When it comes to cats, nearly everything modern veterinary medicine knows about their health and welfare has been learned through studies funded by the non-profit Winn Feline Foundation. From the very food most cats eat to treatments for a wide range of health issues, Winn has been there to help cats for 46 years, and has now launched a new website as a resource for cat lovers: www.winnfelinefoundation.org.
Q: You recently wrote about stem cell research, and I understand that in cats, stem cell therapy is being used to treat inflammatory bowel disease. Do you have more details? — B.H., Highland Park, IL.
A: In fact, it was the Winn Feline Foundation that funded research conducted by Dr. Craig Webb and Dr. Tracy Webb, of Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Fort Collins, to study the use of stem cells to treat inflammatory bowel disease. Early results are promising.
Stem cell research in cats doesn’t stop there. Dr. Glenn Olah, president of the Winn Feline Foundation, notes that since 2013, Winn has also funded stem cell studies to treat feline asthma and kidney disease. Results are hopeful, but it’s simply too early to offer definitive answers.
“In some ways, stem cell studies in pets are ahead of (those in) people. There’s no stigma attached because there’s no use of (controversial) embryonic stem cells. Stem cells are harvested from fat, bone or nearly anywhere. In people, stem cells are also harvested from fat, bone and other places, but somehow the issue has become as political as it is medical.”
Olah, of Albuquerque, NM, points out that you can find details on a very long list of feline health-related issues by typing in “stem cells” or whatever you’re seeking in the search box at www.winnfelinefoundation.org.
Q: I’ve been a cat servant for 50 years. About a month ago, I adopted a beautiful Burmese after she romanced me at the shelter, but once we got home, she wanted nothing to do with me! It’s not that she isn’t friendly; she loves my son and even sleeps with him. When I get up early to feed her, she stays away until I’ve left the room. My son suggested that the cat harbors resentment toward me because I took her from her cat friends. What can do to improve the situation? — R.M., Indian Shores, FL
A: “The good news is, it’s very unlikely the cat harbors any resentment,” says Winn Feline board member and feline veterinarian Dr. Drew Weigner, of Atlanta, GA. “The bad news for you, but good news for the cat and your son, is that they developed a fast friendship.”
You didn’t mention your son’s age, but while sometimes young children may frighten cats, other cats are drawn to kids, especially if they speak softly. Your mannerisms, while well intentioned, may be intimidating to this cat.
Here are some tips that might help the car warm up to you:
Sit on the floor in an empty room with her. Close the door, but provide an empty box or two for the cat to hop into. Then, simply watch TV, or read a children’s story out loud (cats sometimes like that soft sing-song voice we tend to use when reading children’s stories), and wait until the cat comes to you. It may take several days, but eventually curiosity will overcome caution.
Next, take over feeding the cat, even if she waits for you to leave the room to eat. Also, use an interactive cat toy (a fishing pole-type toy with fabric or feathers) to entice kitty to play. Eventually, she’ll associate that fun with you.
“When all is said and done, some cats just prefer one person, and we really don’t know why they make the choices they do,” says Weigner. “It doesn’t mean that you’ve done anything wrong.”
Q: Grey, a feral cat, lives in my garage. He’s about 2 years old and has lived there since he was only a few months old. Chester, a neighbor’s cat, comes to visit often, and I feed them both. Grey depends on me now for food. The problem: I’m considering moving across town. Chester will be fine, but Grey has no one else to look after him. I’m not sure if I’m ready for another indoor pet cat after my cat passed away last October. And I don’t know if Grey would adjust to being indoors. Any advice? — J.T.S., Cyberspace
A: Winn Feline Foundation executive director Dr. Vicki Thayer, a feline veterinarian in Lebanon, OR, notes that Grey could just move to a nearby garage, and perhaps Chester’s owner might take over his care.
Grey certainly knows you since you’ve been caring for him.
“Taking him indoors (would be) made easier by the fact that you currently don’t have another cat,” says Thayer. “Sometimes things just happen as they do for a reason.”
As for Grey adjusting to life indoors, first decide on one room where you can close the door to offer him a place to adjust; free run of the house could be overwhelming. In this room, perhaps a den or second bedroom, provide food and water dishes on one side, and a litter box on the other. Scatter some empty boxes he can use as hiding places.
Using products like Feliway (a calming pheromone), Anxitane (L-theanine) and even a prescription diet from Royal Canin, called CALM can help reduce stress, as can catnip. Also, play with the cat using an interactive cat toy (fishing pole-type toy with feathers) This will be a great stress buster and will further bond Grey to you.
“It’s all about developing trust,” Thayer adds.
©Steve Dale PetWorld, LLC; Tribune Content Agency