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Health Issues Facing Felines in General and Bengals In Particular:

 

We often get questions asking us about health issues facing our beloved felines.  We will start with the most common issues facing the Bengal.

 
 
 

 

INAPPROPRIATE ELIMINATION --By far the most common issue for ALL cat owners is that of inappropriate elimination.  It is frustrating when you realize your beloved cat is urinating outside of the litter box.  This issue is wide spread and faces every breed and both sexes equally.  The first thing to do is make sure your animals is spay or neutered.  Animals of both sexes will routinely "spray" when they are in season or an in season animal is in close proximity.

The next thing to do is insure that you have at LEAST one litter box per cat in your household.  If you have a very large household, it may require multiple boxes in various locations.  Also consider the type of litter your cat likes best.  Most cats prefer the very small grained hard clumping litters to all others.  It is easy on their paws.  There has been some success in using the attractant type litters as reported by some owners.  Some cats prefer covered litter boxes and others do not.  Trial and error is what is required here.  Try both and see which is more used by your cat(s).

 Litter boxes must be scooped at least once per day.  The entire box must be dumped regularly and cleaned with a bleach and water solution.  This also keeps parasites from becoming a problem.  If you have done these things and your cat is still urinating or defecating outside of the box, you need to consider other potential reasons.  Cats "spray" for many reasons.  One can be a neighbor cat who is urinating outside and your cat smells it.  It can be a neighbor cat simply on your property.  It can be multiple cats in the household and they are competing to "mark" their territory.

 Cleaning up after such "accidents" is critical, and difficult.  You need to find a good enzymatic cleaner.  There are different opinions on which one is best.  Various breeders on the lists recommend products such as : Bio-Matic (we can refer you); Anti-Icky Poo; Natures Miracle and a number of others.  Sometimes, if elimination is occurring in one specific area such as in a corner or against a wall, you need to cover that area so that further elimination in that spot cannot occur.  Sometimes, placing a litter box over the area will help. 

If these methods fail, we go back to square one with a cat.  That means confining them to a small area.  A small bathroom, or a large dog crate.  Where they have little option in floor space except to use the litter box.  In truly severe cases, we put litter all over the bottom of the crate so the cat has no option but to eliminate on the litter.  We move SLOWLY to smaller and smaller areas of litter until confined in a litter box. 

Then and only then, allowing them short times out of the crate only as long as they continue to use the litter box exclusively.  ONE accident means we moved too quickly and we start over.  Breeders of hybrids have used this method to retrain even some of the most difficult cases of house soiling.  However, it never means that you can leave the laundry down or bed unmade for some cats.  That is behavioral and in some cases, just can't be retrained.

 If you have tried the above tips and are still having problems, I would suggest a vet visit.  A urinary tract infection can cause your pet to need to go frequently or painful urination.  Your vet can do a simple test and determine if this is the problem.  If so, an antibiotic can quickly resolve the problem.

There are some animals for which there does not appear to be a solution to the problem.  Work closely with your veterinarian to eliminate all rational causes of the problem.  In rare cases, there are cats that simply are incompatible with an inside existence unless they are caged or confined to a cleanable area. Further sources of information: 

 

 
 

HCM -      Bengals should be tested for HCM, a heart condition.  This is done by having a sonogram of the heart done by a veterinary cardiologist.  This exam runs from $250-$400 per cat depending on cardiologist availability in your area.  This disease, like many other heart ailments, can be life threatening; just shorten their life; cause total back leg function to cease or just require a modification in activity.  The individual situation is different depending on the severity of the disease in that particular cat.    Cats should be evaluated by two years of age but ALWAYS before breeding.  NEVER buy a kitten from parents that were not HCM screened.  For more information on this condition:

   Mitral Valve issues and other heart problems in Bengals. 

 Cats can have other heart problems than just HCM.  There can be mitral valve issues, extended papillary (bunny ears) problems and general wall thickening.  Like heart problems in people and other animals, it is possible for these conditions to go undetected and not have significant affect on the animal or its lifespan. 

In general, the pet population is not tested unless there is some suspicion that there is a problem. Breeders should test their cats at least once every 2 years while they are in their breeding program for HCM and other heart issues.  Heart problems may not show up until animals are much older (as with the case in humans).  For that reason, we value our older studs highly when they have remained clear of HCM and other problems.  It certainly does not guarantee that they will never acquire the disease, but lessens its likelihood.  At this point, testing and using older studs and staying away from lines with known problems is about the limit of the ability we have to control or eradicate this disease.   

