The 3 Stages of Your Senior Cat’s Life, and What to Expect of Each

 

By Dr. Becker

By the time your cat reaches the age of 10, she’s officially a feline senior citizen. The good news is that many cats today are living into their late teens and even early 20s. With the proper care, a kitty in good health at 10 can easily live another 8, 10, or even 12 years.

So there’s no need to panic if your purr-y companion is getting older, but it IS time to start taking some steps to insure your pet stays as happy and healthy as possible throughout her senior and geriatric years.

But first, let’s take a look at how cats show signs of aging and what you can expect as your kitty gets older.

What to Expect at 10 to 12 Years

By the time most kitties turn 10, they have slowed down a little (or a lot, depending on how high-energy they were as youngsters). You might notice your cat isn’t jumping up on high surfaces as much anymore, or isn’t climbing to the uppermost spot on the cat tree.

And while all cats, regardless of age, do best with a consistent daily routine, older cats can become especially stressed when presented with anything new or different in their environment.

You might also notice your kitty doesn’t always run right out to greet you when you get home. He may not initiate play as often as he once did, and he may take more naps.  

Many cats also become more vocal as they age, and more fearful of strange or loud noises and unfamiliar people.

Older cats can also suffer from many of the same health challenges older humans face, including arthritis, diabetes, thyroid problems, and kidney disease, so it’s really important to bring your cat for twice-yearly wellness visits with your veterinarian. The sooner a change in your kitty’s health is identified and addressed, the easier it will be to resolve or manage the problem.

At veterinary visits, be sure to mention any and all behavior changes you’ve noticed in your cat, no matter how minor, as these can provide important clues about health problems that may be brewing under the surface. It’s also important you and your vet keep regular tabs on your cat’s weight, to assure she isn’t gaining or shrinking over time.

What to Expect at 13 to 15 Years

From 13 to 15 years of age, not only are most cats moving quite a bit slower than they once did, many are also experiencing at least some loss of vision and hearing. They may also have less tolerance for cold temperatures.

Elderly cats can develop age-related dementia, making small changes in their environment or routine increasingly stressful. Some older kitties are also easily confused.

Along with more napping and less activity, your senior cat may grow a bit cranky and easily irritated. If your household includes young children or a rambunctious dog, everyone will need to learn to approach kitty in a quiet, non-aggressive manner. And if yours is a multi-pet household, it’s important not to allow your aging cat to be bullied by younger pets who may sense a change in the natural pecking order.

You may also notice that your cat prefers to spend more time alone these days. You can enhance his feelings of safety and security by making his favorite hideout a warm, comfy little spot he can retreat to whenever he likes. But keep in mind that senior cats still need to interact with their humans regularly, so set aside some time each day to spend with your pet. You can engage him in gentle play, an ear scratching session, or some brushing or combing.

As I mentioned earlier, your cat is now at the age where twice-yearly veterinary checkups are essential in order to safeguard his health. Your vet will perform a geriatric workup, including a physical exam and blood, urine, and stool sample tests. The results of these tests will provide a snapshot of how well your cat’s organs are functioning, and point to any potential problems.

Your vet will also check the condition of your kitty’s coat and skin, his footpads and nails, and his teeth and gums.

What to Expect at 16 Years and Older

If you’re lucky enough to share your life with a cat of 16 or more, first of all, congratulations! Either you’ve done a bang-up job raising your kitty to a ripe old age, or you’ve opened your heart to an elderly cat in need of a loving home in her final years. Regardless, you did good!

As a point of reference, you can reasonably compare your cat at 16 to an 80-year-old human. She’s moving and thinking more slowly these days, and she may have an assortment of age-related health challenges. She’s probably not as alert or responsive as she once was, and at times she may seem quite confused.

Even if she’s still in good health, chances are she’s sleeping and vocalizing more, and interacting with family members less. She may not be as perfectly groomed as she was in her younger years, and even the most well-mannered geriatric cat may occasionally forget to use her litter box.

As long as your cat is seeing the vet at least twice a year for checkups, and between visits you’re keeping an eye out for significant or sudden behavior or health changes, there’s no reason to be alarmed. Try not to hover, as your cat is still a cat and prefers attention on her own terms. Do make every effort to keep her comfortable, secure and relaxed by maintaining a consistent daily routine and providing her with a quiet, cozy hideaway equipped with comfy bedding and a familiar toy or two.

At your regular vet visits, you’ll want to mention any changes you’ve noticed in your pet, including increased or decreased appetite or water consumption, constipation or incontinence, aggressive behavior, or mental confusion. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for signs that your cat is in pain, which can include hiding, teeth grinding, panting, shortness of breath, loss of interest in food, or reluctance to move around.

10 Tips for Helping Your Senior Cat Sail Through Old Age

1.    Feed a balanced, antioxidant rich species-appropriate diet. Your kitty’s diet should include omega-3 essential fats, such as krill oil. Moisture is an aging cat’s best friend, so encourage adequate hydration by offering a variety of water bowls around the house or a drinking fountain, in addition to minimizing dry food. If your cat is addicted to terrible food, adding a whole body supplement, such as Feline Whole Body Support is a good idea.

2.    Keep your pet’s body and mind active with regular exercise appropriate for your cat’s age and physical condition, and mental stimulation (puzzles and treat-release toys can be beneficial). Think of creative ways to enrich your cat’s indoor environment and if your kitty never touches the earth’s surface directly (most housecats don’t), consider a grounding pad to help reduce the buildup of EMFs.

3.    Provide your kitty with a SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) supplement as a safe and effective way to stall or improve mental decline, improve mobility, as well as assist in liver detoxification. Consult your holistic veterinarian for the right dose size. Periodic detoxification with the herbs milk thistle and dandelion can also be very beneficial, as can providing super green foods in the form of fresh “cat grass” to nibble on. Chlorophyll, chlorella, or spirulina can also be offered in supplement form to enhance your cat’s detoxification processes.

4.    Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have been shown to be safe for cats and can improve brain energy metabolism and decrease the amyloid protein buildup that results in brain lesions in older pets. Coconut oil is a rich source of MCTs and may also reduce hairball issues. I recommend 1/4 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight twice daily for basic MCT support, if your cat will voluntarily eat it.

