How to Relieve Cat Stomach Issues

Reviewed for accuracy on August 28, 2018, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

 

When you’re hit with an upset stomach, you seek sympathy from your cat while contemplating the contents of your medicine cabinet. But cat stomach issues are different. If your cat throws up, or you wake up to the nasty reality of cat diarrhea, your kitty relies on you to find out what’s wrong and how to get her back on track.

Symptoms of Cat Stomach Upset

“Symptoms of an upset stomach in a cat include licking the lips, which is a sign of nausea, vomiting and refusing to eat,” says Dr. Elizabeth Arguelles, medical director and founder of Just Cats Clinic in Reston, Virginia. “Possibly the cat ate something it shouldn’t have, like a bug or a leaf of a plant.” Diarrhea may also develop if the problem affects the lower part of the gastrointestinal tract.

Dr. Mark Rondeau, DVM, BS, of PennVet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, says that while vomiting is the most visible sign of cat stomach upset, “a change in behavior, such as being less active or not interacting or hiding in unusual places—a lot of those behaviors are common in cats that may have upset stomachs.”

And no, those hairballs that suddenly appear on the new living room carpet are not the same thing as when your cat throws up. “This is an extremely common myth,” Dr. Arguelles says. “There’s a distinction between a hairball—which looks like a piece of poop made out of hair—and vomit, which may have hair in it along with partially digested food or bile.”

Dr. Rondeau adds that if a cat occasionally hurls a hairball—ejecting hair that isn’t processed out through the ‘other end’—it’s not something to worry about, but that “the reasons for feline vomiting can include a long list of things.”

Possible Causes of Cat Stomach Upset

Dr. Arguelles says frequent causes of cat stomach upset include switching cat food too frequently as well as intestinal parasites. Dr. Rondeau adds that parasites are especially common in young cats and kittens.

Both Dr. Arguelles and Dr. Rondeau say that food intolerance, food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) also commonly lead to an upset cat stomach. More serious causes, such as gastrointestinal cancers, kidney disease and hyperthyroidism, can also result in vomiting.

If you are worried that your cat is sick, seek veterinary care immediately, says Dr. Arguelles.

How To Cure Cat Stomach Upset

Detecting what’s behind your cat’s vomiting is crucial, and that means a trip to the vet.  A cat who throws up multiple times in a day or who has not eaten in 48 hours needs to see a vet immediately.

Dr. Arguelles says, “Veterinarians have anti-nausea medication that can be given as an injection or as an oral tablet (Cerenia)” as well as medications to help with diarrhea and poor appetite. A temporary switch to a bland diet may be recommended until the cat’s symptoms subside. 

In some cases, a veterinarian will recommend heartworm medicine for cats or a prescription dewormer for cats. “A cat that is vomiting more than once per month should be examined by a veterinarian, who will deworm—or recommend your cat be on monthly prevention with Revolution, Advantage Multi or Heartgard,” says Dr. Arguelles. Many heartworm medicines for cats also kill some of the intestinal parasites that can cause cat stomach upset.

She says a vet may also recommend abdominal radiographs (X-rays) to check for an obstruction, foreign body or other problem, or lab work to seek underlying metabolic causes of vomiting, such as kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. 

“In cases that have normal labs and radiographs, your vet may then recommend an abdominal ultrasound to visualize the layers and thickness of the stomach and intestines. Sometimes, we find foreign material that wasn’t visible on radiographs, other times we find thickening of the intestines and enlargement of lymph nodes—and then we are looking at either inflammatory bowel disease or gastrointestinal lymphoma,” she says. “The only way to determine which of these diseases is present is through intestinal biopsies.”

Dr. Rondeau says if your cat has just started vomiting or is suddenly “lethargic, won’t eat or is hiding, definitely bring him to the vet. But we also see a lot of cats with chronic vomiting… In those cases, maybe they aren’t lethargic, but the owners notice some vomiting and see the cat has lost weight … for those, it is definitely time to check with the vet.”

Preventing Cat Stomach Issues

Once the serious issues are ruled out, you can work on helping to avoid future cat stomach issues.

“The three things that you can do to promote good digestive health in cats are placing them on monthly prevention that deworms them for intestinal parasites, feeding them a balanced diet (not raw and not homemade), and taking them to the veterinarian at least yearly,” says Dr. Arguelles. As long as your cat is healthy, “if you are feeding a high-quality diet, your cat’s digestive health will be good.”

High-Quality Diets for Cats

Dr. Rondeau agrees that a high-quality diet is key, along with “avoiding table scraps. It is mostly about consistency for cats. If yours is happy to eat the same thing and is getting that balanced diet, don’t switch brands or flavors. We might project onto them that they are bored with whatever brand and taste, but rapid diet changes can create problems.”

When cats develop diarrhea, a diet change alone can fix the problem about half the time, explains Dr. Arguelles. “Diarrhea is frustrating in that even if we treat appropriately and make the right changes and recommendations, it can take several days to clear up.”

She recommends a vet visit if a diet change doesn’t help or if your cat is vomiting, lethargic or has other worrisome symptoms.

Prescription Cat Food

Cats with fiber-responsive diarrhea “will respond to adding fiber to the diet. You can do this by feeding Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Fiber Response cat food, a prescription cat food that includes brewers’ rice, B vitamins and psyllium husk seed, among other ingredients, or by adding canned pumpkin or Metamucil.” Nummy Tum-Tum Pure Organic Pumpkin is 100% organic pumpkin that can be mixed with dry or canned cat food to help provide some relief to your cat’s stomach.

Dr. Rondeau says that a tablespoon of pumpkin with a cat’s food is also often a recommendation for cats with constipation, but adds that “Pumpkin is fibrous, but Metamucil or similar supplements will offer more fiber per volume.”

Probiotics for Cats

Additional help for cat diarrhea may come from probiotics for cats, which Dr. Rondeau describes as “A colony of good bacteria that can populate the cat’s GI tract [and is] good for the gut health.”

Dr. Arguelles says that when the good bacteria thrive, the bad bacteria are crowded out. “Not all probiotic supplements are created equal,” she says. “The probiotics I recommend include Purina’s FortiFlora and Nutramax’s Proviable.”

Both Nutramax Proviable-DC capsules and Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets FortiFlora probiotic cat supplement contain live microorganisms, and FortiFlora includes antioxidant vitamins E, C and beta-carotene. Both can be sprinkled on, or mixed in with, your cat’s food.

Monitoring your cat’s activity and being aware of changes in her habits, as well as working closely with your vet, is the best way to promote a healthy cat stomach.

By: Kathy Blumenstock

 

What’s Behind Your Aging Cat’s Quirky Behavior?

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM

Cats, like humans, experience physical and mental changes as they age, which can translate into behavioral changes that range from minor to major. Your once social kitty may spend much of his time sleeping or even avoiding the family, and cats that are typically mellow can react aggressively when you don’t expect it.

While it may sound alarming that your cat may morph into a seemingly different feline once he reaches his golden years, it’s a natural and, typically, gradual process.

It’s important, though, to keep a close eye on your senior kitty to watch out for any changes that could signal an underlying disease or pain. Twice-yearly wellness visits with your veterinarian will help with this, as will being a dutiful owner who takes note of any unusual changes.

How Old Is ‘Old’ for a Cat?

It’s often said that one cat year is equal to seven human years. This isn’t entirely accurate, but it’s true that cats age much faster than humans. Generally, a 1-year-old cat is similar physiologically to a 16-year-old human, while 2-year-old cat is like a 21-year-old human.

