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Kitty Handling 101


THE BASICS 

These are things every kitten or cat needs to have to thrive successfully in a new environment.

Litter and Litter Box

Tidy Cats works well, but turned out to be a little too dusty for those of us with allergies.  We have recently switched to Arm and Hammer Clump and Seal.  We also like to use a covered litter box, in case the kitties kick up litter.  Click the pictures to visit the websites and see more information on the products.  This is just our personal preference.  I encourage you to shop around, read reviews, and decide which litter will be the best fit for you.

Covered Litter Box   
Arm and Hammer Clump and Seal Cat Litter







Nutrition

We feed the highest-quality, grain-free wet food to our Bengals, supplemented (only partially) with grain-free Turkey and Chicken dry food.  Edit: July 13, 2016: We no longer feed kibble.  We will do the occasional treats from Orijen, PureBites, and Good Lovin'.  When our kittens go home, I provide information to my families about the benefits of a Raw diet.  Keep reading for more information on what a raw diet is all about, lots of great links, as well as a few reputable vendors.  We are also in the process of switching over to Raw, so keep reading! =^..^=

What we are currently doing is weaning and feeding our babies with a combination of Raw and high quality grain-free canned (Lotus, Tiki Cat, Nature's Variety, etc).  Why are we doing this?  To give our families a choice.  Opinions vary so widely in the Cat world.  There are just as many people passionate about Raw as they are about Canned, and each side has their own (good) reasons!  What does one do in a world where pleasing everyone is impossible?  Meet them in the middle, and let the family choose.  By feeding half Raw and half canned, the babies will sustain minimal stomach upset when they are taken home and transitioned to their new diet.  I give my families the best advice and tips I can based on my research and experiences, am always available for questions, and am never too proud to learn something new.

Raw


Raw is a wonderful method of feeding that has been quickly gaining momentum in the cat world for a long time. when done correctly).  For those that do not feel comfortable with or are not ready to venture into the world of Raw feeding, a high quality wet food is the next best thing. 

-A complete Raw Diet mix is generally comprised of muscle meats (heart, dark meat, etc), non-splintering bone (never giving cooked bone, and being mindful of smaller chicken bones), and organs (such as liver, being mindful to include fats), generally in an 80-10-10 ratio, respectively.  A lot of people like to supplement their kitty's diet with added vitamins and minerals, which is great, but you may often find that this supplementation is not always necessary.

"When making cat food yourself: Do it and do it right, or don't do it at all.  It is not difficult to make cat food but do your homework first and do not get 'creative' and start adding/omitting ingredients to/from a balanced recipe." -Dr. Lisa Pierson, D.V.M.

(In reference to the following video, I can't say I agree with ever feeding your pet, canine or feline, an Oreo.  I was once a big fan of them for myself, this is true, but don't give your pets cookies.  Other than that, I think this Vet has some wonderful information to offer.)

Raw Food Diet by Catchlight Studios




Here is one company I have been reading on, and I really like them so far.  Their FAQ section was truly impressive, and really helps take a lot of the murkiness out of Raw Feeding.  I'll post my experiences here for you.

                       https://hare-today.com/raw_food_education


Love these guys, too - Rad Cat Raw Food:  http://www.radfood.com

Fantastic Go-To Post on Bengal Cat Forums: http://www.bengalcatforums.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=15913


Feline Nutrition.Org (excellent info): http://feline-nutrition.org/nutrition/how-to-transition-your-cat-to-a-raw-diet


Alternative Nutrition (this webpage provides interesting information)http://www.knowwhatyoufeed.com/index.html

In addition, here is a wonderful, friendly, and informative group of people on Facebook.  Their group, dubbed C.R.A.P. (COMPLETELY RAW AND PROUD), is dedicated to taking the intimidation out of Raw feeding.  Note: they are based in the U.K., to my understanding, so they may not be able to recommend local meat providers.  If you have an account on Facebook, join them here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CatCrap/

Introducing my Bengals to Raw

I read all the research, I watched all the videos, I listened to Jackson Galaxy going on and on about a species-appropriate diet, and I was ready. I was going to go Raw with my Bengals.  I went out and bought bunches of chicken hearts and livers from my local Farmer's Market, thinking my cats would take to it immediately, and we were on the exciting road to Raw!  When I tried mixing a small amount into their canned food, (as it is generally recommended in transitioning a kitty to anything new), things didn't go as I thought they would. Casanova sniffed it, gave it a skeptical yet polite lick, and looked at me as if to say, "Hey, this may have gone bad.  Just saying."  Aurora wasn't too convinced, either.  I decided to give it a rest for a bit, so as not to turn them off to it altogether, and kept the hearts and livers frozen for later while I thought of how I was going to approach this.  Turns out it would take longer than I thought!  (This may not be everyone's experience - some have no problem at all transitioning their kitties - it just depends on the cat's taste and your presentation.)

I started to think of what to do.  We used to feed human baby food mixed in with canned food for extra protein, but was noticing that everyone kept scratching around their ears, which is a sign that there may be a food allergy.  Needless to say, that was the first thing to go.  I switched to EVO grain free canned food and kibble (for nibbling.)  I started to see them scratching less, and their poop was not smelling as putrid as before.  Based on my research, this was an encouraging improvement.  

Then I turned to the treats, to see how it can be improved there.  All of my Bengals, adults and babies alike, absolutely adore the HALO freeze-dried chicken and beef snacks.  If I let them, they'll eat a whole container in one sitting.    That was the closest to Raw they had ever had, and while I like the fact that they can gnaw on it and clean their teeth in the process.  I did not like the fact that it had carrageenan in it, an additive that enhances taste and texture, but is a known carcinogen.  (It was due to carrageenan that I also switched from Wellness CORE to EVO canned food.) 