5.    For aging kitties who prowl the house all night and vocalize, consider low dose melatonin, which is not only a sedative with a calming effect, but also an antioxidant. I also use Rhodiola, chamomile, and l-theanine with good results.

6.    If your cat seems disoriented, consider limiting her access to certain parts of the house. Keep doors closed so she can’t wander into a closet or any place where she might be unable to get herself out.

7.    Set aside time each day to interact with your kitty. Make sure meals are provided on a consistent schedule, along with playtime and petting/lap time. If your cat tolerates being brushed or combed, work that into the daily schedule as well, to help her with grooming chores. Trimming hair around her perineal area reduces her grooming chores and is usually much appreciated by retired cats.

8.    If your cat has turned into a midnight prowler, if possible, try gently waking him up from naps during the day. The more active you can keep him during daylight hours, the more likely he’ll be to sleep on your schedule.

9.    Sometimes all a vocalizing cat needs to quiet down is to hear his owner’s voice, so try calling your kitty’s name when he starts to vocalize from another room or in the middle of the night. If that doesn’t do the trick and the nighttime crying is really a problem for you, consider earplugs. Flower essences and homeopathics (such as low potency Belladonna) may also reduce yowling.

10. If eliminating outside the litter box is an issue, try putting additional boxes around the house. Also insure it’s comfortable for your cat to get into and out of the box. Cats are very adept at hiding arthritis and other aches and pains, which can limit their ability to climb into high-sided boxes, or boxes kept in bathtubs or up a flight of stairs, for example.

As you can see taking care of a senior cat can be challenging but they are well worth it.  If you wonder if you are doing something incorrectly or need help knowing what may be bothering them please contact me, Diane Weinmann, animal communicator and holistic healer at dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com

 

The EYES have it!

by Joshua Corn

Is Your Dog or Cat’s Vision Deteriorating? Most Likely YES!

It’s often said that eyes are the window to the soul, and your pet’s eyes are certainly no exception.

Maintaining healthy vision is vital for the well-being of dogs and cats as they age. Our pets use their eyes to communicate with us, and to navigate the world around them.

Did you know that your pet relies on their eyes to communicate with you? That’s right, the results of a new study found that dogs especially rely on establishing eye contact with you in order to communicate.[4]

Vision Loss Is Your Pet’s Worst Enemy, Too

Dogs and cats, like us humans, experience eye changes as they age, such as retinal and lens functional decline, hardening and clouding of the lens, and accumulated oxidative damage due to environmental factors (like UV radiation from the sun).[1,2]

Along with the many external factors that can speed up deterioration, genetics play a large role in your pet’s eye health, too. And unfortunately, many breeds have predispositions to certain eye conditions (more on that later).[3]

So if you want to take one big step toward helping your beloved furry friend stay healthy and active for years to come, then please don’t ignore the problem of vision loss.

So it’s critical you take special care of your pet’s eyes over the years and look out for any signs of trouble. As a loving pet owner, be sure to watch out for these symptoms:[3]

Signs Your Pet’s Eye Health is in Danger

  •  Squinting
  •  Eye drainage
  •  Rubbing of eyes
  •  Swelling around eyes
  •  Visible third eyelid
  •  Reduced playfulness
  •  Change in eye color
  •  Cloudy eyes
  •  Unequal pupil size
  • Eye redness

These all-too-prevalent signs can be indicators of…

Common Eye Problems in Aging Pets

Any changes in your pet’s eyes, or behaviors that signify ocular irritations, need to be examined as soon as possible, because they can indicate a severe underlying problem.

Widespread vision ailments in pets include:

Retinal Issues: A leading cause of abrupt vision loss in dogs, retinal problems plague thousands of dogs per year.[5,6] These alarming issues typically go unnoticed by pet owners due to their slow development — it can take months for visual lesions or warnings of vision deterioration to become apparent. And then, blindness can suddenly ensue. Retinal problems have infected many different breeds (including felines), and are more common in middle-aged dogs.[7]

Increased Eye Pressure: This common issue is marked by an increase in pressure in the eye leading to blindness, and it can be highly painful for your dog or cat. Certain dog breeds are innately predisposed to the problem including Cocker Spaniels, Beagles and Jack Russell Terriers, but an increase in eye pressure can also result from inflammation, trauma, tumors, oxidative stress and more. Unfortunately, in most cases, it can go undetected until it’s too late.[7,8]

Lens Issues: Classified as opacities of the lens, these can decrease vision, cause inflammation in the eye, and even result in blindness.[9] Lens issues are common in dogs, and many breeds are genetically predisposed to them including Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Huskies and terriers. Additional causes of these problems include blood sugar imbalances, trauma and inflammation.[7,10]

Dry Eye: This all-too-common health issue is the result of inadequate tear production. It is prevalent in various dog breeds including Cocker Spaniels, Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, Schnauzers and West Highland White Terriers (“Westies”). When left untreated, prolonged eye dryness can severely disrupt the cornea and ultimately result in impaired eyesight.[7]

With the alarming abundance of hidden vision traumas in pets, it’s important to remember that it’s never too early to start caring for your pet’s eye health.

 

Is your Cat Depressed?

by Jessica Vogelsang, DVM and comments by Diane Weinmann

 

You’re probably familiar with Grumpy Cat, the little feline whose frown has made her famous across the internet. You may also be familiar with your own grumpy cat, if you happen to have a particularly temperamental one at home.

 

Cats are known for their diverse, often feisty, personalities; some are anxious, some reserved, others inquisitive. But what does it mean if your cat is acting depressed? Do cats even suffer from depression? Well, yes and no.

 

How is Depression in Cats Defined?

 

Certainly cats can exhibit depressed behavior, but the general consensus is that they do not experience the same emotional changes associated with clinical depression in humans.

 

“In general, depression in humans is considered a multifactorial disease,” says Dr. Lynn Hendrix, the owner of Beloved Pet Mobile Vet in Davis, California and a palliative care expert. Depression can be situational, caused by a stressful situation, or medical, due to chemical imbalances in the brain. The diagnosis is based on self-reported symptoms, says Hendrix, meaning that the symptoms can be expressed verbally to the doctor or psychologist.

