Archive from February, 2014

My Cat is Healthy – Or is it?

Feb 21, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

Cat owners know their cats better than anyone, and as a cat owner, you are in a position to hugely impact the health and happiness of your cat. Here are a few hints to help you recognize if there is a problem early on.

Cats are fascinating creatures and are important family members. But they are not small dogs and they are not small people! They differ from people and dogs in that they have needed to survive on their own for approximately 10,000 years.1,2 Being solitary survivors, they have adapted to appear strong and healthy when they may not be.2 They also may not like another cat in the household, but they will rarely fight.3,4 These behaviors all work to prevent injury by their prey or another cat. Even though many now live in wonderful homes, they still maintain these behaviors.2

Fortunately, you know your cat better than anyone, and can pick up problems with these tips:

If your cat shows a change in its normal routines or behaviors, it is time for a check-up. An example is Herman who always loved to jump and climb, and raced up and down the stairs faster than the fastest Olympic skier (well maybe). His behavior changed, and although he still climbed the steps pretty quickly, he was much slower going down. He also didn’t go to his high perches anymore. His owner saw him looking at a perch and hesitating as to whether he should jump. Although the owner wasn’t sure whether he was just getting old, she brought him in for a checkup. Herman was diagnosed with severe arthritis in his knees and shoulders, and treatment was started after making sure he was otherwise healthy. His owner called me the other day to say that Herman is back up on his favorite high spots, and everyone moves aside when the “zoom-cat” goes up and down the stairs! Herman’s family was so happy to have the Herman that they loved and knew so well back.

Here is a list of changes in a cat’s normal patterns or behaviors, as well as abnormal behaviors, that can indicate that there is pain or sickness.5,6,7,8,9 The important word here is changes:

Changes in normal behaviors:

  • Appetite – decrease or increase
  • Grooming – overgrooming in one or more areas or not grooming so that matts are forming
  • Sleep – sleeping more or not as well
  • Activity – decrease or increase
  • Vocalizing – yowling and keeping you up at night when they never did; not meowing for treats or food as usual
  • Play – decreased

Abnormal behaviors:

  • Accidents outside the litter box – either over the edge or in another place. This can be either or both urine and stool, but usually it is one or the other
  • Aggressive with you or another pet – This may occur with touching or handling or at any time.
  • Getting on counters to get people food when they didn’t previously
  • Destroying furniture

One other tip – put a picture of your cat on the refrigerator or elsewhere where you can see it frequently. Each year, put another picture up. When you see a difference, contact your veterinarian. Years go by and we don’t notice the subtle changes – unless they hit us in the face. Please note the pictures of my Watson, who I adored and did everything for, but only put the pictures together after his death. In this case, I was giving 9 medications a day, so it was a matter of making a difficult decision that I would have made earlier if I had noticed the changes in the pictures.

Please contact your veterinarian if you notice any of these signs. Usually these can be avoided with routine preventive check-ups, which can identify other problems, such as hidden kidney or thyroid disease or dental disease before any signs occur. However, the combination of veterinary care and your detective work ensures the best for your cat. Herman’s family is happy they can keep him comfortable for much longer.

– Ilona Rodan
In memory of my friend, Jim, and Watson: Old age is not a disease.

 


References:

  1. Driscoll CA, Menotti-Raymond M, RocaAL et a l.: The Near Eastern origin of cat domestication, Science 317:519, 2007.
  2. Bradshaw JWS, Casey RA, and Brown SL, The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat, 2nd edition, CABI Publ, 2012.
  3. Griffin B, Hume KR: Recognition and management of stress in housed cats, in August J (ed): Consultations in Feline Internal Medicine, vol 5. St. Louis, Elsevier, pp 717-734, 2006.
  4. Notari L:Stress in veterinary behavioural medicine, in Horwitz D, Mills D (eds): BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behavioural Medicine, ed 2. Gloucester, British Small Animal Veterinary Association, pp 136-145, 2009.
  5. Sparkes AH, et al., ISFM and AAFP Consensus Guidelines: Long-term Use of NSAIDs in Cats, J Fel Med & Surg, 2010 (12)521-538.
  6. Robertson SA, Lascelles BDX, Long-Term Pain in Cats: How Much Do We Know about This Important Welfare Issue? J Fel Med & Surg, 2010 (12) 188-189.
  7. Benito J, Gruen ME, et al., Owner-assessed indices of quality of life in cats and the relationship to the presence of degenerative joint disease, J Fel Med & Surg, 2012 (14) 863-870.
  8. Lascelles BDX, et al. Evaluation of a digitally integrated accelerometer-based activity monitor for the measurement of activity in cats, Vet Anaesth Analg, 2008 (35) 173-183.
  9. Bennett D, Osteoarthritis in the Cat: 1. How common is it and how easy to recognize, J Fel Med & Surg, 2012, (14) 65-75.

