Chapter 7

Chapter VII


Pneumonia, or Inflammation of the Lungs, is not an uncommon malady in the cat, and the tendency to pulmonary weakness appears to be transmitted from generation to generation, and is certainly more generally met with in cats of foreign origin, as Persian, etc., than in our own native kind. In fact, all the felines are evidently much more liable to lung disease than are the dogs. Nor are the larger forms exempt, for many a majestic lion, or a beautiful leopard in our best-managed zoological collections, has succumbed to this fatal distemper. Exposure to cold and damp, poor feeding, etc., are generally the immediate causes of lung disease in the feline, as in the human subject. The symptoms in pneumonia are a dull, uneasy restlessness; the poor cat looks miserable, as doubtless it feels, and mopes about in a very dejected manner. It is less disposed to lie than it is to squat about. Pneumonia is usually accompanied by pleurisy, and if this complaint is as distressingly painful as I have experienced it to be, I am sure the cat must at times suffer the most acute pain. Inflammation of the lungs, although so generally fatal, may nevertheless be overcome by good nursing under favourable circumstances. It occurs more generally in winter and spring—the most trying time, in our English climate, for both man and beast. Keep the cat indoors, and in a room of comfortable temperature, but not too warm, at, say, not much over 55° Fahr. A troublesome cough distresses the poor cat frequently, and the laborious breathing is manifest by the heaving of the flanks. In the treatment of the disease, apply, in the first instance, a stimulating liniment composed of equal parts of compound camphor liniment of the British Pharmacopœia and soap liniment. Rub it in upon the sides of the chest, and do not spread about more than is necessary, as cats are made miserable by the fur being soiled or tainted. The operation may be repeated the next day if the liniment has not produced tenderness. Administer, internally, the following mixture every four hours, in a dose of ten drops:—Syrup of chloral, forty drops; syrup of squills, forty drops; ipecacuanha wine, ten drops.

As, probably, the cat will not eat, it will be well to keep up its strength by administering beef tea or good milk at intervals.

Bronchitis, or inflammation of the lining membrane of the bronchial tube, arises from much the same causes that produce inflammation of the lungs and pleura, and often accompanies these affections. Bronchitis may be readily distinguished by the peculiar wheezing and rattling sound which is made when the poor cat is coughing. It may be treated the same as inflammation of the lungs, but the mixture to be given may contain twenty instead of ten drops of ipecacuanha wine, and also, in addition, ten drops of antimony wine; and fifteen drops may be given every four hours.

Mange is caused by a minute insect which burrows into the skin and there multiplies. The sarcoptic mange is the most common form that attacks the cat, and generally appears first upon the head and neck, and will, in time, if not destroyed, spread over other parts of the unfortunate animal. It is both humane and prudent, therefore, to check it at the outset. The disease is, moreover, contagious, and if a mangy cat is allowed to wander at large, it will communicate its trouble, to the ultimate distress of its fellows, and the annoyance of their owners. Sarcoptic mange may be at first detected by an irritating itching, but it soon breaks out into painful sores, which are aggravated by the repeated efforts of the poor cat to ease itself by rubbing and scratching. Fortunately, however, this disease is not difficult to cure in the cat, and with but little trouble. The principal agent employed, both externally and internally, should be sulphur. On no account use the strong dressings that are prepared for the skin diseases of animals of a different nature. An ointment composed of flowers of sulphur and fresh lard, rubbed upon the spot with the finger, is a very simple remedy, and I have proved it to be a very effectual one. It is well, however, before applying this simple compound, to foment the spot with tepid water, and dry it with a soft, clean rag. Apply the flowers of sulphur and lard once or twice a day until it has taken effect. As it is not in the least unpleasant to the taste, the cat is sure to swallow more or less of it in dressing the fur, and more readily so if within direct reach of the tongue. The sulphur swallowed acts upon the system from within, most effectually poisoning the offending intruders in course of time. Mr. Harold Leeney, M.R.C.V.S., remarks that “a proof of this eccentric behaviour of sulphur may be found in the blackened watches and silver coins carried in the pockets of persons taking the drug.” In the Animal World for October, 1882, Mr. Leeney alludes to the application of sulphur as follows:—“Sulphur in almost any form will destroy the parasites, but used as an ointment, much difficulty is experienced in washing it off again, and sulphur pure and simple being insoluble, and more active remedies dangerous, there is nothing better than a solution of sulphuretted potash, which should be applied warm, in the proportion of half an ounce dissolved in a quart of water. In using any skin dressing, whether for mange or fleas, or any other parasite, it is always advisable to begin at the head, as the opposite course leaves open a retreat to the ears and eyes, where the application is less likely to reach the enemy. That fleas take refuge round the animal’s ears when in the water was, no doubt, early observed, and gave rise to the story, current in sporting circles, that foxes rid themselves of fleas by swimming with a piece of wool in their mouths, to which the insects betake themselves for safety, and find out their mistake when it is too late.

