Cat Care Articles

Cats require diligent care: vaccines, physical examinations, a good diet and lots of love. Learn how to care for cats!

Wellness

Feeding Your Adult Cat

Ed Kane
Nutrition

WHAT CATS NEED TO EAT

Good nutrition and a balanced diet are essential elements for good health. The ideal diet for your cat includes a good quality food and plenty of fresh water. Your cat should be fed amounts sufficient to meet energy and caloric requirements. Inadequate or excess intake of nutrients can be equally harmful.

Dry cat foods have greater caloric density which means simply, there is less water in a 1/2 cup of dry food as compared to a canned food diet. Overall, the choice of “dry” vs. “canned” vs. “semi-moist” is an individual one, but most cats enjoy eating a combination of a dry food along with supplemental canned food.

Cats in the various life stages, including kitten (“growth”), adult and senior (“geriatric”), require different amounts of nutrients. Special situations such as pregnancy and nursing kittens can dramatically affect nutritional needs. Working cats need more calories, while the “couch potato” needs less (just like us).

Cats have particularly unusual nutrient needs. These include:

VITAMIN A

Your cat doesn’t have the ability to convert the carotene found in plants to vitamin A. His source of vitamin A must come from liver, kidney and other organ meats. If a cat lacks vitamin A in his diet, poor growth, weight loss, damage to cell membranes and decreased resistance to disease are among the possible consequences. More importantly, female cats may fail to cycle, the embryo may fail to implant or the pregnant cat may abort or produce kittens with abnormalities, such as a cleft palate.

NIACIN

Your cat is unable to synthesize niacin from the amino acid tryptophan, due to an excess of a certain enzyme. Therefore, unlike other animals, his requirement for niacin must be met entirely from niacin present in animal tissues (plants are low in niacin). Deficiencies include weight loss, loss of appetite, unkempt fur and wounds around the mouth.

ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS

Your cat requires sufficient arachidonic acid, a fatty acid found only in animal tissue. Therefore, he requires some animal fat in his diet. Dermatitis and poor reproductive performance are among the deficiency symptoms.

TAURINE

Your cat’s taurine requirement is quite high. Naturally he’d obtain taurine, an amino acid, from muscle meats. Fish and shellfish are also exceptionally good sources. Taurine deficiency can produce central retinal degeneration (CRD), a form of blindness. Besides CRD, deficiency symptoms of taurine include poor reproduction and dilated cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease).

In addition to these dietary peculiarities, your cat requires a high amount of protein in his diet, about 12 percent in comparison to 4 percent for adult dogs. Unlike you, your cat does very well on a high-fat diet. Fat gives him needed energy, assists the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such A and E, and adds taste. Fat also adds to his needed calories, a daily requirement of about 35 kilocalories per pound of body weight.

FEEDING

You can either feed him at least two meals a day or leave food out for snacking. In order to fulfill his needs, feed him one ounce of canned food daily, or 1/3 ounce of dry food, per pound of body weight. Most young cats (one to four years of age) are very active and self-regulate their food intake, thereby maintaining a healthy body weight.

As your cat ages, he may slow down and begin putting on extra weight. Monitor his weight — if he’s becoming too fat, consult your veterinarian.

Remember, water is also an important nutrient. He needs fresh clean water daily. Your cat drinks about twice the amount of water as he consumes in dry food, though since canned cat food in greater than 75 percent water, he barely drinks when his diet consists of canned cat food only.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is an organization that publishes regulations for nutritional adequacy of “complete and balanced” cat foods. Diets that fulfill the AAFCO regulations follow the national consensus recommendations for feline foods and will state on the label: “formulated to meet the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profile for…(a given life stage).

CONSIDER YOUR CAT’S AGE

· For kittens (up to 8-9 months of age): Feed your kitten a consistent canned, semi-moist, or dry cat food designed for kittens.
· For adult cats (1-9 years): Feed your cat a consistent canned, semi-moist, or dry cat food designed for an “adult” cat.
· For senior cats (8-9+ years): Feed your cat a consistent canned, semi-moist, or dry cat food designed for a “senior” cat.

CONSIDER YOUR CAT’S BODY CONDITION

· Underweight cats: Feed your cat 1-1/2 times the “usual” amount of food and make an appointment to see your veterinarian about your cat’s body condition. Consider switching to a food with higher protein and fat content.
· Lean cats: Many healthy cats are a bit thin, especially active young male cats. Consider increasing total daily food or caloric intake by 25 percent. Weigh your cat every week, if possible, to chart progress.
· Chubby cats: If your cat is a bit overweight, try increasing the daily exercise routine. Gradually increase exercise over two weeks unless limited by a medical condition. Many cats like to play. If these measures fail, cut out all treats and reduce daily intake of food by up to 25 percent.
· Fat or obese cats: Stop all treats except hairball medicines if needed. Increase exercise gradually over 2-3 weeks if not limited by a medical condition. If these measures fail, reduce the total daily food amount by 25 percent to 40 percent, switch to a low fat/high fiber diet, and call your veterinarian to discuss plans. Inquire about prescription-type reduction diets that can really be effective while providing balanced nutrition.

PREFERRED FOOD

There are a number of prominent manufacturers of high quality cat foods, including Iams (Eukanuba), Hill’s (Science Diet), Nature’s Recipe products, Nutra Max, Pedigree, Purina and Waltham, among others. Follow the label recommendations, but use your own judgment in determining how much to feed. Always provide your pet with fresh water.

Gastrointestinal Parasites In Cats

Gastroenterology & Digestive Diseases

Worms

Most people are aware that their pets have worms, but just what are these worms, where do they get them and how do you get rid of them? When pet owners talk about worms, they are really talking about all gastrointestinal parasites. And there are several gastrointestinal parasites that commonly affect our dogs and cats.

Roundworms

Roundworms are visible in your pet’s stool or vomit. They are long and thin, similar to thin spaghetti. This parasite can pass through the placenta (only in puppies), through the milk (puppies and kittens) or be ingested (puppies and kittens). Some animals become infected after ingesting another animal with roundworm eggs. It is thought that nearly all puppies are born with roundworms since they pass through the placenta. In kittens, most become infected after nursing.

The roundworm that affects dogs is Toxocara canis. The roundworm that affects cats is Toxocara cati. The roundworm Toxascaris leonina is shared between dogs and cats. The roundworm eggs are very resistant to chemicals and weather and remain infective in the soil for years, which can result in repeated reinfection.

Typically, the eggs are found on the soil or grass. As the dog or cat walks by, the eggs are picked up on the animal’s fur. During normal grooming, the animal then ingests the eggs. After reaching the stomach, the eggs hatch. The developing larvae continue to mature in the small intestines and become adults in about three to four weeks. At this point, the mature worms are able to reproduce and shed more eggs. These eggs pass out the intestines in the feces. Once in the soil, the eggs will become infective in about one week.

Whipworms

Whipworms are another type of gastrointestinal parasite that affects dogs. The most common whipworm is Trichuris vulpis and it is a significant cause of large bowel diarrhea. The whipworm eggs are quite resistant and can live in the environment for up to five years.

Typically, a dog becomes infected after ingesting eggs from the environment. The eggs then hatch once they reach the stomach. It takes about three months for the eggs to mature to adults and being shedding eggs. The adults then burrow into the small intestine and feed on blood and tissue. The eggs are intermittently passed in the feces and become infective in about one month. Since the eggs are not shed all the time, repeated fecal examinations may be necessary to diagnose whipworm infection.

Hookworms

Ancylostoma caninum is the most common hookworm in the dog. Ancylostoma tubaeforme is the most common hookworm in the cat. The eggs are relatively susceptible to cold weather and the eggs are usually destroyed after a hard freeze. Hookworm infection can occur as the worms pass through the placenta, are spread during nursing, penetrate through the skin or are ingested.

After ingestion, the eggs hatch in the stomach and develop into adults into about two weeks. If the larvae penetrate the skin, it takes about four weeks for the larvae to mature. Once mature, the worms begin reproducing and shed eggs in the feces. It then takes two to eight days until the eggs are infective. The adult worms attach to the lining of the small intestine and feed on blood. In a severe infection, profound anemia can occur.

There are a variety of medications used to kill hookworms.

Giardia

Giardia are pear-shaped, one-celled organisms that infect the small intestine of dogs and cats. Most cases of Giardia in young animals cause explosive, watery diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss and an unkempt appearance. Adult animals are capable of harboring the infection without showing clinical signs.

The eggs are susceptible to chemical disinfection. Once ingested, the infective cysts develop in the small intestine. Diarrhea can begin as early as five days after exposure and cysts can appear in the feces one to two weeks after exposure. Most domestic animals contract Giardia from drinking contaminated pond or stream water.

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are very common in dogs and cats and, despite what you may think, rarely cause illness. Most people see the tapeworm egg packets as they pass out the rectum and crawl on the animal’s fur. These egg packets, referred to as proglottids, contain multiple eggs and appear about six to eight weeks after ingestion of an infective tapeworm egg. In order to become infective, the tapeworm egg is either ingested by a rodent, rabbit or flea. The egg then matures and becomes infective. Eggs or egg packets eaten after they pass out in the stool are not infective and do not result in more tapeworms.

There are two types of tapeworms, Taenia and Dipylidium. Taenia tapeworms are acquired when an animal ingests an infected rabbit or rodent. Dipylidium tapeworms are acquired when an animal ingests an infected flea. Once the tapeworm egg is ingested, it hatches in the stomach and begins to invade the walls of the intestines. The worm then matures to a larva and then to an adult. About 35 to 80 days later, the adults begin to shed egg packets, which pass in the stool. The adult tapeworm can survive in the intestine for about seven to 34 months.

Animals infected with tapeworms may scoot on the floor since the egg packets tend to crawl on the skin, causing itchiness.

Coccidia

Coccidia are intestinal protozoa that invade and infect the lining cells of the small intestine. There are many species of coccidia and almost all domestic animals can become infected. Of the numerous types that infect dogs and cats, Isospora is the most common. Coccidia spread when an animal eats infected fecal material or an infected host, such as a small rodent. Many researchers maintain that virtually all dogs and cats have been infected with the organism at one time or another during their life.

Most coccidial infections are harmless, cause minimal symptoms and are eliminated by normal body defense mechanisms. More serious coccidial infections cause severe watery or bloody diarrhea and are often seen in high-density confinement situations such as kennels, catteries and pet shops.

How To Control And Prevent Fleas On Your Cat

Dr. Douglas Brum
General Practice & Preventative Medicine

Understanding The Flea

For millions of pets and people, the tiny flea is a remorseless enemy. The flea is a small, brown, wingless insect that uses specialized mouthparts to pierce the skin and siphon blood.

When a flea bites your cat, it injects a small amount of saliva into the skin to prevent blood coagulation. Some animals may have fleas without showing discomfort, but an unfortunate number of cats become sensitized to this saliva. In highly allergic animals, the bite of a single flea can cause severe itching and scratching. Fleas cause the most common skin disease of cats – flea allergy dermatitis.

If your pet develops hypersensitivity to flea saliva, many changes may result.
· A small hive may develop at the site of the fleabite, which either heals or develops into a tiny red bump that eventually crusts over.
· The cat may scratch and chew at himself until the area is hairless, raw and weeping serum (“hot spots”). This can cause hair loss, redness, scaling, bacterial infection and increased pigmentation of the skin.
Remember that the flea spends the majority of its life in the environment, not on your pet, so it may be difficult to find. In fact, your cat may continue to scratch without you ever seeing a flea on him. Check your cat carefully for fleas or for signs of flea excrement (also called flea dirt), which looks like coarsely ground pepper. When moistened, flea dirt turns a reddish brown because it contains blood. If one cat in the household has fleas, assume that all pets in the household have fleas. A single flea found on your pet means that there are probably hundreds of fleas, larva, pupa and eggs in your house.

If you see tapeworm segments in your cat’s stool, he may have had fleas at one time or may still have them. The flea can act as an intermediate host of the tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum. Through grooming or biting, the animal ingests an adult flea containing tapeworm eggs. Once released the tapeworm grows to maturity in the small intestine. The cycle can take less than a month, so a key to tapeworm prevention is flea control. Anemia also may be a complication of flea infestation especially in young kittens.

The Life Cycle Of The Flea

The flea’s life cycle has four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult.
· Eggs. The adult flea uses your cat as a place to take its blood meals and breed. Fleas either lay eggs directly on the cat where they may drop off, or deposit eggs into the immediate surroundings (your home or backyard). Because the female may lay several hundred eggs during the course of its life, the number of fleas present intensifies the problem. The eggs hatch into larvae that live in carpeting, cracks or corners of the cat’s living area.
· Larvae. The larvae survive by ingesting dried blood, animal dander and other organic matter.
· Pupa and adult. To complete the life cycle, larvae develop into pupa that hatch into adults. The immediate source of adult fleas within the house is the pupa, not the cat. The adult flea emerges from the pupa, then hops onto the host.
This development occurs more quickly in a warm, humid environment. Pupa can lie dormant for months, but under temperate conditions fleas complete their life cycle in about three weeks. The inside of your home may provide a warm environment to allow fleas to thrive year round.

Fighting The Flea

Types of commercial products available for flea control include flea collars, shampoos, sprays, powders and dips. Other, newer, products include oral and systemic spot-on insecticides.

In the past, topical insecticide sprays, powders and dips were the most popular. However, the effect was often temporary. Battling infestations requires attacking areas where the eggs, larvae, pupae and adults all congregate. Because some stages of a flea’s life can persist for months, chemicals with residual action are needed and should be repeated periodically. Sprays or foggers, which required leaving the house for several hours, have been used twice in two-week intervals and then every two months during the flea season.

Treating animals and their living areas thoroughly and at the same time is vital; otherwise some fleas will survive and re-infect your pet. You may even need to treat your yard or kennel with an insecticide, if the infestation is severe enough.

The vacuum cleaner can be a real aid in removing flea eggs and immature forms. Give special attention to cracks and corners. At the end of vacuuming, either vacuum up some flea powder into your vacuum bag, or throw the bag out. Otherwise, the cleaner will only serve as an incubator, releasing more fleas into the environment as they hatch. In some cases, you may want to obtain the services of a licensed pest control company. These professionals have access to a variety of insecticides and they know what combinations work best in your area.

