Name: Dr Cathy Lund

Web Site: http://www.city-kitty.com/

Bio:

Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI's own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the "purr-fect" pet, the cat!

City Kitty
18 Imperial Pl # 1B
Providence, RI 02903-4642

Phone: (401) 831-6369
Email: email@city-kitty.com

Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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    Parasites and the Inside Cat: Why it Makes Sense

    March 17th, 2014

    My three cats never leave the house, and it was easy for me to assume that they couldn’t possibly get infected with parasites, because how would they get exposed?  I am ashamed to admit it, but my own preventive parasite control routine with my boys was less than ideal.

    That changed the day I diagnosed my best friend’s inside cat with heartworm disease.  I felt a little less than professionally competent when I thought about the number of times I’d been bothered by mosquitos inside my own house, and then realized that any one of those mosquitos might have been carrying heartworm disease.  Why in the world did I think that inside cats were magically immune?

    Cats today might not eat off a silver spoon, but they generally lead much more pampered and comfortable lives than their ancestors ever imagined.  Gone are the days of fighting to survive!  Our cats are so far removed from the daily struggle to find food and avoid enemies that it’s easy to think that they have nothing to worry about.
    But are they really safe?

    Parasites are everywhere, and entire melting pots of potential pathogens, including parasites, can and do reside quite happily inside and on our treasured house cats.  Our challenge is that even though we know that life rarely exists in an impermeable and sterile bubble, the concept of parasite control for an inside cat is not intuitively natural.  For many of us, we simply don’t think that the element of risk is enough of an actual threat to take action.  Even when we know that some of the common and preventable parasitic diseases can be transmitted to people, we still resist using preventives.

    I’m just like anyone else, and if I can’t see something physically, like a jumping flea or a worm in my cat’s poop, it makes it more difficult to believe that it exists.  Human nature?  Who knows?  And doubly crazy when I know just as well as anyone else that there are many problems that are effectively invisible, like a high cholesterol level.

    Preventive medicine is a time-honored concept.  It is the philosophical backbone behind the use of vaccines, and maybe closer to home, it is the support for wearing a seatbelt when we take the car out and brushing our teeth to prevent decay.  For some parasitic diseases—like heartworm disease—the risk of one exposure can be death.  For others, exposure is more of a nuisance or irritation.

    Many cats have very fluid lifestyles—they might spend most of their time indoors, but occasionally sun themselves on the back porch, or they live with animal housemates who go outdoors, or they go outside when their owners vacation at the beach cottage.  And there are true indoor-only house cats who love to kill and consume bugs.  Insects can be transmission agents for some of the more common intestinal parasites, so it makes perfect sense to do yearly fecal checks on indoor cats along with broad-spectrum parasite control.  Anyone who’s been plagued by a buzzing mosquito or housefly knows how easily flying insects can gain access to even the most well-secured house. Heated, humidified homes can also be terrific breeding grounds for fleas, as well as a place of refuge for flea-carrying rodents.  Ever get mice in your house?  We do, and our cats think it is party time.  Beyond fleas, mice can carry other parasites that can infect your cat.

    How else can our indoor cats get exposed to parasites?  Just think about what happens when we’re doing yard work or gardening and then come inside.  Shoes, gloves and clothes covered in contaminants fresh from the parasite reservoir that exists in most suburban yards are now in perfect position to inadvertently expose our feline friends.  My cats like nothing better than to rub all over my sneakers—the smellier and dirtier the better—and take in the spoils of the great outdoors.
    As veterinarians, we are concerned about the welfare of our feline patients.  Cats are enormously important to their families, and provide tangible health and happiness benefits.  It seems the least we can do is to implement safe and effective preventive healthcare measures that take into account the cat’s unique role and special needs.  Parasite control is an integral part of any wellness program, and year-round preventive use makes complete sense for today’s cat.

    I don’t ever want to say to another friend, “Sorry, I just didn’t think he was going to get infected, so it seemed silly to give him a preventive.”

    If you’re interested in the down and dirty of parasites and your cat, the Companion Animal Parasite Council has excellent information on its website, www.petsandparasites.org.

    Dr Cathy Lund

    Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

    City Kitty
    18 Imperial Pl # 1B
    Providence, RI 02903-4642

    Phone: (401) 831-6369
    Email: email@city-kitty.com

    Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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    Purr Power!

    August 29th, 2013

    What’s not to love about a purring cat on your lap?  We know it’s a great feeling, and now it seems that there might be some extra and unexpected benefits to our physical health—would you believe a cat purr can strengthen our bones and reduce our risk of heart disease?

    Just another reason people should live with cats!

