Mangy mites

You may know that mange is a skin disease, but did you know it’s caused by mites? Mites are not insects, but are tiny members of the Arachnida class—spiders and their relatives. Some mites are easily seen; others are barely visible to the naked eye.

Female mites lay their eggs in the skin, and the mites that hatch feed on the skin cells. The resulting skin condition is generally called mange, and the symptoms are hair loss, redness, scaling and itching. It is irritating but not dangerous, and the worst thing about the condition is that mites can be transferred from cats to humans, and vice versa.

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Endo- and ecto-

creatures are harmless; some are extremely harmful. And some are just irritating.

One thing is certain for the cat owner: no matter how healthy your cat may be, and no matter how much tender loving care you supply, you will at some point have to give some attention to the various tiny critters that live on or in your cat.

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Cats and silos

Egyptian wildcats.

So naturally the Egyptians appreciated the rodent-eating predators. We really have no idea at what point the rodent killers were adopted as pets, but we can thank the Egyptians for knowing a good thing when they saw it. In terms of the human race at large, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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The deaf gene

It’s truth, not legend: Many white cats are deaf, particularly white cats with blue eyes. This is caused by genetics, and if there is a way to prevent it, no one has found it yet.

Since cats have such sensitive hearing, it is sad to think of one going through life without being able to hear, but in fact there are plenty of perfectly contented deaf cats in the world, though their owners need to be a little extra watchful for them.

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Don’t say “zits”

Acne does occur in cats, and fairly often, but it doesn’t take quite the same form as in humans. Feline acne takes the form of blackheads on the chin and the lower lip. There can also be redness, swelling and itching involved.

Humans with acne have always been advised to keep their faces clean, and the advice applies to cats too, though it is hard to imagine any cat not keeping her chin clean. Vets have noticed that it seems more common among cats who sleep on hard surfaces or on dirt than among those who sleep on soft surfaces. Get ready for the treatment: benzoyl peroxide, which is commonly used to treat acne in humans.

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“Stud tail”

sound somewhat sexy, but the condition itself certainly isn’t. Cats possess a preen gland, a sebaceous gland at the base of the tail. If the gland becomes hyperactive, it can lead to blackheads, waxy debris, and painful boils.

It is technically called tail gland hyperplasia, and the common name, “stud tail,” stems from it being most common among sexually active male cats, even though it does occur among neutered males and among females.

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Why not just say “baldness”?

The technical term for baldness is alopecia, and cats are subject to a form of it, though a very different form than the human male-pattern baldness. Feline endocrine alopecia is probably hormone related (as is male-pattern baldness), but the areas where the hair thins are the posterior, underside of the tail, belly and inside of the thighs.

The remaining hairs can be easily pulled out, but the areas are never completely smooth. No pain is involved, but it does make the cat look less attractive. Some cases respond to hormone treatments. (There is no “Hair Club for Cats,” as far as we know.)

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Melanoma

black mole on the body.

Melanoma is dangerous for both humans and cats, but humans are fortunate in being able to monitor their skin for unusual growths, while on cats the melanoma may be well hidden underneath the hair. In some cases, an early melanoma may not be life threatening, but, sadly, many cats have died from this cancer.

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The Jungle Book man

Book, which features several big cat characters, such as the panther Bagheera and the fierce tiger Shere Khan.

He also wrote the wonderful story “The Cat Who Walked by Himself,” in which Man and Woman tame all manner of animals but don’t quite succeed in taming the cat. The cat finally agrees to live in the humans’ house and catch mice, but he is never completely tamed. He is “the cat who walks by himself.” As you might expect, Kipling was very fond of cats.

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