Caring for Your Feline Companion
Manxes: What a Unique Breed!
Your cat is special! She senses your moods, is curious about your day, and has purred her way into your heart. Chances are that you chose her because you like Manxes and you expected her to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle, like:
- Energetic and playful
- Loves jumping and being in high places
- An affectionate companion and family cat
- Alert, curious, and busy
- Brave and ready for adventure
However, no cat is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:
- Strong prey drive – will chase small animals and moving feet
- High likelihood of getting to know at least one veterinary specialist
Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! She is playful, intelligent, and devoted to her family.
There are many stories about the origination of the Manx cat, most of them include the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, where the name, likely originated. The Manx will have one of four tail types. Rumpies are completely tailless, often with a dimple at the base of the spine where the tail would be. Rumpy-risers have a short knob of tail. Stumpies have a curved or kinked tail stump, and Longies that have tails almost as long as that of an average cat. The Manx is a docile and playful cat. They are loving companions and adore people. They are also smart and nimble, capable of using paws to get into cabinets or to open doors. The Manx is an excellent jumper, even without a tail to aid its balance.
Your Manx’s Health
We know that because you care so much about your cat, you want to take great care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Manx. By knowing about the health concerns common among Manxes, we can help you tailor an individual preventive health plan and hopefully prevent some predictable risks in your pet.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. The conditions we will describe here have a significant rate of incidence or a strong impact upon this breed particularly, according to a general consensus among feline genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners. This does not mean your cat will have these problems, only that she may be more at risk than other cats. We will describe the most common issues seen in Manxes to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
This guide contains general health information important to all felines as well as information on genetic predispositions for Manxes. The information here can help you and your pet’s healthcare team plan for your pet’s unique medical needs together. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Manx looking and feeling her best. We hope this information will help you know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your friend.
General Health Information for your Manx
Obesity is a major disease that contributes to a surprisingly large number of illnesses and deaths in cats.
This revelation is more well-known and well-understood today than in the last few decades, but too many owners are still ignoring the dangers of extra weight on their pets. Excess weight is one of the most influential factors in the development of arthritis, diabetes, and other life-threatening diseases. Everyone knows—many firsthand from personal experience—how even shedding just a few pounds can result in improved mobility and increased overall motivation to be active. And the same is true for your pet.
Research suggests that carrying excess weight may shorten a pet’s life by as much as two years, and can cause the onset of arthritis two years sooner. Diabetes, an inherited disease, has a much higher chance of developing in overweight pets, and may never become a problem for a healthy-weight cat. The more obese a cat becomes, the more likely it will become diabetic. Hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver, is another potentially fatal disease in overweight pets; hepatic lipidosis can develop in as few as 48 hours when an overweight cat stops eating for any reason.
So how can we help our pets stay trim? Understanding your cat’s dietary habits is key. The average cat prefers to eat about 10-15 times a day, just a few nibbles at a time. This method, free-feeding, works well for most cats, but boredom may increase the number of trips your cat makes to the food bowl. By keeping your cat playfully active and engaged, you’ll help your pet stay healthy and have some fun at the same time! A string tied to a stick with something crinkly or fuzzy on the other end of the string, and a little imagination—you and your cat will both be entertained. Food puzzles, like kibbles put in a paper bag or under an overturned basket or box, may help to motivate cats with more food-based interests to romp and tumble.
For really tough cases of overeating, you will have to take a firm stance, and regulate your cat’s food intake. Instead of filling your cat’s bowl to the top, follow the feeding guide on the food package and be sure to feed a high-quality adult cat diet as recommended by your vet. Replace your cat’s habits of eating when bored with extra playtime and affection. Cats typically adjust their desires for personal interaction by the amount of affection offered to them, so in other words, ignoring your cat means your cat will ignore you. By the same token, loving on and playing with your cat a lot will cause your cat to desire that time with you. A more active cat means a healthier, happier pet—and owner!