Edit: 3/4/16 - EVO also contains carrageenan, and started going with Nature's Variety Instinct brand.  They use Montmorillonite Clay instead as an anti-caking agent.  Nature's Variety does sneak in a fair share of veggies, as do many cat food manufacturers, but their main ingredients are meat-based.  Here is the list of ingredients on the Chicken variety (a major favorite with our kitties - the Rabbit has a very dry texture and was not very popular with my royal court, haha.)   

Chicken, Turkey, Chicken Liver, Chicken Broth, Ground Flaxseed, Montmorillonite Clay, Eggs, Peas, Carrots, Lecithin, Dried Kelp, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Cobalt Proteinate, Potassium Iodide), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Taurine, Choline Chloride, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Artichokes, Cranberries, Pumpkin, Tomato, Blueberries, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Parsley


Following the logic of sticking to the freeze-dried that I know for a fact they like, I purchased a bag of Stella and Chewy's Chick-Chick-Chicken Freeze-Dried dinner, just to see what happened. I wasn't sure about it at first, since there had been a voluntary recall on it and a few other products from this company due to the suspicion of a Listeria contamination.  Frankly, I respect that they would voluntarily recall their products just because they're not 100% sure about something.  Better to be safe than sorry!  Anyway, I had it in my shopping tote by the front door for maybe a few hours, and before I knew it, it had been torn open!  Bengals, being as opinionated and curious as they are, let you know when something is interesting.  I thought, "This is a great sign!"  I'd never been so happy to see something torn up, haha. :)  I did, of course repackage it to retain freshness.

Stella and Chewy's Chick Chick Chicken Freeze Dried Dinner For CatsStella and Chewy's Chick Chick Chicken Freeze Dried Dinner For Cats

All you have to do is add warm water and let it rehydrate for a minute or so, then mix it well (I just use my hands and wash up thoroughly afterward).  It creates a consistency very similar to that of the canned food, which is a major plus for my finicky Monarch, Mister Casanova.


Stella and Chewy's Chick Chick Chicken Freeze Dried Dinner For CatsStella and Chewy's Chick Chick Chicken Freeze Dried Dinner For Cats

I am impressed with how quickly they took to this, and also that it has ground-up bone in it as well as all the necessary things for a species-appropriate diet.  Here is the ingredient list for this one.  Note there is no carrageenan, no rice, no potatoes, no by-products, etc.  The items in yellow are all very good!

Chicken (Ground With Bone),Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Pumpkin Seed, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Phosphate Monobasic, Choline Chloride, Dried Pediococcus Acidilactici Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Longum Fermentation Product, Taurine, Tocopherols (Preservative), Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Riboflavin, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement


Aurora the Bengal Cat eats Raw Food for the First Time!


I could not imagine that Raw food would be this easy.  This I like - this I can do.  

And if I can do it, so can you!



The only caveats with any Raw food:

- I recommend keeping an eye out for recalls.

- Proper Handling is paramount.

- Don't try to make up your own recipe. (More on that soon)



Edit October 13, 2016:  We are going to start our Bengals on Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow's fare.  I will definitely be keeping track of how this goes for the Bengal families on mailing list.  (Sign up for free here!)  Information will also be provided on this page, so if you're not on our list, you'll still be able to access the information here. 
 I love sharing my experiences simply for the sake of learning.  Even without kittens right now, I still learn something new every single day.

We have successfully weaned our Bengals totally off dry food, which is really where you want to start anyway, whether you are feeding Raw or canned, as we have been.  I have been noticing that some of the cans turn out to be "duds" - either it's been dented badly and broken, or for some reason, they simply won't touch it, though this is the only brand we've been using for over a year.  

One thing I know for certain I did wrong the first time around was NOT GIVE ENOUGH TIME for the transition!  Any change made with your cats, whether it's a new brand of litter or food, must be done gradually.  
This transition to fresh Raw will work, because I am expecting this to take awhile.  Keeping smaller portions available using an ice cube tray, and adding a tiny amount (I'm starting with 1/8 teaspoon!) to each meal until they get used to it.


Myths about Raw Feeding 

Excellent Resource for additional information on feeding your Cats (myths are linked at the top right of the page, under Myth Index):  http://rawfed.com/myths/cats.html


Canned Food


The chart found at the following is an extensive and phenomenal resource.  Dr. Lisa Pierson, D.V.M. has truly done a remarkable job with collecting information for cat-loving population.  In the chart below, please find an analysis of hundreds of types of canned cat food.



GOOD CAT FOOD BRANDS 

-Weruva
-Nature's Variety
-Tiki Cat   (Just don't feed too much fish - cats also need taurine in their diet, more commonly found in other meats like chicken, turkey, beef, etc.)
-The Honest Kitchen *

*We tested The Honest Kitchen brand cat food on June 30, 2016.  Visit their page here: http://www.thehonestkitchen.com/prowl


The Honest Kitchen cat food comes in dehydrated turkey and chicken (Grace and Prowl, respectively.)  Some pro tips have said to refrigerate it for a bit after reconstituting to help it reach a canned food consistency.  Big plus that drew me to it: Non-GMO, human grade ingredients.  (We're not getting paid to share this, by the way.  This is all just me sharing what I'm up to for the sake of learning.)  I'll be sure to post how that goes! 

Edit: July 13, 2016 - Pros and Cons on The Honest Kitchen: 

Pros: Human grade, grain-free, real food that's non-GMO.  Can't ask for much more than that, especially in a commercial brand cat food.  Love that!

Cons: The oatmeal-like texture and green color is a bit off-putting at first.  I used up the entire sample packet at once, which proved to be way too much for an introduction.  I followed some of the "pro tips" I had read up on through various online forums, which state to refrigerate the reconstituted food for a few minutes before serving to help improve the consistency for cats that would prefer it a bit firmer rather than with extra liquid.  (King Casanova loves to lick the gravy from his Nature's Variety Instinct canned first, and THEN proceed to the food, haha. Every kitty is different!)

