What the Litterbox Can Tell You About Your Cat

This isn’t the most pleasant topic of conversation, but if your veterinarian has ever asked for a stool sample, this is what he/she is looking for:


The normal color for a cat’s stool is chocolate brown. If the stool is red or streaked with red fluid, it’s an indication of blood. If the stool is black, it may indicate bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. If the stool is light in color, your cat may be suffering from liver disease or a lack of digestive enzyme production. If you’re sifting through the litter and your cat’s stool isn’t chocolate in color, it’s time to head to the vet’s.


Normal stool looks like a log and is formed yet moist enough that litter clings to it. It should have an odor, but the paint shouldn’t be peeling off the walls. Stool that is hard, dry or misshapen, your cat may not be drinking enough water, he may have a kidney disease or diabetes. If the stool looks more like a cow pie or pudding, your cat has diarrhea and may have an intestinal problem, a food intolerance, parasites or a bacterial or viral infection.


His stool should be consistent with the amount of food he eats. Smaller sized poop signals a reduced appetite, which may indicate an illness.


A cat’s stool should be free of mucus, blood, undigested food, large amounts of hair and parasites. A large amount of hair in the poop can contribute to constipation.

If you see anything abnormal in your cat’s litterbox, make an appointment with your vet immediately.

Brussels Griffon

AKC Group: Toy

This toy breed began in 17th century Belgium to exterminate vermin. Their small size lent them to be easily transported alongside coach drivers as companions. The breed became a favorite of the working class, then the nobility. The Brussels Griffon is considered a rare breed.

Size: 6 to 12 inches tall, 8 to 11 pounds.

Color: Red, beige (a mix of red/brown and black), black and tan or solid black.

Life span: 13 to 14 years

Health problems: Luxating patella, Legg Perthes, seizures, heart problems or cataracts.

Brussels Griffon dogs come in two varieties: the rough-coated or the smooth-coated. The rough-coated Brussels Griffon has a wiry, harsh coat while the smooth-coated Brussels Griffon has a short, body-hugging coat. The breed has protruding eyes that require frequent attention to avoid eye infections.

Brussels Griffon dogs are alert and intelligent. When he’s in the mood, he can be pretty entertaining. He’s happy to snuggle on your lap. Brussels Griffon do better with older children, not due to personality conflicts, but because of their size. On the negative side, Brussels Griffon can be stubborn and even manipulative if not properly trained. They can be sensitive and independent when the mood strikes them. Depending on his personality, he will either be friendly or skittish with strangers. He should do well with other companion animals, but not with more dominant strange dogs. This breed is naturally obedient, but does not like to be teased. Brussels Griffons have a tendency to be possessive of their toys and food and is prone to jealousy.

Grooming is a breeze with the smooth-coated Brussels Griffon. When you feel he needs brushing, do it. With the rough-coated variety, he needs to be brushed about twice a week. Training will be the most difficult part of life with a Brussels Griffon. If you’re harsh or aggressive, he will shut right down and make subsequent training sessions even more difficult. This is a sensitive dog and training him properly requires sensitivity from you. If you can, it’s best to wait to train him. These dogs learn better when they have some maturity under their belts. If you go the obedience route, a Brussels Griffon will take to it like a duck to water. Housebreaking may be challenging. He’ll need a flexible schedule as a puppy, but as he grows, his system will catch up to him. Brussels Griffon thrive on consistency; they are not a very adaptable breed. Overrule his natural tendency and expose him early to new people and new sights. Leash training will go better if you start at 6 to 8 weeks of age. The tools you’ll need to train your Brussels Griffon are praise, treats, clickers, patience and gentleness.

Egyptian Mau

Egyptian Mau cats are truly exquisite! They have medium-long, graceful bodies with muscular necks and shoulders. A loose skin flap extends from the flank to the knee of the hind legs. The hind legs are longer than the front and it looks like an Egyptian Mau walks on their tiptoes. Slightly oval feet are small. The tail is medium-long, thicker at the base and tapers to the end. Males weigh 10 to 15 pounds; females weigh 6 to 10 pounds.

They look like a classic cat, but their gorgeous spotted coat sets them apart. Their coat is medium in length with a lustrous sheen. (If Maus were human, they would all star in hair commercials.) Smoky colored Maus have silky, fine coats. Silver or bronze Maus have a dense coat. (Regardless of the base coat color, all Maus have the same spotting.)