Treatement And Prevention

As one might expect, flea control through these methods is very time consuming, expensive and difficult. The good news is that currently, with the newer flea products on the market, flea control is much safer, more effective and environmentally friendly. Current flea control efforts center on oral and topical systemic treatments. These products not only treat existing flea problems, they also are very useful for prevention. In fact, prevention is the most effective and easiest method of flea control.
It is best to consult your veterinarian as to the best flea control and prevention for your pet. The choice of flea control should depend on your pet’s life-style and potential for exposure. Through faithful use of these systemic monthly flea products, the total flea burden on your pet and in the immediate environment can be dramatically reduced. Keeping your pet on monthly flea treatments especially in areas of high flea risk is an excellent preventive method of flea control. These products often eliminate the need for routine home insecticidal use, especially in the long run. Although it may still be prudent in heavy flea environments to treat the premises initially, the advent of these newer systemic flea products has dramatically simplified, and made flea control safer and more effective.

Normal Labor And Delivery In The Cat

Vetsuite Veterinarians
General Practice & Preventative Medicine – Theriogenology

BE PREPARED

Pregnancy and giving birth can be a frightening, confusing and painful experience for both you and your cat. However, understanding proper pregnancy care can help make the process go more smoothly and help you know what is normal. It can also help you to determine when it is time to get the veterinarian involved.

GESTATION

Many people consider the time from breeding to delivery to be gestation but this is not completely accurate. The true definition of gestation is the time from conception to delivery. In the queen, a female cat, gestation is 63 days. Knowing the exact time of conception, however, is difficult since a queen can be receptive to the male before and after ovulation. For this reason, the time from breeding to delivery is usually somewhere between 58 to 70 days. Your veterinarian can help narrow this time frame by examining the cells of the vaginal wall.

Be aware that because your queen bred, this does not mean she is pregnant. For confirmation of pregnancy, an examination, with ultrasound and possibly x-rays by your veterinarian is suggested.

NUTRITION

Once pregnancy is confirmed, proper care of the mother-to-be is very important. Before breeding, make sure she is up to date on all her vaccinations. It is not recommended to vaccinate your cat during pregnancy. Also, make sure she is dewormed and tests negative for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus.

After breeding and conception, the nutritional demands of the mother increase. This need for more increased calories and increased food continues throughout pregnancy and nursing. At the time of breeding, begin slowly changing the queen’s diet to a growth formula or a pregnancy and lactation diet. Continue this diet throughout the remainder of pregnancy and until the kittens are weaned. Vitamins or other supplements are not recommended nor needed. With a proper diet, your cat will receive the proper amount of nutrients. Excessive amounts can actually result in birth defects.

PREPARING FOR DELIVERY

As the time of delivery approaches, you way want to make a queening box to provide a safe, clean and comfortable area for your cat to deliver. Queening boxes should be easily accessed by the mother but escape-proof for the new arrivals. You can use wood, Formica or any easily cleaned building material. Some people use small plastic children’s wading pools. Whichever type of box you choose, make sure it is large enough for the queen to stretch out comfortably. Make sure the sides are just low enough for the mother to step over and place the box in a warm, dry, draft-free area. If possible, try to choose a quiet and secluded area. Initially, place newspapers on the bottom of the box for easy clean up.

Once all the kittens are born, place blankets or towels to provide some footing for the kittens. Be aware that you must get the queen used to the queening box before the birth. If not, she may make her own decision on where to have the kittens – and this may be a closet, a pile of fresh clean laundry or even in the middle of your bed.

An additional suggestion is to have your cat examined by a veterinarian toward the end of pregnancy. A thorough physical exam, along with ultrasound or x-rays can help determine how many kittens you can expect. This way, you will know when she is done delivering and not just in another resting phase between kittens.

LABOR AND DELIVERY

As the time of delivery approaches, twice daily monitoring of the queen’s body temperature will help alert you to the impending birth. About 24 hours before the beginning of labor, there will be a temporary drop in the body temperature. Normal temperature is 101 to 102.5. Twenty-four hours prior to labor, the temperature can drop to 98 to 99 degrees.

LABOR STAGE I

After the temperature drop, stage I labor begins. This is the time when the queen becomes restless and anxious. You may notice panting, pacing, refusal of food and maybe vomiting. Nesting behavior begins. This is the time to place her in the queening box (hopefully she is already accustomed to the box). After getting settled in the queening box, you may notice her dragging clothing or fabric to the area to form a comfortable bed. You may want to remove any clothing as queening begins or these pieces of clothing may be permanently stained.

This stage of labor typically lasts 6 to 12 hours. At the end of stage I, the cervix is completely dilated. If your cat has not started queening within 24 hours after starting stage I labor, veterinary assistance is recommended.

LABOR STAGE II

Stage II labor is defined as the part of labor when the kitten is delivered. Visible contractions begin. The abdomen tenses and the queen begins straining. This action will appear similar to the queen trying to have a bowel movement.

The first kitten should be delivered within 1 to 2 hours of the onset of contractions and straining. Veterinary assistance is strongly encouraged if the first kitten is not delivered within 2 hours after the onset of contractions.

After delivery of the kitten, the queen may enter a resting phase that can last up to 4 hours but typically only lasts about 30 minutes. Active straining will begin again and more kittens will be delivered. If you know there are additional kittens yet to be born and the resting period is longer than 4 hours, veterinary assistance is necessary. This resting phase may not occur after each delivery. Sometimes, several kittens may be born rapidly.

LABOR STAGE III

After delivery of a kitten, the queen may enter stage III labor. This is the time when the placenta, or afterbirth, is delivered and usually occurs 5-15 minutes after delivery of the kitten. If multiple kittens are born rapidly, several placentas may be expelled together. After the passage of the placenta, the queen will return to stage II labor. She may continue the resting phase or begin contracting. Throughout queening, the queen will fluctuate between stage II and stage III labor until all the kittens are born. It is very important to keep track of the number of placentas. There should be the same number of placentas as kittens. If a placenta is retained in the uterus, the queen will eventually become quite ill.

QUEENING

As soon as the kitten is born, the mother should immediately start cleaning the kitten. She should lick the kitten vigorously, remove him from the amniotic sac if it is still present, and chew the umbilical cord. She may even ingest the placenta. This is not necessary and, sometimes, can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Prompt removal of the placentas can get them out of the way and help you keep track of how many placentas she has passed.

Those kittens that are born still in the sack need immediate help. If the mother does not open the sack and begin cleaning the kitten, it is up to you to help. Tear the membrane of the sack and begin cleaning and rubbing the kitten with a clean dry towel. You may have to clean other kittens if the mother is not showing much interest in her newborns. Tie off the umbilical cord about 1 inch from the belly wall using string, thread or dental floss. Cut the cord off on the other side of the tie. Clean and rub the kitten vigorously until you hear crying. Place the kitten back with the new mom and make sure she allows her kittens to nurse.

Being prepared to assist and understanding newborn kitten care is essential to help the mother and her babies through these first steps of life.

Obesity In Cats

Dr. Rebecca Remillard
Nutrition


OVERVIEW

Obesity is defined as the excessive accumulation of body fat. At least 25 percent of all cats are considered obese or are likely to become obese. It is the most common nutrition-related health condition in cats in our society.

The primary causes of obesity are overeating and lack of exercise. When regular caloric intake exceeds the energy burned, the excess is stored as fat. As little as an extra 1 percent caloric intake can result in 25 percent increase over ideal body weight by middle age.

Most owners don’t recognize that their cats are overweight until they take them to the veterinarian for another reason. Most pets begin slowly gaining weight and only a historical review of body weight reveals the insidious nature of this condition.

Cats that are overweight may experience difficulty breathing or walking or they may be unable to tolerate heat or exercise.

VETERINARY CARE

DIAGNOSIS

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine overall health and to provide recommendations for weight loss.

Diagnostic tests may include:
· A thorough veterinary examination, including an accurate measure of body weight and an assessment of body condition score. A historical review of changes in your cat’s body weight is often helpful in establishing a pattern of weight gain and may help identify a particular event or change in environment that relates to the increase in body weight.
· Routine blood work including a complete blood cell count, serum profile and urinalysis are necessary to determine if there is an underlying disease. If the results of these tests indicate a problem, additional tests are warranted to specifically identify the condition before starting a weight loss program.
· Assessment of your cat’s current daily intake of all food, treats, snacks, table foods and exercise schedule is important in the development of a successful weight loss program. Clearly if the calculated caloric intake exceeds the calculated daily energy requirement of the cat at an ideal body weight, then excessive caloric intake is the cause of the obesity.

TREATMENT

Treatment of any concurrent or underlying disease that affects obesity is recommended.
· Lower your cat’s daily caloric intake by changing the cat food product (there are several diets formulated for weight loss) or the amount fed daily.
· Increasing fiber or water intake may sometimes be necessary to satiate your cat.
· Increase exercise activity. To enhance exercise, a variety of leashes and toys are available.

HOME CARE

Weight loss should be a family effort. All members of the family must admit the animal is overweight and commit to a weight loss program. It may be helpful to maintain a log of intake (food and treats) and weight to monitor progress. It might be most effective if one person takes charge of feeding your cat, but all members can help exercise her.

To achieve significant weight loss, the diet must be changed to a therapeutic veterinary diet specifically designed for weight loss. Simply feeding less of your cat’s regular food is rarely, if ever, successful. Owners must be willing to measure exactly the amount of food offered and minimize treats. If treats are necessary, offer low calorie snacks such as air popped popcorn or a piece of vegetable (such as a carrot).

Re-check visits are essential every 4-6 weeks to monitor the weight loss since adjustments to the feeding plan are often needed. As your cat approaches ideal body weight, caloric intake must be reduced further to maintain weight loss.

Most cats require an 8-12 month weight loss plan to reach their ideal weight. Most cats do achieve ideal or near ideal body weight when the owner and family members are committed to improving the pet’s health. Most owners continue feeding the weight loss diet, only at a higher food dose, to maintain their pet’s ideal weight.

Specific recommendations depend upon the underlying disease. For obesity due to:
· Excessive caloric consumption – Once an ideal weight has been achieved, a low calorie food should be continued, treats and snacks should be minimized, and the exercise program continued.
· Diabetes mellitus – Regular recheck visits are necessary to monitor insulin dose and effectiveness. Body weight changes should also be checked regularly.
· Blood thyroid levels should also be checked regularly particularly if the cat is losing weight rapidly.

DIET RECOMMENDATIONS

PREVENTION

· Hill’s Prescription diet w/d®

TREATMENT

· Eukanuba Restricted-Calorie®
· Eukanuba Weight Loss Formula®
· Hill’s Prescription diet r/d®
· Purina CNM OM-FORMULA®
· Waltham Calorie Control®
· IVD Weight® or IVD Hifactor®

INFORMATION IN-DEPTH

There are several causes of feline obesity, but whether your cat is overweight because of overfeeding or because of a disease process, she is still taking in more calories than she is using.

Obesity in pets is more commonly due to over-eating (excessive caloric consumption) than disease. The most common cause of obesity is a chronic consumption of calories greater than actual daily energy requirement. Excessive dietary calories are stored as body fat.

Other causes of obesity are due to an altered energy metabolism. Some diseases and conditions can contribute to obesity. The most common is diabetes.
· Diabetes mellitus – There is a relationship between obesity and diabetes, where overweight and obese animals become insulin resistant. These animals often begin to show the early signs of diabetes mellitus which are excessive drinking, excessive urinating and hunger. As the disease progresses, the cat eventually loses too much weight.
Call your veterinarian if you suspect that your cat is overweight, or if your pet begins experiencing difficulty breathing or exercising or appears unable to get comfortable. Also, have a veterinarian examine your pet to determine if these abnormalities are present before instituting a weight loss program.

VETERINARY CARE IN-DEPTH

DIAGNOSIS IN-DEPTH

Your veterinarian will want to determine the cause of your cat’s obesity before deciding upon treatment. Diagnostic tests that your veterinarian may wish to perform include:
· A thorough physical examination, including an accurate measure of body weight and an assessment of body condition score.
· Assessment of your cat’s current daily intake of all food, treats, snacks, table foods and exercise schedule.
· Routine blood work consisting of a complete blood cell count, serum profile and urinalysis. If the results are normal, obesity is probably the result of excessive caloric intake and decreased energy expenditure. However, if the results of these routine tests indicate a potential problem, additional tests are warranted to specifically identify the condition.
Additional diagnostic tests may include:
· Blood and urine glucose levels: Diabetes mellitus can be diagnosed based upon detecting high blood glucose level and the positive detection of glucose in the urine. Sometimes a series of blood glucose measurements are needed to confirm the diagnosis.

TREATMENT IN-DEPTH

Therapy recommendations are dependent upon the underlying cause of the obesity. Take your cat to your veterinarian for a complete work-up before beginning a weight loss program to rule out major diseases.

Recommendations for obesity due to:

EXCESSIVE CALORIC CONSUMPTION

· Lower your pet’s daily caloric intake by 50 percent of that required for her ideal body weight.
· Change the pet food product to one designed for weight loss and containing:
– less than 360 kcal per 100 grams of food on a dry matter basis.

– between 7-12 percent fat.

– between 10-30 percent crude fiber.

– greater than 35 percent crude protein.
· Feed your pet a prescribed measured amount of food several times daily.
· Give treats only as directed. Use specifically designed low calorie treats or give cooked or raw vegetables.
· Increase exercise activity.
· Try getting your pet to swim. Swimming is an excellent exercise for patients with orthopedic disabilities. Unfortunately, many cats hate water and swimming.
· Return to your veterinarian for monthly visits for a weight check and appropriate adjustments in meal size.

DIABETES MELLITUS

· Often in the management of diabetes, a dietary change to a veterinary therapeutic diet is necessary for controlling blood glucose levels. The food should contain a moderate level of fiber (5-10 percent) with lowered levels of readily available carbohydrates.
· Insulin treatments are individualized to the patient.
· In some cases of feline diabetes, when the cat loses weight the clinical signs of diabetes resolve and occasionally insulin treatments are no longer needed.

Pregnancy In Cats

Dr. Debra Primovic
General Practice & Preventative Medicine – Theriogenology

Overview

Pregnancy is the period of gestation when the young are developing in the mother’s uterus. Normal gestation in cats is 58 to 68 days (the average is 63 days).

