House passes bill that would make animal cruelty a federal felony

By: Caitlin O’Kane

House passes bill

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would make animal cruelty a federal felony. The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, or PACT Act, bans abusive behavior including crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling and other bodily injury toward any non-humans.

The bill was introduced by two Florida congressmen, Democrat Ted Deutch and Republican Vern Buchanan, in January. It was approved Tuesday by a voice vote.

The PACT Act expands the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which was passed by Congress in 2010 and made the creation and distribution of animal crushing videos illegal. However, the new act closes a loophole by prohibiting the underlying acts of animal abuse, according to the office of Congressman Deutch.

“Today’s vote is a significant milestone in the bipartisan quest to end animal abuse and protect our pets,” Deutch said in a written statement. “This bill sends a clear message that our society does not accept cruelty against animals. We’ve received support from so many Americans from across the country and across the political spectrum. Animal rights activists have stood up for living things that do not have a voice.”

Violators could face criminal penalties of a fine, a prison term of up to seven years, or both.

Deutch said law enforcement had sought federal guidelines to help them stop animal abusers, who are also believed to be more likely to commit acts of violence against humans. 

“Passing the PACT Act sends a strong message that this behavior will not be tolerated,” Buchanan said. “Protecting animals from cruelty is a top priority for me and I will continue to work with Congressman Deutch to get this important bill signed into law.”

The bill still has to be passed in the Senate, but Humane Society Legislative Fund president Sara Amundson expressed thanks for the work of supporters in the House.

“Over the course of 30 years in animal protection, I have encountered terrible animal cruelties, but acts of intentional torture are the most disturbing because they demonstrate how some people treat the most vulnerable in our society,” Amundson said in a written statement. “Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fla) are tremendous advocates for animal protection, and we thank them for their leadership in closing this important gap in the law.”

Source: CBS News

International Environment Minister supports new elephant welfare guidelines and importers and exporters urged to prepare for Brexit

elephant welfare

There has been coverage in the Telegraph of the Association of British Travel Agent’s (ABTA) upcoming new guidelines which will deem interacting with elephants without a barrier unacceptable.

The guidelines are expected in November and will include activities such as riding, washing and touching elephants as well as viewing shows where the animals are forced to do tricks.

The Government has long been working with the ABTA to encourage them to make their customers aware of welfare concerns around elephants and the International Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith has given his full support to these new guidelines. The Minister has called on British travel agents to cut ties with companies that sell experiences which are harmful to young elephants.

International Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith said:

Anyone who has seen videos exposing the way young elephants are cruelly ‘broken’ to be made ready for tourist experiences will have been heartbroken and appalled. So I strongly urge the Association of British Travel Agents to encourage its members not to work with holiday companies who sell these experiences.

I would also urge tourists to only visit welfare-friendly attractions and report any concerns they have about the treatment of elephants to their UK tour operator or travel agent once they return home.

Additionally, we have invested more than £11 million to protect elephants from the illegal wildlife trade and introduced world-leading legislation banning the trade in ivory. Just last month we contributed to the global success of bringing an end to the taking of wild elephants to place in captivity.

Importers and exporters of animals and animal products urged to prepare for Brexit

The Government has published guidance, on GOV.UK, setting out the steps businesses will need to take to import or export animals and animal products, and the government is communicating directly with these businesses and individuals to help make sure they are Brexit ready.

This would include foodstuffs ranging from cuts of meat to cheese, as well as fish and fishery products.

This has been positively covered by trade media titles including Farming UK.

Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, George Eustice, said:

While the Government is seeking a deal with energy and determination, we have stepped up our preparations and we will be fully ready to leave the EU on 31 October, whatever the circumstances.

If you or your business import or export animals or animal products such as meat eggs or dairy, we want to help make sure you are ready for Brexit. Our guidance is designed to clearly set out the steps you need to take to ensure you are ready to trade after we leave the EU.

Further information, including a summary of steps businesses would need to take in a no-deal scenario, is available to read here

Source: GOV.UK

Read more on Elephant riding holidays becoming illegal HERE

Protect your pets from fireworks-induced distress

Protect your pets

With the festive season fast-approaching, it is one of the most stressful times for our furry friends. Fireworks can send domestic animals into a panic and increased levels of stress and anxiety can lead to them running away.

Pedigree understands that fireworks form an important part of religious celebrations and that’s why we have come up with 7 tips to keep pets safe when fireworks are on the cards.

