Why Would a Cat Increase Their Drinking Amount or Frequency?

May 15

Our pet cats are ancestors of a small desert cat from northern Africa. Like many desert animals, their main hydration strategy is minimal loss of urine volume and “staying hydrated” instead of getting hydrated. Although there can be many causes for drinking water excessively, it is always a significant finding in this species. The symptom usually occurs along with excessive urination (PD PU in medicine, standing for polydipsia and polyuria) and is usually quickly notable in pet cats. Some cats will just enjoy water and everyone knows that Tigers and Leopards practically live in the water, but for most pet cats it is rare. It is even more certain to be significant if you note that an individual cat has an increased trend of water consumption.

I think too few cat owners realize that the urine volume loss occurs first in these patients. The excessive losses drive the increased thirst and the cat’s natural hydration strategy is immediately ruined. When excessive drinking is noted, the larger urine clumps in the box can often be quickly confirmed. The increased thirst observed is a normal response but rarely leaves the cat well hydrated. We must determine the cause and treat the pet appropriately. Housemate cats can offer an ideal opportunity for comparison. In spite of the symptom, the cats might even need fluid supplementation.

The cat’s best opportunity to hydrate is first through their diet. Canned food obviously serves them well with this goal. If water is consumed independent of diet, it should be a brief drink and a consistent trend within individuals. As I have mentioned in another blog, cats do not like their water to be offered in direct proximity to their food. They very rarely drink while eating. These are just separate tasks in the cat world. Water should be offered in multiple locations and never just next to the food dish. And please keep those slobbery dogs drinking in another location! We may also try to offer bottled or filtered water for better taste with some individual preferences. We can also find success by playing the hot water vs. cold water game in some kitties.

I immediately mention encouragement of water in cases of increased intake; because again, the losses occur first. We should never try to decrease urine output by limiting intake. Some of the losses cannot be reversed, like kidney disease. We need to work on hydrating these animals that are working outside of their true capacity. Seeing your cat doctor for a blood panel and urinalysis, with blood pressure measurement is a great place to start. Other common causes include hyperthyroidism, Diabetes Mellitus, and the most common in an older cat is kidney disease. The prognosis depends on each individual, stage of illness and which individual cause is to blame. Drinking excessively or more than has been normal should be investigated immediately.

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Etiquette on Coming Home After the Vet Clinic

May 15

How many times have we heard about problems in a multiple cat home after a veterinary visit.  We humans are often to blame!  When we come home from a hard day of work, we walk in and announce our arrival.  Cats do not do this and never appreciate abrupt returns in any form.  Not even the matriarch gets to come home loudly.

I have been educated by two girl kitties, that have disliked each other for almost 15 years now, in the same household.  When one goes to the vet, her return home will be the worst part of the experience!  I was doing things all wrong.  I noticed by watching barn cats here in Georgia that when one returns to the group after a kill and a solo meal, they hang on the periphery and almost “sneak” back into the group when the opportunity presents itself.  The most amusing part is that they do it several times a day and the colony seems to debate accepting the departed member on every return.

Now, when I take one of my girls home, I do not make my initial entry with the “offender”.  I first enter the home and feed and greet the girl that stayed at home.  When I used to come in and announce the arrival, the cat coming out of the carrier always bolted out of sight and seemed very embarrassed.  I had them breaking a well-established cat code!  After a little time has passed (very little, 1 minute or 2), I will covertly exit the home and then re-enter through a different door when possible.  I will then “sneak” the cat into the home and make the carrier disappear.  When the cat is seen next, it is almost like she was stuck in the closet for the day.  They still do not like each other, but they are instantly back to normal with none of the drama that used to accompany the return.

So now you know!  Do not make abrupt entries into the home with your kitties.  No one in fur appreciates the move.  If you are able to help any visitors to your hospital with this advice, just send thanks to Lilly and Delilah!