The litter size in cats varies from one kitten to more than 10. Litter sizes are often smaller in young and old animals and largest when the mother is around three to four years of age.

Conditions that may be confused with pregnancy include mastitis (inflammation of the mammary glands), mammary gland neoplasia (cancer), abdominal enlargement due to fluid accumulation or organ enlargement, or pyometra (infection of the uterus).

What To Watch For

· Nesting behavior (attempting to make a nest by tearing up papers, blankets, etc.)
· Mothering activity (this may include mothering of shoes, toys and other articles)
· Weight gain (which typically occurs after the 4th week of pregnancy)
· Abdominal enlargement or swelling
· Mammary gland enlargement. The mammary glands may be large and secrete milk or serous fluid (usually one to two days before delivery)
· Abnormal behavior. If your pet does not eat, acts lethargic or you notice excessive vaginal discharge, please call your veterinarian as soon as possible. Be aware that many cats seek seclusion before delivery, and this is considered normal delivery behavior.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian may perform some diagnostic tests to confirm your cat’s health and to determine if she is pregnant. These include:
· A complete medical history and physical examination.
· Evaluating your cat’s behavior and noting any potential breeding episodes
· Abdominal palpation (technique of examining the organs and other parts of the body by touching and feeling). However, kittens can seldom be felt until at least 26 to 35 days after breeding and fetuses can be difficult to feel in some cats.
· Abdominal radiographs or X-rays (the skeleton of the kitten is visible on an X-ray after 45 days of pregnancy)
· Abdominal ultrasound can be used to diagnosis pregnancy after 21 to 24 days post breeding. This is a safe and excellent way to diagnose pregnancy and verify the health of the kittens. Ultrasound can also be used to estimate litter size.
· Testing for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
Your veterinarian may recommend other tests (not typically done with a normal pregnancy) based on a case-by-case basis. Tests may include:
· Complete blood count (CBC). There are no practical blood or urine tests available to diagnose pregnancy in cats.
· Serum biochemistry (bloodwork to look for abnormalities in liver and kidney function)
· Urinalysis

Treatment

· Normal pregnancy does not usually need any “treatment;” however, it is important to see your veterinarian for regular check-ups to ensure the health of your pet.
· It is extremely important that your cat be cared for properly during the pregnancy.
· If you decide that you do not wish to have further litters, or if your pet has significant problems during the birth process, you may wish to have her spayed to prevent further pregnancies.
· Have your veterinarian recheck your cat one week before the due date. The doctor may then palpate for kittens and perform a pelvic exam to establish a rough estimate of pelvic canal size vs. kitten size to try to anticipate problems that might occur during the delivery.

Home Care

Good nutrition is essential for healthy kittens and mothers so feed your pet a high-quality diet formulated for pregnant or nursing cats.
· Although nutritional needs change little during the first 4 weeks of gestation, your cat’s nutritional needs may double or triple during the last 5 weeks. Your veterinarian may recommend a special diet and/or vitamins for your cat.
· Be sure to provide the increased amounts of food she needs in several small meals each day, rather than feeding it all at one time. It is particularly important to feed frequent small meals during the last part of gestation. A pregnant cat may not feel like eating much as delivery nears because her abdomen is full of kittens, which leaves little room for the stomach to enlarge. Continue feeding a high-quality diet until after the kittens have been weaned.
· Be sure that fresh water is always available, since pregnancy increases your pet’s fluid needs.
· Moderate exercise is recommended. Neither forced rest nor strenuous exercise is a good idea. Keeping your cat indoors is often recommended (especially during the last couple weeks of pregnancy).
· If you would like to know more precisely when delivery is near, check the rectal temperature of the mother twice daily from the 58th day of pregnancy until labor begins. Normal rectal temperature varies between 100.5 and 102.0 degrees Fahrenheit. Within approximately 24 hours of the onset of labor the rectal temperature drops nearly two degrees in most cats.

Queening

The more that you can learn about queening (birth of the kittens), the better prepared you will be for any difficulties that might occur. Once you know that your cat is pregnant, you should begin preparing for the birth.

Provide a queening box for the mother to begin sleeping in to ensure that she gives birth to the kittens in an area that you have chosen (but this does not always happen). Allow her access to the box so she can become accustomed to it before delivery. The box can be covered and placed in a quiet (secluded) area where she will feel comfortable and protected. Newspapers or a soft blanket or towel can also be used.

The Feeding And Nutrition Of Kittens

Ed Kane
Nutrition

FEEDING PROPERLY FOR GOOD HEALTH

Kittens bounce off walls, propel themselves through the air and pounce at warp speed toward anything that moves, especially toys. The only time they seem to slow down is to wash their faces after a satisfying meal.

And what could be more satisfying than a meal that supplies all the necessary nutrients. Meeting your kittens nutritional needs is important to provide for her rapid growth rate and boundless energy.

YOUR KITTEN’S GROWTH

At birth, she weighs about three ounces (100 grams) and gains about 1/2 ounce (15 grams) each day. By 10 weeks of age, she’ll weigh more than two pounds (1 kilogram), a tenfold gain in 10 weeks. Although males and females grow similarly at first, males begin to outweigh females by 10 weeks of age. Males tend to increase in weight until about 11 months of age, about four to eight weeks longer than female kittens do. The growth for both sexes is rapid at first, through about six to seven months of age. Males continue at this pace until about nine months of age, leaving their sisters behind.

THE FEEDING REGIMEN

Right from birth, food is critical. On mom’s milk up to weaning at around ten weeks of age, your kitty will begin to eat solid food at about three to four weeks of age. At this time, with few teeth and a tender tummy, a soft meat-based (canned food) diet is more easily consumed.

WHEN WEANING ENDS

After weaning, a balanced complete diet provides all the nutrients – energy, protein, vitamins, minerals – in proper proportion and amount. Though foods specially formulated for kittens are more nutrient-dense, a diet for “all stages” – one that can be fed to kittens and adults – may be fed as well. Both diets provide for the increased demand of your kitten’s growth. Although your kitten requires the entire complement of nutrients, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D, thiamine, essential fatty acids and taurine are especially important. For example, a diet that’s otherwise sufficient but deficient in one nutrient, such as zinc, can result in poor growth, dermatitis (skin lesions) and other deformities.

IT HAS TO TASTE GOOD

Your kitten should eat well as long as the food is tasty. Palatability is based on aroma, texture and taste. If your kitten is fed a variety of flavors, she’ll probably be a less-selective eater as an adult. As your kitten matures, a complete and balanced dry food may be fed in addition to canned food. Feeding should be consistent, not switching back and forth, to avoid digestive upset or diarrhea. It isn’t essential to offer a variety of food types, though feeding canned and dry is fine, as long as it is palatable and sufficiently eaten to provide enough nutrition. For younger kittens, ease of eating is important; a soft diet or small pieces is best. To make it easier to consume, dry food may be moistened with warm water.

BEWARE OF “ADULTS ONLY”

Specially formulated kitten foods are higher in protein and energy density. Dry kitten foods contain about 35 percent protein, have a higher fat content, about 12 to 24 percent, and are about 25 percent higher in calories than adult dry cat foods. If a food is labeled “100 percent complete and balanced for all life stages,” it’s okay to feed to your kitten. Don’t feed him a food labeled for “maintenance,” which is for adults only.

CAN YOU OVERFEED?

At a very young age, up to three to four months, it’s almost impossible to overfeed your kitty. At 10 weeks of age, he needs 250 kilocalories of energy per kilogram of body weight per day or about two and a half to three ounces of dry food, or eight to nine ounces of canned food. At four to six months of age, your kitten’s daily requirement for energy is about 100 to 130 kilocalories per kilogram of body weight, closer to that of an adult cat (70 to 80 kcal/kg body weight), as growth of body tissues slows down. Between eight months to a year of age, most kittens reach adult body size and weight. The daily food requirement at adulthood is about 1 ounce of canned food or one half ounce of dry food per pound of body weight.

HAS YOUR KITTEN LOST HIS APPETITE?

As your kitten plays, your concern for his food needs should be primarily for a good quality, balanced diet. Consult your veterinarian with any concerns; however, if your kitten is playfully frisky, you and he are doing just fine. If your kitten doesn’t eat for 48 hours, consult your veterinarian. If symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or fever accompany a lack of appetite, see your veterinarian immediately. In these cases, lack of water intake or dehydration (excessive water loss) is more critical than lack of food consumption.

NUTRIENT NEEDS

In comparison to other animals, as true carnivores, the cat and kitten have unique nutrient needs. Since they’ve evolved as meat-eaters, many of these needs are associated with their meaty diet, not obtainable from plant sources. Their requirement for a higher protein level, pre-formed vitamin A, niacin, essential fatty acids and taurine are based on this fact. They cannot convert carotene to vitamin A, getting it naturally from the organ meats of prey. Similarly, cats cannot metabolize niacin from tryptophan (an amino acid), can use only essential fatty acids from animal fat sources and need taurine from muscle tissue.

The Importance Of A Recheck Examination In Cats

Dr. Debra Primovic
General Practice & Preventative Medicine

Recheck Exam

Delaying or not having a recheck exam can hurt your cat. A recheck examination is an appointment that allows your veterinarian to assess the progress and follow-up on your cat’s disease or problem. Maybe you are thinking you can skip it because your cat is doing better? Even if your cat physically looks and feels better, he or she may not be completely back to normal. Some diseases can progress undetected.

It is often more difficult to treat diseases or conditions that have been going on for a long time or are not thoroughly treated the first time. Consider the possibility that recheck exams may actually save you time and money in the long run. Some chronic diseases can spiral out of control if not closely monitored for subtle changes. This could ultimately lead to more lengthy procedures, hospitalizations, trips back and forth to your veterinarian, and significantly higher veterinary bills.

The recheck visits to your veterinarian will depend on the medical condition your cat has. If the condition is chronic, they may require life long-term treatment.

Recheck exams are a worthwhile investment in your cat’s overall health. By taking your cat in for a “re-check” you are providing your cat the best possible care by allowing his progress to be professionally monitored. By finding, diagnosing and treating these problems early and thoroughly, your cat will live a much healthier and longer life.

Grief

Explaining Pet Loss To Children:Six Do‘s And Dont’s

Alex Lieber
General Practice & Preventative Medicine

PET LOSS & CHILDREN

Death and dying are two of the hardest facts of life to explain to children. Very often, the death of a family pet is a child’s first encounter with this immutable law of nature. How we handle this event can have a far-reaching impact on our children’s understanding of death and dying.

Eleven-year-old Maria, for instance, was used to greeting her cat Feifel every day after school. One day, he didn’t appear. Maria and her mother found Feifel under a bed, breathing weakly. The veterinarian said Feifel had heart disease. He might be able to save him, but Feifel was 14 and suffered from several other age-related problems.

His quality of life would only grow worse. The most humane course to take was euthanasia. Later, her family held a memorial service, and Maria wrote poems about him.

AN INFORMAL GUIDE TO A CHILD’S PSYCHE

At 11, Maria understood euthanasia and the finality of death. It didn’t make the grieving and sense of loss any easier, but she knew that all living things eventually die. After some time, she was able to remember her pet with more love than hurt.

But children younger than Maria often view their relationship with a pet as indefinite. They don’t understand that animals run on a different biological clock, or that illness or injury may make euthanasia the best option.

At all ages, honesty is the best policy, says Marty Tously, a bereavement counselor. “That means using the words death and dying, and explaining the permanence of death. You do it gently but without confusing what dying actually means.”

Tously is a counselor with the Pet Grief Support Service. She says that a child’s ability to understand what death means depends on his/her emotional and cognitive development, but outlined the generally understood guideline of how children perceive death and dying:

Under 2: A child can feel and respond to a pet’s death, based on the reaction of those around him or her. A child picks up the stress felt by family members, no matter what the cause.

2 to 5: The child will miss the animal as a playmate, but not necessarily as a love object. They will see death as a temporary state – something like the way leaves fall off a tree in fall but grow back in the spring. As they perceive the trauma around them, however, they may regress in their behavior (e.g., thumb sucking).

5 to 9: Children begin to perceive death as permanent, but they may indulge in “magical thinking,” believing that death can be defied or bargained with. This is also the period when children recognize a correlation between what they think and what happens. For instance, a child may resent taking care of the pet and wish – however briefly – that the pet would die. If the pet then dies, the child is often consumed with guilt. Parents need to reassure children that they did not cause the pet’s death.

10 and up: Children generally understand that all living things will eventually die, and that death is total. Understanding and accepting are two different things, however. They may go through the normal stages of grief that grownups do: denial, bargaining, anger, guilt, depression and acceptance. (To learn about the stages of grief, see the story Coping with Pet Loss.) Or they may react in other ways:
· Depending on the age, the child may regress (sucking their thumb or temper tantrums that they had outgrown).
· An older child may withdraw from friends and family for a while. Schoolwork may suffer and they may seem uninterested in extracurricular activities.
· Children may fear abandonment. If a pet can die, then they may reason that their parents could die as well.
· Children often become intensely curious about death and what happens to the body. They may ask for details that you may find uncomfortable to explain. These are questions you should answer in a straightforward, gentle and careful manner.

DO’S AND DON’TS

Tously explains that the worst course of action is to lie (to say the animal went away) or to use confusing euphemisms, such as the phrase “put to sleep.” Children will eventually learn the truth, and lying can breed resentment and destroy trust between parent and child. “Later in life, when the child learns the truth, they’ll wonder what else the parent lied about,” she says.

