Archive from September, 2013

How Many Social Groups Live in Your House?

Sep 18, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Last week, I helped with an interview for Cat Fancy Magazine about litterbox matters. It is always good to remind everyone of the principals of a clean bathroom for our housecats. A bigger question arises from that though and that is, “do you know how many social groups live in your house?” This question is central to solving many issues that create stress in a household in which more than one unrelated cat lives.

In my home, there are two house cats. The first one to move in with us is Bodaishin. He was a six year old intact male when we rescued him two years ago. As many people do, my husband and I live very busy lives and are often out of the house for long periods of time. I concluded that Bo was not getting as much of a lively life as I thought he should have. I contacted the breeder from whom I acquired Bo about another cat. (The story of his life and why he needed to come to us is another story)

There was an 18 month old intact male who wasn’t a very good example of his breed so, like Bo, he was living by himself in a small enclosure. Perfect, a youngster who needed a new life. Oddly, his breeder dropped him off at my practice and departed before we could meet and talk about “Andy”.

He was a freaked out, unsocialized kid who thought we were going to kill him. It took weeks before he calmed down. During that time, we had, not a two cat household, but a “one plus one” household. Neither we nor Bo could get near him and Bo seemed none too pleased at the home invasion by this interloper.

We had a room for Andy which contained a cat tree, a big 28 quart clothing storage box for a litterbox, food and water bowls and toys. Every day, we sat quietly in the room waiting for him to approach. Bo was not allowed into the room. After a time, he learned that he was safe and began to allow petting and slowly but surely we began to integrate him into the rest of the house. Bo was very interested in him as time went on.

Six months later, both cat trees are in the living room. The two litterboxes remain, as well as the separate food and water spots. We assumed that we would continue to be a “one plus one” household. Much to our surprise, and quite slowly Bo and Andy began to play together, shooting through the house and wrestling. Even more slowly and surprisingly, they began to groom one another, sleep in the same bad curled up like yin and yang, and rub each other entwining tails in passing. It may have helped that Bodaishin is Andy’s grandfather, a fact I found out much later.

So now we are a “two cat” household with one big social group that includes my husband and me. The key to knowing which is which are the three behaviors:

  • Sleeping entwined,
  • Grooming each other often, and
  • Rubbing each other willingly in passing.

It isn’t important to the cats whether we humans engage in these behaviors, but it might not be a bad idea!

Dr Elizabeth Colleran

Diplomate ABVP Specialty in Feline Practice

Dr Colleran attained both her Masters (in Animals and Public Policy) and Doctorate from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. She opened Chico Hospital for Cats in 1998 and the Cat Hospital of Portland in 2003. In 2011, she became President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Dr Colleran is a member with: American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association, and American Association of Feline Practitionesr.

Chico Hospital for Cats
548 W East Ave,
Chico, CA

Phone: 530-892-2287‎

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Cat Hospital of Portland
8065 SE 13th Ave
Portland, OR 97202

Phone: 503-235-7005
Fax: 503-234-0042

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Tips for Living with Cats

Sep 12, 2013 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

Some tips on living with cats. We all have favorites we’ve learned, so please post your favorite tips in the “comments” section!

  1. Use baking soda to clean litter boxes – “green” cleaner and no residual odor.
  2. Use the empty cardboard tube from a paper towel roll to make a “food puzzle” for feeding dry food. Cover the ends of the tube and cut a small hole, so the cat has to work to get the food out.
  3. A great way to get young cats started on home dental care is letting them lick the cat toothpaste (designed to be swallowed, unlike human paste). Then, get a child’s toothbrush, put paste on and let the cat chew the paste, so your kitty gets used to the feel of the toothbrush in their mouth.
  4. If kitty is getting too heavy because everyone in the household is feeding “just a handful” of dry food or treats, measure the amount for the day into a covered container and let the family know they need to portion out.
  5. “Stair-steps” may help your older cat reach its favorite chair or bed, if they can no longer jump. (Also see your veterinarian, to make sure there are no medical problems or medications needed).
  6. Heated pet beds are great for older or arthritic cats.
  7. I used to rinse food dishes but after my cat developed chin acne, drying the dishes well (I use glass) has prevented any further acne problems.
  8. For medicating cats, ask your veterinarian for a 3 cc syringe, cut off the tip (so no narrow tip), put pill in meat baby food and use the syringe to administer.
  9. Another tip on medicating cats: mix a jar of strained meat baby food with a jar of water, or mix a can of tuna with can of water and blend. Freeze in ice cube trays, and take out one “cube” as needed.

And, a couple of tips from Maryland Veterinary Behaviorist, Dr. Marsha Reich:

  1. Pain can cause or contribute to behavior problems. Omega-3 “fish oil” products may help; talk to your veterinarian about stronger pain meds if needed.
  2. For cats that bolt their food: try mini-muffin tins, to slow the cat down when eating.

