The Contrasting Communication Styles of Dogs and Cats

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

Dog barks and cat purrs couldn’t sound more different, but they do share one thing in common, which is that they can serve as a form of communication with you, their owner. Your cat may use a special “solicitation purr,” which is more urgent and “less pleasant” than a typical purr, as a tool to get you to feed her.

You may hear the solicitation purr — a low-pitched purr with a high-frequency voiced component that sounds almost like a cry or meow — early in the morning when your cat is hungry.1 Dogs also use barking as an effective form of communication, both with humans and other dogs. Yet, this natural and beneficial vocalization is sometimes perceived as a nuisance, especially if it’s persistent or takes place at inopportune times.

Like cats’ purrs, dogs also use different types of barks in different situations and for different reasons, which you can become more in tune with to develop a deeper bond with your pet.

Different Types of Dog Barks

Generally speaking, dogs use longer, lower frequency barks in response to a stranger approaching and higher pitched barks when they’re isolated.2 Your dog’s voice is also capable of communicating in a variety of nuanced tones beyond barks, including huffs, growls, whines, whimpers, howls and more. Each will be unique to your dog, and if you have multiple dogs, you can probably easily distinguish one dog’s bark from another’s.

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, ranging from distress to trying to attract your attention. The key to understanding why a dog is barking lies in looking at the context, as although dogs make an incredible variety of sounds, comparatively little research has been done to uncover what individual barks mean. Examples of why dogs bark include:3

Excitement — A high-pitched yip or yowl is often a sign that something exciting is happening in your dog’s mind, and may be accompanied by an alert body position, wagging tail, spinning in circles and feet tapping.
Attention — If your dog looks at you and barks, then pauses and barks again (then repeats and repeats again), he’s probably trying to get your attention. He may want food, a belly rub or a game of tug-of-war; he’s trying to tell you something about what he wants.

One word of warning before giving in, especially if your dog is barking for treats — if you give your dog a treat in response to the barking, it will teach him to bark more to get more treats.

Boredom — A bored dog may bark because he’s got nothing better to do, or because he’s trying to get your attention to play with him or take him for a walk. If your dog barks due to boredom, increase his physical activity and provide outlets for mental stimulation.
Fear/Anxiety or Territorial — If a strange dog or person is approaching your home, or your dog feels threatened, he may use defensive barking, which tends to be deep, persistent and may have a growl tone to it as well. A fearful dog will have a low tail, possibly between the legs, and a low head posture, while a territorial dog will have a straight tail and more alert posture.
Stress — Dogs may also bark due to stress, such as due to a change in your household. In this case, consider talking with an animal behavior specialist about desensitization and counter conditioning exercises for a stressed-out pet. Basic obedience training may also help.
Surprise — If you startle your dog, he may let out a single, high-pitched bark because he’s surprised, similar to the way you might say “Oh!” when startled.
Pain — A dog in pain may bark a higher pitched bark with a staccato quality. If your pet does this when you touch him in a certain area or suddenly starts barking at unexpected times of the day or night, it’s time for a trip to your veterinarian.
Canine Dementia — If your dog barks into a corner or a wall, barks unusually at night or in response to nothing, cognitive dysfunction could be behind it. You should have your dog checked out for canine dementia.

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Why Your Cat Purrs

Cat purrs have been described as “opera singing for cats” and involve a neural oscillator sending messages to laryngeal muscles, which causes them to vibrate during inhalation and exhalation, similar to vibrato.4 Domestic cats, some wild cats and other animals, including hyenas, guinea pigs and raccoons, also purr, so why do they do it?

It’s been suggested that purring may have developed to keep cats healthy as they spent long hours silently, and stilly, in wait of prey. Cats purr with a frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz, a sound frequency that is beneficial for improving bone density and healing.5

“Because cats have adapted to conserve energy via long periods of rest and sleep, it is possible that purring is a low energy mechanism that stimulates muscles and bones without a lot of energy,” Scientific American reported.6

Purr frequencies also correspond to vibrational and electrical frequencies used to treat bone fractures, pain, muscle strains, wounds, joint flexibility and more, adding more credence to the theory that purrs may be a form of self-healing.7 While humans often associate the soothing sound of a cat’s purr as a sign that their cat is content, cats also purr when they’re injured or frightened, while they’re in shelters and at the vet.