“For every year thereafter,” the Cornell University Feline Health Center notes, “each cat year is worth about four human years. Using this formula, a ten-year-old cat is similar age wise to a 53-year-old person, a 12-year-old cat to a 61-year-old person, and a 15-year-old cat to a person of 73.”1 With proper care, many cats live into their late teens and early 20, but around the age of 10, a cat is considered to be a “senior.”

You may notice he’s slowed down a bit from his younger years, and by the time a cat reaches 12 to 14 years, he’s probably moving even slower and may be having some age-related health problems, such as vision and hearing loss or age-related cognitive decline.

At 15 or 16, cats join the geriatric club, where their movements and cognitive function are likely noticeably slower than they once were. These numbers are just estimates, though, as every cat will age at its own individual pace — just like humans.

Behavioral Changes Are Common as Cats Age

Aging is a natural process that’s often accompanied by behavioral changes, which commonly include:2

Less grooming, and less effective grooming, which can lead to fur matting or skin odor Less use of a scratching post, which may lead to overgrown claws
Avoidance of social interaction Wandering
Excessive meowing, especially at night Disorientation
Changes in temperament, such as increased aggression or anxiety Increased napping
Litterbox accidents Acting less responsive or less alert

Some of these changes, such as sleeping more and preferring to spend more time alone, are a normal part of getting older, but other are signs of potential health issues. Even though your cat is a senior, many conditions can be treated or managed, which is why letting your veterinarian know about behavioral changes is so important.

Hiding, loss of appetite or a reluctance to move around can be signs that your cat is in pain, possibly due to arthritis, for instance. Aggression can also be rooted in pain or can result if your cat is feeling increasingly anxious — an outcome sometimes linked to anxiety.

“Cats who are suffering from cognitive decline, and thus experiencing increased anxiety, can show a tendency to react aggressively,” Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, a behavior research scientist, told PopSugar.3

Hyperthyroidism can also lead to behavioral changes in cats. Sudden, unexpected bursts of energy in an older cat is a definite sign he or she may have an overactive thyroid. It’s important to make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible in this case.

In older cats, increased meowing can be the result of cognitive dysfunction, which is a form of dementia, especially if it’s accompanied by confusion (staring off into space), eliminating outside the litterbox and loss of interest in interacting with human family members. Increased vocalizing could also be due to stress or confusion.

 

How to Support Your Aging Cat

Aside from bringing your senior cat to your veterinarian twice a year to keep an eye out for age-related health problems, there are simple ways to help your pet age gracefully. You’ll want to respect his wishes for increased alone time and sleep, but at the same time make a point to interact with him daily, via belly rubs, ear scratches, toys or treats — whatever he prefers.

Senior cats can also be easily stressed by changes in their household and routine, so keep to a familiar schedule and avoid making any significant changes that aren’t absolutely necessary. Providing a warm, soft space for your cat to nap is essential, as is regular brushing and nail trims.

Continue feeding a nutritionally balanced, antioxidant-rich, species-appropriate diet that includes omega-3 essential fats such as krill oil, and consider supplements that may benefit your aged kitty, including:

  • SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine), which may help stall mental decline, improve mobility and assist in liver detoxification.
  • Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) is a naturally produced enzyme that is important for the conversion of superoxide radicals into less reactive molecules in the body, but production can diminish with age. SOD is found in unprocessed raw food but is inactivated with heat processing, so if your cat is consuming ultra-processed food (kibble or canned food), supplementing with SOD may be a wise choice.
  • Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), found in coconut oil, which can improve brain energy metabolism. 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.
  • Low dose melatonin, which is not only a sedative with a calming effect but also an antioxidant. This is useful for senior cats that vocalize and wander at night.
  • Glucosamine sulfate with MSM and eggshell membrane, to help maintain healthy tendons, ligaments, joints and cartilage.

Most of all, make sure to spend all the time you can with your long-time friend, and if you notice any behavioral changes, bring them up with your veterinarian. Even small changes can give clues about your pet’s health that shouldn’t be overlooked.

 

Cat Constipated???

Cat Constipated???

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

Just like us, our feline friends can suffer from constipation. In some kitties it happens just once in a while; for others it can become a persistent problem.

When stool stays in the colon too long, it becomes dry, hard, and difficult to pass. Left untreated, chronic constipation can lead to megacolon, a terrible condition in which the large intestine stretches so much it can no longer do its job effectively.

How to Tell if Your Cat Is Constipated

Your kitty should poop at least once every day because it’s an important part of the body’s natural detoxification process.

Your cat is constipated when he either has difficulty pooping (and the stool he produces is dry and hard), or he isn’t pooping at all. This is why it’s so important to keep an eye on kitty’s daily “output.” The quantity, color, texture, and smell, along with the presence of mucus or blood, are all indicators of his general well-being.

Often, what passes from (or in the case of constipation, doesn’t pass from) your pet’s body is the first sign of a health problem, so you should regularly monitor your cats litterbox and familiarize yourself with what “normal” looks like for your kitty.

Your cat’s stools should be brown, formed, and soft enough that litter sticks to them. If your kitty isn’t going daily or his stools are so hard and dry that litter doesn’t stick to them, he could be constipated. And keep in mind most constipated cats will never show overt signs of a problem. In fact, some suffer their entire lives and their humans don’t realize it because they aren’t aware of the more subtle signs of chronic constipation.

Left untreated, a constipated cat may begin to vomit intermittently, lose his appetite, and start dropping weight. He may seem lethargic. Don’t let the problem progress to this point before you take action.

Potential Causes of Feline Constipation

Often, constipation in cats is simply the result of inadequate water consumption or lack of dietary fiber. But sometimes the situation is more complicated, involving an obstruction inside the colon or a problem in the pelvic cavity, such as a tumor that interferes with bowel function.

If you actually saw your cat swallow something that could cause an obstruction, get veterinary help right away as this situation can rapidly progress to a very serious and even fatal problem.

Intact males, especially if they’re older, can develop enlarged prostates that compress the bowel, creating very thin stools or even an obstruction. This problem can usually be resolved by having your male cat neutered.

Hernias in the rectum are another obstruction that can cause constipation. The hernia bulges into the rectum, closing off passage of stool. Hernias usually require surgery to repair.

Constipation can also be the result of a neuromuscular problem or a disease like hypothyroidism or hypercalcemia. Some kitties have insufficient muscle tone or neuromuscular disorders that impede the body’s ability to efficiently move waste through the colon.

Other causes of constipation can include infected or cancerous anal glands, or a hip or pelvic injury that makes pooping painful, the effects of surgery, certain medications, iron supplements, and stress.

Hands Down, the Most Common Reason for Kitty Constipation

With all the above said, when it comes to constipation in cats, by far the most common cause is inadequate fluid intake. Your kitty’s natural prey (e.g., mice) contains 70% to 75% water, and felines are designed to get most of the water their bodies need from their diet.

Cats fed exclusively kibble are getting only a very small amount (10% to 12%) of the moisture their bodies need, and unlike dogs and other animals, they won’t make up the difference at the water bowl due to their “underactive” thirst drive. So, these cats are chronically dehydrated, which causes constipation.

The lack of moisture causes stool in the colon to turn dry, hard and painful to pass; it also causes the kidneys to become stressed. If your cat happens to be overweight and not getting enough exercise, the problem is exacerbated. Physical activity stimulates rhythmic muscle contractions (peristalsis) in the colon, which helps move things through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Unfortunately, many housecats have lifestyles that involve eating too much of the wrong type of food and moving too little. Swallowing fur during grooming can further slow the transit time of waste through the colon, especially in cats fed dry diets who are also not getting adequate exercise.

