Posts Tagged ‘cat’

Observations on a sedated cat, and links to Chlorpromazine, an antipsychotic in humans

// April 10th, 2013 // Comments Off on Observations on a sedated cat, and links to Chlorpromazine, an antipsychotic in humans // Drugs

What a year! I’ve been around the world (Canada, USA, Argentina, Chile, Denmark, Germany, France, Ireland, England, Hong Kong) to be finally reunited with my kitty cat Phobos back in Adelaide, Australia. I know most pirates have a parrot, but I prefer my pets fluffy.

I had just over a month in my home town (during which time I haven’t blogged so much, as I was seeing everybody back home and the house I was staying in didn’t have internet access), and then had to move again. This time to Melbourne, a larger city full of trendy coffee shops, where my partner is studying at University.

It’s a seven hour drive from Adelaide to Melbourne, and the cat would be coming too. Oh dear. Phobos is not one for cars. Like me, she prefers fresh air and sunshine to exhaust and headlights. She’s not good at hiding her displeasure. On the short trips we’ve taken before, she spends the entire time mewling most heartbreakingly, building up into a reverberating crescendo of “RAAAAAaaaaaaAAAAAaaaawaaarrrrr” and then panting for air. It’s quite upsetting.

That, for seven hours? Forget it! So we went to the vet and got some cat sedatives.

The vet gave us some ACP 10mg tablets, the active ingredient is Acepromazine. It is used for pets, including cats, dogs and sometimes horses. In the UK it’s not allowed to be used in horses intended for human consumption, which is hilarious in light of all the ruckus lately about humans eating horses without intending to. Perhaps a little anti-anxiety medication in the “steaks” would not have gone awry?

I shouldn’t jest, I was in the UK when the story broke and I’m pretty sure I accidentally ate horse. I must remember not to eat meat in the UK… you’d think we’d remember that from the mad cow outbreak in the 80’s. Speaking of mad cow, the fourth case in the US was identified in April 2012 in California, perhaps a month before I was there last year. Sure, it was in a dairy cow and bovine spongiform encephalopathy is not passed on by milk, but still…

Anyway, back to the cat! I gave her one tablet and within 15 minutes it had kicked in. Her eyes became unfocused and her third eyelids crept up. I’m glad the vet warned me of that one, it looked creepy – a layer of pinkish white arising from the corner of her nose and covering about a third of her eyes. The third eyelid has a protective function and it’s visible if the eye is injured, as a side effect of sedation, and during deep sleep.

Next she lost some motor control of her back legs and tail, like she had to move her whole hips to get her legs to move forward. Later she would start stepping backwards when she tried to curl into a ball, until she hit a wall and then stopped. She looked like a cowboy kitty.

The real test was when we got her in the car. She had a halfhearted meow or two, tried to look out the window, and then sat on my lap and rested quite peacefully. Acepromazine is an anti-anxiety drug, and she really didn’t seem anxious at all. Every hour or so she’d go for a little walk across our lap and quickly get worn out and go back to sitting with us or sleeping.

So it seemed good to me. She seemed less stressed.



As we were driving, and it’s a long drive, the topic changed to how much easier it was for the cat to be calm, not really for us but mostly for Phobos herself. What about with kids, then? We both knew that some kids are pretty loud and upset on plane flights (not all, but some), and we’ve heard of people who sedate their children with some cough medicine (or even stronger stuff.) It seems pretty unethical to me, on first glance and being childless myself. So why is it different to sedate a cat?

Perhaps it’s partly an age thing… I’m not sure I would sedate a kitten, for example. I have no problem with adult humans sedating themselves on flights, in fact I have a friend who does it due to extreme anxiety and sinus pain. But that’s also a question of consent, and even a grown cat can’t consent to taking drugs.