They may use purrs as a form of stress relief or to calm down, and cats may also use purrs after giving birth to lead their kittens, which are born blind and deaf, toward them.8

Since cats also often purr when they’re cozy on their owner’s lap, getting a good scratch, it could also be a sign of happiness or a way to encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing. Purring is normal and natural in cats, but if your cat is acting unusually, it’s a good idea to contact your veterinarian, even if he’s also purring.

 

3 Summer Safety Tips to Keep Companion Animals Healthy

3 Summer Safety Tips to Keep Companion Animals Healthy

By Ryan Goodchild

Picture of Zoey Heath ( one of Diane’s beloved clients)

 

Pets are a constant source of love, affection, loyalty, and support. So when it comes time to plan some summer fun for your family, you should be sure to include any furry members.

Summer can be a blast for your animal companions, as long as you’re aware of some potential hazards. You can protect your pets, keep them healthy and happy, and focus on fun with these three important summer safety tips every pet parent should know.

Furkids and Summer Fireworks Don’t Mix

 Summer celebrations tend to involve fireworks, which can be pretty scary for your pets. In fact, shelter stats show that more animals are reported missing from July 4-5 than any other days or time of the year. One of the most helpful steps you can take is to update microchip info.

However, you may also want to keep your pets safe by adding a fence to your yard. Fence installation prices average right around $4,500, but this number can vary according to the size of your yard and the sort of materials you prefer. Where you live can also impact pricing.

 

Speaking of location, if you need to find reliable local contractors to install your fence, you should try searching online first. There are plenty of websites that offer reviews and ratings, and you can also use these websites to check whether the pros you’re considering have a license and insurance. With a secure and new fence, you won’t have to stress about letting pets out around holidays.

Beware of Ticks

Now for a summer statistic that will make your skin crawl. Although the warmest months always see a rise in tick populations, entomologists are predicting that this summer will be THE summer of ticks and tick-borne diseases. That’s bad news if you and your pets love the outdoors!

The good news is that protecting yourself and your pets from these creepy crawly pests is pretty easy. If you plan on taking some summer walks in the woods with your furkids, and your area is prone to ticks, consider treating your clothes with a quality repellent. Ask your vet about flea and tick preventatives for your pet to keep them safe on wilderness adventures.

If your pet does bring some ticks home, you should use CDC recommended guidelines to safely remove them and disinfect the affected area. Proper disposal is key since coming into contact with a crushed tick can also spread diseases to you and your furry family members.

Furry Coats Can Leave Pets Prone to Heat Exhaustion

 

Another summer pet hazard to be mindful of? The sun and heat. Because your pets have fur, walking them outside in peak summer temperatures is like you trying to run outside in a thick winter coat. The normal range for a dog’s body temperature is between 100.5 – 102.5 Fahrenheit.

If your pets are active in the sun, heat, and humidity for too long, their temperatures can quickly rise to dangerous levels. Their respiratory rate will elevate as well, which can have severe consequences and even be fatal. Flat-faced or brachycephalic breeds are at an increased risk.

The best thing you can do to prevent deadly heat stroke in your pets is to keep them indoors and cool during hot summer afternoons. If you can’t keep them inside, be sure to provide them with plenty of shade and cool water. You should also know how to cool down overheated pets. Most importantly, never leave your pets in a hot car as death can occur rapidly.

Pets are like family. So be sure to protect yours like family this summer! Watch out for dangers like fireworks, ticks, and extreme temps, and have a happy, healthy season with your furkids.

 

With Diane Weinmann’s guidance and resources, you can communicate with your beloved pet. Be sure to check out her website for more guides like this one and to discover how you can open the door for communication with the animals you love.

 

What Do Cats Recognize and Respond To?

As a veterinarian who has listened to my clients’ perspectives over the past 30 years and a person who has been “owned by cats” since I was 17 years old, I definitely have my thoughts on the answer—and it seems to be very selective.

An interesting article from 2013 affirms that cats do recognize human voices and respond primarily by ear and head movements. They further found that using harmonics and broad pitch were more effective in eliciting that response. They concluded that cats recognize their owners voice specifically by using the voices of three strangers followed by the owner and then another stranger.

