’s Recommendation
Cat steps will make it easier
for your
cat to get to his favorite places.

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The Best Buzz — Cats Say It’s Silver Vine Not Catnip

Catnip plants are fun for cats, but silver vine is even better

Just in time for your holiday shopping, here’s major news from the Winn Feline Foundation: silver vine, not catnip, is cats’ recreational herb of choice. If their people can find it…

Researchers actually tested several mind-bending plants on 100 cats. Catnip and silver vine made the cats happier than any of the others, but in the faceoff between silver vine and catnip, silver vine won paws down. Seventy-nine percent of the cats had the most fun with silver vine, while 68 percent really got off on catnip. Of the cats who didn’t respond to catnip, 71 per cent were turned on by a silver vine.

Among the duds were honeysuckle and valerian root, which are popular substitutes for catnip when cautious humans are planning their cats’ recreational activities. Turns out they’re not at all popular among cats.

The Many Uses Of Catnip

While we might laugh about cats getting high on catnip, Winn takes the benefits of what it calls “botanicals” very seriously.

“Use of plant materials that cats enjoy can increase their playtime and offer activity for cats left at home alone or confined indoors,” the foundation says.

Catnip can make shelter cats seem more playful and attractive to potential adopters. It can be used for training and socializing cats and as a no-cal reward, Winn says. And it can relieve stress for cats when they’re traveling, boarding, undergoing a medical procedure or during trap/neuter/return.

Cats High On Herbs

Turns out silver vine and catnip aren’t the only herbs that can give cats a buzz. Despite the study the Winn Foundation reported, some cats enjoy valerian root and honeysuckle. Add to the list the more potent Indian nettle and cat thyme (Teucrium marum).

My cats love catnip, but after watching this video, we want to give silver vine a try.

Today’s Recommendation

I’ve never seen silver vine in pet supply stores, but Amazon has it.

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Feline Diabetes Risk Factors: Dry Cat Food & Cats Living Strictly Indoors

Feline diabetes risk factors include dry food and living strictly indoors. according to a new study.

Here’s a good reason for making sure your cats get some outdoor time. Among the feline diabetes risk factors: dry food and living strictly indoors. This news comes from a study by a Swedish pet insurance company and published by the Winn  Feline Foundation.

Using a Web-based survey, the insurance company looked at 396 diabetic cats and 1670 control cats. Among the findings: The risk of feline diabetes increases for inactive and moderately active cats who live strictly indoors.

All of the cats in the study were the same age.

The cats least likely to develop diabetes: females, cats who are not overweight, cats who have access to outdoors and cats who free feed (but not dry food). Living with a dog helps, too!

Top Feline Diabetes Risk Factors

Although veterinarians have known about some of the feline diabetes risk factors reported in the study for a long time, the look at Swedish cats provided some new information, too.

According to the study, overweight and obese cats are more prone to diabetes. We already knew that. But the connection between an all- or mostly-dry-food diet and diabetes even in cats with normal body condition had never been reported before.

Other feline diabetes risk factors include…
  • A strictly indoor lifestyle
  • “Greedy eaters,” as opposed to nibblers. The Winn Feline Foundation says this is also a new finding, and it could be where free feeding to lessen the risk of diabetes comes in.
  •  A history of repeated steroid injections.
In reporting on the study, Winn points out that humans and cats share some diabetes risk factors. An inactive lifestyle, being overweight and greedy eating are risk factors for people, too.

Today’s Recommendation

Can giving a cat access to outside help prevent feline diabetes? There are many good reasons for getting a cat outdoors, so maybe it can. If you decide to give it a try, the Kitty Holster is a safe, very secure harness.