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Top 10 Reasons to Hang Out with a Human

May 15

The Sundance Kid

Hello everyone!  My name is The Sundance Kid and I am a 4 yo Red Tabby DSH.  I used to be a stray or “ferel” but then I found this great house to hang at for most of my time.  It was a little bit of a rough start I must admit!  I used to just show up here and get some yummy canned food and then go on about my day.  Then once, my new person set a trap!  I was caught in the trap because I could not resist the Friskies Oceanfish.  I was FURIOUS!  I then went to this place called The Cat Clinic of Roswell.  I was neutered, viral tested and then vaccinated and dewormed.  Sounds like a lot and it was a very tough day.  Turns out that my new person, sometimes called Daddy and sometimes called Dr. Ray when he is at this Cat Clinic place, works with cats for a living.  I stayed there for a week or two to just get used to people, or to “socialize” was the term I heard.  They were actually pretty nice to me overall, and had GREAT food that was always free and plentiful.  Everyone was very attentive to all my needs and I stayed in the hidebox most of the time.

That was December 2010, and now I can reflect a little more clearly two years later.  We might have mild winters here in Georgia, but it is still really cold for a cat.  As we enter late Fall and early Winter, I am really glad to have a place to stay where they love me.  We have brokered a deal where I get to go outside whenever I want but can always come in and get warm, on my fleece beds I should add!  So in retrospect, I have constructed a list of reasons to live with humans.  Some of the humans even know how to meow and interpret cat body language.  Pick one of those people if at all possible!

Here is my list:

1. Shelter. We all know that our ancestor was a desert cat from Northern Africa.  Cats prefer temperatures between 86-100, so these North American winters are completely unacceptable without a human in your life.

2. The food! I never have to work for a meal anymore…  I am fed canned food 2-3 times daily and more on the weekends.  I also have this dry crunchy food always available.  It is unlike anything I ever found on my own but pretty darn tasty I must admit.  I still do eat chipmunks and birds because that’s how I roll!

3. Vaccinations. When I was at The Cat Clinic of Roswell, I was given a Rabies vaccine.  Rabies is a very serious disease that we can catch from another animal (raccoons, skunks and bats are to be avoided if possible).  You may also want to be careful with cats that refuse to live with people, as they might not be vaccinated.  There is no treatment if you catch Rabies, SCARRY STUFF!  I also had a vaccine called FVRCP or a respiratory 3 in 1, which protects me against the Rhinotracheitis (Herpes virus) Calici virus, and against Panleukopenia, a Parvo virus.  Herpes and Calici are respiratory viruses and Panleukopenia can adversely affect many body systems, our blood cells, GI tract and even our neurologic system.  After I was tested negative, I also got a Feline Leukemia vaccine.  This is a cat only virus that we outdoor access guys are at risk of contracting through contact with other cats.  If we all get tested and vaccinated, we can reduce the incidence of this nasty viral disease.  Check out kittytest.com to see the viral and heartworm disease prevalence in your area!

4. Parasitic treatment and prevention. Before I lived with my family, I had this really gross thing happening called tapeworm infestation!  I was just grooming and ate a flea, and the flea gave me a parasite!  The darn things came out of my bottom moving!  Once my Dad found out, he treated me topically with Profender and the tapeworms were gone!  I was so thankful.  He also gives me this great product called Advantage Multi every month at home.  It is user friendly with only one application monthly and I am protected against fleas, intestinal parasites and the dreaded heartworm disease.  Heartworm disease is transmitted by the mosquito and very common in the southeast, where we live.  Check out knowheartworms.org for feline only information on this preventable disease.

5. Viral testing. I briefly mention this with my vaccination statement but knowing your viral status is crucial, especially with outdoor access.  All cats should be tested for Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).  Hopefully you are negative, because these are serious viruses that can cause significant problems.  Because they are viruses, they can also make an entire population sick!  We have to get more of us tested to minimize these disease.  There is a vaccine for FIV but most clinics do not recommend it because it will make you test positive.  If you have time, get you people to check out catvets.com and review viral testing and vaccination guidelines.  I also found out that my dad, Dr. Ray, is actually on the American Association of Feline Practitioners Guidelines committee!  He can now influence care for cats all over our country!