Update your pet’s ID details

Whether your pet has a collar or a microchip, it is important to ensure the information is kept up to date. If your pets do make a run for it, they will be easier for you to find.

Stay at home

Dogs are our best companions, so why not show them just how much you appreciate their loyalty and love by staying at home but during this stressful time. Your presence will have calming effect on your pets when they are scared. If you can’t be at home, then make sure they are kept are indoors or organise a sleepover for them at granny and grandpa.

Mask the noise

Try and reduce the noise of the fireworks by closing all the windows, drawing the curtains and blinds and playing gentle music.

Stay calm

As much as we try to keep our pets calm, it is important that we don’t fuss over them too much and remain calm. The calmer we seem, the more the will realise there isn’t anything to be afraid of.

Quiet spaces

Provide your dog with a quiet place to hide, such a travel carrier or in your bed under the covers, to give them a sense of security. Ensure they stay away from the windows. This is to prevent any injuries they could get from trying to jump out of a window.


On the day that fireworks are scheduled to take place, take your dogs for a run or play fetch in the yard to tire them out and make them feel more relaxed. If vigorous exercise isn’t an option, keep them occupied with their favourite toys or give them a treat such as Pedigree’s Tasty Bites or Rodeo treats to keep them distracted.

Compression wraps

Thunder shirts are a drug-free, all-natural treatment for dog’s who suffer from anxiety. During fireworks, this naturally calming solution provides a sense of safety for your furry friend.

Pedigree understands the distress that fireworks, so pick up some Pedigree treats, which are available at all major retailers nationwide, and show your precious pups just how much you love them during this stressful time.

Source: Pedigree

Get the upper paw with these dog training tips

Get the upper paw

Just like humans, dogs need to know who’s in charge and what their boundaries are. The best way to develop this understanding, while spending quality time with them, is to provide them with proper training.

While it’s best to start training dogs when they are puppies, older dogs can be trained too – contrary to the adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

At first, dog training can seem daunting, especially if it’s the first time you’re attempting it. The truth is: training a dog requires commitment and patience, but the quality time you spend together will be mutually rewarding and bring you closer together.
With this in mind, Pedigree has identified a few, basic training tips to help get you get the upper paw.

You’re the boss

If you give your dog free reign of your house, he will assume he is pack leader and think he can do what he likes. Be strict until your dog knows his place – whether it’s no sofa, no bed or no treats. Dogs can pick up on feelings of anxiety or hysteria, so always using a calm, firm voice.

Be consistent

If you let your dogs onto the bed, but your partner pushes them off, you’ll just confuse them. All people involved in raising the dog need to agree on what’s allowed and what isn’t – and then they all need to stick to it.

Be consistent with your commands too. You’ll have more success with one simple command like ‘No’ than with a mixture of ‘Don’t do that!’ ‘Stop it!’ and ‘Oi!’. Get everyone to stick to the same commands and it’ll be easier for your dog to understand each person.

Don’t tell your dog off after the event

If you arrive home one day to find your slippers in tatters, it’s too late to reprimand your dog. Dogs can’t associate something they did earlier with being told off. Reprimanding your dog only works if you catch him in the act.

Repeat, reward and reinforce

Remember the three R’s of training – Repeat, Reward and Reinforce.

  • Repeating the lesson or action you are trying to achieve, helps your dog learn what
    you’re looking for.
  • Rewarding your dog for good behaviour over and over again is the key to a happy, obedient dog. By rewards, we don’t just mean treats. Use a combination of treats, verbal praise and stroking. Here are some hints to help you to use rewards:
    • Reward your dog as soon as they obey so they associate the reward with the right action.
    • A food reward should be something really tempting. Note that it won’t work as effectively straight after a meal.
    • Make sure the treat is healthy and that you’re using just enough to keep your dog motivated. The new Tasty Bites Chewy Cubes (Available for Adults and Puppies) and Rodeo Tasty Chewy Twists are the perfect treat to reward your dog as they are packed with all the flavours and nutrients your dog needs in a treat.
    • Use to let your dog know which action you’re rewarding, then gradually shift to verbal praise and stroking. You want your dog to be  motivated by praise and love as well as food.
  • Reinforcing the lesson at regular intervals allows for consistency and means your dog won’t forget what he’s learnt.

Remember, just because you are seeing results doesn’t mean you won’t experience behaviour problems, so remain consistent and pick up some Pedigree Treats, which are available at all major retailers nationwide, to make your basic training a breeze.

