Browsing"Behavior"

Cats, houseplants and grass – why does my cat get the munchies?

Apr 14, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Behavior

Cats always seem to want what they are not supposed to have – and houseplants are no exception. Cats are carnivores- why would they want to nibble on your spider plant or the lovely flowers your significant other just gave you?

In the wild, cats eat many small meals consisting of rodents, birds, bugs, and other small creatures. Most of these prey animals have intestines full or seeds, grains, and other vegetation. Cats enjoy eating the intestinal tract (yum!!!) and consequently about 10% of their calories come from non- meat sources. So, cats can digest some plant material. Cats also need some non-digestible fiber in their diet to help with normal stool production.

Cats, like infants and toddlers, often investigate things by chewing on them. New plants or flower arrangements are loaded with intriguing new smells. Your cat will chew on them in part to get more information, and also to test them out as a food source. Cats have an interesting organ called the vomeronasal organ on the roof of the mouth behind the front teeth. It is in essence a “super nose”. Cats may wrinkle their upper lips, start nibbling an item, and get interesting smells to that organ. Some cats love the texture of certain plants and will chew on them for fun. Cats that are either highly intelligent and need to check everything out, or cats that are bored and have nothing to do are more likely to chew on plants. Younger cats are also more likely to chew on both plants and other stringy items such as cell phone charger cords and ribbons.

Some people think that cats chew on grass to make themselves vomit. As far as we know, cats are not bulimic! However, cats do often vomit after chewing on grass and other fibrous plants. This may have evolved as a means of reducing parasite numbers in the intestinal tract. Cats that are feeling nauseated may be more likely to chew on fibrous plant material. Some cats do develop pica, which is eating non -food type materials. This can occur from anemia. Anemic cats are low in iron, and they may eat soil or cat litter due to their bodies attempt to get more iron to correct the anemia. Some cats need more oral stimulation and chewing on plant material fulfills that need.

Try offering safe plant materials. Commercial pots of cat grass are available such as “Kitty greens”, or home made versions can be grown using grass seed and potting soil. Spider plants are also safe for cats to nibble on.

The biggest worry we have with cats eating plants or flowers are lilies. Nibbling even a small amount of the leaves or petals can cause severe kidney failure and death in cats. Keep lilies out of your house if you have cats! If your cat does eat or have any contact with lilies, call your veterinarian immediately. Rapid medical intervention may save your cat’s life.

Many cats find potting soil a lovely form of cat litter, and may enjoy digging in and even eliminating in your houseplant pots. You can make the soil less attractive by placing screen door mesh over the soil (cut to allow room for the plant). Your cat cannot dig in the soil, but water will easily pass through. You can also use gravel on top of the potting soil to make the texture less attractive to your cat.

Don’t forget about catnip! One-half to two- thirds of cats enjoy catnip “recreationally”. Nepetalactone is the chemical that causes the rolling around, licking, drooling, and mild sedation in cats. Some cats will get hyperactive or aggressive especially if they ingest larger amounts, and some cats are not affected by the nepetalactone. Many people grow catnip for their cats as a safe option for their plant snacking cats. Bon appetit!

Dr Tammy Sadek

Dr Tammy Sadek is board certified in Feline Practice by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. Dr Sadek graduated at the top of her veterinary class at the University Of Minnesota College Of Veterinary Medicine. She has practiced feline medicine and surgery for over 25 years. Dr Sadek is the owner and founder of two cat hospitals in the Grand Rapids, MI area, the Kentwood Cat Clinic and the Cat Clinic North.

In addition to her cat hospitals, Dr Sadek hosts a website www.litterboxguru.com dedicated to helping cat owners prevent and correct litter box issues along with other behavioral issues with their pets.

Dr Sadek is the author of several chapters in the book Feline Internal Medicine Secrets. Her professional interests include senior cat care, internal medicine, feline behavior, and dermatology.