6. Neutering (and they call it a Spay for all the beautiful queens out there).  Now I have flipped sides on this issue.  When I first heard of neutering (actually called a castration for us toms), it sounded like a horrible idea!  But I have since noticed that I rome less, fight less and am generally more content with my new pet life.  I used to go crazy when the queens went in heat and I was all over the neighborhood.  Of course other toms were there too, and bad things happened.  I was also made aware of an urban phenomenon called “pet overpopulation”.  Apparently, many cats are not spayed and neutered, and we breed like wildfire when left to our own devices.  It results in too many cats for too little homes.  The facts are scary!  Many cats are euthanized every year because the shelters cannot keep up with the numbers.  You may need to look up euthanasia, but it is bad…

7. Companionship. At first, I did not let my people pet me.  I had always been taught to avoid people by my mother.  But over time, I realized that they always fed me, did not challenge me to accept them before I was ready, and always talked nicely to me.  I even got this great name from my dad.  He recommends that all new cat owners read TS Eliot poem, “The Naming of Cats”  before they embark on this very important task.  Once you have people on your side, you realize that life can be pretty easy.  Plus, you can get them trained in no time!   My people know when to feed me and appreciate my meow reminders when they are running behind.  They always keep my indoor facilities (a litterbox) clean, and I continually sleep on comfy couches, chairs and even fleece blankets!  Once you give in, the petting is kinda cool too.  I especially like when they rub my head and will even occasionally let them rub my belly!

8.  Dental Care. Many of you would not like to admit it, but all of us need this maintenance.  Any many of us have dental disease that needs to be addressed.  Bad Breath means you have an infection!  Now that I am 4, I will likely get a Professional Dental Cleaning this year.  Most cats will need their first dental cleaning by the age of 3-5, so I’m ready.  I will need to be anesthetized, like when I was neutered, and will get a dental cleaning just like the people experience at their dentist.  After the cleaning, my teeth will be assessed for disease.  The two most common problems in cats are resorptive lesions and classic periodontal disease.  The primary factor here is genetics but your level of preventative care is crucial.  Dental problems are painful and can also lead to disease in other areas of the body.

9. Geriatric Care. Even though this does not apply to me right now, my dad is always working with these older cats.  He really tries to make their current life a lot more like when they were young.  Older cats seem lame to me but my dad loves them, and loves helping them live better lives.  Upstairs, he has two grouchy old ladies that are 18 and 19, you believe that??  Everytime those chicks see me outside a window they hiss and behave poorly.  They would never let me come in the main house!  But they have to go to the Cat Clinic a lot more often than I do!  They get biannual exams and frequent lab samples to stay on top of their health.  Good to know that as I age, dad will look after me just as closely.  And maybe by then, the main house will be mine!

10. Anytime you get sick, you want a person on your side! If you are ill without a person, you just have to walk it off…  I know we have 9 lives but we still run into problems sometimes.  Even though it is tough to realize at the time, places like the Cat Clinic of Roswell can help you out with various problems.  Some things  I have heard dad talk about include allergic skin and ears (especially in Georgia), wounds form various sources, painful legs or joints from trauma or even from our genetics, and GI disorders (or nausea, diarrhea) are all very common.  If at all possible, go to a Cat only clinic.  They seem to know a little more about kittys and definitely have a more pleasant environment to tolerate.  Although I live with and dominate 2 dogs, I cannot handle their barking when I am stressed with the vet visit already!  Have some respect you drooling monsters!  And keep in mind that if we battle pound for pound, the dog is going down!!

But I prefer to avoid conflict for the most part.  I like this new life with people and highly recommend it.  I hope that helps your debate, especially as we get into wintertime!  Do not spend another winter alone.  Just show up and meow and rub on things, they will love you once you pick the right house.  If they do not think you’re cute right away, MOVE ON!  Someone will eventually recognize your royalty and those that don’t, cannot be worked with…..

The Sundance Kid

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Hypertension – A Cat’s Point of View

May 15

Hello everyone, my name is Delilah, “the flippy queen”, Ray. I am working on my 20th birthday this coming April and have been a hypertensive kitty for about one year now. My dad is a veterinarian that works on cats only, so he knew to start checking my pressure at least annually once I turned 10, which was a few years ago. For years I checked out OK, and then my number began to creep up the scale. Once I was over 160, he started medicine, much to my dismay. Daily medicine is never fun in the cat world but this one is definitely worth it. Because I know he wants the best for me, he also checks my blood and urine often, maybe a little too often from my point of view. With this information, he was able to tell the nurses helping me that I have secondary hypertension due to early stage renal (kidney) disease. Without knowing that I have become hypertensive, my kidney disease could have progressed more rapidly and made me more sick in the meantime. With controlling my high blood pressure, my kidney disease will be less significant in my daily life and also allow for the longest “not sick” interval. As much as I like my dad when he is home, I do not like going to work with him. The only thing worse would be a long stay!