    No one is really sure why cats purr.  We know they purr when they’re happy and content, and when they’re trying to be calm, and sometimes when they’re really, really sick.  Little kittens have incredibly loud purrs.  Some cats have subtle purrs, and some cats come with “insta-purr,” where one touch turns on the motor.  Other cats, such as a British cat named Smokey, come with a volume that competes with the noise of a subway train.

    I’ve seen many sick cats in my practice who are purring, even though they were clearly not well.  We’ve often thought that this kind of purring was a cat’s way of helping themselves feel less fearful and more relaxed.  But what if that purr was actually helping to relieve very real physical signs of disease or distress?

    Most cats come with a purr that vibrates between 20-140 Hertz, which is a sound wave range that might have a therapeutic effect on people and other animals, not unlike that of a therapeutic laser.  This vibration range has been shown to relieve swelling and its associated pain, and also to promote healing in bones and soft tissues.

    Truth or science fiction?  When I was a vet student studying bone diseases, our professors would tell us that cat broken bones would almost always heal, regardless of any medical or surgical intervention.  In fact, they would even joke that a treatment for a dog with a broken bone would be to put it in the vicinity of a cat, because cats were so good at healing.  Why was there such a distinct difference in how these species responded to an injury?  Could the cat’s purr be a piece of the puzzle?

    The use of therapeutic or cold laser devices in medicine has been somewhat controversial, with proponents touting the use of lasers as a treatment for everything from back pain to gum inflammation.  What these lasers do is emit a low-level wave frequency in a therapeutic range that lowers the components that make up an inflammatory response.  Advocates say laser use can dramatically lessen the symptoms associated with conditions such as a sprained ankle or chronic arthritis.  Frequently, these laser therapies are layered with vibration therapies to complement the effects of the light waves.  The vibration modality is postulated to increase nerve activity and stimulate muscle and bone strength and resilience.

    Cat purrs obviously do not emit light.  But there is speculation that the vibration associated with the purr creates its own similar “force field” effect.  Chiropractors have been using vibration therapy for years to help break down scar tissue, relieve pain, increase blood flow and enhance mobility.  Vibration therapy has been used to decrease swelling in injured tissues and drain lymphatic fluids.  Researchers have more recently identified full body vibration therapy as a means to increase bone strength and aid mobility in people born with cerebral palsy, a progressively debilitating neuromuscular disorder.

    Vibration therapy in the 90 Hz range is also used to help astronauts combat the bone loss effects of being in a zero gravity environment and has been used successfully in the space program for years.

    What else can that feline purr accomplish?  Well, we know how soothing being around a purring cat can be, but there also seem to be even more tangible health benefits for us humans.  Cats lower our blood pressure and relieve stress—all pets do this but cats are the undisputed champs.  Cats have even been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases—if people do not own cats, they are an astonishingly 40% more likely to have heart disease or strokes, based on a paper presented at a 2008 meeting of the American Stroke Association.

    What could be next for our amazing felines?  Perhaps the day is not far off when we see doctors writing prescriptions for cat ownership, and astronauts will set off for outer space with Kitty in the co-pilot seat.

    Dogs can only drool with envy!

    Dr Cathy Lund

    Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

    City Kitty
    18 Imperial Pl # 1B
    Providence, RI 02903-4642

    Phone: (401) 831-6369
    Email: email@city-kitty.com

    Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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    Cast a Spell on Me – Old Wives’ Tales: Fact or Fiction? (Part 2 of 2)

    July 24th, 2013

    If you missed it: Cast a Spell on Me – Is the Cat a God or the Devil? (Part 1 of 2)

    What exactly is an Old Wives’ Tale?  And why do cats feature so prominently in them?  These tales are fables and legends passed on through the generations in an effort to explain the inexplicable or predict fate.  So many involve cats because, well, cats are the ultimate in inexplicable behavior and their general unwillingness to do humans’ bidding has resulted in the profoundly divided feelings so many people have for cats.

    Old Wives’ Tales were rampant during the 1600s and on, and most were not in the cat’s favor, although the classic American warning to beware a black cat crossing your path was interpreted very differently over in Europe.  There it was seen as a sign of good luck and potential financial windfall.  Worry about black cats in the United States began during the Puritan times and derived from their association with witches and Satanism, and to this day, black cats frequently are the last to be adopted from shelters and rescue organizations.  There is still a pervasive belief that cats, especially black cats, are a source of danger and corruption.