Likewise, euphemisms can cause anxiety or confusion because children take what you say literally. “If you say a pet is put to sleep, the child may suffer sleep anxiety,” says Tously. She recalls one child who was told his cocker spaniel just “went away.” He awaited his dog’s return, and upon learning the dog had been buried wanted to unearth the dog. “If you say ‘God has taken your pet because he was special,’ the child may resent God, and fear who might be next.”
· Be open and honest. This includes the pet’s health and euthanasia. “If a pet is terminally ill and needs to be euthanized,” Tously says, “the child needs to be told as soon as possible by the parent.” Again, avoid those tempting euphemisms that cloud understanding, such as telling a child the pet was put to sleep. Use the words death and dying to make your meaning clear.
Some children want to be present during euthanasia and most will be very curious about the process. Tously says you should answer their questions. As for allowing the child to be present, some veterinarians are firmly against it; others say it depends on the child’s age and maturity.
· Make sure the child understands what “dying” means. Explain that the animal’s body stopped working. Depending on your religious beliefs and what the child can understand, you might explain the concept of a soul. However, it is important for the child to know that the pet has died and will not be coming back.
· Be available to let your child discuss his/her feelings about what happened. You may want to hold your own service to memorialize the pet and to say goodbye formally. Some people plant trees in a special spot in the yard, others bury the pet in a cemetery so the family can visit. Encourage your child to show his/her feelings by talking or writing about the fun times they had with their pet.
· Show your own feelings. This tells the child that the pet was special and that they are not grieving alone. You can also encourage your child to open up, which can help the healing process.
· Tell your child’s teachers about the loss, so they will understand why your child is behaving differently.
· Don’t blame the veterinarian. Some parents, especially those who fear explaining euthanasia to their children, find it easier to lay it all on the vet. This is not only unfair to the veterinarian, but potentially harmful to the child. He or she may grow up distrusting veterinarians and, by extension, doctors and other medical professionals.
In addition, parents shouldn’t throw the responsibility of telling the children what needs to be done on the veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help the parent explain why euthanasia may be the most humane option, and answer questions the child may have.

Parents often want to ease their child’s hurt by rushing out and buying another pet. Tously says this is a mistake. “The last thing you want to do is convey the impression that the pet – a family member – is replaceable,” she says. Wait until the child expresses an interest in another pet.

Children are very resilient, and they usually learn to accept their pet is gone. If a child persists with nightmares or seems unable to cope, however, it may be necessary to talk with a counselor.

WHERE TO TURN FOR HELP

Local shelters often hold workshops and support groups to help people after pet loss. Contact your local shelter for information. There are also a number of organizations dedicated to helping people cope around the country. To find one in your state, visit the Delta Society Web page at www.deltasociety.org/dsn701.htm

Grief In Dogs And Cats

GRIEF IN DOGS AND CATS

Dr. Dawn Ruben
General Practice & Preventative Medicine

THE LOSS OF A PET

Because our pets cannot speak, we don’t really know what what they are thinking. We must base our interpretations of their emotional state on their behavior – what they do in certain situations and under specific circumstances.

When a person experiences the death of a human loved one, we may know they feel grief based on what they say. Very often, however, it is how they react, what they do that tells us they are suffering. They lose their focus, become listless and disoriented, don’t eat and become disinterested in what is happening around them. They may cry or go without sleep or they may sleep more.

An animal that is experiencing the loss of another animal companion may react similarly. “Some animals can actually become depressed when they lose a loved one,” says Monique D. Chretien, MSc, AHT, Animal Behavior Consultant. “They show symptoms similar to humans such as loss of interest in their favorite activities and sleeping more than usual. However, sometimes dogs and cats hide and sleep more than usual when they are ill, so you should consult with your veterinarian before seeing a behaviorist if your pet exhibits symptoms such as these.”

Your pet may lose his appetite, become disoriented, or become more clingy. If the deceased pet was taken to a veterinarian to be euthanized, the grieving pet may sit at the window for days watching for her return. Animal behaviorists commonly call this emotional state, separation anxiety. On the surface, the pet’s behavior is similar to that of a person experiencing grief over the loss of a loved one.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals conducted a Companion Animal Mourning Project in 1996. The study found that 46% of cats ate less than usual after the death of another cat companion. In some extreme cases, the cat actually starved to death. About 70% of cats meowed more than normal or meowed less. Study respondents indicated that surviving cats changed the quantity and location of sleep. More than half the surviving pets became more affectionate and clingy with their caregivers. Overall, the study revealed that 65% of cats exhibited four or more behavioral changes after losing a pet companion.

If your pet shows signs that she is grieving the loss of an animal or human family member, provide her with more attention and affection. “Try to take her mind off it by engaging her in a favorite activity,” says Chretien. If she enjoys human company, invite friends that she likes to visit and spend time with her. Use environmental enrichment techniques such as balls filled with treats to help keep her busy. Hide toys at her favorite spots for her to find during the day.

If your pet is too depressed over the loss, she may not respond to extra activity right away. The old saying, “Time heals all wounds,” has meaning for your pet, too. “Time is one thing that may help,” says Chretien.

If your dog is barking more or whining, distract her. Don’t give her treats to distract her or you might unintentionally reinforce the barking. “Giving attention during any behavior will help to reinforce it so be sure you are not reinforcing a behavior that you don’t like,” says Chretien. “Give attention at a time when your dog is engaging in behaviors that you do like, such as when she is resting quietly or watching the birds. As the pain of the loss begins to subside, so should the vocalizing as long as it is related to the grieving process.”

You may also want to consult with your veterinarian regarding drug therapy to help decrease your dog’s anxiety, advises Chretien.

If you are thinking about adding another pet, wait until you and your surviving pet have adjusted to the loss. Forcing your pet to get to know a newcomer will only add stress to her already anxiety-ridden emotional state. And be patient. Your pet may miss her companion as much as you do.

Pet Loss

Angell Memorial Animal Hospital
General Practice & Preventative Medicine

COPING WITH LOSS

The loss of any close friend can be devastating, and pets can be among our closest companions. A pet frequently provides unconditional love, emotional security, and loyalty. Routine activities with an animal companion often provide structure, fun, relaxation, and social contact in our daily lives. The death of a cherished pet can mean the loss of an entire lifestyle as well as a devoted companion. Lack of understanding and support from people around us can make this period even more difficult.

BE PREPARED

In some instances the death of a pet can be anticipated; the animal may be very old or suffering from an extended illness. Other pet owners may face a sudden loss – the result of an accident or short-term illness. Things that will need to be considered with a gravely ill or seriously injured animal include the pet’s quality of life, emotional and financial cost, and when or if euthanasia should be considered. It is best to have contemplated these difficult matters beforehand.

ACCEPT AND EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS

It is important to understand that grief is a personal experience and there are no right or wrong ways to feel it. The most important part of healing is to acknowledge what you are feeling and somehow release it. Try writing your thoughts down in a journal. A good long cry can help, too. Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to your friends or a counselor.

YOU’RE NOT ALONE

Seek out support. Well-meaning friends who don’t understand the bond between you and your pet may say, “He was only a dog.” Others may encourage you to “get another one,” as if your lifelong companion could be easily replaced. This can make expression of your pain even harder. It is important to realize that you are not alone. A support group can act as a wonderful resource for consolation and affirmation.

DO WHAT YOU CAN TO EASE THE PAIN

Share your thoughts and feelings with others. Talk. Write. Many people find comfort in rituals, like paying their final respects with a brief service or setting up a small memorial with photos and objects that had significance in the pet’s life, such as a collar bowl, or toy. It’s important to set aside time to think about the good times and remember to pay extra attention to surviving pets. They may need consolation during this difficult period too.

SPECIAL FRIENDSHIPS, SPECIAL CONCERNS

The death of a long-time companion can be particularly painful for those who shared a unique relationship with their pet. This includes anyone whose pet was the sole or primary companion, or who was either physically or emotionally dependent upon their pet. Children, the elderly, and handicapped pet owners often have unique bonds with companion animals and may need special attention and support when a pet dies.

Recognizing the tasks of grief can give you landmarks on the path to resolution, and help you recognize that your feelings are normal. The term “task” is used rather than “stage” to avoid giving the impression that grief is something marked by well-defined milestones. The mourner should not feel that he or she must follow some pre-set list, each lasting a determined period of time.

Remember that the grieving process for each individual is as unique as each lost relationship. There is no set pattern or time period for recovery, but there are some general patterns.

Denial. Most people will experience a period of denial, refusing to believe the pet is dying or has died. Denial is usually strongest when there is little time for acceptance, such as with an accident or short-term illness.

Bargaining. For pets facing imminent death, many people will try to make a deal with God, themselves, or even the pet, in a desperate attempt to deter fate.

Anger. In frustration, anger may be directed at anyone involved with the pet, including friends, family, veterinarians, and even the pet owner himself.

Guilt. Guilt is probably the most common emotion resulting from the death of a companion animal. As the pet’s primary caretaker, all decisions regarding care are the owner’s responsibility. When a pet dies, the owner often feels guilty about actions taken or not taken, even about things that happened before the pet became ill. The most attentive caretaker may feel he or she should have somehow done more. But we all do our best with the information, knowledge, and resources available to us. It is important to try not to second-guess the decisions you made along the way, and to remember that you tried to act in your pet’s best interest.

Depression. Depression can indicate the start of acceptance. It is normal to withdraw and contemplate the meaning of the relationship in solitude. Deep and lasting despondency, however, requires professional help.

Acceptance. Now is the time to remember the good times. The daily reminders become a little less painful. You find you can now start to think about the future.

WHEN IS IT TIME TO CONSIDER ANOTHER PET?

A new pet is just that – a new pet. He or she can never replace the pet you lost. If you decide to get another pet, you will be entering into an entirely new and different relationship. Be sure that you are psychologically, physically, and financially ready and willing to commit the time and energy needed to care for a new companion, without resentment or unrealistic expectations.

When To Consider Euthanasia In Cats

Vetsuite Staff
General Practice & Preventative Medicine

A CAT’S QUALITY OF LIFE

Many cats suffer with chronic diseases, such as cancer, that can often be managed in such a way that life is prolonged, although the quality of life is greatly diminished. For most cat owners this issue greatly influences the decision concerning euthanasia. Certainly, quality of life is a personal judgment; you know your animal companion better than anyone else. And while your veterinarian can guide you with objective information about diseases, and even provide a personal perspective of a disease condition, the final decision about euthanasia rests with you.

WHAT AILING CATS SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO

If you are considering euthanasia, here are some guidelines to help you decide whether your cat would benefit. Cats with chronic or incurable diseases that are given proper medication and care should be able to:
· Eat, drink and sleep comfortably without shortness of breath
· Act interested in what’s going on around them
· Do mild exercise
· Have control of their urine and bowel movements – unless the disease affects one of these organ systems
· Appear comfortable and free of moderate to severe pain
Of course, whenever there is a chronic condition, some days will be better than others and one should learn to expect the natural “ups and downs” that attend most chronic disease conditions. You must determine what balance is acceptable for your own situation. Speak with your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns regarding the diagnosis or treatment of your cat’s disease.

THE EFFECTS OF MEDICATION

If your cat is taking medication for a disease condition, ask your veterinarian if side effects of the medicine could be involved with any adverse symptoms such as lack of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea (but DON’T stop giving prescribed medication until you speak with your veterinarian). Sometimes it is the medicine, not the disease, that makes a pet appear more ill and adjusting the dose or changing the medicine can have a very positive effect.

THE HIGH COST OF CARE

Of course, some diseases are very difficult, expensive or time-consuming to treat. The medical bills that may accumulate can influence your decision regarding euthanasia. These are practical decisions that must be made relative to your own financial and family situations. Though a lack of financial or personal resources for medical care may be a source of guilt to you, it is better to discuss the overall situation with your veterinarian rather than allow your pet to suffer without proper veterinary medical care.

THE HARDEST DECISION

Euthanasia – often referred to as “putting a pet to sleep” or “putting an animal down” – literally means an “easy and painless death.” It is the deliberate act of ending life, and pet owners that must make this decision often feel anxiety or even guilt.

Before the procedure is done, the pet owner will be asked to sign a paper that is an “authorization for euthanasia” or similar document. Euthanasia usually is performed by a veterinarian and is a humane and virtually painless procedure.

Most pet owners are given the following options for witnessing the procedure. They may be present with the cat during the euthanasia. They may wish to see their cat after euthanasia. Or they may want to say goodbye to their cat before the euthanasia and not see him after the procedure.

WILL IT HURT?

Note: The following is a description of a typical euthanasia. If you do not wish to read about this procedure, please close this document.

Euthanasia is very humane and virtually painless. First, you will be asked to sign a paper – an “authorization for euthanasia” (or similar document). Once you have decided upon your involvement n the euthanasia process, you will need to decide what you would like to have done with the remains. You can discuss your options with your veterinarian before the euthanasia procedure.

Euthanasia is usually performed by a veterinarian. The most typical procedure involves an intravenous injection of a barbiturate anesthetic given at a high concentration (overdose). In general, the euthanasia is rapid, usually within seconds, and very peaceful. Your cat will just go to sleep. On rare occasions there may be a brief vocalization or cry as consciousness is lost; this is not pain although you may misinterpreted it as such.

Within seconds of starting the injection the anesthetic overdose will cause the heart to slow and then stop, and any circulation in the body will cease. As the heart stops and the blood pressure decreases, the unconscious animal will stop breathing, circulation to the brain will cease and your pet will die peacefully.

Once your cat has died, you might observe involuntary muscle contractions or respiratory gasps about one or two minutes after the loss of consciousness and circulation. Again this is not evidence of pain or consciousness, but instead, it represents a physiologic response that occurs whenever the brain is deprived of circulation. The unconscious animal may also lose bladder or bowel control. Veterinarians often cover the pet immediately after injecting the euthanasia solution to partially shield the pet owner from these physiologic responses, which may still be disturbing.

AFTER THE GOODBYE

Before the euthanasia, discuss what you want done with the body with your veterinarian. Again, this is a matter of personal taste and preference.
· Burial at home. Many people who own their homes chose to bury their pet in their yards. Great care must be given to bury him deep enough – at least three feet – to deter predators. It is recommended to wrap your pet in plastic and place several large rocks on top of their remains before covering with earth. Many cities have ordinances against home burial so check with your local officials before laying your pet to rest.
· Cemeteries. Similar to human burial, a casket and headstone are selected. Services are available with or without viewing of the remains. Ask your veterinarian or check your local telephone directory to find a nearby pet cemetery.
· Cremation. Typically, cremation is available in most large cities. Some crematories will privately cremate your pet so you can save the ashes for scattering, burial or storing in an urn. Check with your veterinarian about contacting an animal crematory center.
· Other options. There are a few nontraditional choices available regarding the handling of pet remains. Some people choose to consult a taxidermist and others may be interested in cryogenics, which involves freezing the remains. Research and many telephone calls may be necessary to find sources for these options.

Pet Travel

10 Things You Should Do Before You Board Your Cat

Dr. Debra Primovic
BOARDING

Here is a checklist of 10 important steps to consider before boarding your cat. Consideration of each of these items will help you and your cat have a good boarding experience.