Another interesting study from 2017 discussed how we talk to our pets compared to babies using high-pitched voice, simple content and harmonics. The study used “kitten directed speech” that was simple, higher pitched and musical or harmonic. They found that a cat’s hearing range had a wide scale and pitch and that cats may be attentive to human utterances with more variation.

Teaching a Cat to Respond to Voice Commands

One of the strongest variables I see in how responsive cats are to their owner’s voice is whether they are hungry or not. It is well-known among animal trainers that food is a powerful motivator to respond to verbal or audible cues. Common sense says that food, coupled with the owner’s voice, should result in a response at least some of the time.

If you think about cats only really having only two modes, predator or prey, their responses are typically in line with those modes, to seek food or hide. If we can erase any fear of us, the owner, and use food as a reward, they should come to us for food using an audible cue—or even a clicker.

Training a cat to respond to a verbal cue, such as their name, from a young age is very important. Because kittens have a very early human association period that can begin at 17 days old, it is important that kittens are handled and get used to human voice and touch to make sure there is absolutely no fear and they associate us with attention, love and food.

By starting as a kitten, using a harmonic pitch and variation, and possibly a multi-syllable name in association with food rewards, we should get a better response from our beloved felines (which could be anything from an ear twitch to running to us). As cat lovers we know, we simply need to accept graciously whatever they choose to do!

Now, Diane, as an animal communicator, has found that many cats do indeed respond to their names when called.  Her own cat Milo came to her when he was called and when she talked to one client, the cat told her that his owner comes home at night  from work and yells LEEEEOOOOO  when she wants him. (obviously his name is Leo).  It was so cute they way he imitated his owner.

Do cats know their names or recognize our voice in some other way? Although we’ve spent over 10,000 years sharing our time with cats, there’s very little research to determine the answer to this question.

Fortunately, things do seem to be changing a bit as we share even more time and experiences with our favorite felines, and there are a few interesting recent research pieces that says there is evidence that cats may indeed know their names.

By: Ken Lambrecht, DVM comments by Diane Weinmann

 

Why Dogs Respond to Their Names Better Than Cats

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM comments by Diane Weinmann
If you happen to have both a dog and a cat in the family, I’m sure you’re aware of the difference between them when you call them by name. If your canine companion isn’t focused on something more interesting (such as eating), chances are she’ll respond almost immediately when you call her because there could be food or a treat involved, a walk, a nice petting session or something equally delightful.
However, when you say your cat’s name, you probably get a distinctly different response or often, no response at all. Does my cat not recognize his name, you may wonder to yourself, or is he simply ignoring me?
Cats Prefer to Interact With Us on Their Own Terms
Not long ago, a team of university scientists in Tokyo decided to study cats’ ability to understand human voices similar to the way dogs, parrots, apes and dolphins are able to understand certain words. However, compared to those highly social species, “… cats are not so social,” observes lead study author Atsuko Saito, Ph.D., a psychologist at Tokyo’s Sophia University. “Cats interact with us when they want.1
Interestingly, learning more about simple social behaviors in cats such as name recognition may help researchers understand more about how humans became social. According to ScienceDaily:
“Both humans and cats have evolved through the process of self-domestication, where the population rewards certain traits that then become increasingly common in future generations.”2
Past research with cats has revealed they can read human gestures to find hidden food, recognize their human’s voice, and beg for food when someone looks at them and says their name.3 According to Saito, these three behaviors suggest cats may know their names.
“I think many cat owners feel that cats know their names,” Saito told ScienceNews magazine,4 but until now, there was no scientific evidence to back that up.
Cats Probably Know Their Names — Even If They Don’t Respond
The Japanese study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, involved 77 cats living in homes and cat cafes (typically tea or coffee shops where customers can interact with the many cats who live there), and four separate experiments conducted over a three-year period.5 The kitties were from 6 months to 17 years old, of both genders, mostly mixed breeds, mostly spayed or neutered, and all but one lived indoors only.
The researchers recorded their own voices and those of the cats’ owners saying five words — the first four were words that sounded similar to each cat’s name, and the fifth was the actual name. The team also evaluated whether the cats could tell the difference between their own names and those of other cats with whom they lived.
The behavior the researchers were looking for from the cats to indicate they knew their names was no response upon hearing the first four words, and head or ear movement (or rarely, moving their tails or bodies, or vocalizing) upon hearing their own names.
The researchers noted that the cats who had weak responses to similar-sounding words or the names of other cats they lived with were significantly more likely to show a strong response to their own names, even when spoken by someone other than their owner.
Cats living in homes were more likely than cafe cats to distinguish between their own names and the names of cohabitating cats, whereas cafe cats almost always reacted to their own names and those of other cats living there.
Since at cafes the cats’ names are often called together, the researchers theorize it may be more difficult for kitties to associate their own names with positive reinforcement in those environments. According to Saito, cats who didn’t respond to their names may still recognize them.
“Their lack of response may be caused by their low motivation level to interact with humans, or their feelings at the time of the experiment,” she said.6
Saito’s advice to cat parents who want to communicate more with their pets is to “… interact with your cat when she shows that she wants to interact with you.”

