Eosinophilic Keratitis in Cats

By Catherine Barnette, DVM

Eosinophilic Keratitis in Cats

What is eosinophilic keratitis?

Feline eosinophilic keratitis is a chronic, inflammatory disease of the cornea. In cats with eosinophilic keratitis, eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) invade the cornea, giving the surface of the eye a pink, white, and/or chalky appearance. Eosinophils may also invade the undersides of the eyelids and the thin conjunctival membrane that covers the sclera (white of the eye), creating even more widespread inflammation within the eye.

Eosinophils are cells that are typically involved in allergic reactions, as well as the body’s immune reaction to parasites. At this time, we do not understand the cause of feline eosinophilic keratitis, or know why the eosinophils invade the eye in these cats. Researchers have observed that up to 75% of cats with eosinophilic keratitis also have feline herpesvirus (an upper respiratory infection that can affect the eye); this suggests a possible link between the two conditions, but the details of this association are unknown.

Eosinophilic keratitis is most common in cats four years of age or younger. Additionally, the condition appears to be more common in neutered males, though the reason for this connection is unknown. Eosinophilic keratitis has been observed in domestic shorthairs, domestic longhairs, and purebred cats.

What are the clinical signs of eosinophilic keratitis?

Cats with eosinophilic keratitis develop characteristic raised pink, tan, white, or grey lesions on the surface of the cornea. These lesions may affect one eye (unilateral) or both eyes (bilateral). Owners may initially notice the formation of new blood vessels at the edge of the cornea, soon followed by a white/grey film that develops on the surface of the cornea.

Lesions are often first noticed at the edge of the cornea, sometimes extending from behind the third eyelid, but they will gradually spread across the cornea. Over time, the entire surface of the cornea may be affected. Chronic lesions may sometimes develop a gritty texture, due to calcium deposits within the lesions. The underside of the eyelids, as well as the third eyelid, may also become inflamed and thickened.

Squinting and pain may develop, due to the irritation of blinking and rubbing the eyelids across these raised, gritty lesions. Affected cats often develop thick ocular discharge, which may cling to the surface of the eye,  and may also have constricted pupils (due to pain) and sensitivity to light.

How is eosinophilic keratitis diagnosed?

Diagnosis is often based largely on clinical signs. Confirming the diagnosis requires  corneal cytology, which involves scraping a small sample off the surface of the eye and using a microscope to assess for the presence of eosinophils and mast cells (another type of inflammatory cell). Further testing may also be required to rule out other possible causes of corneal inflammation, such as glaucoma, corneal ulceration, and inadequate tear production.

How is eosinophilic keratitis treated?

Eosinophilic keratitis is typically treated with topical steroid medication, though oral or injectable steroids may be required in severe cases. Because steroids can cause worsening of corneal ulcers, any corneal ulcers that your cat has will need to be treated with antibiotics before starting steroids. Some cats may also receive topical medications to decrease pain and decrease pupillary spasms.

Because eosinophilic keratitis is often associated with feline herpes infection, antiviral medications may be used to decrease viral activity. Famcyclovir can be used topically in the eye, while Lysine is an oral antiviral medication that may suppress feline herpes infection.

“Frequent rechecks are often needed, in order to monitor your cat’s response to therapy and adjust treatment plans as needed. Medications will be tapered to the lowest effective dose; however, your cat will likely remain on lifelong therapy to prevent recurrence.”

Frequent rechecks are often needed, in order to monitor your cat’s response to therapy and adjust treatment plans as needed. Medications will be tapered to the lowest effective dose; however, your cat will likely remain on lifelong therapy to prevent recurrence.

Surgical approaches have also been described to remove the abnormal tissue from the cornea of severely-affected cats, but there are currently no clinical studies to support the use of this procedure. Additionally, surgery requires that cats go through a period of time without steroid treatments, and this lapse in treatment may lead to worsening of the disease.

Weeks to months of treatment are often required to control the clinical signs of eosinophilic keratitis, and the rate of recurrence is high as medications are tapered. If the eye was severely affected prior to starting treatment, corneal scarring or deposits may persist; however, it is often possible to provide good vision and quality of life for even severely affected cats, as long as medications are maintained as directed.

Source: VCA


New factory acquisition sees Montego expand its pawprint into Gauteng

New factory acquisition sees Montego expand its pawprint into Gauteng

Montego Pet Nutrition (Montego) continues to make huge strides in the premium pet food industry with its latest acquisition of an existing 3,000 sqm pet food production facility in Rosslyn, Pretoria – a move that is expected to boost the company’s production capacity by 25%.

“Montego’s Monty & Me pet food will primarily be produced at this site, followed by contract manufacturing and other Montego ranges, once the current upgrades have been completed,” says Marco van Jaarsveld, Operations Director at Montego. “In terms of production volumes, the new factory will boost Montego’s overall production capacity significantly. We’re expecting to produce enough pet food here to feed approximately 230,000 border collies every day.”

