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Monday, November 17, 2008

The Health Benefits of Owning a Cat

Owning cat can provide psychological and physical health benefits, particularly for children, seniors, and those with medical conditions or disabilities.

Cat ownership helps children to learn responsibility and develop a greater capacity for empathy at an early age. In addition, pets provide unconditional love and acceptance, which can help children through difficult times.

Improved Immune Function

Cats also offer protection against certain physical conditions. If adopted before or shortly after a child is born, owning a cat reduces the risk of developing animal allergies, asthma, and possibly other illnesses as well. One study found that children living with pets were 13-18% less likely to miss school due to illness than children without pets. Researchers who measured the salivary immunologobulin levels of young pet owners found that their immune function was less likely to be in the sub-normal range than that of non-pet-owners. Additionally, cats can provide particular therapeutic benefits for children with conditions such as autism, especially those who suffer from motor coordination problems.

Physical and Mental Health Benefits

Pet ownership reduces the risk of many physical and mental health problems for adults as well. Stroking a cat reduces blood pressure, and cat owners tend to have lower triglycerides, which reduces their risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease.

Pet ownership has also been shown to boost the levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. As such, pets can reduce feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and other negative states.

Pets also reduce the likelihood of suffering from physical problems, which is evident in the fact that pet owners require fewer visits to the hospital on average. Studies conducted in Germany and Australia found that those with companion animals visited the hospital 15% less often than those without pets. In China, pet owners saw even greater benefits, with 20% fewer hospital visits.

Reduced Risk of Heart Attack

Elderly people are particularly likely to benefit from the health-protective effects of cat ownership. Those with cats are less inclined to suffer heart attacks, their blood pressure is lower on average, they report less tension and stress, and they live longer overall.

A University of Minnesota study of 4,435 people found that those who did not own cats were 30-40% more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, even if they owned dogs. Researchers are unsure as to why dogs did not provide the same cardiovascular protective benefits as cats. However, dogs provide many other benefits including improved psychological health and reduced doctor visits, as well as encouraging their owners to get regular exercise.

Therapy Animals

The health benefits that cats and dogs can offer have become widely recognized in recent years. As a result, many pets are being put into service as therapy animals, helping to improve the psychological and physical health of children, the elderly, and those who suffer from medical problems. This growing field is proving to have many potential applications, and cats have even been used to aid in the rehabilitation of prisoners.

The copyright of the article The Health Benefits of Owning a Cat in Cats is owned by Jennifer Copley. Permission to republish The Health Benefits of Owning a Cat in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

Symptoms of CRI in Cats Chronic Renal Insufficiency or Chronic Renal Failure in Felines

Chronic renal insufficiency (CRI), also known as chronic renal failure (CRF), is a common cause of death among older cats.

Kidneys regulate electrolytes and eliminate waste products. With CRI, kidney function is diminished, so waste accumulates in the body, poisoning the cat. If the condition is detected early and treated, cats may have many happy, active years before they succumb to the condition.

Cats can get CRI at any age, but it is most common in older cats. Abyssinian, Balinese, Burmese, Maine Coon, and Russian Blue cats have a slightly greater risk of developing CRI than other breeds.

Causes of CRI

In addition to environment, age and genetics likely play a role in the development of CRI. Other possible contributing factors include kidney disease, high blood pressure, acidified diets that are low in potassium, and dental disease. Regular dental care can help prevent the development of bacteria in the mouth that contributes to CRI.


The earliest symptoms of CRI are increases in both thirst and urination. Cats with more advanced CRI will have some of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea/gagging/vomiting/gastritis
  • Drooling
  • Licking lips
  • Dehydration
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle loss
  • Lethargy/depression
  • Weakness
  • Oral ulcers
  • Noise sensitivity
  • Ammonia smell
  • Dull coat
  • Constipation

At the later stages, cats may experience detached retina, very low body temperature, coma, or convulsions. Many older cats develop hyperthyroidism, which can make CRI symptoms less noticeable initially.

Other Conditions That May Occur with CRI

There are a number of conditions that often occur in conjunction with CRI, including:

  • Anemia – causes weakness and loss of appetite; symptoms include pale or bluish nose, gums, or tongue. Treatment options include medication and transfusion.
  • Constipation – caused by inadequate water consumption; treatment includes adding more fiber to the cat’s diet, adding water to the cat’s food, and/or administering subcutaneous (Sub-Q) fluids (which are injected into the scruff of the neck).
  • Dehydration – you can check for this by pinching a bit of skin on the cat’s neck – if it doesn’t immediately fall back, the cat is dehydrated. Dehydration can be treated by encouraging the cat to drink more or administering Sub-Q fluids.
  • Hypertension – this serious condition can cause more kidney damage, cardiovascular problems, blindness, and seizures. Diagnosis can be made by a veterinarian, and the condition is treatable with medication if discovered early on. In some cases, blindness can be reversed if the cat receives medication within approximately 24 hours of onset.
  • Hypokalemia – caused by potassium depletion, symptoms include muscle weakness, difficulty in holding the head up, stiffness, tiring easily, and difficulty moving. Veterinarian-prescribed potassium supplements can be used to treat the condition.
  • Hyperkalemia – this condition of excess potassium can lead to heart failure and other problems. Owners may accidentally cause this by overdosing their cats on potassium if they attempt to supplement without guidance from a veterinarian.
  • Mouth and Tongue Ulcers – these contribute to weight loss and speed a cat’s decline. Bad breath may be a symptom. Ulcers can be treated with antibiotics and other medications.
  • Stomach problems – nausea, vomiting, and stomach irritation are common in CRI cats, and can contribute to anorexia and weight loss. A veterinarian can prescribe medications that will alleviate nausea and other stomach problems.


