Category: cat health

Now There’s A Mail-In DNA Test For Cats

Ever wonder about your cat’s parentage, breed and potential health problems? A mail-in DNA test for cats promises to fill you in on the details.

Basepaws, a Los Angeles company, offers a kit not much different from the human mail-in DNA tests: You swab the inside of your cat’s mouth for a few seconds, secure it according to the provided instructions, and mail it to the company, which processes the results.

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The basepaws kit.

In four to six weeks you’re notified that your cat’s results are ready, and you’ll get a report with a breakdown of genetic identity, associated breeds and potential health issues to watch out for.

This presents a problem for me, of course. Buddy thinks he’s descended from a long line of legendary warrior felids. I took a regular Q-tip, made a big show of swabbing his cheek for his DNA, and told him I was mailing it away for analysis.

Then I cooked this up:

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Buddy’s fake results.

You’ll notice the results don’t come close to adding up to 100 percent. The company’s founder says that’s because the more people test their cats, the more accurate the results will be, with fewer unknowns as the overall database expands.

Each cat’s report is updated indefinitely as the company continues to test. Checking back over subsequent months and years will yield updated information on your cat, the company says.

All jokes aside, it would be interesting to find out more about the Budster’s background. All I know is that his mom was an indoor cat who wasn’t spayed. She went into heat, she got out, she came back and the rest is history.

Because he’s a big talker, I’ve always wondered if Bud might have a bit of Siamese or one of the other chattier breeds in him. His coat is pretty short, extremely soft and all grey/dark grey in a tabby pattern, except for a single white tuft on his chest.

Interestingly, most of his tabby stripes are unbroken, a trait usually seen in hybrid cats.

He’s comically incapable of certain things, but almost frighteningly intelligent in other respects, and he wears his emotions on his sleeve…er, paw? Maybe there really are secrets to unlock in his DNA.

Cat DNA analysis is in its infancy

On the downside, Basepaws DNA tests don’t come cheap — with two packages priced at $129 and $99 — and, as a review in Wired notes, cat ancestry reports are always going to be more vague than reports on human or dog DNA.

That’s because the practice of dog breeding is a lot older and more common than creating pedigree cat lines, and most cats are not a specific breed. Unlike dogs — whose roles range from hunting and shepherding to assisting the blind and pulling sleds — cats have always had one job, and occasionally two. Kill rodents and snuggle with their humans, cuddly killers that they are.

Historically humans haven’t felt a compelling need to interfere with cat procreation. The last century or so has been an exception, but breeds still represent a small minority of cats.

If you’ve had your cat’s DNA analyzed, we’d love to hear from you about your experience.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to tell a certain Tiger-Manticore-Jaguar about his impressive felid lineage.

‘New York’s Fattest Cat’ Relinquishes His Title

Remember Barsik, the cat who was so extra-chonk he had to be wheeled around in a baby carriage because he couldn’t fit in a cat carrier?

The former “Fattest cat in New York” has melted the pounds off in the year since he was surrendered to NYC’s Anjellicle Cats rescue and adopted by 35-year-old Meredith Adams.

When he was surrendered, Barisk tipped the scales at 41 pounds — dangerously close to the Guinness record 46 pounds for a house cat. He was so big, the sight of him getting wheeled into the shelter prompted an amused visitor to snap a smartphone pic and quip: “Did he eat another cat?”

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Slow news day: Barsik made the cover of the Post’s late edition back in April of 2019.

Barsik’s having the last laugh, as he’s down to 22 pounds and enjoying life in his new home.

He’s well on his way to his ideal weight of 16 pounds according to Adams, who says she’s been controlling Barsik’s dry food intake while feeding him wet food.

“He does pretty much everything regular cats do — jumping around, at night he gets the zoomies,” Adams told the New York Post. “He is a regular cat now.”

The Post notes Guinness stopped taking new entries for heaviest cat out of concern that misguided owners would over feed their chonksters to pursue the crown. Himmy, the Australian kitty who set the record, died at just 10 years old from complications associated with his obesity.

Barsik has settled into his new life, diet and all.

“He has a big personality. He is very demanding, he is very vocal, but he is also really friendly,” Adams said. “When I come home from work and get into the building, I hear his meowing all the way down the hall. He wants his food, but he also wants to say ‘hi’ to me.”

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Barsik shortly after he was surrendered in 2019 and was living in a foster home.

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Adams and the newly-slim Barsik.

UK Cat Positive For COVID: ‘Don’t Kiss Your Pets’

A female Siamese has become the first cat to test positive for COVID-19 in the UK.

The cat almost certainly caught the virus from her COVID-infected owners, authorities said. Christine Middlemiss, the U.K.’s top veterinary official, echoed the CDC in urging people not to freak out:

“There is no evidence to suggest that pets directly transmit the virus to humans,” Middlemiss said. “We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will update our guidance to pet owners should the situation change.”

Owners who have COVID-like symptoms should social distance from their own pets, says Margaret Hosie, a virologist at the University of Glasgow: “Don’t kiss your cat. Don’t have the cat sleeping in a bed with you, and don’t share food with the cat.”

If your cat is anything like mine, good luck trying to tell him he’s not sleeping in your his bed.

Kleptomaniac cat collects goggles

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Avery with his stash of swimming goggles. Credit: BBC

A cat in Bristol, UK, has an odd obsession with swimming goggles. The four-year-old moggie, Avery, has stolen eight pairs so far this summer.

Avery’s human, Sally Bell, said she’s checked with her neighbors and no one’s told her they’re missing goggles, so Avery must be wandering further than realized.