Do Cat Colors Dictate Personality? Maybe…

Tortie cat © Eric Isselée - Fotolia.com

Are you thinking your tortie gives new meaning to the word “catitude?”
Is your calico a bit feisty when things aren’t going exactly her way? A
study by UC Davis veterinarian Elizabeth Stelow proves what a lot of us
have suspected all along. Torties and calicoes tend to be diva cats and
can be more than a little challenging to their human companions.

and her research team surveyed 1200 cat parents online. They found that
calico and tortoiseshell cats are more likely to “hiss, chase, bite,
swat or scratch during interactions with humans.” Gray and white and
black and white cats seem to have an abundance of catitude, too, and are
likely to be a bit more aggressive than cats with other coat patterns.

The sweetest cats? An earlier study suggests those would be the orange males.

study, done by researchers at California State University and the New
College of Florida, set out to discover humans’ biases based on cat
colors. The online survey of nearly 200 people asked participants to
associate 10 personality traits (active, aloof, bold, calm, friendly,
intolerant, shy, stubborn, tolerant and trainable) with five cat colors
(orange, tricolored, white, black and bicolored).

Most of the
people surveyed thought torties and calicoes were aloof and intolerant.
White cats, too, were seen as aloof and shy but calm. Like orange cats,
bicolored cats ranked high for being friendly. And black cats?
Unfortunately, no trends emerged, although most people who know them
would say they’re affectionate and friendly.

Of course, the
caveat to all this research is that every cat is different. One of the
torties I live with can be a hissing, growling spitfire. The other is a
gentle soul who licks my hand at night until I fall asleep.

Stelow agrees you can’t judge a cat by its color.

thought the findings were very interesting, and we would love other
researchers to take the baton and run with it, to look at the genetics
of why this may be happening,” she told the Seattle Times. “We’re not
suggesting that anyone avoid having these cats in their homes. Most of
them make lovely pets. It’s just information to help you understand what
you might be up against.” Maybe. But nothing could have prepared me for
what I was up against when I met my cute little spitfire, Ginger!

Let Them Eat Chicken

If cats could prepare their own food, most would choose chicken, the best selling cat food flavor
© Rasulov – Fotolia.com

Americans spent $13 billion in the pet specialty market in 2015, and most of that money went to chicken-flavored food.

We’ll never know for sure whether cats actually love chicken or whether their humans love it for them, but chicken-flavored wet and dry cat food and treats outsold all other competing protein sources, including fish. And we always thought fish was our cats’ favorite.
Now that I think about it, my cats really do prefer chicken.

Except for Sizzle. He’ll eat anything I put in front of him, although he’s not crazy about beef. 

A Cure For FIP? Clinical Trials Are Underway

Scientists are working on a cure for FIP.

Of all the awful diseases that can affect our cats, FIP is the absolute worst. It’s a cruel disease, and it’s almost always fatal. But that could be changing.

The first phase of clinical trials for a drug that could cure FIP ended this fall.

In a study published in the March issue of PLOS, researchers at Kansas State University treated eight cats who were sick from FIP with the antiviral protease inhibitor, GC376. Sadly, two of the cats became so sick they were euthanized. But the other six recovered and were still doing well eight months later. And that was just the beginning.

Last winter, in collaboration with the Kansas State Researchers, UC Davis veterinarian Niels Pedersen began the first phase of clinical trials of GC376 with 13 “owned” cats.

FIP Explained

FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) is caused by a coronavirus that infects almost all kittens. It causes mild diarrhea, and then pretty much disappears. But in some cats, it goes rogue and mutates into the deadly disease we call FIP.
While most FIP victims are kittens, the virus can remain dormant in some cats’ bodies for years and doesn’t make them sick until they’re well into adulthood or even old age. 
Signs of FIP can include abdominal swelling, weight loss, an unkempt coat and mental dullness. Once a cat gets sick, there’s not much to do but provide palliative care. 

The Cure For FIP Is Still A Long Way Off

In the first phase of the clinical trials, Pedersen and his team looked at optimal doses and what forms of FIP and the length of illness were most responsive to treatment with GC376.

They learned that treatment requires at least 12 weeks and will cause a rapid reversal of FIP in some, but not all, cats.