Source: Pedigree

Noordhoek Bunny Rescue hops into our hearts

Noordhoek Bunny Rescue

When Sian Huyser first moved to Noordhoek in 2017, she found out about the feral colonies of bunnies and how they were breeding too quickly. Often ending up as roadkill, she knew she wanted to do something to help these furry friends.

Huyser founded the Noordhoek Bunny Rescue organisation and decided to help all the bunnies in need, as she had previous experience as a bunny owner.

Nowadays, she receives approximately three calls a week to collect bunnies. These little creatures often make their way to the Noordhoek Bunny Rescue after their owners emigrate, when children lose interest in them as pets, when an accidental litter is born or when they are injured and found by the roadside.

Here’s one of their baby bunnies having his dinner.

Dinner time 🙂

Posted by Noordhoek Bunny Rescue on Sunday, 26 November 2017

With more bunnies being handed over to the sanctuary, space is becoming limited.

“I suppose you could say we rescue a couple a week and home one a week, that’s why the sanctuary keeps growing. However, we have reached capacity and do have a waiting list,” says Huyer.

While the organisation grows they are looking at ways to better incorporate the community and a volunteer programme is in the works. In the meantime, Huyser aims to educate the public on the dangers of supporting pet shops and backyard breeders, urging the community to be more aware of the bunny plight and spread the word.

Noordhoek Bunny Rescue

Baby bunnies available for adoption at Noordhoek Bunny Rescue.

“Once we have a volunteer programme, we will welcome people to spend time with the buns, help us clean and feed them. For now, we appreciate the community spreading the word about our cause. We want people to know that there is no reason to support backyard breeders and pet shops that sell rabbits when there are so many bunnies of different ages (babies to adult), colours and breeds available in rescue facilities. Our goal is to stop pet shops from selling rabbits as this is where the problem starts, and why there is a need for a rescue,” says Huyser.

A bunny family having supper:

Supper time for the bun family

Posted by Noordhoek Bunny Rescue on Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Bunnies are hugely misunderstood and are often gifted to small children as pets without considering the level of care they need. They are the subjects of terrible neglect and mistreatment as they are often forgotten and disrespected.

Noordhoek Bunny Rescue aims to take in, sterilize, treat and rehome all bunnies in need as well as change the perceptions surrounding bunny care. A big part of their work includes educating people and putting an end to the pet shop selling of bunnies.

“Help us to make a small difference to these little souls, by supporting us and spreading the word that there is NO NEED to buy a bunny. They all come with return policies as we will NEVER give up on our bunnies. Contact us for more information and where you can view our adoptables,” says Huyser.
So hop on the band wagon and open your heart to these little creatures, whether its by adopting or volunteering.
You can reach Huyer on this number: 062 124 5325

Heart warming story – Lions arrive in SA after a bad time in Europe

Lions arrive in SA


International wildlife charity, Born Free, is delighted to announce that the Lions of Lyon – four lion cubs rescued from horrendous captive conditions in France – have been released at Born Free’s Big Cat Sanctuary and are now starting their new lives in their ancestral home of Africa.

Horus, Dadou, Thea and Cersei, believed to have been taken from their mothers before they were weaned, were each found in different locations across France. They were kept in captive conditions no animal should ever be subjected to – an apartment, a garage, even a Lamborghini on the Champs-Elysées. No doubt part of Europe’s trade in wild animals (from circuses, zoos and private keeping), they were sold illegally to be pets before being rescued by French wildlife charity, Fondation 30 Million d’Amis.

Following a successful appeal launched earlier this year, Born Free will now provide the four stunning cubs with lifetime care at its Big Cat Sanctuary at Shamwari Private Game Reserve, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

The cubs started their journey from Tonga Terre d’Accueil, wildlife rescue centre near Lyon, on Thursday 10th October. They travelled under the care of Born Free’s Rescue and Care team to London Heathrow airport for a flight to South Africa. After a short internal flight, Horus, Dadou, Thea and Cersei touched down in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, before travelling the short distance by road to Shamwari and being introduced to their new forever home.

Dr Chris Draper, Head of Animal Welfare & Captivity at Born Free, who lead the cubs’ relocation, said:

“It all went amazingly well. The cubs are relaxed and inquisitive. It was an absolute joy to see them enjoying natural vegetation under their feet for the very first time – the sounds of other lions, the sounds of African wildlife. It was a long journey, and not an easy journey for the lions, but it’s worth it in the end.”

