Just call him Saki


The British writer Hector Hugh Munro (1870–1916) wrote his many clever short stories under the pen name Saki. Among Saki’s stories is “Tobermory,” whose title character is a cat who can talk.

Some of the human characters tease Tobermory about his having an affair with a lady cat who lives at the stable. Then it dawns on them that the cat, climbing around in windowsills as cats are inclined to do, is all too aware of their affairs.

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The bad news about skin cancer

white cats, especially those with blue eyes.

The danger of skin cancers is their ability to spread to other organs, usually the lymph nodes first, then the lungs. Vets try whenever possible to remove the cancers surgically. Obviously, as with human skin cancers, the earlier the cancer is found, the more likely that treatment will be successful.

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Feline sunburn

The vet calls it by the fancy name actinic dermatitis, but let’s call it what it is: sunburn. Most cats won’t burn, but the ones most likely to are white cats with blue eyes. (In other words, cats who correspond to blue-eyed, fair-skinned, easy-to-burn humans.) A sunburned cat shows redness around the ears, eyelids, nose and mouth.

With a bad burn, there may be hair loss, peeling and itching. Needless to say, it is more common in summer than in winter. Over time, the “fair” cats who have been overexposed to the sun can develop skin cancers, which is also true for sun-worshipping humans. One obvious way to avoid this is keep the cat inside, especially at midday.

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Frozen cat

pain and numbness but in more severe cases leads to tissue death.

It happens most often to the ears and nose, the areas least likely to be covered. And that is precisely where cats get frost-bitten: the areas with the least hair, their ears, nose and paw pads. (For some odd reason the tip of the tail seems vulnerable also.) An obvious bit of advice to pet owners in cold areas: don’t let the cat outside if it is extremely cold.

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The flea collar problem

Contact dermatitis is a skin ailment of cats, and the most common cause of it—is flea collars. Most cats wear them without any problems, but some cats break out in the neck area, and the only solution is to remove the collar. There are many other excellent flea treatments available now, so flea collar dermatitis is nothing to fret over.

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Selfish, yes, and not ashamed

Of course they are, and we love them for it. We would detest a friend or family member as selfish as a cat, but we don’t mind selfishness so much in a beautiful, purring beast. Consider this old proverb from Britain: “In the cat’s eyes, all things belong to cats.” One can easily imagine that cat’s reply to that: “Well, of course. Just as it should be. You got a masalah with that?”

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Caught it at the gym, maybe?

warm, moist places like shower stalls, so it won’t surprise you that ringworm is most common in warm, humid climates.

Ringworm fungus is highly contagious, passed on by skin contact, and humans can pass it on to cats (and vice versa). Ringworm on cat skin isn’t always red nor always itchy, so sometimes a vet is needed to determine the condition. It isn’t dangerous, just irksome, and, as already noted, it can be passed on to humans, so a cat who has it needs to be treated.

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Thin-skinned white cats

death from a flea bath. Some of the solutions used to kill fleas can kill the cat as well, even when veterinarians or their technicians give the bath.

The pink skin of a white cat is more sensitive to flea baths (and any kind of chemical) than the skin of other cats. If you own a white cat, be aware of this, and don’t be shy about reminding your vet that your pet has sensitive skin.

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Granddad Darwin

The scientist Charles Darwin, famous for his theory of evolution, had a famous grandfather, Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802), who was both scientist and poet. He combined his interests in The Botanic Garden, a long poem on flowers and other plants.

He was fascinated by all of nature and, of course, he was intrigued by cats. On one occasion he wrote, “To respect the cat is the beginning of the aesthetic sense”—that is, if you appreciate the cat’s beauty, you probably have a good sense of beauty in general.

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Cosby and the kittens

One of Bill Cosby’s best comic routines has to do with a family debating over which TV show to watch. (Obviously this routine originated in the days when most families had only one TV.) In the routine, Dad wants to watch the western Gunsmoke, but the kids want to watch Froofy the Dog.

The kids finally win the battle when they air the rumor that the Gunsmoke adegan is going to feature the drowning of kittens. (In case you were wondering, there never was a Gunsmoke adegan in which kittens were drowned.)

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Pregnancy and litter boxes

So what’s the connection? Cats may ingest toxoplasma, a nasty microscopic parasite often found in undercooked meat—and in mice or birds they happen to catch.

It usually does not harm cats, but since it is passed through the feces, it is possible for a human cleaning a litter box to take in the toxoplasma. If that human happens to be a pregnant woman, the toxoplasma can cause severe damage to the unborn child. So, as a general rule, pregnant women should avoid litter boxes.

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“All-natural”

Humans have a habit of involving their pets in their own trendiness. This is evident in the “natural healing” movement, in which people replace or supplement traditional medical care with “natural” remedies, such as herbs. Some pet owners believe that “natural” medicine will benefit their pets, so there is an American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), with a membership of several hundred vets and other animal care professionals.

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Pet insurance

Well, you won’t get it through your employer, of course, or through the government. Nonetheless, more and more people are choosing to pay monthly or annual premiums for health insurance for their pets.

The reason is obvious: medical care for pets (as for their owners) is getting more expensive as it gets more sophisticated, and there is no Medicare or Medicaid for old (or poor) pets. As veterinary costs rise, and as more people (particularly single folks) own pets, the more likely it is that people will choose to pay for pet insurance.

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