Friday, May 23, 2008

Could Your Cat have Fatty Liver Disease?

You may never have heard of Feline Fatty Liver Disease -- but if you don't heed the tell-tale signs, it could cost you your cat's life!

What's Feline Fatty Liver Disease?

If your cat ever loses her appetite or stops eating altogether, you better take her to a vet fast! When a cat stops eating for an extended period of time – say, about 2 weeks – she may die from a condition called fatty liver disease. That’s when fat accumulates within the liver cells.

The medical term for this condition is feline hepatic lipidosis.

Signs of Fatty Liver Disease

You should suspect hepatic lipidosis if your cat refuses to eat, loses weight, acts lethargic, and vomits. You might also notice that the whites of the eyes look yellow from bile pigments.

Bile is a yellowish green digestive fluid secreted by the liver. If the liver isn’t functioning well, the bile won’t get broken down properly.

Causes of Fatty Liver Disease

In humans, fatty liver disease can be caused by excessive drinking. Needless to say, this is never the case with cats. (Don’t ever give your cat any alcoholic drink – you could kill her!)

Vets don’t really know what causes this condition, but cats that fail to eat for an extended period of time, for whatever reason, are at the highest risk.

Cats can stop eating for a lot of different reasons. She might be ill or too stressed out to eat. So it’s a good idea to pay attention whenever your cat loses her interest in food. You’ve got to make sure that the cat is eating.

I didn’t, and I’ve lived to regret it. When my late cat Saki stopped eating, I was so wrapped up in my work that I barely noticed. When I finally noticed, I wasn’t overly concerned.

Saki was a tad overweight (ah, but she had green eyes to die for!), and fat-phobic that I am, I figured she could stand to lose a little weight.

Little did I know that in cats, unlike humans, losing weight from partial – or even worse, total – fasting is dangerous even if it’s only for a relatively short period of time. Apparently, cats metabolize fats and proteins differently than humans.

When a human or cat stops eating, the body starts using its own fat cells for fuel. As you know, for humans, this is the whole point of dieting.

With cats, however, the liver isn’t terribly efficient at processing fat. Most of the fat is stored in the liver cells, and so eventually the liver fails and the cat dies. Not good.

So when Mittens wouldn't eat, I really feared for her life. Until I took over the care of Mittens, my friend's cat, I had never even heard about hepatic lipidosis.

Mittens had been wheezing for some six months. At the time, the vets had no idea what was wrong. They suspected nasal cancer.

When I took Mittens home with me, she was so scrawny she looked like a concentration camp inmate. The resemblance was even more striking because one of her forelegs had been shaved – that’s where the vet had inserted a catheter when they were testing her.

Coaxing Your Cat to Eat

In addition to getting prescription appetite stimulants for her, I tried everything in the books to coax her to eat:

Warmed up canned food (Since I don’t have a microwave, I heated up the can in hot water. Alternatively, I added some hot water to the food and stirred it into a form of gruel.)

Got some of the stinkiest, smelliest food on the market (Mittens was most likely not eating because she couldn’t smell anything.)

Tried dried bonito (tuna) flakes (Many cats love them. Saki used to go ga-ga over them. But it turns out that Mittens is rather indifferent to fish.)

Minced sardines (See above.)

Canned tuna (See above. Caution: Tuna isn’t generally recommended for cats, but when a cat isn’t eating, the most important thing is to get her to eat something, anything.)

Offered canned pumpkin (It’s loaded with vitamins and fiber. Most cats love the taste.)

Human baby food (Plain chicken, turkey, beef. Made sure it didn’t contain onions – they are poisonous to cats.)

Here are a few other things to try to resurrect your cat’s interest in food:

Watered-down chicken broth (with no sodium added)

Clam juice (Add it to the cat’s regular food as flavor enhancer.)

Tuna Dash (Dried powdered tuna)

To entice Mittens to eat, I’d put the food right under her nose – but I don’t think that she was able to smell it even then. I also smeared some food right on her nose and on her lips – sometimes on her paws – so that she would have to lick them. I spoon-fed her too, and she would eat a little then. But it wasn’t nearly enough to sustain her.

The strange thing was that Mittens acted as if she were hungry. She’d smack her lips, and go over to her food bowl – even stick her face in the bowl – and yet she wouldn’t eat.