Dr Sadek is currently owned by 5 cats. In addition to caring for all her feline friends, Dr Sadek enjoys traveling, jewelry making, reading fantasy and science fiction, and gardening. She lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and two soon to fledge children.

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Kittens, in their “formative weeks”

Apr 6, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Behavior

training a kitten

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.

Dr Michael Ray

Dr. Ray is a Marietta Georgia native and graduate of Osborne High School. He received his bachelor of science at Georgia Southern University, and went on to graduate with his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida in 1997. After graduation, Dr. Ray completed an internship in Small Animal Medicine and Surgery at Animal Specialty Group in Los Angeles.

Dr. Ray has spent most of his career working in Feline Only hospitals, and is very excited to have the opportunity to own his own cat practice. Dr. Ray has been the Medical Director of The Cat Clinic of Roswell since March 2008.

The Cat Clinic of Roswell
1002 Canton Street
Roswell, GA 30075

Phone: 770-552-PURR (7877)
Fax: 770-552-8855
Email: info@catclinicofroswell.com

Website: http://www.catclinicofroswell.com/
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Why do Cats Purr? (Part 2 of 2)

Mar 9, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Behavior

Last time I wrote about purring and what it is for and why it is a wonderful evolutionary capability. I missed some very important information about purring in that post. Over the holiday, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a little time off that was not as over-scheduled and stressful as those days can be. I got some down time that was sorely needed.

So every morning, I sat with a cup of coffee and my iPad to read the daily paper. Inevitably within 5 minutes of sitting down, my “dearest, smartest, sweetest, most intuitive kitty ever” would leap into my lap for his daily facial. The spots on his head that are acupressure points – the area at the top of his head, right between his ears, his cheeks and under his chin – and a few others that he taught me he prefers would get a massage. He would purr his head off for as long as I would do it.

As his facial and purring went on, I would find myself relaxing. I stopped planning the day, making lists in my head and worrying about whatever I ordinarily worry about, which seems to be another endless list. My heartrate slowed as I entered a kind of meditative state that was delightful, slow and luxurious. Researchers know the benefits of meditation on general health and all that has been widely published.

After decades of research, most investigators agree that meditation practice reliably reduces physiological arousal and psychological anxiety. Likewise, to the extent that a clinical problem is exacerbated by stress, it is thought that meditation can serve as a helpful intervention. Meditation is similar to other self-regulation techniques, such as biofeedback and progressive relaxation training, in that they all involve a conscious attempt to control attention. We have known for a very long time that meditation can have large beneficial effects when done consistently and over time.

There are many forms of meditation and schools of training – walking, Zen, mindfulness, transcendental. The list is very long. Think about the physiological benefits of purring and touching a cat and incorporate that into another practice, “purring meditation”. I have been called type A and “high stress” and other less kind descriptions of my pace and preferences. If I can slow a bit and focus and relax more fully with a cat in my lap, so can you. Give it 10 minutes and your best “motor” kitty. You won’t regret it and it may become a delightful addition to the rituals of your day.

Yikes! My Dog Attacked My Cat!

Feb 16, 2014 by     3 Comments    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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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along

Jan 3, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Behavior, Tips & Advice

All of us want our cats to get along with one another. If nothing happens, no one is fighting, we think that all is well. Since cats are solitary hunters, their first instinct is to avoid confrontation. Getting hurt might mean being unable to provide the next meal. So we need to look closer at the way in which our cats interact to better understand how to keep stress to a minimum. Unwanted social interaction is a source of tension and can precipitate unwanted behavior.

Recently, I was asked to help with a behavior problem in a household of 4 unrelated cats ranging in age from 4 to 14 years old. While she related her story, she commented that she knew all of her cats get along because they all eat together at the same time and on the kitchen counter. Whew, what a red flag! I asked her to take a picture of the cats the next morning as they ate breakfast. Smart phones take quick and easy video or pictures, a terrific source of good information.