Shamwariin the Eastern Cape has been home to Born Free’s two Big Cat Rescue Centres for more than 20 years. On the relocation, the reserve’s Group General Manager, Joe Cloete, said:

Shamwari is delighted to have been part of the rescue of the four cubs and we are really pleased that they are settling in well to their new home with us. The care provided by the team at Born Free along with the expert veterinary services provided by our Dr. Johan Joubert, will ensure that they enjoy the best possible life at the sanctuary.”

Born Free’s Corporate Partner IAG Cargo, the business created following the merger of British Airways World Cargo and Iberia Cargo plus an additional three airlines, generously flew the four cubs back to their homeland and it was certainly no mean feat.

Just last year Born Free relocated another young cub – King – to their Big Cat Sanctuary at Shamwari Private Game Reserve after saving him from similar conditions. Now add this to the shocking stories of Horus, Dadou, Thea and Cersei, and it highlights the continued plight of millions of captive wild animals around the world that are kept as exotic pets – a growing concern for Born Free in the current ‘Instagram world’ we live in where the more shocking the animal is to be pictured with, the better!

Dr Draper, concluded:

“Taking these four lions is a drop in the ocean. Of course, it means an enormous amount to them, and it means an enormous amount to us, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of similar wild animals out there who are still in the exotic pet trade. I hope the Lions of Lyon will raise awareness about this global problem. Keeping wild animals as pets is cruel, totally unsuitable and has such a devastating impact. If the Lions of Lyon weren’t here now, they would have faced a very uncertain future.”

To support Born Free and the lifetime care of Horus, Dadou, Thea and Cersei visit

Source: SA Good News

Global pet trade in amphibians is bigger than we thought

By: Nitya Mohanty

Global pet trade

Humans keep all sorts of animals as pets and new species are constantly being brought into the trade — some reared in captivity, but many sourced from the wild. As a result, the global pet trade often puts wild populations at risk of over-exploitation. The Global Amphibian Assessment pegs 47 amphibian species to be predominantly threatened by unsustainable harvesting for the international pet trade.

And the risks don’t end there. For various reasons, people release pets into the wild, resulting in biological invasions. People might do this because keeping the animal isn’t the experience they expected, or because they can’t afford it any longer.

The problem is that, often, it may introduce a species to regions beyond their natural range. These invasive populations can harm native species and lead to the spread of diseases to new areas. For example, the pet trade is linked to the spread of an infectious fungal disease of salamanders in Europe, leading to large scale salamander mortality.

These threats are especially true for amphibians (frogs, newts and caecilians). Amphibians are undergoing severe population declines all over the world due to habitat destruction, climate change, disease spread, and invasive species. Losing amphibians, pest-controllers par excellence, not only imperils agricultural security but can lead to imbalances in ecosystem processes.

Internet-based commerce is making it easier for the pet trade to include growing numbers and new species of amphibians. The trade is now the major pathway through which invasions of amphibians take place. At least 104 amphibian species are invasive around the world, and more species are likely to be introduced in the future.

It is crucial to understand which species may be affected by the trade and which species may spur invasive populations following release. In our new study, we aimed to assess the amphibian pet trade. We identified which species are being traded and why, and predicted which species are likely to be targeted in future. We uncovered nearly 450 species of amphibians in the pet trade, moved around the world in large numbers.

The US alone imported 3.6 million pet amphibians in the past five years. The magnitude of this trade indicates that more species are likely to be released and become invasive in non-native regions and facilitate disease spread. Amphibian enthusiasts must carefully evaluate whether the species meets their expectations, and understand the cost of ownership, before purchasing.

We searched the scientific literature and import databases for traded amphibians around the globe. Then we looked at how traded and non-traded species differ from each other. To do this, we used a set of amphibian traits from the database AmphiBIO, which contains information on traits such as body size and reproductive capacity. We also looked at whether the species were endangered or not, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. We examined whether these traits could explain the size of the trade in each species.

Our effort resulted in a long list of 443 traded species. We found a strong bias for certain types of amphibians; six amphibian families contributed disproportionately high numbers of traded species. The colourful poison dart frog family is, unsurprisingly, a star attraction in the trade. More surprising as popular pets are the families of tongue-less frogs and reed frogs.