    Here are a few classics from the Old Wives’ Tales hall of fame, some of which might actually hold a kernel of truth:

    Cats can place curses on pregnant women

    This originated from the idea that cats are connected to the devil, and that they have demonic powers that allow them to be very dangerous and evil—particularly to pregnant women and young children—but able to avoid harm themselves.  The actual curse on pregnant women involved harm to the unborn baby.  This could be through stillbirth, mental impairment or generalized birth defects resulting in life-long problems or even death.  Obviously, a curse is a bit far-fetched.  What is less of a stretch, though, is what happens to pregnant women infected with a cat parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, which has been implicated in causing a wide range of infant birth defects.

    Cats can kill young children with a single scratch

    Well, we know bacteria can kill anyone during the right circumstances.  And in rural areas with poor nutrition and rudimentary medications, infected wounds from bacteria associated with cat bites and scratches can probably occasionally result in bad medical outcomes.  We also know cat scratch disease, Bartonella hensalae, can cause significant medical problems, and it would not be unheard of for a young child with a compromised immune system to become sick or even die from that bacterial organism.

    Cats suck the breath from babies

    Tragedy is always difficult to bear, and it is human nature to try to find an explanation.  Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is both tragic and unpredictable, and the Old Wives’ Tale of cats sucking the breath from infants probably derives from this event.  The danger to babies would come from an angry cat who was jealous of the newborn infant and upset about the loss of attention.  These cats would seek the opportunity to smother infants in their cribs.  Does this sound crazy?  Well, as recently as 2000, an infant death was originally attributed to the cat lying in the crib with the dead baby.  That cause of death was later documented as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but the myth about cats sucking the breath from babies is still—to this day—pervasive.  During the 1800s, women routinely testified at coroner’s inquests about their cats “sucking the wind” from infants and killing them by shoving their nose in the baby’s mouth while the baby was sleeping.  In 1929, a Nebraska doctor said that he’d seen “the family pet in the very act of sucking a child’s breath, lying on the baby’s breast, a paw on either side of the babe’s mouth, the cat’s lips pressing those of the child and the infant’s face pale as that of a corpse, its lips with the blueness of death.”  Pretty dramatic stuff!  But cats as we know are attracted to warmth, and may cuddle with a child, who might lack the ability to turn its head away or push the cat off, and the rest…

    So, our relationship with the number one pet in America is complicated.  We have a much more matter of fact relationship with our dogs.  There is nowhere near the number of dog superstitions or phobias, and the dog was neither worshipped as a god nor was it demonized as an emissary of Satan.  Instead we find heroic dogs like Lassie and Rin Tin Tin.  Not so with the cat.  And because the relationship between cats and their humans has been so confusing, so unpredictable, it is easy to blame the mysterious and sinister cat for unexplained problems and maladies.  Everyone likes to find a reason for tragedy and misfortune, and for much of the last several centuries, the cat was a believable culprit.

    Dr Cathy Lund

    Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

    City Kitty
    18 Imperial Pl # 1B
    Providence, RI 02903-4642

    Phone: (401) 831-6369
    Email: email@city-kitty.com

    Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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    Cast a Spell on Me – Is the Cat a God or the Devil? (Part 1 of 2)

    June 20th, 2013

    Sinister, malevolent, mysterious, spooky—these are all adjectives used to describe the cat.  That image of the self-sufficient, inscrutable feline has been the persistent stereotype, and has led to the tangled history we humans have with America’s favorite pet.

    The relationship people have with their dogs is much more straightforward…but there is something about a cat that defies easy acceptance, and that ambivalence can be traced back to when cats and humans first began to interact.

    Cats were domesticated more than 10,000 years ago, when wild cats in the Nile Delta and Mesopotamian marshlands began frequenting human encampments and villages, attracted to the easy supply of rodents that were seeking out the humans’ grain stores.  These cats grew more and more habituated to people, and soon began to, as every cat lover knows, domesticate themselves.  These friendlier cats eventually became part of normal village life.  We know they were intimately associated with humans back then thanks to the discovery of a cat skeleton buried with a human in a 12,000-year-old archeological gravesite.

    Because cats had a very distinct role in this relationship—consuming mice—and that trait also came naturally to cats, the typical exploitation of certain behaviors did not occur as it normally would during the domestication process.  Most domesticated species go through different steps of fine-tuning a trait that humans found desirable.  Cats, however, have come through the years basically unchanged.

    They were looking for food, not friendship, although the friendlier and less fearful cats were able to capitalize on their increased comfort with humans by having greater access to food and shelter.

    It’s basically a thousand-year-old variation on that timeless theme of humans doing the bidding of cats and not vice versa.  First we provided an easy supply of mice, now we’re opening those cans of cat food.  This ambivalence cats have about pleasing people has caused our wildly up and down feelings about our favorite species.