Dental disease is one of the most common chronic problems in pets who don’t have their teeth brushed regularly. Unfortunately, most cats don’t take very good care of their own teeth, and this probably includes your Manx. Without extra help and care from you, your cat is likely to develop potentially serious dental problems. Dental disease starts with food residue, which hardens into tartar that builds up on the visible parts of the teeth, and eventually leads to infection of the gums and tooth roots. Protecting your cat against dental disease from the start by removing food residue regularly may help prevent or delay the need for advanced treatment of dental disease. This treatment can be stressful for your cat and expensive for you, so preventive care is beneficial all around. In severe cases of chronic dental infection, your pet may even lose teeth or sustain damage to internal organs. And, if nothing else, your cat will be a more pleasant companion not knocking everyone over with stinky cat breath! We’ll show you how to keep your cat’s pearly whites clean at home, and help you schedule regular routine dental exams.
Like all cats, Manxes are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections such as panleukopenia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis, and rabies, which are preventable through vaccination. The risk of your cat contracting these diseases is high, so the corresponding vaccines are called “core” vaccines, which are highly recommended for all cats. In addition, vaccines are available to offer protection from other dangerous diseases like feline leukemia virus (FeLV). In making vaccination recommendations for your cat, we will consider the prevalence of these diseases in our area, your cat’s age, and any other risk factors specific to her lifestyle.
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Manx’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest her skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into her system in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your feline friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. Many types of parasites can be detected with a fecal exam, so it’s a good idea to bring a fresh stool sample (in a stink-proof container, please) with your pet for her twice-a-year wellness exams. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.
Spay or Neuter
One of the best things you can do for your Manx is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this procedure includes surgically removing the ovaries and usually the uterus; in males, the testicles are surgically removed. Spaying or neutering your pet decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted litters. Both sexes usually become less territorial and less likely to roam, and neutering particularly decreases the occurrence of urine spraying and marking behaviors in males. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your cat is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays to check for dysplasia or a thorough dental exam to look for stomatitis, these procedures can be conveniently performed at the same time as the spay or neuter to minimize the stress on your cat. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions against common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. It sounds like a lot to keep in mind, but don’t worry – we’ll discuss all the specific problems we will look for with you when the time arrives.
Genetic Predispositions for Manxes
When your cat urinates outside the litter box, you may be annoyed or furious, especially if your best pair of shoes was the location chosen for the act. But don’t get mad too quickly—in the majority of cases, cats who urinate around the house are sending signals for help. Although true urinary incontinence, the inability to control the bladder muscles, is rare in cats and is usually due to improper nerve function from a spinal defect, most of the time, a cat that is urinating in “naughty” locations is having a problem and is trying to get you to notice. What was once considered to be one urinary syndrome has turned out to be several over years of research, but current terminology gathers these different diseases together under the label of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Diseases, or FLUTD. Many of these diseases cause similar symptoms, for example, a cat with urolithiasis, or bladder stones, shows many of the same symptoms as a cat with a urinary tract infection, which may also present like the symptoms of a blocked tomcat. Watching for any signs of abnormal urination, like urinating on cool surfaces (a tile floor or bathtub, for example), blood in the urine, straining to urinate with little or no urine production, or crying in the litterbox can help you identify the first signs of a FLUTD. If your cat demonstrates any of these symptoms, call us right away for an urgent appointment. Particularly for male cats, if the urethra is blocked with stones or crystals, the cat is not able to expel any urine, which can become an emergency within only a few hours. The inability to urinate is painful and quickly fatal, so if your cat may be blocked, seek emergency care immediately.
Cats are very good at hiding how sick they are, so the early signs of FLUTD are easy to miss. Bringing your cat in for regular urinalysis testing allows us to check for signs of infection, kidney disease, crystals in the urine, and even diabetes. X-rays and ultrasounds can also help detect the presence of stones in the bladder or kidneys. Lower urinary tract disease can be controlled with medications and special diets, though severe cases of FLUTD may also require surgery.