Escaping the Jaws of Death

I consulted the vet. By this time the results of Mittens’ biopsy were in. She had fungal infection, not cancer!

The vet immediately took her off prednisone, which she suspected was giving Mittens ulcers. In addition to medication to treat her fungal infection, she was also given medicine to treat the ulcers.

In less than a week, Mittens was eating again! We didn’t have to resort to force feeding her or putting tubes in her stomach – that’s something we would’ve had to do as a last resort.

“Great job. I am so very pleased,” the vet beamed at her last check-up. “She’s twice the cat she was before.”

Indeed, we now have a pair of Mittens. Some cat she is.

And what about you? Have you ever brought a cat back from the brink of death? Or coaxed a reluctant cat to eat? Please share any stories you might have.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Animal Shelter in Japan

As I have years of experience living and working in Japan, people sometimes ask me what they might do when they visit Japan.

What I would recommend for starters is to visit an animal rescue shelter in Japan. Like ARK, acronym for Animal Rescue Kansai (the western region of Japan). ARK is in the hills of Toyono, Osaka. Even if you don’t speak any Japanese, if you can catch the founder, Elizabeth Oliver, you’ll be able to communicate with her in English. She is, after all, British.

Yes, rather unusual for a Brit to move to Japan and start a shelter for animals but that’s what happened. Elizabeth used to rescue animals on her own. She started ARK in 1990 to get more people involved in rescuing stray, abandoned and abused animals. She also needed to raise money so that she could continue dedicating her life to animals.

ARK became officially recognized as an NPO (Non-Profit Organization) in September 1999. Its goal is to form a network of people who love animals, want to share their lives with them, and work actively to rescue animals from suffering. ARK rehabilitates animals and finds loving homes for them.

After the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, Elizabeth saved 600 dogs. She is also proactive in prosecution.

According to their website, ARK currently houses dogs, cats, rabbits, a pig, a chicken, a chinchilla, a guinea pig and a hedgehog.

You can see cute pics of dogs and cats waiting for adoption. Like Sow, an orange and white tabby (a stunner!) and Ron, a long-hair brown tabby (If I were in Japan, I’d adopt him on the spot!).

To give you a sample of the kind of bios they have of their animals, here’s a little bio of a white cat, copied from ARK:

“No, I don’t have big ears and a long trunk like Dumbo the elephant. I was named Dumbo because I was abandoned in a “danboo-ru” which means a cardboard box in Japanese! I love food and people. I often show off my tummy and I love to be petted! I would make a nice addition to your family! Definitely I would make a much better pet than an elephant would!”

If you can’t go to Osaka, you can visit ARK in Tokyo. Its primary purpose is to educate people about animal welfare. ARK doesn’t yet have a large shelter operating in Tokyo, but they are looking for people to join their foster program.

So if you’re going to be living in Japan temporarily, and miss having pets, you might consider volunteering as a foster parent for dogs or cats while they are waiting for permanent homes.

Even if you have no plans to go to Japan, you can visit their website – it’s bilingual in English and Japanese. It offers some information about dog and cat health, and an archive of bilingual newsletters.

Or, check out “Angels with Fur Japan,” their blog about pets and animals in Japan:

To contact ARK, email tokyoark[at] or, in Kansai, call 072-737-0712. In Tokyo, call 080-6146-3889 (English) or 080-6517-8913 (Japanese).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Jellicle Cats?

I still find it hard to believe that T. S. Eliot, the poet who penned the line “April is the cruelest month” wrote whimsical poems about jellicle cats and practical cats and what-not-cats. Here are a few lines from Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (also quoted in a previous post):

Practical cats, dramatical cats
Pragmatical cats, fanatical cats
Oratorical cats, delphioracle cats
Skeptical cats, dispeptical cats
Romantical cats, pedantical cats
Critical cats, parasitical cats
Allegorical cats, metaphorical cats
Statistical cats and mystical cats
Political cats, hypocritical cats
Clerical cats, hysterical cats
Cynical cats, rabbinical cats

So, as I mentioned before, I’ve been musing about what sort of kitty category Mittens, the chocolate point bi-color Siamese living in my apartment, might fall into.

Mittens certainly isn’t practical or pragmatic, and she’s definitely not dramatic or fanatic (except maybe about food). She doesn’t meow enough to be considered oratorical, and I doubt that she’ll go to Delphi any time soon. Well, she does seem to orate a bit when she’s hungry.

