The Petflap Draughtproof Pet Door

Quiet, gentle and never blows open

Cats with extra toes

Cats with extra toes

why do some cats have extra digits

Polydactyl cat

Technically, cats with extra toes is called polydactyly. Cats with this genetic trait can have varying numbers of extra toes. Some have a distinct thumb, such as in the photo here. Others just have lots of regular toes. Extra toes are more common on the front feet.

A cat without polydactyly has five toes on each of its front paws, and four on each back foot. A polydactyl cat can have as many as nine toes on each foot. There’s even a Guinness World Record for the cat with the most toes! It’s very unusual for a cat to have extra toes on all four paws.

Where does polydactyly come from?

Some cats’ polydactyly results from a genetic mutation. The gene that regulates toe spacing allows for far more toes than usual. The mutation seems to have spread on ships’ cats. This is borne out by the clusters of polydacytly in south west England and East Coast USA. Cats were very popular as ship’s cats. Wikipedia tells us:

sailors were long known to value polydactyl cats especially for their extraordinary climbing and hunting abilities as an aid in controlling shipboard rodents. Some sailors thought they bring good luck at sea. The rarity of polydactyl cats in Europe may be because they were hunted and killed due to superstitions about witchcraft.

Famously, the novelist Ernest Hemingway adored polydactyl cats. His home in Florida is now a cat museum and home to 50 or so cats. About half of these have extra toes. There are now two polydactyl cat breeds officially recognised in the USA – Maine Coon Polydactyl and American Polydactyl.  Any cat can have extra toes – any breed, either sex, big or small.

Looking after cats with extra toes

Cats with extra toes don’t usually need any more care and attention than an ordinary cat (which is to say lots). The main area to pay attention to is their nails, to make sure they are all keeping to a healthy length. There is a condition known as feline radial hypoplasia which can sometimes resemble polydactyly. It results in what re often termed ‘hamburger feet’ – very wide flat feet rather than the many-toed but otherwise normally shaped polydactyl paw. Feline radial hypoplasia needs to be monitored by your vet, so if you have any doubt about which condition your cat has, if it has extra toes, then see your vet.

Make sure you have a robust scratching post for your polydactyl cat – you’ve seen how much damage regular paws can do so imagine what those extra claws can get up to.

Tricoya

Tricoya

We’ve begun to use tricoya in our Petflaps to replace about 80% of the acrylic we use. We have been looking for a replacement for a while, and tricoya came to our attention at about the same time that acrylic became hard to source, so it was an obvious move for us. Acrylic has become hard to source due to its use in Covid-19 protection measures, such as screens.

What is tricoya?

tricoya

Section showing the laser cut edge of tricoya

Tricoya is a form of MDF that uses accoya is its starting point. Accoya is a sustainable treated softwood. Board made from an accoya base is far more stable, long-lasting and moisture-resistant than standard MDF. This makes it ideal for use in a Petflap. Petflaps are exposed to all sorts of weather, so the durability and moisture-resistance of this particular type of board was essential to us. It is insulating, making the Petflap an even better choice for a low-energy or passivhaus build.

We’re looking at using tricoya to make our new Letterplate Eco. This will provide a draughtproof and insulated barrier to draughts through your letter box.

How are we using it?

We are using tricoya to replace the acrylic ‘filling in the sandwich’ between the ABS outer frames. This means you’ll see what looks like wood on the edges of the open flap, and in the rim of the frame. In both cases, this is visible only when the Petflap is being used and the flap opens. Eventually we expect to make entire Petflaps from tricoya, ditching plastic altogether. Petflaps made this way can be sprayed or painted to match your  decor.

For the time being we will use our stock of acrylic to make the peep holes in the Petflap. Tricoya’s great stuff but it’s not yet made see-through! When our acrylic is all finished we expect to replace it with toughened glass.

Sustainability

According to accoya.com,

“The trees selected to make Accoya are sourced from fast growing, abundantly available sustainably certified forests.”

It is a carbon capture product. At the end of its life, this board will degrade completely. It is a non-toxic product so releases nothing harmful into the environment.

Are vets open during lockdown?

Are vets open during lockdown?

vets open lockdown

Rusty, the cat with at least nine lives

The simple answer is yes, vets are open during lockdown, but not in the usual way. Government regulations allow vet surgeries to remain open but with much reduced contact with owners. According to British Veterinary Association advice vets can fill prescriptions, provide food and sell routine treatments such as worming tablets and provide emergency care. This includes euthanising sick animals.

