Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease


Carly – Senior cat for adoption at Gifford Cat Shelter. Brighton, Massachusetts.


In the past, cats were considered seniors when they reached the age of 8 or 10 years old. Today is not unusual to find cats living into their late teens or early twenties. Those changes have occurred due to advances in veterinary medicine, proper care and nutrition, and also for increasing numbers of cats living indoors.

Generally speaking, older cats can be placed into three categories:

1-Mature or Middle- age : 7 to 14 years
2-Senior : 11 to 14 years
3-Geriatric : 15 years or older.

As a cat ages, is normal to notice some physical and/or behavioral changes such as gaining or loosing weight, having trouble reaching his favorites places,  being  less active or playful, sleeping more, becoming more talkative and sometimes becoming grumpy.

However, those changes could also be a sign of illness or dental problems and should be addressed by a veterinarian. 

I- Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease (FIBD)

Feline inflammatory bowel disease is a group of chronic gastrointestinal disorders caused by an infiltration of inflammatory cells in the gastrointestinal tract, disrupting the intestin’s ability to function properly. Cats of any age can be affected by FIBD, but  it occurs more often in middle-aged and older cats. Siamese breeds have been found to be more predisposed to the disease.

The symptom of FIBD can vary depending on area of the digestive tract affected.
The most common symptoms are: chronic vomiting, abdominal pain, rumbling and gurgling sounds in the abdomen, diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, gas, blood in the stool, and distressed coat hair.
The cause for FIBD is unknown, however some studies indicate that the cat’s immune system can be involved in the disease’s occurrence.
Many of the common symptoms of FIBD, such as vomiting and diarrhea are also common symptoms of other diseases, so it is necessary that the veterinarian take a detailed history regarding to the duration and frequency of symptoms. Laboratory tests and other exams are necessary to rule out other diseases, but a definitive diagnoses can only by made by evaluating material (intestines, or stomach) collected for biopsy.
The treatment will depend the gastrointestinal area affected, but it is recommended the use of various medicaments and a change to a hypoallergenic diet. Sometimes is also recommended the use of prebiotics and probiotics.
There is no cure for FIBD, but it can be controlled with proper medication and diet.

References :
Cornell University Feline Health Center
American Association of Feline Practitioners


A Place in Your Heart: Adopting a Special Needs Cat


Special Needs Cats

According with the ASPCA, 3.4 million cats enter animal shelters every year and only 1.4million are adopted. Feral,  senior and special needs cats are those with lower adoption rates, while kittens usually are adopted very fast.

Special needs cats tend to be overlooked at the shelter mainly because they require a higher level of attention, care and resources from their owner.They tend to endure more time at the shelter, witch can be very stressful for the cat.

With today’s veterinary technology,  special needs cats are able to live longer, happier, healthier lives. They just need to find  a loving home and a dedicate owner.

FIV- Positive Cats

The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a infection carried by a retrovirus that causes immunodeficiency disease in cats. It’s transmitted to other cats, through scratches and bites, but not through contact or through the air. 

The FIV virus affects the cat’s ability to develop a normal immune response, leaving the cat vulnerable to others infections caused by normally harmless bacteria, virus, protozoa and fungi that are found in everyday environment.

In order to avoid a FIV-infected cat to contract secondary diseases, the owner should avoid feeding her raw foods such as meat, poultry or eggs. Is mandatory that the cat lives indoors in order to prevent the secondary infections.

Secondary infections can be life threatening if not treated for the FIV cat immune system is unable to respond.

A FIV positive cat can live for years without showing any symptoms of immunodeficiency, living a normal life. Most of FIV cats that has the disease are un-neutered males fighting for food, females or territory, who picked up and spread the virus. They are feral, stray or cats that live outdoors without control from their owners.

There is no risk for humans and other species and with love, proper care and regular vet visits FIV positive cats can enjoy a normal life with no apparent health problems resulting from the virus.

FIV positive cats still find it hard to find new homes, even though they are normal, loving cats that deserve a chance to live a happy life.

The Six Toed Cat and the Sea

Hemingway probably had mistaken the titled of his famous and Pulitzer Prize book, “The Old Man and the Sea”. What he actually meant was to write about the Six Toed Cat and the Sea.

Yes, definitely Hemingway loved polydactyl cats !

Polydactyly is  a genetic anomaly that causes the cat to be born with more than five toes on one or more of its paws. Polydactyl  cats are most commonly found along the East Coast of the US , Canada and in South West England and Wales.

But how did Hemingway know about it ?

He probably didn’t !! 

But the story Key West polydactyl cats, or simply Hemingway cats as they are known goes back to 1928 when Hemingway lived in Kew West, Florida. There he met Captain Harold S. Dexter from Massachusetts and his  famous cat, Snowball. Hemingway took a white kitten from Snowball litter and brought home. He and his kids called the kitten Snow White. 