The daily pill is kinda lame but dad has become pretty slick about medicating me. He usually sneaks up on me when I am sleeping and quickly drops a ¼ pill down my throat. Sometimes the task is done so quickly that I just go right back to sleep. They say that hypertension is the silent killer. Now that my pressure is controlled, I feel much better and can reflect on some changes that were sneaking up on me. When my pressure would peak, I felt anxious and restless. I would sometimes meow desperately and many times in a row. The family would quickly come to see what was bothering me, and then I would quit. It was a weird feeling that made me uncomfortable, and confused. And I had no idea how detrimental that anxious feeling was to all my organs. When I was at the Cat Clinic of Roswell, the nurses read off the internet all the bad things that could happen to a cat with uncontrolled hypertension. Some of these cats go suddenly blind because of retinal detachment (yes like the boxers!). Other kitties may have a “vascular event” in broad terms and get a devastating insult to another organ. I found out that my kidneys and brain were also at high risk. The more you hear them read, the more that ¼ pill seems not so bad.

And since my dad is a vet, I know he would feel horrible if something preventable happen to me! So I better understand why he is sneaking up on me with that darn pill every morning. And if he misses finding me asleep before he goes to work, he will ask my mom to sneak up on me! At least now I understand that hypertension is real and can have very real consequences, just like in the human species. And once I started medicine I had to go to work with dad again in two weeks for a follow up. Fortunately, my follow up was favorable and hypertension is well controlled. As an older gal, I am happy to have one less thing to worry about. And I do dig snuggling at night in the same spot I have occupied for 2 decades. When I was young, it was just me and dad. Now, I have a whole family worried about me so I have to do the right thing. So get checked out at a Cat Hospital and be proactive with your health!

If you missed it, see Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) – A Doctor’s Point of View.

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Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) – A Doctor’s Point of View

May 15

Hypertension is very common in cats.  It is a disease that is extremely detrimental to many organs, just like with people.  In human medicine, it is sometimes called “the silent killer”.  This is meant to describe how little to no obvious signs are associated with the onset of hypertension.  Many times the disease is silent in cats as well.  This fact does not belie the harm done to the affected body. Uniquely in cats, excessive vocalization is often observed with high blood pressure.  So sometimes, it is the “very loud, at 3 in the morning” killer!  Cats will often go through this excessive night crying when their pressure is spiking up.  I know because my personal cat Delilah is affected.  If I miss her medicine, I often get a late night reminder.

Initially, she had no night crying or obvious symptoms, and her lab work looked really good for her age (20yo in April!).  Like many owners, I was reluctant to put her on a lifelong medicine.  But I followed her borderline high reading until it passed above the borderline range.  Most of us are concerned about any systolic reading at or over 160.  We check blood pressure in cats just like it is checked in humans.  We use a spigmometer and human pediatric sized cuffs, and most commonly a Doppler probe to measure the systemic blood pressure.  Most of us cat doctors only have concern about the systolic reading.  In humans, a fraction is the standard way of reporting systemic blood pressure.  The systolic reading is on top and the diastolic reading is on the bottom.  We usually only concern ourselves with the systolic, or high reading in kitties.  Most serious problems result from a “peak pressure insult” to susceptible organs.  The classic consequence is retinal detachment resulting in a sudden blindness in cats.  In some cases, this will be the sign that inspires the cat owner to present the cat to the veterinarian.  The ability to reverse the change in the retina is dependent on the degree of detachment and the length of time detached (the longer, the more poor the prognosis).

Whether it is a sudden change or just a routine senior “screening”, all cats at or over the age of 10 should have their blood pressure checked at least annually.  Once they are 13 and above, biannual is preferred since one of their years is equivalent to 4-7 of our years.  No older human gets their pressure checked every 4-7 years!  If a cat is recognized as being hypertensive, medicine that almost always controls the problem is available.  We will then check the pressure after starting medicine and make sure we have achieved the target range.  Once the pressure is controlled on medicine, the medicine is continued (most often for life).   We also need to include a blood and urine check to determine if the hypertension is primary or secondary.

