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Here’s Looking At You: Eyes Part One

Apr 21, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Last week Oreo’s owner called up confused. She explained that Oreo, her sweet little black and white tuxedo was absolutely fine, but she had started winking at her the day before. Oreo was eating and drinking and running around like her crazy self, so she couldn’t be in pain, but still, there was that wink. Our staff scheduled a visit for Oreo and I saw her that day. Indeed Oreo was perfectly healthy except that she had scratched the surface of her eye- the cornea. We started her on medication right away, including pain medication. The wink disappeared and her eye healed within a few days.

Cats are much more stoic than we are. Most of the time, they show very few outward signs of pain, so as pet owners we need to be detectives. If you have ever had an eye injury or infection, you know how painful that is. Cats feel the same pain as we do, they just don’t show it.

Eye injuries require prompt veterinary evaluation and treatment. Treatment with the wrong medication can prolong disease and in some cases, make things worse, so you will want your cat examined by your veterinarian in person, not over the phone.

Here are some things to look for, starting with the basics. Each of these signs warrants evaluation by your veterinarian.

  1. Redness: if one eye, or part of the eye is red, that means inflammation. This is most commonly caused by trauma or infection and often comes with pain.
  2. Is one eye closed? This means pain, even if everything else seems fine.
  3. Is there swelling around one or both eyes? Swelling is due to trauma, infection or inflammation.
  4. Is your cat rubbing at one eye? That’s her way of saying “This eye is hurt. Please make it better before I make it worse.”
  5. Is the third eyelid showing? This can indicate infection, inflammation, trauma or other diseases. Please see my previous blog about third eyelids.
  6. Discharge. The eyes are constantly producing some watery and some mucousy material to coat and protect the eye. Excess of either signals underlying disease. Colored (green or brown) mucous discharge is usually caused by infection.
  7. Excess tearing is often caused by irritation. Irritation = pain.
  8. What about the eyelids? Some cats’ eyelids don’t sit flat on the eye and can roll in, causing the eyelashes to rub on the eye. This causes painful trauma to the eye surface (cornea). Ever get a grain of sand in your eye? Now think 30 grains of sand. You get the picture.
  9. Is there a growth or bump on the eyelid? If so, this is best addressed early. If surgery is needed, it is always best to do before a growth gets too large, especially in this delicate area. Many (but not all) eyelid growths are benign.

In most cases, your family veterinarian can evaluate and treat your cat. Sometimes evaluation and treatment by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist is necessary. See http://www.acvo.org/ for more information.

Stay tuned for Part Two- Weird Pupils.

Dr Diana Lafer

Dr. Diana Lafer founded Cats Limited in 1995. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Wesleyan University and her veterinary degree from Cornell University. Dr. Lafer has a cat (Sparky), and a dog (Lucy). She enjoys spending time with her daughters, horseback riding, skiing, hiking, participating in triathlons, and volunteering for the Lakeville Pony Club.

Cats Limited Hospital
1260 New Britain Avenue
West Hartford, CT 06110

Phone: (860) 561-9885
Email: cats@catslimited.com

Website: http://www.catslimited.com/
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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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Cats and Easter Lilies – a Deadly Combination!

Mar 24, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Easter lilies, found in bouquets and potted plants particularly this time of year, are extremely toxic to cats. Ingestion of any part of the lily causes kidney failure within 36-72 hours.

“Cat owners need to be aware that the consequences can be devastating, even fatal, to our feline family members”, states Dr. Cindy McManis of Just Cats Veterinary Services in The Woodlands, Texas. “Though not as popular this time of year, other species of lilies such as Tiger lilies, Day lilies, Stargazer lilies and Oriental lilies are also extremely toxic.”

Symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite, drooling and vomiting. Delay of treatment for over 18 hours will likely result in kidney failure and a high risk of death. Treatment includes evacuating and protecting the stomach and intestines from any absorption of the toxin and administering intravenous fluids. Dr. McManis notes that other species of animals such as dogs and horses are not known to be affected. Peace lilies and calla lilies are not in the same genus but can cause minor mouth and gastrointestinal irritation. Due to these risks, cat owners are encouraged to avoid placing lilies anywhere where cats reside.

In addition to having your regular veterinarian’s office number readily available, owners should have the number for Animal Poison Control, (888) 426-4435, accessible.

If your cat exhibits any of the symptoms noted above or if you suspect that your cat has ingested any part of an Easter lily seek veterinary care immediately. With prompt treatment, full recovery is possible.

Dr Cindy McManis

Dr. Cynthia McManis received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Texas A&M University in 1985. She developed her interest in cats during her first year post-graduation. She began to actively pursue more education and information regarding feline health care and joined the Academy of Feline Medicine in 1989. When the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners approved feline practice as a specialty board in 1995, she was in the first class to sit for the exam. She is 1 of 90 board certified feline practitioners in the country at this time. Dr. McManis founded Just Cats Veterinary Services in 1994.