Interview – Interview the kennel on the phone. Find out how long they have been in business and ask for references. Use those references. Make a surprise visit or tour the facility before you schedule the boarding. Notice the place is clean, smells, check out where the cats are boarded, if they have fresh food and water and a clean litter box, and if they seem….happy.

Look for Recommendations – Talk to a few kennels before you decide where to take your cat. Also, ask your friends or neighbors where they have boarded their pet and what their experiences have been. Recommendations go along way. Don’t go for the cheapest place. Go for the best place.

Determine Kennel Requirements – Does your pet need any special vaccines for this kennel? If so, what and when? Do they need a copy of the vaccine record? Can you supply your own food and treats? Can you leave any toys or his favorite blanket or bed?

Check out Kennel Staff – Find out about the consistency with the staff – is it the same person seeing your cat everyday or someone new? It is someone who knows about pets or a high school student shoveling food into the cages? Does the staff appear competent and do they look like they enjoy working with the cats?

What is the Cat’s Schedule? – How often do they go out of their cage? Is that enough space to make your cat happy? If you have multiple cats, will they be together or see each other?

Feeding Instructions – Consider taking your cats own food and request that they kennel only feed his food. Many pets are fed other foods and treats and can develop gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting and or diarrhea. Your pet is already in a new environment which is most likely a bit stressful; so don’t change anything you don’t have to.

Contact Information – Ensure that the kennel has your numbers where you can be reached in the case of an emergency. Include your cell phone and any emergency contacts. Plan for the unexpected.

Emergency Instructions – Just in case of an emergency, leave instruction on how to proceed. During emergency hours, the kennel may use a certain veterinarian or emergency hospital. During the day, if you want your pet to go to your regular veterinarian – leave your vets name and phone number. Leave instructions on what you do and don’t want and a contact number or credit card number for emergency medical care. If you are not available by phone, make sure they have the authorization to make charges if care is required. You don’t want your pet “waiting” for medical care because of lack of credit card authorization.

Medical History – Obtain a copy of your pets pertinent medical record from your vet and give a copy to the kennel. Ideally, this record should include any medications, diagnosed conditions and problems . Include any behavioral quirks e.g. aggressive to other cats or if hates having his tail touched. Leave information about his tag and microchip numbers.

Leave Special Instructions – Make sure you clearly indicate any special instructions. For example, if you pet requires medications, ensure the name of the medication, dose (both in mg and number of pills, and frequency are clearly indicated. Also communicate any special foods or dietary restrictions. Keep the instructions simple with a contact number to call in the case of questions.

Should You Board Your Cat?

Alex Lieber
General Practice & Preventative Medicine

KENNELING YOUR CAT

When you must travel, making sure your beloved cat is well taken care of while you are gone is foremost on your mind. Whether you leave suddenly or plan a trip carefully, you’re probably going to feel guilty over the upheaval your leaving will cause your pet. But is it better to find someone to watch her, or should you take her to a kennel? The short answer is a predictable one: It depends on the situation.

If you are planning a trip or vacation, you may want to find a reliable friend or relative to take care of your cat right at home. Staying at home reduces a kitten’s chances of picking up a respiratory infection, which is very contagious and quite common in many kennels. (Adult cats are often immune.) It is also less stressful for your cat, who may be so upset she refuses to eat. Although your cat will miss you madly, at home she is in a familiar place surrounded by familiar scents.

But taking care of your cat means more than just feeding her, making sure the water is changed daily or cleaning out the litter box. The person who takes care of your precious one should spend some quality time with her, too. Ideally, this person genuinely likes your cat, with the affection returned for good measure. If you don’t have someone who can take care of your cat, you might want to hire a professional pet sitter. But you need to plan well ahead of your trip. Finding one you and your cat like may take some time, and they tend to get booked around holidays. For tips on how to find a good pet sitter, and where to look, see the story How To Find a Good Pet Sitter for Your Cat.

If you decide to kennel your pet, you should have done your homework in advance, especially if sudden business trips are the norm. Visit the kennel and ask as many questions as you feel necessary to ensure the health of your cat. Are dogs and cats kept within the same room or even within sight of each other? (All-cat kennels are the best for your cat.) Does the kennel offer places for your cat to climb and perch? Will she be in her own room?

If your instincts tell you the kennel won’t take proper care of your cat, you’re probably right. You should be completely comfortable that your cat will get the treatment she deserves.

Finding the right kennel is only half the job, however. You will need to show proof that your cat is healthy and has been vaccinated against all diseases, either yearly or every three years. A good kennel will require proof of vaccination against FVRCP (feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia). For more information on how to find the right kennel, see the story Kenneling Your Cat.

Saying good-bye is hard to do, but with preparation for proper care you can keep your cat healthy and happy for your eventual reunion.

Pet Sitter Instructions For Your Cat

Vetsuite Staff

INSTRUCTIONS

To help you get the most out of your pet sitter, print and fill out the following instructions:

CONTACT INFORMATION

Your Name _____________________________________

Your Address ____________________________________

Phone # ________________ Cell # ____________

Emergency Vet # __________________________________

Vet Name ________________________________________

Vet Phone # _____________________________________

Vet Address _____________________________________

Your Contact Information ________________________

Other Emergency Information ____________________

Other Emergency Contact _________________________

INSTRUCTIONS

PET 1.

Name _____________________________________________

Description ______________________________________

Eats (Type of food) ______________________________

Amount ___________________________________________

Frequency__________________________________________

Food is kept ______________________________________

Likes to play ____________________________________

Can go out side? Yes No

Favorite toy _____________________________________

Likes to be scratched ____________________________

Favorite things __________________________________

Hates it when you ________________________________

Medications needed _______________________________

Special Instructions _____________________________

Important medical history ________________________

PET 2.

Name _____________________________________________

Description ______________________________________

Eats (Type of food) ______________________________

Amount ___________________________________________

Frequency__________________________________________

Food is kept ______________________________________

Likes to play ____________________________________

Can go out side? Yes No

Favorite toy _____________________________________

Likes to be scratched ____________________________

Favorite things __________________________________

Hates it when you ________________________________

Medications needed _______________________________

Special Instructions _____________________________

Important medical history ________________________

PET 3.

Name _____________________________________________

Description ______________________________________

Eats (Type of food) ______________________________

Amount ___________________________________________

Frequency__________________________________________

Food is kept ______________________________________

Likes to play ____________________________________

Can go out side? Yes No

Favorite toy _____________________________________

Likes to be scratched ____________________________

Favorite things __________________________________

Hates it when you ________________________________

Medications needed _______________________________

Special Instructions _____________________________

Important medical history __________________________

Behavior Problems

Furniture Scratching

Dr. Nicholas Dodman
Behavioral Disorders

OVERVIEW

Cats make great pets. They love to play, they love to cuddle when you’re watching TV or sleeping, and they purr for no reason other than being near you. But they also love to scratch. Unfortunately, the things they love to scratch are often the legs of your antique table, your upholstered sofa, or your expensive stereo speakers. And no amount of reprimanding or pulling out your hair in frustration seems to make them stop. But don’t despair; there are some things you can do.

Scratching is easier to deal with if you understand why cats scratch in the first place. In the wild, cats scratch around their immediate environment to signal their presence to other cats and to claim the area in question. The marking takes two forms: visual and olfactory. The visual mark is in the form of clawing marks and is so obvious that even we humans can recognize it (not that we appreciate its significance). The olfactory mark is subtler, involving the release of pheromones. These are substances secreted from the body to be picked up by members of the same species, causing them to alter their behavior.

Cats secrete pheromones from superficial glands in the skin of the cat’s paws through the process of kneading. The message is invisible to all creatures and is undetectable unless you have the right equipment (a super sensitive nose) and are close enough. A competitor coming up to the site will see the scratch marks and then smell the message: another cat has already claimed this place. One thing’s for sure; the signal is not a friendly one.

Scratching has additional functions, too. You might think your cat scratches to sharpen his claws, but it more likely it provides your cat with a form of physical therapy for the muscles and tendons of his paws. It also assists in shucking off old nail husks.

THE DOMESTIC SITUATION

Healthy and natural to your cat, scratching can become a real problem for the owner. Even your fairly secure housecat will occasionally feel the need to leave his mark by scratching, and the most usual target is your furniture.

Faced with this problem, many people consider declawing surgery. Many veterinarians believe declawing is a painful and unnecessary surgery and refuse to do it for humane reasons. Instead, they advocate training your cat to use a scratching post. However, some veterinarians still believe declawing is a safe procedure.

DECLAWING FACTS

· The surgery. The procedure for declawing involves more than just removal of the nail. It also removes the nail bed and often part or all of the last digit (finger bone).
· Intensity of pain. Many cats recovering from this surgery suffer from pain as they wake up. In fact, declawing is considered such a painful surgery that it has been used in studies to investigate methods of pain relief.
· Duration of pain. In most cases the pain appears to subside after 24 to 36 hours. However, during that time your cat will be gingerly walking around the place as if his paws are extremely tender – and they probably are. In other instances the pain lasts considerably longer, especially if there are surgical complications.
· Adverse consequences. Some cats are still hobbling around years later, though the majority eventually return to “normal” as far as we can tell.
· Litterbox use after the surgery. Your cat might find the litter painful on his tender paws. Vets often recommend putting torn up newspaper in the litterbox to prevent litter particles from adhering to the wounds. This practice sometimes leads to litterbox aversion and subsequently inappropriate elimination of urine and/or feces.
· Behavioral change. Aggressive cats may be more likely to bite instead of swat with their paws once they have been declawed.

ALTERNATIVES TO DECLAWING

There are several good options to declawing. These take the form of training your cat to use scratching posts, trimming the nails, and nail covers.

SCRATCHING POSTS

To persuade your cat to use a scratching post, you have to understand some basics:
· Keep one extra scratching post in the household. If you have four cats, keep five posts. Once the problem is under control, those that are not being used can be removed.
· Each scratching post should be tall enough for your cat to stretch up to its full height without being able to reach the top, i.e. about 3 feet high.
· The scratching post should be steady. No self-respecting cat will entertain the thought of using a post that rocks or falls over.
· Use the correct material. One of the essential functions of scratching is to leave a visible mark. Fabric that doesn’t tear or fray will be of no use. Burlap is a favorite with many cats.
· Choose an attractive location for your cat. Most people try to hide scratching posts from view. This completely negates the whole purpose of scratching for the cat. Position posts in obvious areas at first, preferably near scratching sites that your cat has selected for himself, then gradually repositioned to less obvious places later.

DETERRENTS

Several deterrents are available and may help.
· Physical. If a particularly valuable piece of furniture must be protected during training, heavy gauge plastic sheeting can be applied to alter its texture and to serve as a deterrent.
· Chemical. You can try moth repellent aerosols, which contain naphthol, though the area has to be “freshened” periodically as the odor will fade.
· Pheromonal. “Feliway®,” a pheromone-containing proprietary spray, has been touted as a repellant for furniture scratching cats. The idea is that the pheromone, a natural scent signal and, in this case, an extract of feline facial secretions, will alter the “significance” of the previously scratch-marked area.
· Environmental measures. Territorial stress may aggravate marking. If there are squabbles between cohabiting cats, or if a dominant or anxious cat is constantly aggravated by neighborhood intruders, you should address these territorial issues first.

NAIL COVERS

A few years ago an excellent product was introduced to reduce damage from furniture scratching humanely. “Soft Paws”™ (or Soft Claws) are plastic nail caps that can be super-glued to a cat’s claws following a preliminary nail trim. The results are often spectacular, with damage to furniture practically non-existent while the nail caps remain in place. The manufacturers recommend a complete replacement every month or so, but replacing lost nails individually as they fall off also works (and involves far less work).

NAIL TRIMS

Damage to furniture can be reduced if the cat’s nails are kept well trimmed. It helps to learn how to do this yourself and to have a sharp pair of nail trimmers made specifically for cats (don’t use human trimmers). It is sufficient to remove the sharp points so that the nail ends are squared but take care not to cut into the “quick” – the vascular and sensitive part of the nail. Ask your veterinarian to teach you how and to recommend some good nail clippers.

How To Keep Your Cat Off Tables And Counters

Dr. Nicholas Dodman
Behavioral Disorders
COUNTERS AND YOUR CAT

Why do cats find counters so appealing? Take this quiz to find out:

A. Because they’re there.
B. Because cats naturally prefer a three-dimensional environment.
C. Because cats occasionally find food morsels while patrolling countertops.
D. All of the above.

Answer D is correct.

THE DOWNSIDE

There are many good reasons why your cat should stay off the counter. Cats spend a fair amount of time each day in their litter box, scratching around and covering up their waste. Although they frequently “wash” their paws with their tongues, it is likely that some traces of urine and feces will remain on their paws to be deposited on your countertops in molecular concentrations. Not a great thought if you are about to prepare food.

Also, while they are up on counters, cats may pause to lick the butter or steal nibbles or whole chunks of food that you have left lying around. It can be pretty annoying to find that your cooling bacon strips have been dragged to the floor as cat fodder. In addition, not everything the cat steals will be good for him – and some things, like chicken bones, can be downright harmful.

COUNTERPOINT

Some may argue that healthy cat urine and feces has never poisoned anyone. Urine, as you may know, is normally sterile. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi used to drink a pint of his own urine each morning to start the day. When a cat has urinary tract disease or intestinal parasites (especially Toxoplasma gondii), however, this safety factor is lost. UTDs are easy to spot and the presence of intestinal parasites can be determined by laboratory tests. Both are usually easy to treat. Just ask your vet.

As far as disappearing food is concerned, cats don’t eat much and, with the correct dental care, their mouths should be fairly healthy places anyway.

