Cats For Dummies book cover

Cats For Dummies

By: Gina Spadafori and Lauren Demos Published: 03-31-2020

Everything you need to take care of your feline friend 

Cats are the purrfect pets: they’re relatively easy to care for, a blast to play with, and sure to win the heart of every member of your family with their loving nature—and sometimes sassy demeanor!

Cats For Dummies gives you expert insight into everything from cat behavior to what makes each type of feline unique. With this easy-to-understand guide, you'll be able to tackle those tough cat-astrophes from dealing with problem behaviors like scratching the furniture and missing the litter box—all while learning to understand what your cat is trying to tell you.

  • Happily bring a cat or kitten into your life
  • Keep your new four-legged family member comfortable and safe
  • Live a happy feline-friendly life
  • Keep your cat in prime health

Whether you're looking to get your first kitten or adopt a senior cat, this book covers all the basics of feline cat care.

Articles From Cats For Dummies

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6 results
Cats For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-01-2022

Caring for a cat takes more than just the love you have for your feline friend. You have to make the effort to learn about and prepare for health-related issues that you may encounter. You also need to get in the habit of practicing preventive care, and you must be ready (and have the means) to take your cat to your veterinarian when emergency care is required.

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10 Cool Cat-Related Places to Visit

Article / Updated 03-21-2020

We hate to tell you this, but you can’t always have your cat (or cats!) with you. We two-legged beings generally have to go to work, to school, run errands and other activities for which our feline companions are typically not well-suited or allowed. So, what is a cat lover suffering from feline withdrawal to do? Even if you can’t book a room at a property with a resident feline, you don’t have to suffer without fur and purr while you’re on the road. To help you out, we’ve provided a brief guide to feline-friendly destinations. Some are so good they’re worth a trip all by themselves. Others are worth a look if you’re in the area already. These destinations barely scratch the surface, and as cats continue to grow in popularity, there will surely be more places for cat lovers to enjoy the company of other cat fans — and felines too. A lot of these places are run through the dedication of a single person or volunteers, and hours and days of operation may vary, and these sorts of operations can close without much notice. Moral: Always check ahead. Yes, you can also pet friendly cats wherever you go. Many places are home to friendly cats who roam freely, and many have learned to hit up strangers for a bit of food or a scratch under the chin. While you’re more than likely fine petting a friendly cat, do be aware there is some risk, especially in areas where rabies is common. While the treatment for exposure to rabies is much less miserable than it used to be, it’s still no picnic. If you’re bitten by an animal with unknown vaccination status, or who cannot be caught to be tested, you’ll need to be treated. So, consider yourself warned, and be careful. Hemingway House When we put out a call for feline attractions, the Hemingway House in Key West, Florida, was the most-mentioned of must-visit places for cat lovers. And it’s no surprise: The attraction is real for both writers and cat lovers. (And everyone knows there’s a lot of overlap in those groups!) Ernest Hemingway loved his cats, and so does everyone else, in part because they’re something special about them: They are polydactyl, meaning they have extra toes! Myth has it that the cats are the descendants of animals who hopped off ships after serving as ratters on board, and that’s as good an explanation as any. What’s with the extra toes, though? Such cats are not unheard of around the world, and since the trait is dominant in genetic terms, it takes only one copy of the gene from either parent to produce cats with extra toes. Because of the interest in these cats, they’ve been favored by tourists for decades and allowed to breed more of their kind. They’re so famous now that any cat with extra toes is often called a Hemingway Cat nowadays, and you must admit that term easier to remember than “polydactyl”! While there are certainly people who go to Key West just for the Hemingway cats, the island is such a tourist attraction that you’ll find plenty to do in addition to seeing some of the world’s most famous cats. One of them is even cat related: Ask around to see if Dominique LeFort, the “Catman of Key West,” is performing with his fabulous flying felines. The American Museum of the House Cat Near Asheville, North Carolina, you’ll find one of the quirky roadside attractions that used to be everywhere in the United States. While many such places never survived the transition from highways to super-highways, so many cat-lovers visit the American Museum of the House Cat that its survival seems assured. It’s not an old place, either. Opened in 2017, the owner, Dr. Harold Sims, has collected more than 5,000 cat-related items, including many antiques. Open from April to December, the museum represents more than 30 years of collecting by Sims, and proceeds go to a nearby cat shelter, which is also available to tour. The oldest exhibit is a bronze of a feline goddess said to date to 600 B.C. Located near the arts-and-crafts village of Dilsboro, you’ll find lots of other things to do as well in this North Carolina mountain community. Citywide cat celebration The city of Catskill, New York, makes the most of its name with a seasonable celebration called Cat’n Around Catskill. While other touristy towns have raised money for worthy causes by having local businesses pay artists to paint sculptures of horses (as in the nearby horse-racing town of Saratoga), bears, elks or other large animals, Catskill decided to go feline, with larger than life painted sculptures on the town’s historic main drag. At the end of the season, the statues are auctioned off for charity. Pictures of these fantastic creations are available on the website, and the displays run throughout the town’s tourist season, which is May through September. Purrfectly pedigreed Arguably the largest cat show in the world takes place every fall outside of Birmingham in the United Kingdom at the massive National Exhibition Centre, which also hosts the world’s largest dog show, Crufts, every spring. The aptly named Supreme Cat Show, held under the auspices of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, features judging of nearly every known breed of cat, along with educational seminars and so many and varied vendor booths (called “stalls” in the U.K.) filled with all manner of goodies for cats and those who love them. While you may not consider a cat show worthy of an overseas trip on its own, the area is incredible rich with historic attractions, from the town of Royal Leamington Spa (where rich and poor alike once enjoyed the baths), to Coventry, where the ruins of the cathedral bombed by in World War II stand in memory next to a new one erected in the promise of a post-war world. When in Rome, help the cats As long you have your passport out, why not head to Rome? The Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary is in one of the most historic cat places in the world, found among the ancient ruins of this historic city. Free-ranging cat have always been a sight on the streets of Rome, going all the way back to the beginning of Western Civilization. The cats of Torre Argentina — about 150 more or less — are cared for by volunteers, including those who travel to take in the majestic ruins as well as the feline companionship. The sanctuary is named for the area, which is itself named for a Roman dictator who was assassinated in 44 BC. Despite the ghosts who surely roam the area, the place has been home to friendly felines since 1929, when a string of gattare (cat ladies) started caring for the animals. A group of cat lovers realized the work was too much for a small group of volunteers, so in 1993, the sanctuary was formally founded. Financial backing and governmental tolerance has been up and down since, but the cats remain, and likely always will. The ultimate destination for cat cafes We’re sure that drinking coffee with cats is an experience shared the world over, the modern concept of the cat café — a coffee house with resident cats — seems to have started in Japan and spread worldwide from there. In Tokyo alone, there are so many cat cafes that there are websites dedicated to helping tourists and residents alike visit them all. Why Tokyo? Japan is famously feline-friendly but also densely populated enough in its biggest city that many people don’t have housing that accommodates a cat of their own. At a feline café, you go in, pay for your time (and food/beverage) and pet the friendly cats. The Calico Cat Café in the Shinjuku part of Tokyo is especially noteworthy, with more 50 cats in residence, but there are plenty of others! The website here is in Japanese, but an Internet search will pop lots of guidelines in other languages to guide your visit. Hello Kitty! Outside of Tokyo in the town of Tama is Sanrio Puroland, the official Hello Kitty theme park. Opened in 1990 and entirely indoors, the attraction is extremely popular, welcoming more than a million visitors per year. As befitting a world-famous brand, the attraction offers amazing shopping of Hello Kitty items, as well as those other themed items from the company that owns “Hello Kitty.” Once inside, you’ll be able to take in a show and snap selfies with costumed mascots. While the site is extremely popular with children and teenaged girls, there is also a loyal clientele of adult Hello Kitty fans that wouldn’t dream of missing out when visiting Japan. The website is in Japanese, so search for "Hello Kitty theme park, Tokyo," to get information in other languages. Snuggle with a library cat (while you still can) Near the beginning of her cat-writing career, Gina was enchanted with the work of Gary Roma, who produced a documentary, Puss in Books: Adventures of the Library Cat. She couldn’t wait to interview him, and wrote one of her favorite articles ever. A few years later, Viki Myron’s Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World became an international bestseller. Again, Gina couldn’t wait to interview the author, because libraries and cats, what’s not to like? Unfortunately, Gina’s view is not universal. Roma counted more than 200 libraries with resident cats in the 1980s, but the American Library Association was able to find less than 40 in a 2016 survey. So, what happened? Allergies, mostly. People who are allergic to cats (or parents of children who are) complained to authorities about many of the cats. While some cats won the right to stay—often after considerable hissing on both sides—many others were rehomed or not replaced when they died. Still, library cats hang on. Some are restricted to portions of the library or to staff areas only. Besides being wonderful for being cats, library cats have the most wonderful names. In addition to Dewey, there have been cats named Pages and Stacks, as well as more ordinary cats names such as Emma and Jasper (although to be fair, both of those names are literary references). Stacks, who lives in the New Castle, Pennsylvania, Public Library is purported to be one of the last library cats with full roaming privileges. He also has a social media following. Kattenstoet—no, they don’t throw real cats anymore The town of Ypres, Belgium, has an unfortunate history when it comes to free-roaming cats. In the middle ages, they were thrown to their deaths from a tower. (As awful as that is, cats were often treated horribly at that time all over Europe, in part because they were thought to be in league with Satan.) The days of cat throwing are long gone, thankfully, ending in the early 19th century, although art from the time still marks the history. These days, the town celebrates all things cat with Kattenstoet (“Cat Parade”), a festival held every three years (the 2018 edition was the 45th). The event features costumes, lectures, and lots of cool cat stuff. It ends with a ceremony throwing plush cats out of the same tower. While that sounds very weird still, it’s far better than the original practice, as almost everyone agrees. Safe home for big cats The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) was founded by the late Pat Derby, a Hollywood animal trainer who was appalled by the treatment of non-domesticated performing animals, especially elephants. In 1984, she founded a 30-acre sanctuary in Galt, California, near the state capital of Sacramento. With the financial backing of the late Amanda Blake, who played Miss Kitty on the old TV show, Gunsmoke, Derby set out to take in elephants, lions, tigers and other animals who needed a safe, permanent home. As support grew, so did the operation, which was expanded in 1997 when the Sacramento Municipal Utility District provided more land on the grounds of a shuttered nuclear power plant. Further growth came with the acquisition of 2,300 acres in San Andreas, about an hour away from the original sanctuary. The large animals began moving to that facility, called ARK2000, in 2011. For cat lovers, the attraction will be the tigers, African lions, and mountain lions who are cared for by a permanent staff as well as volunteers and interns. The sanctuary is open for regularly scheduled events, and a calendar can be found on the organization’s website.