Dogs Are Social; Cats Are Independent and Semi-Domesticated
Saito makes the point that unlike cats, dogs “… are literally born to respond to their names.” This is because humans have purposely bred dogs to be obedient and responsive in their interactions with us. Cats, on the other hand, are semi-domesticated. They’re about 20,000 years behind the domestication curve as compared to dogs.
Dogs have other advantages in this arena as well. They’re a social species, whereas felines are independent, preferring to spend much of their time alone. In addition, one of the first things dogs are taught is their name, and training and socializing dogs is easier because unlike most kitties, they’re motivated by treats and other types of rewards.
It wasn’t that long ago that most cats spent most or all of their time outside. Now that more and more feline family members are living indoors exclusively and spending their days and nights in close contact with humans, it’s possible their ability to interpret and respond to our verbal and physical cues will continue to develop. “Social evolution is an ongoing process,” says Saito, and cats are still evolving.
Take home message: When you call your feline family member by the name you so carefully chose for her and receive absolutely no response, make no mistake, she heard you and is simply choosing not to acknowledge you. But she’ll come around eventually, as she always does, on her terms, not yours!
It has been Diane’s experience, with the two cats that she has been blessed to own, that they do respond to their names and come when called. Now, is this because Diane is an animal communicator and was also calling to them in her head—probably, but you too can connect with your pets in your mind when you give them a command. Simply show them or visualize what you are asking them to do in your mind.

Dogs Are Social; Cats Are Independent and Semi-Domesticated
Saito makes the point that unlike cats, dogs “… are literally born to respond to their names.” This is because humans have purposely bred dogs to be obedient and responsive in their interactions with us. Cats, on the other hand, are semi-domesticated. They’re about 20,000 years behind the domestication curve as compared to dogs.
Dogs have other advantages in this arena as well. They’re a social species, whereas felines are independent, preferring to spend much of their time alone. In addition, one of the first things dogs are taught is their name, and training and socializing dogs is easier because unlike most kitties, they’re motivated by treats and other types of rewards.
It wasn’t that long ago that most cats spent most or all of their time outside. Now that more and more feline family members are living indoors exclusively and spending their days and nights in close contact with humans, it’s possible their ability to interpret and respond to our verbal and physical cues will continue to develop. “Social evolution is an ongoing process,” says Saito, and cats are still evolving.
Take home message: When you call your feline family member by the name you so carefully chose for her and receive absolutely no response, make no mistake, she heard you and is simply choosing not to acknowledge you. But she’ll come around eventually, as she always does, on her terms, not yours!
It has been Diane’s experience, with the two cats that she has been blessed to own, that they do respond to their names and come when called. Now, is this because Diane is an animal communicator and was also calling to them in her head—probably, but you too can connect with your pets in your mind when you give them a command. Simply show them or visualize what you are asking them to do in your mind.

Laser pointers and Cats!