Dr Ilona Rodan

Dr. Ilona Rodan, ABVP Certified in Feline Practice
Medical Director and Owner, Cat Care Clinic, Madison, WI
Feline Behavior Consultant

Dr. Ilona Rodan has been a leader in the field of feline medicine for more than 25 years. She started the Cat Care Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin in 1987 to provide the best feline health care individualized to each patient in a compassionate environment that is more comfortable for cats and cat lovers, and where cats are better understood and handled in a respectful manner. With her extensive knowledge of feline behavior, she also understands the cats’ needs at home, and strives to enhance and prolong the relationship between cats and the people who love them. Our clients frequently tell us that our knowledge and caring has increased their cat’s length of life, often by several years.

When Dr. Rodan is not practicing and teaching at the clinic, she lectures internationally
and writes about feline-friendly hospitals, cat behavior and prevention of behavior problems, and recognizing and treating pain in cats. She has been active in the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) since 1982, and has served in every office, including President. She is most proud of her accomplishments in helping to establish guidelines for feline medicine, which include retrovirus testing, vaccinations, senior care, feline life stages, behavior, pain management, and feline handling guidelines (the latter published in 2011). Dr. Rodan was also an ambassador in the development of a specialist category in feline medicine.

In 1995, she became one of the first board-certified feline practitioners. Her hospital is an AAHA-Accredited Feline Specialty Hospital. She and her team are involved in community service, including free spays and neuters for Friends of Ferals. Dr. Rodan also lectures to the public and staff members of the local shelter, Dane County Humane Society.

Dr. Rodan received the national Friskie’s award for outstanding accomplishments in feline medicine in 1998. In 2005, she was chosen from 70,000 veterinarians to receive the most prestigious award given to a veterinarian, the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Award, This award was given to Dr. Rodan for her work locally and nationally to enhance the welfare of cats through medical and behavioral advancements, and her contributions to community and society. Dr. Rodan’s passion and desire to help both cats and their people is unwavering.

Dr. Rodan continues to be well trained by the two feline family members she lives with, their predecessors, and the cats she has treated for more than 30 years. They have taught her how to respectfully handle and work with cats, to understand that the needs of cat’s in their home is an important part of their healthcare, and to ensure that they have the best quality and length of life.

Cat Care Clinic
322 Junction Road
Madison, WI 53717

Phone: (608) 833-9750
Fax: (608) 829-0345
Email: catcare@catcareclinic.net

Website: http://www.catcareclinic.net/
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Yikes! My Dog Attacked My Cat!

Feb 16, 2014 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Behavior, Tips & Advice

You might find it surprising that many Feline Docs like and have dogs! After all, we are Feline Docs and have chosen to limit our practices to just cats. The stories of how our canine companions came about are frequently similar to those of our cats- abandoned, adopted or otherwise acquired-sometimes because a human companion came with their own dog, or maybe they said they couldn’t live without one so we acquiesced. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2011, 36.4% of dog owners in the US also own a cat, while 46.7% of cat owners also own a dog!

I’m in that 46.7% of cat owners, and I am my dog Luka’s third owner. I took him into my home three years ago after a pleading call from a girlfriend who described the sad situation. Luka, a 5 year old Standard Poodle, needed a home because his owner had recently passed away from malignant melanoma after a two year battle. The dog had been his constant companion and the co-owner would be moving away and unable to keep Luka. My friend had known my prior dog, Charley, a wonderful Standard that had lived to nearly 14 years of age. And while the chapter of needing a hypoallergenic pet was closed and I’d had only cats for several years, my memories of Charley at that age made me ask more. “How is he with cats?” I asked. “He’s at a shelter nearby where there are lots of cats around and he seems fine with them,” she replied. “Why don’t you come take a look?” As luck would have it, my best friend from veterinary college was flying in for a visit, and Susan knows dogs like no one else I know. So the next day when I picked her up at the airport I asked her if she wanted to go see this dog that needed a home. By the time we arrived at the shelter it was dark, and all the animals had been fed and bedded down. The friend who was caring for Luka brought him to us and he immediately looked at Susan and me as if to say “it’s dark and lonely here, won’t you please take me home?” We walked him to the cat area and even got a couple of cats out to see how he’d respond; Luka was more interested in me than the cat. We left him there that night because I wanted some time to think and be sure, even though on the way home when I asked Susan what she thought she said, “I think I can’t believe we left without that dog…” A few days later, Luka came to stay with me.

