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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.

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.



  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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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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What should I feed my Cat?

Jan 26, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

We always get dietary questions. One of the most common is “Does dry food make cats fat?” “Is canned food better for cats than dry?” With everything about diet, there is never a simple answer.

Dry food has the advantage for those of us that live with cats that it has preservative and can be left out without fear of spoilage. Canned food on the other hand does not have preservative and does not do well once the can is opened. One of the basic facts is that canned food is calorically harder to over feed than dry food. Most cats need between 200 and 250 kcal/day. Most 5.5 oz cans of cat food have 195 kcals.

Many dry foods have upwards of 550 kcal/cup. A 1/2 cup of food looks like very little to most people’s eye. Dry is extremely easy to overfeed. Cats like the texture and taste so they will eat whatever is put in front of them. Getting twice you daily caloric need is an easy way to gain weight.

Cats naturally spend a lot of energy to get their calories. Mouse has about 50 kcals and cats eat anywhere from 4-5/day. It takes a cat about 5 tries to catch a mouse. Once they do, nap time. The process starts again. Pretty exciting life don’t you agree?

Now lets go inside to a cozy apartment. There is an over abundance of food and no work or stimulation to acquire it. Makes for a great recipe to gain weight. There are certainly other differences between canned and dry, but I am only looking at the caloric aspect at this point.

Whatever method of feeding you choose, remember the calorie count. Try to get your cat 5 or more small meals per day. Technology and automatic feeders can be your best friend. If you choose to feed dry, use a measuring cup. If canned is easier, you may want to consider a feeder so that your cat can get a mid day meal.

One very important criterion is to monitor you cat’s progress. Be sure and ask you veterinarian for more details and help for your cat’s specific nutritional needs.

Dr Marcus Brown

Dr. Brown, founder of the NOVA Cat Clinic and co-founder of the NOVA Cat Clinic, received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1986 from the University of Illinois. Currently the medical director for Alley Cat Allies and is an active supporter in local, state and national feline organizations such as: American Veterinary Dental Society, American Association of Feline Practitioners, American Veterinary Medical Association and American Animal Hospital Association. Dr. Brown also contributed the creation of the Association of Feline Practitioners’ 2009 Wellness Guidelines for Feline Practitioners.

Dr. Brown enjoys continuing education and regularly attends seminars and conferences across the country focusing on the advancement in feline veterinary care. Dr. Brown also utilizes on-line discussion groups and veterinary networks to assist the clinic in maintaining the highest level of care and providing the newest treatments available in feline medicine.

NOVA Cat Clinic
923 N. Kenmore St.
Arlington VA 22201

Phone: 703-525-1955
Fax: 703-525-1957
Email: novacatclinic@gmail.com

Website: http://novacatclinic.com/
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Does Your Cat Have FIP?

Jan 9, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) is one of the most frustrating and sad diseases we see. Sad, because it usually affects young cats, typically 6 months to 2 years of age. There is no good vaccine against FIP – a vaccine does exist, but unfortunately, it is not very effective. The disease is sporadic and depends on genetic susceptibility, so not every cat that is exposed will develop FIP. Until very recently, testing has been challenging, because anything from a mild intestinal virus to FIP would show the same test results.

Yaz was a young neutered male, just over one year of age. He started off normally, then developed a fever. Yaz initially responded to antibiotics, but the response was only temporary. Some cats will develop fluid in the abdomen; others often have chronic intestinal disease (often diarrhea), poor appetite and don’t respond to any treatment. Sadly, Yaz was euthanized after we diagnosed FIP as the cause of his illness.

A recent development by a researcher at the Cornell Feline Health Center has developed a test that will help diagnose FIP more accurately. This will help screen for FIP and hopefully help eliminate this devastating disease.

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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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


Website: http://www.exclusivelycats.com

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Did my Cat Eat THAT??? REALLY?

Dec 16, 2013 by     3 Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

This story is one that I love to tell because it fortunately has a happy ending. It could just as easily have resulted in a tragic loss of a pet and a broken-hearted 6- year old. Pay attention and learn, cat lovers.

My patient, FB (short for Fatty Boy), was rushed in first thing Monday morning to my cat practice. His Mom, Ali, said he had been throwing up all last night and hadn’t touched his breakfast. Ali had entertained some friends with children during the previous 2 days. She remembered that she spotted FB playing Barbies with her daughter and friends in her bedroom. We also learned that FB had a history of snacking on plastic bags. He generally was obsessive about eating not only as much food as he could steal from his 2 kitty housemates, but as many clearly desirable objects made of plastic, as well.