In most cases, eventually, the hypertension is secondary to another primary disease process.  The two most common primary diseases that every hypertensive kitty should be screened for are Hyperthyroidism and Chronic Renal (kidney) Disease.  If neither of these diagnoses are found, we may initially consider the hypertension to be primary.  Many of these cats will then have CRD or Hyperthyroidism diagnosed in future years, so stay tuned.  The other disease process that can cause secondary hypertension is primary Heart Disease.  Heart disease is common in cats, even in middle age.  All primary hypertension cats should have their heart listened to well and possibly be evaluated with an echocardiogram to rule out underlying heart disease.  Regardless of cause, systemic blood pressure that is consistently above the normal range must be treated and the common primary causes followed closely.  In almost all cases, the hypertension is well controlled on medicine.  The kitty with controlled, normal blood pressure will live a more complete and comfortable life.  And the owner will not be woken up with the night crying!

If you missed it, here is Hypertension from the Cat’s Point of View.

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Feline Nutrition

May 15

The cats that live in our homes are truly interesting predators.  These pets have a normal feeding frequency of 7-20 times per 24 hour period.  They are also unique in how poorly their body handles being off this frequent schedule, even within hours of the first meal missed.  And yes, barn cats that do not have people feeding them still feed with this frequency.  When feeding this species, daily variety and multiple feeding locations are also the most natural plan.  We should incorporate these principles into feeding our pet cats.

Many chronic inflammatory disorders (possibly affecting skin, ears and their GI tracts) are often tied to a chronic exposure of a single diet source.  It is less common that a sudden or recent exposure contributes to this inflammation.  When we feed our cats multiple options in multiple locations throughout the home, we are doing what is more natural for them and putting them less at risk for chronic inflammation due to a poorly tolerated diet source.  This variety and maximum opportunity can also benefit the geriatric kitties tremendously.

Another helpful hint is that cats NEVER like their food cold.  A cat in it’s natural setting will never scavenge a kill.  The coldest a meal should ever be in the cat world is room temperature.  I tell my clients to never use the refrigerator to store food.  I use the caps for the cans to retain moisture, but leave the food on the counter.  If you have ever offered a cat food that has been in the fridge, you may have noticed their lack of interest.  They also have very different digestive enzymes than we do, and may stash a big kill early in the day.   As the day proceeds this kill could be the source of those frequent meals through the day, sometimes while that prey item is baking in the sun!  I am comfortable with can food at room temp for as long as 48 hours.  So the kitties have ask me to tell y’all “don’t EVER put my food in the fridge”.

Everyone in the know now recommends daily canned food for cats.  Preferably multiple offerings during the day and night.  It is interesting how much more challenging palatability can be with canned food versus dry food.  Almost any dry food you buy will be eaten by most cats.  Canned food does not follow that rule; and, we have all seen how at least 1/2 the canned foods out there are not palatable to the majority of cats long-term.  And some cats will not eat canned food because they were not offered this option early in life.  If they simply will not eat canned food, we may not be able to overcome that difficulty.  But we should definitely try really hard!  And if you have a kitten, find a canned food he or she likes immediately.  Especially if your cat will not eat canned food, remember that cats never drink and eat at the same time.  Their water should be offered in a separate location from their food bowl, or hopefully food bowls.  And there is no better way to properly hydrate a kitty than feeding a highly palatable canned food.


