Shedding and the Indoor Cat (updated)

Sir Isaac Newton is our Feline Editor At Large (just how large, he’s not saying) who writes very brainy and very well researched articles for us. Newton lives in the North East and is fond of storms, our catnip toys, a soft bed, sunbeams, and naps. He has an ongoing email flirtation with our Daphne. This is his current, and as always, very well done article.

This is part one of our study about how to being indoors all of the time can be healthier and more in sync with nature. And this isn’t just for your cats, but for you too! This week we talk about feline shedding. Stay tuned for upcoming newsletters when we talk about Circadian Rhythm, light and lighting, and intermittent fasting. This could be the healthiest year for your cats and you yet!


The outdoors can be a scary place for a cat. Sure, it seems like fun running around (in nice weather) living the ancestral dream of being a Saber-Toothed Tiger. Housecats have retained the predatory instinct but, I have to admit, we’re a lot smaller than those tigers. This limits our prey to rodents, birds, small reptiles and insects. Natural foods provide nutrients that are often not found in commercial diets and catching our own food provides good exercise as well as entertainment.




Isaac Newton

But let’s look at the importance of keeping kitty safe. Although some outdoor cats live long lives (perhaps using up all 9 of them), in general “indoor only” cats live 3-4 times longer.

Outdoor cats have a much higher risk of disease and parasites. They are also at the mercy of the environment, particularly predators and cars. Cats just don’t understand that they could become prey themselves.

A kitten kept inside from day one easily adapts to the indoors, especially if the environment is enriched with Cat Faeries toys and lots of places to explore and hide. Catios are also becoming popular as a safe way to let kitty have a bit of fresh air without worry.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to living totally indoors. Some indoor cats don’t get enough exercise and can become dangerously overweight. Measuring food and having a playmate can help. I have 3 siblings including a new kitten for me to keep in line and we all still play like kittens.

Living inside can lead to another problem. The controlled environment (constant temperature and artificial light beyond normal daylight hours) could disrupt the natural shedding cycle. Instead of seasonal shedding we are in CONSTANT fur dispersal mode. And it doesn’t just end up on your furniture!

Cats are “self-cleaning” so we ingest a lot of this fur when grooming. Those little barbs on a cat’s tongue face backwards, so once the fur attaches we have no choice but to swallow it. In small amounts the fur passes through the digestive system without problems. However, when a lot of fur is present in the stomach it rolls up into a ball which we cough back up – voila – the “hairball”.

What can be done to prevent excess fur in the tummy?

  1. Brush or comb kitty daily*
  2. Make it easier for the ingested hair to pass through freely
    • Make fiber available – Cats are obligate carnivores so they are unlikely to crave a salad. However, they do tend to nibble on plant material if they are experiencing hairball problems. Having something safe like wheatgrass accessible could help.
    • Increase hydration – Drinking adequate water is important for proper functioning of the digestive system and is also good for kidney health. Always provide clean fresh water, preferably in a glass bowl. Believe it or not, some ceramic bowls still contain lead. Yikes! Many cats prefer running water, so a cat fountain could also be helpful.
    • • Add a fish oil supplement such as ProNova Fish Oil, which is free of mercury and other toxic metals. In addition to aiding digestion it can reduce flaky skin and brittle fur.

Anyone who shares their home with a cat knows that felines actively seek out the sunny spots – all the better if it happens to be in a favorite chair or a comfy Cat Faerie bed. We don’t know if cats suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the dark months. However, full spectrum lighting (which mimics natural sunlight) is known to decrease cortisol (a stress hormone), increase serotonin (a mood stabilizer), and regulate circadian rhythms (the sleep cycle). Its effect on shedding is not known, but providing full spectrum lighting can make kitty, and you, more relaxed and happy.

* I would be remiss if I failed to mention that brushing a cat is far more challenging than brushing a dog. We tend to be very sensitive and although brushing may feel good initially it can lead to over stimulation. Everything seems fine until suddenly we are in touch with our inner tiger. So start slowly and learn how much kitty can tolerate. Several short sessions may be the best option. Grooming is also a bonding ritual between cats. Why not use it to show kitty how much you care and strengthen your bond?
 
 
 
 

Newton’s Purrspective – Ticks and Cats, Part 2: Protect and Repel

Sir Isaac Newton is our Feline Editor At Large (just how large, he’s not saying) who writes very brainy and very well researched articles for us. Newton lives in the North East and is fond of storms, our catnip toys, a soft bed, sunbeams, and naps. He has an ongoing email flirtation with our Daphne. This is his current, and as always, very well done article.