How to Help a Constipated Cat

Assuming your kitty is in otherwise good health, there are several things you can do to help solve her constipation issues.

  1. If you’re feeding kibble, I strongly encourage you to switch to a moisture-rich, nutritionally optimal, species-specific diet. It’s always the first thing I recommend, especially for cats with any sort of digestive issue. At a minimum, transition from dry food to canned food, which will automatically increase the moisture in your cat’s system.
  2. If you make your own food, be absolutely sure your kitty’s diet is nutritionally balanced. Many of the homemade recipes I’ve analyzed have two to three times the upper safe limits of calcium levels recommended for pets, which will lead to constipation, among many other things. Recipes to try.
  3. Make sure your cat has access to clean, fresh, filtered drinking water at all times. Place a few stainless steel or Pyrex glass bowls around the house in areas she frequents. Avoid plastic water bowls, which can make the water taste unpleasant. You might also want to consider purchasing a pet water fountain to replace your cat’s water bowl, since many kitties will drink more from a moving water source. If she still isn’t drinking enough, consider adding bone broth to her food to increase the moisture content in her diet.
  4. Offer bone broth, in addition to water. Broths are an excellent way to entice cats to drink more. Add a bowl of warm broth beside her regular food on a daily basis. Here’s a recipe for homemade bone broth.
  5. Cats need to move their bodies through play and exercise. Movement also helps stool move through the colon. Regular physical activity can help prevent or remedy constipation.
  6. Add digestive enzymes and probiotics to your pet’s meals. Both these supplements will help with maldigestion, which is often the cause of both occasional constipation and diarrhea.
  7. If your cat lived in the wild, his natural prey would provide ample fiber in the form of fur, feathers and predigested gut contents. Needless to say, domesticated pets don’t get a lot of these things in their meals! Good replacement options for your feline companion include:
Psyllium husk powder — 1/2 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily on food Ground dark green leafy veggies — 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily with food
Coconut oil — 1/2 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily Canned 100 percent pumpkin — 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily on food
Aloe juice (not the topical gel) — 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily on food Acacia fiber — 1/8 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight 1-2 times daily as prebiotic fiber
  1. Chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage can also be very beneficial in helping to alleviate chronic constipation in pets.

Please note these recommendations are for cats experiencing a minor, temporary bout of constipation. If your kitty’s condition is not resolving or seems chronic, or if you aren’t sure of the cause, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

 

Products to Clean Cat Urine Messes

Several products can help neutralize cat pee odor, including vinegar or baking soda and enzymatic cleaners. Here are some options to help you get rid of the cat pee smell.

 

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Vinegar, while a bit smelly itself, works to remove the lasting odor of sprayed cat urine because vinegar is an acid that neutralizes the alkaline salts that form in dried urine stains.

A solution of one part water and one part vinegar can be used to clean walls and floors. Proponents say that the vinegar smell subsides after a few days, taking the urine smell with it.

Enzyme-Based Cleaners

For odor elimination in carpets, couch cushions, mattresses, and linens, you can try an enzyme-based cleaner. The enzymes in these products actually break down the acid in cat urine, helping to get rid of the smell at the same time. The natural enzymes and helpful bacteria help get rid of the bad bacteria that’s causing the unpleasant odors.

When cleaning any surface, it’s important to get to the point where not only can you not smell the urine, but your cat can’t smell it, either. “When a cat can smell a previous urine spot (from themselves or another cat), that area is likely to be used again,” Dr. George says.

Avoid Products That Contain Ammonia

Most importantly, avoid any cleaning products that contain ammonia. “Ammonia is one component of cat urine, and if cats smell that, they’re more likely to go there,” Dr. Kornreich says.

In addition, ammonia and other chemical cleaners can often set the stain—the opposite of what you’re trying to do.

How to Get Cat Urine Smell Out of Carpet

Here’s what you should do to help eliminate the smell of cat pee from a surface.

1. Blot the Spot to Absorb the Urine

Find the stain as soon as possible and blot up as much of the urine as you can with a clean cloth.

2. Rinse and Vacuum the Area

Next, rinse the area with clean water and remove the liquid with a wet/dry vacuum. “You don’t want to use a steam cleaner, as the heat can set the stain,” Roberts said.

3. Soak the Spot in Enzyme Cleaner

While enzyme cleaners come in a spray bottle, spraying a light coat over the stain won’t do much. Instead, remove the sprayer and douse the spot liberally.

4. Let It Sit Before Blotting With a Clean Cloth

Let the cleaner sit for 10-15 minutes and blot up as much of it as possible with a clean cloth.

5. Prevent Your Cat From Returning to the Spot

To keep your cat from returning to the spot during the cleaning process, place a piece of aluminum foil or an aluminum baking sheet over the area, or cover it with an upside-down laundry basket.

6. Reapply the Cleaner if Necessary

You may need to reapply the cleaner and let it dry again for older or particularly smelly stains.

Removing Cat Urine Smells From the Subflooring

Urine can often soak through the carpet and into the subflooring, leaving a stain and a stench that can’t be lifted with carpet cleaner and elbow grease.

If you have pet odor that will not go away despite your best carpet-cleaning efforts, neutralize the scent by using an oil-based, stain-blocking primer on the subfloor beneath the carpeting. Replace the padding as well as that area of carpet.

How to Get Cat Urine Smell Out of Cushions

Here a few easy steps you can take to remove the cat pee smell from a cushion.

1. Soak the Area in Water

Soak the affected area of the cushion with water. Blot up as much of the cat urine as possible with a towel.

2. Soak the Area With an Enzyme Cleaner

Then soak the cushion by very slowly, pouring the enzyme cleaner on and around the affected area.

3. Let It Sit Before Blotting With Towels

Let it sit for 15 minutes, then squish out as much of the excess enzyme cleaner as possible before blotting with towels.

4. Let the Cushion Dry

If possible, leave the cushion outside as long as possible while it dries. Since cushions take days to dry, lay aluminum foil down before putting the cushion back, then put a second layer of foil over the top of the cushion to discourage your cat from peeing on the cushion again.

How to Get Cat Urine Smell Out of a Mattress

Mattresses require almost the same process as cushions.

1. Soak the Area in Water

Soak the affected area of the mattress with water. Blot up as much of the cat urine as possible with a towel.

2. Soak the Area With Enzyme Cleaner

Then soak the mattress by very slowly pouring the enzyme cleaner on and around the affected area.

3. Let It Sit Before Blotting With Towels

Let the enzymatic cleaner sit for 15 minutes and then blot it up. Place several layers of clean towels over the mattress and then make the bed.

4. Let the Mattress Dry

Swap out the towels each day until the mattress completely dries. To discourage peeing on the spot while the mattress dries, cover the bed with a large plastic sheet or tarp when you’re not using it. You can also get a waterproof mattress cover to protect it from future incidents.

5. Reapply If Needed

Mattresses may require several applications to completely remove the cat urine.

How to Get Cat Urine Smell Out of Linens and Clothing

One important rule with linens and clothing is: NEVER use bleach—when mixed with ammonia and cat urine, it can cause harmful gases.

1. Rinse the Spot With Cool Water

If your bed linens and clothing are machine washable, first rinse the spot in a sink with cool water.

2. Wash With Detergent and Baking Soda or Cider Vinegar

Add the items to the washing machine with detergent plus a cup of baking soda OR a quarter cup of cider vinegar.

3. Add Enzyme Cleaner If the Smell Persists

If you can still smell the urine after the cycle is complete, add enzyme cleaner to the load (following instructions on the package) and run the cycle again.