Older cats should be tested regularly for CRI during veterinary check-ups. Common at-home CRI treatments include dietary changes and Sub-Q fluid therapy. In the case of life-threatening dehydration, cats may require intravenous (IV) fluids. These are administered by a veterinarian, and most cats receiving them must stay in the hospital for 1-5 nights. Once the cat is rehydrated, she can usually come home, but her owner may need to administer Sub-Q fluids at home.

Many cats with CRI suffer a crisis in which they become very ill, appear to be at death’s door, and then bounce back completely for quite some time. Eventually these crises get closer and closer together, and the owner must decide when it is time to say goodbye. In the interim, with proper treatment, a CRI cat can enjoy a high quality of life.

Further Reading

Information for this article was derived from the Feline CRF Information Center, an excellent resource that provides comprehensive information on CRF causes, symptoms, treatments, and care. For a brief overview of treatment options, see Treating Cats with Chronic Renal Insufficiency.

The copyright of the article Symptoms of CRI in Cats in Cat Care is owned by Jennifer Copley. Permission to republish Symptoms of CRI in Cats in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

3 Keys to Cat Flea Control

3 Keys to Cat Flea Control

Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff

The short and long of flea control

Oftentimes, you are not aware your pet has a flea problem until the damage is done and your home is infested with them.

Fleas are a common cat concern and although most cat fleas do not actually live on humans, they can bite humans and cause skin irritation. Regular preventive treatment should ensure that your cat does not have fleas, but if you are dealing with a flea infestation, cleaning and spraying the environment with a flea control preparation will stop the problem immediately.
  1. Why control fleas...

    While many cats live with fleas and show minimal signs of infestation, control is advisable because:

    • The cat flea carries the larval stage of the tapeworm Dipylidium caninum. Cats can be infested with these worms by eating fleas during grooming.

    • Fleas have the potential to transmit other infectious agents.

    • Adult fleas feed on cats' blood, and in young kittens, this can cause anemia. Anemic kittens are weak.

    • Some cats develop an allergy to flea saliva, which causes them to scratch excessively or to develop skin disease.

    • Cat fleas can cause itchy bites on sensitive humans.

  2. Remove fleas in the environment

    Regular preventive treatment ensures that your cat does not have fleas and keeps you and your pet happy.Frequent vacuuming can help to reduce, but not eliminate, environmental infestation. Vacuum bags should be disposed of to prevent collected immature flea stages continuing to develop in the house. Even though it is expensive and time-consuming, all soft furnishings should be treated. All nooks and crannies should be included, such as gaps between floorboards and moldings. Treatment of the whole house is essential. Anything that is heavily infested, such as pet bedding, should be treated with a flea control product, laundered, or thrown out.

  3. Long term flea control

    Once the adult fleas have been removed from all the animals in the house and the environment, prevention should be considered. Flea control products come in many forms: collars, shampoos, sprays, foams, powders, and monthly topicals or oral liquids.

    We firmly believe that prevention is the best guard against a flea problem. The monthly flea preventives we recommend that include Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) or Insect Development Inhibitors (IDIs) are very safe because they act on receptors that are not present in mammals, only in insects. They have excellent safety profiles enabling the treatment of kittens from a young age. We recommend monthly topicals to our clients and have several effective choices for cats:

    • Frontline Plus contains fipronil, an adulticide and S-Methoprene, an IGR, to eliminate all forms of the flea life cycle.

    • Frontline Top Spot is a topical product that eradicates adult fleas with the insecticide fipronil.

    • Advantage kills adult fleas and flea larvae and is also a topical product. It contains the insecticide imidacloprid.

    • bioSpot SPOT ON contains an IGR, methoprene, to kill juvenile forms of fleas, and it contains an insecticide to kill adult fleas. Plus, this product also kills and repels ticks and mosquitoes, for even broader protection in a single dose.

    One oral preventive that we recommend is Program containing the IDI lufenuron, which halts development of flea eggs. The flea has to bite the cat in order to ingest the IDI and, therefore, would not be the preventive of choice for cats that have flea bite dermatitis.

    Remember that if you have treated your cat with a spray or mist, do not use a topical preventive immediately afterward. Always follow manufacturer's guidelines, and never use products labeled for dogs on your cat.

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