    In ancient Egypt, cats might have hit their own personal high on the human interaction scale when they were worshipped as gods.  Over time, the cat’s image evolved from the warlike deification of justice and execution into the more feminine deity representing protection, motherhood and fertility.  The respect for cats was so extreme that many were mummified after death, just like their human supplicants.  In fact, there was a discovery in Egypt of more than 300,000 cat mummies, all located in one cemetery devoted exclusively to cats.  Cats were so revered that if a person was convicted of killing a cat, even accidentally, it often meant a death sentence.

    When a cat died, Egyptian households would go into mourning just like when a human relative had died, and they’d mark their grief by the same tradition of shaving their eyebrows.

    Those were certainly heady days for the cat!  Ancient Romans also held the cat in great reverence.  Cats in the Roman Empire were seen as symbols of liberty.  The Roman army traveled with cats, which were originally imported from Egypt.  In the Far East, cats were once again valued for their mousing skills, rather than being worshipped as gods, but here the value was less for the protection of grain stores but more from stopping rodents from burrowing into the pages of treasured manuscripts.

    Fast forward now into the Middle Ages, when cats suffered a serious decline in status and became demonized throughout Europe.  The belief was that cats were in an alliance with witches and the devil.  Cats were enthusiastically hunted and killed in an attempt to ward off the evil that they were believed to embody.

    Ironically, many scholars believe that eliminating cats helped to spread the plague, or the Black Death, since the fleas that transmitted the pathogen had many more hosts in the escalating rat population.  This was one more instance where cat’s rodent hunting had a directly positive benefit on the health of humans, just like what happened when cats protected the human grain stores and manuscripts from marauding mice.

    And let’s not forget witches and paganism and the pivotal role that black cats, the classical witch’s familiar, played.  A familiar was an animal traditionally given to witches by the devil.  Familiars were small demons that were sent out to do the witch’s bidding.  Many cats—and other animals—were killed during the witch trials because of this association.  Witches were said to be able to shape-change into a cat no more than nine times, and this is probably where the saying that a cat has nine lives came from.

    Cats were believed to be clairvoyant, and their body parts, particularly their tails, were used in potions to give humans those powers.  Cats were also thought to be able to forecast and affect the weather.  A sneezing cat meant rain was on the way and a cat who sharpened its claws on furniture meant that the weather was going to change.  Throwing a cat overboard from a boat was believed to cause storms.  There are also quite a few nautical superstitions involving cats, and boating expressions that use “cat” are numerous and range from cat-o-nine tails, catboats and the catwalk.

    Public opinion didn’t begin to shift back in favor of the cat until the 1600s, but Old Wives’ Tales about cats were commonplace and consistently anti-cat.  We’ll look at a selection of those next month and see where the truth lies!

    Dr Cathy Lund

    Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

    City Kitty
    18 Imperial Pl # 1B
    Providence, RI 02903-4642

    Phone: (401) 831-6369
    Email: email@city-kitty.com

    Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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    Catnip and Cannabis – Reefer Meow-ness?

    April 16th, 2013

    All the cool cats were smoking the illicit weed during the early days of jazz in the 1920s on the streets of New York City.  In fact, years later, when I was living in Greenwich Village in the 1980s, things hadn’t changed much at all.  The aroma of that fragrant herb would frequently waft up from the street through the open windows of my 4th floor apartment, strangely reminiscent of…catnip!

    Have you ever wondered why cats get so crazy over catnip?  What is it about that herb?

    Catnip was originally imported from the Mediterranean, where this member of the mint family grew like a …uh, weed…along the rocky coastline.  The plant’s leaves, stems and flowers are enormously attractive to most cats, including lions, tigers and panthers.  Many of our housecats also love indulging in this lemony, potent mint.

    Catnip, which is also known as catmint, is a cousin of basil and oregano.  Even its Latin name, cataria, means “of the cat.”  The allure is from the volatile oils contained in the seeds, leaves and stems, specifically from one chemical in those oils: trans- nepetalactone.  This chemical is very similar to the odor of a female cat in heat, which is why male tomcats are reported to be most affected by the oils.

    Genetics determine whether your cat will be intoxicated by this herb and enter that wacky, dreamlike trance.  About 50% of cats inherit sensitivity to the effects of catnip, and all kittens are completely impervious to its effects until they reach about 3 months of age.

    Catnip appears to be a dis-inhibitor, which means that a cat’s natural tendencies toward aggression, playfulness or craziness will get magnified.  Some cats will become mellow and calm, and reach a kind of drug high very reminiscent to what happens to humans under the influence of a certain related herb.  Catnip oils induce a narcotic, hallucinogenic state in susceptible cats, as a result of what appears to be stimulation to the cat’s phermonic receptor.

