The rabies race

dogs. With less fear of rabid cats (and perhaps less community concern for cats in general), cases of rabid dogs declined while cases of rabid cats increased, so that by 1981 there were more rabid cats than rabid dogs in the United States.

All the rabid cats were, of course, unvaccinated. Simply put, cat owners are less likely to have their pets vaccinated than dog owners are, even if their local laws require it. This is risky, especially for the owners of unneutered toms, who are prone to wander looking for females, and thus may come into contact with rabid wild animals. Unless there is a shift in cat owners’ perceptions of the dangers of rabies, cats will continue to be the winners (and ultimately the losers) in the rabies race.

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Ten days of madness

rabies, you won’t soon forget it. Rabies, sometimes called hydrophobia, is a swift-moving disease of the nervous system. Normally it is transmitted when an affected animal bites another animal, passing on the disease through the saliva into the wound.

A cat with rabies is “wired,” extremely vicious and has seemingly swifter movements than a normal cat. After a cat shows signs of rabies, death occurs within ten days, but be aware that the cat is truly dangerous during this time. Needless to say, the disease’s seriousness is why every pet should be vaccinated.

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Stoned cats

Cats share with humans the tendency to get kidney and bladder stones—uroliths is the technical term and they are not pleasant. Male cats are more prone to them (ditto for male humans), and they seem to be more common in cats who are fed an exclusively dry food diet. The overall condition of stones forming in the urinary tract is called feline urological syndrome (FUL).

A cat whose urinary tract is blocked by a large stone can be in intense pain, and no wonder, since it needs to urinate but can’t because of the stone blocking the path. A vet’s aid is definitely called for, and quickly. Once the stone is removed or passed, the cat’s diet has to be altered and medication given to prevent more stones from forming.

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Taking the cat’s pulse

It is fairly easy to take your cat’s pulse, as long as you remember that the wrist isn’t the right spot. The best pulse spot on the cat is the femoral artery, which you can feel on the inside of the thigh. The normal heart rate for a cat is anywhere from 120 to 240 beats per minute while at rest. (Yes, that is faster than the human heart, which is about 72 beats per minute. A small animal’s heart beats faster than a larger animal’s heart.)

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The great high-jumpers, fleas

eggs nearly anywhere, including in carpeting and air ducts, and they reproduce very fast.

Their bloodsucking can cause health problems (such as anemia), but their bites also cause allergic reactions in many cats and humans, leading to skin problems and other conditions. Happily, we have come a long way in flea treatment, and whereas in the past we relied on powders, sprays and flea collars, newer treatments (Advantage flea control, for example, which is rubbed into a cat’s skin) are highly effective.

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Those lousy lice

lice chomp on skin tissue and are contagious via contact, specifically by passing from one host’s hair to another host’s hair. The nasty little insects are itchy and irritating but basically harmless, and they can be easily gotten rid of with special medicinal shampoos. If you or your cat has ever had lice, be sure to wash all your bedding thoroughly.

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Cat in the Poe house

Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) gave the world some enchanting poetry and some truly chilling horror stories, none more memorable than “The Black Cat.” The tale is narrated by a man who is clearly going insane, as he proves by cutting out the eye of his beloved cat, Pluto. He also murders his wife and bricks up her body inside a wall, assuming no one will ever find her.

But (sorry to give away the ending of the story!) the murder is revealed when the man and the police investigating his wife’s disappearance hear screams from behind the wall that turn out to be the pitiful cries of Pluto, who was also bricked up in the wall.

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Sandburg and fog

The beloved American poet Carl Sandburg wrote one of the world’s most famous cat poems—though it really isn’t about cats. It is “Fog,” published in 1916, and brief enough to quote here: “The fog comes / on little cat feet. / It sits looking / over harbor and city / on silent haunches / and then moves on.” People who have never heard the name Carl Sandburg have certainly heard of fog coming “on little cat feet.”

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The good news about ticks

country can spot a “full” (blood-gorged) tick right away, appearing as a big brown lump hanging somewhere on a pet.

Some not-too-bright pet owners rush their pets to the vet, puzzled about this mysterious “growth,” which could be easily removed just by pulling it off. However, when a tick is pulled off an animal, it sometimes leaves its mouthparts behind, which can lead to infections. The old camp counselors’ trick: strike a match, blow it out and apply the hot end to the rear of the tick, which will fall off in a few seconds.

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For the woodsy cat

The author, a former camp counselor, is very familiar with chiggers, also called harvest mites. They are common in woodsy areas, and they burrow into human skin and cause serious itching.

Rodents get chiggers and so do cats, especially cats who roam in the woods and fields. They are not dangerous, and the itch eventually goes away. The best thing about chiggers is that, unlike other mites, they can’t be passed from one host to another.

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