She sent the pictures the next day. They showed all four cats at four separate food bowls on the same kitchen counter. One of them was eating but displayed a very tense body posture. One was staring at the one eating. The other two were looking away from one another with very alert forward ears and seemed to be trying to approach the food without making eye contact.

While this did not turn out to be the only source of stress in the household, it was surely one of them. Cats who are unrelated do not much care to be so close to one another under most circumstances. They tend to divide up the house into time and space. Two cats may be seen on the same couch but not at the same time. One may routinely walk through the house using two rooms but not a third where another cat typically resides.
Food is a primary need, the most important one and, therefore, the one that will make cats who prefer to keep some space between them to share close proximity. Turn taking and sharing are human behaviors and ones we willing undertake. Not so cats. Eating is a solitary activity for these independent hunters. My client’s cats were willing to override the social tension of being forced to share counter space in order to be fed. But their body language, the vocalization and pacing behavior she described indicated that this feeding ritual was very difficult to cope with.

I advised her to feed the cats in multiple locations around the house and some distance from the litterboxes. We also increased the number of water bowls, moving them away from the food to encourage drinking. These were placed at very accessible stations, even one in each of the two cat trees. The theory goes that cats won’t drink water as readily at a place where they eat. In the wild, a meal would have been an executed mouse whose body parts might contaminate nearby water. So it is thought that cats will more readily drink in places where food is not consumed.

We had more work to do to diffuse the tension among the cats in this family, but that day we made a good start.

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

Website: http://chicocats.com/
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Cat Hospital of Portland
8065 SE 13th Ave
Portland, OR 97202

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

Website: http://portlandcats.net/
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Cats and the Holidays

Dec 24, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Behavior, Tips & Advice

Last year, I wrote a long list of holiday tips for cats: On the First Day of ChristmasOn the Second DayOn the Third Day, and On the Fourth. This year, I thought I would write about family at the holidays. We know our cats and their habits, both good and bad. We know what foods they love, what foods they love but can’t stomach, and what foods they hate. We know all about toxic plants, holiday dangers, and normal household items that are a specific danger for our cat (plastic bag chewers, string and ribbon eaters, Styrofoam peanut chompers…).

However, during the holidays we often open our homes to our families, friends and neighbors to celebrate whichever winter festivity we choose to honor together. These visitors to our homes don’t always know the ins and outs of cats, so make sure to keep your eyes open for possible problems.

One of the best examples of this is our dear friend, Shady. He is a huge, handsome F1 generation Savannah cat (50% Serval). He is 14 years old and loves his family, and loves to play! He also loves to play with children’s toys. By “play”, I really mean “chew into little bits”. Sometimes, the little bits pass right through him, but 6 times in the last 3 years, he has become quite ill after a large chunk of toy has gotten stuck in his digestive tract. Four of those times, he has had to have surgery to remove the toy part.

Before you think poorly of his family for allowing him access to these toys, I have to tell you that each time he got a toy, he had foiled their attempts to hide them from him. Among other mischievous behaviors, he broke into their son’s toy box, and chewed through a wooden cupboard door in order to get at the toys. Eventually, the family got rid of all of the particular type of toy that Shady liked to eat.

This is where family and the holidays come into play…The son’s grandmother felt bad for the owner’s son that he no longer seemed to have any of his favorite toys around, so she brought him a present that contained a bunch of the little rubbery toys that the family had thrown away. The son was overjoyed, and so was Shady. Within two days of Grandma’s visit, he was showing the classic signs of illness that his owner knew meant he had eaten a toy. At his appointment, his x-rays showed the toy was still in his stomach – he could still vomit the toy back up, or it might try to pass through the intestines. Since Shady had just had a toy removed a month prior, his owner elected to watch him. He appeared to be stable and eating and within a few days, he vomited up the toy. Lucky Shady had avoided surgery – this time.