 

Those diagnostic criteria are not available to veterinarians. Since  most people  can’t ask cats exactly what they are feeling, whether they’re sad or angry or anxious or joyous, they must rely on the clues that the cat gives us through their behavior and daily activities and make our assessments based on that.  If  you talk with an animal communicator you can find out for sure.

 

“The clinical signs we see tend to be loss of appetite, avoidance behavior, less active, and abnormal behavior, like hissing,” says Hendrix. Some cats may show changes in litterbox usage, while others have disturbed sleep patterns.

 

Other Causes for Symptoms of Depression in Cats

 

Unfortunately, those symptoms are caused by a wide variety of conditions in felines, so getting to the root of the problem usually involves a visit to the veterinarian to rule out other problems. Medical problems such as kidney disease or GI cancer can cause nausea and decreased appetite that mimic depression.

 

According to Hendrix, pain is one of the most underdiagnosed conditions in cats, seniors in particular, and is one of the leading causes of clinical signs of depression. “Most of the time, there is pain or physical disease causing a cat to act ‘depressed’,” she says.

 

In Hendrix’s experience, many pet owners who are dealing with terminally cats are concerned that their cat is experiencing depression, often mirroring their own sadness about a pet’s illness. Hendrix encourages those owners to consider medical causes instead. Often, “it is sick behavior,” she says. “Their terminal illness [is] making them feel sick, nauseous, painful.”

 

As a hospice and palliative care veterinarian, Hendrix is able to address those specific symptoms and help cats feel much more comfortable, even during the end of life process. In some cases, owners who were considering euthanasia actually postponed their decision due to the improvement in their pet’s temperament once proper treatment was instituted. For that reason, she recommends people seek veterinary care for pets exhibiting depressed behavior, as accurate diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve quality of life.

 

The Evaluation Process for Depression in Cats

 

Veterinarians will begin the evaluation by taking a full history of the symptoms and performing a complete physical examination.

 

“Bloodwork, chest x-rays, and abdominal ultrasound may be suggested by your veterinarian,” says Hendrix. Those baseline tests usually provide a good overall look at a pet’s health and organ function. Depending on the results, other tests may be recommended.  Infections, tumors, and inflammatory diseases of the nervous system can result in significant behavioral changes in cats. Changes due solely to stress and anxiety can be difficult to differentiate from medical conditions, so it is often a process of elimination to reach a diagnosis in cats.

 

Again, if the issue is physical in nature these tests will help; however, if the cause of the depression is emotional, you will learn nothing.  At that point you should consult an animal communicator, like Diane Weinmann, to determine how to proceed.

 

Although cats tend to be independent and resilient, they can suffer from anxiety due to changes in routine, feeling threatened, or the addition or loss of family members. Anxiety is, in fact, one of the major behavioral conditions seen by veterinarians. Chronic stress can have an impact on a pet’s emotional, and even physical, health. Self-inflicted hair loss, aggression, or changes in litterbox usage are often traced back to anxiety.

 

Treating the Cat’s Stress Instead of Depression

 

If a stressor can be identified and eliminated, often the symptoms will improve or resolve. A veterinarian, trainer or animal communicator experienced in cat behavior can help with recommendations to make a home environment less stressful to an anxious cat. A cat that feels exposed and doesn’t have a place to hide, for example, may respond to more covered furniture or additional vertical spaces in the house so he or she feels more in control of the environment.

 

Competition in multi-cat households can also cause stress. Depending on the situation, owners may need to add resources in the form of additional litterboxes and food bowls, or even separate cats that are not getting along.

 

As another environmental modification, some cats respond to pheromone diffusers such as Feliway, which can have a calming effect.  Diane has had success with essential oils and bach flower essences to alleviate emotional issues.

 

Using Medication to Treat Stress in Cats

 

For more severe cases, veterinarians can prescribe prescription medications which have been known to help with anxiety in some cats. Trazodone, gabapentin, alprazolam, and midazolam are just some of the options that a veterinarian may recommend, depending on the situation.

 

Regardless of the cause, a cat showing signs of depression can benefit greatly from a prompt evaluation by a veterinarian. If we resist applying the human definitions of mood disorders to our feline friends and instead evaluate them strictly from a cat-friendly perspective, there is often much we can do to make our beloved kitties happier and healthier!  If the issue doesn’t seem to be physical—call an animal communicator (like Diane Weinmann-  www.theloveofanimals.com)

 

 

Cats and Urine Accidents

Cats and Urine Accidents

By Dr. Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

On occasion (and in some cases, more than occasionally), cat urine winds up somewhere other than the litterbox — usually on a soft absorbent surface like carpeting, an area rug, a pile of clothes or even your bed.

Obviously, this is a problem that must be tackled from a few different angles, the most important of which is to sort out why little Fluffy isn’t confining her potty habits to her litterbox. There are a number of reasons she might relieve herself outside the box. Here are a few of the most common:

• The box isn’t scooped and/or disinfected often enough. Cats are fastidious creatures who don’t enjoy a dirty, stinky bathroom any more than we do. That’s why you must be extremely disciplined about scooping the box. As in, once or twice a day scooping of all poop and urine clumps.

Also remove any litter stuck to the sides or bottom of the box with a damp paper towel. Dry the area thoroughly before scooping dry litter back over it. Keeping the sides and floor of the box clean and dry may help extend the time between full box clean-outs. Dispose of all used litter and clean the box at least weekly.

It’s important to wash the litterbox thoroughly to remove as much odor as possible so your cat doesn’t get turned off by the smell and decide not to use it. Wash the box using hot water and fragrance-free soap. Avoid scented cleaners and products containing potential toxins.

• Your cat doesn’t like your choice of litter or the box is in a high-traffic area or is difficult to get into or out of

• She has a medical condition like FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease), or another chronic illness

• Your kitty is a senior citizen or is experiencing cognitive decline

If your cat suddenly starts peeing outside her well-maintained litterbox and you haven’t moved the box or changed the type of litter she prefers, I recommend making an appointment with your veterinarian to check for an underlying physical or cognitive issue that may be contributing to the problem.