HOW TO GET ‘EM OFF

Here are several things you can do to keep kitty where he belongs:
· Make sure that your cat has other places to climb so that the countertop is not his only vertical challenge. Climbing frames positioned by a window, providing a perch with a view, may divert some attention from the counters.
· Make sure that your counters never have food items lying around on them. Always clean up properly by putting unused food away. A cat that finds morsels of food once in a while will keep looking for more for many moons.
· Make counters unattractive. Cats, generally, do not like the smell of citrus or disinfectants. Try using a countertop cleaner with a citrus odor or wash the countertops down with Pinesol® after use.
· Train your cat – preferably using “click and treat” methodology. Train your cat to jump down to the cue word “off.” First train the cat to touch a wand (touch-click-food reward) that later serves as a target. When the wand is positioned over the counter, the cat will have to jump up on the counter to touch the wand and get the click and treat. (You can’t teach a cat to jump off unless she is up in the fist place!). The wand is then lowered to floor level. The cat jumps down to touch it (click-treat). Finally the word “off” is interjected as the wand is lowered to the floor. Of course, you do not always need to use the wand once the behavior (jumping down) has been put “on cue.” But rewards are necessary from time to time if the cat is to stay trained.
· Booby traps/mild punishers. Various booby traps have been invented to deter cats from counter surfing. Some of these deterrents include: putting cling film over the countertop, making a shallow tray out of aluminum foil and filling it with water, various springing devices (upside-down mousetraps or proprietary plastic jumping frogs), or attaching a black thread “trip wire” across the access to the counter and attaching it to a nearby pile of shake cans.
· More severe punishers. Sounding an air horn (boat horn/fog horn) at exactly the moment the cat’s feet touch the countertop. You should hide when doing this. The idea is that the cat thinks that the counter made the noise, not you. Some people have resorted to electric shock pads that give the cat a mild shock when he jumps on the counter tough these can cause considerable distress to some cats.
The only alternative is to teach yourself not to worry so much about your cat being up on the counters. This is the cognitive approach to therapy – for you.

My cats free range across my countertops while I’m watching them because they know I don’t care. I could yell at them and chase them off, as many people do, but why bother? All you teach your cat by this approach is that you are unpredictable, mentally unstable, and should be watched carefully for signs of sudden behavioral meltdowns. Then, when you’re not around, your cat will cruise and patrol the counters as if nothing had changed. The only thing punishment teaches an animal is how to avoid the punisher … you. With the remote punishers, the situation’s a little more acceptable in the sense that it’s the counter that they avoid.

Introduction To Feline Aggression

Dr. Nicholas Dodman
Behavioral Disorders

INTRODUCTION

Considering their size, domestic cats can make formidable adversaries. Unlike dogs, cats have not one but five attack weapons, including a widely opening mouth, well-appointed with penetrating teeth, and four dexterous paws bearing needle-sharp claws. The combination of these weapons, explosive speed, and the exquisite suppleness of a contortionist can make restraining disinclined cats more difficult than herding these independent creatures.

Every veterinarian knows that it is far better to avoid a cat’s ire than it is to contend with it once the cat’s enraged. Thus, the soft-shoe approach of gentle handling and minimal physical restraint is the best one to adopt when handling cats. Once a cat’s anger has boiled over it is best to give the cat time out to calm down before proceeding with any necessary intervention. Or, if it’s absolutely necessary to proceed immediately, it’s best to resort to sedatives or full physical restraint.

TYPES OF AGGRESSION

As with other species, there are several different ways of classifying aggression. One describes aggression as either instrumental (as a vehicle to achieve some desired goal), fear-induced, territorial, sexual, irritable, maternal or predatory. This classification is commonly employed when discussing the different types of aggression in animals and is descriptive of purpose, as opposed to function. Furthermore, it has been added to over the years to include other terms such as petting-induced aggression, pain-induced aggression, and idiopathic aggression (of unknown cause).

An alternative method of classifying aggression is into affective and predatory types. The former means with enhanced mood change, and the latter refers to the relatively unemotional business of predation, i.e. procuring prey by hunting and killing. The affective variety of aggression can be further sub-divided into offensive and defensive types, with offensive aggression involving striking out at another animal in order to achieve some “selfish” goal whereas defensive aggression is self-protective and occurs in response to some real or perceived threat.

BODY LANGUAGE FOR OFFENSIVE AGGRESSION

· Ears forward or sideways

· Pupils slit like or slightly rounded

· Body posture with the rump higher than the shoulders giving a slanting-forward impression

· Eyes riveted on the target and head moving slightly from side to side

· Low pitched growl

· Tail held horizontal or vertically down with the tail tip swishing from side to side

BODY LANGUAGE FOR DEFENSIVE AGGRESSION

· Ears held flat against the head pointing backwards

· Pupils of the eyes widely dilated

· Piloerection – hair on the body standing up on end giving the cat a puffed up appearance, including a large bushy tail

· Crouching body posture or arched back

· Tail curved under or to the side

· Open mouth threat with hissing and spitting

· Claws unsheathed and ready for action

BODY LANGUAGE FOR PREDATORY AGGRESSION

· Little or no mood change except intense concentration

· Hunting stalking behavior

· Crouching and then springing

· Grasping with claws and biting

Aggression is a natural behavior for the cat and was a survival-related behavior for the cats’ wild ancestors. Although cats have long been thought of as solitary creatures, it has recently been recognized that they can live in true societies and that some may develop as leaders or “alpha” cats. To achieve this status they must possess certain willfulness and be physically competent.

Cats of this persuasion will use affective offensive aggression “instrumentally” to procure certain assets and privileges for themselves in preference to other cats. In the home, this type of aggression, formerly referred to as “petting-induced aggression,” may sometimes be expressed toward compliant owners. This aggression, dubbed “the dominant, alpha cat syndrome,” involves biting the owner over resources such as food, toys, or resting place, as an attention-getting mechanism, and when the owner tries to make the cat do something he doesn’t want to do or pets it for too long. Territorial aggression (in defense of a defined territory), maternal aggression (in defense of new kittens), and sexual aggression (between males in competition for a receptive female or occurring before or after mating by the female) are variations on the theme of offensive aggression.

Defensive, or fear aggression, whether targeted toward an offending person or another cat, is another fairly common form of feline aggression. It occurs most frequently in cats that have not been raised with appropriate exposure to other cats or people at a formative time of their development, or in cats that have had adverse exposure to people or other cats.

Many people feel that predatory aggression should not be included as a true type of aggression because it has no social or self-protective function and is not associated with significant mood change. It is, from the cat’s point of view, simply a way of getting lunch. However, if you define aggression as a physical act that causes injury or death to another party, predatory aggression does qualify as a type of aggression. In the wild, predatory aggression occurs in a sequence that has arbitrarily been divided into an appetitive phase and a consummatory phase.

The appetitive phase includes the hunting, stalking, and capture of prey whereas the consummatory phase involves merely ingestion of the prey animal. Predatory aggression is most often a problem when expressed as predatory play by young kittens that pounce at people’s hands or moving feet. In the older cats, predatory aggression is sometimes displaced onto moving toys, or is expressed as longing looks at goldfish bowls, birdcages, and birds fluttering outside the window. In such cases, the cat’s jaw may chatter slightly as his tail switches back and forth in wishful anticipation.

Finally, there are some pathological forms of aggression that can simulate any or all of the above types of aggression. Pathological aggression may occur out of context, in response to trivial stimuli, or an exaggerated form. Hyperthyroidism (overactivity of the thyroid gland), partial seizures, infectious problems, and nutritional deficiencies are examples of conditions that may cause pathological aggression. Medical causes of aggression, like these, should be ruled out by your veterinarian before embarking on any behavior modification strategy.

Litter Box Training Your Cat

Vetsuite Staff
Behavioral Disorders

THE LITTER BOX

If you’re taking home a new kitten who has captured your heart, you will certainly need one important accessory — a litter box. Hmmm, the mysterious litter box — knowing which one to get and what to do with it does not come naturally to the average pet owner. Here’s what you need to know.

HOW MANY?

You should always have one more litter box than you have cats. That is, one cat gets two litter boxes. Two cats get three. If you have a two-story home keep one litter box on each floor.

HOW BIG?

The litter box should be roomy enough for your cat to turn around in it. Forget about trying to get a small litter box to minimize the unsightliness. You have a cat. Your friends will have to understand. If the box is too small, your cat simply won’t use it and will eliminate elsewhere. But if the litter box is too big, you may also have a problem, especially if you have a very small kitten. Don’t buy a huge box and expect your kitten to scale it every time she has to “go to the bathroom.” Buy a smallish litter box for your kitten and invest in a larger one as she grows.

TO COVER OR NOT TO COVER

That is the question. There are covered litter boxes as well as open ones. If you use a covered box, make sure your cat can get in and out easily. The best types of covered box also have overlapping seams so that sprayed urine will not leak out. Remember, though, that many cats hate being enclosed when they are at their most vulnerable. They often like to see who’s coming and going, in case they need to beat a hasty retreat. And cats really don’t like surprises so if their boxes are covered they may not use them.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

A cardinal rule of cat ownership is to never put your cat’s litter box next to her food bowl or bed. Cats do not like to eliminate where they eat or have their nest. If you place a litter box too close to a cat’s nest, she may well pick a more comfortable spot, such as behind the couch, far away from her resting and dining area.

Put the litter box in a quiet low-traffic area, such as in a spare bathroom. A corner location is better than out in the open because a cat needs to feel secure. If your cat has only got two directions to watch instead of four – and feels she has an escape route – she’ll be more relaxed. Additionally, some cats are nervous and don’t like things too close to them. Even a hanging plant that blows in the breeze or casts shadows can prompt your cat to search for a different location.

If you have more than one cat, remember that cats are territorial and hierarchical. So, put their boxes far enough apart to be sure that territorial issues don’t come into play if one invades the other’s space.

WHAT KIND OF LITTER?

Cats, by nature, dig and scratch in soft soil out of doors, often burying their waste. The litter you provide substitutes for the dirt outside. The big question is: What is the best material to use? There are a number of litter materials to choose from, including clay-type litters and those made from plant materials. Some cats will refuse to eliminate on certain substrates while others prefer different materials for urination and defecation. It’s all a matter of taste — both yours and your cats. Does your cat prefer fine sand or chunky pellets? Do you prefer clumping or non-clumping litter? Do you prefer a litter that’s ecologically friendly? Is tracking or odor control your most important concern? Either way, there’s probably a litter to suit.

Clay is a good absorbent of moisture and odor and a reasonable substitute for fresh soil from the yard. Large granular clay, though economical and absorbent, is often dusty and tracks about the house. Small granular “clumping” litters (also made of clay) have become popular recently due to their excellent absorbency, clumping properties – which lead to the formation of firm balls when moistened – and their ease of disposal. These litters also make litter boxes easier to keep clean.

Environmentally friendly litters are often made of recycled waste products, such as newspaper. They can also be made of biodegradable material, including wheat, corn and wood chips that break down easily in landfills. Some of these litters have the consistency of fine sand while others come in pelleted form. But how do you choose? You may not like the dust of fine litter and your cat may not like the extra work of covering stool with, what amounts to, small rocks. Some choices can be tough.

Silica gel litters have become increasingly popular. These clear plastic beads are neat to look at and absorb odor well. When your cat urinates in the box adorned with these litters you can actually hear a snap, crackle and pop as the beads soak up the liquid. This litter is good for extended periods, about 3 to 4 weeks in most instances. But remember, the litter can only hold so much moisture and must be changed eventually. Also, the beads have a tendency to bounce around the room once they are knocked out of the box.

Once you find a litter your cat likes, stick with it. Don’t buy whatever is on sale this week. Cats are very particular and litter changes can lead to unwelcome modifications in bathroom habits.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I CHANGE LITTER?

Try to remove feces and moistened litter daily. Regular scooping will keep the box from becoming an odor source for your home and maintain it as an attractive place for your cat. Depending on the buildup of soiled litter and odors, completely clean out the box and replenish it with fresh litter every so often. When changing the litter, you should wash the box with warm, soapy water, but remember to rinse it thoroughly before refilling it with litter. And never, clean the box with harsh chemicals, as doing so will likely cause your cat to turn his nose up what will be perceived as an olfactorily repugnant offering.

The Alpha Cat Syndrome

Dr. Nicholas Dodman
Behavioral Disorders

THE BITING CAT

Cats are supposed to be warm and friendly creatures, seeking owner approval, petting and cuddles and purring their way through peaceful evenings at home. But not all cats are this amiable or this compliant. Some have an agenda of their own and seemingly refuse to take no for an answer.

These are “alpha cats.” They are natural leaders; they refuse to be led and attempt to take charge of practically every situation. These cats like their food when they want it and the way that they like it … or else. They may only let you touch them for short periods of time and then again, only on their terms. They rebel when admonished and demand attention, access, and assets – when the mood so takes them. You don’t own an alpha cat – he owns you, or at least, he thinks he does.

When alphas don’t get their own way, they bully and pressure you into immediate action. They may bite your nose or toes to get you out of bed in the morning. They may shriek their demands for food until you are forced to give in. They may growl if approached while eating and some are protective of their toys and naptime. And watch out if you try to pick up your alpha cat or pet him when he’s not in the mood. He may bite or claw his negative message to you in no uncertain terms.

Perhaps the most classical component of the alpha cat syndrome is petting-induced aggression. Alphas will jump up on your lap and allow themselves to be petted – but only for a short while. And when they’ve had enough, they narrow their eyes, glance sideways at the petting hand, and their tail begins to switch from side to side. This is the writing on the wall that heralds an imminent meltdown: Suddenly he’ll swat, bite, and maybe roll onto his side so he can attack you with all five sharp points simultaneously.

What to do? In essence, they must be shown who calls the shots, who is really charge, and who is the supplier of all good things. Then and only then will their bossiness be honed into acceptance and respect. The name of the behavior modification program is “Nothing in Life is Free.” It is a non-confrontational “tough love” leadership program in which the cat is required to earn all valued assets from the owner. A prerequisite is a modicum of training so that the cat can be called upon to carry out some task before being issued certain resources.

NOTHING IN LIFE IS FREE

· Avoid all confrontations. Make a list of situations and things you do that cause your cat to become aggressive and conscientiously avoid these situations. If your cat bites you to make you get out of bed, shut him out of the bedroom at night. You may need to have earplugs handy to mute the noise of caterwauling or door scratching at first but the cat’s insistent phase should pass within a few days. If your cat bites you when he is on your lap and you are petting him, do not allow him onto your lap for a while until he has learned some manners. Also, learn to read the warning signs and ration your petting.
· Training. Despite popular opinion, it is quite possible to train a cat to respond on cue. The best way to accomplish this is with click and treat training. The whole process is explained in detail elsewhere on this website. Clicker training basically involves three steps.
Step One Teaching the cat that the click of a plastic “frog” or clicker heralds the arrival of delicious food treat.