4. Air-Dry After Washing

Always air-dry linens, as the heat of the dryer may lock in the smell before it’s completely gone.

5. Rewash

You may need to rewash one or more times until the scent is completely gone.

Keep Your Cat From Urinating in That Spot in the Future

Once you’ve cleaned a particular area, prevent a recurrence by changing the significance of that area to your cat. In other words, since cats prefer to eat and eliminate in separate areas, place food bowls and treats in previously soiled areas, or play with your cat in that space and leave toys there.

By Michelle Shapiro 

 

Hyperthyroidism in Cats: Symptoms and Treatment

Hyperthyroidism in Cats: Symptoms and Treatment

by: Dr. Lorie Huston as seen in PetMD 

 Reviewed and updated on March 18, 2020, by Jennifer S. Fryer, DVM

 

Hyperthyroidism in cats is a disease that’s usually caused by a benign tumor within the thyroid gland. This tumor causes an overproduction of the thyroid hormone called thyroxine. One of the primary functions of this thyroid hormone is to regulate an animal’s metabolism

Cats with too much thyroid hormone have a greatly increased metabolic rate, which leads them to lose weight despite having a ravenous appetite. Other symptoms can include anxiety, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased thirst and urination.

These excessive hormone levels push a cat’s body into constant overdrive, which frequently leads to high blood pressure and a type of heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Here’s everything you should know about hyperthyroidism in cats so you can spot the signs and get your cat on a treatment plan as soon as possible.

How Common Is Hyperthyroidism in Cats? 

There is no known genetic predisposition for hyperthyroidism, but it is quite common in cats. 

In fact, hyperthyroidism is the most common hormonal (endocrine) disease in the cat population, often seen in late middle-aged and older cats. 

The average age of diagnosis is approximately 13 years. The possible age range is 4-20 years, although seeing young hyperthyroid cats is very rare.

What Does the Thyroid Gland Do?

In cats, the thyroid gland has two parts, with one on each side of the trachea (windpipe), just below the larynx (voice box).

The thyroid gland makes several different hormones (mostly thyroxine, or T4). These thyroid hormones affect many of your cat’s body processes:

·         Regulation of body temperature

·         Metabolism of fats and carbohydrates

·         Weight gain and loss

·         Heart rate and cardiac output

·         Nervous system function

·         Growth and brain development in young animals

·         Reproduction

·         Muscle tone

·         Skin condition

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism in Cats

Here are the major symptoms of hyperthyroidism that you should look for in your cat:

·         Weight loss

·         Increased appetite (ravenous)

·         Unkempt appearance

·         Poor body condition

·         Vomiting

·         Diarrhea

·         Drinking more than usual (polydipsia)

·         Peeing more than usual (polyuria)

·         Rapid breathing (tachypnea)

·         Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)

·         Heart murmur; rapid heart rate; an abnormal heartbeat known as a “gallop rhythm”

·         Hyperactivity/restlessness

·         Aggression

·         Enlarged thyroid gland, which feels like a lump on the neck

·         Thickened nails

Less than 10% of cats suffering from hyperthyroidism exhibit atypical signs such as poor appetite, loss of appetite, depression, and weakness.

What Causes Cats to Be Hyperthyroid?

Hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules (where the thyroid nodules produce excess thyroid hormones outside of the control of the pituitary gland) cause hyperthyroidism. But what causes the thyroid to go haywire?

 

There are several theories about what causes cats to become hyperthyroid:

·         Rarely, thyroid cancer

·         Some reports have linked hyperthyroidism in cats to some fish-flavored canned food diets

·         Research has pointed to flame-retardant chemicals (PBDEs) that are used in some furniture and carpeting and circulated in house dust

·         Advancing age increases risk

How Do Vets Test for Feline Hyperthyroidism?

In most cases, diagnosing hyperthyroidism is straightforward: high levels of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream (total T4 or TT4) along with the typical signs. 

In some cases, however, your cat’s T4 levels may be in the normal range, making a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism more difficult. This is especially true in the early stages of this disease. 

If your cat is showing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism but the blood tests are not conclusive, you will need to return to your veterinarian for further blood tests or for a referral for a thyroid scan.

The signs of feline hyperthyroidism can also overlap with those of chronic renal failurediabetes mellitus, chronic hepatic disease, and cancer (especially intestinal lymphoma). 

These diseases can be excluded on the basis of routine laboratory findings and thyroid function tests. Your veterinarian will conduct a battery of tests to zero in on a reliable diagnosis.

Kidney disease is commonly diagnosed along with hyperthyroidism in cats. Cats suffering from both diseases may need treatment for both, and the diagnosis of kidney disease in a cat with hyperthyroidism can affect the cat’s prognosis

Treatment for Hyperthyroid Cats

The gold standard therapy is radioiodine (I131) treatment, which can cure the hyperthyroidism in most cases. Daily medication (methimazole) or feeding a low-iodine diet are good options when radioiodine therapy is not an option due to financial considerations or the cat’s overall health.

Radioiodine Therapy (Radioactive Iodine Treatment)

Radioiodine therapy, or I131 treatment, uses radioactive iodine to kill the diseased tissue in the thyroid gland. Most cats undergoing I131 treatment are cured of the disease with one treatment.  

The cat’s thyroid levels are monitored after treatment. Rare cases require a second treatment. Hypothyroidism is not common after treatment, but it can occur, and it can be managed with a daily thyroid medication.

The use of radioiodine is restricted to a confined medical facility, since the treatment itself is radioactive. Depending on the state you live in and the guidelines in place, your cat will need to be hospitalized from several days to a few weeks after being treated with radioactive medicine, to allow the radioactive material to leave your cat’s body before coming home.

Precautions will still need to be taken after bringing your cat home. Your veterinarian will give you specific instructions to reduce your risk of exposure to the radioactive material, which will probably include storing your cat’s used litter in a sealed container for a period of time before disposing of it in the garbage.

 

Surgically Removing the Thyroid Gland

Surgical removal of the diseased thyroid gland is another potential treatment. Like I131 treatment, surgical treatment is curative, but these cats also must be monitored afterward for hypothyroidism.

Surgical removal of the thyroid gland is best performed when only one thyroid gland is affected, as removal of both can possibly lead to hypothyroidism. Another complication that can occur after surgical removal of the affected thyroid gland is the successive hyperactivity of the remaining thyroid gland.

Methimazole Medication

Giving your cat a medication called methimazole is probably the most common treatment choice. It’s administered by mouth in pill form, or it can be formulated by a compounding pharmacy into a transdermal gel that can be applied to your cat’s ear. Methimazole is often given before radioiodine treatment or surgery to stabilize your cat’s clinical signs.  

Methimazole is effective in controlling the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. However, it does not cure the disease—your cat will need to receive the medication for the rest of his life. If a cat is younger at diagnosis (under 10 years old) and does not have underlying diseases, the cost of methimazole for a lifetime may exceed surgery or radioiodine. 

Methimazole has rare but significant side effects in some cats, so make sure to make and keep regular monitoring appointments with your veterinarian. 

Iodine-Restricted Diet

 

Feeding a diet that restricts iodine is a newer alternative for treatment of feline hyperthyroidism. Like methimazole treatment, this alternative is not curative, and your cat will require lifelong treatment. 

This diet must be given exclusively. The hyperthyroid cat on this diet must not have access to or be given any treats, other cat food, or human food. Other cats in the household may eat this food, but they must be supplemented with an appropriate cat food for their age and health in order to provide adequate iodine. 