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How to Recognize Good Health in Kittens and Cats

Article / Updated 03-21-2020

Some signs of a healthy cat or kitten are obvious to anyone; others require a veterinarian’s help to pinpoint. Before you settle on a promising kitten or cat, perform your own health check, and be sure to follow up with your veterinarian within a day or so. Don’t fall in love with a sick cat. With so many kittens and cats available for adoption, it just doesn’t make sense to take a chance on one who may cost you a great deal of money in veterinary costs—and may not be with you long, anyway. The outer cat General impressions are important. Sure, all kittens are adorable, as you can see in the following figure, but you should get a sense of good health and vitality from the animal you’re considering adopting. He should feel good in your arms: neither too thin nor too fat, well put-together, sleek, and solid. If ribs are showing or the animal is potbellied, he may be suffering from malnutrition or worms — both fixable, but signs of neglect that may indicate deeper problems with socialization or general health. With soothing words and gentle caresses, go over the animal from nose to tail, paying special attention to the following areas: Fur and skin: Skin should be clean and unbroken, covered thickly with a glossy coat of hair. Bald patches may mean ringworm, not a parasite but a fungal infection that you can catch, too. Part the hairs and look for signs of fleas: The parasites themselves may be too small and fast for you to spot, but their droppings remain behind. If you’re not sure, put the cat on a clean surface, such as a stainless-steel counter or white towel and run your fingers against the grain. Then look on the surface: If fleas are present, you see the droppings as little bits that look like pepper. If you add water to them, they turn reddish in color — because they’re made up of dried blood. You shouldn’t count a cat out because of a few fleas, but a severe infestation could be a sign of a health problem, especially for kittens. (Some kittens become anemic from having so much of their blood sucked by the pests.) Ears: These should be clean inside or, perhaps, have a little bit of wax. Filthy ears and head-shaking are signs of ear mites, which can require a prolonged period of consistent medication to eradicate. Eyes: Eyes should look clear and bright. Runny eyes or other discharge may be a sign of illness. The third eyelid, a semitransparent protective sheath that folds away into the corners of the eyes nearest the nose (also called a haw), should not be visible. Nose: Again, the cat should have no discharge. The nose should be clean and slightly moist. A kitten or cat who is breathing with difficulty, coughing, or sneezing may be seriously ill. Mouth: Gums should be rosy pink, not pale, and with no signs of inflammation at the base of the teeth. The teeth should be white and clean of tartar buildup. Tail area: Clean and dry. Dampness or the presence of fecal matter may suggest illness. Even though we believe you’re best off finding the healthiest, best-socialized cat or kitten you can, we do applaud those who take on the challenges of the neediest. Gina’s friend, Jan, for example, lives happily with a houseful of some of the weirdest cats imaginable. One of the newest additions to her home is Mimi (short for Screaming Mimi, to give you an idea of this cat’s worst trait). Jan found Mimi trapped in a drain pipe, a half-starved, seriously dehydrated kitten with ear mites, fleas, and worms. The veterinarian told Jan she didn’t think the kitten would make it, but Mimi pulled through and grew to be a sleek and glossy adult. Not that anyone would know, for Mimi hides from company. But she’s an affectionate companion to the woman who saved her life. The inner cat In the best circumstances, your kitten or adult cat will come with a clean bill of health certified by the shelter or other placement service, or vouched for by the cat’s own health records kept by the person trying to place him. If that’s not the case, you need to have any adoption prospect checked out by a veterinarian for serious problems you can’t see. Following are some problems you should have your pet checked for: Infectious diseases: Feline leukemia is the biggest concern. Though many cats live with the virus well enough for years, you may want to consider carefully the added worry and health-care expense of owning such a cat. Then, too, if you already have cats, you may want to safeguard their health by not exposing them to the contagious virus. Your veterinarian can determine the presence of infectious disease with a simple test, and explain to you the results — and your options. Parasites: Worms are the biggest problem. Your veterinarian needs to verify their presence and prescribe an appropriate course of treatment. Don’t put the cats you already have at risk by introducing a sick animal into your home. Have your new cat cleared by your veterinarian before you bring him home. Dr. Lauren recommends a short quarantine even if the kitten looks healthy, as least until you can discuss with your veterinarian what treatments or testing should be done.