Cats are upheld among pets as very tidy creatures, so when they have a bowel movement outside of their litter box, you might consider it a signal that something is wrong. When cats defecate outside the box, the problem is rarely behavioral; more likely the cat has lost full bowel control due to an illness, and instead of punishment, needs your understanding and assistance. Although your cat may be shy with you looming nearby, watch for typical litter box behavior and habits. Changes in these habits can give clues as to the nature of your pet’s bowel difficulty. For example, longhaired cats sometimes get feces stuck in the hair under their tails, and when the pieces of feces drop off later, you may believe your cat has defecated outside of the box. In these cases, regular trips to the groomer for a sanitary trim may resolve the issue. In other cases, the problem may be digestive; watch for soft stool, including blood or mucous in the stool, and bring us a fresh sample for analysis. In addition, some tailless cats like your Manx are born with genetic developmental and neurological issues that may require advanced medical treatment or surgical intervention. Treatment for these issues is more effective when problems are identified early, so we recommend taking pelvic X-rays of your kitten while young—the time of her spay or his neuter, for example, is a great opportunity.
Many cats develop minor but embarrassing litter box problems like constipation, which, while injuring your friend’s dignity, may be a signal to you that he needs assistance or perhaps even medical care. You’ll need to learn the difference between how your cat looks when he is trying to urinate and how he looks when defecating. Cats though, like people, have different levels of comfort with pooping in front of an audience, so the best way to support your cat in this issue is to be sensitive to his litter box behaviors and try to foster trust in order to gain his cooperation.
A cat that is unable to urinate is considered a medical emergency and needs veterinary care right away. Not being able to have a bowel movement is uncomfortable and quite serious, but usually requires a more comprehensive approach to figure out the underlying cause. Sometimes the problem may be as simple as a change in litter that the cat dislikes or even something that seems unrelated, like a change in your work schedule or a visitor in the home, which are disrupting the cat’s routine. There are also serious medical causes for constipation, like dehydration, which is often a sign of underlying disease like diabetes, kidney disease, or various infections. If your cat begins hanging around the litterbox more than usual, defecating outside his litterbox, or you notice him posturing to defecate for longer than usual, call us for an appointment. We can often learn a lot about your cat’s medical condition by examining his feces, so collect a sample of his stool (in a stink-proof container, please) for examination. Depending on the underlying problem your cat may need to tolerate special diets, medications, and sometimes even enemas (performed by a veterinarian), but we can usually restore normal living to cats with this problem. SPECIAL NOTE: Never give your cat an over-the-counter hypertonic phosphate enema, such as a Fleet enema. These can cause immediate death in cats.
Megacolon is a serious and chronic form of constipation caused by a defect in the nerve supply to the intestines. Cats with megacolon have an insufficient number of nerves linked to the muscles of the colon and are unable to pass stool properly. As the cat gets older, the condition worsens, causing an increase in discomfort and blockage. Each time the cat is constipated, the intestines are stretched, bruised, and further damaged. This damage leads to larger and harder stools and, eventually, complete blockage. Megacolon is a life-threatening condition, but early and aggressive treatment can delay or prevent the necessity of major surgery to remove the colon.
Congenital Vertebral Malformations
Sacrocaudal dysgenesis is a form of spinal deformity commonly seen in Manx kittens. The sacrum is the part of the spine that passes through the pelvis, caudal means “towards the tail”, and dysgenesis means improper formation during fetal development. Sacrocaudal dysgenesis, then, means that the tail end of the spine forms improperly during fetal development—a common problem when a cat’s tail is genetically programmed to be missing. Affected kittens whose spine and spinal nerves aren’t functioning correctly may have fecal or urinary incontinence, or may walk with a hopping, abnormal gait. Constipation and megacolon are also more common in affected cats, and the effects of the condition typically worsen with age. Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment for cats with sacrocaudal dysgenesis though many affected cats live fairly normal lives despite their disabilities. X-rays should be taken while your pet is young, such as at the same time as the spay or neuter surgery, to ensure that problems are identified early.