Conclusion: I'd give it a A- personally, simply because of what it looks like.  Other than that, it's good.  As with any new food, when gradually mixed in to the current food, it can be successfully incorporated over time.  I recommend preparing teeny-tiny servings at first (as in one teaspoon at a time), and very gradually mix it in over a few weeks until the transition is complete.  Order a sample packet from their website (It's only something like $3) and see for yourself.  

What's our ultimate goal?  To feed exclusively Raw (Rad Cat I like a lot.) 


LEAST RECOMMENDED CAT FOOD BRANDS

-Prescription Diets  
This link is the most helpful resource I have found on the subject: http://www.catinfo.org/#Prescription/Therapeutic_Diets_
(Please note: every situation is different, and I am not a Vet!  The purpose of this webpage is to create a collection of information for research purposes only.)

-Royal Canin
A lot of people will swear by this brand, but it contains a lot of cheap fillers that do absolutely nothing for the health of your cat (or dog).  Here is the ingredient list for their Spayed/Neutered Cats Plus Appetite Control:

Chicken meal, corn, corn gluten meal, wheat, powdered cellulose, wheat gluten, pea fiber, natural flavors, chicken fat, dried beet pulp, sodium silico aluminate, vegetable oil, grain distillers dried yeast, fish oil, calcium sulfate, potassium chloride, psyllium seed husk, fructooligosaccharides, salt, choline chloride, monosodium phosphate, taurine, DL-methionine, vitamins [DL-alpha tocopherol (source of vitamin E), L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), niacin, biotin, D-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin (vitamin B2), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin A acetate, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement], trace minerals (zinc proteinate, zinc oxide, ferrous sulfate, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite, copper proteinate), L-carnitine, rosemary extract, preserved with natural mixed tocopherols and citric acid. 
- See more at: http://www.royalcanin.ca/index.php/Pet-Store-Products/Cat-Diets/Spayed-Neutered/Spayed-Neutered-Appetite-Control#sthash.WQo4OBK2.dpuf

The items listed above in red are plant-based, which cats cannot digest.  Just something to consider!

-Most of what you find at Wal-Mart, which also has cheap fillers.
Keep in mind, though, that by-products are not ALL bad.  (In the wild, cats eat bones and everything else.)  Here is another extremely helpful link in reference to by-products in cat food: http://www.catinfo.org/?link=cannedfoods#By-products  I know I keep referring to her website, but when it's good information, it's good information! =^..^=

LOVE THESE CAT TREATS!

Good Lovin' Raw Freeze-Dried Chicken Hearts
http://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/good-lovin-raw-freeze-dried-chicken-hearts-cat-treats

Pure Bites Freeze Dried Turkey (or Chicken) 
http://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/purebites-freeze-dried-turkey-breast-cat-treats-5005399--1#


Toys

Bengals go through toys fairly quickly, especially in those crazy play sessions they so love. =^..^= We like Go Cat's Da Bird Toy (major favorite.)


It looks like they're coming out with lots of new goodies, so it's definitely worth checking out.  (Reminder, I am not getting paid to mention them.)

Boxes and brown paper will forever remain the classics.  Can't go wrong there! =^..^=


Safe Resting Place

A safe resting place is so important to a kitty, regardless of breed. They need to feel like they can retreat to a place they won't be disturbed, that they can call their own.  A tall kitty condo works very well for this (preferably near a nice big window!)  Some prefer to hide under the bed or lounge on the couch.  Wherever it may be, be mindful of your kitty's "favorite spot" at all times by keeping foot traffic to a minimum around that area, especially if you're planning on introducing a new kitty or puppy.

Microchipping

While I am quite squeamish at the process of having a chip put into a kitty, I believe it does have some very real benefits.  There is an additional peace of mind knowing that there is some way to trace your baby back to you if, God forbid, he or she is ever lost.  When a Vet's office comes across an animal without an owner, standard procedure is always to check for a microchip first.  I always offer to be placed as an alternate contact should you request a chip for your kitten.  (I would actually prefer to be listed along with you.  I will absolutely not suffer one of my babies ending up in a shelter.)  

This is the link to the company our Vet used previously in implanting microchips: http://www.avidplc.com

Avid Microchip Cats and Dogs  

Our Vet's office recently made the switch to HomeAgain.  (The exact reason why, I'm not certain, but the microchip fee includes registration, which is excellent.)  More information here:

HomeAgain Logo




Vaccines

Less is more in our opinion.  When you start your baby on the FVRCP kitten series, immunity lasts for the life of the kitten, so re-doing it throughout adulthood is not necessary, whether your kitty lives indoors or has access to the outside.  (Note: my cats and kittens are strictly indoors only.)  Rabies should be done according to the law requirements.  PureVax is highly recommended by many, but must be done every year.  On the other hand, the Rabies vaccine from Zoetis can be done every three (after the first year booster, depending on what your region requires).  The less you have to inject into your cat, the better.

Don't do the FIV, FeLV, or FIP vaccines.  FIV and FIP have been proven ineffective and harmful time and time again, just don't do it.  Bengals are not IMMUNE to Feline Leukemia, but the early generations (F1-F4) do not carry the gene that causes it, so the FeLV vaccine is not recommended at all, nor any exposure to the illness, whether early generation or SBT.  Keep things simple - just keep your cat inside!! 



I'd very much like to quote Lisa A. Pierson, D.V.M's views on Vaccinations, as found on her website, www.CatInfo.org.  Please read the following:

Decision-Making Criteria
By Lisa A. Pierson, DVM

www.CatInfo.org

What are some of the factors that influence our decisions regarding which vaccines to use and at what frequency?

I will say at the outset of this discussion that my indoor-only cats (age range is 13-18 years) have not been vaccinated since they were 4-6 months of age. They have never set their paws outside and never will - barring a catastrophic event.