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Cat Characteristics by Breed

Article / Updated 03-21-2020

Pedigreed cats are roughly divided by experts into two groups that are distinguished by body type and activity level: Oriental and non-Oriental. The breeds in the first group, the Oriental, are notable for their long, sleek bodies and active participation in the world around them. They’re not happy unless they’re supervising dinner, climbing to the top of the bookshelf, teasing that dopey dog, or seeing what every member of the household is up to. The way these cats see the world, you’re not capable of running your own life without their help. Cats in this group, such as the Siamese, and Abyssinian, are often touted as being more intelligent and trainable, as well as the Oriental Shorthair, basically a Siamese coat but with a broader range of coat patterns and colors The non-Orientals see things a little bit differently. If you’re big and beautiful, the world comes to you with all your needs. Why interrupt a good nap to see what’s on top of that bookshelf? Cats in this group, such as the Persian, Ragdoll, and British Shorthair are generally happy to sleep in your lap while you read — and not bat at the pages as you turn them! At first, the differences between these breeds may also seem to relate to their coats, with the sleek shorthairs falling in the Oriental group and thicker-set longhairs in the other. That assumption would be true except for the work of those who want to offer you even more options in a cat, such as longhaired versions of the Siamese (the Balinese) and Abyssinian (the Somali) and a breed that’s pretty close to a shorthaired version of the Persian (the Exotic). The history and legends behind the various breeds of pedigreed cats are almost as interesting and colorful as the cats themselves. Two books that are good jumping-off points for more in-depth research into cat breeds are The Cat Fanciers’ Association Cat Encyclopedia (Simon & Schuster) and Cat Breeds of the World: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, by Desmond Morris (Viking). The handful of registries of pedigreed cats all have websites that provide additional information on the breeds in each association. Unlike purebred dogs — who are divided roughly by purpose: sporting, herding, and so on — pedigreed cats aren’t quite so easy to categorize. Not surprisingly, really, if you consider that each cat himself is unique — and if you don’t believe it, just ask him! Not happy with the two divisions the experts offer, we break down the various breeds into categories, a task almost as difficult as herding cats themselves. The breakdown’s not perfect — some longhaired cats are also among the largest, for example, and some of the more active breeds are also distinctive in other ways. (In such cases, we list the breeds twice, once in each category.) But we figure that breaking the almost 50 breeds down into categories would make thinking about what sort of breed you may want a little easier. The go-go group Consider the Siamese (shown in the following figure) the prototype of this group. Always into everything, always looking to see what you’re up to, and always loudly suggesting ways you can do it better — these characteristics are the essence of this cat, one of the world’s most easily recognizable breeds with his distinctive “pointed” markings. The Siamese is such an important breed that its genes went into the development of many others, such as the Himalayan (a pointed version of the Persian); the Balinese (essentially a longer-haired Siamese); and the Birman, Burmese, Havana Brown, Ocicat, Oriental Shorthair (a Siamese in solid colors and total-body patterns), Colorpoint Shorthair (a Siamese with more options in point colors), and Tonkinese. Not surprisingly, many of these breeds — the Himalayan alone not among them — are also high on the activity scale. A cat doesn’t need to be Siamese — or related somehow to the Siamese — to be above-average in terms of being on the go. Not as talkative generally, but just as busy, is the Abyssinian, with markings that suggest a mountain lion and a reputation for being one of the most intelligent and trainable of all breeds. Other breeds with energy to burn are the Bombay, the kinky-coated Cornish and Devon Rexes, the Egyptian Mau, the Somali (a longhaired Abyssinian), and the hairless Sphynx. Although these breeds can be a constant source of amusement with their energy and fearless ways, they can also be a handful. You should be prepared to endure cats on the drapes — the better to get up, up, up! — and kittenish behavior that endures for a lifetime. These cats never stop and are as likely to want to play at 2 a.m. as at 2 p.m. They surely want to be with you all the time, but on you? That’s another matter. Lapsitter kitties these are generally not — they’ve got things to do! The people who choose these breeds do so for a reason: They’re fun! If one of these cats is in your future, get a good cat tree and lay in a huge supply of toys, because you’re going to need them. A touch of the wild One of the many things we humans find appealing about cats is that, even in the most tame and loving of our household companions, a touch of the tiger remains. Indeed, the tiger’s stripes remain on many of our pets, reminding us always of the connection — a reminder strengthened whenever you watch a cat walk, run, or leap. The grace and power are the same for big cats and for small. Our cats may have chosen domestication, but on their own terms. And always, always, with a little bit of wildness held in reserve. That we love this essential wildness is apparent in our long-standing interest in cat breeds that retain the look of the wild about them — not with the “ordinary” tiger stripes of the tabby but with spotted coat patterns evocative of another great wild cat, the leopard. Most cats with a spotted “wild look” haven’t any wild blood in them at all — they’re the results of breeders trying to develop coat patterns that resemble the domestic cat’s wild cousins. You can put into this category the Ocicat, derived from breedings of the Siamese and Abyssinian and named for the Ocelot, which it resembles. The Egyptian Mau (Mau means cat in Egyptian) is another spotted wonder, a lovely cat bred to resemble the cats seen in ancient Egyptian artwork. A cat of a different variety altogether is the Bengal, a cat developed through breedings of domestic cats with wild Asian Leopard Cats. Fanciers say the wild temperament has been removed by generations of breeding only the most sociable and friendly Bengals, although the look of the wild cat it came from remains. The Toyger is a litter easier to live with for many people without the cross to wild cats. They’re a smaller than Bengals but maintain the wild look without the wild breeding. The Bengal and other breeds that have been crossed with undomesticated feline species come with responsibilities that many people aren’t prepared for. They can be quite wild and difficult to handle, so much so that Dr. Lauren notes that many veterinarians would strongly recommend that people generally think twice before adopting one of these breeds. The temperament of these “wilder” breeds generally lies somewhere in the middle between the go-gos and the more easygoing breeds, which we discuss next. They’re not placid layabouts, but neither are they as active as some breeds. For those who love the look of a leopard in a manageable, loving package, these cats are perfect. Longhaired beauties The Persian is the other cat besides the Siamese that nearly anyone, cat lover or not, can recognize. The incredible coat of this breed has enchanted cat lovers for centuries. Whenever companies look for a breed that says “glamour” to use in their advertising, that they often settle on a Persian is no accident. This cat is a glamour-puss, no doubt about it (see the following figure). Perhaps no cat besides the Persian comes in as many varieties, each cat resplendent in that incredible coat: tabbies of every color, torties, calicos, every imaginable solid color, and tipped coats, too. The markings of the Siamese can be found in the Himalayan, which in cat shows is considered a pointed Persian. If you’re looking for a more natural longhair, you have plenty of options. The Turkish Angora and Turkish Van are two ancient longhaired cats. The Norwegian Forest, Maine Coon, and Siberian cats are longhairs that still have the rough-and-tumble look of farm cats about them. And don’t forget the Birman, the sacred cat of Burma, a breed that looks somewhat like a Himalayan, with color darker at the points, except for the perfectly white-mitted paws. The Ragdoll is another pointed longhair with white mittens of more-modern origins — it was “invented” in the 1960s — and is another choice for those seeking a longhaired cat, especially one designed to have an extremely laid-back temperament. Another lovely longhair with a relatively short history is the Chantilly/Tiffany, a cat with silky hair, commonly chocolate colored. In the longhaired ranks, too, are a few breeds you can distinguish from their better-known relatives only by the length of their coat. Put in this class the Cymric, a longhaired version of the tailless Manx, as well as the Somali (a longer-haired Abyssinian), Balinese (a longer-haired Siamese), and Javanese (a longer-haired Colorpoint Shorthair). The biggest challenge facing those who own longhaired cats is coat care. The long, silky coat of the Persian mats easily and requires daily attention to keep it in good form. Other longhaired coats aren’t quite as demanding, but they all require more attention than the coats of shorthaired cats. And they all shed rather remarkably! Ingested hair, commonly called hairballs, is a bigger problem in longhaired cats, too. The temperament of longhaired cats depends on what’s underneath that lovely coat. If an Oriental body is underneath — such as in the Balinese — you’ve got an active cat. The larger, more thickset body types, such as those of the Persian and Norwegian Forest Cat, tend more toward the laid-back end of the spectrum. The big cats Although you’ll never see a pet cat as big as a St. Bernard — or at least, we certainly hope not — a few breeds definitely warrant the heavyweight category where cats are concerned. Although most healthy cats — pedigreed or not — weigh between 8 and 12 pounds, some of the big cat breeds range between 15 and 20 pounds, especially the males. Now that’s a cat who can keep your lap warm on a winter night! The biggest domestic cat is thought to be the Siberian cat, with some males topping 20 pounds. This breed is pretty rare, however, so if you’re looking for maximum cat, you may want to consider the Maine Coon or maybe the Norwegian Forest, another longhaired chunk of a cat. Other longhaired cats with an above-average size include the Ragdoll, Turkish Van, and American Bobtail (see the following figure). For a lot of cat without the fur, consider the British Shorthair, the American Shorthair, and the Chartreux. The large cats are generally fairly easygoing in temperament and more laid-back than many other breeds. If you’re looking for a more active and involved pet, these breeds are not the ones for you. A brown tabby Maine Coon named Cosey won the first major cat show in North America, held May 8, 1895, in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The engraved silver collar and medal presented there is now the most important piece in the Cat Fanciers’ Association’s collection of cat memorabilia and art. Something different New cat breeds are created all the time, some by accident, some by design. Many cat breeds start after someone notices a kitten with something “different” — ears, legs, or other characteristics that set him or her apart from other cats. These cats, shown in the following figure, are some of the rarest around and among the most controversial. They’re also among the most expensive to acquire — if you can find one at all. Coat — or lack of it — sets some breeds apart. Primary among these breeds is the Sphynx, a cat who’s nearly hairless — nothing more than a little fuzz on his face, feet, and tail. The Rex breeds — Cornish, Devon, German, and Selkirk — all sport kinky hair, as does the LaPerm and the American Wirehair. Some breeders of Rexes claim an additional distinction for their breeds: They claim that the cats are hypoallergenic. Some people with allergies may be able to tolerate certain breeds more than others, true, but unfortunately, no such thing as a completely allergy-proof cat exists. Tails—or lack thereof—are the talk in other breeds. The Manx is undoubtedly the best-known tailless or short-tailed cat, but others are on this list, too. The Cymric is a longhaired Manx; the Japanese Bobtail, American Bobtail, and Pixie-Bob round out the ranks of the tail-challenged. And what about ears? Two breeds are based on an ear mutation: the Scottish Fold, with ears that fold forward, and the American Curl, with ears that arch backward. Undoubtedly the most talked-about new breed has been the Munchkin, a cat with short legs. Although some people say that the breed is a mutation that shouldn’t be developed into an actual breed, others see little difference between having a short-legged cat breed and a short-legged dog breed, of which several exist. One thing is certain: The controversy over breeds developed from mutations isn’t about to abate anytime soon. Should you consider any of these breeds? Of course. If you’re looking for something that’s sure to start a conversation whenever company comes over, these cats are just the ticket. But be prepared, too, to hear from those who think it’s a bad idea to perpetuate such genetic surprises. The unCATegorizables Herding cats is hard work, and some breeds refuse any efforts at being categorized. One, the Singapura, a Southeast Asian breed that resembles an Abyssinian, is noteworthy for being exceptionally small, which practically puts the breed in a category of its own. And where do you put the Snowshoe, a cat with many breeds in its background who resembles a white-mitted Siamese but isn’t as active? We couldn’t decide. Three other breeds are of medium size and temperament but are notable for their coats. Count among these the Korat and Russian Blue, from Thailand and Russia, respectively, both remarkable for their stunning blue-gray coats—as is the Nebelung.

