|Tip: Long hair is more work.|
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Special Book Review:
By Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D.
and Susan Hubble Pitcairn
Authors of Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide To Natural Health for Dogs & Cats
Your animal might be in poor health without your realizing it. Perform this brief exam to get a much better idea of your pet's actual state. If any of the exam symptoms are apparent, then resolve any concerns that arise by consulting your vet.
1. Does the hair coat feel greasy? Is the skin color a normal gray-white or is it pink or red with inflammation? Do you see dandruff-like scales of dead skin among the hairs?
2. Use your fingers to brush the hair against the grain. Do you see numerous little black specks? These are the excreta of fleas.
3. Now smell your fingers. If the odor they picked up is rancid, rank, or fishy, it's a sign of poor health.
4. As you examine the eyes, check for matter in the corners. Pull down the lower eyelids so you can see the underside. Are the lids red inside or irritated on the edges?
5. Look into the ear holes. Do you see a lot of wax? Do the insides look oily? Sniff to check for an offensive odor.
6. Inspect the gums for a red line along the roots of the teeth. To check the back teeth for that red line, raise the upper lip and push back the corners of the lips at the same time (it is not necessary to open the mouth).
7. Now check the teeth themselves, including the back ones. Are they gleaming white or coated with a brown deposit? Does the breath smell okay or are you overcome by it?
8. Last, feel the backbone in the middle of the back and run your fingers back and forth (sideways) over it. Do you feel definite bones there? Is there a prominent ridge sticking up in the middle? If your answers to these questions are yes, your animal is much too thin.
Reprinted with permission from: Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M, Ph.D., and Susan Hubble Pitcairn (September 2005;$18.95US/$25.95CAN; 1-57954-973-X) Copyright © 2005 Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Susan Hubble Pitcairn. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 848-4735 or visit their website at www.rodalestore.com
Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M, Ph.D., opened the Animal Natural Health Center, a clinic offering only holistic animal care, in 1985. Recently retired from practice, he teaches post-graduate courses in homeopathic medicine to veterinarians.
Subjects here include grooming problems, shedding, using (or not using) the litter box, identification issues, poisoning, housing needs for cats (indoor vs. outdoor), getting along with dogs, and discussions about certain myths. For instance, cats don't really have nine lives, they aren't really aloof unless you are, they don't "go wild" if you dump them in a rural area, and our favorite: they do NOT steal a baby's breath. Puleeze. This IS the 21st century, folks.
Indoors vs. Outdoors As people learn more about cats and their needs, and as more people abandon the so-called rural mentality about cats existing simply as "mousing machines," the debate nevertheless continues about their indoor or outdoor preferences. As mentioned in several places on this web site, dangers lurk everywhere for the outdoor cat. Children prefer to play outdoors, as a rule, too, but we monitor them closely and then bring them back inside. However, cats often are allowed to roam at will without a curfew, and without supervision, and that's when problems can occur. Please review the section on Special Cats. All those injuries were preventable. Is this how you want your cat to wind up?
Myths One of the most ridiculous and yet still tenaciously held myths is that cats can "steal a baby's breath." Certainly years ago before Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was identified, doctors, parents, families and friends were desperate for something to blame. SIDS still remains largely unexplained, but science has learned one thing, at least: Cats are NOT the culprits. That is truly a backwards notion, held by the tenaciously ignorant among us, and usually by the less educated members of our society. We offer NO apology for this statement.
Aloofness is another myth, though this is harder to dispel because a cat's demeanor, by human definition, fits the profile. The mistake we make, then, is defining cat personality by human standards. We simply have too many cats here that are not aloof, and we feel that's because we treat them with respect and appreciate their individuality. They do not rub or cuddle or purr simply because we feed them. They come to us for attention when they are not hungry, too. They lick tears from sad faces not only because tears are salty, but also stay close by when faces are dry, just watching and comforting the one who is sad. Cats tune in to our moods incredibly well - much better than we tune in to them, as a rule.
Here's another crazy one: Eating raw meat makes your cat too aggressive. Some people actually believe that ordinary house cats will go "wild" if they eat raw meat. We feed raw meat to the cats in our shelter fairly often, sometimes as a treat, but mostly because some cats develop severe digestive problems eating commercial cat food. Putting them on a raw diet always solves this problem for us. The only behavior we've seen is that some cats may growl while eating meat. Gee. Big deal, huh?
Litter Box Woes Has your cat stopped using the litter box? Stopping and never using one are two different problems, however, with different reasons and solutions. A cat that has been raised outdoors, such as on a farm or ranch, then brought inside, may not understand the concept of litter boxes. However, even they eventually prefer the sand to carpet, but it may take some time and patience to help them learn the house rules. A cat who has stopped using the box is another story, because they generally are having some "issues" about something.
Shedding Hard to believe, but some people actually return adopted cats to a shelter because the hair they shed doesn't match the furniture. One can only shake one's head in amazement at this superficiality. Shedding is normal, of course, and even humans shed hair on a daily basis. But we usually can control it by combing our hair in the restroom or by the dressing table and disposing of the hair gathered in a brush or comb. And we put protective covers over drains to prevent plumbing clogs. Since cats have more hair than we do, normal shedding, naturally, will produce more hair. Since we are able to control our own sloughed hair, why can we not control that of our beloved pets? Is it such a difficulty to brush the cat regularly, then dispose of the fuzz gathered? Is it so hard to cover a chair or couch cushion, or place a towel on the bed?
Living with dogs Cats and dogs have learned to coexist for centuries, often forming their own special and close bonds of friendship. Stories occasionally are told of dogs that nursed entire litters of kittens, for example. But in many homes, the hostilities continue, often precluding the ownership of both. For those who wish to overcome the enmity, there are several good web sites and books about behavior and training that can help.