Usually a vet can’t write a prescription for an animal without having seen it, but this regulation has been lifted during lockdown. The situation is being monitored. Some vets are still offering routine puppy and kitten vaccinations, microchipping, and boosters. Neutering and nail clipping though are not considered essential and many practices aren’t offering it at the moment.

Alternative ways of ‘seeing’ animals

Many vets are using alternative ways of ‘seeing’ animals and their owners. This includes telephone and video consultions. If an animal does need to go to the practice the owner is not usually allowed into the building. Often an owner arriving by car isn’t allowed out of the car but will have the animal taken from it by a member of staff.

After treatment if appropriate your vet might ask you to send photos so that progress or healing can be kept under review.

What to do if your animal needs treatment

So what do you need to keep in mind if you think your pet needs to see a vet? Firstly not all practices are open, so don’t just turn up – ring them and check how they are working at the moment. Secondly, if anyone in your household has symptoms of Covid-19 you should not take your sick animal to the vet. Again, ring the surgery and ask them how they deal with this situation. Some vets do home visits in these circumstances, taking extra precautions.

Speak to your pet insurance company if you think you will need to make a claim. Many insurance companies don’t cover the consequences of notifiable diseases, and Covid-19 is a notifiable disease.

vets open lockdown

Rusty enjoying a sunny day

Euthanasia

If the worst happens and your pet needs to be put down, what can you expect? It will vary from practice to practice, but Jen from Birmingham, one of our earliest Petflap customers, got in touch to share her experience when Rusty, her mum’s 18 year old tabby, was very ill.

Mum put Rusty in her carrier and drove 20minutes to the vets. She was under strict instruction to leave the carrier on the doorstep of the vets, ring the doorbell and step back to the marker (3m away) and then a very friendly and sympathetic vet nurse picked up the carrier and told Mum that she will personally cuddle Rusty until the end. Mum had put one of her jumpers in the carrier for Rusty to be held with so that Rusty could be put at ease by Mum’s scent.

Mum was told to return to her car and wait for her empty carrier to be placed outside the door. Mum spent the full 20minutes sobbing in her car until the carrier was placed outside the door.

So in this case rules were in place about what could be in the carrier with the cat – just one type of material eg a jumper or newspaper – and the carrier had to be freshly cleaned. The usual social distancing rules were observed. Apart from minimal contact with the nurse at drop-off all communication was over the phone. In fact this story has a happy ending. Jen again:

Mum went to collect the carrier and in total shock and disbelief, Rusty was still in there. The Nurse said that the vet will be phoning her momentarily to discuss. In pure amazement the vet had decided now was not the time for Rusty and instead took blood and gave her a 10-day antibiotic shot.

So great news for everyone, and we could all use some good news at the moment.

Can cats get coronavirus?

draughtproof pet doorCan cats get coronavirus?

There have been reports from Belgium, the USA and Hong Kong that cats and dogs are developing and transmitting coronavirus. Myth or reality? The issue seems to be that animals can pick up coronavirus/COVID-19 from humans, rather than passing it on to them

World Health Organisation advice

According to the WHO, the dog in Hong Kong that returned a weak positive for coronavirus likely picked it up from its owner. There is yet no evidence that cats, dogs or other animals can give humans coronavirus. At the moment the WHO advice remains to observe good hygiene, particularly careful hand washing. However it does include this advice about how long the virus can survive on surfaces:

“This could include your pet’s fur, so if you are showing any symptoms it’s important to minimise contact with your pet as much as possible.”

Its advice includes taking extra care when feeding and handling your pet. If you have concerns that your pet is becoming ill, the PDSA advises calling your vet.

What is Feline Coronavirus?

Feline Coronavirus, or FCov, is a type of coronavirus different from Covid-19. FCov is commonly found in cat faeces and doesn’t affect humans or animals other than cats.

How to protect your pet

If you’re unlucky enough to develop coronavirus you might have questions about how to protect your pet. The PDSA has published a page of questions and answers at this link.

There has been false information circulating online that hand sanitizer can poison dogs. Yes, your dog would become ill if it ingested a whole bottle of hand sanitizer, but if it just licks your hand when you’ve used hand sanitizer the dog won’t become ill. The alcohol used in hand sanitizer is ethanol, not ethylene glycol (in antifreeze) which is toxic to animals.

Vegan cat food

Vegan Cat Food

vegan cat foodVeganism has gained a high profile lately, and some cat owners are interested in feeding their cats vegan cat food. Is this a good idea?