My barn cat (17 years of age) received his last FVRCP vaccine at the age of 5 or 6 months and received a FeLV series at around 6 months of age (before we knew how dangerous adjuvants can be; PureVax was not around at that time), and is vaccinated with PureVax rabies vaccine approximately every 3-4 years.

Please note that I do not administer more FVRCP vaccines to my barn cat than I do to my indoor-only cats. This is because the panleukopenia immunity from the FVRCP vaccine lasts for life in the vast majority of cats and I do not feel that the minimal amount of protection the herpes and calici fraction may provide is worth the downsides of the vaccine. Remember, it is all about risk-benefit analysis and a person's individual comfort zone.

Now, having confessed my cats' minimal vaccine history, I will state that what is 'right' for me and my cats, may not be 'right' for you and your cat(s).

Issues to consider:

  • age of patient risk of exposure to the disease in question

  • prevalence of the disease in the environment

  • consequence of the infection

  • overall health of the patient

  • vaccine efficacy

  • DOI studies (Duration of Immunity) for the vaccine

  • vaccine properties (adjuvanted/non-adjuvanted, etc.)

  • titer testing

  • owner's comfort level

Let's start with the last one - the owner's comfort level.

This certainly does not sound like a very scientific factor but it is an important issue to consider. Given the fact that all foreign substances do have side effects when introduced into any living being, I would be a hypocrite if I did not mention the owner's feelings since my own comfort level is tested anytime I decide to inject anything into the body of my own cats or that of my patients.

Now having said that, we can't throw the baby out with the bathwater and not vaccinate at all otherwise, our cats (and possibly their humans in the case of rabies) may suffer for it.

Now, for the science:

  • Age of the patient: Maternally-acquired immunity is an important concept to understand. When a kitten nurses from his mother, the first milk that she produces (colostrum) is rich with antibodies to fight the various diseases that the mother has been exposed to either naturally from her environment or from any vaccines that she has received prior to giving birth.

(Hopefully all owned cats have been spayed/neutered so as not to contribute to the tremendous overpopulation problem in this world. Therefore, most cats that have given birth are unowned or wild (feral) cats that have not been vaccinated and only carry antibodies to diseases present in their own environment.)

Maternal antibodies acquired by the kitten inhibit his ability to fully respond to a vaccine. These antibodies diminish over time and by 16 weeks of age, are at a low enough level in nearly all kittens to allow their immune system to adequately respond to a vaccine. (Most kittens can respond to a vaccine by 8 weeks of age but we 'pad' it a bit to cover those kittens with longer-lasting maternal antibodies.)

Therefore, the last vaccine in the 'kitten series' should be given when the kitten is at least 16 weeks of age.

Current conventional protocol states that you can start to vaccinate kittens as early as 6 weeks of age but it would be a very rare situation that would cause me to start vaccinating a kitten at such a young age.

I find that most kittens that are presented for vaccination are kept indoors and are well-isolated from disease. If the kitten resides in a protected indoor environment, I feel comfortable starting the vaccine series later than the conventional protocol calls for. This means that I may not start a kitten's vaccines until he is ~9-10 weeks of age, with the second vaccine given at 16 weeks of age.

  • Risk of exposure: Does your cat go outside or is he inside 100% of the time? If he goes outside, is he likely to come in direct contact with other cats? Is your neighborhood heavily populated with outdoor cats? How prevalent is rabies in your area? Etc....

Keep in mind that even though my barn cat is outside and technically has a higher risk of exposure, given the duration of immunity of the panleukopenia vaccine, he is not vaccinated with FVRCP any more frequently than my indoor-only cats.

  • Prevalence of the disease: The most important disease to consider under this heading is rabies; its geographic prevalence varies widely.


  • Consequence of the infection: An infection with herpes or calici is far less serious than an infection with panleukopenia or rabies. Also, keep in mind that the herpes and calici vaccines do not protect the recipient from infection since their efficacy is not as strong as the vaccines for panleukopenia and rabies. Herpes and calici vaccines only lessen the severity of symptoms but will not prevent infection. This is an important fact as it pertains to the risk-benefit analysis. (The risk of sarcoma, kidney inflammation, etc., outweigh the small, if any, benefit of frequent re-vaccination.) 


  • Health of the patient: Vaccines are to be administered only to healthy patients.

  • Previous vaccine reactions: All past vaccine reactions - no matter how minor - must be taken into consideration when making future vaccine decisions. Under most circumstances, I will not re-vaccinate a patient that has had an allergic reaction since the next time may bring on a more serious reaction.

  • Vaccine efficacy: Vaccines vary in their ability to confer strong immunity within the patient. Some vaccines, such as the FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) vaccine are not very effective at stimulating immunity in the recipient. In addition to this issue, the FIV vaccine is a killed product which means it contains an adjuvant. Therefore, it should not be administered to any cat, in my strong opinion, due to the risk of VAS.

As noted above, Herpes and calici vaccines are also lacking in the ability to induce complete protection. At best, they will only reduce the severity of some symptoms but will not prevent infection with these viruses and will not protect the recipient from all symptoms of disease. The risks of repeated vaccination outweigh the benefits in most situations.

  • Duration of immunity (DOI): The duration of immunity (how long a vaccine protects the recipient) varies with each disease/vaccine and, of course, with each patient. However, one vaccine that we do have strong data for is the panleukopenia vaccine which is a very good thing considering how contagious this fatal disease is.

From two different studies, we know that the panleukopenia vaccine confers immunity for at least 7.5 years (the study was stopped at that point) and most immunologists feel that the vaccine lasts for life in the vast majority of cats. If a cat falls into the rare category of not being protected for life, it is thought that this cat is a 'non-responder' and may fail to respond even if further panleukopenia vaccines were given.

All that said, panleukopenia is a nasty disease and if I had a cat that was going to be exposed to, for example, foster cats and that cat had not been vaccinated for panleukopenia within the previous 8-10 years, I would consider re-vaccinating. Or, better yet, do not allow the cat to be exposed to other cats of unknown vaccination/infection status.