Now, my late cat Saki was definitely an orator. She had a great vocal range and could meow for hours, expounding on the virtues of value-added meals and extra layers of padding around feline bellies.

Mittens, on the other hand, is more of a mime. She excels at making her point by sitting forlornly by her empty food bowls with her head drooped.

I must say that she is rather good at predicting her feeding time so in that sense she might be an oracle. Oh wait, she doesn’t actually predict—she creates her own time-table for meal times.

Mittens may be a bit skeptical, but not dyspeptic—she’s not particularly morose. She’s definitely not romantic, pedantic, critical, or parasitic -- except in the sense that she gets fed and gets all her needs taken care of without lifting a paw.

She’s shown absolutely no interest in politics -- doesn’t give a hoot about Obama, Clinton or McCain. As long as she gets her food (her current favorite is chicken with herring Wellness cans) and her treats (freeze-dried chicken meat), she doesn’t care whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican in office. (Note: Mittens has recently been re-named Muttonchops.)

Similarly, the only religion she’s interested in is being religiously fed. Like all cats, Mittens is utterly self-serving. But at least she’s not cynical about anything and she’s never been guilty of manipulating stats so she doesn’t qualify as a statistical cat.

But she does seem to enjoy dipping her paws into allegories and metaphors without getting too far into mysticism.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cats, the Musical

Cats is an award-winning musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. The show has been performed around the world in numerous productions and has been translated into more than 20 languages.[1]

Went to see Cats, the musical. I’ve never seen it before. Even though it was off Broadway it was still highly entertaining. No wonder it played a total of 7,485 performances in New York. Cats was first shown in London on May 11, 1981 at the New London Theatre.

The musical was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber (he also composed The Phantom of the Opera, which I think is the longest running musical in Broadway history).

As most everyone knows, the musical was based on a slim book of poetry by T.S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. I somehow find it hard to reconcile the poet who wrote “The Wasteland” with the one who wrote these funny verses about cats. I can only marvel. I love his poetry.

Now, I’m left with the task of deciding which of the following feline categories Mittens, the chocolate point bi-color Siamese living in my apartment, falls into -- as cat-egorized by Eliot:

Practical cats, dramatical cats
Pragmatical cats, fanatical cats
Oratorical cats, delphioracle cats
Skeptical cats, dispeptical cats
Romantical cats, pedantical cats
Critical cats, parasitical cats
Allegorical cats, metaphorical cats
Statistical cats and mystical cats
Political cats, hypocritical cats
Clerical cats, hysterical cats
Cynical cats, rabbinical cats

What might your cat be? What do you think most describes your cat?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Finding the G-spot in Your Cat

Some cats have a little “sweet” spot at the base of their tail that they love to have scratched or thumped. You might call it the cat’s “g-spot.” Judging from their behavior, I’d say that it stimulates the pleasure center in their brain. Whether the feeling is sexual or not is anyone’s guess. It’s hard to figure out what another human being is thinking, let alone a creature of another species, especially one that seems to display an array of baffling behaviors the way cats do.

Do cat lovers have an opinion about this subject? One friend assures me that the feline enjoyment of spanking is very much related to sex. That’s what her vet told her, she says. Besides, she once noticed that Carlton, her cat, had “a huge erection” from getting thumped on the rump (or “tom-tomming,” as my friend calls it). Carlton is very demanding about getting tom-tommed. He insists on it daily, regularly, several times a day—well, almost around the clock. Gets downright ornery if he doesn't get a piece of action, so to speak.

Suffice it to say that Carlton goes nuts when tom-tommed. And it doesn't seem to matter whether the cat has nuts or not. Carlton has been neutered. Mittens, my cat on loan, is female as well as being spayed. So neither gender nor whether the cat has been spayed or neutered makes any difference.

I’m not sure why male cats would find butt-whacking (or tom-tomming, or whatever you might call it) so pleasurable. With female cats, I can sort of see why they might have an instinctual predilection for pelvic presentations. It’s what females in heat do. For instance, the posture Mittens assumes is exactly that of a receptive cat waiting to be mounted. The difference is that although her tail is raised high, she doesn’t hold it to the side of the body (which is what the female does to accommodate entry by the male cat’s penis). She also doesn’t tread rhythmically with her rear legs. (I suppose I can be thankful for that.)