Taurine in the vegan diet

One vital ingredient of standard cat food is taurine. Taurine is an amino acid vital to cat health. They can’t produce enough of it themselves, unlike other mammals, so are reliant on finding it through their food. It can only be found in animal proteins, so vegan cat food needs to be carefully formulated to contain it. This article on Pet Central goes into details, but essentially cats need taurine for a healthy heart, digestion and vision, among other functions. Blindness and heart disease are just two of the problems that arise from insufficient taurine in a cat’s diet.

As Vegan.com acknowledges, switching a cat’s diet is notoriously difficult. Cats are fussy and tend to make snap judgments. There is no guarantee whatsoever that your cats will co-operate with the changes you might want to make. That aside, the site makes this interesting point:

Fortunately, taurine and arginine are both easily synthesized from vegan sources. Any reputable brand of vegan cat food will therefore feature taurine and arginine in their ingredients. But taurine and arginine alone won’t cover a vegan cat’s nutritional needs. Cats typically obtain most of their vitamin A and D from animal sources.

Evidence

As yet there is no real evidence about the effect of putting a cat on a vegan diet. As well as taurine cats need vitamin A and arachidonic acid, which some vegan cat foods are including. Long-term studies don’t exist yet, so it’s impossible to say categorically how a vegan diet will affect a cat. Anyone planning to put their cat on a vegan diet will need to do take great care to ensure their cat takes in all essential nutrients and be vigilant to any change in their cat’s health and condition. The RSPCA recommends putting a cat on a vegan diet only under the supervision of a vet.

 

Canine Vomiting Bug

canine vomiting bugCanine Vomiting Bug

The Canine Vomiting Bug, also known as HGE, is causing great concern among dog owners and currently spreading into new areas of the UK, with the midlands and the North of England the latest areas to record cases.

According to Pet Gazette, The Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) of the University of Liverpool has begun to collect data on the outbreak. Any animal health professional who comes across a case of the bug is asked to fill in a SAVNET questionnaire. You can find out more about SAVSNET and the surveillance project here.

What is the Canine Vomiting Bug?

The bug is defined as acute onset “prolific” vomiting – at least five instances in 12 hours. The sickness is often accompanied by bloody diarrhoea. Affected dogs usually go off both food and drink. The frequency of the vomiting is one of the key differences between the bug and dogs throwing up because they’ve eaten something nasty on a walk. The vomiting also tends to be quite forceful. Dogs stay feeling unwell for longer than they would after a minor vomiting episode. Dogs can take up to 10 days to get well. In some cases dogs seem to improve for a day or two and then have another episode.

If you see these symptoms in your dog, expert advice is to get them to the vet as soon as possible for the best outcome. In extreme cases the bug can kill so keep an affected dog isolated from other dogs.

 

Equine Flu

Equine Flu

equine fluEquine flu fears forced the Royal Welsh Show organisers this year to bar all unvaccinated horses from entry (we looked at animal vaccination rates on this blog two weeks ago). Organisers had debated whether to ban the horse section entirely. One Welsh horse show cancelled its entire event. This was upsetting as the show had been running since the 1880s, but it was the responsible move.

There have been over 200 cases of the flu this year. At one stage horse racing stopped for a week, with stables in lockdown. The New Forest Show, in Hampshire,  has banned unvaccinated horses from entry. The disease is highly contagious, spread through coughing droplets into the air,  putting the 3000 New Forest Ponies at risk. Equine flu can be fatal to unvaccinated horses such as these.

The Vet Times has this to say:

“Mixing of unvaccinated horses and no mandatory vaccination requirements at some events were among the main reasons for outbreaks of equine flu in the UK. This was the conclusion of a meeting of experts, who also highlighted poor application of biosecurity, new arrivals not being quarantined and the clinical signs not being caught early enough as significant factors.”

The British Horse Society includes this advice in its latest guidance notes:

“We also remind owners of the importance of vaccinations and to ensure that their vaccination records are up to date. The vast majority of confirmed cases reported by the AHT are in unvaccinated horses. We continue to recommend that if it has been longer than six months since the last vaccination, owners should discuss a booster with their veterinary surgeon.

 

 

Cat food – wet or dry?

Cat food

cat foodSome things in life are worth paying more for, but is cat food one of them? In a recent Money section feature, cat-owning journalist Rebecca Goodman set out to answer that question. She was prompted to look at her cats’ food when one of them became ill. She was surprised to learn from her vet that eating a mid-range wet cat food at every meal wasn’t good for the cats.

