Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring Reminders

Spring approaches the Northeast two steps forward, one step back.  The daffodils are emerging, then it snows.  A foal is born on a 65-degree day, but the temp still goes down to 28 at night.  The days are longer, we're on Daylight Savings Time, my hens' egg production has gone from their winter average of four eggs daily to ten.  Spring is coming I know, but I'd like for it to hurry up and get here.

March 24, 2011

Greyhound-style Comb
Relating to cats, I thought I would remind people of a few things to keep in mind with springtime and their furry, feline family members.  Although cats, like most mammals, shed throughout the year, more shedding is done in the spring in response to the longer daylight hours.  If your cat normally has a low-maintenance coat that needs little combing (lucky you), this is the time of year when that is more likely to change.  As the fur becomes loose, it can get caught in the coat, leading to more mats if  you don't help it out with a good comb.  A Greyhound comb works best (don't ask me why it's named after a short-haired dog).  The Greyhound comb is metal, about seven inches long, and available from places like Revival Animal Health online or various other retailers, with prices ranging from $4 up to $40 for the original Belgium-made comb.  I buy the imitation "Greyhound-style" combs to use and give out to each of my kitten buyers.  When kitten buyers take their new baby home, I advise them that although their little fluff ball may not need it now, come Spring, it will be necessary to get down to the roots of their growing cat's coat.  Brushes going over the surface of the coat just don't do it.

Of course, prevention is key which is why I'm reminding people (and myself) to start combing their cats more often now.  I've blogged before about how to handle mats with regular bathing, seam rippers and shaving so I won't repeat myself.  Read Fat and Sassy No More for details. 

LA, IW, SGCA Dracoonfly Finbar Conneff demonstrating how beautiful a well-groomed Maine Coon coat can look

Another consideration in the Spring is parasites.  If you have a cat that's scratching itself bald or licking itself obsessively, it may have a flea allergy.  You'll never find a flea on such a cat as one bite sends it into such an itching frenzy, the poor thing will ingest any fleas, but keep scratching.  With a chronically itchy cat, try treating it for fleas to eliminate the possibility that parasites are the culprit.  You know how a mosquito bite can drive you nuts?  Imagine how that'd feel if you were not only covered in itchy bites, but the perpetrator lived on your skin, continuing to feast on you whenever it needed a snack.  Don't dismiss your pet's suffering from parasites.  Untreated, they can cause anemia and fleas can reproduce to give your animal tapeworms.

In the South, fleas are more of a problem, riding in on pants legs with the fire ants and Palmetto bugs.  When I lived in Florence, South Carolina where Palmetto bugs thrive, I often joked that God had a sick sense of humor by making a giant cockroach and giving it the ability to fly.  Ticks are in the South also, but here in Connecticut we invented Lyme disease (ever heard of Lyme, Connecticut?).  The standard brown dog tick is the one we see easily, but it's the tiny deer tick the size of a freckle that makes one realize we are just at the mercy of Mother Nature.  Even though our Golden Retriever, Chardonnay, is on Frontline Plus year-round, is carefully brushed everytime after a walk in the woods and vaccinated annually for Lyme disease prevention, she has tested positive for the disease twice.  My vet says she sees this in about 40% of the dogs like Chardonnay.  Since my kitten buyers are all required to keep their cats indoors, and most are located in the Northeast, parasites should be a minimal concern, but it does happen.  Cats are naturally very clean and usually groom the wayward tick off their bodies before it has the chance to attach itself. 

Chardonny in Doggy Heaven

Dogs, being not so fastidious about their personal grooming and having a need to go outside to do their business, tend to pick up parasites pretty easily.  Added to that is a dog's love for covering itself with Bambi Essence by rolling in deer poop. Not only can your dog bring in a stench like no other, but it is more likely to pick up ticks by simply going where the deer have been.  Most responsible dog owners keep their pets on a topical flea and tick protection like Frontline or Advantage which minimizes the parasites on the animal and in your house.  With Chardonnay on Frontline year-round (I have seen ticks even with snow on the ground), it protects not only her but also the cats from the likelihood of her bringing parasites inside to them.  Only our cats which have access to the outdoor run need a separate flea protection; the rest of them don't require anything.

I remember well my childhood days in the mountains of North Carolina when we wouldn't pet the dogs in the neighborhood because you could see the swollen ticks covering their bodies and faces.  With our own dog, we'd periodically pull the ticks (often up to 20 at a time), have her wear a flea collar and apply flea powder or dip in an effort to keep the buggers at bay.  Later I learned the Shake and Bake method of flea control for my cats in which I'd shake a generous amount of Sevin Dust (the same stuff you put on your flowers) in a pillow case.  The cat would then be placed in the pillow case with its head protruding and the case gathered around the cat's neck.  That made it easier to completely coat the cat with the insecticide.  Of course, I found out that once you let the cat out of the bag, it was best to put it in the bathroom for while until it shook all the loose powder off.  Otherwise, I ended up with white patches of powder all over the carpet and furniture. 

Powder, flea baths, dips, flea combs, garlic pills, flea bombs.....luckily that's largely a thing of the past in regard to dog and cat ownership now.  With the invention of products like Frontline, there is no excuse for fleas and little excuse for ticks.  Back then, more dogs and cats lived outside simply because there wasn't a really good way to keep the parasites from infesting your home.  Now we're able to enjoy our pets better as members of the family and they are a lot healthier and more comfortable.   Is everyone feeling itchy now?

Myra and Kelsey - 2007

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