Next, we found that the traded species tend to be bigger. It is likely that extremely small body sizes are avoided because it’s harder for the owner to see or handle the pet often. Traded species also had larger range sizes, probably due to the ease of collecting them from the wild. A final characteristic of traded species was a “larval” breeding type (indirect development), which produces offspring that are cheaper to raise than direct developing species.

These results help explain which species end up in the trade. It’s not just about what pet enthusiasts prefer; it’s also about how easy a species is to collect and to rear in captivity.

Body size, range size and breeding type explained, for the most part, why species are traded. We then used these traits to predict a list of species that could be future pets. Interestingly, species-traits could not explain the size of trade.

Blind spots 

Although our investigation provides a good view of the trade, it has some blind spots. Trade in Asia remains understudied and is probably not well reflected in our compiled pet list. We also couldn’t incorporate all the potential factors that may predict popular pets, such as colour and calls, because these traits haven’t been scored for the majority of around 7,000 amphibians we are dealing with in the analysis. But more work is being done by our research lab to understand which traits attract owners of amphibians, which species are likely to be released, and how responsible pet ownership can be promoted.

Pet ownership comes with responsibilities, not just for the well-being of the pets, but for the unwanted effects their trade could have. We hope the information we have gathered will make pet owners and traders more aware of these aspects. With great pets come great responsibilities.The Conversation 

Nitya Mohanty, Post-doctoral fellow Centre for Invasion Biology (C·I·B) Department of Botany & Zoology, Stellenbosch University

Source: DownToEarth

CATastrophes – When Your Cat Needs an Emergency Room

Cats emergency

Here’s a sobering fact. At some point in your cat’s life, they will experience a life-threatening emergency – what I like to call CATastrophes. You don’t know when it will happen, but it will happen. And it will probably happen in the middle of the night. When your family veterinarian isn’t available. So, you’ll need to head to your local veterinary emergency room. But knowing what is and isn’t an emergency isn’t always straightforward.

CATastrophes – Trouble Breathing

Cats do a great job of masking illness. For this reason, sometimes it isn’t obvious when there’s a problem. In the wild, cats are pride animals, and some of those natural instincts survived domestication. Within every pride there’s a hierarchy. Somebody is the alpha, and somebody is the omega. In your home pride, your cat sees you as the alpha, so they don’t want to appear weak in front of you. On some level, they think they’re going to get booted from the pride (of course, we know that would never happen!). How does this perception manifest? Cats hide. They stay under the bed. They hole up in a closet. Out of sight, out of mind. Not every cat who hides is having trouble breathing but hiding cats may have a serious health condition that would benefit from veterinary attention.

As I said earlier, recognizing medical issues with your feline friends isn’t always straightforward, even when they’re having trouble breathing. Cats rarely pant. Opened mouth breathing is not common. The signs are often subtle, even in patients feline asthma and pleural space disease. Three changes for which I encourage pet parents to watch are:

  1. Resting respiratory rate – measure the number of breaths a cat takes in 15 seconds. Multiply the number by 4. If the product is more than 50, you should take your cat the closest veterinarian as quickly and as safely as possible, especially if their gums and/or tongue turns a shade of blue/purple (called cyanosis).
  2. Nostril flaring – Watch your cat breathe. Pay particular attention to their nose. If you can see their nostrils flaring, that’s a big red flag. Nostril flaring often means a cat is working too hard to breathe. Immediate veterinary medical attention is indicated.
  3. Sitting in unusual positions – When you’re having trouble breathing, it’s often more comfortable to sit in a specific position. For example, when you’re congested, sitting with your head propped up on a lot of pillows often provides some relief. Sometimes sitting in a specific posture is more comfortable for cats having difficulty breathing. This phenomenon is called orthopnea. A classis example of orthopnea in cats is when they sit with their elbows abducted or away from the body wall. If you see your cat sitting in an abnormal position, they may be having trouble breathing and benefit from expedient medical care.
Cats emergency

A cat sitting up on their front paws with the elbows abducted or moved away from the chest wall.