Meat

The range of foods available is huge. The variety reflects human’s own diet choices, including vegan and vegetarian varieties. Only a small minority of cat owners buy the cheapest food, but most don’t consider what’s in it. The article quotes vet Dr Rory Cowlam as saying that cats are carnivores so should eat meat. Surprisingly, this doesn’t need to come from wet cat food. He reckons healthy cats need only dry food. It has the advantage of being better for cats’ teeth. Dry foods tend to cost less than the top brands and the meat content is often higher.

The best quality foods are high on meat and low on fillers. Fillers can include sugar, not something a cat should ever eat. Labelling isn’t always clear but sugars usually appear as “various sugars”. Standard meat content is about 4%, so aim for a make with significantly higher meat content.

Raw foods

Feeding cats raw food is controversial. The Cats Protection League doesn’t recommend it. It draws the distinction between a cat eating all of a freshly-killed mouse or bird, and it being fed a previously frozen chicken breast. Providing previously frozen raw food to a cat also serves up disease risks. Salmonella, E-coli, campylobacter and TB could all be present. Gastric problems were the single biggest reason for cat insurance claims last year. It’s important to get it right as we all want the best for our pets.

Animal vaccinations

Animal Vaccinations

animal vaccinations

Vaccination rates for dogs are down 25%

Animal vaccinations are a routine part of pet or stock ownership. Most pet owners want to protect the pets they love from suffering and possibly death from disease. A farmer or stockholder has a livelihood to protect and in many cases a carefully developed bloodline that their business trades on. Everyone has an interest in protecting their own animals and contributing to herd immunity.

The Daily Telegraph reported last month that animal vaccination rates are dropping. There is controversy at the moment about parents who don’t have their children vaccinated. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) compares this to the animal vaccinations issue. The Telegraph article refers to BVA research that shows that 98% of vets have been challenged about vaccinations by pet owners.

The animal vaccinations controversy affects cats, dogs and rabbits. Rates of vaccination for young animals are down 25% for dogs, cats by a high 35% and rabbits by a whopping 50%, according to the PDSA.

The law

The BVA suggests dog owners could be breaking the law by not having their dogs vaccinated. It cites the Animal Welfare Act and the duty of pet owners to protect their pets from pain, suffering and disease. Standard vaccinations for puppies protect against parainfluenza, canine distemper, kennel cough, canine parvovirus and leptospirosis. As with MMR, the UK is seeing an increase in incidences of diseases almost eradicated until recently. Parvovirus and leptospirosis in particular are making a comeback.

Groups are springing up online encouraging owners not to vaccinate. In this way the situation mirrors the MMR vaccination storm. Just as with the MMR, some dog owners believe vaccinations cause canine autism. The link between MMR and autism in children has been scientifically disproven. Similarly, according to the BVA, no link has ever been scientifically proven between vaccinations and autistic-like behaviour in dogs.

Black cat with a happy ending

black cat

Bilbo and Frodo

Black cat Palmerston the inspiration for our new model

Until late 2018 we made the Petflap in white. In January 2019 we switched to making it in black, and wanted to name this sleek black model after a well-known and highly respected black cat. We considered the name Felix, but the cat food manufacturers might have something to say about that. We wondered about Bilbo or Frodo as we had black rescue cats with those names, but copyright again. Then we thought of Palmerston, otherwise known as Chief Mouser and @DiploMog on Twitter. Palmerston is a rescue cat from Battersea so we couldn’t think of a better namesake for our new model, known as the Palmerston. We haven’t asked him, but we hope he’d be honoured.

Why switch to black?

We’ve had many enquiries about why we switched from white to black, as the white model was popular. The problem lies with laser cutting, how we cut our parts. The white ABS material reflected much of the laser light, so the laser had to be cranked up and that resulted in a form of burn to the edges of the plastic. These rough edges had to removed by hand before the parts could be assembled which took a long time and resulted in fractional variance to the profile of the parts. To produce the Petflap at volume we had to remove that step, and switching to black ABS was a simple solution.

Black cat love

We’ve been sad to hear that black cats and dogs are being given to shelters because they are hard to photograph in a time when online images are so important to people. We find this heartbreaking, but it’s good to see that in Palmerston’s case (and Bilbo’s and Frodo’s) a black cat can have a happy ending. #AdoptDontShop