These rodents are found in a wide range of habitats, from northern Europe in a broad band across much of Asia, apart from the southeastern corner. Twenty-four species are known but, as in the gerbils, only one – the Golden, or Syrian, Hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) – has become popular as a pet throughout the world.
The Golden, or Syrian, Hamster
The Golden Hamster was first discovered in 1839 and, forty years later, live specimens were brought to England from Syria by James Skene, who had been serving there in the diplomatic service. This group seems to have thrived for thirty years, with the final progeny dying in 1910.
Subsequently, there seems to have been none of these rodents in captivity until April, 1930. Indeed, it was suggested that the species was extinct, until Dr. Israel Aharoni discovered a nest of Syrian Hamsters on Mount Appo in Syria. The young hamsters were transferred to the Hebrew University at Jerusalem. The breeding program was not entirely successful at first, since four of the eight hamsters escaped, and then a female died as a result of a fight with the only surviving male. From this unpromising beginning, however, the male mated successfully with both the other females and, within a year, three hundred and sixty-four offspring had been reared.
Some of the progeny were sent to Dr. Edward Hindle in England and, possibly via breeding stock at the London Zoo, Golden Hamsters became available to the pet-owning public. It was not until the start of the Second World War that these hamsters were seen alive in North America. It is amazing to reflect that all such hamsters kept throughout the world today are believed to be the direct descendants from that nest found on Mount Appo more than half a century ago.
An unusual and often disconcerting habit of hamsters is their ability to hibernate if environmental conditions are unfavorable. This is a natural trait, which to some extent is now less apparent in domesticated stock. The hamster’s body temperature falls from the normal level of about 37 C (98.7 F) to a little above the environmental temperature. The respiratory rate is barely one breath a minute, whereas under normal circumstances the figure reaches up to one hundred or more. Since the heart beat can also be as low as four contractions per minute, compared with five hundred per minute in the active animal, to the casual observer a hibernating hamster appears dead. A fall in temperature, coupled with declining periods of light, will trigger hamsters to enter this torpid state.
Clearly, in a room in the home heated during cold weather, such behavior is less likely to occur. To encourage a hibernating hamster to wake from its sleep, transfer it to a warm position where it can awake gradually. A temperature in excess of 20 C (68 F) is ideal. Gradually the hamster’s breathing will become apparent, and its body will warm up as blood flow to the skin increases. If you discover a hamster apparently dead in the nest, treat it in this way to establish whether or not it has simply entered a torpid state.
Other factors also influence a hamster’s readiness to enter a state of dormancy. These include the provision of a very deep layer of bedding material and, significantly, an opportunity for the hamster to store food. Hoarding behavior is quite natural, with food being taken back in the cheek pouches and stored in the nest.
Cat owners dread the thought of having to bath their friendly felines. Most cats hate water and can become rather scary when doused with it. While there are a few cats that seem to love water, bathing one that doesn’t is not as hard as it seems. Bathing your cat can be easy if you have a little know-how and the right tools. Here are some tips to make it less stressful and some shampoos that work well.
Choosing the right shampoo can be tricky. Shampoo and conditioners used by people tend to dry out your cat’s hair and skin. Mild ingredients, like oatmeal, work well for pets. Check ingredient labels to make sure you shampoo designed for optimal bathing results. Here’s a few that are veterinarian approved with good reviews.
- Four Paws Magic Coat Cat Tearless Shampoo – water-based with aloe and lanolin
- Earthbath All Natural Pet Shampoo – all natural
- Top Performance Fresh Pet Shampoo – Ph balanced reduces itching and flaking
- Vet’s Best Dry Clean Waterless Cat Bath – leave in foam with aloe, neem oil, vitamin E and oatmeal
Bath time is stressful for cats. You want to make them as comfortable as you can. Start bathing your cat when they are a kitten periodically. This will help them adjust to process and make bathing easier as they age. Here are some steps to make it easier for you and your cat.
- Choose the right time of day. You want your cat to be relaxed and mellow. Kitty will be more receptive if you don’t interrupt their hunting hour.
- Keep their nails trimmed. Clipping the nails before bath time can prevent scratches during.
- Get everything ready before you start. You will need a towel, brush, a gentle spray hose or cup, and no-slip mats for you and your cat.