In Part 1 I presented the perils awaiting cats outdoors – particularly those involving ticks. In Part 2 I will give you some suggestions on how to fight back to protect yourself and your beloved cats.

Scientists are discovering more diseases that can be carried by ticks. Symptoms vary widely which is one of the reasons it took so long to diagnose Lyme disease. Symptoms usually don’t show up immediately after a bite. If you find a tick on Fluffy put it in a tightly sealed glass jar and take it to your veterinarian. Live ticks can be stored in the refrigerator for 10 days. Dead ticks can be frozen. If Fluffy shows any signs she may be sick be sure to mention if she has, or may have, been exposed to ticks.




Isaac Newton

I hesitate to recommend any particular flea or tick repellant. Natural products may not be strong enough and chemicals have their own host of health hazards. The best defense is to keep Kitty inside.

But then again, staying inside is not a 100% guarantee. Humans or dogs can carry ticks into the house requiring a thorough inspection after spending time outdoors. Then there are CATios. Fleas and ticks could certainly invade them. Careful CATio construction and the local incidence of these pests are helpful. Landscaping with plants that ticks don’t like near your CATio would be helpful.

Plants with strong scents can act as flea and tick repellants. The following is a list of such plants that could be planted outside a screened CATio (note planting zones) All of these are pet safe. https://www.organiclesson.com/plants-repel-fleas-ticks/ :

Garden SageUSDA Hardiness Zone: 5 – 8

Rosemary USDA Hardiness Zone: 7 – 10

Sweet Basil USDA Hardiness Zone: 10 – 11

Thyme USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 – 9

Marigold USDA Hardiness Zone: 3 – 10

Another option is spraying the ground and vegetation with cedar oil. Perhaps you recall when cedar chips used to be a common stuffing for pet beds. If you choose to apply cedar oil around the CATio be sure to use a brand that does not contain phenolic compounds. Cats are very sensitive to phenols and they can cause severe illness and even death. In addition, do not let Kitty near the area until it has completely dried.

Checking for fleas and ticks while grooming or petting is a good idea no matter what comprises Kitty’s home environment. Better safe than sorry.

I know many of you may be squeamish about ticks and I don’t blame you. The CDC has excellent directions on how to properly remove a tick. https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/removal/index.html However, if you are uncomfortable with the process, or Kitty refuses to cooperate, do not hesitate to seek help from your veterinarian. The sooner a tick is removed the better since that decreases the likelihood of diseases being transmitted through saliva as it feeds.

Now perhaps you are wondering if ticks have any natural predators. The answer is yes! You may be surprised to learn it is the opossum. North America’s only marsupial has been given a bad reputation most likely since it is nocturnal and only encountered when you take out the trash at night. They show their teeth and hiss when surprised simply because they are afraid of you.

Despite the pointed noses and rounded ears, they are not related to rats and nor do they carry diseases harmful to humans and cats. In fact, they help prevent human disease by eating garden pests, rodents and even poisonous snakes! https://vetmed.illinois.edu/wildlife/2019/06/05/the-helpful-opossum-2/ And here’s the best part. They eat 95% of the ticks they encounter! A single opossum could eat as many as 5,000 ticks in a season. https://opossumsocietyus.org/general-opossum-information/

Attracting opossums to your yard is easy! And it produces a win-win situation. All you need to do is provide an environmentally friendly environment for them. This includes researching what the native plants are to your specific region and planting them, using only organic permaculture methods and planting a dense variety of plants which become cozy nesting places. Please never buy plants from big box chain stores as they are often treated with neonicotinoids. While this toxin has been approved by the FDA it is banned in Europe because when bees take tainted pollen to their hives it kills off their colony. https://www.hunker.com/13425595/how-to-attract-a-possum-to-my-yard

Having tick eating opossums in your garden is coexistence at its finest! If there is one thing that I learned in 2020 it is that we have to take very good care of ourselves and each other.

If this article has kicked in your “cat’s curiosity” about ticks and tick-borne diseases, you may want to peruse the book “Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons” by Kris Newby. This is not an easy read, but this is information that everyone should know about and tell others about.
 
 
 
 

Newton’s Purrspective: Ticks as a Threat to Cats – Even Indoor Cats. Part One.