CATastrophes – Trouble Urinating

Imagine having to pee. Like you really need to go. But when you try, you can’t. Because there’s an obstruction between your urinary bladder and the outside world. Imagine the discomfort! Unfortunately, this medical problem – called a urethral obstruction – happens quite frequently in male cats. I want cat parents to know how to recognize where their feline is having trouble urinating. So, watch out for the following:

  • A cat frequently visiting the litter box
  • A cat posturing to urinate but eliminating only a few drops of urine (or no urine at all) – see video below
  • Crying / vocalizing while attempting to urinate
  • Hiding in your home
  • Discomfort (especially if picked up under the abdomen)

When a cat can’t pee, time is of the essence. Urethral obstruction is a quintessential emergency, and immediate veterinary intervention is needed. If the obstruction is not relieved in a timely manner, the urinary bladder could rupture, and the kidneys can be permanently damaged. Indeed, a cat with a urethral obstruction will die without medical intervention. But, here’s the good news. With timely care, cats with urethral obstruction can make a complete recovery. So, don’t ignore the signs. Get your cat to a veterinarian ASAP if they’re having trouble urinating!

CATastrophes – Trouble Using the Hindlimbs

It can be very scary for a pet parent to find their cat acutely unable to use their back legs. There are many possible reasons, including orthopedic conditions, neurologic problems, and weakness due to vital organ dysfunction. Most pet parents will be able to readily recognize a broken leg, Neurologic problems can be challenging, but sometimes looking at the eyes can be helpful. Pupils of different sizes and/or eyes that move abnormally are strongly suggestive of a nervous system disorder.

When a pet parent brings a cat into my emergency room because of an acute inability to use the pelvic limbs, the first thing that crosses my mind is a problem called feline arterial thromboembolism or FATE. You can read more about this problem here. A thrombus is a blood clot. When the blood clot travels in the bloodstream and ultimately becomes lodged in a vessel, it’s said to have embolized the vessel. So, an arterial thromboembolus is a blood clot that has become lodged in an artery, obstructing blood flow. The most common location for this to happen in a cat’s body is the last portion of the aorta (major artery in the body), an area referred to as the saddle. Indeed, the lay term for arterial thromboembolism is saddle thrombus.

Cats living with FATE are extremely painful and often scared and anxious. They vocalize. They cry. They sometimes yowl and scream. They attempt to drag themselves around with their functioning front limbs. They don’t know why they can’t walk, and the lack of proper blood flow to their limbs creates tremendous discomfort. These cats truly need immediate emergency care. In times past, veterinarians were essentially taught the most humane course of action for FATE cats was humane euthanasia. Sadly, even today, many veterinarians still recommend euthanasia for these patients without even trying to help them. Thankfully, medicine has advanced. With aggressive and timely intervention, FATE cats can make a meaningful recovery. They can return home to their families and lead quality lives. Not every cat survives, but I would argue attempting life-saving interventions is definitely worth it!

CATastrophes – Trauma

Cats are curious critters. As the saying goes, their curiosity sometimes kills them. But, the vast majority of the time, it usually only causes injuries. Of course, some of these injuries can be quite serious and life-threatening without prompt veterinary care. Some common traumas seen in cats are motor vehicle accidents, falls from heights (i.e.: high-rise syndrome), animal attacks, and sadly, abuse by humans. It should go without saying that cats that have been traumatized should be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

CATastrophes – Toxicities

Potential toxins are everywhere. Thankfully, cats are usually relatively discriminating creatures when it comes to putting things in their mouths. But, accidents happen. Some of the most common intoxications in feline medicine are, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), acetaminophenliliespyrethrinsnon-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), and household cleaners

If you suspect or know your cat has been exposed to a toxin chemical or substance, please seek immediate veterinary medical attention for them. Pet parents may find it helpful to contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. For a nominal fee, you can speak with a veterinary toxicology expert for initial advice. If your pet does require veterinary care, your pet’s doctor can subsequently speak with the toxicologist to help ensure your pet receives the best possible care. When you bring your pet to the veterinary hospital for care, please remember to bring the package that contained the toxin – the information contained on the packaging can be very helpful to your pet’s healthcare team!

CATastrophes – Seizures

Seizures are scary. Even seasoned board-certified veterinary neurologists don’t like to see animals experience seizures. As you can learn by clicking here, there are three general causes of seizures:

  • Organ (i.e.: liver, kidneys) dysfunction / systemic disorders
  • Central nervous system disorders
  • Epilepsy

Efficiently and accurately diagnosing the cause of a cat’s seizure is essential to ensure they receive the most appropriate therapies. There are certain seizure circumstances that are considered emergencies. These scenarios are:

  1. More than 2 seizures in a 24-hour period (called a cluster event)
  2. Any seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes and then stops
  3. Any seizure that doesn’t stop (called status epilepticus)

When/if one of these situations happen, a cat should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately.