The cats were not especially welcoming. This alien was nowhere near like Charley, the ancient and benevolent curly-coated creature that lay on his dog bed for most of the day and night, allowing them to claim him as their own with their cheek rubs and massage. A soft and warm fur-lined bed was just fine to share. No, this dog was raucous and rambunctious, more of an unmannered wild child than a proper and pedigreed poodle. Environment enrichment and veterinary behaviorist counseling ensued with small gains. Still, even on car rides or walking in the neighborhood with no cats in sight, Luka became so aroused when he’d see (or smell) other dogs or squirrels that he’d go ballistic inside the car or on the leash attached to a Gentle Leader® head collar or harness. For anyone familiar with Emotional Intelligence, Luka seemed to be having repeated episodes of over-reacting to stressful situations, a series of seemingly never-ending amygdala hijacks. We became banned from dog parks and ostracized in the community.

Indoors it got better. Separation of feeding areas, positive reinforcement and clicker training helped some (at least the owner). I’m convinced Adaptil® pheromone collars and plug in diffusers have done a little more, and with time, patience and avoidance of trigger situations (a calming cap to cover his eyes while riding in the car was quite helpful) plus anti-anxiety medication, I was starting to feel pretty good about the progress in the dog and cats’ relationship. One night I was sitting on the kitchen floor with Luka on one side of my legs and my grey cat Paddy on the other side. I saw relaxed body language from both- forward ears on Paddy, relaxed on Luka, both pets’ eyelids blinking slowly, almost droopy. I thought I should reward that behavior and began to speak in a slow, low positive voice, “what a sweet Paddy…good boy, Luka…” stroking each with the hand closest to them. I probably should have called it a day and just stopped there, but decided to reward them with treats from my pocket. WRONG TIME AND PLACE! Luka wanted that resource-the treat- I’d just offered to the cat, and in a split second he jumped up, charged over my leg and had his mouth on Paddy who had sprung into retreat mode with wails seemingly of anger, fear and possibly pain. The water dish that was in the way exploded into dozens of shards and projectiles as I scrambled and screamed to break up the interaction. Whose amygdala was hijacked in that scene, and what did that do? I reasoned that the flight and fight responses from Paddy and I possibly saved his life, though he’s pretty resourceful with retreat and he doesn’t hold a grudge. Even though he had suffered a superficial laceration, the next day at Luka’s dinner time he was back, seemingly teasing and taunting the dog while staying in areas where he could escape in case there was another outburst.

Fortunately, Luka-like interactions are uncommon. The three most important things to know about cat and dog co-ownership are:

  1. Be proactive and have a safe and enriched environment for all your pets. Dr. Tony Buffington and the Indoor Pet Initiative of The Ohio State University
  2. Understand that cats are not small dogs. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has information about normal cat behavior and how to provide outlets for that with examples in their Feline Behavior Guidelines.
  3. Utilize the expertise of a licensed veterinarian Board-Certified in Veterinary Behavior or with additional training in veterinary behavior and are members of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior

Nearly half of all cat owners also own a dog and a third of all dog owners also have a cat, and most live in harmony even with their differences. Luka and Paddy are learning, and there’s a lesson in that for us, too.

Dr Jane Brunt

Dr. Jane Brunt, founder of Cat Hospital at Towson (CHAT), is the pioneer of feline exclusive practice in Maryland. She received her DVM from Kansas State University (go, Cats!), and since 1984 has advocated the necessity of an outstanding facility and staff dedicated to practicing the highest quality of cats only care and medicine at CHAT.

She is a Past-President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association. In 1997, Dr. Brunt was named one of Baltimore’s “Top Vets” and featured on the cover of Baltimore Magazine, and in 1998 she served as Chair of the Host Committee for the AVMA Annual Convention in Baltimore (attended by a record 8,000 veterinary professionals and supporters), receiving several awards and accolades. A national advisor on feline medicine, she is also an active supporter of local, state, and national feline organizations, especially of the new generation of veterinary professionals.

Building on her clinical cat commitments and organizational passions, she serves as the Executive Director of CATalyst Council, a not-for-profit coalition of organizations and individuals committed to changing the way society cares for cats, “Promoting the Power of Purr…” across veterinary, sheltering, and public/civic communities. She owns a wayward standard poodle named Luka and three hilarious, keyboard-keen cats- Paddy, Freddie and CAT Stanley!

Cat Hospital at Towson
6701 York Road
Baltimore, MD 21212

Phone: (410) 377-7900
Email: cathospital@catdoc.com

Website: http://www.catdoc.com/
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Tips for Adopting a Stray Cat

Feb 2, 2014 by     6 Comments    Posted under: Behavior, Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

It is easy to welcome a well socialized kitten into your home, but what about an abandoned kitten or a hungry stray cat who adopts you? Kittens (or cats) who have not had good early socialization can be guided along the path to a healthy happy relationship with people. Behavior is shaped by two opposing forces. One is repetition: each time we respond to a certain stimulus in a certain way, we are more likely to respond the same way in the future. The opposite force is extinction: the longer we go without repeating a behavior, the less likely we are to act the same way. For example, the more frequently you walk by a doughnut shop without stopping,the less likely it is that you will stop. These two principles will guide our behavior modification strategy as we integrate a new cat into our family.

