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The Benefits of Cat Ownership

We’ve all heard the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” But have you ever considered interacting with your pet as another way to prevent doctor visits? Many people are experiencing the social and health advantages of interacting with their four-legged friends. The proof is not only evident in happy pet owners’ faces, but also in recent studies. Professionals and researchers have found specific benefits in cat ownership.

For many people, cats offer social companionship without the fear of judgment. Having a cat around can prevent loneliness and depression and even improve your mood in general. Companionship through a cat is especially beneficial to those who live alone or are widowed. Dr. Jonathon Lidbury, assistant professor in the feline internal medicine department at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explains the key advantages of owning a cat.

Brookside Barkery“Cats offer companionship, which is especially beneficial to people who are socially isolated due to various reasons,” he said. “Cats also offer stress relief and light exercise if you play with them.”

Besides social interaction and a reduced risk of suffering from social diseases like depression, cats also offer many health benefits. In fact, the positive emotions you experience from playing or cuddling with your feline can help boost your immune system. Cats can also sense when their owners are sick and often offer them company. This can help you feel better even sooner.

Although it is common to find someone who is allergic to cats, studies show that young children or infants who are exposed to cats often develop fewer allergies. Early and frequent exposure to cats may also prevent future upper respiratory problems in children as well.

For many people, interacting with their cat provides a sense of comfort and relief from everyday stress. Caring for another creature and being sensitive to their needs can help distract cat owners from their daily struggles, worries, and negative emotions. By lowering stress levels, cat owners may experience lower blood pressure as well as less anxiety. Cats are smart and independent animals that are also naturally clean, making them a great choice for a pet. Combined with their many health benefits, the low maintenance aspect of cat ownership creates a great opportunity for companionship.

“Cats offer a great balance between being easy to take care of but at the same time being very good companions,” Lidbury said. “They are playful, intelligent and engaging pets that are very fun to take care of.”

*Thanks for the tips!

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Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?

If you are a cat owner, you’ve probably gazed at Whiskers on the couch and asked, “Why does he sleep so much?” The answer is very simple, says a noted Texas A&M University animal behaviorist: It’s in their DNA.

Bonnie Beaver, a veterinarian at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and a former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, says cats are natural sleepers – and they are very good at it. When it comes to sleep, the news about cats is hardly out of the bag. Many cats sleep 16-20 hours a day, more than any other animal, and they are not picky about choosing a place for their cat nap – on top of a car or a roof, in a tree, their favorite chair or just about anywhere they can curl up for 40 winks or more.

“Let sleeping cats lie,” goes a French proverb, and it’s advice cats have taken to heart. “Over the thousands of years that cats have evolved, so have their sleeping habits,” Beaver explains.
“Early on, they had to hunt for food to stay alive, and that desire for food can require a lot of energy. So sleeping Brookside Barkeryhelped cats conserve their energy, and even though the common housecat does not have to hunt for its next meal, a cat is still conditioned for sleep. “House cats sleep a lot more than feral cats do, because they don’t have to spend a lot of time searching for food.”
That’s not to say all of that sleep is purr-fect sleep, either.  A lot of that time – maybe as much as 40 percent – is spent resting and not in deep sleep, Beaver adds.

So with all of that sleeping, do cats dream like we do? “We know that dreaming occurs in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and cats very much have an REM phase of sleep,” she notes.“They also exhibit movements during REM sleep, so it is possible they can dream.  What are they dreaming about?  Since we can’t ask them, we really don’t know.” She adds that if a cat’s whiskers or paws twitch during sleep, it’s very possible it is dreaming.

And while dogs are known to snore almost as loud as your Uncle Fred, cats tend to be quiet sleepers, Beaver points out.  “Most cats don’t snore because they don’t have a loose, soft palate like many breeds of dogs do,” she says. There’s also the flip side – if Fluffy appears to sleep very little, it may not be a true cat-astrophe, but it could be a sign that something is wrong. “Cats are like people – each one is different,” Beaver adds. “Each cat is unique, so if it does not seem to sleep much, it may be its normal routine.  It is more important to note changes in behavior.

