Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Trivial Purr-suit

How much do you know about cats? Here are 9 fun and fascinating feline facts

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

We love learning new things about pets, and we’re always collecting cool bits of information about them. This week we thought we’d share some “cat-tastic” history, geography, breed lore and more with you.

-- Cats were domesticated -- as domesticated as cats can be, anyway -- probably 7,500 to 10,000 years ago, most likely in the Mediterranean region. From there, cats spread throughout the world, prized for their ability to protect crops and grain stores from mice, rats and other vermin.

-- We’ve all heard the story that in Egypt, cats were worshipped as gods, and to this day they have never forgotten it. Cats were associated with three Egyptian goddesses. Mafdet, portrayed as a cat or panther, offered protection against venomous animals and was known as “Slayer of Serpents.” Bast -- also known as Bubastis -- represented fertility and motherhood. Lion-headed Sekhmet symbolized the sun and bore the title “Lady of Slaughter.” It’s easy to see how each of these personifications arose from feline behavior.

-- The Persian is thought to be the oldest recognized cat breed, and Persians have been used to develop several other breeds.

-- We’ve all heard of a “litter” of kittens, but did you know that there are several other collective terms for cats? There’s a kindle of kittens, a pounce of kittens, a clowder of cats. Veterinarian and author Grace Elliot blogged in 2014 that she preferred “an independence of cats,” adding that the Harley Manuscript, dating to the 15th century, refers to a “glorying” of cats.

-- The world’s cats are divided into groups from four distinct areas: Asia, the Mediterranean basin, Western Europe and East Africa. One is the adventurous Abyssinian cat, hailing from Indian Ocean coastal areas. It’s likely that this energetic and fun-loving cat came to Europe by ship in the 19th century.

-- No one knows exactly when cats first came to the New World, but it was surely by ship. Genetic evidence shows that American cats consistently group with cats from Western Europe, suggesting that North American cats descend from cats brought to the New World by European settlers. They may have arrived with Viking explorers; sailed the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria with Columbus; or accompanied Spanish colonizers. We know that at least one cat was on the Mayflower with the pilgrims, because although nameless, she is mentioned in ship records. The first known written mention of cats in New England dates to 1634.

-- The largest number of kittens ever born to a domestic cat was 19. According to Guinness World Records, a Burmese-Siamese cat in the United Kingdom delivered 19 kittens on Aug. 7, 1970. Four were stillborn, but the remaining 15 must have been more than a handful for mama cat and her people.

-- Bengal cats originated as a cross between Asian leopard cats -- small wildcats weighing 5 to 12 pounds -- and domestic cats, but today’s Bengals are domestic all the way, with no wild blood.

-- We’ll leave you with a feline fashion factoid: A cat whose coat is any color or pattern combined with any amount of white -- as little as a single spot -- is said to be bicolor (sometimes referred to as piebald), and the variations are numerous. Cats who are mostly white with random splashes of color are described as magpie. Van cats have splashes of color between the ears and color on the tail. Mask and mantle? That’s not a cat in costume but one with color on top of the head and on the upper half of the body with white below. And of course there is the classic tuxedo cat, with white belly and paws.

Q&A

Human pain

meds for pets?

Q: My pet is a little achy from arthritis. Is it OK to give her aspirin?

A: Back in the day, veterinarians might sometimes recommend giving an arthritic pet a small dose of aspirin. But that was a long time ago, and now we have a number of pain medications, nutraceuticals and other ways of managing pain that are much better suited to the needs of our dogs and cats.

But why can’t you just give aspirin if that’s what you have on hand? For the skinny, I asked my colleague, pet pain expert Michael Petty, DVM.

While aspirin might seem to help with pet pain, it can cause problems in both dogs and cats and should not be given. One of those problems is stomach ulcers.

“Stomach ulcers are the largest concern we have, and should your pet get an ulcer, it may cost thousands of dollars to treat this life-threatening concern,” Dr. Petty says. “One dog study using an endoscope to look at the stomach lining after aspirin administration showed that there was inflammation present just one hour after a single dose of aspirin. Another study showed that aspirin given to dogs actually hastened the degradation of cartilage.” In other words, it may have helped with the pain initially, but in the long run, it made the pain worse.

Instead of giving aspirin, talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to manage your pet’s pain. Losing weight can be a start. Just relieving the pressure on those joints can do a lot for a pet’s well-being.

Dogs and cats can benefit from injections of a joint supplement called Adequan. Acupuncture, cold laser, hydrotherapy and massage are other options. And there are pet-specific non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications your veterinarian can prescribe to help relieve arthritis pain.-- Dr. Marty Becker

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

THE BUZZ

Dogs aid at-risk

black-footed ferrets

-- Camas, Finny, Jax, Lily, Rio, Tule and Utah are working dogs in South Dakota, Wyoming and Arizona. Their job? They are conservation detection dogs trained by Working Dogs for Conservation to seek out highly endangered black-footed ferrets. The solitary and nocturnal predators are difficult to find since they spend much of their time underground, either sleeping or hunting prey. Along with camera traps, radio collars and spotlighting, the dogs are an important part of tracking, monitoring and counting the elusive members of the weasel family so they can be better understood and managed.

-- Want a reptile but don’t love the idea of feeding insects or pinky mice? A blue-tongued skink might be the lizard of your dreams. The omnivores thrive on a combination of veggies and greens, protein, and fruit. A good ratio for each meal is 50% veggies/greens, 40% protein and 10% fruit. Types of protein you can feed include high-quality dry or canned dog food, hard-boiled eggs, boiled chicken and lean cooked ground turkey or beef. Fruits and veggies you can feed include collard and turnip greens, squash, peas, carrots, mango, strawberries and cantaloupe. Vary what you feed, and give a vitamin/calcium supplement to ensure a balanced, well-rounded diet.

-- Old pets or those with health problems are among the most vulnerable in shelters, but so-called “fospice” -- a mashup of foster and hospice -- programs help them make a soft landing in a home for what may be the last few weeks, months or sometimes years of their lives. At Kentucky Humane Society, a fospice program has given 13 animals with terminal illnesses or limited life expectancies a new family life for as long as they need it. Similar programs are available in New York City; San Francisco; Oak Ridge, New Jersey; and Austin, Texas. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and 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, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets 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.