As always, please consult your veterinarian any time your cat “isn’t right” or if these simple steps aren’t enough to help your cat.

Dr Dale Rubenstein

Dr. Rubenstein opened the doors of A Cat Clinic, the first all-feline veterinary practice in Montgomery County, in 1986. She earned her BA in Biology from Oberlin College, her MS in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of Maryland and her DVM from Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. She became board certified in feline practice, one of only 80 diplomats in the U.S., through the American Board of Veterinary Practices (ABVP) in 1996 and re-certified in 2006.

Dr. Rubenstein is also a member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Maryland Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA), Cornell Feline Health Center, Montgomery County Humane Society Feline Focus Committee, Montgomery County Veterinary Medicine Association, as well as a member of the credentialing committee of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP).

A Cat Clinic, Boyds, MD
14200 Clopper Road,
Boyds, MD 20841

Phone: 301-540-7770
Fax: 301-540-2041

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Why Cats Pee on Your Stuff – A Veterinarian’s Perspective

Sep 5, 2013 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Behavior, Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

In a recent blog contribution, Dr. Ray recommended trying to evaluate a cat’s litter box from a cat’s perspective.  Boy, was his article timely!  I just had one of the more frustrating conversations I have had with a client about their cats that were not reliably using their boxes and feel really badly for this owner’s cats, because the owner was not willing to listen to what I had to say about making the litter boxes desirable for the cats, not him.  I get that we want cats to easily integrate into our homes and that one of their more desirable characteristics is that they are supposed to be clean and low maintenance, but the reality is that though cats have been domesticated, they remain guided mostly by their instincts.

For more than two decades now, people have recognized that for most cats it is not safe for them to roam freely outdoors.  Cats have become cherished family members rather than utilitarian mousers that were almost considered by some to be disposable.  I absolutely celebrate this fact, but am disturbed that a lot of cat owners don’t take the time to learn about cat care and how to create the optimum environment for one or more cats when they bring home a cat.  Most people wouldn’t think about getting a reptile or another exotic pet without making sure they insured the pet would have the right habitat, but lots of people with take home a kitten and assume providing food and water and a litter box is all they will need.

The reality is that though most cats are low maintenance, the environment from their perspective (read not ours) is super important for the cat to thrive and to be healthy.  It is paramount that all cat owners understand the concept of resource availability as a cat sees it.  Resources for a cat refers to their ability to procure food, water, a comfortable place to rest and access to their litter pan without feeling threatened. Keep in mind that what a cat is threatened by can be very different than what a person is threatened by.  Just like people’s personalities and anxiety levels vary, cats are not all wired the same.  And just because a cat is a cat and another cat is a cat, it doesn’t mean they will like each other any more than two strangers will like one another.  Think about it – would you meet a stranger on the street and within minutes ask that person to come home to live with you?  That is sort of what most of us do when we acquire cats and decide to get them a cat buddy.  We bring the buddy cat home and tell the original cat to enjoy their new friend.  What if they don’t have any “chemistry” together?

So, let’s continue to celebrate cats and protect them from the various threats they can encounter outdoors, but let’s all try real hard to remember to periodically evaluate the home we offer our cat or cats from a cat’s perspective.  Those of us who want to share our home with a cat, need to remember that is what we are doing. We are sharing, so it can’t be all on our terms!

Dr Diane Eigner

Diane Eigner graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School in 1980. Dr. Eigner established her exclusively feline practice, The Cat Doctor, in Philadelphia in 1983, and began offering house call services at the Jersey Shore in 1991. She is a past president of the University of Pennsylvania’s Veterinary School Alumni Society, a Past President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and is a member of the advisory board of Harcum Junior College’s Veterinary Technical School. Diane has been the consulting veterinarian for the Morris Animal Refuge since 1983. Doctor Eigner’s column “Ask The Cat Doctor” appeared in the Cat Fancier’s Almanac from 1996-2000. Diane joined the Catalyst Council’s board as the American Association of Feline Practitioner’s representative in 2009. She is now serving as the immediate past-chair of the Catalyst Council.

An avid Sailor, Diane loves nothing better than to be at the Jersey shore where she keeps her sailboat, Purrfect, and where she has a second home. Since meeting her husband, Fred Turoff, Temple University’s Men’s gymnastics team head coach, her family life has been dominated by men’s gymnastics. Her son Evan is a level ten gymnast that competes nationally and will join her husband’s division I men’s gymnastics team in the fall.. Diane also shares her life with three very entertaining cats. Though she shouldn’t have a favorite, her Sphynx cat, Velvet, which she rescued at the shelter where she consults, is the cat love of her life. Her integrated home also includes a Welsh Corgi named Twinks, two Cornish Rex cats, Naui and Padi and a Russian Tortoise.

The Cat Doctor
535 North 22nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Phone: (215) 561-7668
Fax: (215) 561-3616

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