“The sulphuretted potash lotion need only remain on the cat an hour or two, when it should be washed off with more tepid water, to which some glycerine has been added, to about the proportion of one ounce to each quart of water used. The animal should be carefully dried, giving special attention to the face and ears.”

Follicular Mange, so named from its being caused by the presence of a parasite distinguished as Demodex folliculorum, is of a different nature to the sarcoptic mange, and is less readily expelled.

“Unlike sarcoptic mange, which oftenest affects the hairless parts of the body, the follicular mange is found upon the back from the neck, down the course of the spine, to the tail. I think the reason of the selection on the part of the demodex is that the hair follicles, or little bags from which the hairs grow, and in which the parasite lives, are much larger, and afford better accommodation. The first symptom of anger in a dog or cat is usually the elevation of these hairs, showing them to be stronger, and consequently having a larger base, than at other parts of the body.

“The unfortunate cat affected with this malady soon begins to arch her back and rub it against the staves of the chairs or the under part of a low couch or other convenient furniture; then the hairs are observed to be broken, and their condition attributed to this habit of rubbing, so that the real cause is often not suspected till great mischief is done and the parasites thoroughly established, the back becoming sore all the way down, and the animal rapidly losing condition.

“Treatment.—Since the cause is parasitic, destruction of the offenders is the object to be attained, and the best method is by laying bare their stronghold, by removing the scurf, etc., with soft soap, before applying any remedy. The reason for using soft soap is that the potash it contains causes the outer cuticle to swell up and become detached, and thereby permits the remedies to come in close contact with the insects, who are tenacious of life, like most low forms of animal life. Having thoroughly washed the sore skin, apply gently, but with a good deal of persistence, a lotion composed of one part of oil of tar to four parts of olive oil, taking care to cover the infected area, but not using any more than is necessary, as it is most easy to excite nausea in the cat, but not easy to allay it. This should be repeated alternate days, washing it off in the intervals with plain curd soap, until the skin begins to look dry and scaly, and loses its redness. The administration of small doses of sulphur (milk of sulphur, two to three grains) daily will facilitate the cure, because it is found to make its way through the skin from within, rendering the cat a less desirable host.”

Eczema (from the Greek, ekzeo, I boil out) is another form of skin disease to which the cat is sometimes subject, and is the effect of an unhealthy condition of the blood. Unlike mange, eczema is not caused by the intrusion of an insect parasite. The disease, being of quite a different nature, requires treatment of another character altogether. Again I use Mr. Leeney’s words:—

“Those parts of the skin which have upon them the least hair, as the belly and thighs, and under the elbows, are the most frequently attacked. It commences with a simple reddening of the skin, and a few days afterwards little watery bladders or vesicles are observed. These breaking, and their contents drying upon the skin, form an offensive, unctuous matter, which becomes mixed with dirt and the débris of broken hair, etc., and reacts upon the already inflamed skin. It is caused by an arid condition of the blood, or perhaps it would be more correct to say an insufficiently alkaline condition of it, since in health that fluid should have an alkaline reaction. Whatever doubt may be cast upon this theory as to the origin of the malady, there is no doubt but that alkaline bicarbonates produce a speedy cure, and the recovery is much facilitated by soothing applications to the abraded parts.

