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My Cat is Healthy – Or is it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changes in normal behaviors:

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

Abnormal behaviors:

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

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

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

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

 


References:

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

Dr Ilona Rodan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cat Care Clinic
322 Junction Road
Madison, WI 53717

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

Website: http://www.catcareclinic.net/
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Do we really know what it takes to keep a cat happy?

May 18, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

For the last few weeks, I’ve been preparing to be a participant on a panel that will explore the need for environmental enrichment for our pet cats. What the heck is environmental enrichment, you might say? Sounds too complicated for what is thought to be a low maintenance pet. What it means is that you make allowances for an animal’s needs that you know are important to the way they would live if they could make their own choices. And I’m finding that lots of the things that I intuitively feel about a cat’s needs have actually been documented by some swell researchers that prove the need to add another level of consideration to care we give our cats.

Here’s a little food for thought. If you were kept in the lap of luxury with fully nutritious cookies and crackers available 24/7, you’d like that, yes? But wait, there’s no books, no TV, no computer, no exercise room. But there’s plenty of cookies over in that one corner of the kitchen. You’re only allowed to be in this 15 room mansion and never given even a deck of cards to play solitaire. Maybe you’d have to live with 2 or 3 other people and one of them was a bully, not looking so good now, eh? Makes you really think about what it means to be truly happy as opposed to just taken care of. Zoos have known this for years. Think about the outrage you would have if a zoo didn’t take an animal’s behavioral needs into account when planning how to keep it.

Cats have a job. It’s to be a hunter. They’ve developed amazing skills to be really good at this over thousands of years. We’ve only asked them to come inside and live with us maybe for the last 50 or 60 years. Through years of breeding we altered dog behavior and as well as form, but we never asked the cat to change their habits. We wanted good hunters and they obliged us. But when we decided to have them live inside exclusively, we didn’t like the stalking and pouncing on our leg behaviors, or we didn’t like that they needed really clean places to go to the bathroom, or we didn’t like them doing things that made them feel more secure like scratching the furniture. So, at first, we said that all those behaviors were “wrong”. Now we know that all those behaviors are “right” and that cats that don’t do them have done a remarkable job of adapting to a highly restrictive set of circumstances. Good thing too because most cats that are seen as doing “wrong” behavior end up in a shelter.

Recognizing the need to improve a cat’s environment is the first step to helping your cat be happier living with you. Luckily, there are some really neat cheap and easy ways to do this. The most important thing is that you change your perspective and start seeing yourself as a good zookeeper as well as a loving owner.

We feed them, protect them from injury and disease, and we shower our love on them with cuddles and coos. Most of us think that we are doing the best for our cats by making a physically safe environment. But now we know that we need to rethink the needs of this wonderful creature. It’s not enough to just keep them from the physical perils of their natural life style without working on their behavioral and emotional needs.

There’s a ton of reliable information available to learn about creating a happy cat home. Here are some great resources to check out to start the journey. In a few months we’ll be able to add information from the American Association of Feline Practitioners guidelines too! I’m really looking forward to continuing my journey as well.

http://indoorpet.osu.edu/
https://ckm.osu.edu/sitetool/sites/indoorpetpublic/documents/handouts/Cats_Indoors_flier.pdf
http://www.fabcats.org/behaviour/cat_friendly_home/info.html
http://www.fabcats.org/behaviour/cat_friendly_home/playtime.html
http://www.fabcats.org/behaviour/cat_friendly_home/Environmental_enrichment_JFMS%20article%20for%20website.pdf
http://catvets.com/healthtopics/

Dr Eliza Sundahl

Dr. Eliza Sundahl completed her veterinary studies at Kansas State University in 1978 after graduating from Boston University. She has spent a great deal of her professional life promoting feline medicine and continues to do so. She has held many positions in The American Association of Feline Practitioners, including 2 years as president. She was involved in establishing board certification in feline medicine through the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners and worked with that organization for many years to help veterinarians through the certification process.

Dr. Sundahl started at the KC Cat Clinic in 1978 and became owner in 1979. She has been happily working with the wonderful clients and patients at the clinic ever since. She feels like she has the best job in the world. She shares the clinic with Boo and Simon and her home with Babycat, Ferrous, Boo (another one), and Angelo.

Kansas City Cat Clinic
7107 Main St.
Kansas City, MO 64114

Phone: 816-361-4888
Email: kccatclinic@gmail.com

Website: http://www.kccatclinic.com/
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