Hemingway’s home was turned into a museum (The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum) and today there are approximately 40-50 polydactyl  cats living in the premises and some of the cats are descendants of Snow White. As Key West is a small island, it is possible that many of the cats living on the island are related.

Hemingway cat (5 of 5)

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum – 2015  Photo: Ruth Szwarcbart – iPhone


Hemingway cat (2 of 5)

Hemingway Studio -The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum – 2015 Photo: Ruth Szwarcbart – iPhone

Hemingway cat (1 of 5)


It’s known that cats have inspired many famous  writers  through history such as Hemingway, Mark Twain, Bukowski, Edgar Allan Poe and Jean-Paul Sartre. Other famous artists also loved their feline companions – Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo. 

But no one needs to be a famous artist or a famous writer to have a loyal cat by his/her side. There are many cats in shelters, waiting to inspire their human companions.

But if you want to be like Hemingway, a good start is to meet Tyson, our polydactyl cat. He is waiting for you at The Gifford Cat Shelter in Brighton, Massachusetts.


Hemingway cat (4 of 5)

Photo: Ruth Szwarcbart



A Cat Called Crème Brûlée.

It was a beautiful hot summer morning. Singing birds crossed the clear blue sky, but we went straight through the door. We had a mission that day and nothing could distract us. 

Inside the shelter cattery, lots of excited children crammed all the available spaces between the cages wanting to see the kittens. Patiently we waited for all the children to leave. They had finished the kid’s program at the shelter and were visiting the cats. 

On the right corner of the cattery stood a cage with a litter of four small kittens. They had been found alone in a restaurant basement,  with no sight of their mother. The kittens  were brought to the shelter, treated for diseases, and after spayed and neutered they were released for adoption.

I’m not sure if they were found in a French restaurant, but the kittens  were given exquisite names of the French cusine: Crème Brulée, Pomme Frites, Quiche Lorraine and Cordon Bleu.

Our mission was a simple one – adopt a calm and mellow kitten that could get along with a cat we had in our household, but for some crazy reason we fell in love with the most  rambunctious, energetic and strong minded cat that ever existed in that shelter!

Crème Brulée was a little tiger!! Instead of a mellow and sweet kitten, we brought home a wild, stubborn and most opinionated little thing that would turn our lives completely upside-down.

Our first tentative to introduce Cody (of course we changed his name!) to Kitty, our other cat was a real disaster, with growling, hissing and some kind of attempet to murder, but after 2 weeks their existence together seemed to start improving little by little.

We were not really sure if  Cody was from another species or some kind of alien from another planet. Maybe he was a kangaroo, for his crazy high jumps out of the blue, or if he was some kind of spider from some unknown lost continent. I was not sure why my husband nick-named him Spider Cat!



Ever since that day back in the shelter, there has never been a day like the other with  Crème Brulée (oopss !! Cody !!). We have so many stories, so many adventures to tell !!




The fact is that we love this stubborn, rambunctious and crazy cat to death and he has been a real  blessing to our lives !!





Spay & Neuter.

What ????



It’s Spring time, and that means lots of kittens arriving at the shelter. Last year an estimated 20 million kittens were born just in the Spring season alone here in the US. The “Kitten Season”, as it’s called,  stands for  the period when births peak, and happens twice a  year: Spring and Fall, with  the more intense kitten season occurring in the Spring.(1)

Although 13 million of the 20 million kittens come from free roaming cats (1), many kittens come from regular household surrendered  to animal shelters by their owners, others come from hoarding situations and many kittens are just found abandoned by their mothers.

Programs as Trap-Neuter-Return helps minimize the number of free roaming kittens, but pet owners  also can do their part, by spaying  and neuteirng their cats, and also keeping them indoors.

P.S. Many animal hospitals and clinics provide low cost spay/neuter services for feral cats and for low income owners of cats and dogs.




All photos taken with iPhone 6. Photos by Ruth Szwarcbart .All rights reserved.

References :

1 – Galiotos,  K. : “Kitten Season: Huge Numbers Pose Problems for Shelters”, Pet Smart Charities Blog. petsmartcharities.org






Dogs will be Dogs. Or Bikers ?

What do you expect to find in a Biker event? Motorcycles, bikers, food, beer…dogs? Last week while searching for some photos in my files, I came across with a Biker Photography event  back  in 2013 in New Jersey. 

This Russell Terrier seemed to be very well equipped for the event:

Dog B&W II

And this Bull Mastiff was certainly guarding his owner’s bike !!

mastiff wordpress

Not really! This guy was just a gentle soul !! Otherwise I would’t be here to tell this story !!