  • Vaccine properties: As I have stated many times, I do not use an adjuvanted vaccines.

  • Titers: Note that titer testing is only done for panleukopenia and rabies (for international shipping) and not for herpes and calici.

Think of the immune system as a 'gun' and antibodies as 'bullets' for the gun. A titer measures the amount of antibodies for a specific disease that are currently circulating in the blood stream of the body. This sounds like a great test but the information we get from titer testing is only part of a much bigger picture.

Notice that I emphasized the word "current" in the paragraph above. This is because of 'memory cells' which are cells in the body that titer testing cannot measure. Memory cells are primed by a previous natural exposure or vaccination to a pathogen (virus, bacteria, fungus, etc.) and are ready to quickly (within hours) produce more antibodies the moment the body is exposed to the invader again. These cells do not produce antibodies - and therefore, do not contribute to the titer level - until the body is attacked by the pathogen.

Antibodies are not the only type of 'bullet' that the immune system uses. There is another type of 'ammunition' called cell mediated immunity (CMI) which is a very important arm of the immune system that, unfortunately, we cannot measure with any commercially available test - including a titer test.

Given the above, it is obvious that titer testing has some severe limitations when being used to assess the status of a patient's immune system. If a titer is low, that does not necessarily mean that the patient is unprotected. If he has a lot of memory cells standing by waiting, he is considered to be well-protected against diseases that are best eliminated with a quick antibody response.

So when may titer testing be helpful?

As discussed above, two examples are:

1) to decide if you want to give the 1-year booster after the last kitten vaccine

2) to decide if you want to vaccinate an altered adult cat that came to you with an unknown vaccine history

If an UNaltered stray cat ends up on your doorstep, chances are that he or she has not been vaccinated - and should receive a vaccine now.

Titer interpretation:

If a cat shows any titer at all, this means that he has either been vaccinated in the past (and responded to that vaccine) or he has been naturally exposed to the disease.

According to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Vaccine Guidelines Group (WSAVA-VGG), a positive test result would lead to the conclusion that revaccination is not required.

Note that a low (versus high) titer does not necessarily mean the cat is unprotected since memory cells and cell mediated immunity are, in all probability, present in full-force. This is very important to understand because the advent of titer-testing has led to unnecessary revaccination of many patients just because they came up low on their titer test.

A negative titer means that the cat may, or may not be, protected. The WSAVA-VGG recommends vaccinating these cats while acknowledging that these patients may be fully protected and not need to be vaccinated. They are, understandably, taking a 'better safe than sorry' approach since panleukopenia is such a serious disease.

If a cat with a negative titer is subsequently vaccinated (with a properly manufactured and handled vaccine) and has his titer re-checked with another negative result, this patient would fall into the 'non-responder' category and should not be vaccinated again.

I wish that I could tell you that there are a straight-forward, clear-cut answers for all decisions involving the vaccination of our cats but there are simply too many variables involved to make this a reality.

As noted above, please understand that I cannot offer any advice via email. If you wish to discuss your personal situation, I am available for phone consultations.

In closing, I would like to see less money being spent on over-vaccination of our cats and more money being spent on dental health care which will be the subject of my next webpage.

Preview:  Please consider brushing your cat's teeth since it is the very best way to maintain their dental health.

And please do not subject your cat to anesthesia-free dental cleanings which provide very little benefit since the problems are under the gum line and these 'awake' cleanings only serve to stress your cat and your pocketbook for very little, if any, benefit.

(No cat is going to let a human probe and clean under their gum line.)

These anesthetic-free cleanings simply result in is a false sense of security leading the cat owner to believe that they have adequately addressed their cat's dental needs.



Dental Care


Getting your cat or kitten accustomed to having their teeth brushed will help maintain their oral health, and the best part, will help you avoid having to get a cleaning (which generally requires sedation and can be a risky experience despite it being a fairly common practice.)  We're also testing out an oral gel that doesn't require brushing from TropiClean.  Click the picture to visit their page.  Edit: July 10, 2015 - I wasn't crazy about this product, and neither were my Bengals.  I prefer to use a small, soft toothbrush to clean their teeth when needed.


Dental Care For Cats

Based on my ongoing research, a Raw diet that includes bones is the best way to clean your pet's teeth.  Dry food and treats, contrary to popular belief, do almost nothing to help clean your pet's teeth.


Claw Care and Scratching Posts

A cat's claws "molt" or shed once every few months. When you start seeing these babies lying around the house, your cat is undergoing a natural process in which the claw has grown beyond the supply of blood, and as a result, they all begin to shed, revealing a fresh layer underneath.  Claws are made of keratin, exactly like our own fingernails.  

Cat clawShed Cat Claw

Scratching is a natural instinct all cats have, as it helps to wear down their claws, and is at times an outlet for anxiety during times of stress.  Even if your home is very peaceful and uneventful, a good, sturdy scratching post is a must-have for your indoor kitty.  (If it has a perch, put it near a window!)

Our kittens are taught from a very early age to use a scratching post, and it is very strongly encouraged of all our families to provide one at home as well.  Think of it like this:  You like to dry your hands on a towel (or at least a paper towel) after you wash your hands, don't you?  Don't you hate it when there is nothing there, and you're left with dripping wet hands?  What's the first thing you do?  Smear them all over your jeans.  It's not the ideal thing, but it's good enough to get the job done.  This is what happens when a kitty needs to scratch, but there is nothing around.  Furniture may get hit, or other objects on which scratching is undesirable.  Make it easy on yourself and on your kitty - get a scratching post if you don't already have one.  A spritz of catnip spray on it will attract kitty to the post.  If needed, teach him/her to use it by either gently putting their paw on it, demonstrating with your own hands, or if you think he/she won't be mad at you for too long, pick him up and put him right on it so he's hanging on.