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Cats—Indoors versus Outdoors Controversy

Article / Updated 03-21-2020

With the evolution of the cat from semiwild hunter to loving companion animal has become a change not only in how cats are loved but also where cats are kept. Increasingly, more cats are living indoors (see the following figure). Still, even though litter boxes can be easy to care for and odor-free, some people refuse to deal with them. Add to these folks the ones who can’t believe a cat can be happy unless he runs free, and you’ve got half of one of the hottest controversies among cat owners: Should cats be kept exclusively indoors, or should cats be permitted outside? The subject is so hot that almost all reputable breeders and an increasing number of shelters and rescue groups refuse to place a cat with someone who does not promise — in writing — to keep the animal exclusively indoors. With some breeds, this restriction is imperative: Imagine the tiny, nearly furless Devon Rex or the naked Sphynx trying to survive in the outdoors! Outdoor cats are also far more prone to skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. It’s a horrible disease that often results in the loss of their ears, or nose, and is often incurable, even with radical surgeries. Dr. Lauren, who went to veterinary school in Australia, notes that she saw more of this horrible disease there, since cats in other countries are far more likely to roam freely than pets in the United States. The truth, however, is that all cats are living dangerously if you allow them to go in and out at will. With correct diet and preventive care, an indoor cat can easily live for 15 to 20 years — or more. A cat with outdoor privileges is lucky to live a fraction as long, although many exceptions do exist, of course. Here’s a list of the things that can “do in” the outdoor kitty: Cars: Cats can be hit, of course, but cars also present a danger even when parked. Heat-loving kitties crawl up into the warm engine and can be seriously injured — or killed — if someone starts the car again while the cat is still there. Dogs: Some dogs are gleeful cat killers, and woe to the cat who wanders into the territory of one of them. Some mean-spirited people even encourage their dogs to attack cats — and let the animals off the leash to do it! Coyotes: A well-fed cat is a tasty temptation to wild predators such as coyotes. And you don’t need to live in a rural area: Coyotes have been found even in Manhattan and are common in many other urban areas. Poisons: From antifreeze puddles to garden chemicals to rat poison (in baits or the stomach of dead vermin) to plants, an outdoor cat can easily get a lethal dose of something he wouldn’t be as easily exposed to indoors. Disease: Feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus are two of the contagious and often lethal diseases your cat can pick up from other cats — through close contact, including fighting. And speaking of fighting, outdoor cats spend a lot of their time defending their turf — and you spend a lot of your time and money taking them to the veterinarian to patch up their bite wounds and abscesses. People: Some people hate cats and go out of their way to hurt them. Others — such as gardeners — feel justified taking action against cats who foul flower beds and vegetable gardens. These people all pose a grave danger to your pet. Enough accidental and deliberate threats are out there to make keeping your cat inside seem like a very good idea. But consider things, too, from the angle of your responsibility. Are you really being fair to your neighbors if you let your cat relieve himself in their yards because you don’t want to deal with a litter box? If your cat carries a disease such as feline leukemia, is letting him out to infect other pets the right thing for you to do? And if you haven’t spayed or neutered your pet, doesn’t allowing her (or him) out to breed make you partially responsible for the surplus kittens and cats killed by the millions each year? We leave the answers up to you and to your conscience. As for the other question of whether cats can be happy living an indoors-only life, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Kittens raised indoors become cats who don’t miss the outdoors, and with patience, you can convert even grown cats. Toys, scratching posts, indoor gardens, and screened patios or balconies all make the indoor cat’s life special — as may the addition of a second cat (or even a dog) for companionship.

