Pet Connection

Kitten Fever

This delightful ailment can be treated by adopting one of the furry darlings at a local shelter, but a pedigreed kitten is also an option

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Every kitten is adorable, but some people look for breeds with a certain look, size, personality, activity level or other desirable trait. From Abyssinians to Turkish vans, there’s a pedigreed cat to suit anyone’s feline desires.

Not everyone starts out looking for a particular breed. Sometimes their choice of cat is a happy accident. That was the case with Ramona Marek of Portland, Oregon, who began looking for a new kitten after the death of her 15-year-old Maine coon-mix. Marek’s previous cats had been found -- in a ditch, on the side of an expressway, in an apartment complex laundry room. But this time, she and her husband searched several local shelters and rescue organizations, as well as Petfinder, with no luck.

“The kittens we were interested in had either been adopted or were on hold,” Marek says. “We went to a cat show in hopes of finding a kitten for adoption, since shelters often have a space at the shows.”

She didn’t find a kitten, but she did learn about cat breeds that matched the traits she was looking for: longhaired, social, affectionate. They included Maine coons, Norwegian forest cats and Siberians. With no shelter kitten available yet, Marek located a Siberian breeder who had a litter of 6-week-old silver tabby kittens, to be available when they were 12 weeks old. They put down a deposit but continued looking for a kitten to adopt. None turned up, and a month later, they went home with their little prince, Tsarevich Ivan, who still rules 13 years later.

Some people seek out cat breeds with reputations for being hypoallergenic, such as Siberians, Cornish rexes and sphynx. No cat is truly free of allergens, which are found not just on skin but also in saliva and urine. Individual cats may produce less of the proteins that trigger allergies than others, so spend lots of time with several different cats to make sure you’re comfortable around them before acquiring one.

Cats such as Persians are often in demand for their beautiful appearance and gentle nature. If there is such a thing as a couch potato cat, the Persian is it. The beautiful longhaired cats have a drawback, though: They shed. A lot. They also require daily grooming. Cat lovers who like the Persian personality but not the time required to comb them may choose an exotic, a shorthaired variety. Another consideration: Some Persians have a flat face, which can cause them to have breathing difficulties. Avoid cats with extreme characteristics.

Want an active, mischievous cat who might enjoy an adventurous lifestyle? Consider an Abyssinian, but know what you’re getting into. The cats are highly intelligent and can run you ragged as you try to stay one step ahead of them.

Any cat, pedigreed or not, can experience health problems, but some pedigreed breeds may be prone to specific diseases or conditions, ranging from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy to periodontal disease.

“Be educated about potential health issues,” says veterinary cardiologist Sarah Miller, DVM, who lives with a pair of Maine coons. “Make sure the breeder is screening for the health problems that are inherent in the breed and that the breeder is breeding responsibly in order to keep these problems out of their lines.”

Buy from a breeder who puts the cat’s health and welfare foremost. That includes being willing to take the cat back at any point if you’re unable to keep him. Buying from a breeder has other advantages. Think full-time “tech support” from an expert. A reputable breeder will always be there to answer questions about behavior or development.

Before acquiring a pedigreed kitten, learn as much as possible about the breed by talking to breeders and other owners about activity level, health concerns and grooming requirements.

“Look at the kittens and both parents, if possible, and ask many questions,” Marek says. “For me, the experience was positive, educational and rewarding on many levels.”

Q&A

Why dogs think

we’re worth a lick

Q: My dog is constantly licking me. She likes to lick my legs, my hands, my face -- any place she can get to. Why do dogs do this?

A: Dogs do love to lick us, for lots of different reasons. One is that our skin is salty. If we’ve been perspiring, we taste even better, so you may notice that your dog loves to lick you even more in the summertime. I’m not sure why, but the scent or taste of lotion or sunscreen also seems to encourage dogs to lick. And dogs just love the scent of us -- stinky feet and all.

Another reason dogs love to lick us is because we give them attention when they do. Whether we laugh at the tickling sensation or push them away because we don’t want them to ingest sunscreen or that medicated gel we just applied, it makes them happy because we’ve taken notice of them and petted or spoken to them. In a dog’s world, not much is better than that.

The one thing that might be better for a dog is getting a treat, and licking us can be a way of saying, “Hey, over here! How about a bite of what you’re having?” Pups lick mom in hopes of a meal, and maybe grown dogs hope it will work on us, too.

Dogs also get a physiological “feel good” sensation from licking. The action releases hormones called endorphins that serve a stress-relieving function and help the dog feel comfortable or contented.

One fascinating reason dogs may lick humans is because they detect a health problem such as low blood sugar. In a survey of 212 dog owners with Type 1 diabetes, 49.2 percent said their dogs licked them when they were experiencing dangerously low blood sugar levels. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

THE BUZZ

Cat writers group names

best books at banquet

-- The Cat Writers Association honored five books as the best of the best at its 24th annual awards banquet in Houston onJune 9. Winning the fiction category was "Cat Shining Bright" by Shirley Rousseau Murphy, author of the popular Joe Grey cat mystery series. The gift book winner was "Black Cats Tell All: True Tales and Inspiring Images," a collection of heartfelt stories about “house panthers” by Layla Morgan Wilde. Austen Redinger’s coloring book "Caring for Your Kitty" won the children’s category. "Cat Haiku" by V.S. Pittman won the poetry category. The President’s Award, honoring the best entry out of all categories, went to Sandy Lerner’s "Caticons: 4,000 Years of Art Imitating Cats," a collection of images, prose and poetry celebrating cats.

-- United Airlines will no longer transport certain dog and cat breeds in cargo, the company announced last month. The 44 dog breeds and four cat breeds include affenpinschers, Boston terriers, boxers, Brussels griffons, bulldogs, Chinese Shar-Pei, Lhasa apsos, mastiffs, Pekingese, pugs, Shih Tzu, Staffordshire bull terriers, Tibetan spaniels and, on the cat side, Burmese, exotics, Himalayans and Persians. Because of high temperatures, no pets will be accepted in cargo between May 1 and Sept. 30 to or from Las Vegas; Palm Springs, California; Phoenix; or Tucson, Arizona.

-- Cats have amazing auditory anatomy. With 32 muscles in the pinna, or outer ear, they can twitch their ears any which way -- forward, backward and to the side -- capturing even the slightest noises. Sound waves travel through the ear canal to the eardrum in the middle ear. The eardrum vibrates in response to the sound waves, and those vibrations are transmitted by the auditory ossicles -- three tiny bones known as the hammer, anvil and stirrup -- into the inner ear. There, nerve endings in the cochlea, the organ of hearing, pass the vibrations on to the brain, which translates them into sounds. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton, Mikkel Becker

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

More like Pet Connection