 

 

 
CATARACTS - Cataracts are a more commonly occurring problem in the bengal breed.  Testing is not done widespread but in my opinion, should be.  "Y" -Suture Cataracts and other anomalies can be seen when cats are photographed and the flash bounces off the retina.  You can see various designs reflected back if there are anomalies of the retinal wall.  These reflections are almost always cataracts.  If you notice these reflections in your cats pictures, have them examined by a veterinary optomologist.

PRA -  -Progressive Retinal Atrophy - is a disease being seen more frequently in Bengals today.  It causes the rod and cone light receptors in the retina to slowly cease functioning.  As a result animals eventually go blind.  It has been diagnosed in kittens as young as three months.  Dr. Leslie Lyons is studying this disease to determine its mode of inheritance. 

It is assumed at this point that it is a simple recessive.  This would mean that for a cat to present with the disease, its parents would either BOTH have to be carriers of the marker gene or one of the parents would have to actually be affected with the disease.  Carriers of this disease may be totally asymptomatic carrying totally normal vision their entire lives.  Their kittens may also be unaffected as well as long as it is not bred to another carrier.  Should two carriers be bred, some will be affected with the disease and some will be carriers. 

Examinations of breeding cats will help reduce the number of kittens produced that are affected.  However, since there is NO test for the carrier gene, it is impossible to screen potential breeding cats to determine that they are or are not carriers of the gene.  It is hoped that by conscientious breeders offering blood and DNA samples of affected cats and their relatives, a genetic marker can be located and a resulting test developed. 

 

 
TRI-TRICHOMONAS FOETUS  --  Felines in general have many issues facing them.  In the multi cat environment, parasites and upper respiratory problems are the most common.  At a recent international cat show, over 30% of all cats tested showed signs of Tri-Trichomonas Foetus

This parasite, like Giardia, live in the intestinal tract of the cat and do not cause debilitation other than loose smelly stools as the most common complaint.  Until recently, there was no treatment.  The University of South Carolina has released a protocol of Ronidazole at relatively high dosage given at 24 hour intervals over 2 weeks as curing this ailment.  It will also cure reoccurring Giardia.  Tell your vet to test your cats with the special "PCR" specifically for Tri-Trich. 

If you have a positive cat, have your veterinarian get the Ronidazole from Road Runner Pharmacy.  They will compound the medication into a liquid.  You can contact them at 1-877-518-4589 or 623-434-1180.  You can also get it from Westlab Pharmacy in Gainesville, Florida with a script from your vet.  Contact them at 1-800-493-7852.   We have treated all cats in our population with this and will treat any arriving cats as well.  We encourage all other breeders to do the same.

 

 

 

GIARDIA & COCCIDIA -- Other common parasites are Giardia and Coccidia.  These are typically treated with Panacur and Albon.  However, particularly difficult cases may require treatment with Valbazen, Marquis Paste or Baycox. 

Keeping litter boxes clean, scooped and populations quarantined are required to eradicate these conditions.  Keeping populations separated from each other keeps this and other conditions from being transmitted from cat to cat.  Once contracted, eradication procedures are difficult but can be effective. 

Use litter box liners during treatment.  Put only enough litter in for the day.  Dump boxes daily and change liners.  It is best if you can replace boxes at the end of treatment.  If not, soak the boxes with a 20% bleach solution to kill any remaining parasites overnight.  Retest all cats in the environment several times to insure that no one relapses and reinfects the entire population. Other sources of information:

 
LOOSE STOOLS - It is common in the Bengal to find breeders discussing general loose stools in the absence of any parasites.  Repeated vet exams and testing have typically been done on these cats that are negative for parasites on exam.  We personally treat with Ronidazole in these cases and have yet to have a case that did not resolve with this treatment.  This leads us to believe that most cases are parasite related.  Although it is totally possible that food allergies or disease can be a cause of chronic loose stool in some cats.

It has become common for those breeders who have treated with everything and ruled out disease or food allergy, to resort to using a higher fiber dry food to supplement their normal ration.  This higher fiber content usually provided by "Hairball Management" diets, has resolved this situation in a high number of cats.  Some have mentioned that a raw diet can also be beneficial in resolving this, but many breeders and pet owners simply don't have the knowledge, facilities or time to provide such a diet.  So, if your cat has been routinely tested for Coccidia, Giardia and Tri-Trich and still has loose stools, try Iams Hairball added to the regular diet at a 50/50 ratio. 