Your kitty's nails should be trimmed once every 1-2 weeks.  This helps keep you from getting nicked, and also prevents kitty from getting caught on things and potentially hurting himself.

Our policy is DO NOT EVER EVER EVER DECLAW A CAT OR KITTEN.  

EVER.

How to trim your cat's claws with a human nail clipper: http://www.cat-world.com.au/how-to-trim-your-cats-claws

Information on the anatomy of a cat's paw and claw:  http://www.catster.com/lifestyle/facts-cat-anatomy-claws

Spay and Neuter

(Webmaster's Note: Written March 31, 2015)

It is so imperative to have your pet (whether it is a puppy or a kitten) spayed or neutered at the appropriate time.  I cannot stress it enough. 

I just lost my Lucy, a beautiful and sweet Yorkshire Terrier.  She was with us for over 8 wonderful years, where she brought a lot of joy, company, comfort, laughs, and now tears as we remember our fur baby during this difficult time.   She had not been spayed, which led to mammary tumors over time.  The fault lay with us simply not knowing any better, thinking she would be just fine being left intact without breeding.  By the time I had become a part of the Bengal world and learned this valuable information, it was already too late.  My dear friend died today during surgery to try and remove the tumors.  

This video was shot by me when she was just a puppy.  She was my kid.  We'll always love you, Lucy.

This was my kid, Lucy. Rest in peace, love.



Anyone who has lost a beloved pet understands this grief, and I ask that you help spread the word to those that don't know.  

Getting your pet altered will save his/her life.  

This is why I will not give anyone TICA papers for their kitten until I receive proof of alter from your Vet.  It is literally a matter of life and death.


In reference to our Bengal Kittens
We prefer to wait until 6-8 months of age to avoid developmental complications, but having it done is IMPERATIVE if you are not a registered and responsible breeder. With intact, non-breeding males, you run the risk of testicular cancers developing over time. With intact, non-breeding females, you risk ovarian cysts and/or mammary cancers.  Just do it. Don't contribute to the problem of abandoned cats in shelters.  If don't feel that a particular home or situation is a good match, then I do not process the adoption.  Nothing personal - it is in the cat's best interest.

If you won't listen to me, at least do it for Bob Barker.

Troubleshooting your Cat

An insider's look at feline quirks to help you decipher what your crazy cat is doing.

Behavioral Issues

Bengals are high-energy, demanding creatures that just want to be with you.  They bond with their new human parent for life.  You are now Mommy, Daddy, brother, and sister.  You are their world!

It's all about the INPUT!


To put it simply: with any cat, whether it is a Bengal or not, you get back what you put in.  You spend good, solid quality time with your cat (undivided attention - no phones, no iPads), and he will respond in a happy and positive way!  On the other hand; garbage in, garbage out.  You only give him the time of day when he's in trouble, and he will make sure he repeats that one undesirable action that gets your ATTENTION.  Cats are highly intelligent, but they are not malicious.  We as humans project our own emotions and thoughts onto these creatures, which is not only incorrect, it is grossly unfair to the cat/kitten.  There is ALWAYS a reason for what is going on.  ALWAYS.  Here are some examples:

"Going" outside the litter box

Powerful products to help you with litter box issues (click the pictures to visit their website in a separate window): 
Dr. Elsey Litter Attract
   Comfort Zone Pheromone Spray
  Zero Odor Pet Spray

Litter box problems can have a lot of reasons behind it, and I'll list some of them below. 


The Litter box is full.  How often do you flush your own toilet? That's how often you should be scooping your cat's litter box for best results, not only odor-wise, but it is much more hygienic!

Territorial marking (a.k.a. spraying). If your kitty has come of age and is beginning to urinate in unusual places (near doors and windows, as an example), it is likely that there is an aggravant or stimulant present in the environment.  This can be another intact cat in the home of the opposite sex, or even an outside cat that is either calling for a mate, secreting pheromones to attract a mate, or competing for territory.  Intact females can spray, too!  Getting your fur baby spayed or neutered just before they reach maturity (6-8 months of age) will help a lot.  There is a small chance that they might still spray after being altered, at which point the best thing to do is try your best to narrow down and remove the aggravants as much as possible.  Zero Odor and Comfort Zone have been life-savers for me.  No, I'm not getting a kickback for mentioning them. (Though it would be nice, haha!)

The Ghosts of Poopies Past.  If you are living in a home or apartment that had previous tenants, there is a possibility your kitty may be using that powerful little nose to detect places where other animals have relieved themselves, and may figure that this spot is a good place to go for them, too.  Whether they decide to do it because they want to cover up the old smell with their own and claim their new territory, or whether they are just confused, pooping or peeing outside the litter box can still happen even if you've cleaned the area with a disinfectant.  This is because traces of the old smell still remain for them, especially if you're dealing with carpet.  I highly recommend using Zero Odor for this.  It eliminates smells completely, helping prevent a recurrence in going in that same spot again.  Also, sprinkle some Litter Attract by Dr. Elsey into the litter box, and it will be difficult for your cat to ignore the signs pointing in the right direction.  Punishing a cat doesn't work, so try to understand their thought process and work with them on positive terms - it will work out much better.  

Switching from one brand of Kitty Litter to another?  So you found an awesome new kitty litter that is a great value, and will work well.  Unfortunately, your cat seems confused by it, and is going everywhere BUT his new litter.  The main reason for this is likely that the change may have been too abrupt.  Switching from one litter to another is best done gradually, especially if the change is drastic, such as going from standard litter to pine.  Start by pouring only a tiny bit of the new litter into your cat's current box.  Every time the level goes down and the box needs more Litter, add a little bit more of the new.  The kitty won't mind that kind of a subtle change.  Keep doing this until your cat is comfortable using only the new litter.  Don't rush it!  If you want, you can then empty out and scrub the box if you need to, but don't do it until your kitty has fully transitioned and has been using it at least 2-3 weeks.  Cats don't always do well with sudden major changes - this also goes for switching food brands, as well as a new home environment.  Making it a gradual, stress-free, and positive experience should always be your goal while transitioning a kitty to anything new.

