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

What’s That Cat?

Scratch the surface of four uncommon cat breeds

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

A few years ago, I was in Laguna Beach, California, when I saw a spotted cat being walked on a leash. The cat was a Savannah, and his person (we all know cats have staff, not owners, right?) walked him frequently in the park. He was distinctive enough that my own veterinarian recognized him when I posted a photo; the cat was one of his patients.

Most cats don’t get walked in public, so the only time we see unusual cat breeds is in the media, at cat shows or occasionally at the veterinary clinic. All cats are fascinating and beautiful in their own way, but it’s fun to see some of the different varieties developed to have a particular look or that were the result of a spontaneous natural mutation and then developed as a breed. Here are four you may never have encountered in real life.

-- The Savannah is one of several spotted breeds designed to have the look of a wild cat and that was developed by crossing a small African wildcat, the serval, with domestic cats, including Siamese. Savannahs are active, intelligent, confident and curious: the epitome of a feline. People who live with them must be prepared to match their intelligence against that of their cats -- and it’s not always the human who will win. Savannahs like a lot of interaction, and they will play jokes on you. They’re also among the cats who enjoy playing in water, walking on a leash and learning tricks -- the better to train you themselves.

-- You’re probably familiar with the sphynx -- the best-known of the hairless cats thanks to Ted Nude-gent, who starred as Mr. Bigglesworth in the Austin Powers movies -- but have you met the Peterbald? With a coat that ranges in texture from complete hairlessness to peach fuzz to plush velvet to bristlelike, they’re everything you always wanted in a cat, with no shedding and no need for frequent bathing, says Brigitte Cowell Moyne of San Francisco, who lives with both a Savannah (Baz) and a Peterbald (Teo). In the show ring, Teo is a supreme grand champion, but at home he’s the champion of Moyne’s young daughter Lola’s heart. Peterbalds, which descend from hairless cats found in Russia and crossed with Oriental shorthairs, are active but not excessively so. Moyne says Teo is amazingly gentle with Lola and with her son, Felix. Playful and affectionate, this is a cat who demands plenty of interaction and won’t settle for anything less.

-- Speaking of Oriental shorthairs, they are another seldom-seen breed. Talkative and intelligent, the slinky cats with the large, batlike ears enjoy carrying on conversations with their people, sitting on laps and shoulders, and sleeping under the covers. Developed through crosses between Siamese and other breeds, Oriental shorthairs have a reputation for being manually dexterous -- good at opening doors and cabinets -- learning tricks and playing fetch. Their short, low-shedding coat comes in so many different colors and patterns that they are nicknamed “ornamentals,” but don’t expect them to sit around posing. With their curiosity and intelligence, they are sure to be getting into one thing or another throughout the day. Orientals also come in a longhaired variety.

-- Some cats are distinguished by their unusual coat types, and Cornish rexes fall into that category. They have a short, soft, wavy coat that’s the result of a natural mutation. They acquired the name “rex” from their resemblance to a rex rabbit, and they are Cornish rexes because the first one appeared in Cornwall in the 1950s. Other characteristics are an egg-shaped head, large ears and unusually long hind legs. Cornish rexes are well-known for their attention-getting antics and playful, outgoing nature.

Q&A

How often

should dogs eat?

Q: How often should I feed my puppy? And when she grows up, is it better to feed her once or twice a day?

A: When puppies stop nursing and start eating on their own, the breeder usually gives them four small meals a day. Their little tummies can only take in so much food at a time, after all. By the time they go to their new homes, when they are 8 to 12 weeks old, they are usually eating three meals a day to fuel growth. Take the amount the puppy should receive for the day and divide it by three to determine how much to give at each meal. Eventually, your puppy’s gargantuan appetite will start to decrease. You may notice that she picks at one of her meals or starts to leave food behind. That’s a good time to cut back to two meals daily and adjust amounts.

Feeding measured amounts at set times instead of leaving food out helps establish pee and poop schedules in puppyhood and ensures that dogs don’t overeat. One thing I like to recommend is measuring the appropriate amount of food and placing it in a dispensing toy so dogs have to “hunt” for their meals. This engages their brain and encourages physical activity. If you want to feed only once a day, this is a good way to do it.

A related question is when to stop feeding puppy food and start feeding adult food. The answer depends on the breed. Large- and giant-breed dogs should grow slowly. They’re best eating a puppy food developed to promote slow growth. Smaller dogs who enjoy eating and have a tendency to become roly-poly may do better switching to adult food at an early age, often before they are 6 months old. -- Dr. Marty Becker

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

THE BUZZ

What to know

about pet pain

-- If your pet of any species isn’t interested in eating, doesn’t enjoy being touched or petted anymore, and no longer spends time with the family, they might be in pain. September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, shared with Pain Awareness Month for humans. Pets can experience pain from arthritis, cancer, dental disease, infection or illness, injury, and as a result of surgery. Acute pain -- such as from a broken leg -- is obvious, but chronic pain may be subtle, sneaking up over a period of weeks or months. If you think your pet is in pain, talk to your veterinarian about ways to manage or treat it. They include medication, massage, rehab, acupuncture and laser therapy.

-- The English language has many words and phrases related to dogs. One you may remember your mother saying is that you’re “in the doghouse” -- presumably for not finishing chores or homework. A phrase we don’t hear so often is “my dogs are barking” -- meaning that the speaker’s feet hurt. The use of “dogs” to refer to feet is explained in the Oxford English Dictionary as originating with Cockney rhyming slang, in which “dog’s meat” equaled “feet.” And in ancient Rome, the hottest days of summer -- which seem to be occurring right now -- were known as “dog days” because of the belief that the ascendancy at that time of year of Canis Major, the “greater dog” constellation, added to the heat.

-- A common behavior problem in birds is feather-picking. If your bird is pulling out feathers, it’s a sign something is wrong. He may have a health problem, be uncomfortable from low humidity in your home, bored from lack of interaction or toys, experiencing a phobia or seeking your attention. Talk to your veterinarian about ways to solve the problem. -- 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.