Outside of her clinic cases, she is a feline internal medicine consultant for Veterinary Information Network, a web based resource for veterinarians all over the world. She has also served on several committees within the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). She established an ABVP residency site at Just Cats in 2008 and mentors new graduates as well as seasoned practitioners who are interested in achieving ABVP certification.

Dr. McManis is an avid triathlete and is constantly training for races. She completed her first Iron Man in May of 2012. She is owned by 2 home kitties- Amante (“Monty”) and La Mariquita (“Mari”), and 2 hospital kitties- Momma Kitty and O’Malley.

Just Cats Veterinary Services
1015 Evergreen Circle
The Woodlands, TX 77380

Phone: (281) 367-2287
Email: vets@justcatsvets.com

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

Mar 17, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

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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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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How Long can a Cat be in a Hot Car?

Aug 12, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

When 3-year old Zorro came in for a routine exam and to have the long hair clipped under his tail, his owner thought since she lived nearby, she didn’t need to worry about cooling off the car before driving over. It was a warm day, and Zorro proceeded to share Dawn’s water bottle, licking the water she put into the cap of the bottle. Concerned about Zorro, we immediately offered him a bowl of water and he drank the entire bowl. It is rare to see a young, healthy cat drink water during an office visit, so we checked kidney function and tested for diabetes, but all was normal.

Our cats, especially those used to air conditioning indoors are not acclimated to extremely warm temperatures. And, even cats who go outdoors usually stay in the shade to avoid very high temperatures.

While cats are less likely than Fido the dog to want to accompany us in the car, it is important to remember how sensitive our pets are to hot weather. If your cat is traveling with you in the car, no stops “even for 5 minutes”, unless you are able to leave the car running and air conditioning on. Heat stroke is very serious and often irreversible. So, if it is hot for you, your cat is just as affected by extreme heat.

Dr Dale Rubenstein

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

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

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

Phone: 301-540-7770
Fax: 301-540-2041
Email: messages@acatclinic.us

Website: http://www.acatclinic.us/
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Domestic-Wild Cat Hybrids: Are They Suitable as Pets?

May 25, 2013 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Tips & Advice

I received a phone call on November 30, 2011, that I will never forget. I had granted myself a rare day off because it was my birthday. That afternoon, my receptionist, Brittany, left a message on my voicemail relaying some disturbing news and an urgent plea for help from Ian, a long-term client Ian had tearfully informed Brittany that his friend Tony, who was also a client of the cat hospital for many years, had suddenly and inexplicably died the night before. I quickly recalled that Tony was single and shared his home with his only son, Kimbu. Kimbu is a neutered male F2 Savannah cat. He was 5 years old when Tony died.

Ian went on to explain that when the police had arrived at Tony’s home to investigate, a cat that clearly was not like any cat they had seen before immediately confronted them. Kimbu was and still is an imposing feline; tall, muscular, agile, extremely alert and unpredictably reactive to sights and sounds in his environment Subjected to unfamiliar and threatening conditions, with strangers entering his home without Tony’s comforting presence, it is no surprise that Kimbu reacted in an anxious, agitated and defensive manner. He demonstrated his discomfort by pacing with his large upright ears twitching. He would howl with his characteristic low voice hiss while arching his back with raised hair and rhythmically flicking his puffed up tail. I would be intimidated by this kitty, wouldn’t you? When approached by the officers, Kimbu demonstrated classic Savannah athleticism as he effortlessly jumped straight up from a standing position on the floor to shelves Tony had bolted to the walls 8 feet above the floor. The offers informed Ian that

Kimbu had to be removed from the “crime scene”, (Tony’s home) by the time the coroner arrived or he would be taken to a nearby animal shelter for euthanasia. Ian then placed the call to us to see if we could provide a temporary home for Kimbu at the cat hospital until other arrangements could be made for him. Ian knew we could handle Kimbu safely. I agreed without reservation. Somehow, one courageous police officer and a coroner succeeded in capturing and crating Kimbu in his carrier. Kimbu was then driven across town in rush hour traffic and was triumphantly delivered to his safe haven in our clinic. Brittany stayed after closing time to greet and welcome the terrified Kimbu. We left him in his carrier in our kitty playroom for a few days with the door open. He finally emerged when we lured him with one of Tony’s shirts and some of his own toys.