Did you buy a weird litter box?  Or, is the litter box in a weird place?  If your kitty can't find his bathroom, he's very likely to have an accident.  Pick one spot (or several, depending on the size of your home), and establish them as permanent areas for litter boxes.  Make sure your kitty knows where they all are, and can access them easily from anywhere in the house.  A good rule of thumb is to put one litter box in each human bathroom.  Also, if your kitty is accustomed to a classic scoopable litter box, don't suddenly change it to a modern-looking box with a confusing top entry, or one with an electronic motor that will make noise and scare the day lights out of the poor thing.  Keep it simple, trust me.


Are they trying to get your attention?  If your kitty only gets attention when he's in trouble, he may continue to do that which he knows will get your attention.  If that means peeing on your bed, he'll do it.  Please realize: it's not malicious, and he doesn't understand the concept of "being in trouble." Cats, though highly intelligent, are not going to "prank" or "spite" you.  They have basic instincts and emotions that are nowhere near as complex as a human's thought process.  We as humans unfairly project our own complex emotions and thoughts onto them.  Whether they are getting good attention or bad, it is simply attention that they are craving from you because they love you.  Good steps to resolving this is setting up a consistent and vigorous play session every day, and giving them extra love and attention when they are being GOOD for positive reinforcement.  This is especially true of Bengals.  Don't expect them to blend in with the furniture, as so many people say.  Don't wait until they get upset before paying them attention, or it will result in heartache for you both.

If it is none of these, then consult your vet.  Your feline friend may be experiencing urinary tract problems, likely due to not getting enough water, combined with a diet exclusively comprised of dry food.  Install a pet water fountain if you don't have one, and if you are not feeding at least one meal of wet food every day on a consistent schedule, start immediately.  If it looks like they just can't help it and the waste is coming out all over place, go to the vet immediately.


Other Unusual Behaviors


Chewing on cables

 
Go Cat Stick Toy
Computer Cables Example

See any notable differences between a kitty stick toy and a cable?  Neither does the cat.  Don't mess with it in front of them, and if they do, use a toy to lure them out of the room and shut the door.  Once you are alone with the cables, hide them or move them around as necessary, and then let  the cat back in, playing with him some more to divert his attention.









Knocking things off your dresser


The most likely reason is simply to get your attention. Ask yourself these questions:

Is it playtime?
Is it dinnertime?
Is there a bug on your dresser, or something new or unusual?

Bengals are very energetic, and highly curious.  That's just part of who they are.  They can also get into things as a way of getting our attention.  As I mentioned before, cats do not have any malice, so they don't know the difference between good attention and bad attention.  They just know "attention."  If someone cut off our tongues and we lost the ability to speak, how would we try to get someone's attention?  Making noise.  Waving our arms around.  Getting up in their face.  This is what Bengals do.  To get it, they treat you like an ATM machine.  How?  By guessing which "code" to press that gets your attention.  Imagine them thinking, "Meowing doesn't work?  Ok.  Let's try batting at the curtains.  Still nothing?  Let's try knocking over pill bottles.  Hmmm.  That kind of worked, but not quite."  

One way to keep this at bay is to have at least 1-2 vigorous play sessions a day.  Work them around your schedule so that it can be consistent and he can learn to expect it.  Play with him until he is completely worn out using a laser, stick toy, or anything else he likes.   After a good 15-30 minutes of intense and focused play, he'll flop over on his side and try to catch his breath.  This will help him stop getting into things.  You'll still need to kitty-proof, but it'll help things drastically and help reduce the tension.  At the end of the day, your Bengal just loves you and want to be with you.

When you walk into the room, your Kitten or Cat starts to eat or use the scratching post:

He or she is just happy to see you! =^..^=

The Dangers of a Stressful Environment

Stress is a killer in every way.  Calm your spirit.  If you are at peace, they will be, too.  Not pretending to be calm.  Not having one eye on the cat and another on the phone or TV.  (I tell you this because I'm the first one that deals with breaking both of these bad habits.)  If you're experiencing behavioral issues with your cat, Bengal or not, there is a reason for it, guaranteed, and that reason is very often a stressor.  (Something out of the ordinary that is causing your cat to feel defensive, afraid, or threatened.)  Whatever it is, the stressor must be identified and removed in order for everyone to live comfortably and peaceably. 

Attacking you or other pets OR he is just not acting like himself


If your cat is exhibiting aggression in any way, it behooves you to try and pinpoint WHY.  There is always a reason for what animals do, and negative behaviors can almost always be traced back to a stressor.  Honestly, folks, it can't be emphasized enough, and it is worth the effort to try to find out what it is and correct the problem for the sake of your beloved cat or kitten.  

Here is a suggested checklist to use when trying to figure out what the problem is:

1 - Stop and think for a minute.  What has changed?
If you live in an apartment complex - have new neighbors moved in with pets?  This can definitely cause a reaction in your kitty, depending on his or her personality.  

1a. Has your cat been fixed?  If not, has he or she reached maturity? 
If you cat is intact (has not been spayed or neutered), there may be a new intact cat out there that may be stimulating them to want to breed.  Behaviors can include but are not limited to: spraying/marking territory (males and females alike), restlessness, trying to escape, seeming to want to attack other cats they see through the window, etc.    

