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Lions and tigers and panthers... oh my!

Posted: Friday, October 12, 2012 at 5:25:19 PM EST by Cam Day

The Family Cat

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Many of us share our lives with teeth-endowed, flesh-eating, nocturnal, carnivorous predators and think nothing of it. These lethal killing machines prowl through our suburbs, steal through our houses after dark and, aghast, all too regularly launch ferociously onto our beds at night. There they snuggle under the sheets and purr contentedly.

The family cat is our domesticated member of the Cat Family and Tiddles is closely related to tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards and many other fascinating felines such as the lesser-known kodkod and the margay cat. 

So what's the difference between these species?  Do you know the difference between a leopard, a panther and a jaguar for instance? 

Australasia and Antarctica are the only continents that do not have a natural population of cats in some form. This is a shame. I would love to have a black panther patrolling my backyard.

Those animals we commonly refer to as the 'big cats' are the tiger, lion, jaguar, and leopard.

Do you know the difference between a leopard, a panther and a jaguar?

The tiger, with its striking tricolour coat of chestnut, black and white is the largest of the big cats A Siberian tiger  is the largest representative of the cat family and can weigh more than 300kg with the Indian tiger being smaller but about the same size as a big lion at 250kg.  The Siberian tiger has been hunted to near extinction as, in the past, its body parts were used for medicinal purposes and for cooking.  

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Tigers are solitary hunters but they are not very efficient with only ten percent of their rushes resulting in a kill. They should learn from one of my big cats - 100% of his rushes to the food bowl are effective. 

The lion, also referred to as the king of the beasts, was once found in Africa, Europe Iran and India, but is now almost exclusively limited to Africa due to the movement of humans into savannah lands. Lions weigh up to 250kg and are unusual in the cat family as they exist in groups (prides) containing up to thirty members.  Most cats lead a more solitary existence. The characteristic mane of an adult lion is well known and many modern domestic cats have been bred with manes to mimic the lion. One of our cats has a very attractive ruff or mane and a lion's demeanour to go with it!! 

The jaguar and the leopard are closely related and look quite similar but they live in different parts of the world. Both species evolved from a common ancestor but the jaguar (Panthera onca) is now only found in the American continent and the leopard (Panthera pardus) is found throughout Africa, India, and southern Asia .  

The jaguar, weighing up to a maximum of 150kg, is somewhat larger than the leopard that weighs up to 90 kg but their size depends on the habitat they are occupying.

Their coats show subtle differences. The coats of both are well known for their attractive 'spots' or rosettes but the jaguar's rosettes are larger and have a black central spot that is not present in the leopard. Jaguars are also stockier with shorter legs.

The term black panther generally refers to a leopard that is black in colour.  In a litter of leopards, some will be of normal appearance but occasionally some are black. Colouring of this type is called melanism and it does occur in jaguars, but less commonly.  Black jaguars are also referred to as black panthers but further confusion occurs because the puma is also sometimes called a panther. There is something magical and mysterious about the black panther that appeals to many folk and is the reason that black cats are so popular as pets and are the subjects of much mystique.  

Bengal_Green_eyes-200w-SMLThe leopard has occasionally earned a fearsome reputation as a man-eater. There is a famous portrayal by author Jim Corbett of an infamous man-eating Indian leopard. He describes his campaign to hunt the fearsome Rudraprayag leopard of northwest India that acquired a taste for human flesh, even killing a man in his own house and carrying him four miles through dense scrub. This leopard killed 125 humans from 1918 to 1926 before Corbett finally hunted him down. 

The Cheetah is generally similar in coat appearance to the leopard and jaguar but is a lot smaller, weighing up to 60 kg. It is easy to recognise due to its long legs and black 'tear tracks' below its eyes. The tear tracks are sad metaphors because the cheetah has the lowest genetic diversity of any mammal and is thus endangered. If given a tissue graft, the graft is usually universally accepted without rejection because of the similarity of genetic material.  This lack of genetic diversity makes the remaining cheetah population extremely vulnerable to disease and environmental changes. 