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A Couple of the Reasons I Have Peed on Your Stuff

May 15

The Sundance Kid

I was asked by a dear human friend of mine to address this topic from a cat’s point of view.  He pointed out to me how many humans poorly understand the basic elimination needs of their pet cats.  Since he feeds me great food, I will oblige his request this one time.  I will first tell you what should happen in the box if your kitty is content and happy.  You need to actually watch your kitty go into the box for this discussion.  Can they get in the box easily and turn around both ways to find a good spot?  Do they actually engage the litter, digging to prepare a hole for elimination?  Then, they should eliminate in the hole dug and most importantly cover the elimination up by again engaging the litter to cover the mess.  If they will not engage the litter in burying behavior, you have made a poor choice of litter.  And if you find a litter with which they will consistently bury their elimination, you may have solved your soiling problem.  The most commonly successful type of litter is very fine sand, clumping over not clumping and most importantly unscented.  Scented, odor control and multiple cat formulas are all very bad human ideas.  And it can give us a very valid reason to not bury our poop and urine.  And burying our elimination is an innate behavior, not learned.  If kitty has not buried for long enough without a human response, they are left no choice but to poop very near the box but not inside the box!  So there is one of reasons I have peed on your stuff.  If the litter box and/or litter chosen is not allowing a normal process in the box, look out!

And by directly observing me in the box, you can gain that very valuable insight on my opinion of your litter and litter box choices.  How many people have honestly taken the time to even try to observe the process when kitty is in the box?  You know your kitty comes to visit you when you are toileting, right?  But not all kitties will allow easy observation during this vulnerable time.  Many curious humans have even had to set up a filming situation with the litter box.  All curious humans should immediately check out a great website, litterboxguru.com.  It is very informative, even more comprehensive and written in a way that people think about litter boxes.

Also don’t put the litter box by a loud dryer with a buzzer, or limit us to too few boxes for the space or the cat density that we live in.  In short, think about what works for kitty unless you want us making executive decisions on where to eliminate.  If you have set unrealistic expectations with the box, or boxes, that is another reason your stuff might get peed on.

In closing, you can simplify a very complex argument by thinking like a cat.  If the inappropriate elimination is near the box but not inside the box, the human has usually chosen an undesirable litter or an undesirable box.  The other large category is when the inappropriate elimination is nowhere near a box.  This is more common in large multi-storied homes, or those with large square footage.  It is also much more common in multiple cat homes.  We kitties are often exhibiting “litterbox seeking” behavior.  And in many of these cases, the elimination is only inappropriate from the human’s point of view.  If you have too few boxes, or do not have at least one on every level of the home, then things like beds, couches, laundry baskets, and even clothes on the floor (especially in piles) can all serve as excellent litterbox substitutions!  And if these “inappropriate elimination” choices are bumming you out, then listen to what kitty is telling you.  Once a general area has been chosen for elimination, compromising by placing a litterbox is often the only solution.  Kitties live in the here and now and do not make elaborate plans about elimination behavior.  And we are a primal bunch making mostly predictable decisions.  Not enough litterboxes for the size home and number of cats, is possibly the biggest reason that I have peed on your stuff!  I hope that helps everyone think a little more inside the box!






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Common Human Mistakes with Cat Meds

May 15

I always get a kick out of the phone call that often happens 2-3 days after a cat owner is assigned medicine duties with a feline.  They all say, “he/she just won’t take the medicine Doc”.  Understanding their frustration, I do not say what I am thinking which is, “I didn’t picture the cat cooperating!”  I have to tell my clients that medicating cats tends to vary between difficult and impossible.  We have all seen the cartoons of people attempting to give a cat a pill, and some of us have lived it!

Well, from the desk of experience, I have gathered some common errors to be avoided.  There can be no cat medicine drawer because that particular drawer handle will begin to sound very differently from all the other handles.  Do NOT try to medicate at the exact time of day every day, and definitely not during the same point in your daily routine.  A client that thinks they will give the pill between their shower and making coffee every morning will have a difficult time locating the cat no later than day 4.  And also do not keep all the medicine in one location or the kitty will be alerted every time you go to that location.  I try to keep medicine in separate containers, with at least one per level of the home and often in a bathroom, where the running faucet will allow me time to prepare my kitty meds undetected!  And the bathroom is a room that we people often go into for multiple reasons, not just for medicine.  I often take any personal medicine I am given in a very routine fashion, to assist my compliance.  With cats, opportunity is the main goal, not daily consistency.  This can be more challenging with twice daily meds.  And only the veterinary ophthalmologists think you can medicate a cat more than twice daily.  And they’re dead wrong!