One of the questions that remains to be answered is how long the remission will last.

But even after the researchers have finished gathering information, it could be a long time before GC376 is available to veterinarians.

First, Pedersen said in an interview with Catster, they’ll need to find a pharmaceutical company that’s willing to take GC376 through the long and expensive Federal Drug Administration testing and approval process.

Since “a company may not find it economically viable to spend the money necessary to gain FDA approval for a disease for a single animal species such as FIP,” he added, “I would not want to speculate on if and when this particular drug may become commercially available for use by veterinarians.”

Help For Cats With FIP Now

While GC376 may still be a long way from your vet’s office, there are things to do for cats with FIP now.

Prednisone, interferons and some supplements and antioxidants can extend the length of life and improve the quality of life for cats with FIP.

To learn about treatments, take a look at leading FIP researcher Diane Addie’s handout for veterinarians. And join the Support and Info for Owners of FIP cats email list on Yahoo Groups or the group’s FIP Fighters Facebook page. You’ll find all the information and support you need if you’re caring for an FIP cat. 

Cat Food – Cats Choose Good Nutrition Over Taste

Whether their food is served in a crystal bowl or on a paper plate, cats choose food they know is good for them.
© Olga Sapegina | Dreamstime.com

You might have a hard time getting your kids to eat their veggies. But given a choice between junk food and something that’s good for them, cats will choose the food with the correct amount of nutrients, no matter how the food tastes.

That’s the conclusion of a study done by scientists at the WALTHAM Centre of Pet Nutrition, Mars Petcare and the University of Sydney. The study was published in June in Royal Society Open Science.

Scientists have known for some time that insects, birds, fish and other mammals are able to balance and regulate the intake of many nutrients, including protein, fat and carbs, by adjusting their intake of foods available to them, the study says.

But what about cats? Experts have long thought they choose their food based on smell, texture and taste. But that theory could be headed for the trashcan, along with all the food our cats completely ignore or flatly refuse to eat.

The cats in the study ate food made into a porridge-like consistency. It tasted and smelled like either fish, chicken, rabbit or orange.

For the first few days, the cats did base their decisions on taste and smell. Most of them went for the fish. But then, nutritional needs took over, and they chose the food that had the exactly correct protein/fat ratio, even if it tasted like orange.

That’s something to think about when your vet recommends a low-protein “kidney diet,” which your cat won’t touch, or you put your cat on low-fat “diet food” to slim him down a bit.

Just so you know, cats convert fat to energy. It’s the carbs in dry food that really pack on the pounds.

The study could have implications for the pet food industry as it develops new products. But in the meantime, you can do your part by paying attention to the percent of protein and fat in your cat’s wet food.. Look for wet food that’s about 40 percent protein from animal sources (not rice, pasta or vegetables) and less than 50 percent fat.

Of course, there’s still no guarantee your cats will approve of the first cans of food you open, even if they do the contain the perfect protein/fat ratio. At the moment, I’m looking a several bowls of perfectly balanced wet food that hasn’t been touched.

Cats love Tiki Cat Salmon and it has the correct protein/fat ratio.
Today’s recommendation
Cats love Tiki Cat Salmon, and
it has the
correct ratio of protein to fat.

Can Cats Meow With A New York Accent Or Southern Drawl?

Cat Meowing
Andrey Kuzmin – Fotolia.com

Does your cat from North Carolina meow with a southern drawl? Or, if you’re in northern New Jersey, does she sound like an in-your-face Jersey girl when she talks to you? That regional accent might be more than a figment of your imagination. A team of Swedish scientists is trying to find out whether cats have different “dialects” based on their location.

Susanne Schötz, an associate professor of phonetics at Lund University, thinks cats who live in different areas have slightly different accents. To confirm that she’s not just hearing things, she and two other researchers will be listening to cats in Stockholm and Lund, two areas with different dialects, and using phonetic analysis to determine whether their meows really do sound different.