How to Pinpoint Where Your Cat’s Been Peeing

The next thing you’ll want to do is to get rid of urine odors for your own sanity, and so your kitty won’t continually return to the scene of the crime and reoffend. Some people tend to believe cat urine smells worse or is harder to extinguish than the urine of other animals, but I’m not convinced.

Often when a cat urinates outside the litterbox, no one notices right away because it’s a small spot that dries quickly or it’s somewhat hidden. As the bacteria in the urine decomposes, it gives off that telltale ammonia-like odor we all know and don’t love. Older kitties whose kidneys aren’t working at 100 percent efficiency can have more potent-smelling urine than younger cats, as well as intact males whose urine contains testosterone.

If you discover your cat has been peeing in a spot outside his litterbox, it’s a good idea to find out if he’s doing it in other areas of the house as well. The quickest way to do this is with a black light. Urine stains appear in a lovely shade of neon green when illuminated with a black light, so darken your house and walk around shining the light on floors, baseboards and anywhere there are suspicious stains or smells.

Once you find he definitely is urinating outside his box you need to determine why.  A vet visit may be in order or you may have a kitty with an emotional issue.  If this is the case, you can call Diane Weinmann, an animal communicator to obtain info from your cat as to why a change has occurred. Contact Diane at Dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com.

Removing Urine Stains and Smells

For dried urine spots, treatment will depend on the type of surface you’re dealing with. Hard materials such as tile, wood flooring and baseboards can be cleaned using a safe, natural solution like 1 part hydrogen peroxide and 2 parts water, or undiluted white vinegar. Liberally spray the solution on the urine stain, wipe and repeat as often as necessary to eliminate any lingering odor. If the smell remains despite your best efforts, I recommend purchasing an enzyme-based cleaner as described below and re-treating the area(s).

Cleaning carpeting, upholstery or another absorbent surface requires a bit more effort. Cat urine is composed of several different chemicals, strains of bacteria and other substances. And while natural cleaners like hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or baking soda can deal with some urine odors, they don’t deal with them all.

That’s why it’s important to have an enzyme cleaner on hand to deal with the uric acid in cat urine stains. Take these steps to thoroughly clean urine stains and odors from carpets, rugs and other absorbent surfaces:

1. If the spot is still wet, use paper towels or another absorbent material like a rag or cloth and blot up as much of the urine as possible before moving to step 2.

2. Pour plain water over the spot and soak up the moisture, again using clean, white cloths or paper towels — continue blotting until no yellow appears on the towels.

3. Saturate the spot with a commercially available enzyme-based “digester” solution and let it sit for the prescribed amount of time. Thoroughly saturate the soiled areas, including carpet padding, if you suspect the urine has soaked all the way through.

4. Use more clean paper towels to blot up as much moisture as you can and then allow the spot to air-dry. Protecting the just-treated area is a good idea to prevent humans from walking through it and kitty from finding it and re-soiling. You can place aluminum foil loosely over the spots or use upside-down laundry baskets, bowls, baking sheets or similar items.

If the urine spot has been there awhile, you may need to repeat the last two steps at least once. Depending on the scope of the problem, be prepared to make this a multi-week project as you soak the spots, blot them, allow them to dry and then repeat the process as many times as necessary to completely remove stains and odor.

Additional Suggestions

Do yourself a favor and DO NOT make the mistake of using any old carpet-cleaning product you have on hand instead of a specialized pet formula. The products sold specifically for pet messes contain bacteria and enzyme digesters that are extremely effectively at eliminating stains and odor in both carpet and padding, without damaging or discoloring most flooring materials.

If you try something else on the spot first, then use a specialized pet formula, you may not get the same good result you can achieve using the pet product only. Also, no matter how bad the stain may look or smell when you discover it, resist the urge to use a harsh scrubbing motion to remove the spot, as this can quickly destroy the texture of your carpet or rug, and scrubbing really isn’t necessary.

If you’re patient and follow the steps listed above for stain removal, even if you have to repeat the process a few times to get all the stain out, there’s a very good chance you won’t notice the spot after it dries thoroughly. Even light-colored carpeting and rugs can be returned to good condition with the right cleaning agent and technique.

Once the urine is completely removed from a spot your cat has repeatedly soiled, try applying a few drops of a pure essential oil (I’ve used lemon, tangerine and lavender) on the area as a deterrent.

Unfortunately, urine occasionally soaks all the way through carpet and padding into the subfloor. If you can’t get rid the smell despite all your best cleaning efforts, you’ll need to remove that area of carpet and padding, neutralize the odor with an oil-based, stain-blocking primer on the subfloor and then replace the padding and carpet.

 

Cat Scoot—is this a new dance??

Cat Scoot—is this a new dance??

 

By Geoff Williams and comments by Diane Weinmann

If you have ever tried to explain the concept of cat scooting to your friends, you probably quickly realized that there is no graceful way to put it. If your cat is scooting, your cat’s butt is dragging along the carpet or ground.

 

Scooting or butt dragging is a problem far more common among dog owners, but it does occasionally happen to cats. And while it may look funny or strange, cat scooting could signal a medical problem that needs to be addressed.

 

Why do Cats Scoot?

“Scooting is normally associated with pruritus of the posterior end,” says Jim Lowe, a technical services veterinarian with Tomlyn, a company that makes pet healthcare products. Pruritus is a medical term for severe itching of the skin.

 

While it’s fairly rare, this can happen to any cat—there is no particular breed that experiences it more than another. And the reasons your cat’s bottom is itching, Lowe says, might be due to a number of factors, including parasites, impacted anal glands and allergies.

 

Cat Scooting and Parasites

If your cat is dragging its bottom on the carpet, there’s a chance your cat has worms. Parasitic worms, such as tapeworms, can cause irritation to the posterior area. And while you may check your cat’s stool for worms, you may not be able to see them.

 

“Just because the owner doesn’t see the worms doesn’t mean that they aren’t there,” says Dr. Carol Osborne, who owns the Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center and Pet Clinic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Most worms only become visible in the stool after deworming, and sometimes not even then.