    We know cats have an intensely sensitive olfactory system and love to scent-mark and brand their territory through smells.  Catnip seems to enhance that sensation and mimic what happens during a surge of feline pheromones, which are natural compounds that cats use to enhance social communication among individuals.

    Cats who are affected by catnip only maintain that bliss state for roughly 10 minutes, and that “high” is triggered by exposure to oils through rolling on the leaves, and licking, chewing and eating the plant.  Once that state is completed, most cats need about two hours to “reset” before they can experience catnip’s hallucinogenic effect again.

    Because the trigger is found in the oils of the plant, fresh catnip is most potent, but when the dried herb is tightly-sealed, it can also be appealing.  Interestingly, the herb valerian is a close chemical equivalent to catnip, and will induce a similar response in genetically-susceptible cats.  This herb is commonly found in homeopathic relaxation and anti-stress remedies.

    Cats enjoy catnip so much that it’s a relief to know that it is not addictive at all, and it doesn’t appear to be any sort of “gateway” drug that might produce a chronic feline drug offender.  And haven’t you always wondered what catnip might do to people?  After all, cats look so happy when they’re caught up in the ecstasy of the herb!

    One of the veterinarians I worked with in a New York City cat practice also was curious.  He told me he raided his cat’s stash one night after work and put some in his pipe and…well, he wasn’t too successful in channeling his feline friends.  He said the end result was a bad taste and one serious headache!

    Dr Cathy Lund

    Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

    City Kitty
    18 Imperial Pl # 1B
    Providence, RI 02903-4642

    Phone: (401) 831-6369
    Email: email@city-kitty.com

    Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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    Me, What? What Your Cat’s Meow is Really Saying

    March 17th, 2013

    Bet your cat knows how to tell you when she’s hungry. Most cats have very dramatic and prolonged meows that let their humans know when it’s time for dinner—and translation assistance is definitely not needed! Those demanding meows tell us exactly what our cats are thinking.

    And it turns out that is precisely their point.

    Here is the funny thing about those meows…they’re only meant for us. If you have more than one cat, pay attention to the way they interact. Communication is fairly complicated in the feline family, and your cats will talk to one another by using growls, trills, hisses, prrrrps, chirps and even yowls. But what you won’t hear is one meowing to another.

    Cats also communicate through scent—they head butt, rub against each other, and mark their homes with invisible scent: a feline “X marks the spot” so all other cats will know who lives there. All these unique signposts and signals make up feline language and are how cats talk with one another.

    But sometime during those thousands of years of domestication, our favorite species has evolved a highly-sophisticated secondary speech that is reserved only for its communication and interaction with humans. When your cat meows at you, she is actually “managing” you, and generally making a request or a complaint.

    Of course we pay attention—what good cat parent wouldn’t? And when we respond, our cats learn which meow tone and volume is most effective at eliciting a desired behavior from us. Basically, what this means is our cats are training us to do their bidding. Surprised? Didn’t think so. Most of us are very aware that our cats can easily get us to do things for them. But knowing that our cats have a whole different language just for humans? That’s a little scary. Who knows what will come next! World domination?

    Tiny kittens will meow at their mother to get attention, but once they are grown, that type of communication stops. So why do cats continue to meow to people? Because it works. Researchers at Cornell University have determined that cats shape and adjust their meows to get what they want from their humans, whether that is food, attention or access to something they desire.

    So what makes up an “effective” meow? How does your cat manage your emotions and manipulate you to her own devices? Generally, the louder and more urgent the meow, the less pleasant we people find it, and the faster we jump to attention. These meows tend to be more drawn out, with more force toward the end of the sound, like: Meee-O-O-O-W-W! This is the “I want” frequency. A more pleasant, simple, softer MEE-ow, is a “hello, how are you” greeting. Your cat might say that when you come home from work or when you walk into a room where your cat is resting.

    The tone of your cat’s meow is carefully calculated to be at a frequency that is most likely to elicit a response from us. So my little chatty cat has his own secondary language “dialect” that is reserved just for me and my husband. He knows exactly what is needed to make us do what he wants. Your cat has your number as well, but his or her meow tone might be very different because that particular meow is crafted specifically for you.

    Most of us humans learn pretty quickly what each individual variation on the demanding meow means. I’d say in general we’re motivated and fast learners, and our cats must be pleased with our progress. Who knows what they’ll get us to do in the next thousand years? My guess is it won’t be just sit and stay!