Once admitted to the clinic, we promptly took some blood samples and got FB in for x-rays. FB was drooling buckets the whole time. Cats do that when they’re about to vomit, just like we do. I clearly saw two objects (foreign bodies) in the belly. One was in the stomach and the other one had moved further down into the small intestine. Both could cause complete blockages. In many cats, foreign objects that are swallowed move all the way down and are eliminated without consequences. We hospitalized FB overnight with iv support and treatments for pain and nausea. We would repeat x-rays in the morning and hope the objects would pass through uneventfully. The following morning, my assistant and I cheerfully poked through FB’s litter box contents. While carefully shredding and hunting, I squealed as I struck hard stuff and I rinsed it off for display to all. It was a chewed-up piece of plastic that looked like bright blue gum but felt hard. It was not a recognizable object due to all the damage done before it went down the pipe. Still, our new x-ray showed that the foreign body in FB’s stomach had not budged and the one in the intestines was the one we found. Now we had an emergency on our hands and we had to work quickly to get the object out and relieve the blockage in order to save FB’s life. I was optimistic and hoped I could grasp and remove the thing through my endoscope so we could avoid surgery for FB. All attempts with my grabber through the scope yielded only tufts of white cat hair but I could see a solid black thing that was too large and slick to grab. We moved swiftly into surgery with FB just as the sun went down.

I felt sweaty and a little shaky in the OR as I waited for FB to be prepped and settled in. I began to explore the belly and sighed with relief as I peered inn and saw pink, shiny healthy looking tissues. Great news!

My feet and head ached and throbbed with fatigue as it was now dark outside and this day had been challenging. Then suddenly, all my discomfort slipped away as I gently extracted the mystery object and handed it to my assistant. He gently peeled off the hair obscuring the thing and underneath lay a perfect little tiny black dress shoe, a loafer, belonging to Ken, the doll. The litter loafer glistened in the surgical light, tiny and perfect and so cute. I was smiling ear to ear. We later learned that the blue thing found in poop that morning was Barbie’s purse!

The take home message in this story is that some cats have obsessions involving textures or oral sensations. They tend to repeatedly eat things with a specific similar texture, like wool or string or plastic. In other words, cats don’t “learn their lesson” when an object obstructs and endangers their life. We have the sacred responsibility to cat proof the homes of these kitties and always be aware of monitoring for materials or objects they might swallow.

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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Could My Cat be Allergic to His Food??

Nov 15, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

Recently one of our clinic kitties, “O’Malley”, began vomiting and losing weight. In addition to blood work and fecal testing, we started a food trial on him. We initially saw improvement in both his weight and vomiting, but after 6 months, he began to show signs again which caused us to investigate his “compliance”. Below is a discussion of food trials, including reasons and pitfalls.

Cats can have reactions to food causing gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, weight loss), sometimes skin signs (excessive licking or scratching, hair loss, skin irritations and lesions on the skin, lips, paw pads or ears), and even respiratory signs (coughing , wheezing, trouble breathing, asthma signs). Interestingly, allergies are not typically associated with sneezing or runny eyes in cats the way we think about it in people.

The reactions can be true allergies (involving an immunologic response) or non-immunologic (food poisoning, reactions to toxins or additives in the food).

Diet trails are recommended by your veterinarian to see if your cat’s clinical signs improve or resolve once the diet is changed. Trials can take anywhere from 2-12 weeks to see response. Blood testing for allergies measures levels of immunoglobulin E (Ig E) and is not accurate for food allergies or sensitivities because not all allergic reactions are mediated by IgE, nor or all food reactions mediated by the immune system.

The diets that are recommended may be single source protein and carbohydrate diets that your cat has never eaten or hydrolyzed protein diets (where the proteins are broken down so tiny as to not cause a reaction). A veterinary therapeutic diet is recommended because over the counter diets are often not pure and can still contain protein sources to which your cat has previously been exposed.

Pitfalls include supplementing your cat with treats or other food sources to which he is still sensitive or allergic to, feeding over the counter diets, cats not wanting the new food, or cross reaction between the protein in the recommended diet and a protein to which your cat is sensitive. Examples might be turkey cross-reacting with a chicken allergy.

You may need to keep your cat indoor to ensure he is not scavenging food at the neighbors’ and you may need to use dry kibble or baked canned of the prescription diet as treats so that visitors will not be tempted to feed your cat non-prescription treats. All medications should be checked to make sure they do not contain proteins in the liquid or capsule that could create reaction. This includes heartworm and flea medications.

In some cases you may chose to cook a homemade diet for your kitty. If so, it is recommended you consult with a board certified veterinary nutritionist to formulate your cat’s diet. Check the acvn.org website to find a nutritionist in your area.

So, what happened to O’Malley? Well, we ruled out clients and staff members as a source for “supplementation” of his diet and performed an abdominal ultrasound on him. The findings indicate some intestinal and liver disease that did not show up on blood work and is worsening despite the food trial. He is scheduled to have biopsies of his in the next week and we will keep you posted on his case!

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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