This follows on from a R70 million factory upgrade that Montego completed in 2018 at its original production facility in Graaff-Reinet, as part of its growth strategy to meet local and international demand. With this facility nearing maximum production capacity, the newly acquired premises – along with its assets and 28 employees who have been retained – also allows Montego to further expand its reach into existing and new markets.

The latest acquisition in Gauteng gives Montego pride of place in one of its largest sales territories, with improved access to the rest of its markets across the country and continent, including Namibia, Mozambique, Ghana and Angola. These are just a few of the 15 markets Montego currently serves internationally.

“It’s a huge leap for our production capabilities, but we are also incredibly pleased to be able to make a positive impact on various communities in Gauteng. There are certainly plans to expand and upgrade the Rosslyn factory even further in the future, which we expect will create a number of new job opportunities for local residents,” says van Jaarsveld. 

In addition to its brick-and-mortar expansions since 2018, Montego also invested R22 million into a solar energy efficiency project in 2019, reducing the annual electricity demand of its Eastern Cape-based production facility by 1.4 million kWh.

“Our goal as a company is not merely to expand, but to grow our business and meet the demand for our premium pet food offerings responsibly and sustainably. For us, this means taking care of the communities that surround our business and our wide network of retailers, as well as ensuring that we play our part by making use of renewable energy sources.” 

Source: Montego


Treat your feline family to Montego’s new Packs O’ Purrs chewies

Treat your kitties with Montego’s new Packs O’ Purrs chewies for cats

Montego Packs O’ Purrs range of delectable chewies for cats are the latest must-have treat for your furry feline friends. Not only are they indulgent enough to spoil your kitties, but they’re also nutritious enough to add to their menu as a tasty between-meal snack, complementing Montego’s their dry and wet cat food purr-fectly.

Packs O’ Purrs treats are made using only the finest ingredients, containing both omegas 3 and 6, as well as added taurine – an essential amino acid for cats with a range of health benefits, including promoting good vision, digestion and a healthy immune system.

These kitty treats are available in two scrumptious flavours, including Cosmic Chicken & Cheese and Heavenly Tuna & Rosemary flavour.

Get your paws on a pack (or three) from selected pet and vet stores today, available at a RRP of R40.00 per packet.

Montego Packs O’ Purrs range of delectable chewies for cats are the latest must-have treat for your furry feline friends. Not only are they indulgent enough to spoil your kitties, but they’re also nutritious enough to add to their menu as a tasty between-meal snack, complementing Montego’s their dry and wet cat food purr-fectly. Packs O’ Purrs treats are made using only the finest ingredients, containing both omegas 3 and 6, as well as added taurine – an essential amino acid for cats with a range of health benefits, including promoting good vision, digestion and a healthy immune system.  These kitty treats are available in two scrumptious flavours, including Cosmic Chicken & Cheese and Heavenly Tuna & Rosemary flavour. Get your paws on a pack (or three) from selected pet and vet stores today, available at a RRP of R40.00 per packet.

Source: Montego

The NSPCA gives the world 3 147 reasons to donate with #AnimalsDoWhat

The NSPCA gives the world 3 147 reasons to donate with #AnimalsDoWhat

Today the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) launches a global campaign to bring awareness to how almost every aspect of our lives is influenced by animals – in all sizes, shapes and forms. And it is more than just our domestic dogs and cats – woodpeckers, desert spiders, porcupines, sharks, snails, bats, butterflies, bees and even earwigs, play incredible roles in our daily lives and in some of mankind’s most life-changing inventions, technologies and innovations.

Like did you know that butterfly wings inspired the development of anti-counterfeit technology? Or that the way a mosquito is able to puncture human skin without causing pain has inspired the design of a painless injection? Or that chickens are helping those suffering from dementia and alpacas are being used to treat children with autism? Animals do more for us than we could ever imagine and now it’s time we did something for them.  

Launching on Twitter, the campaign challenges the public to send any of the 3 147 available emojis to @NSPCA along with the hashtag #AnimalsDoWhat. The NSPCA will then respond with a relevant fact that talks about something amazing that an animal does for us humans. With 3 147 emojis to choose from, the challenge is certainly on!

As the campaign gains traction, the NSPCA will be challenging big corporates, business leaders and even some of the world’s most famous celebrities and thought leaders to take a hard look at how animals have contributed to their success and even their daily lives – and to return the favour with a simple donation.

“The mission of the NSPCA is to prevent animal cruelty, and to be a voice for the voiceless. This campaign, although light hearted, plays a role in educating the public that animals, no matter their size, shape or form, play a critical role in society. People will be surprised at just how many things around us are only possible because of animals,” says Marcelle Meredith, CEO of the National Council of SPCAs.