Enough about g-spots and cats’ mating behavior. I’m not trying to turn this into a kitty porn site!

Just for good measure, here’s another video of a cat getting spanked. No doubt about it -- cats are strange creatures.

Spanking the Cat 2

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Cat Spanking

Why do some cats like to be spanked?

I've been disabused of the notion that Mittens is a sweet, innocent girl. Even though lab analysis has certified her to be a "good girl" (the official conclusion reached by her vet from examining her cells under the microscope), she is actually a lascivious, drug-addicted, sex-crazed feline. This morning she had me butt whack her by the scratching post -- so that she could nibble on cat nip and rub her face against the tall scratching post by the bed while I whacked her. The scratching post has been treated with cat nip, and the top acts like a serving dish where you can put little snacks on it. Occasionally, I leave out cat nip there for Mittens.

"Butt whacking" is the technical term my friend John uses to describe the act of gently spanking Mittens on the base of her tail. The only reason that I know that Mittens wants to be whacked on the rump is because Pixie, her owner, told me so. And because Mittens proffers me her butt -- ever so elegantly and eloquently. She crouches down with her head down, forelegs bent, and her tail and derriere raised high to fully expose—well, let’s just say that it’s not a view that should be seen in polite company.

So anyway Mittens assumes that posture until I oblige by whacking her rhythmically right at the base of her tail. While getting spanked, she face marks the bed, the desk, books, newspapers -- anything that's near her face. All the while, she purrs and purrs and purrs. Amazing. What a kinky little kit.

The other day I was on a call with a client via Skype when Mittens suddenly landed on my computer keyboard and mooned the webcam. Luckily, the other party had just stepped away—otherwise, there might have been some misunderstanding as to what message I was trying to send!

I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that Mittens is far from the only cat to enjoy a little butt whacking. I've now talked to other cat owners whose cats have a predilection for butt proffering. Here's a video of one cat who evidently enjoys getting smacked in the rump with a paddle!

Friday, May 9, 2008

If You're Happy -- Vibrate Your Tail!

More emergency. Couldn't post for a few days, but from now on I'm going to be more consistent.

Thankfully, Mittens is a healthy kitty now. The vet was very impressed, said that we’ve got ourselves a whole new cat. Well, maybe the equivalent of 2 new cats! She looked gaunt and emaciated like a concentration camp victim. The shaved patch on her foreleg – where they inserted the catheter – heightened that impression. You’d almost expect to see a number tattooed there.

Now Mittens looks sleek and happy. She’s gained 1.6 pounds, representing a 25% increase in weight.

Several months ago I started noticing something peculiar. Mittens' tail was vibrating! At first I thought that I’d just imagined it. But then she started to vibrate her tail regularly, almost every day, and I realized that I wasn’t seeing things. My first thought was that perhaps she was spraying. A quivering tail is one of the signs of a cat that’s about to spray urine. Cats spray to mark their territory. It’s more common with male cats but females can engage in spraying behavior too.

It’s evident though, from Mittens body language that she’s not trying to practice spray painting. Every time she vibrates, she sticks her tail straight up while gazing into my face, arching her back, and emitting meows that, to my ears, sound most decidedly happy. She shimmies her tail near her empty food bowls, like an entreaty of some sort. As well as right before she's about to eat, as if she's saying grace. At times she does a quick tail burr after she’s eaten her fill and when she sees me enter the room. Like a vibro-greeting.

I asked around to see why a cat might vibrate her tail. Most people, even long-term cat-lovers, said they had no idea—they’d never seen a cat vibrate her tail in the way that Mittens does. After more digging around, I discovered that I was right, whenever Mittens burred her tail, she was expressing excitement and joy! According to experts, a cat’s tail will vibrate when she’s happily anticipating something desirable, like a treat. Some cats may also quiver their tail when they’re excited but uncertain of a situation. Apparently, it’s a way to release pent-up energy! Maybe the way kids whoop and jump for joy?

Cats have different styles of vibrating their tail. One cat might quiver the tip of her tail while another might just shimmy the base of his tail really fast—like Mittens does.

But don’t confuse the vibro-tail with a tail slashing from side to side. That’s a sign of irritation or annoyance.

Anyway, next time your cat vibrates her tail when she sees you, take that as a compliment!