Step Two The cat learns that he can make the clicker click by performing certain actions.

Step Three The cat is rewarded with a click and a food treat only if he performs an action after being cued.

Take the action of sitting, for example. First click and treat the cat for nothing. This is called “charging” the clicker. Next click and reward sitting when it occurs naturally. Once the cat has grasped the concept and starts approaching you and sitting for a click (and thus a treat), escalate to the third step of the process, adding a conditional stimulus, in this case the word SIT. Using this technique I trained my cat to sit on cue in three days and she has never forgotten it. Try to teach your cat one new “command” per month. If this course is followed, in time you will find that pretty much all behavior problems, including biting, simply melt away.
· No free lunch. Feed your cat twice daily so that you control when he gets fed. At mealtime a cat should be hungry. Have him SIT before you click and put down the food bowl. The meal becomes the reward. No SIT = no food that mealtime. If the cat knows how to SIT on cue this request is perfectly fair. If he ends up missing a meal or two this will sharpen his appetite and thus the likelihood that he will respond as directed the next time. You will have made the meal conditional upon the cat showing you respect and good manners. Think of it as requiring the cat to say “please.”
· Working for petting. Petting should be rationed to keep your cat hungry for your attention. Petting and attention are supplied only when the cat does something to deserve them, like responding to a voice cue or hand signal. This is particularly advisable if petting-induced aggression is a feature of your cat’s aggressive repertoire. Even if your cat has performed well enough to deserve petting, be cognizant of a deteriorating situation. Furtive sideways glances and a twitching tail mean that it is time to quit. To avoid this situation, keep petting sessions short and never try to pet your way out of an aggressive moment.
· Put your cat’s toys away and supply them only when he has done something to deserve them. Allow the cat free access to the toy until he loses interest and then pick it up and replace it in the toy chest (or drawer).
· Ration games. As useful as games are to help your cat blow off steam, they are also fun and as such should only be engaged in only when your cat earns the right.
· Never respond to attention seeking (demanding) behavior. Act dumb. Walk away. Disappear. Deliver what the cat wants later, on your terms, and only in response to the successful accomplishment of an assigned task like sitting, coming when called, or waiting patiently.
· Fire engine service. If your cat starts trying to bite you or acts aggressively in any way, remove yourself from his presence for a few hours (turn, walk away, and leave the cat alone) or herd the cat into another room for time out. If withdrawal of your company is the result of your cat’s shenanigans, as opposed to you turning into a big squeaky toy, he should soon get the picture that you mean business and will not allow yourself to be victimized. Cats learn. You should, too.

Thwarting The Alarm Clock Cat

Dr. Nicholas Dodman
Behavioral Disorders

WAKING UP AT DAWN

Contrary to popular belief, cats are not nocturnal. The term “nocturnal” refers to the lifestyle of being awake at night instead of during the day, and that isn’t what cats do. They sleep at night as we do, just not for quite as long. Cats are “crepuscular,” which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. This is because their ancestors’ prey was most active at these times, so it made sense for them to adjust to that schedule. No creature in his or her right mind ran about during the heat of the day or in the middle of night when it was pitch black. Though cats’ night vision is very good, they can’t see without light. Instead, they sleep.

And herein lies the problem of the chronic “alarm clock” cat. Two things combine to make this phenomenon possible:

1. Nature. Your cat’s internal clock and crepuscular nature tells her that it’s time to get up at around dawn. Depending on the time of sunrise, cats will become active sooner or later. During summer in lands of midnight sun, cats may not be triggered by the dawn. During the long, dark, sunless winters of the Antarctic, a cat would probably sleep till lunchtime everyday.

2. Training. This is where the cat’s owner comes in. Let’s say your cat becomes active first thing in the morning. She quickly becomes bored because there’s nothing going on. If you so much as look at this cat, rewarding her with your attention, you may well get more of the same in days to come. Worse still, if you assume that your cat is pacing around and scratching your furniture because she’s hungry, and you get up and feed her, then you have really made a bed upon which you must lie (awake).

At this stage, pretending to be asleep, yelling at the cat, rolling over, and other forms of stubborn resistance usually do not work. The cat continues her (no doubt) occasionally successful quests. And remember, occasional reward is a more powerful reinforcer than continuous reward (reference: the slot machines in Las Vegas). Some of the things you do may even amuse and entertain the bored cat and serve as reinforcers in their own right. You may, in effect, become a big squeaky toy for your cat.

Here are some suggestions to prevent early awakenings:

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

· Understand your cat and don’t blame her for the way that nature designed her. Have some patience and forbearance as you try to realign her habits.
· Fit thick, lightproof curtains in your bedroom and hallways so that your whole sleeping area is totally dark at night.
· Do not respond (in any way) to your cat’s dawn-time demands … ever.
· Feed your cat twice daily on a set schedule, but do not feed her first thing in the morning.
· Keep the cat occupied during the day (exercise, games, toys, bring her to your place of work, etc.)

THINGS THAT MIGHT HELP

· Feed your cat her last meal of the day at bedtime, which may help her sleep (“as the blood rushes to her stomach”).
· Get a cat for your cat so that you are no longer her sole source of entertainment.
· Give your cat the internal-clock-resetting-hormone, melatonin at night to induce a lengthier period of sleep. Consult your veterinarian before giving this or any other medication.
The most important things to remember about “early morning syndrome” is that it is a natural tendency for cats to rise and become active at dawn, and that owners can inadvertently feed into this tendency by responding with attention or food. If you are not careful, a cat that you feed at 6 a.m. will start jumping up on your bed at 5:45 a.m., trying to get a jump start on her day. If you respond to your cat’s 5:45 a.m. demands, next you will find yourself being woken up at 5:30 a.m., then 5:15 a.m., and so on, until eventually you’re being woken up in the wee hours.

Because most cats are keen to bend the rules, especially where food is concerned, and are naturally quick studies, it is important to make acceptable house rules and stick to them. If you cave in under pressure, you will get more of whatever behavior you have just rewarded. That is to say, you can inadvertently train a cat to wake you up. The old proverb about “making your own bed and lying in it” really applies here, except that you won’t be doing much lying. If you do have a problem of this nature, you should avoid making any early morning activity rewarding to your cat. It may take weeks to accomplish what you set out to do, but it will finally dawn on the cat that sunrise doesn’t signal anything worth waking you for – and then you’ll be off the hook.

Common Cat Questions

How Old Is Your Cat?

We are frequently asked how old in “people years” a cat is.  Many people believe that 1 year of a cat’s life is equivalent to seven human years.  In fact it is much more variable than that and is different for cats than it is for dogs. Below is a chart that is probably the closest to what is currently believed for an age chart for cats.

Kitty’s Age In Cat Years
Kitty’s Age In Human Years
6 months
10
1
15
2
24
3
28
4
32
5
36
6
40
7
44
8
Senior Cats
48
9
52
10
56
11
60
12
64
13
Geriatric Cats
69
14
72
15
76
16
80
17
84
18
88
19
90
20
96
21
100

How To Brush Your Cat’s Teeth

Dr. William Rosenblad
Dentistry & Oral Medicine

BRUSHING TEETH

Dental disease (especially periodontal disease) is the most common disease in our feline companions. It is also one of the most preventable and treatable disease. We can reduce or even prevent dental disease by feeding a crunchy diet and daily tooth brushing. The following are steps to guide you on how to brush your cat’s teeth:

· The first step is to start with a clean, healthy mouth, such as with a young pet with healthy new teeth and gums or after your cat has had a professional dental cleaning.

· You will need a soft-bristled tooth brush and veterinary toothpaste. Human toothpastes and baking soda may cause problems. Veterinary toothpastes have flavors that are appealing to cats. Anything other than a bristled tooth brush will not get below the gum line (the most important area to brush).

· There are several important facts about our pets’ mouths that tell us when, where, and how to brush. Periodontal disease usually affects the upper, back teeth first and worst. Plaque builds up on the tooth surface daily, especially just under the gum line. It takes less than 36 hours for this plaque to become mineralized and harden into “tartar” (calculus) that cannot be removed with a brush. Because of this progression, brushing should be done daily, with a brush to remove the plaque from under the gum line.

· Pick a time of day that will become a convenient part of your pet’s and your daily routine. Brushing before a daily treat can help your pet actually look forward to brushing time. Take a few days to let both of you get use to the process. Follow with praise and a treat each time.

· Start by offering her a taste of the veterinary toothpaste. The next time, let her taste the toothpaste, then run your finger along the gums of the upper teeth. Repeat the process with the tooth brush. Get the bristles of the brush along the gum line of the upper back teeth and angle slightly up, so the bristles get under the gum line. Work from back to front, making small circles along the gum lines. It should take you less than 30 seconds to brush your pet’s teeth. Do not try to brush the entire mouth at first. If all that your pet lets you brush is the outside of the upper teeth, you are still addressing the most important area of periodontal disease – prevention. If your pet eventually allows you to brush most of her teeth, so much the better.

· Even with the best tooth brushing, some cats may still need an occasional professional cleaning, just like humans. By brushing your pet’s teeth daily and curtailing the amount of periodontal disease, you may reduce the frequency and involvement of dental cleanings and provide your pet with a healthier, sweeter smile.

How To Tell If Your Cat Is Ill

Vetsuite Veterinarians
General Practice & Preventative Medicine

QUESTIONNAIRE

Your cat cannot explain his symptoms, so it’s the responsibility of you and your veterinarian to keep him healthy. Cats are very good at hiding their illness so it is up to you to observe your cat for abnormalities.

Common indications of a “sick pet” include: lethargy, disorientation, weakness, weight loss, seizure, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, unproductive retching, straining to urinate, bloody urine, difficulty or inability to walk, bleeding, pale mucous membranes, difficulty breathing and persistent cough. You know your pet best and can often notice subtle early warning signs that someone else may not detect. If you observe any of the mentioned symptoms or other signs that concern you, call your veterinary hospital. The safest approach would be to have your pet examined.

Once your pet is at the hospital, your veterinarian may ask additional questions to help localize or diagnose the problem. It may help to be prepared to answer some of the following questions:

· How long have you owned your cat?
· What is the age of your cat?
· Has your cat experienced any previous illnesses?
· Is your cat currently under treatment for an illness or disease?
· Has your cat ever been tested for Feline Leukemia or Feline AIDS
· Where did you get your cat (adoption center, breeder, previous stray, etc.)?
· What preventative medications is your cat currently taking?
· Does your cat receive any consistent flea treatment?
· Has your cat been vaccinated? When? For what?
· What other type of pets do you have?
· Are any other pets ill?
· Have there been any recent acquisitions?
· Have there been any recent activities such as boarding, grooming, etc.?
· Is the majority of your cat’s time spent indoors or outdoors?
· Have there been any recent changes in diet or eating habits?
· What brand of food does your cat eat? How much? How often?
· Do you offer your pet table scraps?
· How frequently and what type of treats are offered?
· How much water does your cat typically drink per day?
· Have there been any recent changes in water consumption?
· What type of litter do you use and how frequently is the litter box cleaned?
· Have you noticed any coughing or sneezing?
· Have you noticed any lumps or bumps on your cat?
· Is your cat urinating normally?
· Is your cat having normal bowel movements?
· When is the last time he/she had a bowel movement?
· Have you noticed any recent weight loss or weight gain?

After answering some general questions, more specific questions need to be answered. A brief cursory exam of your pet at home can help you determine the answers. These questions are also commonly asked when pet owners are seeking help over the phone. Be prepared to answer the following questions, depending on the problem with your pet:

REGARDING THE EYES

· Have you noticed an increase or decrease in tear production?
· Do the eyes appear cloudy or red?
· Have you noticed any discharge?
· Do the eyes appear bloodshot?
· Are the pupils the same size in both eyes?
· Have you noticed your pet rubbing or pawing at eyes?
· Is your cat squinting his/her eyes?
· Do the eyes appear to be sunken or excessively protruding?
REGARDING THE EARS

· Do you notice any swelling or discharge from the ears?
· Are the ears drooping when they normally stand erect?
· Are the ears red and inflamed?
· Do you notice any odor?
· Is your cat rubbing or pawing at the ears?
· Have you noticed a lot of head shaking?
· Have you noticed any pain or crying when you rub or scratch your cat’s ears?

REGARDING THE NOSE

· Have you noticed any congestion, sneezing or coughing?
· Have you noticed any blood coming from the nose?
· Have you noticed any nasal discharge?

REGARDING THE MOUTH

· Have you noticed any swelling of the lips or tongue?
· Have you noticed any bleeding from the mouth?
· What color are the gums – tissue just above the teeth?
· Is your cat able to open and close the mouth normally?
· Is there any pain involved in opening or closing the mouth?
· Have you noticed any excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth?
· Is your cat able swallow food normally?
· Are there any foreign objects such as bones or sticks stuck on the roof of the mouth or around the teeth?

REGARDING THE CHEST

· Is your pet experiencing any difficulty breathing?
· Have you noticed panting?
· Is there any pain when the chest area is petted?
· Have you noticed any recent coughing?
· What is the heart rate?
· Is the heartbeat steady and consistent?
· Place your hand or your ear on the left side of your cat’s chest, just behind the elbow. You should be able to feel or hear the heartbeat. Count how many beats the heart pumps in one minute.

REGARDING THE ABDOMEN/STOMACH AREA

· Has your cat been having any diarrhea or vomiting?
· Is your cat able to eat and drink normally?
· Does the abdomen/stomach area appear swollen or distended?
· Does your cat have pain when the stomach area is petted?
· Is your cat known to chew on non-food items such as clothing, towels, strings, etc.?

REGARDING THE URINARY AND REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEMS

· Have you noticed any difference in urinating?
· Does your cat seem to strain to urinate or cry in pain?
· Does your cat repeatedly try to urinate with no urine produced?
· Is there any blood in the urine?
· How frequently does your cat urinate?
· Is your female cat spayed? At what age? Did she ever have kittens?
· If your cat was not spayed, when was her last heat cycle and was she bred?
· Is your male cat neutered? At what age?
· Do you notice any discharge from the vaginal area?
· Do you notice any discharge from the penis?
· If your cat is not neutered, do you notice any swelling of the testicles?
· Have you noticed your cat excessively licking or grooming the genital area?