“We want to highlight their importance to all of us, with a campaign that brings out tangible facts for maximum impact so that we can truly raise awareness and motivate for donations to enable the NSPCA, to continue to educate and inform the public on the care and welfare of all animals.”

The campaign launches today and will run for three months. All donations will go to the NSPCA and will be allocated depending on the animal welfare needs that require the most help and support throughout the year.

Get in on the challenge and send any emoji to @NSPCA on Twitter, using the hashtag #AnimalsDoWhat. Or to make a donation, SMS ‘CARE’ to 38018. And let’s all give a little something back to the animals that do so much.

Source: NSPCA

The real issue with COVID-19 in pets is the cruelty that follows from myths – debunking the subject

The real issue with COVID-19 in pets is the cruelty that follows from myths – debunking the subject

COVID-19 occurring in pets is a topic circulating in the media – a myth that is detrimental to animals everywhere. Lara Van Rensburg from TEARS Animal Rescue has emphasised the dangers of this highly inflammatory subject and the dangers associated with it at a time when panic, fear and ignorance can lead people to treating innocent animals with cruelty.

“The fact is that while there have been reports of animals infected with the virus worldwide, most of these animals became infected after contact with people with COVID-19.

“A small number of pet cats and dogs have been reported to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 in several countries, including the United States, but this is so negligible that it has not been communicated or reported as being a danger to humans,” Van Rensburg told Cape {town} Etc. 

It is important to note that the Coronaviruses affecting dogs and cats are different from the coronavirus which causes COVID-19 in people.

In very simple terms, coronaviruses that affect dogs or cats are from the Alpha-coronaviruses and the current SARS-Cov-2 Coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 in people, is a Beta-Coronavirus.

These are different diseases which occur in different species caused by different types of Coronavirus.

TEARS head vet, Dr Tania Heuer, is helping us debunk myths: 

“To make sense of the confusion and hopefully to bring more clarity, I thought it best to start by explaining where the viruses come from, using the ‘family tree model.’

“As for each person, you have a family tree of your father or mother. For ease of reference, let’s use your father as the example; this starts with his parents, your grandparents (Family) and where your surname comes from traditionally, your father is thus the parent (Genus), and you and your siblings the children (species). Then for what you may one day become and do for a living (job) we’ll use as the effect you have on life (aka, the diseases).

“This is not to be taken literally it is just to help us understand and have a reference for the virus tree.”

The Corona Virus Family (Coronaviridae) is a large group of viruses that are common in animals.

Of this family, there are four genus’s that causes different diseases in different animals. They are called Alpha-coronavirus, Beta-coronavirus, Gamma-coronavirus and Delta-coronavirus (not to be confused with the delta strain of the current COVID infections, this is a separate matter altogether).

Of the four genus’s, only two are important that could spread to humans, namely the Alpha- and Beta- groups.

Below is a very good image that shows the virus family tree to help us understand:

The real issue with COVID-19 in pets is the cruelty that follows from myths – debunking the subject

Source: Boehringer Ingelheim

The different diseases:

Both the Canine (enteric) Corona Virus (CCoV) and Feline Corona Virus (FCoV) belongs to the Alpha- coronaviruses.

In most dogs CCoV infections are sub-clinical and produce few clinical signs. Occasionally an infection may cause more severe symptoms, particularly in young puppies. The most typical sign associated with canine coronavirus is diarrhoea.

  • In cats, FCoV is actually very common, but most of the time it does not cause any problems, other than perhaps mild self-limiting diarrhoea. Uncommonly, the virus mutates to a strain of Coronavirus which has the potential to cause disease. This mutated strain is the cause of a severe disease, known as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).
  • COVID-19 is a disease caused by the new SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus, which belongs to the Beta- Coronaviruses. This virus causes severe acute respiratory syndrome in humans and is the second type of virus to that after the initial SARS outbreak in China in 2002.


There is a dog specific vaccine available against this virus that is used in large parts of the world.

Being specie specific, this vaccine can only be used in dogs, for the CCoV infection prevention and not for the SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) infection.

The same is relevant to cats, a vaccine against FCoV is available in some countries but not in South Africa.

Given these differences between the virus species causing completely different diseases (Alpha vs. Beta), it is quite obvious that the vaccines for dogs and cats cannot be used to create immunity for your pets against COVID-19, nor used to protect you as they are not the same diseases.

COVID-19 Cross Infections – The current information available:

Can your pet be affected by COVID-19?

This may happen in rare instances. However, there is no current evidence that any animal or pet can infect humans with the new Coronavirus.

At this time, it does not appear that dogs become sick from the virus, but some cats may become mildly ill with respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms.

There are many illnesses that may cause similar symptoms in pets. If you are concerned about you dog or cat, call your veterinarian.