I have known Kimbu since he was 8 weeks old and knew his history of biting Tony’s hands and face, which Tony tolerated, in spite of my warnings. Tony told me that he allowed Kimbu to sleep with him under the covers at night and claimed to regularly brush his teeth with an electric toothbrush. Tony’s family and close friends heard tales of Kimbu’s affinity for shredding cardboard and paper. He can easily open heavy drawers and doors and likes to hide in small spaces. We all knew that Tony considered Kimbu to be his “son” and that he would want to have him in a safe and stable environment. Tony’s family from the East Coast officially and legally allowed me to adopt Kimbu and they still regularly check in on him. All Savannah cats are assigned a Filial Designation, F1-F5, which describes how close the Savannah cat is to a Serval ancestor.

As an F2 Savannah, Kimbu is somewhere between 25% and 37.5% Serval. An Fl is 75% Serval (Tom is Serval and Queen is 50% Serval). The USDA defines all hybrids as domestic. This certainly can be misleading in that behavior and the genetic makeup of hybrids differs from domestic cats. Serval cats are prohibited in Massachusetts and Georgia. New York State only allows Savannahs that are greater than 5 generations removed from the Serval, with the exception of New York City, which prohibits ownership of all hybrids. Federal law due to fears that improved hunting skills could emerge and put endangered species at risk prohibits import of Savannahs into Australia.

Today, Kimbu spends most of his time in a spacious enclosure in which he spent countless weekends in the desert while Tony visited friends. He doesn’t mind wearing a harness and enjoys leisurely leash walks around the clinic. He likes to inspect objects slowly and cautiously but has never been comfortable with other cats. He will attack other cats or turn his aggression to me when he gets near other cats or is “spooked” by sounds, smells and unfamiliar sites. He enjoys creating windows in cardboard boxes by biting and shredding cardboard with his nails. I have never let him walk freely without his harness and leash. I feel bad about this and hope that I can create a larger safe environment for him in the future.

I have pondered and reflected many times on whether my choice to keep this cat on public display in a cat hospital is a responsible choice. Does it send the message that I support and even promote the mixture of wild and domestic cats? Is it safe and even humane to mix these species? Would a typical cat household be safe and satisfying for

Kimbu? Would he pose a danger to children and other pets? Would it not be very easy for him to pop through ceiling tiles and hang out with electrical wires and hot pipes? Several drawbacks to breeding Savannahs have been identified. First of all, the gestation period (length of pregnancy) is 75 days for the Serval and 65 days for the domestic cat. In addition, some Serval males can be “picky” about breeding with a domestic female, making it difficult to continually create the Fl stud necessary to perpetuate the breed. Thirdly, male Savannahs are usually sterile until the F5 generation, although Savannah females are fertile from Fl forward. Recently (2011), it has been reported that male sterility is on the rise in F5 and even F6 males. Clearly, disparity in gestation periods and genetic differences cause increased fetal deaths. We don’t really know what percentage of hybrid kittens don’t make it since actual statistics haven’t been published. I would suspect that some breeders would prefer not to disclose some of these breeding challenges.

My advice to those considering acquiring a hybrid is to spend some time with the cats at the breeders just observing and processing how the behaviors I described will fit or not fit into your household and lifestyle. Remember, you must be prepared to commit to 15-20 years of responsibility from the perspective of human safety. Just as importantly, you should seriously contemplate the sacred responsibility you take on to protect the cat hybrid and to provide a safe and pleasurable environment for many years.

Dr Elyse Kent

Dr. Elyse Kent graduated from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1980 and completed an Internship at West Los Angeles Veterinary Medical Group in 1981.

In her early years in practice, Dr. Kent began to see a need for a separate medical facility just for cats, where fear and stress would be reduced for feline patients. In 1985, in a former home in Santa Monica, Dr. Kent opened the only exclusively feline veterinary clinic in Los Angeles, Westside Hospital for Cats (WHFC). Along with other forward-thinking feline practitioners from across North America, Dr. Kent founded the Academy of Feline Medicine in 1991. Through the efforts of these practitioners, feline medicine and surgery became a certifiable species specialty through the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). Dr. Kent became board certified in Feline Practice in the first group to sit for the Feline exam in 1995. She certified for an additional ten (10) years in 2005. There are now 78 feline specialists in the world. Dr. Kent served as the Feline Regent and Officer on the Council of Regents for 9 years. She is currently the immediate Past President of the ABVP, which certifies all species specialists. She also heads up a task force joining certain efforts of the ABVP with The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). She currently serves as a Director on the Executive Board of The American Association of Feline Practitioners.

The present day WHFC facility opened in 2000. It was the fulfillment of a vision for a spacious, delightful, state of the art, full service cat medical center that Dr. Kent had dreamed of and planned for over many years.

Westside Hospital for Cats
2317 Cotner Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Phone: 310-479-2428

Website: http://www.westsidehospitalforcats.com/
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Tough Talk About Teeth – Part 2

Feb 10, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

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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To Feed or Not To Feed – Canned Food – That is the Question!

