The treatment of pain in cats has long been challenging, not only because cats tend to hide their pain (a throwback to their not-so-distant wild ancestry), but because many common pain-relieving drugs used in veterinary medicine are dangerous to cats.
Watch a cat jump on a kitchen counter or stalk a catnip mouse and you’re seeing traces of the cat’s ancient cousins. Recent genetic studies show that domestic cats are only partially domesticated, meaning that many traits of their wild ancestors are still lurking in our feline companions.
A sudden cry and collapse can signal one of the most dreaded diseases in cats –arterial thromboembolism. Abnormal blood clots form in the blood stream and then lodge in blood vessels, cutting off blood supply and causing sudden pain and collapse.
In human medicine, our growing knowledge about the role of viruses as a cause of certain cancers has led to the development of vaccines as preventives, including against cervical cancer in women. Cancer-causing viruses also are becoming better known in veterinary medicine, and researchers are looking for likely viral culprits, including those that may play a role in the development of feline lymphoma.
Morris Animal Foundation first dipped its paw into the cat genetic pool in 1962, when the foundation funded its first genetic study in cats. New analytic tools developed since that time have resulted in an explosion of new genetic studies. In the last decade alone, the foundation has funded 44 cat genetic studies. Here are some interesting genetic facts that make our feline friends unique!
As most cat owners and veterinarians can attest, cats are masters at concealing signs of illness, a trait inherited from their wild counterparts. This tendency complicates our ability to determine when our feline friends are in pain.
Dr. Missy Simpson, Morris Animal Foundation’s veterinary epidemiologist, recalls that one of the joys of general practice was caring for newly adopted kittens.
“People would come for their first wellness exam after getting a kitten,” said Dr. Simpson. “They were so excited about their new family member. I loved being a part of that enthusiasm.”
If you’ve ever owned a kitten or gone to a shelter, you’ve likely seen the sneezing, runny noses and watery eyes typical of feline upper respiratory tract infections. Although most of these infections in cats are like colds in people – annoying, but not life-threatening – occasionally they become much more serious.
“Tanner’s cancer diagnosis was shocking because he was feeling fine,” said Suzanne Canipe, whose cat Tanner was diagnosed with renal (or kidney) lymphoma in July 2014. Luckily for Suzanne and Tanner, his cancer was found during a routine health checkup. While no pet owner wants to hear a diagnosis of cancer for their pet, finding cancer early usually means a better chance at survival. Tanner’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, said Suzanne, “couldn’t have gone any better than it did.”
There are about 36 different species of wild cats around the world. Although larger wild cats, such as lions, attract most of the attention, more than 80 percent of wild cat species are actually small wild cats, some weighing in at less than 3 pounds.
Nearly 100 million pet cats live in the United States, and many households have more than one furry feline. February celebrates those cats with National Cat Health Month. Of course, at Morris Animal Foundation, it’s always cat health month.
With only 28 days, February marks the shortest month on the calendar. It also marks the observance of National Cat Health Month, a month-long celebration of feline wellness and health— two things Morris Animal Foundation values dearly.
The Humane Society of the United States estimates there are nearly 50 million “feral” cats in the United States, although numbers vary widely. Some of these free-roaming cats have owners, yet spend most of their time outside. Others are what the Humane Society defines as community cats, those that have been abandoned and are homeless, but were socialized. Still others are truly feral, meaning they’ve never been socialized.
Although most of us don’t think about it, blood does more than just circulate oxygen and nutrients around the body. It also contains particles that instantly form lifesaving clots that stop us from bleeding when we are injured or cut. However, if these clots migrate to critical locations in the body, such as the brain or lungs, these lifesavers can become deadly.
As we mentioned last month, cats are masters at hiding their illnesses, so as pet owners we need to keep close watch on their behavior. As Morris Animal Foundation continues to fund impactful science to help our feline friends lead longer, healthier lives, we would like to share an update with you about one of our studies.
Cats are masters at hiding illness, so even the most subtle changes can indicate a serious health problem, including cancer. Cats with illness may show few, if any, clinical signs until it has progressed to the advanced stages. The importance of early detection and routine preventive care are critical to keeping your cat healthy.
Determining the meaning behind feline blood test results is often a challenge. Especially difficult for veterinarians can be trying to interpret why a cat has lymphocytosis, a condition in which the numbers of lymphocytes (one type of white blood cell) increase beyond the normal range.
Since funding our first feline nutrition study in 1950, Morris Animal Foundation has supported 330 studies designed to improve the lives of our feline friends. Of those, 39 have been devoted to examining feline cancer, including studies to better understand and combat leukemia and skin cancer, both of which are highly prevalent in cats.
Early identification of cancer can result in a better prognosis and save lives. As a part of our Unite to Fight Pet Cancer Campaign, Morris Animal Foundation is offering pet parents a pet cancer information kit. The kit contains several useful tools for you to reference and discuss with your veterinarian.