The researchers plan to study 30-50 cats and their people over the next five years. They’ll listen to intonation, voice and speaking style in human speech addressed to cats and cat vocalizations addressed to humans.

Hey, Human! Are You Listening?

When adult cats talk with each other, their preferred method of communication is body language. The position of their ears and tails and the look in their eyes are worth a thousand meows. They meow when they talk to us because they realize we’re not fluent in catspeak.

But when they meow to us, do we really know what they’re saying?

Schötz also plans to record the vocalizations of cats in different situations to find out.

“We know cats vary the melody of their sounds extensively, but we don’t know how to interpret this variation,” she says. She hopes to discover how cats sound when they want to go out, are feeling friendly and greeting people, and when they’re hungry, annoyed or

She also wants to learn how they react to different human voices, speaking styles and intonation patterns. For instance, she wants to know if cats like hearing high-pitched “pet-directed” speech or if they would rather be spoken to as human adults.

“We still have much to learn
about how cats perceive human speech,” Schötz says.

Meowsic To Our Ears
Schötz is calling her study Meowsic (Melody in Human-Cat Communication), and she believes it could have a “profound impact” on how humans communicate with cats at home and at vet clinics and shelters.

Five years is a long time to wait, but it will be fun to see how the study turns out. In the meantime, I’ll continue talking to my cats the way I talk to people, since they’re used to that. And I guess they’ll continue taking to me the way they talk to other cats, with body language and looks in their eyes. If they flatten their ears, I’ll know I’m in deep trouble!

Body Language and Emotions of Cats book
Today’s Recommendation
This is my all-time favorite
cat behavior book.

Finally — The Truth About FIV

white outside cat with gray patches
© TMakotra – Fotolia.com

Finally. It’s official. Cats who have FIV can live with cats who don’t and won’t transmit the disease.

Veterinarian Annette L. Litster of Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, studied more than 100 cats who were in rescue group shelters. The cats were not in cages but lived together in a group home setting. Her research was published in a recent issue of Veterinary Journal.

Litster initially tested 138 cohabiting cats with Rescue Group One. At the time, eight of the cats tested positive for FIV. The others were all negative. When she did a  second test 28 months later, the 45 negative cats who were still there were still negative. She got the same results 38 months after the first tests. By then, all but four of the negative cats and seven of the eight positive cats had been adopted.

“These results show a lack of
evidence of FIV transmission, despite years of exposure to
naturally-infected, FIV-positive cats in a mixed household,” she wrote.

Now if veterinarians will just read the study and believe it.

FIV Should Not Be A Death Sentence 

year, thousands of cats die in “shelters” because they test positive
for FIV. Thousands more are forced to live strictly indoors, separated
from the other cats in their household because of a positive test

But the tests done in vets’ offices often
return false positives. And FIV is pretty much a non-issue anyway. It’s transmitted from cat to cat only by repeated
deep bite wounds. So a positive cat who doesn’t fight can share food and water bowls and
litter boxes with a negative cat and groom him and cuddle with him and
never make his buddy sick.

The study confirms what many of us have known
all along. What some of us didn’t know, though, was that mother cats don’t pass FIV on to their kittens. Litster also tested five positive mother cats at a second rescue. None of their 19 kittens tested positive for FIV.

FIV Is Not Feline AIDS 

Gray Cat Sleeping Outside
My FIV cat, Hoss

One of the cruelest myths about FIV is that it’s Feline AIDS. Like human HIV,

it’s a lentivirus, but that’s about where the similarity ends. It progresses very slowly. And while your FIV cat may someday develop AIDS symptoms, he’s likely to die of old age long before those symptoms even begin to occur.

In the meantime, living with an FIV cat is pretty much like living with any other cat. Mine lived into his 20s! He was my close friend and spirit guide, and I still miss him. 

Liquid Immuno
Today’s Recommendation
Liquid Immuno is a great
supplement for FIV cats.