Apr 9, 2012 by     7 Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Part 1: A Hefty Debate

Last year, a study including 450,000 cats was released called “State of Pet Health 2011 Report”. In that study, obesity ranked in the top three diagnoses for cats. The study also found that the incidence of diabetes in cats over the last five years has increased by 16% – not surprisingly, the two are related. They are both related to diet, as are several other medical issues we see in cats. This makes a cat’s diet one of the most important parts of good preventive health.

Over the past few decades, with increasing vigor, veterinarians and animal nutritionists have been debating the merits of dry foods (kibble) versus canned foods. One downside to feeding dry foods is that even though all commercially available diets are formulated to meet certain nutritional standards, dry food is quite the opposite of what cats naturally need. (Click here for more on feline obesity and diet from Dr. Lund.) The best way to encourage weight loss in a cat is to minimize the dry food and feed most calories as canned foods. Two recent studies were released this year demonstrated that the addition of water to similar diets resulted in weight reduction and increased activity1, 2

The bottom line: Canned food is more like a cat’s natural diet in consistency, nutritional content and caloric density. Canned food will help your cat lose weight and keep it off. And most cats just plain like canned foods better!

Part 2: The Tooth of the Matter

In the past, many veterinarians made the recommendation to switch from feeding canned diets to feeding dry kibble for the sake of cats’ dental health; a canned-food-only diet was the prime suspect for the poor dental hygiene seen in the majority of cats. In 2011, in the “State of Pet Health 2011 Report”, the number of cats with dental disease surpassed the number of healthy cats seen after age 3 (over 50% of cats!), making it the most common feline disease.

The reality of feline dental disease is that genetics has a large part to play in your cat’s oral health, just as it does in humans. While canned food really does not help eliminate plaque and tartar, neither do many of the commercially available dry foods, either! Most of the commercially available dry diets have kibbles that are small enough that cats will gulp them down whole. More recent research has shown that in order for a dry food to help with dental care, a larger-sized kibble, typical in special diets designed specifically for oral health, is required3. Larger kibbles allow for more tooth penetration and “scraping” of the tooth. Some of these special diets also have anti-plaque additives that help. Some diets advertise anti-calculus agents, too, but these do not seem to help. Once the plaque has hardened, it seems a professional dental cleaning is the best way to get the teeth clean again.

If you try out a dental diet, you will notice that your cats are significantly noisier when they eat – suddenly, you will be able to hear the crispy crunching sound of food being chewed, when before, the only dinnertime sound was the tink-tink-tink of kibbles being pushed around in the bowl.

The bottom line: Canned food is not your cat’s oral enemy, and not just any dry food will help keep their teeth healthy. A combination of special dental-focused diets and annual oral exams by your veterinarian are the best team for cats’ teeth.

Part 3: Litter-ally a Matter of Concentration

If you consider the cat’s natural diet, a rodent is about 70-78% water. Dry food contains about 10% water. Cats are descended from desert animals, so their instinct is to take in water from their prey versus looking for water sources. While a cat will noticeably drink more water when feeding a dry food versus a canned food, they never drink enough to compensate for the lack of moisture in their food, and will exist in a perpetual state of mild dehydration. In fact, their water intake is about ½ that of a cat that eats canned food, even if you have a cat fountain, give your kitty a “princess cup”, put ice in the water bowl, or let your cat drink from the faucet.

Mild dehydration, while not life threatening on its own, does mean that cats produce less urine than if they are well-hydrated, and that urine is more concentrated. Overly concentrated urine has been linked to urinary issues such as bladder stones or urinary crystals. Urine concentration is a measurement of how much “stuff” is in the bladder. The more “stuff” there is floating around in there, the more likely it is to stick together. The more it sticks together, the bigger it gets, until it starts to irritate the lining of the bladder as it sloshes around. Blood may or may not be visible in the urine. This irritation makes urinating an unpleasant event and may cause your cat to choose to eliminate somewhere other than the litterbox. (More information about litterbox issues from Dr. Colleran.) If the “stuff” gets too big, it may even cause a blockage in the urethra, which can become an emergency very quickly.

The bottom line: More water is better for your cat’s urinary health, and the best place to get it is from a canned diet.

1. Cameron KM, Morris PJ, Hackett RM, Speakman JR. The effects of increasing water content to reduce the energy density of the diet on body mass changes following caloric restriction in domestic cats. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). Jun 2011;95(3):399-408.
2. Wei A, Fascetti AJ, Villaverde C, Wong RK, Ramsey JJ. Effect of water content in a canned food on voluntary food intake and body weight in cats. Am J Vet Res. Jul 2011;72(7):918-923.
3. Clarke, DE, et al. Effect of Kibble Size, Shape and Additives on Plaque in Cats. J. Vet. Dent. Summer 2010; 27(2): 84-89

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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