Tagged with " catnip"

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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Catnip and Cannabis – Reefer Meow-ness?

Apr 16, 2013 by     3 Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

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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Top Ten Holiday Gifts for your Cat!

Dec 19, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion

According to a 2011 PetFinder.com poll, 58% of people with cats give them presents for the Holidays and 37% of cat owners also hang a stocking!

Are we crazy, or just crazy about our cats? Or is this another way we can share and celebrate with those we love. Here are my favorite Top Ten Holiday Gifts for cats:

10. Toys: Catnip toys are the obvious, and look for those made in the US with fresh, organically grown cat nip! Not all cats respond to cat nip- it appears genetics play a role in that- and it’s worth trying different kinds and fresh vs. dried to see if your cat gets crazy or mellow. See more on toy safety in Dr. Colleran’s recent post.
9. Food: As veterinarians, we’ve all heard the question “What’s the best food for my cat?” Felinedocs.com have had several posts on feline nutrition; bottom line- it depends. On your cat’s age, lifestyle, health status and preferences- each one is an individual and your veterinarian can offer the best proven options! And remember, cats are carnivores and must have some protein that’s of an animal source. Grain-free diets have yet to be scientifically proven to be optimal for your cat’s health and it seems intuitive so we hope those studies are forthcoming!
8. Treats: It’s important to positively reward good behavior (“good Callie, for jumping on your cat tree next to the kitchen counter…”) and repetition of immediate reward will help shape good manners. As with food, be sure the company that manufactures them has quality control measures to help ensure their safely. And be mindful of added calories in treats; make sure you know what your cat’s daily allotment is- somewhere in the range of 200-250 kcal per day for healthy adult cats- and find out just how many there are in those 15-20 Whisker-Lickens…
7. Toys: Interactive toys that allow a cat to express its normal prey behavior are terrific and also provide exercise. Fishing pole type toys, lasers that shine a dot on the floor and walls, and even battery-operated toys that move- some in response to a cat’s movement! Be sure to let your cat “catch” its prey periodically so it’s “rewarded” for its activity.
6. New dinner plate: Yes, as cute as those bowls with little fish painted inside, a flat dish or plate is preferred so their whiskers can remain straight while eating.
5. Water fountain: cats like the movement of water and, like us, can benefit by drinking more. Several companies offer water fountains specifically for cats. I keep looking for one that’s shaped like a toilet…
4. Cat tower or perches: Cats like to go to high places so providing them with vertical height outlets will give them their own “space.” Cat trees or towers come in a variety of designs so check on-line to see what your cat might like. Those which include sisal for scratching and hidey-areas can be very popular!
3. A cat-friendly carrier: Just search the internet on “how to get your cat in a carrier” and you will get 3,330,000 hits in 0.3 second. What’s important is to think like a cat. If it has two openings- front and top are best, if you provide soft bedding (that old fleece of yours is purr-fect- warm, soft and has the scent of “you”), if you keep it out, up and open and warm and let your cat use it as a hiding place (cats like to be off the floor, warm and have an “escape route” available), your cat will come to see its carrier as it’s friend and not run and hide when you bring it in from the garage to go for a car ride. For more information on choosing a carrier and training your cat to it, watch this video – “Cats and Carriers- Friends, not Foes.”
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2. Toys: Did I already mention toys?? Studies have shown that environment enrichment is critical for your cat’s health and well-being. So new toys, and rotating those they have, provide your cat with continual psychological stimulation. For more information on environment enrichment, visit the Indoor Pet Initiative from the Ohio State University.
1. The gift of good health! To ensure your cat lives a long, happy and enriched life, be sure your cat visits its veterinarian at least once a year- even if it seems perfectly fine! Cats give us so many gifts and we can give them the best quality of life “humanly” possible.

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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