“I would advise as a mixture, bicarbonate of potash, two grains; water, thirty drops; mix for one draught; to be taken twice a day. If the nurse cannot give the medicine as a fluid, the same quantity of potash may be mixed with a little butter or honey, and smeared upon the cat’s toes or shoulders, for she will soon lick it off there. Many cats will not detect it dissolved in a saucer of milk, as it has only the slightest saline taste. If neither of these methods is successful, two grains of exsiccated carbonate of soda may be made into a tiny pill and given in a piece of fish.

“The skin should be well fomented with warm water and a sponge, with a little curd soap and glycerine added to the water. After carefully drying with a piece of lint or old, soft calico, an ointment of zinc (benzoated zinc ointment of the British Pharmacopœia) should be carefully applied for several minutes, careful manipulation being of more service than a large amount of ointment. We have spoken of the condition of the blood which gives rise to eczema, and of remedies likely to cure it; but prevention is, of course, better still.

“I have been able to trace the disease in some cats to access to a neighbouring fishmonger’s dust-hole, where offal has been thrown and allowed to decompose; in others it is traceable to milk. It is difficult enough to keep dogs from eating filth in the streets after refusing good food at home; but who shall restrain the cat? The removal of the offending material, rather than any additional restraint upon pussy, will be, if permissible, the best remedy.

“I have known many cats quite cured without any other remedy than an abundant supply of horse-flesh, as retailed by the cats’-meat men.

“While the subject of food is under consideration, I may mention that a very unfounded prejudice exists against horse-flesh; and while our French neighbours are making it an article of human food, we retain our insular prejudices to such an extent that many people do not even like their dogs and cats to eat it. As a general rule, horses are slaughtered because lame or incapable, and their flesh is in a healthy state, and affords good, sound muscular fibre, while those who die generally do so from acute diseases, as colic, inflammation of the lungs, hernia, etc., etc., the flesh or muscular parts being in no way injured or rendered deleterious. A noticeable example of flesh-fed cats is to be seen in the many large and handsome cats at the Royal Veterinary College, who feed themselves on the donkeys and horses in the dissecting-room.”

Before concluding this chapter I may suggest that, with fair attention, a good cat may be expected to live out a fair term of years, and perhaps without any special ailment. Certainly the causes of disease and death are not a few, sometimes obscure, or of a complicated character; yet the cat is not singular in its liability to pain and death, for such is the portion which falls to all creatures, man not excepted. But when we consider that the cat is a rather fast-breeding animal, and has fewer natural enemies than many other creatures—the rodents, for example—it is evident that the feline race, both in its wild and domesticated state, must be subject to such a constant check upon its undue increase as is justly required to maintain the right balance in creation. Few cats live to old age, which may be estimated at fourteen years. I have heard, however, of two cases at least in which the extraordinary age of twenty-two years has been attained. But what a vast proportion are not permitted to survive as many hours! The irrefutable assertion in the Book of Ecclesiastes, that there is “a time to be born, and a time to die,” having reference to the limited duration of human life, may with equal truth and propriety be considered respecting the whole animal creation. Death is one of the essential laws in nature. Disease and violence may be regarded as but instruments of destruction in the hand of the Almighty. No thoughtful student of nature can fail, however, to be deeply impressed by the evidence that the great God that made all things is not only infinite in power and wisdom, but a God of love. To use the words of Isaac Walton: “The study of the works of nature is the most effectual way to open and excite in us the affections of reverence and gratitude towards that Being whose wisdom and goodness are discernible in the structure of the meanest reptile.”

Worms.—It may be difficult, however, to comprehend, or to regard without disgust, such loathsome forms of life as are the different worms, in some form peculiar to, perhaps, every species of mammal, bird, or fish.

As Mr. Leeney observes:—“Cats are subject to wandering parasites, which pierce the tissues and cause much pain and illness in seeking ‘fresh fields and pastures new.’ Pussy is not exempt from the Trichina spiralis, which, as my readers are probably aware, is the cause in man, in swine, and other animals, of the dreadful malady known as trichinosis.

“It is during the wandering of these minute worms that the fever and pain is produced in the subject, be he human or any other animal.