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10 Common Household Dangers to Your Cat

Article / Updated 03-21-2020

Veterinarians see every imaginable problem a cat can get into. Although every animal lost is a tragedy, some of those are a little harder to take than others. Into this class falls those cats whose deaths were the results of something an owner could have done to protect them but didn’t know about. We want you to know about them, so we’ve assembled in this list of the most common household dangers your cat may face. Forewarned is forearmed, we believe. So, do your best to protect your cat from these avoidable dangers. Strings and similar things What would you call a kitten with a ball of yarn? A perfect time to reach for your camera? How about an accident waiting to happen? Kittens and cats love playing with yarn, as well as string, ribbon, and anything that twists and dances, as shown in the following figure. They like to stalk, to pounce, to flip their slender prey in the air, and to start stalking again. That’s all good, clean fun, but there’s always a chance that your cat won’t stop with play and will decide to eat his plaything. And that’s where the fun stops, because any sort of yarn, ribbon, Christmas tinsel, or string can cause havoc in your cat’s intestines, causing a problem that may need to be surgically treated. If you knit or sew, put your supplies securely away after you’re done with them, and if you’re opening or wrapping packages, clean up after you’re done. Packing material such as foam peanuts can be a health hazard for your pet, too. Even if your pet’s not really the playful type, she may find one kind of string irresistible: juice-soaked string from a roast or turkey. Dispose of these tempting dangers carefully, putting them in a container your cat can’t get into. A shocking experience—electrical cords Chewing on electrical cords is more of a risk for inquisitive kittens, but protecting your grown-up cat against them wouldn’t hurt either. Tuck cords out of the way, and if you notice any you can’t hide and that are attracting kitty teeth, coat them in something nasty, such as Bitter Apple (available at pet-supply stores) to convince your cat or kitten to chomp elsewhere. A simple internet search will turn up all kinds of products for keeping electric supply cords neat and out of view. Not surprisingly, these products are great for people with pets, since cats tend to leave alone the things they can't see or reach. The warm and deadly dryer Cats love warm, dark hiding places, and a dryer full of freshly dried clothes is a favorite spot of many, as shown in the following figure. So, what’s the worry? Some cats have been killed after their owners have accidentally closed and turned on a dryer with a sleeping cat inside. Sounds implausible, you say? You’d be surprised how often cats are killed this way, and surprised, too, at how easily you can throw a few extra clothes in, close the door, and turn on the dryer without noticing your cat is inside. It seems every veterinarian knows a pet owner who lost a cat this way! Prevention is simple, but must be practiced by your whole family to be effective. Keep the dryer door closed and make sure whoever’s doing the laundry knows to always check for your cat — just in case. Keep an eye out, too, in the washer, dishwasher, or oven. This situation is one case in which the saying “curiosity killed the cat” can prove to be tragically true. If you find your cat in the dryer, oven, washing machine, or dishwasher, take a deep breath and do something that seems cruel but has your cat’s best interest at heart: Scare the fur off him. Close the door with him inside, and then pound on the appliance for a few seconds, making a racket that could wake the dead. Then open the door and let him make his escape. You can’t always be sure everyone in your house remembers to keep appliance doors closed or checks for a cat before hitting the “on” switch. Convincing your cat to avoid such sleeping places provides another kind of insurance against tragedy. We wouldn’t suggest such drastic measures if it weren’t such a horrible way to die. Pain medicines that kill Here’s an easy rule to remember: Never give your cat any medication without clearing it with your veterinarian first. That’s a good rule to remember in general, but in particular, it applies to painkillers. Although you still find advice on giving coated aspirin to arthritic dogs (not really recommended because of far better options now), the different metabolism of cats makes aspirin a dangerous proposition for them. Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, can kill your cat, as can some of the newer, longer-lasting painkillers available in nonprescription form for human use. If your cat is in pain, call your veterinarian immediately. Cats are very stoic, and if you’re noticing your pet’s discomfort, he’s really suffering and needs immediate care. As for chronic pain, your veterinarian can prescribe something that’s effective and cat-safe, while getting to the root of the problem in hopes that any pain medications prescribed for your cat can be short-term in nature. Toxic plants Cats love to nosh greenery. Some experts suggest that cats crave the half-digested plant matter that they’d find in the bellies of their vegetarian prey, but just as good an explanation is that cats eat plants simply because they want to. Indulge your cat with plants he can nibble on but make sure he isn’t munching on anything that can make him sick. You can discourage cats from chewing on houseplants, but you can’t guarantee they’ll leave them alone. Your best bet is to make sure that anything your cat can get into isn’t going to hurt him. And don’t forget: Even “good” plants can cause problems if they’ve been sprayed with insecticide. The ASPCA/National Animal Poison Control Center, a resource for veterinarians, says the following list contains some of the bad seeds. Most “just” make your pet sick, but a few of them can kill. If your pet has tangled with any of the following, call your veterinarian: Aloe Vera (Medicine Plant) Amaryllis, Andromeda Japonica, Apple (seeds), Apricot (pit), Asparagus Fern, Autumn Crocus, Avocado (fruit and pit), Azalea Baby Doll Ti, Baby’s Breath, Bird of Paradise, Bittersweet, Branching Ivy, Buckeye, Buddhist Pine Caladium, Calla Lily, Castor Bean, Ceriman, Cherry (wilting leaves and seeds), China Doll, Chinese Evergreen, Christmas Cactus, Christmas Rose, Chrysanthemum, Cineraria, Clematis, Cordatum, Corn