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

We’ve all done it … flashed a laser pointer across the floor (and up the wall and onto the ceiling) to see at what lengths our cats will go to catch that little dot of light. But why are cats so obsessed with laser pointers? Let’s look at the science involved to find out why cats love laser pointers and whether or not they’re actually an appropriate toy for our feline friends.
How Cats’ Eyes Differ from Ours
The retina is the structure at the back of the eye that converts light energy into nerve impulses that are sent to the brain to be turned into images of our world. Two types of retinal cells – cones and rods – are found in both human and feline retinas. Broadly speaking, cones are involved with color vision and the ability to focus on and appreciate fine detail while rods are responsible for vision under low light conditions and for the detection of movement.
Humans have more cones than cats do, while cats have more rods than humans do. Therefore, cat eyes are great at picking up movement, even if it is quite dark, but they don’t see details or colors very well. The opposite is true for us (for a neat comparison, check out All Eyes on Paris). In other words, the feline retina (and other parts of the eye as well) is perfectly designed to maximize the chances of catching quickly moving prey at dusk and dawn when cats most like to hunt.
What does this mean with regards to cats and laser pointers? First of all, because of their relatively poor color vision, the color of the laser pointer shouldn’t matter to your cat. This is particularly true since the contrast of the bright laser against the comparatively dark background is so intense.
Stimulating a Predatory Response
Though the color of the laser pointer doesn’t matter, what is alluring to your cat is the way that you make that bright dot of light move. When it darts here, then pauses, and then dashes over there, you are mimicking the actions of prey animals, which cats find hard to ignore. This type of movement stimulates the predatory sequence – stalk, pounce, kill and eat – that is hardwired into our cats even though their survival no longer depends on a successful hunt.
Did you notice that laser pointers only satisfy the first two steps in the predatory sequence – stalk and pounce – while leaving the desire to kill and eat unfulfilled? For some cats, this isn’t a problem. They’ll happily chase that little dot of light around for a while and then walk away unperturbed, but other cats seem to get agitated after taking the laser pointer on for a round or two. The inability to ever truly be successful is probably why.
If you are worried that your cat is frustrated by chasing a laser pointer, try switching to a different type of game that allows your cat act out more of the predatory sequence. Kitty fishing poles that that let you flick a stuffed mouse or feathers across the floor, into the air and onto the couch will provide your cat with the opportunity to stalk, pounce and eventually kill (or at least bite and claw) their “prey.” Toss out a few treats at the end of the game or give your cat a food dispensing ball to chase around for a while, and playtime should end on a satisfying note for everyone.

We’ve all done it … flashed a laser pointer across the floor (and up the wall and onto the ceiling) to see at what lengths our cats will go to catch that little dot of light. But why are cats so obsessed with laser pointers? Let’s look at the science involved to find out why cats love laser pointers and whether or not they’re actually an appropriate toy for our feline friends.
How Cats’ Eyes Differ from Ours
The retina is the structure at the back of the eye that converts light energy into nerve impulses that are sent to the brain to be turned into images of our world. Two types of retinal cells – cones and rods – are found in both human and feline retinas. Broadly speaking, cones are involved with color vision and the ability to focus on and appreciate fine detail while rods are responsible for vision under low light conditions and for the detection of movement.
Humans have more cones than cats do, while cats have more rods than humans do. Therefore, cat eyes are great at picking up movement, even if it is quite dark, but they don’t see details or colors very well. The opposite is true for us (for a neat comparison, check out All Eyes on Paris). In other words, the feline retina (and other parts of the eye as well) is perfectly designed to maximize the chances of catching quickly moving prey at dusk and dawn when cats most like to hunt.
What does this mean with regards to cats and laser pointers? First of all, because of their relatively poor color vision, the color of the laser pointer shouldn’t matter to your cat. This is particularly true since the contrast of the bright laser against the comparatively dark background is so intense.
Stimulating a Predatory Response
Though the color of the laser pointer doesn’t matter, what is alluring to your cat is the way that you make that bright dot of light move. When it darts here, then pauses, and then dashes over there, you are mimicking the actions of prey animals, which cats find hard to ignore. This type of movement stimulates the predatory sequence – stalk, pounce, kill and eat – that is hardwired into our cats even though their survival no longer depends on a successful hunt.
Did you notice that laser pointers only satisfy the first two steps in the predatory sequence – stalk and pounce – while leaving the desire to kill and eat unfulfilled? For some cats, this isn’t a problem. They’ll happily chase that little dot of light around for a while and then walk away unperturbed, but other cats seem to get agitated after taking the laser pointer on for a round or two. The inability to ever truly be successful is probably why.
If you are worried that your cat is frustrated by chasing a laser pointer, try switching to a different type of game that allows your cat act out more of the predatory sequence. Kitty fishing poles that that let you flick a stuffed mouse or feathers across the floor, into the air and onto the couch will provide your cat with the opportunity to stalk, pounce and eventually kill (or at least bite and claw) their “prey.” Toss out a few treats at the end of the game or give your cat a food dispensing ball to chase around for a while, and playtime should end on a satisfying note for everyone.