The next logical step in this conversation was “Do cat sedatives work on humans too?” And now I’m settled in Melbourne with high speed cable internet, I can tell you the answer for Acepromazine is yes, as it was used as an antipsychotic in humans during the 1950’s. However, it is no longer used in humans, and one of the reason’s that it is prescribed by vets is because it is much less likely to be misused recreationally than a morphine-based drug.



Although it’s no longer used as an antipsychotic, the closely related Chlorpromazine is. Chlorpromazine (or Thorazine in the US) has been used since the 1950’s, about the same time that Acepromazine was briefly used. The drug became very popular and was aggressively marketed, but it’s far from perfect. It’s one of the drugs given to patients in Ken Kesey’s book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. That book is very critical of society’s reliance on drugs, and the overuse of medication to control mood and make patients compliant.

I agree, I think there is an overprescription of behavioural and mood drugs. All drugs have side-effects, and they should be taken seriously – especially if someone is taking a drug long-term. Also, in my opinion, western society today has a particularly strict view on “normal” and people who don’t fit in with the norm are medicalised.

Chlorpromazine is still used long-term as a treatment for schizophrenia, and I’d rather not give an opinion on that because it’s such a complex issue. However, a long-term usage as prescribed by doctors is surely different to the descriptions in One Flew which was decades ago, very extreme, and let’s not forget, fictional. Both are different again to a short-term one-dose of the closely related Acepromazine to a cat.

It’s hard (often impossible) to know what’s happening in an animal’s head. Hell, it’s hard enough to know what’s happening in your own head sometimes! It’s entirely possible that she hated the experience, that she felt vulnerable and dissociated and confused – but there’s no evidence that this was the case. However, I do know (as far as it is possible to know) that she hates being in a car when she’s not sedated because she cries and cries. So for such a long journey I think the benefits outweighed the risks.

Altogether, I was pleased with Acepromazine. Phobos has completely recovered and is back to her usual inquisitive, scampering self.

Super cute kittens conceived by science

// March 18th, 2011 // 2 Comments » // Recent Research, Sex and Reproduction

african black-footed kitten

African black-footed kitten conceived by IVF

This little kitty is a rare African black-footed cat conceived through IVF in an attempt to keep the species alive.

About 40 of these cats live in zoos worldwide, while a few wild cats live in South Africa where they are protected, but sometimes poisoned and killed by farmers.

How could you poison these little kittens, they’re so CUTE!!! Ahem. So, I have been visiting Zooborns again, it’s a serious habit.

Let’s pretend this post is about something more than just cute pictures of cats, and talk about the science that conceived them.

Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species aim to protect seriously endangered species by creating a “frozen zoo”, banking genetic material such as eggs, sperm, embryos and tissue samples. Frozen, thawed sperm and IVF technology sparked the life of these kittens, which were really conceived six years ago and frozen as embryos.

The embryos were thawed and implanted into the surrogate mother Bijou in December last year.

african black-footed cat

Man, what did I DO last night?

It must be a bizarre experience for the mother, although I’ve heard tomcats have a barbed penis so perhaps she’s lucky to have skipped the usual event.

The frozen zoo contains frozen semen from the gorilla, Sumatran tiger, jaguar, Jabiru stork, and caracal. Other cell samples cover the African and Asian elephants, Baird’s tapir, colobus monkey, roan antelope, and black bear.

“The next step for us will be to clone the black-footed cat and transfer the embryo to a domestic cat surrogate,” said Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species Senior Scientist Dr. C. Earle Pope in the media release.

Cloning endangered species, is that a good idea or not? I can’t tell.

Physics of lapping lets cats drink without mess

// November 24th, 2010 // 2 Comments » // How Things Work, Recent Research, Science at Home

First up, apologies on the lateness of my post. A whole week has gone past! Oh me! I humbly do beseech you to forgive this old salt and do throw myself upon the deck in penance. Me only defense is that I have just moved from Canberra to Adelaide, and me Schooner does need an awful lot of bubble wrap. To distract you from me own slackness, I have scoured the nets for the cutest science story evah. I ply you with kittens thusly:


Cats are a more delicate and refined animal than messy, smelly and drooly dogs. I’ve always been a cat person. I think they have higher standards. Turns out they also drink better than dogs.