REGARDING THE MUSCULOSKELETAL SYSTEM – BONES AND JOINTS

· Have you noticed any limping?
· Are any legs or joints swollen?
· Has your cat been excessively licking at one area of his/her legs?
· Does your pet show signs of pain when walking?
· Is your cat able to walk normally?
· Does your cat walk on his/her knuckles?
· Does your cat drag any legs when walking?
· Have you noticed signs of pain when petting your pet?

By supplying the answers to these questions, your veterinarian will be in a much better position to help your pet. Additional tests may be necessary to find out what the problem is but the answers to the above questions can greatly narrow the area of concern.

Kitten Or Adult:Which Is Right For You?

Vetsuite Staff
General Practice & Preventative Medicine

HOW DO YOU CHOOSE?

You have decided to open your heart and your home to a cat. But should you adopt a fresh, untrained kitten or go for a stately, older cat? Both have distinct advantages and disadvantages. The final decision should be based on your family’s desires, lifestyles and needs.

ADVANTAGES OF AN ADULT

There is usually very little guesswork with an adult cat. He is as large as he is going to grow, and you don’t have to guess whether he is a shorthair or longhair.

In addition, he usually comes litter-box trained and has outgrown the impulse to chew on everything. Although he may still like to play, he won’t be running in a high gear all the time. An older cat – especially one who has already shared a household or played with other pets – is more likely to meld into the existing hierarchy established by your other dogs and cats. If he is healthy, an adult cat should not need as many trips to the veterinarian as a kitten.

ADVANTAGES OF A KITTEN

But a kitten is a clean slate. His habits haven’t been set, and you get to teach him and watch him grow. They are also undeniably adorable and entertaining – a little ball of love that’s always on the go.

Adopting a kitten also gives you the advantage of developing a strong, priceless bond. Because he is so young, he has the potential to be part of your family longer.

DISADVANTAGES OF AN ADULT

There could be a reason why the adult cat was put up for adoption in the first place. He may suffer from serious behavioral problems, and he might prove to be a difficult pet.

Furthermore, you are unsure of the cat’s previous environment. The fact that they yelled at him, kept him confined in a small room or did not give the cat his needed space and privacy might be the reason he ended up in the shelter. Or, the previous owner didn’t really want a longhaired cat and would not brush him, resulting in a matted and crabby kitty. Depending on his personality and experiences, an adult cat may take longer to bond with you.

DISADVANTAGES OF A KITTEN

Even with the best guess, you are not really sure of the kitten’s final haircoat length. This can cause problems if your kitten ends up with long hair, and you don’t have the time to brush him daily.

In addition, kittens are famous for their non-stop energy and desire to play – especially at night. Without another kitten to play with, you become the target. They have sharp teeth and claws, and they can play pretty rough. Kittens also can be destructive to your couch, plants, carpet and whatever else you may treasure.

After learning about the positive and negative aspects of kittens and adult cats, step back and take a look at your life. Do you have the time and patience it takes to raise a kitten? If so, you will have a loving pet that can fit perfectly into your family. If you are willing to adopt an older cat, even with minor flaws, you will have a greatly, devoted companion.

Pros And Cons Of Spaying And Neutering In Cats

Vetsuite Veterinarians
General Practice & Preventative Medicine – Surgery (General & Soft Tissue) – Theriogenology

TO SPAY/NEUTER OR NOT

It’s time to start thinking about spaying or neutering your cat. But, you are not quite sure if it is the right thing to do. If you’re wondering whether you should just leave your cat as nature intended, consider the positive and negative aspects of spaying and neutering before making your decision.

First, what does neutering mean? Neutering is a procedure used to “de-sex” an animal. This procedure has been used to control animal population growth, reduce unwanted sexual behavior in pets, and decrease or eliminate the possibility of certain disease conditions later in life, such as pyometra or infection in the uterus.

Castration is a term used to describe the removal of the gonads (testicles) in male animals. Spaying is a term used to describe the sterilization procedure of females. The procedure of spaying most often consists of removal of both the ovaries and uterus, which is called an ovariohysterectomy. Both procedures are performed under general anesthesia and both involve a surgical incision.

Neutering is done most commonly at or around six months of age. However, many veterinarians perform this procedure earlier – as early as 8 to 10 weeks in some situations. Early neutering can be done safely and has a number of advantages, especially in cases of pet adoption.

SPAYING – THE POSITIVE SIDE

· Spaying removes the risk of pregnancy.
Pet overpopulation is a serious problem and by allowing your cat to have litters, you are adding to the problem. Finding homes for your new family additions is not as easy as you may think. Even if you choose to keep the kittens, you will have the additional cost of vaccines, parasite control, toys and food for several pets. In addition to costs, the health of the mother can be in jeopardy during delivery. Some new mothers can have serious complications delivering kittens and can even develop health problems during nursing. All these potential problems can be avoided by spaying your cat.
· Spaying makes for a calmer cat.
Without the drive to mate, your cat may be quieter and won’t be prone to cat calls and the incessant need to seek out a mate. The spayed pet no longer attracts males and their annoying advances and serenades. Spayed cats are also easier to get along with. They tend to be more gentle and affectionate.
· Spaying keeps your cat healthier.
A final positive aspect of spaying your cat is that spayed cats tend to have fewer health problems. Spaying is the removal of the ovaries and uterus. Without these organs, ovarian cysts, uterine infections and cancer of the reproductive tract are no longer a concern.

SPAYING – THE NEGATIVE SIDE

· Spaying means sterilization.
Spaying will result in the sterilization of your cat, and she will no longer have the ability to become pregnant. In the era of pet overpopulation and the fact that thousands of unwanted pets are euthanized each year, this is really not so bad.
· Spaying may cause weight gain.
Some cats may gain weight after spaying and as they get older. Unspayed animals typically have a strong mating desire and can expend a lot of energy seeking a mate and reproducing. Without this energy burden, your cat may eat the same amount but not burn off as many calories. Cutting back on food intake or increasing your pets activity will help reduce weight gain.

NEUTERING – THE POSITIVE SIDE

· Neutering removes the risk of pregnancy.
Pet overpopulation is a serious issue and by allowing your cat to breed, you are adding to the problem. Although you may not own the female cat, and you are not burdened with finding homes for those new kittens, someone else is. Even if you accept your responsibility and choose to keep the kittens, you will have the additional cost of vaccines, parasite control, toys and food for several pets.
· Neutering makes for a cleaner, calmer pet.
Another positive aspect of neutering your cat is that neutering can result in a calmer, and sometimes cleaner, home. Without the drive to mate, your cat may be quieter and not prone to cat calls and an incessant need to seek out a mate. The neutered cat no longer feels the need to seek out and serenade females. He no longer has the stress of needing to mark his territory and urinate throughout the house and yard. Neutered cats are also easier to get along with. They tend to more gentle and affectionate. Neutered males tend to roam less and typically are not involved in as many fights with other animals.
· Neutering keeps your pet healthier.
A final positive aspect of neutering your cat is that neutered cats tend to have fewer health problems. Neutering is the removal of the testicles. Without these organs, testicular cancer is no longer a concern and the risk of prostate problems is reduced. For those people who would like to sterilize their cat but do not wish to alter his appearance, testicular implants are available.

NEUTERING – THE NEGATIVE SIDE

· Neutering is sterilization.
Neutering will result in the sterilization of your cat.
· Neutering may cause weight gain.
Some cats gain weight after neutering. Intact animals typically have a strong mating desire and can expend a lot of energy seeking a mate and reproducing. Without this energy burden, your cat may eat the same amount but not burn off as many calories. Cutting back on his food or increasing his activity can help reduce the weight gain.

Last year about 17 million dogs and cats were turned over to animal shelters. Only one out of every 10 taken in to the shelters found a home. This means that over 13.5 million had to be destroyed. The tragedy is that this is unnecessary. Much of the problem could be eliminated by simple surgery: Spaying and neutering operations are performed under general anesthesia and are quite painless. By neutering pets, owners can help lower the numbers of unwanted and homeless creatures.

Should You Breed Your Cats?

Vetsuite Veterinarians
General Practice & Preventative Medicine – Theriogenology

SHOULD YOUR CAT REPRODUCE?

You love your cat dearly and think, wouldn’t the world be a better place if there were more cats just like her or him? However, before you breed your cat, take some time to consider whether or not it is the best thing to do and whether you are doing it for the right reasons. Make this decision carefully and only after a lot of research and talking with experienced breeders.

Breeding cats is not as simple as it sounds. To safeguard the health of your cat and his or her offspring, you need to be able to handle any situation you encounter. Ask yourself the following questions:
· Do you have the time to dedicate to breeding? The time you will need to spend with your new kittens will increase dramatically.
· Will you be able to afford the costs involved in vaccinating and deworming the kittens?
· If you can’t find new homes for the new babies, are you willing to keep them? This means more feeding and more cleaning. Remember you started with one cat; you may end up with a total of six to eight or even more.

THE WRONG REASONS

One of the worst things you could do would be to breed your cat for the wrong reasons. Each year about 17 million dogs and cats are turned over to animal shelters. Out of every 10 that were taken in, only one finds a home. Of the rest, some 13.5 million must be destroyed.

The suffering and sorrow associated with pet overpopulation is overwhelming. And yet, much of it could be eliminated by breeding only for the right reasons.

Some of the wrong reasons:
· You want to breed because kittens are soooooo cute. Keep in mind they will grow up quickly and may be not be so cute anymore. What will you do then?
· You want to let your kids experience the miracle of birth. Unfortunately, the whelping process has usually been completed by the time you realize it and everyone has missed “the miracle.”
· You want to breed so that you can sell the kittens. Unless you are serious about promoting a particular breed, it is unlikely that buyers will knock at your door to buy. Even if you choose to breed a particular breed, you will likely not make a significant profit.

THE RIGHT REASONS

To be a responsible breeder, consider every aspect before proceeding. For the best experience, remember that every cat has physical and emotional needs. Also realize that If you are going to breed, it should only be done for the right reasons.

The best reason to breed your cat is to promote a particular breed. There are plenty of mixed breed cats in the world, and breeding should only be done after careful consideration and discussion with experienced breeders. Only top quality members of a breed should be used. You should also make sure you have homes for all the potential kittens, even before breeding.

If, after plenty of soul searching, you have decided to breed your cat, remember that giving away those kittens can be difficult. Not everyone will provide a suitable home. You will need to interview prospective buyers and ask them about the purpose of having the cat, the set-up for the cat, their lifestyle (for instance, if they travel a lot, who will be the caretaker) and whether they have the time, patience and tools to care for their new family member properly.

If the answers tell you that this person is a suitable mama/papa, a new home is found. If not, you will have to turn down the sale regardless how much money is involved.

Remember no one can decide whether or not to breed your cat but you. After much consideration, you should make the best decision for your family and for your cat.

Trimming Your Cat’s Toenails

Vetsuite Staff
General Practice & Preventative Medicine

TRIMMING YOUR CAT’S TOENAILS

It’s that time again – time to trim your kitty’s toenails. But while some cats don’t seem to mind when you’re trimming their nails, others just plain don’t like it. And they are not at all shy about letting you know how they feel – by squirming and scratching. Following these suggestions for a proper nail trim might help you give your cat a not-so-arduous manicure.
· Start young. The earlier you start clipping your kitty’s claws, the better used to it she will be. Frequent trims when your cat is young will help diminish any fear. Have your veterinarian show you how to do it the first time.
· Learn the anatomy. Within the center of each toenail is the blood and nerve supply for the nail called the quick. Most cats have light colored nails so you can see the quick, a pinkish area in the middle of the nail. Cutting into the quick will result in pain and bleeding.
· Use the proper instruments. There are a variety of nail trimmers available at pet stores or your veterinarian’s office. Human nail trimmers generally do not work – unless your pet is a young kitten with soft clear nails. See Toenail Trimmers.

A CLIP OR AN OVERHAUL

Before you start clipping, determine how much needs to be trimmed. The basic rule of thumb is that the nail, which curls downward, should be even with the paw pad. Whatever hangs over must be clipped.

PROCEDURE

· Hold your cat firmly or have someone else help, and if your kitty is not used to getting her nails clipped, be ready for her to squirm.
· Gently squeeze down on your cat’s toe knuckles so that the nails are spread out and exposed. Place the trimmer in your dominant hand.
· Eyeball the quick and aim a few millimeters below it. If you cut into the quick, referred to as “quicking,” it will hurt your cat and the nail will bleed.
· Place the trimmer flush with the pad, place the nail in the trimmer and remove the excess nail. For cats, removing just the sharp pointed tip is often enough.
· Although you will take great care not to hurt your pet, sometimes accidents happen and you will cut into the quick. Have silver nitrate products on hand – you can get them at your veterinarian’s office or pet store. You can also use flour or cornstarch to stop the bleeding. If that doesn’t work, apply a light bandage for about 15 minutes. It the bleeding continues, call your veterinarian.

When Your Senior Cat Needs To See A Vet

Vetsuite Veterinarians
General Practice & Preventative Medicine

SENIOR CATS AND THE VET

If your senior cat is getting biannual veterinary exams, you need not be alarmed at small changes in his behavior or expressions of minor discomfort. But one or more of the following symptoms could be caused by a range of minor or major illnesses. In these cases, it’s not your job to diagnose the disorder. Observe your cat and report his symptoms to your veterinarian as soon as possible. If he’s struggling to breathe or loses consciousness, take him to your veterinarian immediately.

YOUR SENIOR CAT NEEDS TO SEE A VET WHEN HE . . .

· Drinks water or urinates more often than usual
· Loses weight
· Is unusually hungry
· Vomits repeatedly
· Has diarrhea lasting for more than 3 days
· Finds it difficult to pass stool or urine
· Forgets his litter box habits
· Exhibits lameness for more than five days or in more than one leg
· Has trouble seeing
· Develops open sores on the skin that persist for more than one week
· Develops a foul mouth odor or drools excessively
· Appears to gain weight only in his abdomen
· Spends more time than usual sleeping or gazing into space
· Loses hair or scratches, especially if only in specific areas
· Is unable to eat dry food
· Collapses suddenly or has a bout of weakness
· Has a seizure (convulsion)
· Coughs or gags often
· Has bleeding from the mouth, nose or rectum
· Has a significant decrease in appetite or doesn’t eat for more than 2 days