 

And if you do see worms, your cat is likely experiencing discomfort, Osborne says. In other words, get your cat to a vet immediately.

Cat Scooting and Impacted Anal Sacs

All cats have anal sacs located near the opening of the anus. Inside those sacs is a dark, smelly and slightly oily liquid.

 

“The anal sacs typically release their contents when a cat defecates,” says Laura Pletz, a St. Charles, Missouri-based veterinarian.

 

But when the sacs get clogged, they are considered impacted. That means the sacs don’t express when your cat goes to the bathroom, and the area becomes irritated, potentially causing your cat to scoot. In severe cases, a cat’s anal sacs can become infected, which is even more painful.

 

Cat Scooting and Allergies

If you see your cat dragging his or her bottom, there may be something in or around your home affecting the feline.

 

“Environmental allergies are caused by many things, such as dust mites, grasses, molds or fleas,” Pletz says.

 

The problem may also be due to whatever you’re feeding your cat. “Food allergies are typically an allergy to a particular protein source, such as chicken or beef,” Pletz says.

 

Pletz says that there are medical therapies that can help with scooting caused by environmental allergies, but if there is a food allergy contributing, your veterinarian will likely be putting your cat on a new diet.

 

What You Should Do if You See Your Cat Scooting

Your cat scooting action plan is pretty simple—if you don’t want to rush to the vet, start by taking a close look underneath your cat’s tail. Maybe there are some dried feces or another irritant there that is causing your cat to scoot. If so, simply wash gently underneath your cat’s tail and monitor his or her behavior to watch for scooting.

 

But if you don’t see an obvious culprit for your cat’s scooting, then contact your vet and get your pet checked out. Your vet may be able to express your cat’s anal sacs, check for problem-causing parasites, recommend a different diet or prescribe antibiotics or anti-itch medications.

 

My mother-in-law’s cat is constantly leaving a poop trail on the floors in her kitchen, living room and bedroom.  Obviously a vet visit will be required to fix this situation.  But I must admit, it’s a hoot to watch him slide around on the floor.  Wonder if he could ride a skate board??

 

 

Cat’s Weight and Healthy Treats

By Dr. Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

cat-hunting-outside

It’s a fact that almost 60 percent of house cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. It’s also a fact that the formula for a fat cat is:

  • An inappropriate diet, including junk food treats
  • Free feeding and/or over feeding
  • Insufficient exercise

If you’re the parent of a corpulent kitty and you’ve committed to dieting your furry family member down to a healthy weight, the first step is to make a slow, gradual switch from dry food to canned food, then to either a balanced homemade or commercially prepared species-appropriate diet.

 

One cat I know is hugely overweight because he gets too many treats and not enough exercise.  This is your typical scenario but there are many ways to change the outcome for this chubby kitty.

Here’s What Biologically Appropriate Cat Food Looks Like

“Species-appropriate” for cats means a diet of animal protein that is moisture-rich and very low in carbohydrates. For example, a popular commercial raw organic chicken diet for cats consists of 98 percent chicken necks (with ground bone), backs, thigh meat, gizzards, livers and hearts.

The manufacturer adds a small amount of fish oil and a nutrient mix that includes important trace minerals, sea salt and vitamins from natural sources, as well as organic psyllium husk fiber.

There are no grains in this diet, and the protein comes from real meat, not vegetables, not plants and not meat byproducts. This meat-based diet is best fed raw, or very gently cooked.

How Much Should Your Cat Eat Every Day?cat-with-feather

Since a fresh food diet can’t be free-fed due to spoilage, you’ve solved two problems at once by transitioning your chunky kitty away from kibble. Most likely you’re feeding two meals a day, morning and evening, so now the goal is portion control of those two meals to insure you’re not overfeeding.

Let’s say your chunky kitty weighs 18 pounds and you and your veterinarian believe his ideal weight is 14 pounds. The following formula will give you the amount of calories he should consume each day to lose those 4 pounds. First, convert his goal weight to kilograms by dividing by 2.2:

14 pounds divided by 2.2 = 6.36 kilograms

Second, multiply the kilograms by 30 and then add 70:

6.36 kilograms x 30 = 191 + 70 = 261

Third, multiply that result by 0.8:

261 x 0.8 = 209

Your 18-pound cat should eat 209 calories a day, or about 104 to 105 calories at each of his two daily meals, to reach his 14-pound goal weight. If you also offer him treats, you’ll need to determine how many treat calories you’re feeding, and reduce the amount of food accordingly to maintain the 209 calories-per-day total.

This isn’t something I recommend you do on a regular basis because treats — even homemade ones — don’t offer the balance of nutrients found in a species-appropriate, fresh food diet.

In addition, most processed pet treats are loaded with sugar and preservatives. Most cats will transition from junk food treats to cubed low fat meats quite easily. But surprisingly, many cats will also eat fresh produce (think “roughage”), and there are some fruits and vegetables you can safely feed to your cat as occasional treats that are high in antioxidants and fat-free.  Shown below is a list of these fruits and veggies:

Cat Safe Veggies and Fruits for Snackingcats-safe

 

✓ Apple slices (no cores or seeds) — contain powerful antioxidants and vitamin C ✓ Kale — loaded with vitamins (especially vitamins K, A and C), iron and antioxidants
✓ Cantaloupe — loaded with vitamins C and A ✓ Baked sweet potatoes — rich in beta-carotene and antioxidants, high in vitamins A and C
✓ Bananas — a rich source of potassium and fiber ✓ Steamed green beans — contain vitamins A, C and K, beneficial minerals and beta-carotene
✓ Baked carrots — low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins ✓ Steamed spinach — has anti-inflammatory properties
✓ Steamed broccoli — contains healthy fiber and beneficial nutrients including potassium, calcium, protein, and vitamin C ✓ Steamed asparagus — a rich source of vitamins and minerals
Fermented veggies — potent detoxifiers that contain high levels of probiotics and vitamin K2 Cooked or canned 100 percent pumpkin — an excellent source of fiber, vitamin A and antioxidants.