Hailing from Egypt, Maus may be the oldest domestic cat breed, from which all other modern breeds descended. The mummified cats of ancient Egypt have been found to be African wildcats (felis silvestris lybica), from which all breeds of domestic cats descended. Side note: A 2007 genetic study has indicated that our domestic cats have descended from as few as five female African wildcats.

Maus tend to bond to only one or two people and they are fiercely loyal and devoted for their whole life. Spending time together (especially playing fetch) is all a Mau will ask for. Maus are the definition of curious, energy and playful. They will need a full, varied arsenal of toys and a few cat trees or they’ll have to play with your knickknacks instead. To a Mau, anything can be a toy. Don’t worry, Maus know how to keep track of their toys. If you sneak and put them away, he will hound you until you return them. Maus retain a wild cat mentality; they love to hunt moving targets. Training not to attack feet or hands will be needed. A Mau will often “hunt” his catnip toy, returning with a predator’s gleam in his eye. If a Mau is allowed outside, he will revert back to his natural hunting instincts — and, like a catnip toy, he will bring you home his kills. It’s best to keep a Mau indoors only; in fact, most breeders make it a condition of sale.

Maus use trills and chortles instead of meows to communicate with you. Maus also have a distinct tail wiggle (it looks like they’re spraying). They love to be up high. You’ll need to be vigilant about a specified amount of food or they can become obese. A closed door will not stop a Mau, they will learn how to open it. Most Maus enjoy water. A fountain may end up becoming his favorite toy — and happily occupy him for hours.

Brittany Spaniel


AKC Group: Sporting

The exact origins of the Brittany are unknown. They are thought to have descended from an Orange and White Setter and a not clearly defined French dog. They are believed to have originated from the French province of Brittany. The Brittany remains one of the most popular breeds of pointed dogs for bird hunting and the smallest breed of gun dogs.

Size: 17.5 to 20.5 inches tall, 30 to 40 pounds.

Color: Orange with white; liver with white; roan patterned or tri-colored. (Tri-colored are liver with white dogs that have orange markings on the eyebrows, muzzle and cheeks.)

Life span: 10 to 12 years.

Health problems: Spinal problems, hip dysplasia, glaucoma, seizures, liver problems or heart problems.

Brittanys have short, dense coats that can be wavy. Some of the hair on the legs is feathered. The ears fold down. A Brittany always looks alert and confident.

Brittanys are loyal, cheerful, eager and dedicated. A Brittany loves to play and to exercise; these dogs are a bundle of energy. They have intelligence to spare and are easy to train. They are, in turn, naturally obedient. Brittanys love people and attention. If you aren’t giving your Brittany enough attention, you’ll know it. If he’s a destructive nightmare, he needs more quality time with you. A Brittany is a sensitive dog that wants to please you. On the negative side, Brittanys can be a bit too independent and sometimes too spirited. They want nothing more than to be in on all the action. With children, Brittanys are gentle. They get along with all children and other companion animals. Early socialization is a must. They are timid with strangers. (Some Brittany lines are naturally timid.) They make an effective watchdog and an all-around great family pet.

A Brittany coat is soft and beautiful. He should be brushed twice a week to remove dead hair and prevent matting. During shedding season, he may require more attention.

Training should commence as soon as your Brittany comes home. Socialization is extremely important. If he’ll be crated when you’re not home, that should also begin first thing after he comes home. Naturally prone to barking, this should always be discouraged. Excitable and rambunctious, proper house manners will be next on the list. A Brittany tends to become destructive when left alone for extended periods. They respond to love and gentleness. They do want to please you; harshness is completely counter-productive.


Dogs are a digitigrade species: they walk on their digits. Paws have four digits that make contact with the ground, but sometimes their is an inside digit higher up that doesn’t connect with the ground. That is a dewclaw. Most dogs have dewclaws on their front paws only, it’s rare to have a rare dewclaw. There are a few breeds where a rear dewclaw is a breed standard, such as the Great Pyrnees or Briard. What is/was the purpose of a dewclaw?

The Great Pyrenees was bred to be a guard livestock and the ground they walked on was rough and uneven. The dewclaw on the rear feet functioned to give the dogs greater stability. (This is much the same purpose of front dewclaws.) Since most dogs aren’t used for herding, hunting or guarding anymore, essentially the dewclaw (rear or front) is now a non functional extra “appendage,” that is expendable, which they often are.