Plant (all Dracaena species), Crown Vetch, Cyclamen Daffodil, Daisy, Day Lily, Devil’s Ivy, Dieffenbachia (all varieties; commonly called Dumb Cane), Dracaena Palm, Dragon Tree Elephant Ears, Emerald Feather, English Ivy Fiddle-Leaf Fig, Flamingo Plant, Foxglove, Fruit Salad Plant Geranium, German Ivy, Glacier Ivy, Gladiola, Glory Lily Hawaiian Ti, Heavenly Bamboo, Hibiscus, Holly, Hurricane Plant, Hyacinth, Hydrangea, Impatiens, Indian Laurel, Indian Rubber Plant, Iris Japanese Yew, Jerusalem Cherry Kalanchoe Lilium species (includes Easter Lily, Japanese Show Lily, Oriental Lily, Tiger Lily, and so on) Lily of the Valley Marble Queen, Marijuana, Mexican Breadfruit, Miniature Croton (and other varieties), Mistletoe, Morning Glory, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Narcissus, Needlepoint Ivy, Nephthytis, Nightshade (Solanum species), Norfolk Pine Oleander, Onion Peace Lily, Peach (wilting leaves and pit), Pencil Cactus, Philodendron (all varieties), Plum (wilting leaves and pit), Plumosa Fern, Pothos (all varieties), Precatory Bean, Primula, Privet Rhododendron, Ribbon Plant Sago Palm (Cycas), Schefflera, String of Pearls/Beads, Sweet Pea Taro Vine, Tomato Plant (green fruit, stem, and leaves), Tulip Weeping Fig, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow Plant, Yucca The poinsettia has long been considered a poisonous plant, but that’s no longer thought to be the case. No less an authority than the National Animal Poison Control Center says that the holiday plant is no longer considered deadly, although ingesting a considerable amount of it may still give your cat a tummy ache. Garage dangers Most people just aren’t very neat in their garages. In addition to ignoring the drips and puddles coming from their cars — which can include deadly antifreeze, of course — folks can be careless about storing insecticides, paints, cleaning supplies, and fertilizers, all of which can be toxic. Although cats are considerably more discriminating in what they eat than dogs are, making sure you safely store household chemicals and clean up all spills promptly is still a good idea. Another garage danger: the door. A garage door in the open position makes a nifty high hiding place for a cat, but that secure perch can injure your pet if you set the door in motion while he’s there. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to check out other places cats get into — and sometimes shut up in — such as basements and closets. If you’re a shade-tree mechanic, be extra careful when changing your car’s coolant. That’s because most antifreeze poses a severe risk to animals — and to children, as well. Every year, nearly 120,000 pets in the United States are poisoned by antifreeze, and more than 90,000 of them die. It doesn’t take much of this deadly substance to kill a cat. Less than a teaspoon is all it takes. Antifreeze has a sweet taste that may appeal to your cat, or your pet may ingest a lethal dose merely by licking her paws clean after walking through a spill. Clean up carefully with a rag after changing coolant, and always be alert for puddles on your garage floor. If you think your cat got any antifreeze into her system, get her to a veterinarian right away. Doing so may be her only chance at survival. Less toxic kinds of antifreeze are now available. They’re made from propylene glycol instead of the ethylene glycol of conventional coolants. These new products are available at most auto-supplies outlets. Make the change for the safety of pets and wildlife! Four-wheeled menace Probably the biggest danger cars present to cats is when the vehicles are in motion. The meeting of a two-ton car with a ten-pound kitty never comes out in favor of the feline. But even a stationary vehicle can become a deadly temptation for a cat. Cats are heat seekers, and many of them discover that engines are warm for a long time after they’re turned off. These cats slip into the engine compartment from underneath, snuggle against the warm metal, and settle in for a catnap. On a cold night, such a protected place must seem a godsend to an outdoor cat. A running engine is no place for a kitty to be, however, and the cat that’s still inside after the car’s started can get badly injured or killed. Even if your own cat’s an indoor one who never has access to the engine compartment of your car, you can save another cat’s life by getting into one simple habit: Before you get into your car — especially on a cold morning — pound on the hood for a couple seconds. If a cat’s in your engine compartment, she’s sure to wake up and take off at the sound. Towering danger New York City’s Animal Medical Center is one of the largest hospital in the world for companion animals. Not surprisingly, they see a lot of cats who’ve been gravely injured from falling out the window of a high-rise apartment. Those cats are the lucky ones, because others die in such falls. Did they fall or did they jump? No one knows for sure, although most speculate these falls are accidental. And although cats are very good at landing on their feet, the impact from several stories up can be deadly. Prevention is the key to avoiding such accidents: Keep screens on your windows, and never let your cat out on an open terrace or balcony Some cats survive falls from pretty far up, as high as 15 stories or more. And, in fact, studies of “high-rise syndrome” in cats reveals that the cats most likely to survive a tumble are the ones who started at the intermediate floors. From the lower floors, a cat hasn’t time to prepare himself for impact by righting himself. From the highest, the fall’s too great to survive. In between, however, is a margin of survivability — although few cats who survive a fall walk away unscathed. Parasite products for dogs You may think a flea product designed to be safe for dogs and puppies is likewise safe for your cat. As solid as that reasoning may seem, however, it’s wrong — dead wrong. Never use a pest-control product designed for dogs on your cat, whether it’s prescribed by your veterinarian for a canine companion or sold at the pet-supply store. Many people tend to take these products lightly, but insecticides are designed to walk a very fine line: enough toxins to kill the parasites but not enough to endanger the pet. A product engineered to meet these challenges for dogs may not do so for cats. Check the label. Ask your veterinarian. Call the manufacturer before using any product. Your cat’s life is at stake.

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