All the fruits and vegetables above are safe for cats. If your kitty will eat them, remember to:

  • Cook the veggies to prevent choking and improve digestibility
  • Serve them plain (no sugar, salt, spices, butter or other additives)
  • Offer them only occasionally, and in very small portions

Foods you never want to offer your cat include onions, garlic, chives, grapes and raisins.

5 Tips for Helping Your Cat Exercise

  1. Make sure kitty has things to climb on, like a multi-level cat tree or tower.
  2. Invest in a laser toy, either an inexpensive one, or something a bit more sophisticated like the Frolicat™ line.

 

  1. Choose toys and activities that appeal to your cat’s hunting instinct.
  2. Don’t overlook old standbys, like dragging a piece of string across the floor in view of your cat. Ping-pong balls are another oldie but goodie, along with bits of paper rolled into balls, and any light object that can be made to move fast and in unexpected ways.
  3. I also recommend walking your cat in nice weather using a harness. This gets him out into the fresh air, stimulates his senses and gets his paws in direct contact with the ground.

An alternative is a safe, fully enclosed porch or patio area that prevents your cat from getting out and other animals from getting in.

 

A cat companion that is a healthy weight will be more likely to feel better, have less vet visits and provide many more years of fun together than an overweight pet.  My question to all cat owners is how much do you love them?  Enough to keep them healthy and provide the environment they need to excel?  I know the pitfall of providing treats to show love but playful  affection is a much better choice for your kitty’s wellness!

 

 

Strokes in Cats

Strokes in Cats

By Dr. Justine A. Lee, DVM, DACVECC and http://www.askthecatdoctor.com/feline-stroke.html

cute-cat-paw-up-5151240

There are two types of strokes in cats:

(1) Ischemic – the blood supply to an area of the brain is cut off

(2) Hemorrhagic – the wall of a blood vessel is damaged and blood leaks out of it into an area of the brain

In either case, an area of the cat’s brain can be deprived of oxygen or damaged from pressure and a stroke follows.

 

It’s scary to see your cat suddenly not be able to walk, look drunk, fall over to his or her side, have a head tilt, or act neurologically inappropriate (e.g., seizure). Other signs that look like “acute strokes” in cats include:

 

  • sudden imbalance
  • falling over to the side
  • not being able to walk
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • inappetance (who wants to eat when they are nauseated?)
  • rolling or circling to one side
  • nystagmus (abnormal eye movement)

When this happens, there are four primary causes:

  • an ischemic event secondary to hypertension
  • a life-threatening blood clot called a “saddle thrombus”
  • vestibular disease
  • a brain tumor

 

Keep in mind, however, that these symptoms are the symptoms of so many other diseases. Just because your cat has some of all of the above symptoms does not mean she has had a feline stroke. All of the symptoms are serious so an immediate trip to the veterinarian is essential. I know that I say this in almost every article I write, BUT the earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the outcome.

Possible Causes of a Feline Stroke

  • Trauma
  • Anything that interferes with the clotting ability of the blood
  • Blood clot
  • Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney Disease

 

In older cats, secondary hypertension (high blood pressure) may be a result of chronic kidney diseasehyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland), or even cardiac disease. With uncontrolled hypertension (in other words, if it wasn’t previously diagnosed or isn’t responding to blood pressure medication called “Norvasc,” or amlodipine), an acute ischemic event can occur. This means that lack of blood flow occurs in a region (typically in the brain or spinal cord), and results in neurologic abnormalities. Thankfully, ischemic events often respond well to symptomatic supportive care and anti-hypertensive blood pressure medications. However, these ischemic events can leave permanent neurologic defects in your cat like wobbliness, a head tilt, etc.

 

The second cause may be due to a blood clot (commonly called a “saddle thrombus”). This is typically due to severe heart disease, and may result in severe pain. Due to the complexity of this disease, which typically has a poor prognosis, I’ll cover it in a separate blog.

 

The third cause is similar to old dog vestibular disease in dogs. While cats rarely get acute vestibular disease (like a tinnitus in humans), it can occur acutely for several reasons: from ear infections; from a tumor in the ear; from sticking aQ-tip too far down in your cat’s ear; cleaning your cat’s ear with liquid ear medications; from old trauma or underlying metabolic problems; or just simply for no reason at all (we call this reason idiopathic vestibular disease in cats, which is a fancy way of saying that we have no idea what caused it!).

 

Lastly, underlying cancer or infections in the brain or spinal cord can cause these signs. When in doubt, a CT or MRI may be necessary to diagnose what’s going on. But before potentially euthanizing for an “acute stroke,” make sure to check with a veterinarian. Simple tests like a blood pressure, thyroid level, kidney test, and chest x-rays are a great place to start to help rule out some of the more benign versus malignant causes.

 

Simple tests like a blood pressure, thyroid level, kidney test, and chest x-rays are a great place to start to help rule out some of the more benign versus malignant causes.

However, for a definitive diagnosis, CT or MRI is needed. In reality, most cat owners do not have this type of testing capability in their area or cannot afford it, so in many, many cases, the diagnosis of a feline stroke is made on the basis of history, physical exam and the ruling out of other diseases through laboratory tests and radiology.

Treatment of a Cat Stroke

Treatment for a cat stroke is most often supportive (warmth, food, care) although IV fluids may be needed as well as anti-inflammatories, seizure medications, and other treatments as determined by the cat’s needs. If an underlying cause has been determined, then treatment will also be directed at that cause.

For example, if feline heart disease has been discovered, then heart medications, dietary changes, and other treatments directed at the underlying heart disease will be prescribed. If the cat has an elevated thyroid level and has been determined to have feline hyperthyroidism, then medication for hyperthyroidism in cats will be prescribed.

However, in many cases, an underlying cause is not found and treatment will involve time, patience, and support. Keeping your cat well hydrated, well fed, warm and comfortable goes a long way toward recovery.

Cat at the vet

 

 

Cat’s Drool—Dogs Rule or Visas Versa???

By Dr. Becker and Diane Weinmanncat drool

One of the most memorable quotes from the 1993 movie “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey” is spoken by Sassy the cat, who tells Chance the Bulldog, “Cats rule and dogs drool.”