What to Feed a Cat With a Sensitive Stomach

By Liz Bales, DVM

 

Does your cat have a sensitive stomach? Do they consistently vomit or cough up hairballs? Believe it or not, hairballs aren’t normal for cats; their bodies are made to pass the hair that they ingest from grooming.

So these could be signs that your cat is sensitive to something in their food.

Gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances are commonly caused by poorly digestible foods, food allergies or food additives/flavorings/preservatives.

Many times, a diet that’s formulated to address your cat’s sensitive stomach can ease and even resolve the problem. But it’s important to not immediately jump to changing your cat’s diet without getting your vet’s input.

Here’s what you should do if your cat has a sensitive stomach and how you can help them find the right diet.

Talk With Your Veterinarian to Rule Out Other Medical Issues

Vomiting can be a sign of many different illnesses, not just a sensitivity to food. And coughing up a hairball can look very similar to general coughing and sneezing in a cat—which could actually be signs of feline asthma.

If your cat is vomiting food or hairballs once a month or more, or is also losing weight, a veterinary visit is recommended.

You should also try to get a video of your cat when they are exhibiting these behaviors so that your veterinarian can see what you see at home.

At the vet’s office, your veterinarian will check for clues as to what is causing the stomach upset. They may recommend diagnostic tests like blood work, X-rays or an ultrasound to find the cause of the GI upset.

By ruling out other medical issues, you can make sure they get right medical treatments for any underlying issues.

How to Find the Best Food for Your Cat’s Sensitive Stomach

Once you’ve dealt with any other health issues, you can work with your vet to figure out the best food for your cat’s sensitive stomach.

Your vet will be able to guide you towards foods that fit your cat’s nutritional requirements, while you can narrow it down by your cat’s food preferences to find the perfect match.

Here are some options your vet might suggest for finding a food for your cat’s sensitive stomach.

Start With a Diet Trial

Once your cat gets a clean bill of health from the veterinarian, a diet trial is the logical next step. Diet trials are a way to narrow down your cat’s food options until you find a food that suits their sensitive stomach.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” diet for every cat. Your cat will have an individual response to each diet. So, work with your veterinarian to find the most suitable food for your cat’s needs.

It can take up to three or four months for your cat to clear the old diet from their system so that you can completely evaluate the new diet.

What to Look For in the New Diet

The best foods for a cat with a sensitive stomach will be highly digestible and contain no irritating ingredients. Highly digestible diets have moderate to low fat, moderate protein and moderate carbohydrates.

Many of these diets have additives that improve intestinal health, like soluble fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and increased levels of antioxidant vitamins, and they contain no gluten, lactose, food coloring or preservatives.

Try a Hypoallergenic Diet

Cats can experience food allergies that cause gastrointestinal upset. Of all the components of the diet, the protein source is the most likely to cause food allergies.

Your cat can be allergic to any protein that they have been exposed to. For example, rabbit and chicken may both cause a food allergy. But, if your cat has never eaten rabbit before, their immune system hasn’t been sensitized to it, and they are unlikely to be allergic to it.

Some studies show that beef, chicken and fish are the most likely to cause allergies. The best cat food for helping cats dealing with food sensitivities for certain protein allergies are hypoallergenic diets.

Types of Hypoallergenic Diets for Cats

There are three main types of hypoallergenic diets:

  • Limited ingredient
  • Veterinary prescription food with a novel protein
  • Hydrolyzed protein

Limited ingredient diets typically contain only one protein source and one carbohydrate source, and they can be purchased without a prescription, like Natural Balance L.I.D. Chicken & Green Pea Formula grain-free canned cat food. However, these diets are not regulated to ensure that they don’t have cross-contamination.