- Start by brushing out your cat’s coat. This will help remove dead hair, mats and debris. If you see matting in their fur, try to get out as much as you can before bathing as mats will shrink and thicken when wet.
- Be sure to use warm water. Too cold or too hot can be very uncomfortable for your pet. Sinks work well for small cats and kittens while bathtubs are better for larger cats. Use a gentle spray hose if available on you sink or tub. A plastic pitcher or cup is a good choice also.
- Don’t rush to get done. Moving slowly and speaking in gentle tones will help keep kitty calm and less stressed.
- Pour shampoo into your hand and lather as you work your way back to the tail. Always start at the neck and move in the direction of hair growth. Avoid washing your cat’s face and ears. Water can cause ear infections if poured on their head and shampoos can irritate their eyes. If you need to wash their face, use a warm moist cloth instead.
- Rinse off the shampoo with warm water. Remember to move slowly. Make sure you get all the shampoo out so your cat doesn’t lick any residue off later. Have a helper available in case your cat loses patience which is common at this step.
- Make sure you dry your kitty thoroughly. Gently pat and rub with a towel until dry. A hair dryer on the lowest setting can work if you cat tolerates it. Always avoid blowing directly in their face as this can dry out their eyes and nose. A wide tooth comb may be needed for additional brushing especially on long haired cats.
- Reward your special feline with treats and affection after bath time. This is usually a stressful time for them. Hopefully, the treats will be remembered next bath time.
Use the tips above and a good shampoo to make bath time less stressful. Keeping your cat clean is an important part of cat ownership. Start when they are young so your cat is prepared for bathing as they get older.
Most cat owners feel “in the dark” about their cats needs and desires. Here’s 5 things your feline friend wishes they could tell you!
It’s a common misconception that cats are a “set it and forget” type of pet. In actuality, cats need a lot more than full food and water dishes. Mental stimulation is necessary to keep your feline happy, as they’re naturally keen predators. Try making a kitty maze from discarded cardboard boxes, or DIY kitty toys made from common items like toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls.
“Scratching is natural and essential.”
If you didn’t know any better, you might think scratching furniture and carpets is naughty behavior. But did you know that scratching is essential to your kitty’s well-being? Scratching not only conditions your cat’s nails and nail bed, but also helps them stretch their muscles, and mark their territory. If Fluffy is destroying your furniture, get them a scratching post or two to meet their needs. For furniture scratchers, upright posts work great; for carpet scratchers, floor posts or mats do the trick. When purchasing scratchers, try to find one with a material similar to kitty’s favorite forbidden scratching areas.
“I get most of my moisture from my food.”
Domestic cats evolved from desert dwelling ancestors, and are naturally designed to get their water from food. Dry food contains 5-10% moisture, while wet food is as high as 75%. If your pet is showing signs of dehydration or urinary tract problems, try increasing the amount of moisture in their food. This often helps dry skin issues as well.
“I need dental care, too!”
85% of cats have periodontal disease before their 6th birthday! When you start to notice gunk building up on the surface of the teeth, or any redness/swelling near the gums, this is usually an indication that a cleaning is needed. Most veterinarians offer dental cleaning/teeth scaling services at their facility. In addition to regular cleanings, it is important to establish a regular teeth brushing routine at home. Poor oral health can lead to bigger problems, such as kidney issues, down the road.
“I can tell you A LOT with my body.”
Cats communicate a great deal of information without ever voicing a peep! Pay attention to your cat’s ears, eyes, and muscle tension. In addition to body language, your kitty’s meows may be deceiving you as well! Cats often vocalize when they’re hungry, and purr when they’re content. But like a human smile, purring could mean your cat is nervous, anxious, or thrilled. Purrs vibrate at 25-150HZ which is also the frequency that assists in physical healing and bone mending. So when kitty is purring during their nap, they’re actually working to keep their bones strong!
Everyone deciding to bring home a cat or kitten needs to decide what cat food is best. What most people don’t realize is that cats have specific needs to be met just like humans. Let’s look at what your cat needs to stay healthy.
Cats are naturally carnivores. This means they are geared to consume mostly protein in their diet. When a cat hunts, it will get protein from the muscle meat of the animals it eats. This meat also provides them with taurine, an important nutrient needed to maintain good health.