When Chance brushes off such a notion, Sassy explains, “But it’s true. Cats are smarter than dogs, and more attractive … and we don’t drink from the toilet!” Someone needs to tell Miss Sassy that in fact, members of her species do drool (and some even drink from the toilet) and some even use the toilet to eliminate!

If you have a feline dribbler on your hands, you’re not alone. Kitties drool for a variety of reasons. However, there are only a few truly benign causes of drooling in a cat.

Some kitties drool when they’re purring and feeling very content. Others drool when they “make biscuits” (knead). Many cats drool while enjoying a bit of catnip.

A cat who drools at any other time, or a lot of the time, warrants a visit to the veterinarian. Potential serious causes of excessive salivation include:

  • Dental or oral disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Poisoning
  • Trauma or foreign body
  • Motion sickness/nausea

Dental or Oral Disease

A mouth problem is by far the most likely cause of kitty’s excessive drooling. He could have a buildup of plaque and tartar. His gums could be inflamed or infected (gingivitis). Or his dental disease could be so advanced that he’s experiencing bone loss.

Another problem called tooth resorption can also cause drooling. Tooth resorption is the gradual destruction of a tooth or teeth caused by cells called odontoclasts.

Often an affected cat will drool, bleed from the mouth, and/or have difficulty eating. Occasionally there can also be vomiting of unchewed food, behavior changes, and bad breath.

Another oral disease with similar symptoms, including drooling, is feline stomatitis, a very painful and chronic condition that is thought to be autoimmune in nature. An affected cat’s immune system seems to overreact to dental plaque around the teeth, which triggers inflammation in the tissues of the mouth.

Stomatitis can also occur at the back of the throat at the oral pharynx, and underlying bone in the mouth can become inflamed or infected. The inflammation appears as angry, red, and swollen tissue in the cat’s mouth.

Another mouth problem that can cause drooling, especially in older kitties, is an oral tumor, which can be either benign or cancerous.

Chronic Kidney Diseasecat drool 2

If your cat has chronic kidney disease (CKD), it means the kidneys have been gradually and irreversibly deteriorating over a period of months or years. Sadly, CKD is extremely common in older domestic cats and is a leading cause of death in kitties. In fact, I lost my cat, Milo to this awful disease, although my cat did not drool.

 

Symptoms of failing kidneys can include increased thirst and urination, leaking urine (especially at night), vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, depression, anemia, and overall body weakness.

Other signs of kidney disease can be fractures resulting from weakened bones, high blood pressure that can lead to sudden blindness, itchy skin, bleeding into the stomach, bruising of the skin, and painful sores on the tongue and gums that cause excessive salivation and drooling. Just remember that your cat does not have to have all of the symptoms to have kidney disease.

Cats with kidney failure are also often dehydrated, which causes drooling. If you suspect your kitty is having kidney problems, it’s important to make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

If your pet’s kidney disease is the result of irreversible kidney damage, in many cases renal function will stabilize for weeks or even months at a time. The disease will continue to progress and kidney function will continue to deteriorate, but your cat’s symptoms can be minimized with supportive treatment.

Fluid therapy is the cornerstone of treatment for animals with kidney failure, primarily to prevent dehydration. Subcutaneous (under the skin) fluid delivery may be necessary, and many pet owners can learn to do this at home.

Poisons

Almost any type of toxin your cat is exposed to can make her drool. A short list of examples:

Lawn fertilizers and pesticides ✓ Antifreeze
✓ Nicotine products ✓ Human drugs, especially topical medications
✓ Certain plants containing insoluble calcium oxalate crystals (e.g., Peace Lilies and Schefflera) ✓ Liquid potpourri
✓ Laundry detergent pods ✓ Household cleaners

If you suspect your cat has ingested a poisonous substance, immediately call your veterinarian, a local emergency animal hospital, and/or a poison control hotline such as the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. The hotline is answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Trauma or a Foreign Body

Cats allowed outdoors unsupervised are especially at risk for many threats to their safety and health. If a kitty roaming freely outdoors experiences head trauma as the result of being hit by a car or attacked by a dog, injuries to the jaw or temporomandibular joint that prevent the mouth from closing can cause heavy drooling.

Another serious situation that can cause a cat to drool is the presence of a foreign object lodged in the tongue, soft or hard palate, or the back of the throat. Kitties aren’t indiscriminate eaters like many dogs are, however, there are certain strange objects that seem to entice them, for example, Christmas tree decorations, glow sticks and jewelry, and sewing needles attached to thread.

The best way to protect your cat from these types of injuries is to allow her outside only for walks with you on a harness and leash, or inside a safe feline-friendly enclosure. It’s also important to keep all indoor choking hazards out of reach of your kitty.

Motion Sickness/Nausea

It’s the very rare kitty who enjoys a car ride, and it’s not unusual for a cat who’s not used to traveling to develop motion sickness. It may not even be the movement of the vehicle that triggers nausea in your cat — it could just as easily be the stress she’s experiencing. My Milo hated the car- in fact all my cats hated traveling in a car.

 

Cats prefer to stick close to home and feel threatened by unfamiliar places, sights, sounds, and smells. They like to feel in control wherever they are, which is why being held hostage inside your car as it zips down the highway is so stress-inducing for kitty. One of the first signs your cat is feeling nauseous is excessive drooling. Other symptoms include loud crying, fear-induced immobility, urinating or defecating, and of course, vomiting or regurgitation.

Bach Flower essences, including Rescue Remedy can be beneficial in helping to calm a frightened or stressed-out cat. Administer 4-5 drops directly in your cat’s mouth about 10 minutes before you need to put them in the car. If they are still stressed out you can give another 4-5 drops more as you cannot overdose them and the drops do not interact with any other medications your cat may be taking; therefore, they are safe. In addition, Feliway is a calming pheromone product that you can spray in the cat carrier 15 minutes before you put your kitty in it for travel.

 

If your cat is having episodes of drooling at home, combined with a reduced appetite or vomiting it’s important to find out why by making an appointment with your vet. I wish I would of taken my cat sooner to the vet. Maybe the eventual outcome would have been different.