Should a pet owner test positive for COVID-19 it is best to avoid direct contact with your pets to steer clear of possibly infecting them.

Source: www.capetownetc.com 

The hidden history behind our pets most revolting habits

The hidden history behind our pets' most revolting habits

(Image credit: Getty Images)

From pooing in strangers’ gardens to barking incessantly, even the most precious pets can be annoying, embarrassing, or just plain revolting. Where did these behaviours come from?

In a leafy suburban corner of south-east London, a war is brewing.  

It started in May this year, when one of my neighbours took a sudden interest in the little wilderness at the front of his house. Over the next three weeks, he could regularly be seen labouring away, hacking out weeds, smoothing the soil, and adding compost. Then one day, it was time to add the finishing touch – a soft carpet of pristine turf. The result was as neat and carefully manicured as the green slopes around Windsor Castle. I remember wondering what the local cats would make of it.

The first night brought a swift, decisive answer. Once as flat as a snooker table, the next day the lawn’s surface was ridged and twisted, as though the turf rolls were tectonic plates that had been pushed against each other. It was scattered with little brown curls of cat poo.

Undeterred, my neighbour put the garden back together and stayed up every night for a week, to ward off any more marauding felines. But it happened again – and again, and again. As I type, his fortifications have escalated to almost ludicrous proportions. The lawn’s entire surface is now sheathed in protective netting, and there are little pots of vinegar at each corner, which cats supposedly detest. The final insurance is an ultrasonic cat scarer, which blasts out unpleasant sounds in a range that they’re particularly sensitive to. So far, the defences are holding up – but who knows how this battle could end. (I might suggest a moat.)

As it happens, gangs of defecating cats look set to become a lot more common. In the UK, the most fashionable pets are now collectively almost a third as populous as humans, with an estimated 10.1 million dogs, 10.9 million cats and one million rabbits. Likewise, worldwide pet ownership is booming – in Japan, businesses have embraced the new trend by launching dog clothing lines and cat hotels, leading some commentators to suggest they’re replacing children. In the US, there are almost 78 million dogs and 58 million cats.

The hidden history behind our pets' most revolting habits

Many of the traits found in pet cats were inherited from their wildcat ancestors, who still stalk mountains, grasslands and forests from South Africa to Mongolia (Credit: Alamy)

But as more and more pets have bounded into our homes and slunk onto our laps, some of these precious new family members’ less desirable habits have become more apparent. There’s the incessant barking and meowing that can keep whole neighbourhoods awake, digging up of plants, jumping up with scratchy claws, chewing of wires, and – apologies for so many nauseating poo references – enthusiastic consumption of other animals’ faeces.

(The latter is regrettably normal. One dog in my acquaintance, an elegant chocolate-brown greyhound called Buddy, races into his garden each morning to snaffle up any delicacies left for him the night before by the local foxes. If his guardian turns her back for a second while they’re out walking, he’ll locate and ingest several reeking deposits. At BBC Future we feel that this tantalisingly disgusting fact deserves its own piece, so we’ll cover this one in more detail later in this series.)

Where did companion animals – whose behaviour is often so carefully aligned with human preferences that dogs have evolved a dedicated muscle in their eyes to make them cuter, and cats have learned to interpret our facial movements – get those habits that are annoying, disturbing, or just plain revolting? And how can we learn to live with them?

To trace the origins of any particular behaviour, there are two important factors to consider – the wild animal your pet evolved from, and its history of living with humans.

Jumping up 

The closest living relative of dogs (Canis familiaris) is the grey wolf (Canis lupus), which is native to Eurasia and North America. However, it’s thought that dogs are not their direct descendants – one genetic analysis revealed that modern dogs are equally closely related to wolf populations from several different parts of the world, suggesting that they all evolved from a common ancestor instead.

This mysterious, now-extinct wolf species might have lived in Siberia approximately 23,000 years ago, and been thrown together with small, isolated groups of hunter-gatherers by the frigid conditions of the last ice age, when much of North America, Northern Europe, and Asia was frozen over.

The hidden history behind our pets' most revolting habits

Wolves can bark, though they don’t do it very often (Credit: Getty Images)

At first, perhaps the wolves merely followed humans around, snapping up discarded scraps of food as they moved from camp to camp – or they may have hunted in packs alongside humans, chasing down large prey and providing such an advantage that they allowed us to out-compete our close relatives, the Neanderthals. Another possibility is that it all began with ancient humans keeping wolf pups as pets.

Eventually the relationship deepened and the wolves underwent a physical transformation – their ears became floppy, their tails curved, and their coats became mottled. (An eccentric 62-year experiment in Russia, in which foxes were selectively bred until they had no fear of humans, has revealed that these are common side-effects of evolving tameness.) They also adapted their behaviours to suit their new collaborators – in some cases, exaggerating traits already found in their wild ancestors, and in others, inventing brand new ones. To find out which is which, all you have to do is compare dogs with modern-day wolves.