“That cats should be more liable to this parasite than man is readily understood when we take into account the liking they have for raw meat, while cooking generally obviates the danger from man. The prevalence of trichina, and the disease produced by it, in Germany, is to be accounted for by the custom of eating uncooked ham and other things. I have myself eaten this ‘schinken’ in Germany. I am afraid if trichinosis could be detected in a cat no remedy could be suggested; but in speaking of worms, it ought to be taken into consideration, and may, perhaps, account for some of the obscure causes of death in our domestic pet.

“There are, again, worms whose habitat is the blood-vessels, and whose choice for a nest is the junction or branch of some artery—a favourite one being that vessel which is given off from the great trunk (posterior aorta) to the liver (hepatic). The presence of such a nest occludes the vessel, and produces changes in the structure of its coat, which, together with the diminished calibre of the vessel, seriously affects the liver, by depriving it in a great measure of its nourishment, its substance, like all other parts of the body, depending for its maintenance and repair on the constant circulation of fresh blood, charged with material for supplying the daily waste.

“The ducts or passages from the liver through which the bile should pass are the favourite haunt of another kind of parasite—the fluke; here ‘they do most breed and haunt,’ producing dropsy, a condition well known in sheep, and called the ‘rot.’

“These, like the strongylus occasionally found in the kidneys, are most fatal to their bearers, and unfortunately beyond the reach of remedies.

“A great many remedies have been suggested for sheep suffering from their presence, but the chief difficulty consists in the fact that any remedy, in order to affect the parasite, must enter first into the circulation of the bearer, and the turpentine which would kill the fluke would first kill the cat; and again, the salt, which ruminants enjoy, could not be given to the cat, because vomition is so easily excited, and so much would be required.

“Fortunately for cats and dogs, the kind of worms to which they are most subject are generally situated in the stomach and bowels, and are to be dislodged without much difficulty. It may be taken as a general rule that round worms can be expelled by santonin, and flat worms by areca-nut; but some care should be exercised in the administration of these drugs.

“If a cat is found to be very thin, and her coat is stiff and harsh, accompanied with vomiting of round worms, or they are observed in the excrement, a pill should be made of half a grain of santonin, and ten grains of extract of gentian, and two or three grains of saccharated carbonate of iron, and given fasting, at intervals of two or three days. The best way of giving a pill to a cat is to stick it on the end of a penholder, and, having opened her mouth, push it back on the tongue without any fear of its going the wrong way, and withdraw the penholder suddenly. The pill will almost certainly be swallowed, as the rough, papillæ on the cat’s tongue will have prevented the pill being withdrawn with the holder, and it should have been placed too far back for the patient to do anything with it but swallow it.

“If tape-worm has been observed, from one to three grains of areca-nut (freshly grated) should be given in the form of a pill, mixed with five grains of extract of gentian, and two grains of extract of hyoscyamus. Areca-nut will probably produce the desired effect given alone, but it too often produces acute colic, and even fits, if not mixed with some sedative.”

There is a worm peculiar to the feline race only, and known as Ascaris mystax, or the moustached worm, so called from the four projections at the head. This worm more generally infests the intestines, but often lodges in the stomach, and grows to a considerable length, and is then usually vomited up, to the relief of the poor cat.

“The presence of this or other guests within the stomach is often a cause of gastric derangement, and the cat will be at times voracious, and at others ‘very dainty,’ no doubt feeling faint and nauseated by the irritating presence of the worms, and desperately hungry sometimes from being robbed of its nourishment; for it must be remembered that worms do not simply eat the food as it reaches the stomach from time to time, but they live on the all but completely digested food, or chyle, which is just ready to enter the circulation, and contains all the most nutritive part of the food in a condition fit for building up the animal structures, and replacing the waste which is always taking place. It is only by the consideration of this fact that we can understand how a few small worms can so rapidly cause the bearer to waste away.”

And now, in concluding, may I suggest that there is “a time to kill, and a time to heal,” and that when a favourite cat is really ill, in pain, or has met with a serious accident, it is often both wise and merciful to drown or shoot the poor animal effectually, and without delay. Drowning, as I have before observed, is, perhaps, the simplest and the least painful of the ordinary methods of destruction. Shooting must be resorted to with care and forethought, and no possibility allowed of the cat escaping but only wounded. Poison is at all times to be avoided.