Mast Cell Tumors
Mast cell tumors are a particularly nasty type of skin cancer, and the sooner they are surgically removed the better. Unfortunately, mast cell tumors often look similar to many other kinds of skin lumps and lesions, so it’s hard to know when to be concerned. Of all the skin problems found commonly in your Manx, some may be harmful and some not, but any skin lump, bump, or irritation on your cat is cause enough for concern. All abnormalities should be checked out by the vet, and any suspicious or questionable growths should be surgically removed and tested as soon as possible. Many cancers can be cured by surgically removing their growths, so early evaluation of all skin abnormalities is critical.
The cornea is the clear outer layer at the front of the eye. Corneal dystrophy is an inherited condition in Manxes that causes small, white crystals to form in one of the layers of the cornea. Usually the disease progresses slowly, isn’t painful, and causes only minor obstruction of vision, although partial or complete blindness is possible over time. There is currently no known effective medical treatment to remove the deposits; surgery is an option, but unfortunately, due to genetic predisposition, the crystals may return.
Cats of any breed that are completely white, especially if they have blue eyes, are at high risk for congenital deafness, and are likely to be born with reduced or absent hearing. Heritable or genetic deafness has also been noted in some Manx bloodlines, so if you suspect your cat’s hearing is not as keen as it should be, schedule an appointment with us right away. The problem could be caused by a treatable issue like ear polyps or an ear infection, but if your pet’s ears are healthy and he’s still ignoring you, a more thorough hearing workup might be in order, including brainwave analysis, if indicated. There is no treatment for genetic nerve deafness, but most deaf cats get along fine in an indoor environment. For deaf or hearing-deficient cats, going outside can be very dangerous, as cats rely largely on hearing to detect sneaking predators and other perils like oncoming cars, so an indoor life is the best way to keep your hard-of-hearing pet safe.
Taking Care of Your Manx at Home
Much of what you can do at home to keep your cat happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for your pet. During your cat’s exams, we’ll perform her necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Manxes. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing her up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.
Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise
Build your pet’s routine care into your schedule to help your Manx live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine for your pet.
- Supervise your pet as you would a young child. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will help keep her out of trouble, off of inappropriate surfaces for jumping, and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
- Brush her coat at least weekly.
- Manxes have generally good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
- Check her ears weekly for wax, debris, or signs of infection and clean when necessary. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
- She needs daily play sessions that stimulate her natural desire to hunt and explore. Keep her mind and body active or she may develop behavior issues.
- Cats are meticulously clean and demand a clean litter box. Be sure to provide at least one box for each cat and scoop waste daily.
- It is important that your cat drinks adequate amounts of water. If she won’t drink water from her bowl try adding ice cubes or a flowing fountain.
- Feed a high-quality feline diet appropriate for her age.
- Exercise your cat regularly by engaging her with high-activity toys.
What to Watch For
An abnormal symptom in your pet could be just a minor or temporary issue, but it could also be the sign of serious illness or disease. Knowing when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently, is essential to taking care of your cat. Many diseases can cause cats to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Manx needs help.
Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of symptoms:
- Change in appetite or water consumption
- Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
- Itchy skin (scratching, chewing, or licking), hair loss, or areas of shortened fur
- Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
- Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes
- Stool or urine accidents, difficulty passing stool, “hopping” hind leg gait
- Hard stools, either large or small pieces, straining to pass stool
- Hard or large stools, frequent constipation, digestive upset
- Small lumps or nodules, which may look red or swollen
- Lack of response to noises
Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these signs:
- Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
- Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
- Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
Partners in Health Care
DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the early diagnosis of inherited disease even before your cat shows symptoms. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit www.Genesis4Pets.com.
Your Manx counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide you both with the best health care possible: health care that’s based on your pet’s breed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.
- Bell JS, Cavanagh KE, Tilley LP, Smith FW. Veterinary medical guide to dog and cat breeds. Jackson, Wyoming. Teton New Media; 2012.
- Gough A, Thomas A. Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats. 2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.
- Hamza J, Hannon M, et al. Breed Profile [Internet]. The Cat Fanciers’ Association, Inc. [cited 2013 Apr 15]. Available from: http://www.cfainc.org/Breeds/BreedsKthruR/Manx.aspx