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Take the excitable greetings of many dogs, who jump up and try to lick your face, eventually settling for whichever part of the body doesn’t recoil quickly enough. “They would like to give a ‘kiss’ – or at least this is how people describe it,” says Zsofia Viranyi, an expert in comparative cognition at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, and co-founder and co-director of the Wolf Science Centre.

In fact, this trait – often ranked high among dogs’ most annoying habits – is a quintessential wolf behaviour – a relic from their ancestors tens of thousands of years ago. 

As pups, wolves routinely jump up and lick inside other pack members’ mouths after they have returned from a hunt, as a way of begging for food. Just like penguins in the Antarctic, the adult wolves will promptly vomit up a half-digested meal for them to eat.

“And then the older animals also keep the behaviour and they use it for greeting basically,” says Viranyi, who explains that it generally involves lower-ranking individuals licking the mouths of those with higher status. “So basically, whenever the pack comes together, and they want to do something together, or when somebody was away and then returned,” says Viranyi.

If you let them, wolves will also do this with humans. “Some people who raise wolves will actually kiss them,” says David Mech, a senior research scientist with the US Geological Survey who has studied wolves for decades. “I knew one guy that basically French kissed his wolf.” Thankfully dogs seem to have dialled it down a bit.

The hidden history behind our pets' most revolting habits

Guinea pigs have been eaten as a delicacy in the Andes for millennia, and were first brought to the UK as pets in the Elizabethan era (Credit: Alamy)

Barking and meowing

On the other hand, some habits that are perfectly normal in the wild ancestors of our pets have been greatly exaggerated.

Like dogs, cats have also been living with humans for millennia. They’re descended from North African/South-west Asian wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica) – solitary, territorial animals that primarily feed on small rodents. Genetic and archaeological evidence suggests that they may have originally encountered humans in the famous Fertile Crescent region of the Middle East at least 6,500 years ago, where the first farming communities sprung up. (Other than domesticating cats and pioneering farming, the people in these settlements also invented the earliest writing systems and the wheel.)

Initially, the cats hung around for the banquet of rodents that thrived around human settlements, but eventually they began to interact more and more with people – and ended up as unlikely candidates for domestication. They dispersed from their homeland along human trade routes, first spreading to Europe and Africa, where they made their way into ancient Egyptian religions – the goddess Bastet was often depicted as a cat – pyramids and hieroglyphs, and interbred with local North African wildcats.

Which brings us to a trait that some cat owners might consider an inherent part of their appeal – while others feel compelled to desperately search “how do you get a cat to shut up?” at three in the morning: the meow. Intriguingly, wildcats do meow – but only at their mothers when they are kittens. As adults, they don’t generally make this noise.

Domestic pusses keep their meow throughout their lives, but not for the benefit of communicating with other cats either – just their human companions. Back in 2004, scientists asked human listeners to rate the pleasantness of meows from domestic cats and their wild counterparts, and found that the former are significantly more pleasant to hear than the latter. This suggests that not only are their “annoying” vocalisations an adaptation to life around humans, but that they’ve already been mellowed by domestication.

The hidden history behind our pets' most revolting habits

Rabbits like to keep escape routes clear of debris, roots and twigs – or if they live indoors, household items such as electrical cables (Credit: Alamy)

It’s a similar story for the dog’s bark.

Contrary to popular belief, barking is not just for dogs – wolves invented it first. “It’s not as sharp bark as dogs make – it’s rougher and more guttural, but anyone listening to it would say yes that’s a bark,” says Mech. However, while wolves tend to bark as a warning or sign of aggression, domestic dogs use it as a universal language to convey a broad spectrum of remarks, from the original meanings to “hello”, an invitation to play, excitement at an impending snack or walk, or loneliness.

It’s not known exactly why ancient wolves abandoned their eerie howls altogether and switched to barking full-time, but there are some hints. One 2019 study found that the most annoying dog barks have unique acoustic signatures – they’re high pitched and atonal, similar to the meows of cats and the cries of human babies. The authors explain that dogs may have adapted certain kinds of barks to evoke a strong reaction from humans, and provoke them into taking action.

Barking has also historically been helpful to humans, who have used dogs to hunt, herd animals and defend their property. A 2004 study found that moose hunters in Finland who bought a dog with them were 56% more successful, possibly because dogs often bark at their victim until they stop moving – allowing their human collaborator to sneak within killing range. This makes sense, since dog breeds developed for hunting tend to bark the most. 

Ironically, barking is the cause for one of the most common complaints about dogs. A 2015 study of South Korean owners found that 47.1% reported excessive barking, while a 2012 survey of New Zealanders found that they ranked barking as more irritating than other urban noises.