For more highly allergic cats, veterinary prescription diets with novel animal proteins contain a single-source protein and are produced in a facility that prevents cross-contamination.

Hydrolyzed protein diets, which also require a veterinary prescription, break down the protein to a size that’s less likely to be recognized by the immune system, like Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein HP dry cat food.

Try Simply Changing the Form of Cat Food

Your cat’s stomach sensitivity may improve by just changing the type of food that you feed.

For example, if your cat is experiencing stomach sensitivity on dry food, it is reasonable to try a low-carb, higher-protein canned food diet, like Royal Canin Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie canned cat food or Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Formula canned cat food.

Likewise, if you are feeding wet food, you may do a trial of a dry food diet with a dry food like Royal Canin Sensitive Digestion dry cat food.

Try a Different Feeding Routine

Cats that eat large meals are more likely to vomit very soon after eating—tongue-in-cheek, we call this “scarf and barf.”

With a stomach the size of a ping-pong ball, cats, in particular, are physiologically and anatomically designed to eat small, frequent meals. They are designed to hunt, catch and play with many small meals a day. Eating one large bowl of food a day can lead to frequent regurgitation.

In general, small, frequent meals are best. This results in less gastric retention of food and increases the amount of food that is digested and absorbed.

You can recreate this natural feeding behavior with the award-winning, veterinary recommended Doc & Phoebe’s indoor hunting cat feeder kit.

Instead of filling the bowl twice a day, use the portion filler to put the food into each of the three mice and hide them around the house. This natural feeding style provides portion control, activity and stress reduction that has shown to decrease or eliminate vomiting.

By: Dr. Elizabeth Bales, DVM

 

At What Age Are Cats Fully Grown?

Reviewed for accuracy on September 30, 2019, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM as seen in PetMD

 

When a child finally turns 18 years old, they are generally considered to be an adult.

But what about our feline family members? At what age are cats fully grown? How do you know when to start feeding them adult cat food?

Your cat will hit several different milestones that signify that she’s becoming an adult cat, but there’s no one magic age where a cat stops growing and maturing.

Although there’s no definitive age, there are general age ranges where most cats generally stop growing and reach adulthood. Here’s what you can expect as your cat makes that transition.

When Do Kittens Stop Growing?

“Kittens usually stop growing at approximately 12 months of age,” says Dr. Nicole Fulcher, assistant director of the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America, although they still may have some filling out to do. “A 12-month-old kitten is equivalent to a 15-year-old person. They are considered full-grown at 18 months of age—which is equivalent to a 21-year-old person.”

Even though many cats stop growing at 12 months, not all cats are done growing at this age. But if they are still growing, it will be at a much slower rate, generally from 12-18 months, so you can expect your cat to be very close to their full adult size at this point. But there may be some cats that can take up to 2 years to be fully grown.

Large breeds, in particular, can take longer. Maine Coons, for instance, might not reach their full size until they are 2 years old or so.

Milestones for Growing Cats

Here are some important milestones for kittens as they become adult cats:

  • Months 3-4: Baby teeth start to fall out and are replaced by adult teeth; this process is usually complete by 6 months of age.
  • Months 4-9: Kittens go through sexual maturation.
  • Months 9-12: A kitten is almost fully grown.
  • 1 year+: Kittens are just reaching adulthood.
  • 2 years+: Kittens are socially and behaviorally mature.

When Should I Feed My Kitten Adult Cat Food?

The right time to transition your cat from kitten to adult food is dependent on many factors. For most cats, around 10-12 months of age is appropriate.

However, a young Maine Coon who is struggling to keep weight on could probably benefit from remaining on kitten food until they are 2 years old or even longer. On the other hand, a kitten who is maturing quickly and becoming overweight on kitten food might benefit from switching at around 8 months of age.

Ask your veterinarian when your cat is ready to make sure you are meeting her nutritional needs.

How Often Should You Feed Kittens?

Most kittens should be fed free-choice until they are around 6 months old because of their high energy requirements.

“From 6 months to a year, an owner can feed three times a day,” says Dr. Jim Carlson, owner of the Riverside Animal Clinic, located outside of Chicago.