This may resolve the situation.  It is not acceptable to accept a loose stool as an inevitable condition of Bengal Cats.  We have resolved each and every case by one of the above methods.

  REMEMBER, Bengals in particular need a high taurine level in their diets.  For this reason, we  search out foods that have higher levels of taurine and supplement our babies and nursing moms with raw.

 

 
FCK ( Flat Chested Kittens)  is a problem that can occur in all breeds of feline.  Not a lot is known about it at this point.  We do know that in some cases, it appears to have a genetic component.  In other cases, it appears environmental or nutritional.  So, we suspect that it can be caused by a variety of situations.  However, it is clear that if a breeding cat produces more than one FCK kitten, that cat should be pulled from a breeding program.  And that all kittens that have FCK, even those recovering from it, are not candidates for a breeding program. 

In some cases, kittens have just appeared to "out grow" it.  In other cases, they have not. In some cases it can be severe and even life threatening and in other cases, cause no discernable problems.  It seems to be a matter of severity.  It does appear that if a kitten makes it to the age of 12 weeks and is similar in size to siblings and has no apparent effect on its activity, there is a good chance the kitten will live a normal life. 

This can't be guaranteed, but based on those breeders with a lot of experience with this, that it is the case.  We are providing some information here and a link to T.H.I.N.K. where you can fill out a survey regarding any FCK kittens you may experience.  You can also contribute to THINK and its research into the causes and treatment for FCK.  For more information:

 

 

 
Feline AIDS and Feline Leukemia is a disease that can be successfully test for and inoculated against.  We recommend having kittens tested prior to bringing them into your cattery or home.  All of our cats are tested negative.  For more information:
 

 
FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) is a disease that frustrates cattery owners and cat lovers alike.  The frustration comes from lack of ability to detect and treat the disease.  The only test available detects exposure to the Corona virus. 

Numerous studies have proven that there is little or no link between exposure to the Corona Virus and development of full blown FIP.  Most catteries will experience FIP at some point in their breeding career.  Cats are exposed to Corona virus through exposure to a carrier shedding the virus.  This can be transmitted numerous ways, but most often through the sharing of litter boxes. 

The only way to eradicate if from a cattery is to keep each and every cat confined (caged) and separated from each other.  All litter boxes must be scrubbed and bleached (most of us do this part anyway) weekly.  Kittens must be removed from their mothers at 5-6 weeks and kept isolated from other adults and their mother until they leave for their new homes. 

Unfortunately, these practices are hard on the cats just as they are on the cattery owners.  We hate to see our cats caged all the time and socialization of kittens removed from mom so early is difficult.   Typical catteries experience a 10% loss from FIP.  Vaccines are not proven effective and have raised questions of safety.  As a result, the cat community does not recommend their use.  Some links to more information:

 

 
Pyometra is one of the desperately dreaded conditions to face a cattery.  It means that the breeding queen has an infection in her uterus.  Since Cats come into season SO frequently, their uteruses are almost always in a state of readiness for pregnancy.  As such, if they are not bred and do not conceive, the hormones which allow her to carry the pregnancy work against her.  The first signs may be simple blood spotting or not feeling well or inability to conceive.  If spotting occurs, most likely it is an "open" pyometra.  Or the cervix is open and letting the infection drain. 

These are typically treated with a 2x per day over 4 day injection of Lutalayse.  This drug causes muscle contractions and tremors and should be given in hospital so that pain meds can be brought on board prior to the injections.  The pain is very short lived, usually less than an hour in length.  Also, the queen is given Baytril either orally or IM to further fight the infection. 

Following this intensive procedure, follow-up with Clavamox until the next breeding is required and well into pregnancy.  These queens are typically predisposed to reoccurrences of this problem and as a result, their breeding careers should be cut short.    

There are situations, such as a "closed" pyometra where the infection can not drain readily.  It is CRITICAL that these queens NOT be treated with Lutalayse because it can cause uterine rupture, peritonitis and death.  A quick spay is the most logical choice.

 

 

Upper respiratory problems are probably the most common condition facing the cattery.  Upper respiratory infection (URI) is most often a virus similar to colds in people.  As a virus, there is no real treatment other than isolation and support to insure they do not develop secondary bacterial infections. 

There are inoculations against some of the strains of URI.  Cat breeders diligently try to keep these problems away from their cats.  But any cat breeder will experience this at one time or another.  The most common signs are either a weepy eye or sneezing.  The weepy eye can be treated with antibiotic eye ointment (Gentamicin-sulfate or Tetracycline Ophthalmic ointment ) if not severe and caught immediately.  Either sneezing or weepy eye call for immediate quarantine of the affected animal(s). 