Gifts, poos and plants

Despite the adaptive meowing of modern pusses, some experts only view cats as “semidomesticated”, since they retain many of their wild behaviours and readily interbreed with wildcats – so much so, that they have rendered some wild populations (such as Scottish wildcats) functionally extinct. As a result, to find out why your cat brings you gifts, poos on your neighbour’s lawn, or digs up your plants – look no further than the wildcat.

In their wild cousins, depositing faeces in conspicuous places is an important method for marking one’s territory. James Serpell, professor of ethics and animal welfare at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine thinks this might explain the issue of domestic cats pooing in the neighbour’s garden. “They tend to target areas on the edge of the territory,” he says. “When they’re leaving it around the place they’re saying, ‘okay, you are now entering my domain’.” So if you own cats, you might even be less likely to find their faeces in your garden than if they belong to your neighbours.

The hidden history behind our pets' most revolting habits

Rats have continuously growing teeth and the most effective bite of all rodents, one possible reason for their success – and their ability to ruin furniture (Credit: Getty Images)

Another factor is that wildcats are particularly fond of toileting on soft soil that has recently been turned. “That’s a very nice substrate for them – if you have a well cared for garden with lots of nicely turned loose soil around, then that’s going to be a magnet for cats,” says Serpell. He explains that cats probably don’t dig up plants – or freshly-laid turf – on purpose, but in addition to defecating in conspicuous locations, they also sometimes instinctively bury their faeces.

It’s thought that the “gift”-giving tradition among domestic cats might have originated in wildcats, too.

Unlike lions, which have been estimated to kill 15 large animals each year, wildcats evolved to eat tens of small mammalian prey per day – they are naturally prolific killers, with fastidious dietary requirements that mean they need a varied diet. Domestic cats haven’t adapted to eat human scraps in the same way dogs have – they can’t taste carbohydrates – so retaining their hunting skills may have been a sensible strategy for supplementing their nutritional intake.

Before the advent of pet food science (Read more about why processed pet foods are so addictive), refrigeration and the wide availability of affordable meat, cats that could hunt probably had a survival advantage. In fact, while modern-day domestic cats rarely eat the creatures they bring home, it’s thought that they were an important food source for historical cats – and modern strays spend more time hunting than those with definitive homes.

Oddly, bringing back a catch and depositing it at your feet is may also be a wildcat behaviour. In the wild, mothers naturally bring half-dead animals back to their nest, for their babies to practise hunting on. Some experts think that the “gift”-giving of domestic cats is an extension of this trait – they’re either instinctively bringing their catches back to where they live, or they think of you as a particularly inept kitten that needs to learn how to hunt.

Chewing wires

Of course, other kinds of pets can be just as hard to live with. 

After cats and dogs, guinea pigs and rabbits are among the most numerous pets. There are around 400,000 of the former in the UK alone, and according to current estimates they were domesticated even earlier than cats. These small, squeaky mammals have been eaten in South America for almost 10,000 years and were first domesticated by the Inca civilisation up to 8,000 years ago, before their wild ancestors went extinct.

The hidden history behind our pets' most revolting habits

Wolves lick the inside of each other’s mouths to beg for food or as an act of submission (Credit: Getty Images)

The history of keeping rabbits is also ancient. In 2019, scientists identified a previously overlooked bone found at a Roman palace in Sussex as belonging to a rabbit from the 1st Century. An analysis of its bones suggested that it had been kept in captivity and may have been a pet. The first domesticated individuals are thought to have come around 400 years later, raised by French monks. This remained their primary use for centuries, until the Victorians bred them into the array of ultra-cute, slightly ridiculous companions we’re familiar with today.

Other small pets such as rats, hamsters, mice and gerbils are more recent still, domesticated over the last few hundred years via intensive selective breeding, sometimes just from a few individuals. Like cats and dogs, these animals have clung on to certain natural behaviours – souvenirs from their evolutionary past.  

One of the most common complaints on the tongue-in-cheek social media group “Bunnies are Arseholes” is how fond rabbits are of chewing interior furnishings, including wallpaper, carpets, sofas (I once woke up to find that my floppy-eared flatmate had eaten a neat, round hole in the middle of mine), skirting boards, chair legs – you get the idea. But by far the most sought-after delicacy seems to be wires. Any wires that happen to cross their path – laptop cables, headphone sets, oven cords – will be snipped more quickly than you can say “I wonder where I put my…”

The problem is also common among other small mammals, especially guinea pigs and rodents. The insurance sector often attributes around 25% of all electrical fires in buildings to wild mice and rats, which can gnaw away at wire insulation – exposing raw wire which may lead to sparks or a short-circuit. But why do they do it?

According to Serpell, there are two reasons for this.