1b. Have you brought in any new pets?  
Your cat may feel like he is being replaced, and that his territory is being invaded.  Suggested course of action in this case is to immediately put the new pet in a quarantined area such as a bathroom with plenty of food, water, a comfortable place to sleep, and the ability use the bathroom.  Use positive reinforcement with your original cat to remind him that he is still "number one" to you, and that this is still his house.  Jackson Galaxy often talks about how a cat needs to feel like he owns something, so if you find you've accidentally taken away his territory, be sure to give it back!  Use lots of treats, praise, love, and patience on both sides.  Blankets are a great way to gradually integrate the two animals' scents, and once they start getting curious and wanting to meet each other through the door, gauge it carefully and see how they respond to one another.  The important thing is not to rush things.  They will eventually come around, even if it takes 1 day or 3 months.  Don't give up!
 
2 - Check his or her butt. 
Sounds weird, but believe me, just look if they'll let you.  They may have a hair stuck in there!  I have long hair, and they do sometimes accidentally ingest one despite my constant vacuuming and cleaning up.  Hair apparently does not digest, so it just comes right out the other side!  If you need help, have someone else hold the kitty (if needed, gently but firmly scruff the back of his or her neck) and just calmly take care of the issue.  If it is a hair, just grasp the end of the hair and carefully pull it out.  Your cat will not like this, but if you're calm, it will help things SO much.  Make sure to wash your hands throughly afterward.

3 - Is your kitty in pain?
You never know if a kitty demonstrating aggression may be acting defensively out of pain or discomfort.  If they'll let you, feel their bodies, paws, stomach, tail.  Do they seem to be wincing at all?  Look in their ears.  Check their stool for any irregularities, which includes but is not limited to: worms (you can sometimes see them moving around in the stool), blood, watery diarrhea, foreign objects they may have swallowed, etc.) 

4 - If you're still not sure why he/she's behaving this way, take your kitty to the Vet.  
Take as much information as you possibly can to your Vet.  Don't stress the cat any further.
 

The Difference Between a Love Bite and a Real Bite


Love Bite
A love bite is very gentle and is not intended to break the skin. It is usually seen in males, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a female do it.  When you are petting and loving on your kitty and they're just totally loving it, they may get a little overexcited and nip you.  They may also try to bunny kick you.  They do the same thing to catnip toys they love, and to their siblings when they are babies.  This shouldn't be mistaken for an attack.  When you've got a full grown cat with talon-sized claws acting like an overgrown kitten, it does look funny.  Just pay attention to their body language - their ears, their tail, their eyes.  An anxious or stressed cat will usually have very dilated pupils, their ears will start to lean backward, and you'll see their tail whipping about.  If your cat is not doing any of these, don't worry about it too much, as he's most likely just playing with you. 


Real Bite
A real bite means business, and they often do break the skin.  This can also apply to scratches when you're carrying a cat that prefers to be put down on the floor.  If you know you're getting on your cat's nerves on purpose and get bitten or scratched, that's on you.  You know what you're doing, and the cat will generally bite you gently at first to set a boundary with you.  If you continuously disrespect that boundary, he may bite you harder, figuring you're not understanding.  Or you are just genuinely making him angry.  You wouldn't want someone purposely getting on your nerves, so be nice to your cat.  Watch his or her tail.  An anxious cat has that tail twitching and lashing back and forth pretty hard.  If you see your cat's tail doing this, combined with the ears laid back, just give him some space to settle down.  Come back some time later and have a vigorous play session with him or her to help get rid of that excess energy that's been built up.  If you've got a Mommy with babies, avoid stepping on one by mistake - this is a very quick way to experience a very real bite if you have not established a strong bond of trust with her.

To summarize:  Let your cat know he's loved by respecting his space.  If he or she asks not to be carried, just put them down!  Do it gently and slowly, allowing them to walk out of your arms.  They will feel like they have a degree of control over the situation, and won't get as anxious.



Additional Information from Jackson Galaxy


For the BEST resource on learning about cat behavior and psychology, watch My Cat From Hell with Jackson Galaxy.  Watch the sample clip below:



Body Language by Jackson Galaxy



External Influences 

Fleas

How to take care of a flea infestation. 

The key words here are: THOROUGH ERADICATION.  TOTAL ANNIHILATION.  FLEA EXORCISM. ULTIMATE PURGING.  Seeing the pattern here?  If you don't achieve this, you will have a recurrence.  

Not exaggerating - this is very similar to what baking soda does to a flea.


Simple steps toward victory over fleas:

1. Treat your pet (canine or feline) with a good flea treatment.  We like Revolution drops on the back of the neck, as it also protects against other parasites (heartworms, etc.)  This will kill adult fleas and i believe the larva as well. DO NOT USE ON BABIES (as in young kittens or puppies).  YOU CAN KILL THEM.  PLEASE FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE BOX AND NOTE WEIGHT LIMITS PER DOSE.

2. Engulf all carpet, fabrics, and scratching posts with baking soda for desiccation of adult fleas (add salt too if you want - it will stick to the flea better) - then vacuum like it is going out of style. You may need to do this several times to fully eliminate a flea infestation.

3. Do the same thing to your car.  

4. Wash all your clothes in hot water where possible.  Opportunistic fleas can and definitely will latch onto your clothes and hitch a ride.  Be wary in pet shops, dog parks, and groomers, where people take their pets regularly.


(Also being updated, please stay tuned.)


Internal Influences

Coccidiosis

(This is a parasitic organism that lives in the intestinal tract and is generally passed in stools. It is very easy for young kittens to be exposed to this, as they are not only learning how to use the litter box, they are notorious butt-lickers. What happens is that when a kitty steps in poop and licks his paw, the oocysts (eggs) are ingested and reintroduced, completing the life cycle of the Coccidia, which will cause diarrhea. If left untreated, the kitten can get dehydrated, lose weight, and if it is still not addressed, the baby can even die. There is a very simple solution to this, which is to keep the litter box and surrounding areas clean. If you are away at work and your cats are filling up the box, I would strongly recommend placing an extra litter box in your home for them to use, and keep 2-3 inches of clean litter available at all times.)

Giardia (more on this soon)


(Did I miss something, or do you have an experience to share? Contact me, I'd love to hear from you!)
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