Follow-Up Care for Hyperthyroid Cats

Once treatment has begun, your veterinarian will need to reexamine your cat every two to three weeks for the initial three months of treatment, with a complete blood count to check their T4. Treatment will be adjusted based on the results, such as changing methimazole dosage to maintain T4 concentration in the low-normal range.

If your cat has had surgery, particularly removal of the thyroid gland, your veterinarian will want to closely observe your cat’s physical recovery. Development of low blood-calcium levels and/or paralysis of the voice box during the initial postoperative period are complications that will need to be watched for and treated, should they occur. 

Your doctor will also measure your cat’s thyroid hormone levels in the first week after surgery and every three to six months thereafter, to check for recurrence of thyroid gland overactivity. 

By: Dr. Lorie Huston, DVM, Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, Dr. Jennifer S. Fryer, DVM

 

Cat Anxiety Meds

As seen in PetMD

 

Cats can suffer from anxiety disorders just as people and dogs can. They can experience generalized anxiety disorders or more specific anxiety issues caused by things like thunder or separation distress when their pet parents are not at home.

The first step to relieving your cat’s anxiety is to talk to your vet, and then you can discuss the need for cat anxiety medications. Here’s a list of the different types of cat anxiety medications and how they work.

Talk With Your Veterinarian About Your Cat’s Anxiety

What can you do to help your cat if they suffer from anxiety? First, your cat needs to be examined by your veterinarian to make sure there are no underlying medical problems.

Your veterinarian can discuss with you some medication options or refer to you an expert in the field—a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

No matter the direction you take, the use of anti-anxiety medication is just one part of the treatment plan. The other part involves management and behavior modification.

How Cat Anxiety Medications Work

Cat anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of ways, so there are both long-term and short-term anti-anxiety medications available.

Long-Term Anxiety Medications for Cats

Some cat anxiety medications are long-term maintenance medications, meaning they can take 4-6 weeks to take full effect. They also are meant to be taken daily.

If the medication is helping, the cat should be kept on it for a minimum of 2-3 months. Once your cat’s behavior is stable, they can be gradually weaned off the medication.

Some cats benefit from staying on anti-anxiety medications for 6-12 months or longer periods. These cats should get a yearly examination, bloodwork, and a behavior reevaluation to ensure that they are still on the best treatment plan for their needs.

Short-Term Anxiety Medications for Cats 

Other anti-anxiety medications are short-term; they take effect in a shorter period of time and only last for several hours.

They are intended to be used for certain situations where your cat experiences increased levels of anxiety and stress.

These medications typically do not require your cat to be weaned off them if they’re not used consistently.

Types of Cat Anxiety Medications

Please keep in mind that the use of all human medications to treat cats with anxiety disorders is off-label.

Here is a list of the most commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications and their potential side effects. (A small percentage of cat patients may experience side effects while on a medication.)

Click to Jump to a specific section:

Fluoxetine

Indications: Generalized anxiety (moderate to severe anxiety); aggression directed towards people, cats or other animals; compulsive behavior; urine spraying; inappropriate urination; panic disorder; and fearful behavior.

Fluoxetine is classified as a selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It blocks the receptors in the brain from taking up and removing serotonin, which allows for a higher serotonin level.

Serotonin helps modulate mood and behavior. Increased amounts of serotonin in the brain can help decrease anxiety and reduce reactivity and impulsive behavior.

This medication takes 4-6 weeks to take effect and must be given once daily.

It’s typically dispensed in tablet form and needs to be cut into the appropriate size for cats. It can be compounded by specialty pharmacies into flavored, chewable tablets, capsules, or flavored liquids.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite

Most of the side effects improve after the first 1-2 weeks. If your cat’s appetite is affected, this medication should be discontinued and replaced by an alternative.

Paroxetine

Indications: Generalized anxiety (moderate to severe anxiety), aggression directed towards people or other cats, compulsive behavior, urine spraying, inappropriate urination, and fearful behavior.

Paroxetine is another SSRI that increases the amount of serotonin in the brain. It’s a good alternative for cats that become agitated or have decreased appetite on fluoxetine. It is less sedating compared to fluoxetine.

This medication takes 4-6 weeks to take effect. It must be given once daily and should not be abruptly discontinued.

This medication should be used with caution in cats with heart disease.

It’s typically dispensed in tablet form and needs to be cut to the appropriate size for cats. It can be compounded by specialty pharmacies into flavored chewable tablets, capsules, or flavored liquids.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty urinating

Sertraline

Indications: Generalized anxiety (mild to moderate anxiety), inappropriate elimination, and fearful behavior.

This SSRI takes 4-6 weeks to take full effect. It must be given once daily and should not be abruptly discontinued.

This medication typically needs to be compounded by specialty pharmacies into flavored chewable tablets, capsules, or flavored liquids.

The smallest tablet is too large even when cut into quarter tablets.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Agitation
  • Decreased appetite

However, this medication is less likely to cause side effects compared to the other SSRIs.

Clomipramine

Indications: Generalized anxiety (moderate to severe anxiety); aggression directed towards people, cats, or other animals; compulsive behavior; urine spraying; inappropriate urination; panic disorder; and fearful behavior.

Clompiramine is a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) that modulates serotonin and norepinephrine receptors to reduce anxiety and aggressive behavior.

This medication takes 4-6 weeks to take effect. It must be given once daily and should not be abruptly discontinued.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased appetite

This medication should be used with caution in cats with heart disease.

Buspirone

Indications: Generalized anxiety (mild to moderate anxiety), and fearful behavior.

Buspirone is classified as an azapirone, which works on the serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain.

This medication takes 4-6 weeks to take effect. It must be given once daily and should not be abruptly discontinued.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Sedation
  • Increased affection towards the owner and increased confidence

Some cats that are picked on by other cats in the household may appear more confident and defend themselves instead of running away.

Alprazolam

Indications: Anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, and fear.

This medication is classified as a benzodiazepine, which promotes GABA activity in the brain.

This short-acting medication takes effect in 30 minutes. It can be given every 8-12 hours. Tolerance and dependency may occur if this medication is given daily. Slow weaning off the medication is needed if the cat has been on this medication for a prolonged period of time.

Alprazolam must be used with caution in cats with aggressive behavior. It may reduce the cat’s inhibition, which might lead them to display more aggressive behavior.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Increased appetite
  • Paradoxical excitement
  • Disinhibition of aggressive behavior

Lorazepam

Indications: Anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, and fear.

This is another benzodiazepine.

That means it’s a short-acting medication that takes effect in 30 minutes. It can be given every 12 hours. Tolerance and dependency may occur if this medication is given daily. Slow weaning off the medication is needed if the cat has been on this medication for a prolonged period of time.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Increased appetite
  • Paradoxical excitement
  • Disinhibition of aggressive behavior

This medication must be used with caution in cats with aggressive behavior.

Oxazepam

Indications: Anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, and fear.

Oxazepam is another benzodiazepine, which means it’s a short-acting medication that takes effect in 30 minutes. It can be given every 24 hours. Tolerance and dependency may occur if this medication is given daily. Slow weaning off the medication is needed if the cat has been on this medication for a prolonged period of time.

This medication must be used with caution in cats with aggressive behavior.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Increased appetite
  • Paradoxical excitement
  • Disinhibition of aggressive behavior

Trazodone

Indications: Anxiety and aggression.

This medication is classified as a serotonin-2A antagonist reuptake inhibitor.

This is a short-acting medication that takes effect in 60-90 minutes and lasts about 8-12 hours.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation

Gabapentin

Indications: Anxiety and aggression.