“He doesn’t play with the goggles, he just leaves them for me. In fact, the pair he brought home the other day had a dead mouse with them – two presents at once,” Bell told the BBC. “I feel so bad in case it’s children who are being brought new goggles and they’re getting into trouble because they keep going missing.”

Terrible human beings are terrible

Someone is shooting cats with pellet guns in a Wyandotte, Michigan, neighborhood. Four cats have been killed and a fifth had a leg amputated after he was shot, WDIV reports. There’s a reward for information leading to the shooter’s arrest, and police want to hear from anyone with information about the cat shootings.

Meanwhile, the Humane Society of Utah is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a sicko who tied a cat down, tortured it and set it on fire.

A woman found Sterling the cat on July 21 and brought him to the veterinarian. Little Sterling made it through surgery and remains under the care of the vet, who’s providing pain medication and making sure the tough kitty is being “loved and spoiled.”

“This level of cruelty should unnerve the community,” said the Humane Society’s Rachel Heatley. “In the interest of public safety, an individual who is capable of torturing an animal needs to be identified and taken off the street as soon as possible.”

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Sterling survived and is recovering from his wounds. Credit: Humane Society of Utah

The Good Boy Has Been Weaned Off Temptations. Again.

Little Buddy, I’m happy to announce, has been weaned off the kitty crack.

And no, I’m not talking about catnip, which he enjoys once a week or two without yowling mournfully for more. I’m talking about Temptations, those crunchy cat treats that turn our furry little friends into fiends with one-track minds.

This is the second time I’ve stopped giving him those treats. One is never enough. Two, three, six? Not enough. More. More! More Temptations!!!

It got to the point where Buddy would meow insistently in front of the treat cabinet first thing in the morning, then get up to follow me every time I went in the general direction of the kitchen, trilling in anticipation.

If I made the mistake of leaving the bag out, he’d paw at it and meow insistently.

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And one time I got an economy size tub of the stuff from Costco, fed him one or two pieces, then got distracted by a phone call. I was only away for a minute at most, but during that time Buddy swiped the tub off the coffee table, causing the lid to pop as it hit the hardwood floor and spilling hundreds of the kittycrack biscuits everywhere.

When I  returned I found Bud gorging himself, vacuuming up his precious Temps like a high end Hoover. I shooed him away and carefully swept up every remaining piece, but it was too late — the little guy started throwing up everything he’d just eaten.

Astonishingly, when he’d gotten the last of it up and I was on hands and knees cleaning the mess, he began to meow for more Temptations.

That is hard core, epic crack fiend behavior.

It’s “Houston, we have a serious problem” level.

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Not the only one: Lots of people have reported instances where cats helped themselves to the kitty crack. Credit: theknowmad/reddit

Temptations are cat junk food. They’re packed with filler, animal by-products, things cats can’t properly digest (corn, rice, corn gluten meal), and the added nutrients cited by Whiskas are of dubious nutritional value at best.

Cats aren’t drawn to them for any natural reason: Whatever chemicals they’re coated with are designed to manipulate the feline brain, and in the human world we’d call them drugs. The behavioral changes alone are enough to warrant a change.

I was doing a disservice to my little guy by feeding him that crap, so now we’re going to find something better. If you’d care to offer any suggestions, we’re all ears. Please leave them in the comments.

Chasing Clicks, News Sites Blame Cat For Woman’s Death

If you’d just skimmed headlines like “Kiss of Death: Elderly Woman Killed By Cat” and “Tragedy as woman is killed by her CAT, as doctors issue a dire warning to pet owners” you’d think a woman was somehow violently killed by an enraged 10-pound cat.

The reality is much less dramatic: A woman’s cat scratched her, then licked the wound.

Through her saliva, the cat named Minty infected the victim with bacterial meningitis, doctors told the New Zealand Herald.

The woman fell into a coma, was found by relatives and brought to Melbourne’s Box Hill Hospital, where medical staff kept her sedated as they tried to treat her. With few options, the family in consultation with the doctors decided to wake her to say goodbye, then placed her back in a coma and withdrew life support.

“Infections related to cat bites and scratches like this person, we’d get at least one a week where somebody comes into the hospital,” Lindsay Grayson, director of infectious diseases at Melbourne’s Austin Health, told the newspaper. “It is very important that if a cat is biting or scratching you, you mention it to your GP.”

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The woman was 80 years old, and the story suggests she had a compromised immune system. It didn’t provide any other details about her overall health, existing co-morbidities or whether her cat was allowed outdoors. Outside cats have a greater chance of picking up bacteria that can harm humans, experts say. A separate article mentioned the victim took blood thinners.

Grayson’s warning is simple and spot-on: Take bites and scratches from cats and dogs seriously, get the wounds treated and call your doctor. Something that looks like an inconsequential scratch could prove deadly or cause major health problems.

Cats and dogs live in more than 100 million homes in the US alone and infections are exceedingly rare. Grayson is aware of that, and he’s giving solid preventative health advice to people in the pet-owning demographic.

Unfortunately calm and reasoned doesn’t draw clicks, so the story is propagating via headlines that conjure images of a cat literally murdering its owner.

It should go without saying that the cat didn’t intend to cause any harm and is incapable of understanding what happened. All she knows is that her human is dead, which she’s certainly distraught about, and it sounds like she’s not getting sympathy or affection from her new humans.

“I was in shock for a good couple of weeks,” the woman’s daughter said. “I’ve tried not to hate the cat … but then I was sitting with it trying to be nice and it lashed out at me as well for no reason.”

With all respect to the grieving, there most certainly is a reason. The cat is grieving too, she’s living with new people in a new situation, and she’s almost certainly scared. It’s an unfortunate situation for all involved.