After a year, offering meals two times a day will work for most cats, but more frequent, smaller meals may continue to be beneficial for others.

By: Deidre Grieves

 

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.

 

6 Tips for Caring for Senior Cats

6 Tips for Caring for Senior Cats

As seen in PetMD and Reviewed for accuracy on November 18, 2019, by Dr. Liz Bales, VMD

With good care—and good luck—our cats can live well into their late teens, and even their twenties. But as cats age, their physical and behavioral needs change.  

While these changes are obvious as your kitten matures into an adult cat, the changes when your cat transitions from an adult to a senior—starting at 11 years old—can be harder to spot. 

Here are the top six ways to care for aging cats.

1. Pay Extra Attention to Your Senior Cat’s Diet

Senior cats have unique dietary and behavioral needs. It is more important than ever for your cat to be a healthy weight to maintain optimum health. 

Talk to your veterinarian about how and when to transition your cat to a senior food. 

Your veterinarian will help you asses your cat’s optimum weight and can recommend a senior food to help maintain, lose or gain weight.

A cat’s digestion is also improved by feeding them small, frequent meals throughout the day and night. Measure your cat’s daily food and distribute it in small portions.

You can use tools like hunting feeders, like Doc & Phoebe’s Cat Co. Indoor Cat Feeder Kit, and puzzle toys that promote physical and mental engagement at mealtime.

2. Increase Your Cat’s Access to Water

As cats age, they are prone to constipation and kidney disease, especially if they are not staying hydrated enough.

Increase your senior cat’s water intake by providing canned food and more options for drinking water.

As your cat gets older, they might not be able to jump up on to counters or access the usual water dish. Add more water stations around the house with plenty of bowls and/or pet water fountains to entice your senior cat to drink more.

3. Know and Keep an Eye Out for the Subtle Signs of Pain in Cats

Cats are masters at hiding their pain. As many as nine out of 10 senior cats show evidence of arthritis when X-rayed, yet most of us with senior cats have no idea.

The most important thing you can do to prevent the pain from arthritis is to keep your cat at healthy weight. As little as a pound or two of excess weight can significantly increase the pain of sore joints. 

Your veterinarian can help you with a long-term plan to help control your cat’s pain with medicine, supplements and alternative treatments, like acupuncture, physical therapy and laser treatments

4. Don’t Neglect Your Cat’s Dental Health

Dental disease is very common in aging cats. Cats can get painful holes in their teeth, broken teeth, gum disease and oral tumors that significantly affect their quality of life.

Infections in the mouth enter the bloodstream and can slowly affect the liver, kidneys and heart. So paying attention to your cat’s dental health is essential to caring for them during their senior years.

Often, there is no clear sign of dental disease. Cat parents see weight loss and a poor hair coat as the vague signs of aging, not an indication of a potential problem.

A thorough veterinary exam and routine dental care can drastically improve your cat’s quality of life, and can even extend their lifespan. 

5. Give Senior Cats Daily Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Environmental enrichment is an essential part of your cat’s quality of life.

All cats need places to climb, places to hide, things to scratch, and ways to hunt and play. All of these things will help your cat stay physically and mentally stimulated as well as healthy.

However, as your cat ages, providing these things may require some extra thought. Your cat’s mobility may become more limited, so you will need to make your home more accessible so that it’s easier on their older joints.

For example, a carpeted cat ramp can act as a scratching post as well as a climbing aid for cats with arthritis. A covered cat bed can give aging cats a cozy, warm place to hide that also helps to soothe sore joints and muscles. You can move their food and water bowls to more accessible locations on the ground instead of on tables or counters.

6. Don’t Skimp on Biannual Vet Visits

Finally, and most importantly, maintaining a good relationship with your veterinarian is critical when discussing care and quality of life for your cat in their senior years. Ideally, cats over 11 years of age should see the veterinarian every six months.

Blood work done during these visits can detect the onset of health issues—like kidney disease—while there’s still time to make medical changes that will improve and extend your cat’s life.

Weighing your cat twice a year will also show trends in weight loss or gain that can be valuable clues to overall health changes. And oral exams will detect dental disease before it negatively impacts your cat’s health.

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.