Gabapentin is classified as an anticonvulsant. It works on calcium ion channels in the brain to reduce excitement. Avoid the use of human oral solution since it contains xylitol.

This is a short-acting medication that takes effect in 60-90 minutes and lasts about 8-12 hours.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Agitation

By: Dr. Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB

 

Is Your Cat’s Diarrhea a Cause for Concern?

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

Generally speaking, when it comes to digestive upsets in pets, dogs tend to have lower gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and diarrhea, while cats are more prone to upper GI tract issues and vomiting. However, as anyone who has ever scooped unformed poop from a litterbox can attest — kitties can and do develop diarrhea sometimes.

Types of Diarrhea in Cats

When veterinarians set out to diagnose a feline patient with diarrhea, they generally put the problem into one of two categories based on where in the intestinal tract the loose stool is originating — either the small bowel or the large bowel.

If the problem is with the small bowel, the diarrhea is often large in volume, watery, and occurs with increased frequency. When a kitty’s diarrhea originates in the large bowel, it will more typically be small in volume, semi-formed, and may contain mucus. There’s often also increased frequency and straining to go.

Some feline diseases with diarrhea as a symptom involve both the small and large bowel, and in addition, a cat can start out with small bowel diarrhea that subsequently causes secondary irritation of the large bowel.

Blood in the stool can be a feature of both types of diarrhea. Dark, tarry stools indicate the presence of digested blood from the stomach or small intestine. Fresh streaks of blood in or on the stool are usually a sign of a large bowel problem. Vomiting along with diarrhea is more often seen in diseases of the small bowel but can also occur with a large bowel problem.

Causes of Diarrhea

The causes of loose stools in cats are numerous and varied, and include:

Dietary indiscretion; ingestion of foreign bodies Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) Pancreatitis
Sudden change in diet Giardia and other parasites Immune-mediated disease
Food allergies Viral and bacterial infections Megacolon
Stress colitis Hyperthyroidism Cancer

If your cat has a one-and-done bout of loose stools that resolves within a day or two, chances are she ate something that disagreed with her (or you gave her milk, which is a common culprit in feline digestive issues) and there’s nothing to worry about.

However, since there are many serious feline diseases that have diarrhea as a symptom, if your kitty is experiencing chronic or recurrent diarrhea, it’s time to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Dehydration is an immediate and potentially life-threatening concern, especially for kittens, petite adult cats, and kitties who are seniors or geriatric, or have a chronic illness. Also, if the diarrhea is accompanied by other signs of illness such as blood in the stool, vomiting, loss of appetite, and/or fever, it’s definitely a sign your pet is ill, and you should seek veterinary care.

I recommend you collect a quarter-size bit of poop on, for example, a stiff piece of cardboard, and slip it into a plastic baggie. Otherwise, your veterinarian may have to manually extract a sample, which will make your already uncomfortable kitty that much more so.

Your vet will probably do bloodwork in addition to evaluating the stool to determine if there’s infection present. He or she should also treat your pet for dehydration if necessary, with IV (intravenous) or SQ (subcutaneous) fluids.

Two fecal tests should be performed. One checks for parasite antigens and/or eggs, and the other checks for bacterial or viral agents that cause diarrhea.

A Too-Fast Dietary Change Is Often the Culprit

In otherwise healthy cats, often it’s a sudden change in diet that triggers a bout of diarrhea, and this is especially true for kitties who eat the same food every day. If you feed your cat the same diet every day for months or years and then suddenly switch to a new food, a case of diarrhea is almost guaranteed.

There’s nothing wrong with the new food, it’s just that kitty’s gut is conditioned to expect only one type of food, which is not ideal, nutritionally or physiologically. Cats fed a varied diet have stronger, more resilient GI tracts and can typically eat different foods regularly without a problem.

After your pet’s stools have returned to normal (I’ll discuss treating diarrhea at home shortly), I recommend you begin varying his diet to include a range of foods with different nutrient contents. This will promote a diversified gut microbiome and make his digestive system strong and resilient.

However, you need to make the transition very slowly, as in, over a period of weeks to months. I recommend starting with 10% new food blended with 90% old food for several days. Watch your cat’s stool and if all seems well, move to 20% new/80% old. Keep watching for stool changes and if none occur, move to 30% new food and 70% old, and so on, until you’re feeding only the new diet.

The process should be slow enough that no bowel changes occur. During the transition period, it’s very important to insure your kitty is eating every day, as cats can’t go without food for long or they risk developing fatty liver disease.

For tips on how to make the transition (especially if kitty is giving you a hard time about the new food), take a look at my videos titled Getting Your Cat to Eat Healthier Food, part 1 and part 2.

Treating Diarrhea at Home

If your cat is otherwise healthy and his behavior is normal, my recommendation is to withhold food — not water, just food — for 12 hours. A short-term fast gives the GI tract a chance for some R&R. Tissues can only heal when they’re resting.

Follow the 12-hour food fast with a bland diet. I recommend cooked, fat-free ground turkey and 100% canned pumpkin. Try starting with an 85-90% turkey/10-15% pumpkin blend. If canned pumpkin isn’t available, you can use fresh, steamed pumpkin or cooked sweet potato. This diet can also be pureed and syringe-fed to kitties that may not feel like eating.

Skip the outdated advice to feed ground beef and rice and go with my recommendation instead. Even lean ground beef is high in fat, which can exacerbate kitty’s tummy troubles, and rice is a starchy, pro-inflammatory carbohydrate that often provides zero nutrition or calories for animals with digestive issues.

Canned 100% pumpkin provides about 80 calories and 7 grams of soluble fiber per cup, compared to 1.2 grams of fiber in a cup of cooked white rice. The soluble fiber in pumpkin coats and soothes the GI tract, and also delays gastric emptying.

When animals have diarrhea, they can lose important electrolytes, including potassium, which puts them at risk of dehydration. Hypokalemia, or low potassium levels, can result in cramping, fatigue, weakness and heart rate irregularities.

Pumpkin happens to be an excellent source of potassium, with 505 milligrams of naturally occurring potassium per cup. Pumpkin is also safer for diabetic pets than rice. And most animals love it, including cats. Feed the bland diet to your pet until the diarrhea resolves. If it doesn’t clear up in about three days, it’s time to call your veterinarian. If at any point your cat becomes lethargic or anorexic, seek medical care immediately.

I also recommend keeping some slippery elm on hand. Slippery elm is a neutral fiber source that works really well to ease episodes of diarrhea. I call it “nature’s Pepto-Bismol” because it reduces GI inflammation and acts as a non-irritating source of fiber to bulk up the stool and slow down GI transit time.

Give your cat about a half a teaspoon or a capsule for each 10 pounds of body weight with every bland meal. I also recommend adding in a good-quality probiotic once the stool starts to firm up.

In addition to slippery elm and probiotics, many pet owners have good luck with herbs such as peppermint, fennel or chamomile. These are especially helpful for the cramping and other uncomfortable GI symptoms that come with diarrhea. Activated charcoal can also help firm the stool if dietary indiscretion is suspected.

There are also several homeopathic remedies that can be very beneficial for intermittent diarrhea depending on your pet’s specific symptoms, including nux vomica, veratrum, podophyllum, arsenicum album and china.

 

 

5 Mistakes Owners Make When Adopting a New Cat

5 Mistakes Owners Make When Adopting a New Cat

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

5 Things to Avoid When Adopting a New Kitten or Cat

1. Don’t make an impulse adoption — Sadly, many pets are acquired on a whim, without thought or preparation. Your heart may be in the right place, but unless you’re prepared to invest the time, effort and money necessary to properly care for a cat for her lifetime, things can go south in a hurry.