The take-away message about when to bring your feline to the emergency room…

Medical emergencies – so called CATastrophes – with our cats happen. That is a relative inevitability. So, pet parents need to be as prepared as possible. The best way to avoid an emergency? Follow the preventative healthcare recommendations of your family veterinarian.


Horner’s Syndrome

Pet Obesity Month: Benefits of a balanced diet

Pet Obesity

October is National Pet Obesity Month and Whiskas is all about feeding your cat’s curiosity with a balanced diet.

A cat’s nutritional requirements depend on their stage of life but with so many cat food options out there, how do you know which will be best for your cat or kitten? Should you give your cat dry food or wet food? Is it enough to provide your cat dry food alone? Whiskas is here to help you structure a perfectly balanced diet for your pet – whether your cat is getting on in their years, or still a kitten. For information on cat nutrition Whiskas looked into studies by the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition. Thanks to their research, we now have evidence of the benefits your kitten or cat will experience on balanced diet of wet and dry food.

The first study[1] observed female kittens and noticed a spike in the kittens’ weight gain shortly after they had been sterilised. Maintaining a stable weight is extremely important to the health of your cat and this study has given us the opportunity to get ahead of weight gain, before it becomes problematic. To build a healthy cat diet plan, especially for kittens, it is important to control food portions and use a balance between both dry food and wet food. A balanced diet will help your feline friends meet their nutritional requirements, and lower the likelihood that they will overeat as they continue to grow.

You can give your cat wet food with their daily dose of dry cat food to prevent uncomfortable conditions like bladder stones from developing as they age. The wet food provides your cat with more moisture and ensures they enjoy the benefits of a higher daily water intake – such as increased urine volume and dilution. Research conducted by the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition[2] found that 2% of  all cats could experience urinary conditions leading to severe discomfort and that an everyday diet of dry cat food alone could not give them the moisture to avoid such problems.

Whiskas suggests a balanced diet as one third of dry cat food with two thirds of wet food daily – for both kittens and older cats alike. However, even with a combination of wet and dry food, your cat’s diet plan will change based on their age, weight and breed. A cat’s diet is just as important as a human diet. Using the incorrect balance of cat food will have the same impact on them as it would have on you. With a balanced diet of wet and dry food, you can give your cat the opportunity to live a healthier, happier life.

Source: WHISKAS®

Other posts by WHISKAS®

Getting a handle on cats: What types of restraint lead to stress?

By: Mikel Delgado

Getting a handle

An example of scruffing plus full-body restraint.

If you’ve ever worked in a shelter or veterinary setting, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve spent some time scruffing cats. Maybe you’ve taken your cat to the vet and the veterinary staff placed your cat in a “scruff-hold.” For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, scruffing is a way of restraining cats, by holding them firmly by the loose skin at the back of the neck. For some cats, this type of handling restricts their movement, which can facilitate handling and various procedures like getting a blood sample. Although scruffing is still a common way to handle cats in veterinary clinics, there is increasing resistance to using this type of handling.

Getting a handle

Mother cat carrying kitten. Photo by Margo Akermark via Wikimedia Commons.

Scruffing likely came into fashion because it resembles the way that mother cats handle their kittens – carrying them by the back of their neck. When the momcat does this, kittens are immobilized and likely easier for mom to relocate. Immobility in other species (such as rabbits and rodents) when scruffed is attributed to anti-predator behavior. Scruffing adult cats can have similar effects (induced immobility), although not in all cats. Because the lack of movement experienced by cats during scruffing may be due to fear, rather than a relaxed state, many individuals and organizations are calling for veterinary staff to embrace other handling techniques for cats.

International Cat Care and the American Association of Feline Practitioners have released statements that scruffing should either not be performed, or should not be the routine, “default” method of handling cats who visit a vet clinic. Other organizations, such as the ASPCA, emphasize other methods of cat restraint. Various certifications are now available for training in low-stress handlingfear-free veterinary practice, and cat-friendly practices.

Now this is all well and good, but as can happen, sometimes people endorse a practice without a strong evidence base. Until the past few months, there have been few published studies related to cat restraint, and whether or not certain handling methods are truly stressful to cats. Dr. Carly Moody devoted her dissertation research to the exploration of various aspects of cat restraint. I blogged about two of her other studies recently, and now she’s got a new paper, hot off the presses, looking at three types of cat restraint.  In “Getting a grip: cats respond negatively to scruffing and clips” published in Veterinary Record, scruffing, clipping, and full-body restraint were compared with passive restraint to see whether they led to stress responses in cats.