    Dr Cathy Lund

    Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

    City Kitty
    18 Imperial Pl # 1B
    Providence, RI 02903-4642

    Phone: (401) 831-6369
    Email: email@city-kitty.com

    Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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    Tough Talk About Teeth – Part 2

    February 10th, 2013

    If you missed it: Tough Talk About Teeth – Part 1

    Remember Rufus?  He’s the young cat who needed radical dental surgery to correct very diseased teeth and gums.  When he came into my practice, he had the 30 teeth most cats have, but when he left later that evening, not a single one remained.

    I was confident he’d do very well, but no one likes to see their cat lose so many teeth.  Even though our typical pampered house pets don’t need to hunt for their meals, teeth still serve a function and this guy’s days of chewing on hard treats or crunchies were going to be a thing of the past.

    Does anyone remember getting your wisdom teeth out?  If you had to get them removed by your dentist, you probably don’t have happy memories of the aftercare.  Extractions hurt!  So one of the prime considerations with Rufus was how were we going to control any pain or discomfort during the healing process?  Would he want to eat?  We certainly didn’t want his gums to be so sensitive that even watered down canned food would be too uncomfortable to lap up.

    I think most of us tend to put ourselves in our cat’s shoes and imagine how we would feel if we’d had something similar done to us, but that’s not necessarily the best way to approach a problem.  Rufus had no idea that he was supposed to have teeth.  Before his surgery, he was a cat with a serious mouth problem and it affected his life.  What he knew is his mouth really hurt, and eating and grooming wasn’t a pleasure and he could only manage to chew just the minimum amount of food he needed to survive.  Licking his fur meant his tongue was going to move against those inflamed gums, and he knew that the pain and discomfort stopped if he stopped licking.  So that plush and wonderful coat grew matted and dull.  This was his reality.  Bad teeth hurt!

    What else happens with bad teeth and infected mouths?  We know in people that mouth inflammation can actually ratchet up the body’s overall level of inflammation, which can result in systemic disturbances, including an increased risk of coronary artery disease.  Could something similar happen in cats?  Perhaps changes might happen in other organs like the sensitive kidneys?  It certainly makes sense.  Could vigilant dental care help protect our cats against other inflammatory diseases?

    When we extracted all those diseased teeth and turned off the source of inflammation for those hot and angry gums, we stopped his mouth pain and took away his never-ending discomfort.  It completely eliminated that awful situation.  Unfortunately, though, surgery always creates another source of pain that occurs when any place on the body is cut or injured.  The nice thing is we now have healthy tissue and healing will happen.  All we need to do is make sure to control any mouth-associated discomfort until his gums are completely healed and he is able to eat comfortably.

    Rufus took all his pain medications and was a very good patient, and once his parents realized that he didn’t care that he didn’t have any teeth, and that he could and did eat normally, and that he purred exactly the same as he’d always done, well, they were happy too.

    I saw Rufus recently for his follow-up visit, and one look at him convinced me that sometimes you really do need to be radical to make progress.  He’d put on that one pound he’d lost before his mouth surgery, and his lovely coat was back to its fluffy and glorious self.  His eyes were bright and shiny, and his whole attitude was more relaxed and friendly.

    He was eating normally—and even sneaking a crunchie or two—and much more social and engaging than he’d been for the past year.  In fact, the change was so remarkable that his parents thought that Rufus hadn’t been right for much longer than we’d suspected, and they said they were kicking themselves for not doing the dental work the first time it had been suggested.  It struck them as funny in a way because nothing he had done at home when his mouth was so diseased was obviously indicative of a problem—it was only when the problem was removed that the return of his normal, happy self showed us what an impact discomfort can have on the personality.

    This time when I opened his mouth to peek inside, all I saw was pink healthy tissue without a sign of any inflammation.  His breath was fresh and sweet.  And our boy was purring so loudly that the biggest challenge was being able to hear his heart over the noise!

    Dr Cathy Lund

    Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

    City Kitty
    18 Imperial Pl # 1B
    Providence, RI 02903-4642

    Phone: (401) 831-6369
    Email: email@city-kitty.com

    Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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    Tough Talk About Teeth

    January 17th, 2013

    Can you imagine what your mouth would look like if you went 35 or so years without brushing your teeth?  I suspect you wouldn’t be having a second career as the “kissing bandit,” and you’d probably also be in the market for some good denture adhesive.  “Tuna breath” isn’t necessarily a term of endearment!

    Most of us don’t feel right if we haven’t brushed our teeth at least once a day…but what if we’re a cat without any access to a tooth brush, floss and toothpaste? What would that feel like?

    If your cat has gone more than 6 years without a cleaning, that’s the human equivalent of not brushing for 35 years.  Yuck!