Both dogs and cats lack the complete cheeks that humans have, which means they can’t drink water by suction like we can. Dogs get around this by using their tongues as a ladle, cupping the water from bowl to throat.

Cat’s do it differently. They lap water briskly, but not like a ladle. Instead, they DEFY GRAVITY and make the water lift up into the air like a glorious floating blob of refreshment.

Sounds crazy, but it’s true. When they dip into the dish, water adheres to the dorsal (top) side of their tongue. The surface tension (sweet, sweet hydrogen bondage) of the water drags a column of water into the air. The cat can thus pull water into its mouth using inertia.

The competition between inertia moving water up and gravity pulling it down sets the lapping frequency of the cat. Smaller cats with smaller tongues lap faster to drink, large cats lap slower. Observation of lapping frequency in big cats like lions shows the same kind of trend, suggesting they use the same physics as the household feline.

Cats might do this because it’s a neater, cleaner way to drink and it keeps their whiskers nice and dry. Whiskers have an important sensory function, so it’s worth the effort to keep them tidy.

The research was published in Science, and began when a researcher was watching his own cat drink. A video of the researcher and cat is below, and shows in super slow mo exactly how water defies gravity when a cat enters the equation.

Did you hear that? Did you? Not only is it physics, hydrogen bonding and gravity defying, plus, PLUS, the tongue could have implications for robotics of the future. Yeah. Robot cat tongues. It’s going to happen.

Actually tongues are very interesting. They obviously have no bones for support, so instead they have a muscular hydrostat system where support comes from muscles. The same thing happens in octopus tentacles, where muscles stretch in one of three directions: Along the tentacle (longitudinal), across the tentacle (transverse) or wrapping around the tentacle (helical.) When an octopus moves, one muscle contracts to become shorter which forces the muscles around to stretch, supporting the movement like a skeleton.

Cats and octopus. You know this post was worth the wait.

ResearchBlogging.orgReis, P., Jung, S., Aristoff, J., & Stocker, R. (2010). How Cats Lap: Water Uptake by Felis catus Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1195421

Margay cat of Brasil mimics primates to lure prey

// September 1st, 2010 // 3 Comments » // Science Communication

Altered image, original by Malene Thyssen

At some point in this post I’m going to be tempted to say “copy cat,” so I’m just going to say it now. Copy Cat. There, it’s out of my system, now let’s move on.

On fieldwork in Brasil (so jealous right now) a group of researchers saw a large cat called a margay making some weird noises. It sounded like a pied tamarin pup, a small, supercute primate species, and I recommend you click through that link so you can bask in the cuteness.

In pied tamarin society only the alpha female gives birth, usually to twins, and the pups are looked after mostly by the father. So when the margay made some pup-like mewls, an adult male pied tamarin came down to see what the deal was.

The pied tamarin stayed in the area for a good half hour while the male was keeping an eye out. But as he was watching, the margay made his move. Across some branches… almost… almost… but at the last moment the pied tamarin saw the cat and raised the alarm. All the pied tamarins in the group high tailed outta there quicker than a pirate on shore leave.

In this instance, the margay went without its meal, but a cat using noises to attract prey is unusual. In fact, this was the first time (report came out June 2009) a feline from the neotropical region was found to mimic animal cries. What’s really interesting about the report is that it says local Amazon jungle inhabitants had already told them that the margay and other cats in the area mimicked animals to catch prey. But we don’t accept it scientifically until some scientists witness it and write a report. Just strikes me as unnecessary. Maybe I’m being unscientific, I don’t know.

The margay is an interesting feline. It spends most of its time in trees. It is one of only two cats with the ankles needed to climb down trees head first, the other one being the clouded leopard. It’s been seen dangling from trees hanging by only one foot. I wonder if that observation was made by a scientist?

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