Cheetahs are renown for their speed and, at 110km/hr are the fastest of land animals. 

Some cats are rarely heard of. The kodkod is a small South American cat that weighs from two to three kilograms, about the size of a small pet cat. It has a coat that resembles a spotted tabby but has disproportionately long claws. Little else is know about this cat.  

Another rare puss-cat is the margay cat. This striking-looking cat, weighing three to five kilograms, is the same size as an average house cat. It resembles a small ocelot and has large, attractive spots with pale interiors and black edges. Its attractive coat has caused its demise as it was favoured by furriers of the past. It is a tree-dwelling cat and has the agility of a monkey and is unique in that it can rotate its back feet through an angle of 180 degrees and can even run underneath branches.  

Cats are fascinating creatures and wonderful pets - but I still want a black panther in my back yard.

Fun Fact about Cats

Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 5:00:45 PM EST by Cam Day

Ten Fun Facts about Cats

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  1. A group of cats is called a 'clowder'.
    (Ed.  I am sure that's a condensation of 'crowd', 'clawed' and 'louder'  - which fully describes the turmoils of owning a group of cats.

    A cat vet friend says 'Owning more than 4 cats means you have a mental disorder'!  We have 4 cats - am I on the edge of insanity?
    )
     
  2. In Ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped as Gods, and punishment was severe for injuring a cat in any way.
    (Ed. OK so I live in Egypt because our cats are worshipped as gods. And my cats punish me if I hurt them in any way.)
     
  3. Cats' paw pads are as remarkable as their coats: the same pigments that determine the colour of a cat's coat also determines the colour of their paw pads. 
    (Ed. Really? Where did that come from? Must look at the colour of my cat's paws when I get home. So, do tortoiseshell cats have multi-coloured paws? Cat owners - inspect your cat's paws and leave a note in the Comments. I want to know if this is true!)
     Bengal_Green_eyes-200w-SML
  4. Domestic cats aren't the only purring felines. Cheetahs, Pumas, Ocelots and even Tigers purr. Lions, Panthers, Jaguars and Leopards do not purr.
    (Ed. Yeh ok. But why doesn't my cat purr when I want to hug him? Oh - of course he's a Panther, Jaguar or Leopard. Now I'm worried!)

  5. Ever notice your cat pull its lips back (without hissing) and opens its mouth slightly? That's called the 'Flehmen Response' and happens when your cat wants to examine a scent more closely.
    (This is often seen in non-desexed cats when detecting the scent of a mate. Occurs in many other animals including the Giraffe and Rhino. Occur with my cat when he is going to bite me.)
     
  6. When a cat rubs against you, it is marking you. A cat has scent glands either side of its face - the cat uses these glands to mark its territory.
    (There are several pheromones in a cat's facial rubbings. One is the main ingredient of Feliway.)
     
  7. Whiskers are very important for cats that hunt. Whiskers allow the cat to identify precisely where their prey is so they can attack more efficiently.
    (Ed. So Desmond, my Rag Devil, uses his whiskers to determine where I am so he can attack me with more precision - is that's what's happening?)
     
  8. A mother cat commonly chews her kittens' whiskers off.
    (Ed.  Who says so?  Never heard of that!  Cat breeders please advise - or is that the cat version of the 'hair of the dog that bit you'?)
     
  9. Kittens generally have 26 teeth while adult cats have 30.
    (Ed. Simple science!  Adult cats need more teeth to bite their owners. Thus it's evolution at its best. )
     
  10. A cat has between 230 - 250 bones in its body, compared to the 206 bones a human has.
    (Ed. So where are the extra 40 or so bones?  Are you sure the researcher didn't measure a cat that had just eaten a mouse?)
 

Oh Yuk!

Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 12:24:32 PM EST by Cam Day

When dogs eat bad things...