After that incident, Shady’s owners considered getting rid of Grandma, but ultimately decided that was not a good idea. Instead, they had a long discussion with her about the types of toys that she buys for their son, and it has been (knock on wood) over 6 months since we last saw Shady with signs of vomiting and dehydration.

Although he certainly isn’t the only cat that has been in a situation like this, we often use Shady’s story as a teaching tool for clients about cats that are persistent in their unhealthy behaviors, and the importance of making sure that everyone in the household knows significant health facts about the pets in the home – both family members that live in the house, and people that visit regularly.

Dr Steven Bailey

Dr. Steven J. Bailey founded Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital in 1992. He obtained his Bachelor of Science and Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Michigan State University in June of 1986. After graduation, Dr. Bailey practiced emergency medicine for 8 years prior to establishing Exclusively Cats. Dr. Bailey is one of two veterinarians in the state of Michigan and the only veterinarian in Southeastern Michigan that has been board certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners as a Feline Specialist (ABVP). His special interests include complicated medical/surgical cases as well as critical care, advanced dentistry, and behavioral medicine. Dr. Bailey is an active member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), he is a current council member of the Southeastern Michigan Veterinary Medical Association (SEMVMA). He is also an Associate Editor of the Feline Internal Medicine Board on the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), invited member of VMG #18 (The only feline exclusive Veterinary Management Group) and MOM’s group (Macomb/Oakland Management Group). In his free time, Dr. Bailey is an avid kayaker (some may even call him “obsessed”) and an instructor in both canoe and kayaking sports. He also enjoys running and spending time with his family. Dr. Bailey and his wife Liz have 2 adult children, Christopher and Kayla, 3 cats, Tic Tic, Sapphire and Lacey, and one dog, Charlotte.

Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital

6650 Highland Road

Waterford, MI 48327

Phone: 248-666-5287

Fax ‎206-333-1135

ecvh@exclusivelycats.com

Website: http://www.exclusivelycats.com

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Your Cat’s Holiday Wish List

Nov 7, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Behavior

Satisfying the inner Grumpy Cat:

  1. Holiday parties – Grumpy Cat says “Bah, humbug”!
    Many cats find visitors to the house, especially children or large parties, very stressful. Make sure that you put an extra litter box, food and water in a quiet area that your cat can reach without having to go past the visitors. Leave the current litter boxes and food and water where they typically are located.
  2. Christmas trees – Grumpy Cat says “Christmas trees are for climbing, and if possible, destruction”.
    Cats tend to think both real and artificial trees make great climbing and hiding places. Secure trees to ceilings or stair rails to save Grandma’s priceless ornaments from destruction when the tree is scaled, hidden in, or otherwise investigated. Keep breakable ornaments on upper branches and use unbreakable ornaments on lower branches. Cover the water reservoir for real trees, as your cat’s inner Grumpy Cat requires he drink it and have diarrhea on the carpet just before guests arrive.
  3. Tinsel and Christmas ribbon – Grumpy Cat says: “Thanks for the appetizers, I will have the turkey for my entrée”.
    Many cats love the texture of tinsel and Christmas ribbon. They starts chewing on it and because of the little spines on their tongues, they cannot spit it out. They swallow the tinsel or ribbon and it gets stuck in the intestinal tract. This can be fatal and usually requires surgery. Use stick on bows and avoid tinsel on the tree.
  4. Holiday travel – Grumpy Cat says, “Fish and relatives stink in 3 days- or much less!”
    Cats thrive on routine. Visiting other people’s home is stressful, especially if there are other resident pets. When taking your cat to a different home, keep it confined in one room with food, water and litter boxes. Your cat will not make friends with the other pets during a short visit. Even without other pets, getting used to multiple rooms takes a fair amount of time.
  5. Festive greenery – Grumpy cat says, “The only good plant is a dead plant”.
    Many plants are toxic to cats. The poinsettia is irritating to the cat’s intestinal tract and causes vomiting and diarrhea, but lilies and mistletoe are extremely poisonous and usually fatal when eaten.
  6. Favorite present – Grumpy Cat says “You!!!”
    Holidays are hectic times and pets often miss out on their usual attention. 10 minutes of TLC 1-2 times a day may be all your cat needs to feel like King of the Household. Of course, laser pointers, feeding ball toys, heated beds (especially for older cats), anything with catnip, cat trees placed by the window, and a very clean litter box are also much appreciated. Daily canned food is also on most cats’ wish lists. May your cat’s inner Grumpy Cat be stunned by how you anticipated and filled his Christmas list!