Many breeders will often have dewclaws removed between 3 to 5 days of age. At this age, the dewclaw is so loose, it’s easy for a veterinarian to remove.

If your dog’s breeder didn’t remove the dewclaw, you can make the decision. Consider where your dog will be spending much of his time and how much the dewclaw is “in the way.” Any dewclaw that is loose regardless of your dog’s lifestyle, should be removed by your veterinarian immediately. A loose dewclaw can get caught on anything and will cause your dog tremendous pain.

The easiest (and most preferred time by veterinarians) time to remove dewclaws are during your dog’s spay/neuter procedure as your dog will be under general anesthesia anyway. This anesthesia doesn’t carry the same risks as other types and the older a dog is, the more risks are associated with using any kind of anesthesia.

If you choose to keep your dog’s dewclaw (especially in the front) because it’s held so close to your dog’s skin, you will need to pay as much attention to it as you do to his normal claws. Since dewclaws don’t make contact with the ground, they don’t have a chance to get worn down like regular claws. These dewclaws will grow in a “curlier” fashion and can grow into your dog’s skin and, if not trimmed, can cause your dog pain. Once a dewclaw curls in that much, trimming it is extremely difficult; so trim dewclaws often.

If you have any questions about your dog’s dewclaws, consult your vet. Between the two of you, you’ll be able to make a completely informed decision about what’s the best course of action to take for both you and your dog.


What is a dewlap? Dewlap is the name of the flap of skin underneath the lower jaw that stores extra fat. A great majority of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have a dewlap. In some species, it is more prominent. What’s a dewlap’s purpose? That depends on the species of animal. Let’s look at a rabbit’s and an anole lizard’s dewlap:


Mature females have a pronounced dewlap. However, don’t assume that just because you can see your rabbit’s dewlap that it’s a female. Obese males sport prominent dewlaps too. Why does a female need a prominent dewlap? When she becomes pregnant and needs to build a nest to give birth, she’ll pluck out the fur from her dewlap to line her nest. When she experiences a false or pseudo-pregnancy, if she’s stressed or experiencing a hormonal imbalance, she’ll also pluck out her dewlap fur.

By the way, a normal dewlap should feel fleshy and soft and not have swelling or a hardness to it. A dewlap can be easily checked. Just gently pull the dewlap away from the neck.


The male anole lizard have brightly colored dewlaps that they use to attract a mate or warn a rival. To a female anole lizard, the bigger and brighter the dewlap, the better they’ll like him.

Still confused about what exactly a dewlap is? Find a senior citizen or an overweight human. That “double chin” — that’s what a dewlap is.


Briquet Griffon Vendeen

AKC Group: Not recognized

The Briquet Griffon Vendeen breed comes from France and has descended from the Vendeen hounds. The World Wars eliminated much of the breed and, in fact, the Briquet is still relatively unknown, even in France. Though rare, they are attracting many admirers worldwide. The Briquet were developed to hunt small game by scent in all types of weather conditions and climates.

Size: 20 to 22 inches, 48 to 53 pounds

Color: White/orange; white/gray; black/tan; tricolored; solid fawn; solid orange; solid gray or solid light brown.

Life span: 12 years

Health problems: Low occurrences of patella luxation and distichiasis (a condition in which extra hairs grow out of the eyelash area).

The Briquet Griffon Vendeen is a medium sized dog with a shaggy white (usually) coat. “Briquet” translates to “medium-sized” and the Vendeen is a popular French companion dog breed. The Briquet is a sensitive, stocky dog. They have long, droopy ears. Their tails are short and stick straight out when the dog is alert, anxious or happy. Briquet are able to hunt small deer. Their large dark eyes are expressive.

They are naturally friendly and intelligent. Briquet make excellent hunters. It doesn’t matter to them if the trail is cold or hot. They love outdoor pursuits! They live life with vigor; they are such lively, enthusiastic dogs. Able to work in packs or independently, they get along famously with other dogs and aren’t possessive. They adore kids. When introduced into England, Brits dubbed them “The Happy Breed.” Happy they are, a Briquet is extremely willing to please and rarely succumb to fits of aggression. What Briquets don’t like is being told what to do (a touch of feline in their bloodline?), you can get bribe him, however.

Their shagginess comes naturally and trimming is discouraged. The double Briquet coat requires brushing and combing regularly. Dirt, mud and burrs need removal. The long ears should be checked and cleaned regularly too.

