Sunday, June 20, 2010


Helpful Buckeye received several e-mails after last week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats from readers asking whether cats also suffered some of the same allergic problems seen in dogs related to their food.  The answer is, of course, yes...and that topic will be addressed further down the page.  As an additional benefit for our cat-owning readers, Helpful Buckeye is including several other discussions involving cats since they have been a bit under-represented in recent issues.

All three of our poll questions last week ended up being 50% yes and 50 % no for the questions of a pet being treated for cancer, a dog ever diagnosed with a food allergy, and ever owning a greyhound.  Be sure to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.


Many of our readers may recall the very unfortunate puppy in Greensboro, NC that was beaten and then set on fire last summer.  The puppy went on to make a surprising recovery but the amount of media attention to the case revealed that current state law only provided for a punishment of probation for the offender.  Since then, the North Carolina legislature has restructured the law to provide for a much more strict penalty for the same has become known as Susie's Law.  Read more about the new penalty at:


Last week, we presented an account of some food-related allergies in dogs that were addressed by a clinical nutritionist/canine allergy specialist.  Well, cats can also be affected by a similar problem.  Some of the circumstances might be a little different from dogs but readers will recognize many comparable features as well.

Paw Nation provides this interview with a veterinary cat specialist at Cornell University:

One day your cat is minding her own business, sleeping peacefully atop the laundry basket or terrorizing the dog. The next, it's scratching like mad. Fleas are an obvious suspect, but not the only one. Food allergy is "quite common in cats," Christine Bellezza, a veterinarian and the co-director of the Feline Health Center at Cornell University, tells Paw Nation.

Itching is the number-one symptom of food allergies, especially around the face, paws and ears, according to Other signs include ear infections, hair loss, and small bumps on the skin. Less commonly, food allergies can also upset a cat's stomach, causing diarrhea or vomiting, says Bellezza.

A food allergy can strike cats of any age, though they're rare in very young kittens, according to Bellezza. "Usually they develop an allergy to a food that they've been eating for a long period of time," she says.

And that food can be just about anything. "What we see most commonly are allergies to fish, beef, dairy products, wheat, corn, and soy," Bellezza tells Paw Nation. According to, beef, dairy products and wheat account for two-thirds of all cat food allergies.

Diagnosing food allergies can be tricky. Allergic reactions to fleas trigger similar symptoms. "By far, flea allergies are much more common," Bellezza says. Other infections such as ringworm and mites also cause itchiness. Even medical conditions like urinary tract problems can cause cats to lick and itch at their backsides. But if you and your vet can rule out fleas and other conditions, food allergies are a reasonable suspect.

If you and your veterinarian suspect a food allergy, the next step will probably be a food elimination trial. You'll feed your allergic cat a food containing a brand-new protein source and a brand-new carbohydrate source that it's never eaten before. A duck-and-peas combo is a common choice, says Bellezza. "You're trying to find something new." Because allergies develop over time, she adds, "They won't be allergic to something they've never had before."

Unfortunately, changing the diet isn't a quick fix. It can take 10 weeks for allergies to subside after a cat starts a new diet. During that time, you have to be vigilant to make sure the cat doesn't swallow anything else, i.e. no treats, no table scraps, no mice. Making matters worse, commercial diets may contain preservatives or food colorings to which some cats develop allergies. "So it's not always simple to do a food trial," says Bellezza.

But it's worth the effort to help your furry family member become itch-free and feel like itself again. Once the offending food has been identified, avoiding it is the best medicine. Sometimes, cats will also develop underlying infections from scratching repeatedly. If that happens to your cat, it might need antibiotics to clear up the infection, says Bellezza.

Ultimately, she adds, consulting with your vet is the most important thing you can do for your itchy cat. "Instead of wasting time [with a food trial] and prolonging the cat's suffering, it's best to go to the veterinarian and run some tests," Bellezza adds. "Because the signs for all these skin disease are so similar, it's really important to get a diagnosis first."


1) The American Veterinary Medical Association produced this podcast for all cat owners.  The topic is: Help Your Cat Live All 9 Lives:

2) Paw Nation has interviewed a breeder of Persian cats about the nature of matted hair and some of the problems associated with matted cat hair.  Even some of our dog-owning readers with long haired dogs might find some helpful hints from this interview:

Cats are meticulous creatures but that doesn't mean your pet can't use help in keeping up its coat. Certain long haired breeds -- such as the Persian, Himalayan, Maine coon, for example -- are especially vulnerable to mats and need to be groomed daily. If you fall behind, your cat can develop knots in its fur that not only detract from the animal's natural beauty but can also be painful to the cat.