These viruses are airborne and spread quickly.  Experienced breeders who have recurrent URI recommend vaccination of kittens from 2-4 weeks with a small amount of intra-nasal vaccine.  This is followed every few weeks until immunity is developed at 12-14 weeks.  Those who have not had significant problems, choose not to vaccinate kittens that young.  There is a possibility that it could be bacterial. 

If secretions from the eyes and/or nose are clear, it is most likely viral.  L-Lysine supplementation daily for a week after symptoms have cleared will help.  If the secretions are cloudy or green, then it may have a bacterial component and you should make a visit to the vet for appropriate medication.  Some will resolve with Clavamox, if not, then with Azythromycin or Baytril.  A relatively high dose may be required for an extended period to actually solve the problem.

We have had success recently with quick implementation of a nebulizer and treating severe cases of URI.  We use a small cat carrier wrapped in a garbage bag  with the cat inside.  We prepare the medications to be nebulized and place them in the nebulizer.  We then leave the cat in the carrier for 30 minutes while the medications are administered. 

We have experienced outstanding results with this method when implemented at the first signs of distress.  We are placing our drug "Cocktail" here.  But check with your vet before implementing any new protocol.    

  1. .5 ml of Gentamycin Sulfate (100 mg/ml concentration)

  2. 1/2 cc Tylan 200 or 2cc Tylan 50

  3. 1 cc. Levasole

  4. 8 cc. sterile water

  5. Repeat 2x per day for up to 4-6 days.

 

 

 

 

Staph infections are part of the Upper respiratory group of problems.  .  These take drastic measures.  We have not experienced this (knock on wood).  As a result, we don't feel qualified to recommend treatment.  Discuss this concern with your veterinarian if you feel it may affect your cats. 

 

 

 

URINARY TRACT INFECTION - Another problem of the cat world in general is the Urinary Tract infection.  Most cats respond to general treatment options.  However, if you have a Urinary tract infection that does not seem to respond to treatment, we strongly recommend having your cats urine tested and the infection cultured and grown. 

The vet can then experiment with treatments and determine exactly which antibiotic is effective against your particular bug.  This eliminates guesswork in the treatment of your cat and a speedy recovery.  Sometimes a cat will be known as a recurrent problem.  In those cases, you may need to supplement the diet with specific medication prescribed by your vet to keep the cats urinary tract PH correct.  Insure you have a food high in Taurine which has shown to assist in keeping your cat healthy.

 

 
Online Feline Behavioral Vet Manualposted here for your convenience is a publication made available by the American Association of Feline Practitioners.  It answers some common questions regarding feline behavior and health issues.  Check it out here:
 

 

Tail faults are a common occurrence in felines of all breeds.  It can be caused by a genetic component, problem with birthing, inadequate nutrition and other causes.  Some breeders eliminate all cats with tail faults from breeding programs.  However, these breeders are few.  Because of the environmental factors that can potentially cause tail faults, most breeders will retain these cats in the breeding population and closely monitor offspring for any sign of this.  Should a genetic component be proven, the queen is then pulled from the program. 

 

DeClawing Your Cat In the past it was a totally acceptable practice to declaw cats.  Owners were unaware of the horrific nature of the surgery itself and the long lasting health results for the cat itself.  DeClawing is not as simple a procedure as a tail docking or an ear trim.  DeClawing is actually removal of an entire joint on each toe.  People who have diabetes and have had to have portions of their toes removed will attest to the long lasting ramifications of this procedure.  Phantom pain, joint tenderness, sometimes even nail regrowth are a common occurrence in felines of all breeds.  Read more here including pictures of the actual surgery if you still believe it is not an invasive procedure.
 
 

 
Ringworm in the Cattery We have not experienced this as of yet.  However it is an occurrence that is not shameful in reporting.  It is important to get right on the treatment quickly and aggressively.  We are linking here to an article written by another bengal breeder in hopes of assisting you in treating your cats. 

 

 

 

We will continue to add topics of interest as they occur.  Check back for more information.

Health Links

Other Health Issues facing felines

Cornell Feline Health Center--Brochures

 People's allergies to animals and the treatment

Behavior Issues

Feline Aggression - Training, Resolving -

Introducing a New Baby to Pets -

Introducing a New Pet to Existing Pets -

Litter box Aversion in Cats -

Separation Anxiety  -

 

 

 
 
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