It is helpful to view these felines as having low self-esteem and needing a wide personal space. Because of minimal or non-existent past socialization, these felines are always on high alert. When a person or animal enters that cat’s personal space, its defensive neurons prepare to fire. In the opposite situation, if we allow the cat to enter our personal space, the defensive neurons are subdued. Over time, if those neurons do not fire, the behavior they elicit ( e.g. running away, hissing, scratching) will be eliminated. Although, it is counterintuitive, the best way to make a cat feel safe is to ignore it. Do not make direct eye contact. Staring can be seen as a threat. Allow the cat to come to you for attention. When it feels secure, the cat will begin to join your social group, first by sitting at the periphery or choosing to come into the room. Gradually the kitty will get closer to you, perhaps sitting on one end of the sofa while the you sit at the other. One day the cat will sit next to you. Even then , for the first few times resist the urge to reach out and pat him. He may begin to rub his scent on you, thereby making you familiar to him. The same logic should be followed when you are standing. Once comfortable, you may be graced with a happy cat weaving in and out and rubbing up against your legs. Resist the temptation to reach down. ( We’ve all done that with a hunger aroused cat, only to be feel the claws against our skin!)

Monitor the cat’s level of socialization by observing his sleeping pattern. It is not uncommon for a client to note that a newly adopted cat will get up on the bed once the person is asleep, when cat knows he is safe from unwanted attention, and depart as soon as the person wakes up. At first the kitty will sleep at the end of the bed in case he needs to make a fast exit. Gradually he will come closer to sleep near or next to this now less threatening human.

When adopting a cat whose early life was not one of security and comfort, it is best to see things through the cat’s eyes. In the wild, cats are hunters for their food, but also prey for many other species. From that perspective, in your home, you are viewed as a predator and the cat is in alien territory. Ask yourself what would make the house a more welcoming environment? One solution would be provide multiple hiding spaces at different heights for escape during times of sensory overload. A threatened cat will go to a place in which he feels secure to process all the incoming information. Place food dishes in multiple places for the same reason- giving the kitty many options to sneak out and eat. The same logic is true for litter boxes. Use more than one box and place them far apart so he can establish safe routes to them. Creating a “safe room”, e.g. a spare bedroom where no other animals are allowed to enter, for a cat is also an option- with food, water, litter pan, and resting places- that he can call his own

The physical environment is not the only one to modify to help a less confident cat or kitten become well integrated into your family. A cat’s senses are much more acute than ours. Two more questions arise as you welcome this feline into your home are. What does my house sound like? What does my house smell like? Cats can hear higher frequencies even into the ultrasonic range. They can hear sounds 2.5 octaves higher than either people or dogs, have movable ears which allow them to pinpoint location of sounds. Their hearing is approximately 10x as sensitive compared to humans. Imagine what loud music sounds like to a cat! Even the noise of everyday life can be jarring; another reason why cats, are inclined to be nocturnal. The cat’s sense of smell is also markedly different than ours- they have 20 times the olfactory cells that people do. Many things we think smell good, cats find repulsive- citrus is one good example. It is best to keep the air clean. Avoid using scented candles, room air fresheners, potpourri.

The poorly socialized cat has a large hurdle to overcome. Because he responds to human contact the way he learned to survive outdoors, the cat may become labeled as unfriendly, mean, or nasty. It takes a great deal of patience, understanding, and time to convince a cat with this background that he will be loved and is being given a secure, comforting home. The reward however is great. Ask anyone who has welcomed a neglected cat or kitten into their home.

It makes a heart sing to see a previously scared, wide-eyed, ears back kitty ask for head bumps or curl up contentedly purring in one’s lap.

Dr Kathleen Keefe Ternes

Dr. Kathleen Keefe Ternes grew up in western Massachusetts. She received an undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1974; a BS degree in 1978 and a DVM in 1979 from Michigan State University. Dr. Keefe Ternes returned home to New England in April 1980. In 1984, she achieved one of her professional goals by opening The Feline Hospital in Salem, MA. . Dr. Keefe Ternes, a diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP), initially certified as a companion animal specialist in 1990. She became certified as a feline specialist in 2000 and recertified in 2010. Dr. Keefe Ternes is a member of AAFP, the AVMA, the MVMA, and her local organization, the Veterinary Association of the North Shore (VANS). Her involvement in organized medicine includes having been a past president of VANS and current member of the board of directors. She is also a case reviewer for the ABVP and recently joined the Feline Welfare Committee of the AAFP.

Dr. Keefe Ternes lives in Salem with her husband and two college age daughters. Her two senior cats Toby and Petunia keep her on her toes medically.

The Feline Hospital
81 Webb St
Salem, MA 01970

Phone: 978-744-8020
Email: thefelinehospital@gmail.com

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