    I saw an absolutely beautiful cat named Rufus last year, and just like his name implies he had a very fluffy and foxlike orange coat, which he clearly fastidiously groomed and kept in tip-top shape.  He was in for a regular check up, and during his physical exam, I noticed that he had some inflammation along the gum line and a little tartar and plaque build up.  His parents and I talked about getting him in for a dental cleaning procedure, and at age 4 he was actually a little older than the typical age when we start to do cleanings.  Anyway, life got in the way for Rufus and his owners, and that cleaning appointment got rescheduled, and rescheduled again, and then finally forgotten.

    Fast forward to last month, and beautiful Rufus was in for his annual exam.  He’d lost about a pound, which to put into perspective is about 10 pounds or so for us, and his previously shiny and gorgeous coat was looking a little ragged and matted.  Rufus also was accompanied by a pronounced and fairly nauseating odor, which was centered around his mouth.

    Sweet Rufus cried when I opened his mouth to check things out, and what I saw was a real testimonial to the power of time.  His gums were red and angry, and had receded from his teeth to such an extent that the roots were visible.  The tartar and plaque I’d noticed last year had significantly worsened, and there were visible cavities surrounded by swollen gums.  Most ominously, the back of his throat was fiery red and obviously sensitive.  His folks reported that Rufus was hesitant chewing food and swallowing seemed an effort.  In fact, they thought he was spending much less time grooming himself than he usually did, and mouth pain seemed the likely culprit.  All in all, he had changed from a vibrant and happy youngster into a hesitant, stand-offish individual.

    Could this be fixed?  Clearly, we needed to try something to see if we could stop Rufus’s deterioration and distress.  First step was scheduling Rufus for an in-depth evaluation of his mouth while he was under anesthesia—this hurt way to much to even consider doing the probing while he was conscious!  Second step was using medicines to manage his pain and discomfort until we could fully address his problems during his dental procedure.  This time there was no hesitation—Rufus got his appointment secured—stat!

    The morning of his oral surgery, Rufus was anesthetized and bundled up into a warming blanket as a breathing tube was eased down into his throat.  What I saw when I slid my dental probe into the junction between his teeth and his gum line was shocking.  Basically, all the necessary attachments between the tooth roots and the bone were missing.  X-rays confirmed that the resulting bone loss was so severe that it could not be reversed. These teeth could not be saved.  His gums were so inflamed and irritated that even a gentle touch was enough to create bleeding, and there were several pockets of active infection.  No wonder our poor boy didn’t want to eat!

    Cats have 30 teeth, 12 of which are those tiny teeth in between the big fangs.  This is just a few more than we humans have.  Most of us don’t want to lose our teeth and false teeth are only a last resort when all else fails.  So even thinking about removing most of Rufus’s teeth just didn’t sit well with his parents.  But did we have options?

    I know cats feel better and are happier when their mouths don’t hurt them.  But what I saw when I probed Rufus’s teeth meant we had a situation where our only solution was radical.  What I was proposing was the extraction of every single one of his 30 teeth.  Was this too extreme?  Could he eat?  Would he look funny?

    Reluctantly, Rufus’s parents gave the OK and we began the long process of gently and thoroughly removing every single tooth he had, down to the last root tip. We also surgically biopsied a small piece of tissue at the center of the worst area of inflammation, to try and make sure that the swelling and redness wasn’t caused by anything potentially aggressive, such as a cancer.  This kind of dental surgery takes time, and my staff made sure Rufus was kept warm and hydrated, and that his pain medications never ran out.

    Hours later, Rufus was in the recovery stage of the procedure, and wrapped in enough warm towels to make any self-respecting cat happy!  So far, so good.  But what could we expect in the days and weeks to come?

    Continue to Tough Talk About Teeth – Part 2

    Dr Cathy Lund

    Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

    City Kitty
    18 Imperial Pl # 1B
    Providence, RI 02903-4642

    Phone: (401) 831-6369
    Email: email@city-kitty.com

    Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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    The Fur is Flying! Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow!

    October 14th, 2012

    Does your cat go into a shedding frenzy whenever he gets into his carrier or arrives at the vet’s office? Ever wonder what was creating that tidal wave of loose hair?

    We joke at my practice that by the end of a day’s appointments we could literally create another cat just by using all that discarded hair! Sometimes so much fur comes off these cats that their owners worry that there might be a problem, especially if they don’t normally see a lot of shedding at home.

    Who’d ever think that this reaction is related to cutting-edge science? That massive, all-at-once hair shed is based on the same reaction that creates sweaty foot pads in our nervous felines. This is similar to when our own hands get clammy in response to scary or stressful events like speaking in public or opening a letter from the IRS.