Fifty-two shelter cats were tested; all cats experienced passive restraint as a control and ONE of the other forms of restraint. Some cats were held with passive restraint first, and others received the experimental condition first, to control for any order effects of being handled. Cats were first assessed as either friendly or unfriendly (I’d prefer a term like avoidant!) by measuring their approach and response to a stranger and being petted, before the restraint methods were tested.

Getting a handle

Photo by Moody et al, from the published manuscript.

In passive restraint (a), cats were handled with minimal pressure and were allowed to stay in the position they preferred. Full-body restraint (b) involved holding the cat on its side, while holding the legs and not allowing much movement. In the scruff condition (c), cats were held by the skin at the back of the neck and was allowed only minimal movement. Finally, in the clip conditionm(d), two Clipnosis clips were applied to the back of the cat’s neck. Clipnosis clips resemble binder clips, and are a way to scruff “hands-free.” All cats were restrained by the same person in the animal shelter’s clinic facility.

The stress measures included ear movement, respiration rate, pupil dilation, lip licking and vocalizations. The results showed that cats undergoing full-body restraint had a higher respiration rate and more vocalizations. Full-body restraint and clips led to more pupil dilation, and all three tested restraint methods led to more ear movements when compared with passive restraint. To summarize, full-body restraint and clips were the most stressful, and scruffing also led to more stress responses when compared to passive restraint. Three indicators of stress (respiration rate, pupil dilation, and ear movements) were consistent with the previous work from this lab. Based on this study, the authors recommend that people do not use full-body or clip restraint, and that scruffing should not be a default method of handling cats.

A few potential weaknesses of the study include the fact that they did not do any medical procedures on the cats to see if there was any relationship between the type of restraint and cat’s behavior during an exam. The full-body restraint involved laying the cats on their side, which was different from the other three conditions, where the cat was typically upright. It is difficult to say whether it was the restraint or the body position that might have led to the stress response.

Finally, MY personal experience, is that most handlers who scruff cats, simultaneously place them on their sides in some type of full-body restraint. So it is possible that some people will think that because scruffing was not as stressful as the other tested modes of restraint, that it’s perfectly fine to utilize this form of handling without nary a second thought. It would be great to include this type of handling (scruff + restraining the body) in a future study – it is possible that combining the two techniques is even more stressful than just using one alone.

Scruffing doesn’t prevent biting; many veterinarians have been bitten by cats in practice, and since most clinics (perhaps until recently) likely use scruffing to restrain cats, it is obviously therefore not a guarantee of safety. However, it is a habit that many may find hard to break, especially if they are used to and comfortable scruffing, and not as experienced or comfortable using other methods, such as towel-wrapping or chemical restraint (drugs). Many years ago, when I worked in an animal shelter and handling a lot of cats, I was doing a lot of scruffing! That was the norm. In my current work situation, I’m not routinely restraining cats anymore. But if I were back in that position, I’d be ready to try something different.

At the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, we teach a cat handling lab to first year students, and the mantra is “EBY – Even Better Yet” – what can we do better to handle animals safely, and in a manner that is likely to reduce stressful responses in the present and during future veterinary visits. These students have typically been trained to scruff cats by default. Sometimes they express resistance to trying something new; but hopefully with practice and increasing evidence that scruffing increases stress, they will get more comfortable with other, less-stressful techniques.

Getting a handle

Kitty in a towel wrap. Photo by Kerri Lee Smith via Flickr/Creative Commons License[email protected]/26719456934

I was recently inspired when my friend Ellen Carozza, LVT told me that her veterinary practice has been “scruff-free” for almost 20 years. And she still has all of her fingers! She has been a strong advocate for providing cats with a safe and low-stress experience at the vet clinic, and has excellent videos of how the staff at her clinic handle “difficult” or “aggressive” cats, including several types of towel wraps. It’s hard to argue with 20 years of proof that it’s not necessary for effective treatment of cats (when we tell the first year vet students that there are scruff-free cat clinics, it blows their minds!). But think of it this way – if aversive restraint techniques were just not allowed or available to you – what would you do instead? And now it’s hard to argue with the mounting scientific evidence that when it comes to handling cats, “less is more.”