You don't really want to read this! Dogs really do some revolting things occasionally but when your dog eats its own droppings, it can really make your stomach turn - especially when it wants to come and greet you afterwards with that oh-so-lovely Fetid Fido grin.

I am sure you do not want any more gory details, but some dogs eat their droppings when their produce has matured on the ground for a little while. Some eat them while they are factory fresh and steaming and others prefer the offerings of other animals, especially cattle, horses, cats and kangaroos.

Just to prove there is a word for everything - the term for this charming behaviour is coprophagia.

What are the solutions?

Firstly, ensure your dog has no medical reason for its wayward behaviours. Ask your veterinarian to test your dog's stool for parasites of any type. Your veterinarian may also wish to test the functioning of your dog's pancreas.

Put Pooch onto a highly digestible and nutritionally balanced diet to eliminate any chance that a dietary problem is the cause.

The digestibility will ensure that it can extract as many nutrients as possible from the food presented and will reduce the volume of faeces produced.

The faeces will also be consistent in form and nature. Lastly, such a diet will ensure that no dietary deficiency is causing the coprophagia.

If your dog has a dietary allergy causing bowel irritation, then this may lead to coprophagia too. Therefore, to normalise bowel function even further, it is also a good idea to feed your dog a restricted protein or hypoallergenic diet. These diets contain protein sources that are not commonly used in dog food.

A suitable diet to achieve all the above is available from your veterinarian.

Behavioural Remedies

Having eliminated any medical cause, now turn to behavioural therapy.

Bored dogs that live in small backyards and have dull lifestyles often practice coprophagia. Such dogs need the No Bored Dogs Routine technique to blow away boredom.

To keep a dog on its toes and to provide brain work, a Kong Toy is perfect. These pyramid shaped balls bounce unpredictably and are great for aerobic exercise.

When you have finished playing with your dog, you can place some food treats in the hole in the middle of the Kong and leave it with your dog. Pooch will then spend quite some time exercising its brain and working out how to get the food out of the hole.

Training the dog not to eat its own produce, or those of others, can be done in a variety of ways, but, how can you train the dog if you do not know when it is going to gobble the googlies?

Try to make the passage of your dog's own googlies more predictable.

Generally your dog will want to soil within an hour or so of eating. If possible, restrict it to one meal a day. Conveniently time the meal so that an hour afterwards you can watch the dog closely. Perhaps you will need to keep the dog inside the house so that you will know when it wants to go out.

Try to catch the soiling behaviour so that you can either praise the leaving-it-where-it-is behaviour or softly discipline the google-gobbling behaviour

When motions are produced, praise the leaving behaviour. Use a technique I call the A Good Dog Routine for this. Wait till your dog passes its offering, then,in a kind voice say 'leave'. Wait for about five seconds, and if Pooch does 'leave it' call him or her to you and liberally praise this sequence of good behaviours.

The above method is the preferable one. However, occasionally, disciplining googly gobbling is necessary. The method is similar to the last but with a different emphasis. It is a process I call the ABad Dog, Good Dog Routine.

Timing is critical. Wait until Pooch goes to take a mouthful. Then, in a very stern voice, shout 'Leave'. The voice should be as sudden as a gun shot and be stern enough to distract and punish the dog. Wait for five seconds to see if you have had effect. Call the dog to you, make it Sit and Stay, and then praise this alternative good dog behaviour.

Usually, the 'Bad Dog Good Dog Routine' is replaced in time with the 'Good Dog Routine' as the dog learns and punishment is no longer needed.

A process I call the 'Stool Pigeon' approach can be tried too. This is a form of 'self-discipline'. Leave a tasty-looking stool in an obvious spot but cover the stool with a hot sauce or a bittering spray such as Bitravet (available from veterinary surgeons). It is even better if the sauce or Bitravet is injected into the stool so your dog cannot smell the additives.

Lastly, a product called Wild Forage (available from our office) is also useful. When added to the dog's diet this often helps to control coprophagia.


If you need help with this problem, feel free to book a consultation with Dr Cam - he's seen this many times before!
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