In those cases, and there are far too many of them, the kitty is the inevitable loser. Shelters are full of pets that were the result of an impulse purchase or adoption.

Questions to ask yourself: “Can I afford to properly care for a cat?” “Is anyone in the family allergic to cats?” “Does my landlord allow them?” And, “Do I have the time available to give her the attention and care she needs and deserves for the next twenty years?”

2. Don’t assume your current cat will welcome a new feline housemate — It’s crucially important to plan ahead if you already have a kitty and want to add another to the household. Some cats with no history together can learn to get along or at least tolerate each other over time, but there are situations in which it’s just too dangerous or stressful to keep two poorly matched pets under the same roof.

Unfortunately, bringing a new cat into a home with an existing cat is often one of those situations. Give some thought to how your current cat might react to a new cat. If in the past he’s shown aggression or fear around other kitties, you could be setting the stage for a problem.

It’s a good idea to try to match the temperament and energy level of a new cat with that of your existing cat to improve the chances the two will get along. If things don’t go well initially, I encourage you to consult with an animal behavior specialist before throwing in the towel on adopting a second cat.

Often, it just takes some time and a few helpful tips to put an existing pet and a new one on the road to a harmonious relationship.

3. Don’t wait till your new cat is home to stock up on pet supplies — Purchase most of the pet supplies you’ll need before you bring the new kitty home. These include items such as a leash, harness, collar, ID tag, toys, scratching posts, litter and litterbox.

I strongly recommend you keep your new cat on the same food she’s been eating, and wait to transition to a better diet (if necessary) after she’s all settled in. It’s important to realize that change, whether good or bad, gets translated as stress in your kitty’s body.

Kittens, in particular, experience a lot of stress because often they’re being separated from their mom and littermates for the first time. They’re also changing environments, which can mean new allergens that can affect their immune systems.

Your new pet has a brand-new family, humans and perhaps other four-legged members as well. The last thing her body needs at this particular time is a brand-new diet that might cause gastrointestinal problems. That’s why I recommend purchasing whatever food your pet is currently eating, and then slowly move her to a better-quality diet if that’s your goal.

4. Don’t overlook the need to pet-proof your home — This is something you should do before bringing your new fluffy friend home with you. You might not think of every last detail beforehand, but at a minimum, you should move cords out of reach, as well as plants.

If you have children, you can involve them by having them get down on the floor to take a cat’s eye view of all the temptations your new pet might want to investigate. Pick up anything that has dropped on the floor that could pose a temptation or hazard.

Pet-proofing your home before your new kitten or adult cat arrives is the best way to prevent a choking, vomiting, diarrhea or other crisis during those important first few weeks as a new pet parent. For more information and some great tips, read 10 Ways to Kitten-Proof Your Home.

5. Don’t rush introductions and don’t leave your new cat alone with other pets until you’re sure everyone gets along — If possible, take a few days off from work to properly welcome your new kitty home. It will take some time for him to get acclimated to his new environment and daily routine.

The more time you’re able to spend with him giving him lots of positive attention, building trust and teaching him the routines in his new home and life, the better the outcome for both of you.

I recommend separating your new arrival from the rest of the household in a little bed-and-breakfast setup of his own for at least a week. This will help him get acclimated on his own terms, which is the way cat’s prefer things.

Kitties are very sensitive to new environments, sounds, tastes, smells and so forth — and they’re very easily stressed by any change in their lives. Put his litterbox, food and toys in his private room and keep noise, confusion and visitors to a minimum.

Introduce other members of the household one at a time. Ideally, this takes place in a neutral space after the new cat has ventured out on his own to investigate. Meet-and-greets should be done in a calm, quiet, low-stress environment so as not to scare or further stress the new kitty.

It’s also important that the new kitty not have free rein in your home before you’re completely confident he is safe in the new environment, and that both he and your other pets are safe in terms of interacting with each other in your absence.

Don’t ever leave a new pet unattended with existing pets until you’re very sure the new arrival has acclimated to the other animals and vice versa.

 

A First-Timer’s Guide to Caring for a Cat

A First-Timer’s Guide to Caring for a Cat

By Cindy Aldridge

 

As it was once so succinctly put, “Everybody wants to be a cat, because a cat’s the only cat who knows where it’s at.” Although being a cat may be out of our reach, having one might just be the next best thing. If you’re preparing for your first cat, you’re in for an exciting journey. Cats are curious creatures, and they’ll spark plenty of joy and laughter for years to come. Here are some tips for getting your first cat and making it feel at home.

 

Choosing a Cat

 

Your first step is figuring out what kind of cat you want to adopt. A first-time cat owner might be tempted to pick up a kitten, but that’s probably not the best call. Kittens are cute, but they’re also very high energy and tons of work. Moreover, it’s pretty impossible to tell what a kitten’s adult personality will be like, so a young cat is more of a gamble.

 

An adult cat, however, is more mature and settled. When you meet them, you can get a good sense of how cuddly or distant they’ll be, what kind of play they’ll like, and generally what you can expect from them. This will help you find a cat that suits your lifestyle. Cat personalities run the gamut from high-energy hunters to lazy lumps, from lap cats to the look-don’t-touch variety. Spend some time with different cats in the shelter to get a sense for who you click with best.

 

Gearing Up

 

You’ll need some supplies to help your cat feel at home. In addition to the basics — food, bowls, litter box, etc. — you’ll want to get some extras for your new pal. Cats love to go into small, cozy spaces, especially when they’re in an unfamiliar environment. A cat bed, from fancy self-warming models to the old-fashioned types, will give them a safe space to chill out while they adjust, and to nap once they’ve settled in.

 

Another great gift you can give your cat is a cat tree. These are tall structures with lots of levels of seating, usually made of a nice, scratch-safe material. Think of these as kitty jungle gyms. They’ll give your cat the chance to climb, jump, scratch, and lounge.

 

Finally, get plenty of different toys to ensure you’re satisfying your cat’s hunting instincts. Even the laziest cat will need playtime. Not only does this keep them physically healthy, it also helps reduce feline anxiety and aggression. Without playtime to work out energy and instincts, cats can be prone to biting, poor litter box etiquette, and other destructive behaviors.

 

Your New Roommate

 

It’s important to have the right expectations when you bring your new pet home. Cats have instincts of both predator and prey creatures, and they tend to be skittish in new environments. Many people barely see their cats for the first few days or even weeks after they’ve brought them home. This is okay! Your kitty needs time to adjust and feel safe around you.

 

The best thing you can do during this period is to give your cat distance and let them come to you. It may take some time, but being patient will pay off. By following your cat’s cues and allowing them to define the relationship, you send off signals that say “I’m safe!” Earning your cat’s trust will allow a positive relationship to blossom. Before you know it, you’ll be getting plenty of head boops and slow blinks — sure signs that your cat is in love.

 

Cats are great pets. When you get your first one, it may take you a little while to understand their style of communication and learn their personality. Once you do, however, you’ll see why so many people are obsessed with these wonderful creatures.

 

How to Measure Your Cat’s Pain Just by Looking at Her Face

How to Measure Your Cat’s Pain Just by Looking at Her Face

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

When it comes to determining if your cat is in pain, the struggle is real — for both of you. As almost any cat parent can tell you, our feline friends are masterful at keeping their illnesses, aches and pains hidden from us.

This is by design, because while cats in the wild are accomplished hunters, smaller wildcats are also prey for larger animals. Showing illness, pain, or any vulnerability in that setting invites predation. That’s why your cat, and all cats, are wired to appear “normal” while dealing with significant illness or discomfort.