Dr Tammy Sadek

Dr Tammy Sadek is board certified in Feline Practice by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. Dr Sadek graduated at the top of her veterinary class at the University Of Minnesota College Of Veterinary Medicine. She has practiced feline medicine and surgery for over 25 years. Dr Sadek is the owner and founder of two cat hospitals in the Grand Rapids, MI area, the Kentwood Cat Clinic and the Cat Clinic North.

In addition to her cat hospitals, Dr Sadek hosts a website www.litterboxguru.com dedicated to helping cat owners prevent and correct litter box issues along with other behavioral issues with their pets.

Dr Sadek is the author of several chapters in the book Feline Internal Medicine Secrets. Her professional interests include senior cat care, internal medicine, feline behavior, and dermatology.

Dr Sadek is currently owned by 5 cats. In addition to caring for all her feline friends, Dr Sadek enjoys traveling, jewelry making, reading fantasy and science fiction, and gardening. She lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and two soon to fledge children.

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Why do Cats Purr?

Oct 31, 2013 by     3 Comments    Posted under: Behavior

Lions can’t purr. If you can roar, you can’t purr. But if you are another wild cat, like a civet, mountain lion, or bobcat, purring is your unique gift. The laryngeal muscles oscillate at 25 – 150 Hz causing a sudden separation of vocal cords during both inhalation and exhalation. Our companion cats do seem to purr more often when they are contented with their situation but that isn’t the only time they purr. The purr is so low pitched that we almost feel it as much as we hear it.

Cats also purr when they are frightened or stressed. Often, cats will purr in the context of the veterinary visit which is always a bit stressful. Theories abound, but like the smile in humans, perhaps it is an appeasing gesture in that context. It might be similar to the reasons people smile, contentment surely, but also when we are nervous or want something.

If you have found your cat’s purring to be a bit annoying in the morning when he wants you to get up but not when you are petting him, it is because the two are different! Cats learned to add a higher pitch purr to the lower 25 Hz pitch that is more of a cry-meow. This insistent purr is intended to elicit a faster reaction from humans. Researchers theorize that cats may have learned to tap into a mammalian response for nurturing offspring by embedding a cry within a call that is normally associated with contentment. The baby who wants to be fed cries, hence cats learn to add the high pitch to their purr.

Cats also purr when they are giving birth, nursing, or wounded. Researchers have shown that purring may have an evolutionary healing advantage. Many experts theorize that the range of 25 Hz might be a sort of built-in physical therapy. This frequency is used in humans to accelerate wound healing and improve bone density. Purring may be a form of pain management and self-healing. Because cats have adapted to conserve energy via long periods of rest and sleep, it is possible that purring is a low energy mechanism that stimulates muscles and bones without a lot of energy, too. It may contribute to the lower occurrence of osteoporosis or bone dysplasias in cats than dogs.

Purring may also have contributed to the fact that there are more companion cats than dogs these days. We regularly pet our cats for their sake but also for the sense of peace and relaxation that comes from listening to a cat purr. It calms us down, lowers our blood pressure, and reduces the risk of heart attack.

Continue to Why do Cats Purr? (Part 2 of 2)

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

Website: http://chicocats.com/
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Cat Hospital of Portland
8065 SE 13th Ave
Portland, OR 97202

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

Website: http://portlandcats.net/
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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
Email: meow@thecatdr.com

Website: http://www.thecatdr.com
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