 

Your Aging Kitty

By Dr. Becker and Diane WeinmannPoppy-oldest-cat-main_tcm25-20149

Just like us, our feline companions face physical and mental challenges as they age. At around 10 years, your kitty is considered a senior and will start to slow down a bit. For instance, she might not jump up on high surfaces as often as she once did, or she might settle for a lower perch on the cat tree.

 

Kitties of all ages do best with a consistent daily routine, but older cats tend to get extra stressed when presented with anything new or different in their environment.

You might also notice Mr. Whiskers doesn’t always run to greet you when you come home as he once did. He may play less and sleep more. Many cats also tend to become more vocal as they age, and more easily startled by strange or loud noises.

In addition, aging cats can suffer from many of the same health problems older humans face, including arthritis, diabetes, thyroid problems, and kidney disease. That’s why it’s important to bring your pet for twice-yearly wellness visits with your veterinarian.

 

At veterinary visits, be sure to mention any behavior changes you’ve noticed in your cat, no matter how minor, as these can provide important clues about health problems that may be brewing under the surface. It’s also important to monitor your cat’s weight to ensure she isn’t becoming too heavy or too thin. It is Diane’s opinion that a senior cat who does not go outside should not require any vaccinations. I feel that vaccinations stress your cat’s system. If your cat is not subjected to being outside they should not encounter any diseases that would threaten their life.

A Cat at 16 is Comparable to an 80 Year-Old Human

Your senior kitty may also be experiencing some vision and hearing loss, less tolerance for the cold and mental confusion. Cats can and do develop age-related dementia, which means even the smallest change in your kitty’s routine can cause stress.

Your senior cat may become a little cranky and easily irritated. If there are young children or a playful dog at home, it’s important that all family members approach your kitty in a quiet, non-aggressive manner. It’s also important to protect an aging cat from potential bullying by younger or more active pets.

During those twice-yearly veterinary visits I mentioned earlier, your vet will perform a senior wellness checkup, including a physical exam and blood (including thyroid levels), urine, and stool sample tests. The results will provide a snapshot of how well your cat’s organs are functioning, and point to any potential problems.

 

As a point of reference, a cat at 16 is the approximate equivalent of an 80-year-old human. If your kitty is seeing the vet at least twice a year and between visits you’re keeping an eye out for significant or sudden behavior or health changes, you’re on the right track.

However, as he ages, try to avoid becoming a “helicopter pet parent” who constantly hovers over kitty. He’s still a cat after all, and prefers attention on his own terms!

Do make every effort to keep him comfortable, secure and relaxed by maintaining a consistent daily routine and providing him with a quiet, cozy hideaway with comfy bedding and a favorite toy or two.

How to Provide an Excellent Quality of Life for Your Aging Cat

  1. Feed balanced, antioxidant rich, species-appropriate nutrition. Your cat’s diet should include omega-3 essential fats, such as krill oil.

Moisture is a cat’s best friend, so encourage hydration by offering kitty a variety of water bowls around the house or a drinking fountain, in addition to minimizing or (preferably) eliminating dry food. You can even put some broth or tuna water into their drinking dish to encourage hydration.

If your cat is addicted to a poor-quality processed diet, consider adding a supplement such as Feline Whole Body Support.

 

  1. Keep your pet’s body and mind active with regular exercise appropriate for her age and physical condition, and mental stimulation (puzzles and treat-release toys can be beneficial).

Think of creative ways to enrich your cat’s indoor environment and if kitty never touches the earth’s surface directly (many indoor cats don’t), consider a grounding pad.

  1. Provide your cat with a SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) supplement as a safe and effective way to stall or improve mental decline, enhance mobility, and assist in liver detoxification.

Periodic detoxification with the herbs milk thistle and dandelion can also be very beneficial, along with super green foods in the form of fresh “cat grass” to nibble on. Chlorophyll, chlorella, or spirulina can also be offered in supplement form to enhance your cat’s detoxification processes.

  1. If your cat seems disoriented, consider limiting her access to certain parts of the house. Keep doors closed so she can’t wander into a closet or any place where she might be unable to get herself out.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have been shown to be safe for cats and can improve brain energy metabolism and decrease the amyloid protein buildup that results in brain lesions in older pets. Coconut oil is a rich source of MCTs and may also reduce hairball issues.

 

I recommend one-fourth teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight twice daily for basic MCT support, if your cat will voluntarily eat it.

  1. Some older cats tend to vocalize loudly and often from cognitive decline. Sometimes all a talkative cat needs to quiet down is to hear her owner’s voice, so try calling your kitty’s name when she starts to vocalize from another room or in the middle of the night.

Calming flower essences, such as Senior Citizen, Bach flower essences or homeopathics, such as low potency Belladonna or Aconitum, depending on your cat’s specific symptoms, may also reduce yowling. If that doesn’t do the trick and the nighttime crying is really a problem for you, consider earplugs. Consult an animal communicator, like Diane Weinmnn, to find out the reason for the howling. Diane can also create a custom Bach flower essence treatment bottle to help your kitty through these emotional changes as they age.

 

  1. For aging kitties who are on the prowl all night, consider low dose melatonin, which is not only a sedative with a calming effect, but also an antioxidant. I also use rhodiola, chamomile, and l-theanine with good results. Night Owl Solution may also help.

You can also try gently waking him up from naps during the day. The more active you can keep him during daylight hours, the more likely he’ll be to sleep on your schedule.

  1. Set aside time each day to hang out with your cat. Make sure meals are provided on a consistent schedule, along with playtime and petting/lap time. If your cat tolerates being brushed or combed, work that into the daily schedule as well, to help her with grooming chores.
  2. If eliminating outside the litterbox is an issue, try putting additional boxes around the house. Also insure your cat can get into and out of the box easily. Remember that kitties are very adept at hiding arthritis and other aches and pains, which can limit their ability to climb into high-sided boxes, or boxes kept in bathtubs or up a flight of stairs, for example. Again if providing more boxes doesn’t do the trick to help your cat to eliminate in the appropriate place please contact an animal communicator.

 

Senior cats are a blessing. They bring love and a gentleness into our daily lives. Let’s treat them right, honor their place in our life and ensure their lives are stress free. Don’t forget to kiss the kitty often!