To complicate things further, since kitties tend to hide or keep to themselves when they’re not feeling well, it’s easy to misinterpret or simply overlook signs your furry family member is hurting.

The good news is that researchers are hard at work trying to solve this frustrating puzzle by developing tools both veterinarians and pet parents can use to decipher the body postures and behaviors most commonly seen in painful cats.

Interpreting Changes in Feline Facial Expressions as a Measure of Pain

A brand-new pain measurement tool for use with cats is the Feline Grimace Scale (FGS), which was recently validated, and the results published in the journal Scientific Reports.1

To develop the scale, researchers at the University of Montreal conducted an observational, case-control study of 31 privately owned cats in pain and 20 pain-free control cats. The kitties were videotaped undisturbed in their cages, and the researchers assessed their facial expressions using screenshots from the videos.

Next, two observers independently compared screenshots of the two groups of cats (painful and pain-free) to evaluate differences in facial expressions. The researchers then categorized, tested, and scored five “facial action units” (ears, eyes, muzzle, whiskers, head) that signal pain in cats:2

  • Ear position — Ears facing forward, ears slightly pulled apart, or ears flattened and rotated outward
  • Orbital tightening — Eyes opened, eyes partially opened, or eyes squinted
  • Muzzle tension — Muzzle relaxed (round), muzzle mildly tense, or muzzle tense (elliptical)
  • Whisker position — Whiskers loose and curved, whiskers slightly curved or straight, or whiskers straight and moving forward
  • Head position — Head above the shoulder line, head aligned with the shoulder line, or head below the shoulder line or tilted

Each facial action unit receives a score of 0, 1, or 2. A score of 0 indicates absence of pain in the facial action unit, 1 is moderate appearance of pain or uncertainty, and 2 is obvious appearance of pain. The maximum total score is 10; a total score of 4 or more means the cat is in pain and needs analgesia. You can see images of cats in which pain was absent, moderately present, or markedly present here.

The FGS was designed primarily for use by veterinarians, but the developers are working to validate its use with other veterinary care professionals as well as pet parents.

Your Cat’s Behavior Is Also a Window to His Pain

A 2016 study headed up by researchers at the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln in the U.K. investigated signs of pain in cats.3 Signs of feline pain are primarily behavior-related, which is why I always encourage cat guardians to observe kitty’s behavior for signs of a problem.

The U.K. researchers surveyed an international panel of 19 veterinary experts across a variety of disciplines. The experts were first asked to list disorders they considered to be consistently, inherently painful in cats. Next, they were asked to evaluate pain-related behavior in cats according to the following criteria:

  • Presence of the behavior in acute and/or chronic conditions and/or conditions not known to be painful
  • Reliability of the behavior as an indicator of pain
  • The likelihood the behavior would be present in a cat who is experiencing a low level of pain
  • The likelihood the behavior would be present in a cat who is experiencing a high level of pain

Based on survey results, the researchers identified 25 signs considered sufficient to indicate pain. However, no single sign of the 25 was considered necessary for a cat to actually be in pain.

25 Signs Your Cat Is Hurting

The 25 behavioral signs considered by veterinary experts to be reliable and sensitive for the assessment of pain in cats, across a range of different clinical conditions” are:

Lameness Hunched-up posture
Difficulty jumping Shifting of weight
Abnormal gait Licking a particular body region
Reluctance to move Lower head posture
Reaction to palpation Blepharospasm (eyelid contraction)
Withdrawn or hiding Change in form of feeding behavior
Absence of grooming Avoiding bright areas
Playing less Growling
Appetite decrease Groaning
Overall activity decrease Eyes closed
Less rubbing toward people Straining to urinate
General mood Tail flicking
Temperament

The researchers concluded:

“These results improve our knowledge of this topic, but further studies are necessary in order to evaluate their validity and clinical feasibility (especially in relation to different intensities of pain) to help vets and caregivers of cats recognize pain in this species effectively and as early as possible to maximise cat welfare.”

Another Pain Measurement Tool: The Feline Musculoskeletal Pain Index

Cats suspected of suffering with musculoskeletal pain are much easier to evaluate in their own homes vs. a veterinary clinic, because they’re less stressed and more likely to move around. The Feline Musculoskeletal Pain Index (FMPI) is designed to be used not only by veterinary staff, but more importantly, by cat owners.

“Using language accessible to cat owners, the questionnaire asks a series of simple questions about movement, behavior, sleep and mood,” writes feline practitioner Dr. Elizabeth Colleran.

“Pain associated with bones, joints and muscles results in compensatory behavior alterations that can be seen by a caregiver who’s known the cat for a period of time. A score is attached to the completed form which is used to evaluate the degree to which the cat has changed over time.”4

If you’re interested in the FMPI, visit PainFreeCats.org. The questionnaire can be downloaded or filled out online and repeated over time to see how your cat is progressing. It’s also important to discuss the results with your veterinarian. Since your cat’s health will naturally change over his lifetime, the FMPI can help you track trends, identify patterns of behavior, and make adjustments to his treatment protocol as necessary.

The Importance of Managing Your Cat’s Pain

As your kitty’s primary advocate, it’s important to realize that pain is a serious medical problem requiring treatment. Chronic pain can cause inactivity and loss of overall quality of life. It can also damage the bond you share with your cat if her personality or behavior changes or she becomes aggressive.

In addition, when pain isn’t managed effectively, it can progress from what we call adaptive pain — pain caused by a specific injury or condition — to pain that is maladaptive. Maladaptive pain can be of much longer duration than normal pain and considerably more challenging to treat. One of the best ways to avoid “pain wind up” from the beginning is to effectively address pain immediately.

I regularly see clients who are fearful of using appropriate pain drugs immediately after surgery (usually Buprenorphine) and opt instead for natural support. In my opinion, even the most potent herbs and nutraceuticals won’t address moderate to profound pain to the degree necessary to be considered humane, post-surgery.

After the patient’s pain is well managed on appropriate pharmaceuticals, the vast majority of cats can be weaned onto all-natural protocols (or a blended protocol including a reduced amount of pain killers) that do a great job of handling mild to moderate pain.

Alternative Approaches to Pain Management

Since felines are physiologically very unique, there are few effective pharmacologic agents that can be safely given long-term to control the pain of chronic conditions like arthritis.

Fortunately, there are a number of alternative therapies that can alleviate your kitty’s pain naturally, including chiropractic, therapeutic massage, stretching exercises, acupuncture, laser therapy, and the Assisi loop, which is a form of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy.

There are supplements that can be added to an arthritic cat’s diet to provide the raw materials for cartilage repair and maintenance and slow down progression of the disease. These include glucosamine sulfate, methylsulfonyl­me­thane (MSM), and eggshell membrane.

If your cat is overweight, it’s important to safely diet her down to a healthy weight to decrease the amount of inflammation in her body, since inflammation is a primary feature in all types of pain. It’s also important to feed an anti-inflammatory diet, which means eliminating pro-inflammatory foods that create inflammation and make the pain cycle worse.

Eliminate all grains in your cat’s diet, as well as foods in the nightshade family, such as potatoes, which are found in most grain-free cat foods. Grain-free processed diets aren’t carbohydrate-free, and carbs create an inflammatory response in cats.

Homeopathic remedies and nutraceuticals often work wonders for cats dealing with chronic pain, as does cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Many kitties also tolerate turmeric and omega-3 fatty acids, Esterified Fatty Acid Complex (EFAC), as well as boswellia added to their food, all of which help naturally reduce inflammation.

I recommend working with a integrative veterinarian to determine how to best treat chronic pain conditions in cats.