A cat also needs to be well hydrated just like we do. They do not naturally drink lots of water. Outdoor cats usually get most of the moisture they need from the prey they consume. Inside cats need our help to make sure they get all the fluids they need. Always leave a fresh bowl of water out for them to drink from but remember this may not give them enough fluids through out the day. A good cat food will help with this.
A good combination of wet and dry foods is best. Canned cat food typically has a high moisture content, between 75% and 78%. This is a great way for them to get the moisture they need to stay well hydrated. Serving about 3/4th of their diet in canned food will help maintain their good health. Giving the additional 1/4th of their food as a dry food will help keep their teeth cleaned and in good shape.
Choosing the right food is very important. Not all canned foods have the nutrients needed to keep your kitty healthy. Check the label for the main ingredients. Chicken, beef or fish should be listed as the main ingredient. Check for a good concentration of the meal in the product. Many manufacturers use smaller amounts so read the label well to make sure the protein is the main ingredient. If the label lists “formula” or “dinner” it will usually have a lower concentration of the main ingredient. Likewise, reading the label on dry food is just as important. Many dry foods have high plant-based proteins. A cats digestive system is not designed to digest the cellulose found in plants. Look for the same main ingredients as in canned food for high quality dry foods.
Proteins should make up approximately 40% of your cats diet. Fats should be around 1/3rd of it. This is why it is so important to choose food with high protein and also the right amount of fat. It is also important to check the carbohydrate level and source. Look for the carbohydrate level to be less than 50%. The main source of carbs should come from vegetables and rice not corn meal. You also want the food to have good amounts of vitamins and minerals like omega-3, taurine and fiber. Look for foods that use natural preservatives rather than artificial ones. Vitamin C and vitamin E are good preservatives and are good for your cat’s health.
If your cat is used to eating dry food now, introducing wet food can be a challenge. Never make drastic changes to your pets diet. Introduce new foods gradually. There are several types of wet foods available such as pate, flakes and chunks. Texture is important to cats so finding one they like make be tricky. Experiment with the different varieties to find the one they like best. While adjusting to wet foods, try adding small amounts of water to their dry food to increase moisture consumed as well as reduce the crunch.
Just remember, the health of your cat is dependent on their diet. Providing a good combination of dry and wet food will help maintain your cats good health. This will give you many happy healthy years with your beloved furry friend.
Have you ever watched a dog show and listened to all of the details about the dog’s history, then looked at your cat and wondered what secrets Fluffy was hiding? I’m sure a lot of cat owners have wondered where their cat came from, how their cat got the distinctive color pattern and markings they sport and even if their cat is really supposed to weight that much? Think about what Jon might have been able to know about Garfield if there were a cat DNA test back in the day.
The good news is that today’s technology has brought us a new option if we want to learn more about the cat we share a home with, feed the best food and play with using a stuffed mouse. When it comes to cat ancestry, there is definitely a lot to learn.
Small Cats are Bigger Than We Knew
Cats have a regal bearing, a way of stalking through the house and pouncing on toys, or unsuspecting human companions, in a way that makes you think of the tigers and lions at the zoo. In an interesting bit of information, scientists have found that house cat DNA is a 95% match to tigers. So, the next time you watch your cat stalk his or her favorite toy and pounce for the kill, think about the fact you have a miniature tiger in residence – with a few small genetic differences.
Learn Your Cat’s Pilgrimage Story
Cats have a long history of keeping sailors company on long voyages. They helped to keep the rat population on a ship down and also were a friendly face to those men who spent months away from their families and home and probably got tired of their human shipmates during the long treks across the ocean. Cats were a great addition to the sailing crew, since they are small and useful. They were also thought to be a good luck charm to a ship crossing the great ocean.
Knowledge Is Power, and Kitty Will Thank You
One big trend in today’s world is finding out more about your family tree. Families have genealogists, there are websites to visit to see what family connections you can make and most children have to do some type of project outlining their family lineage. Granted, your cats are never going to have a homework assignment to trace their family tree, but your cats are your babies. Like children who have been adopted, it can be valuable to your family to understand where your cat came from, and a cat DNA test helps outline your feline’s cat ancestry in depth.
When it comes to helpful information like a marker for an illness that can be dangerous to kitty’s long life, the cat DNA test becomes a valuable tool to protect your loved one. Even the four-legged members of your family deserve to have protection and be understood based on their family history. Give everyone access to this valuable information and be amazed at the story your cat’s DNA can tell you.