Sir Isaac Newton is our Feline Editor At Large (just how large, he’s not saying) who writes very brainy and very well researched articles for us. Newton lives in the North East and is fond of storms, our catnip toys, a soft bed, sunbeams, and naps. He has an ongoing email flirtation with our Daphne. This is his current, and as always, very well done article.


Indoor only cats generally live up to three times longer than those allowed to roam at will outside. Cars, predators and various poisons are obvious dangers. Interaction with other cats may expose them to potentially fatal diseases (e.g. feline leukemia FeLV, and feline immunodeficiency virus FIV). Fleas are more than an annoyance. Itching, anemia, flea allergy dermatitis, Bartonella (a bacterial infection which may be linked to a variety of medical problems), and tapeworms are all potential consequences of a flea infestation. It is a scary world out there. But now it is becoming scarier and I am here to tell you all about it!




Isaac Newton

 
TICKS are found everywhere outdoors on trees, in tall grasses and on shrubs, but in recent years people are finding them INSIDE OF THEIR HOMES! Vigilance is vital!

In cold parts of the country sustained subfreezing temperatures in winter can help to reduce the tick and flea population. This has made some folks complacent about ticks.

Wait, you say. Don’t they die off in the winter like fleas? The answer is . . . no. Freezing temperatures slow them down, but the major cause of death is the inability to find the next host. If they are between hosts they may burrow beneath forest debris. They can also spend at least part of the time feeding on a warm deer. https://www.colonialpest.com/where-do-ticks-go-in-the-winter/

If you have never encountered ticks consider yourself lucky. However, that doesn’t mean you should let down your guard. Ticks are everywhere. Although different species are adapted to particular environments and hosts, they are expanding their ranges in the US. Unlike fleas ticks stay attached to the host until they drop off to find their next meal. Ticks have 3 life stages (larva, nymph and adult). All must feed on blood and all can transmit disease. In fact, ticks are the major vector for numerous diseases in humans, companion animals and wildlife. It can take up to three years for them to complete their entire life cycle. The best defense is to keep kitty inside. However, the second is to remove ticks before they attach to the skin. Cats are excellent groomers, but it is especially hard for them to remove ticks in the neck area. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877023/

Of course, most of us know about tick borne disease in humans. The first, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, was discovered in the late 1800s. Symptoms are severe and victims often died. Although cats are susceptible the incidence is rare. The good news is there is a cure now. The bad news is you don’t have to visit the Rocky Mountains to be bitten by a carrier tick since their range has expanded throughout the US. https://www.cdc.gov/rmsf/transmission/index.html

The most familiar sickness caused by ticks is Lyme Disease. Symptoms of Lyme were first observed in humans in the early 1970’s in Old Lyme, Connecticut. In 1981 a scientist, Willy Burgdorfer, discovered the connection between the deer tick and Lyme disease and the bacteria was subsequently named in his honor, Borrelia burgdorferi. https://www.bayarealyme.org/about-lyme/history-lyme-disease/

The good news is Lyme is susceptible to antibiotics. The bad news is 1. the bite does not always result in a red “target” shape on the skin, and 2. although it originated in CT, the disease has spread to all 50 states, being most common in the Northeast and North-Central parts of the US.

At this point there is no vaccine and no test before symptoms appear. While Lyme is rare for cats to contract there are other tick borne diseases that have been reported in felines.

Five tick borne diseases have been reported in cats.

  1. Lyme (the tick must be attached for 48 hours to transmit the disease so rapid removal can prevent infection)
  2. Haemobartonella (Feline Infectious Anemia) is transmitted by both ticks and fleas
  3. Tularemia (also known as Rabbit Fever)
  4. Babesiosis (most common in Southeast US)
  5. Cytauxzoonosis (with early diagnosis and improved treatment protocols cats can survive this serious disease – most common in southern states)

Now if all this isn’t scary enough, let’s talk about climate change. People love to argue about the precise cause of climate change or even the existence of climate crisis . . . but numbers don’t lie, and global temperatures are increasing. Scientists have now linked these warmer temperatures with range expansion of four tick species known to be health concerns. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1911661

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877023/

If this article has kicked in your “cat’s curiosity” about ticks and tick borne diseases you may want to peruse the book “Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons” by Kris Newby. This is not an easy read, but this is information that everyone should know about and tell others about.

Dearest Friends of Cat Faeries, I have more to tell you so stay tuned as Cat Faeries and Newton continue next time with Part Two.

Love,

Isaac Newton, feline genius who loves a good long nap after hours of research and playtime with Legendary Cat Toys from Cat Faeries.