I recommend medicating sleeping cats whenever possible.  The rule of thumb in handling cats is to minimize the duration and the extent of your restraint.  A yummy canned food meal can induce a nap and allow for medicine planning.  When I see my girl Delilah napping after her Fancy Feast, I go to the other floor of my home, into the bathroom and prepare her meds with the faucet running.  When I come out, if she has woken, I pocket the meds and try again later.  If a cat sees you coming with meds, you have very little chance of success, particularly ongoing success.  Again, at no point will this be a collaborative effort!  And oral meds MUST avoid the tongue at all cost.  Squirt liquid meds onto the roof of the mouth with the cat looking at the ceiling.  A pill must be dropped strategically to avoid the tongue, but using it as a guide to hit the roof of the mouth.  From the time you first touch the cat and when the medicine is delivered should not be a full 2 seconds.  We have to be in and out quickly for long term success.

For those of you that think you can put the medicine in the food, you are likely to change your mind by the end of 1 week.  Pill pockets are great while they work, but the clock is ticking on these two techniques.  And if the cat begins to eat more poorly because of meds in the food, we now have a major problem.  So maybe it will help to know you are not alone with your struggle.  And I hope this helps you avoid some of the common mistakes with kitty meds!

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Some Treatment Options for Cat Arthritis

May 15

As Dr. Sundahl’s recent blog on ways to recognize arthritis pointed out, this is a poorly understood condition in cats that often goes unnoticed. But as I often tell clients, the best reason to notice osteoarthritis is how effectively it can be treated. And everyone agrees that pain is a symptom that no living being should continue to endure. I will discuss some treatment options that might prompt a discussion with your feline veterinarian. And amongst pet cats, fewer exceptions exist than most think. By the age of 12, 80% to even 94% of cats have at least one arthritic joint.

The most basic description of osteoarthritis is destruction of cartilage and a more abrasive articulation of the joints. This can ultimately result in complete loss of healthy cartilage and a “bone on bone” grinding that limits range of motion and creates pain. Therefore, the most basic element of treatment is a cartilage health optimizing and cartilage regenerating supplement. I prefer veterinary specific products for several reasons. The individual products to consider include glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM more recently. These items started as untested nutritional supplements that now have had studies to confirm efficacy in both humans and cats. The goal is to have as much healthy cartilage as possible to result in maximum range of motion and pain free articulation of joints.

As many of us know, cats often shun supplements and anything else put in their food. We have a solution in the form of injectable PGAGs (if you saw the whole word, you would certainly be OK with the abbreviation!). These products are delivered by injection, so cooperation is not essential to success. All of these supplements will be given more frequently, or in higher doses, during the “loading” phase, and then taper to maintenance levels within a month or two. Please discuss the possibility of arthritis if your kitty is over 10, or has had a history of limping not related to trauma. You can also find more cat specific questionnaires on mobility at catvets.com.

Another area of consideration is acupuncture and even cold laser, or therapeutic laser, treatments. We offer acupuncture here at the Cat Clinic of Roswell, and several facilities have a cold laser for pain management. We try to maximize these non-pharmacologic therapies because cats have a different tolerance of more traditional osteoarthritis medicine like NSAIDs. Many of our clients nowadays will also consider more traditional rehabilitation such as range of motion exercises, wheel barrowing (normal and reverse), and yes even swimming. Swimming allows full range of motion with minimal weight bearing. So teach your kitten to get used to water and it will serve them well in their geriatric years! The bottom line is kitty cannot be a couch potato and let the joints stiffen due to poor range of motion. Or maybe we should just threaten them with swimming!

But fortunately, things continue to progress and we do have a better understanding of NSAIDs in cats nowadays. And newer products are in the market that allow regular use in even older cats that would not have been considered candidates in the past. No kitty should be stiff and uncomfortable with all the options we have to help them. If you have any doubt, please ask your vet to evaluate range of motion in your cat’s joints. Cats are more graceful and subtle in everything they do, including showing arthritis, but a trained cat illness detective can track it down for you and your kitty!