Your cat will thank you – once it is fully awake, of course. Or then again since it’s a cat, maybe not.

*Thanks for letting us know why cats sleep so much!

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Cat Tail Wagging and What It Means

A tail can tell us so many things. “Everyone has an image of a super friendly dog wagging his tail so hard he looks as though he might be able to take flight,” says Dr. Karyn Collier, DVM, Chief Medical Officer at Saint Francis Veterinary Center. “In this instance the message is clear—that dog is happy.”

There are times, though, Dr. Collier continued, where the message isn’t quite so obvious. “Especially when it comes to cats, tail posture and movement are not quite as easy to interpret,” she said. “They are still, however, sending a message.”

So just what does it mean when Penny’s tail starts thumping the second I begin to pet her? I was eager to find out…

“Behaviorists have logged many hours of research observing cats’ posture and body language during their interactions, both with other cats and with dogs,” says Dr. Collier. “The facial expression, position of the ears and the tail can tell a great deal about the state of mind of the cat. Although the tail position will be discussed, tail position is not relied upon as a single indicator of the cat’s state of mind.”

The Tail Flick

A cat that is holding its tail lower, extended rigidly and is flicking it back and forth is showing signs of offensive aggression. “This is not a happy cat,” says Dr. Collier. “This is encountered frequently during veterinary visits. The cat that is flicking its tail on the exam room table is letting everyone know it does not want to be there.” Brookside Barkery

In contrast, a cat that is relaxed and simply surveying the environment may also have the tail lowered, but will leisurely move it and is generally much more content.

The Vertical Hold

A cat that is holding its tail in an upright, vertical position can be considered in a playful mood. “There may be motion back and forth that constitutes a greeting,” says Dr. Collier. “That cat is open to interaction.”

Other times, that upright tail that is quivering back and forth in a cat that has backed up to the wall or furniture could actually be spraying or urine marking. “And yes, female cats spray urine as well as male cats,” Dr. Collier confirms. “A tail that is held upright, but concave, is more of a defensive position or defensive aggression. That cat does not want to interact.”

And of course, a cat with her tail tucked between her legs is showing submission or fear.

The Arched Tail

Arched back. Pinned ears. Erect tail. “This cat is ready to react in either a defensive or offensive manner,” says Dr. Collier. “It will do whatever it deems is necessary, and is signaling to the other parties that he or she is ready to react.”

The takeaway? “Cats are very expressive creatures, and often use their body posture, the position of their ears, their facial expression and the position and movement of their tails to convey their feelings and intentions,” says Dr. Collier. “Unlike the aforementioned dog who is frantically wagging his tail, if a cat is ‘wagging’ his tail back and forth, it is very unlikely that the emotion he or she is expressing is joy.”

*Thanks PetMD for the great tips on cat tail wagging!

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Why You Should Be Aware of the Latest FDA Compliance Policy

The FDA has released new information in relation to prescription pet food. Veterinarians and those that buy prescription pet food should make themselves aware of this new FDA compliance policy.  For years, the FDA has not allowed any food to claim that it may cure or treat illnesses the way that a drug can.

The FDA has recently allowed all prescription pet food brands to claim that they can help cure or treat illnesses or diseases, without having to actually prove that they do, or even that it’s safe for your pet to consume.Brookside Barkery

Some common ingredients in prescription pet food are whole grain corn, animal fat and animal digest. Whole grain corn, surely a GMO and comprised of glyphosate (a possible carcinogen) is believed by the FDA to cure or treat kidney disease. Animal fat and animal digest are believed by the FDA to do the same, even though the animals that they sourced from were diseased or non-slaughtered/dead animals (a federal law violation – the same laws the FDA should be enforcing).

To make it even worse, the FDA doesn’t require these companies that produce the pet food to prove that the food is even safe for your animals to consume. They make Veterinarians responsible for learning the definition of each ingredient – some of which are linked to cancer, intestinal lesions, ulcerations, and malignant tumors.

Vets should take some time to read the latest FDA Compliance Policy about prescription pet foods.