Training is a challenge; a Briquet is an independent thinker with a single-minded nature. Do not employ harsh or heavy handed methods. Be firm, fair, patient and consistent. Don’t be afraid to enlist help when the going gets tough because it won’t be your fault, it’s his.


AKC Group: Herding

The Briard earned his keep in France as a sheep guarder and herder. The French Army used this ancient breed as a messenger and as a search dog. (Briards have excellent hearing.) The appearance of the Briard has improved by breeding with the Beauceron and Barbet. Briards remain most popular in their native France, but are recognized worldwide.

Size: 22 to 27 inches; 50 to 100 pounds

Color: All colors except white. Most commonly Briards are black, tawny or gray.

Life span: 10 to 12 years

Health problems: Thyroid problems, eye disorders, hip dysplasia, bloat, PRA (progressive retinal atrophy).

The Briard is athletically built and possess great agility; he is a graceful dog indeed. What sets the Briard apart is his rear double dewclaws. His coat is long, shaggy and has a dense undercoat.

Briards are gentle, devoted and loving dogs. With personality for days, a Briard retains a sense of independence. Devoted to you, they are also protective. With a spring in his step, a Briard knows when to be serious and calm. Easily adaptable, a Briard will follow your lead and go along with your plan for the day. Highly intelligent, a Briard does need plenty of exercise time outside to keep him alert and interested (and not turn destructive).

As a natural herder, the instinct remains. With a keen sensitivity they may be territorial with other animals. They do better with companion animals they’ve been raised with. To strangers, they are reserved. A Briard possesses an excellent memory — this will come in handy during training time.

His long coat needs combing out twice a week. During shedding season, this will need to be done more regularly. All puppies need to be groomed more than twice a week, no matter the season or the amount they shed.

Training is very important for Briards. It should always be consistent — and constant. If a Briard isn’t trained properly, he can become withdrawn, suspicious or aggressive. Socialization should start as a puppy to new people and situations — and animals. Every interaction and training session should be done positively and include positive reinforcement. Briards respond best to love and affection. If you become overwhelmed, it’s best to obtain professional assistance. You’ll probably also want help to stop your Briard from nipping at heels. It is possible to reduce the behavior and even eliminate it completely.

Bracco Italiano

AKC Group: Foundation Stock Service

The Bracco Italiano is thought to date back to the 14th century. Artwork from that age depict a dog similar to the Bracco. They are believed to be a cross between the Segugio Italiano and Asiatic Mastiff, possibly a descendant of the St. Hubert Hound and the ancestor of Bloodhounds and Beagles.

Braccos originated from two places: in Piedmont from the Piedmontese Pointer and in Lombardy from the Lombard Pointer. Braccos lived among the wealthy and worked as hunting dogs. Popularity waned in the 1800 and 1900s, but an Italian breeder took up the cause to ensure their survival. Braccos aren’t known much outside of Italy.

Size: 21.5 to 26.5 inches tall; 55 to 88 pounds.

Color: Pure white; white with large or small patches of orange, amber or chestnut; white with light orange or chestnut mottling.

Life span: 9 to 14 years

Health problems: Hip or elbow dysplasia, bloat.

Also known as an Italian Pointer, the Bracco is a large “freckled” dog. They have thin faces with skin that hangs down around their chin and neck. Ears are long and droopy. They are muscular and squarely built. Tails are usually docked back to half their length. A Bracco looks like a cross between the German Shorthaired Pointer and a Bloodhound.

Braccos were originally considered two separate breeds based on their color, brown and white or orange and white. They are now considered to be just one breed. They are affectionate, easygoing and intelligent dogs.

Braccos can be stubborn and sensitive, yet are athletic and powerful. Braccos are obedient and loyal. They work hard and play hard. When it’s “pet” time, they also love hard. They love people — in fact, the closer the bond they develop with you, the happier they’ll be.

Their smooth, fine coat of hair requires minimal attention. You’ll need a Hound glove (or a boar bristle brush). The glove or the brush will bring out the natural oils in the coat and leave it gleaming. A few minutes of brushing is all it takes. With his droopy ears, he’ll need help cleaning the tips. Their big lips help them drool a lot. A Bracco is very sensitive to the tone of voice during training, so stay positive. When training is done properly, a Bracco learns very quickly.