I will close by pointing out something very interesting to me now that I am back in Georgia. I must talk about osteoarthritis 10 times in the winter for every 1 time it is discussed in the summertime. And yes I know my northern friends are chuckling at what we call winter! In spite of the far majority of my patients being indoor only, the cold seems to have a dramatic effect in making this condition clinical. Subsequently, I build kitties “hot spots” to rest in with reptile heat lamps. They are a desert animal, so some of these winters are completely unacceptable. And when given a choice, cats choose temperatures between 86 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit! So no cold kitties this winter please, and it is a good time to evaluate mobility in your feline friend.

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Kittens, in their “formative weeks”

May 15

Kittens are born with their eyes closed and just basically sleep and nurse, and sometimes meow loudly. The queen stimulates their elimination, and they are completely dependent upon her for their first few weeks. They will communicate with the queen vocally on day 1; and by 4 days they can clumsily walk to their preferred teat for nursing. Because olfactory sensation is working very well right at birth, it is their main sense along with the tactile stimulation of touch, especially on their face. A feral queen can teach her kittens to be afraid of anything (especially humans) as early as 2 days old. There will be differences in socialization toward humans that extend into adulthood when a kitten spends these first few days with a truly feral mom! Eyes open around 7-10 days; and, between weeks 2 and 3, the ears open (although they do hear with closed ears by day 4) and those senses now contribute in the transition to the next phase, the development of the ultimate predator. Speaking of, those needle baby teeth begin to bud between weeks 2 and 3! Poor mom…

The socialization phase is vitally important; and, it proceeds separately with each species. First and most importantly, cat on cat socialization is being learned. Kittens are responsible for all gait patterns, adult locomotion, and most body postures by weeks 6 to 7. So interacting with others begins immediately! Or it does not, based on the individual’s environment and exposure, and on a species to species basis. But remember that no experience equals a bad experience. So if a kitten is isolated early, their socialization could suffer greatly. Kittens that do not hang out with other cats at this young age will develop very little social skills for the group setting. They also learn by visual inspection, so grooming and even hunting skills (through play) are being learned as early as one month of age! Starting at 4 weeks, mom is getting sick of the nursing; but, sometimes she does not completely quit until they are 7-8 weeks of age. At the age of 2 months, most kittens are eating solid foods or prey items brought by mom. And studies have shown that the earlier they stop nursing, the more effective hunters they become! The budding stars are helping her eat her prey items by week 4, and stop nursing immediately. They will all follow the queen on her hunts by weeks 15- 18, and most kittens are self-sufficient predators by 6 months of age! Cats usually have a “specialty” or preference in what they hunt, and mom’s influence is huge in this decision.

Now it is time to leave the house, especially for the young boys. And unless resources allow for succession planning, the little queens must also leave home! The best chance of any cat having a lifelong social mate is by teaming up with a littermate. These are often same sex pairs, 2 boys or 2-3 girls, in the barn cat setting. And though some genetic tendencies, like a “boldness gene”, do contribute these first few months are vital to shaping the level of socialization in each cat’s life. If they do not meet dogs until they are 6 months, the acceptance of a dog will be limited throughout their life. If you adopt a feral kitten that has had little to no human contact at the age of 6 months, socialization with humans may be greatly limited. So lots of exposure to a variety of animals and to a variety of people results in the most favorably socialized pet cats. And this process should begin as early as possible. Interestingly enough, the little toms become sexually mature as early as 6 months of age in the pet setting, or with the breeder, but as late as 18 months in the wild. I guess they have to put it on hold until they can fight for their right to mate? Or maybe it takes about a year to find a good place? Or maybe it is just like being a freshman in high school; none of the girls pay attention that year!

A general rule of thumb in animals is that the longer time spent with their mother, the more intelligent the species. And although post-college children living at home may challenge that rule, it is generally true. So, as I often tell clients, the cat is more instinctual and predictable and intelligence is just not their game. Although some are smarter than others, the primal nature of their behavior is one of the most beautiful things they offer us as a species. They are simultaneously the perfect predator and a perfect model for meditation and yoga masters. They can be so peaceful as they rest and groom, and so seemingly vicious during a hunt. And we all know that no one consistently acts as cool as a cat. And on a pound for pound basis, they are the most powerful, the fastest and the most aggressive athlete that has ever lived… and number 2 is not even close! I am always amazed that this is all learned in 6 months, and a good chunk of it by 3 months! So enjoy kitten season and keep this information in mind during the formative weeks.

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