    Adrenaline is what makes this particular reaction happen, and this nervous system hormone, which is responsible for the body’s pronounced response to fear and danger, has been in the news recently (and not just in use during the Presidential debates!).

    The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded this year to two scientists who did groundbreaking work on how receptor cells receive and transmit information about compounds like adrenaline and histamine. This has enormous impact on the development of medications, but it also can give us some insight into why those compounds cause the reactions that they do.

    One of the reactions that adrenaline can produce is the release of hair from follicles that are in the resting or dormant stage of their cycle. These are generally the older hairs that are in the process of being replaced through shedding. Shedding is usually a gradual and ongoing process but during an adrenaline-fueled reaction, these dormant hairs get suddenly released, resulting in our cats looking like they are at risk of becoming bald.

    Adrenaline has many strange effects on hair follicles. In fact, one of the more curious occurrences we see can happen during tornados. Chickens exposed to the winds and atmospheric changes associated with those storms can literally be plucked clean. The strong winds are thought to scare the chickens and result in a classic “fight or flight” response. All feathers, which are the bird equivalent of hair, loosen and come off, leaving a completely naked bird.

    Happily, nothing on this level occurs when our cats get stressed or fearful. But the amount of hair that comes off can still be pretty impressive!

    Dr Cathy Lund

    Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

    City Kitty
    18 Imperial Pl # 1B
    Providence, RI 02903-4642

    Phone: (401) 831-6369
    Email: email@city-kitty.com

    Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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    Cat Got Your Tongue? – Some Like it Rough

    September 15th, 2012

    A wet, sloppy kiss from a dog can be like a gentle, warm embrace, but when our cats get friendly and try grooming us, the sensation is decidedly different!

    Why do cat tongues feel so rough and harsh?  My three cats love to lick, and when they get going, it can feel almost like they are scraping through the skin.  You have to admire their commitment to keeping mom clean and well-groomed, but a little of that kind of licking goes a long way!

    The reason our cats have such abrasive tongues is because the tops of their tongues are covered in tiny barbs.  These backwards-pointing hooks help carry food or whatever our cats are eating down the throat and into the stomach.   All members of the feline family, from big tigers to tiny domestic short hairs, have barbs on their tongues.  And although I’ve never been licked by a lion or tiger, I’d imagine the sensation would be size-appropriate and significantly amplified.    The skin scouring this would cause might make a big cat assume that there is more than one way to skin a human!

    One other function of those barbs on our cats’s tongues is to help with grooming and keeping their coats tidy.  Cats are incredibly fastidious—it’s not unusual for your cat to spend upwards of one third of their waking hours grooming and keeping themselves clean.  In fact, if cats have fleas or lice or other parasites of the skin, they actually can consume a very large percentage through that meticulous grooming, which means that even if your cat has fleas, it can be difficult to find one!

    Cats who have allergies are often itchy, and they sometimes lick excessively to try and relieve that itch.  The barbs on the tongue can literally shave hair off—sometimes it seems as though your cat can become bald overnight—and your plush feline can suddenly start resembling an action hero with three-day stubble.

    We’re all familiar with hairballs, and the reason cats can have problems with them is that when they groom themselves (or their other cat buddies!), the barbs on their tongue snag the hair and physically move it down to the back of the throat, where the hair gets swallowed and transported into the stomach.  Depending on how much hair gets ingested and how irritating it is in the stomach, a cat might hack it up as the oh-so-familiar hairball, or the hair can pass through the other end via defecation.

    The barbs on a cat’s tongue are formed by keratin, which is a fibrous protein structure that is present in skin, hair and nails.  Keratin is very tough, and that is why a cat’s tongue feels so rough—the barbs hold their shape when rubbed against something, much like a fingernail does.  Keratin is one of the strongest substances in the animal kingdom, and just like your own fingernails, those barbs on your cat’s tongue will never get dull or soften over time.

    Another interesting tongue tidbit is that the barbs might play a role in whether a cat likes a certain food or not.  The shape of food affects how the tongue reacts to it, and that is why dry cat foods come in so many different shapes and forms.  Some cats like rounded shapes, while others seem to prefer more squared edges.  With wet food, some cats prefer the sloppier textured foods, and others seem more drawn to the pate varieties.  Cats use their tongue to pick up foods, and the barbs affect how the food sits on the tongue.

    Barbed and ready for action, the fascinating and unique cat tongue is just one other reason why our favorite species is so special!

    Dr Cathy Lund

    Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

    City Kitty
    18 Imperial Pl # 1B
    Providence, RI 02903-4642

    Phone: (401) 831-6369
    Email: email@city-kitty.com

    Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
    Facebook:
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