One is that in the wild, these prey animals spend inordinate amounts of time planning escape routes to and from their homes – they like to have multiple exits from any given location, and keep paths clear so that they can race to safety if a predator turns up. “If they find a wire crossing their path, the natural tendency is to see it as an obstruction,” says Serpell. “They chew it in order to get rid of it as they would, say, a stick that was in their path in the wild.”

The hidden history behind our pets' most revolting habits

Rabbits have been eaten in France and Spain since prehistoric times, but only occured in Britain after the Romans brought them over in the 1st Century CE (Credit: Alamy)

The other is that these small mammalian pets will chew everything, regardless of what it’s made of. Many species have teeth that grow continually, and must be worn down in case they get too long.

It’s less common for dogs and cats to chew wires, but when they do, it’s often because they’re bored or enjoy the interesting texture in their mouth. It’s also natural for many animals to chew on things instinctively as a way of exploring them.

But despite these frequent complaints, Serpell thinks our pets are overwhelmingly well-adapted to life with humans. “The thing that stands out for me is how few major behaviour problems they have, which is a testament to how well they’ve managed to adapt to requirements,” he says. If you’re not convinced, he points out that living with a wildcat or wolf would be significantly more problematic.

In fact, it seems that many of the so-called annoying habits that our pets have are just adaptations to humans.

“[Pet] animals are just like humans actually, we carry out a whole evolutionary history with us,” says Viranyi, who points out that our requirements have been changing so fast, it’s hard for them to keep up. “Moving the animals into this artificial urban environment – we live under circumstances that are different to the ones they evolved in.” Historically, these behaviours were useful, but things have now changed and we’ve decided we don’t want them.

One example is the border collie, which was first bred at the Anglo-Scottish border for herding sheep. “They have an inexhaustible appetite for this,” says Serpell. “And if you don’t give them sheep to herd, they’ll find other things to do, which can be extremely disruptive in a kind of urban or suburban family context.” Urban border collies might try to herd children or develop obsessive fetching behaviours – they’re well-adapted to what they were bred for, but it can be difficult to keep them occupied if that’s not what you want from them.

“So there’s all sorts of sort of ramifications when we take these animals that we’ve selected particular types of behaviour for many generations, and then we basically arbitrarily decide at some point that we no longer want them to do that anymore,” says Serpell.

For more minor annoyances, understanding where our pets’ habits come from might help us to reframe them as what they are – fascinating ghosts from the past, rather than personality flaws to be eradicated. 

Zaria Gorvett is a senior journalist for BBC Future and tweets @ZariaGorvett

Source: BBC


Pet owners warned of new scam which could put their lives at risk

Pet owners warned of new scam which could put their lives at risk

Dogtown SA warns of latest pet scam. Supplied image.

Dogtown South Africa has warned pet owners to not fall prey to a new scam which could compromise their safety.

The animal shelter and rescue centre for abandoned and abused dogs said that they have received information about an individual posing as an official from Dogtown, who has been contacting people whose pets have gone missing and telling them that they have been found.

However, the organisation insists that this is just a scam.

“The modus operandi is to tell the person that they have found their pet and that if they send them airtime, they will be able to send them a location pin for them to collect their pet,” Dogtown South Africa founder Tracy McQuarrie explained.

She added that the imposter then requests that the pet owners provide proof of ownership of their animals.

“This includes but is not limited to photographs of them with their pet and ownership papers.”

McQuarrie said that this was concerning as it could potentially have people being lured to a location for criminal purposes.

“Criminals can pick up all sorts of personal information from the background of a photograph,” McQuarrie believes.

Understanding pet diabetes

Understanding pet diabetes

Dog getting vaccine / iStock

Globally, and in South Africa, pet diabetes is on the rise, and pet owners are looking for health management plans to keep their fur babies happy, healthy and living longer lives.

“It’s so important for pet owners to understand that diabetes is not a death sentence for their pet,” says Tarryn Dent, Diagnostic and Technical Manager at Zoetis South Africa, a global animal health company

“We’ve found that a lack of awareness can either lead to a missed diagnosis because pet owners don’t know what to look for or, if a pet is diagnosed with diabetes, many owners think that there is nothing left for them to do when the reverse is true. With consistent management, diabetes should have a minimal impact on pet owners and their pets’ daily routines.”

This management includes at-home blood glucose monitoring, insulin, diet and an exercise plan, through which every pet can live an active and happy life with diabetes.

Proactive health management

Type I and Type II diabetes in pets is more common than many pet owners think. Indications that could point to pet diabetes include unexplained fatigue or weakness, excessive thirst, frequent urination, an increased appetite and sudden weight loss.

“Pet owners who recognise any of these signs should ask their veterinarian to check for diabetes,” says Dent. “It’s a simple blood or urine test, and then a management plan can be put in place.”

Dent has long advocated for proactive diagnostics for pets, and diabetes screening is a perfect example of how beneficial diagnostics can be for pet owners whose pets are members of the family.