The Right Grooming Tools Make a Difference

According to B.J. Fox, a prominent breeder of Persians and Himalayans in Greenbriar, Ark., one should use a professional steel comb on long matted hair, not a brush. Fox, who worked for many years as a pet groomer, prefers using a 7.5" steel fine/medium comb. A different grade may be better suited to your cat's coat.
Combing Techniques

As a pioneering breeder of chocolate and lilac Persians, Fox has seen her share of mats in her cats' hair. She offers this tip: "The end tines of the comb will be your friend if you use them properly. Start at the end of the hair shaft at the mat and hold the base of the mat so that it does not pull the skin of the kitty. Gently use the end tine of the comb to separate the mat and dislodge it so that you can begin to work it loose, little by little, until you can get to the skin."

Fox adds, "Don't grab your kitty and comb from top to bottom, because it will hurt her." Begin by using a wide-tooth comb and then graduate down to the wide end of the fine/medium comb.
For cases in which a cat's hair is badly matted, Fox advises pet owners use a wide-tooth comb to remove as many mats as possible, paying close attention to areas behind the ears, under the front "armpits" and between the back legs. "Once you have dislodged the worst matted hair with the wide-teeth," says Fox, "then bathe the cat. While the soapsuds are on the cat, use your comb, starting at the rump area of the body and work forward. The soap acts as a lubricant." Whatever you do, don't wet the cat when there are still big knots because the water will only make them worse.

When Combing Is Not Enough

If you are dealing with severe mats, Fox recommends using peanut butter or butter on the fur as a last resort. She says, "If your cat will not allow you to finish, that's okay. The peanut butter or butter still tastes good to her and acts just like a hairball remedy. Even better, it is a natural conditioner to the coat and can later be shampooed away with a degreaser."

If after trying these methods, your cat's coat still seems hopeless, it is time to go to a professional groomer. There is a chance, that the cat will have to be shaved, but fur grows back quickly, says Fox. The full or partial shaving will give you a "fresh start at proper grooming."


Rather than present specific products this week, Helpful Buckeye has this interesting concept to offer.  Think of it not so much as a statement about particular products but rather as "Home Makeovers To Meow About"....

Go to:

There are a lot of pictures and some very descriptive text covering ideas for a home makeover that would please a lot of cats!


1) Clay Thompson writes a daily column for the Arizona Republic in which he answers questions from readers.  This past week he addressed the problem of dogs howling when they hear emergency sirens:

My dog will howl when she hears a fire or police siren. Does this hurt her ears?

No, it doesn't, even though a lot of people believe that. Your dog is just getting in touch with its ancestral roots.

Wolves and coyotes howl as a means of communication. They howl to locate other members of the pack or to announce a kill and so on.

To your dog, the siren sounds like a distant howl, even if you don't hear it like that. So it begins howling to let the other howler know it's there. And pretty soon other dogs in the neighborhood join in and they all howl away until they get bored and things quiet down.

And some dogs howl if they are left alone a long time because they're lonesome.

To enjoy more of Clay, go to: 
2) Steve Wilson has a "dirty" job and he has found some "dirty" money.  Wilson, a worker with the St. Louis firm DoodyCalls Pet Waste Removal, was cleaning up after a dog when he spotted what appeared to be a bit of half-digested U.S. currency "sticking out."  Read about what he found and what he did with it: 
3) A recent study at a hospital in Vancouver seems to indicate that households with dogs are more likely to have children develop asthma than those households with cats.  For the rest of the story, go to: 

The article closes with these questions: What do you think? Is having a dog worth the possibility of increasing your child's risk of asthma? Even slightly?

4) A dog by the name of Bentley has shown up on the Arizona primary ballot for August 24th.  Read about Bentley's candidacy at: (it's in the last part of the article)

The LA Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in 7 games to win the NBA title for 2010.  The series was a struggle for both teams and became a defensive battle in the later games.

The LA Dodgers did lose all 3 games vs. the LA Angels last weekend, then took 2 of 3 from Cincinnati, before going into Boston to lose 2 in a row to the Red Sox.  This stumble has put us back into second place in our division.


Desperado and Helpful Buckeye experienced our first earthquake in southern California this past week.  It turned out to be a 5.7 Richter scale earthquake that was not destructive but...we'll always remember the hotel room wall looking like it was made of elastic!

Then, we got back home to Flagstaff on Thursday and today, Saturday, we came very close to having to evacuate from our home due to a rapidly-moving wildfire.  Right now, it looks like the fire is not moving toward us anymore, but that could easily change if the wind picks back up.

Robbie, a reader from Denver, sent an e-mail asking if I rode in the World Naked Bike Ride last Saturday.  Robbie, the long answer is "Why would I want to do that?" and the short answer is "I didn't know anything about it."  Read more about that event at:

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye would like to leave you with this photo of the sunset we sat through on the beach at San Clemente, CA on our 41st anniversary:

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

1 comment:

  1. I love cats; I'm allergic to them. Really allergic. And, as I've gotten older, it's the only allergy that has gotten worse with age. I always wanted to own a calico cat....sigh