“Annual screenings can track if there have been any changes, particularly in insulin and glucose levels. The sooner an issue is picked up, the sooner it can be managed.”

Home screening is another option for pet owners who know that their pets experience elevated levels of stress at the vet or outside their normal routines, as stress can cause non-routine blood spikes in sugar levels.

4 simple steps to managing pet diabetes

The goal of any diabetes treatment is to control the amount of glucose in a cat or dog’s blood, which will reduce symptoms and help minimise or prevent complications.

Each diabetes plan is personalised to the pet and its owner and could include all or some of these protocols:

1. Insulin injections

Insulin dosing involves giving a pet a small insulin injection based on a specific dose and schedule. The injection is painless but it’s important to keep track of the time and amount of insulin that a pet receives.

2. Diet

Diets that eliminate or reduce sugar surges are usually preferred and can help pets lead long and healthy lives. Any changes in diet should be monitored, however, and the amount of food and water consumed should be tracked, as this will help a veterinarian determine if the diet is having a positive impact on an animal’s diabetes.

3. Exercise

Consistency in a pet’s daily exercise schedule is critical for diabetes management. If daily activity levels vary, an animal may require different amounts of insulin. Weekly weight checks can also monitor a pet’s health.

4. Blood glucose monitoring

Monitoring a diabetic pet’s blood glucose gives veterinarians the data they need to better manage a diabetes treatment plan. Typically, a veterinarian will either need to take several readings over a specified time frame, or a pet owner can take the readings at home using an at-home glucose monitor. Although it may initially appear daunting to a pet owner to be monitoring their pet’s glucose levels at home, there are benefits to this. Stress, and changes in an animal’s eating regime can have significant effects on glucose levels. Home testing allows veterinarians to get a complete picture of the pet’s glucose in their natural environment, eliminating the effects of being in hospital.

Fortunately, there are animal-specific, accurate and, most importantly, easy-to-use glucometers available that require a very small sample size to help pet owners easily do at-home testing for their diabetic animals.

Getting the most accurate representation of an animal’s glucose throughout the day allows a veterinarian to put the best management plan in place, which helps to minimise or avoid emergency room expenses and long-term diabetes complications.

A long, healthy life

According to Dent, with consistent management, diabetes should have minimal impact on the daily lives and routines of pets and their owners. “Veterinarians work closely with pet owners to ensure the health and wellness of their pets, and there are a range of diagnostic tools to support them. Diabetes is thankfully completely manageable, and pets with Type I and Type II diabetes can live long and happy lives.”  

Source: East Coast Radio

Eating Dog Poo

Eating Dog Poo

You’ve taken your dog for a walk, you’ve just finished telling the neighbour how well behaved he is and all of a sudden you catch him eating dog poo. Ugh! What could possess him to do this?

Coprophagia (the technical term for faeces eating) is unpleasant but not uncommon behaviour among dogs. The good news is that eating faeces won’t generally hurt your dog. The bad news you already know; it’s disgusting, messy and leads to the worst bad breath imaginable. There’s also the risk of acquiring parasites if your dog eats faeces from other animals.


No one is entirely sure why dogs do this but there are a couple of possible reasons. It may simply be that they enjoy it. Dogs interact with the world through their mouths, they like to carry sticks and love to chew on toys or bones.

Dogs also like things that have strong smells and excrement certainly falls into this category. It might seem odd, but eating faeces my just be your dog’s way of examining something that interests him.

Confused pups

Puppies will sometimes eat their own poo during toilet training. It happens because they’re still unsure of where they’re supposed to defecate and where they’re not supposed to defecate. Afraid they may have done something wrong they will ‘destroy the evidence’. This kind of cleaning behaviour can also happen with adult dogs inside the house.

Mother dogs will frequently eat their puppy’s faeces when cleaning them. This is possibly a residual instinct. In the wild, eating the puppy poo would reduce the likelihood of predators finding her vulnerable offspring.

Diet deficiencies

One of the most common theories for why dogs behave like this, is that they’re compensating for deficiencies in their diet. The faeces of herbivores may provide vitamins that aren’t part of your dog’s regular diet.

Cat food is high in protein and so cat litter may prove appealing to your dog. You must curb this behaviour immediately, as cat litter can be toxic for a dog.


The easiest way to deal with the problem is simply to try and pick up as soon as your dog has done his business. Some people suggest sprinkling pepper, Tabasco or paraffin on the faeces to make it taste ‘worse’.

There are also additives for your dog’s food that will taste fine on the way in, but become bitter when digested so the faeces becomes unpalatable. Unfortunately, these methods aren’t effective for all dogs.

To deal with coprophagia in general, the best solution is to be gentle but firm in discouraging it and above all, to be consistent in your discipline.

Also, talk to your vet, who will be able to identify if your dog has additional dietary needs.

Source: Hills Pet Nutrition