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.

 

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 Got Hot Ears? Here’s why…..

Cat Got Hot Ears?  Here’s why…..

By Melvin Pena as seen in Catster’s magazine

 

Ever thought something along the lines of, “My cat’s ears are hot — is he sick?” Anthropocentric creatures that we are, humans tend to assume, regardless of context, that our own baseline experience of the world is some kind of universal standard, and that any deviation from it is strange, problematic or worrisome. For example, in an idle moment of couch-sitting, you’re petting your beloved cat and start mindlessly fondling the cat’s ears. Suddenly, you’re thinking, “Man, my cat’s ears are hot!” You’ve never really noticed that before, and now those hot cat ears are all you can think about.

Cats are warm creatures. No cat owner or fan of cats would dare to deny it. A cat’s natural body temperature is several degrees hotter than any human’s. Anything up to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (39.2 degrees Celsius) is considered normal. When playing with cat ears, you are bound to make note of the contrast between what you consider normal and what is typical for the cat. So, if you’re sitting here wondering, “My cat’s ears are hot — is it an issue?” let’s take a closer look.

Facts on cat ears and temperature

The first thing to know when thinking, “My cat’s ears are hot” — the temperatures of cat ears fluctuate based on the animal’s surroundings, which is perfectly normal. Unlike most of the surface area of a cat’s body, cat ears tend to be thin and exposed, protected by neither a great deal of fur nor by body fat. Their noses are also notoriously changeable.

During warmer times of the year, vasodilation increases blood flow to these areas, the better to release excess heat from the body. During colder periods, vasoconstriction does the opposite to conserve heat. You may think that indoor cats are subject only to the whims of the thermostat, but any cat perched near a window in the daytime is going experience a temporary hike in both ear and nose temperature.

If we look to colorpoint breeds like the Siamese, we can see that our baseline perception of warmth is very different to that of our cats. For these breeds especially, their experience of heat is written on the body. You may know that the unique coat markings of color-pointed cats are expressions of a form of partial albinism, and that all specimens of these breeds are born with white coats. The patches of color develop as these cats mature, and are darkest at the coolest parts of its body, typically the ears, nose and tail.

Do those warm cat ears mean your cat has a fever?

Some humans might immediately think, “My cat’s ears are hot — does my cat have a fever?” Are cat ears reliable gauges for a cat’s general health? In cats, even a standard fever, from 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit (39.7 degrees Celsius) and upwards, is usually nothing to worry about in the short term. The heat increase experienced during a fever is the body’s natural way of fighting infective agents, like viruses or bacteria, and kickstarts the immune system into action. A cat with a “normal” fever will seek to isolate herself in a cool place — unlikely to be your lap — and remain still with her body splayed out rather than curled up.

If a cat’s ear temperature is a source of concern, feel the stomach and underarms. If they, too, are hot to the touch, the cat may have a fever, since a cat with a true fever will experience increased temperature across the entire body. Seek veterinary attention if you observe extreme total body heat for more than two days consecutively. If this describes your cat’s current conditions, you’ll probably have noticed a number of related signs and symptoms, any of which will be more telling than ear temperature alone.

Related: 4 Cat Ear Problems and How to Treat Them

Most cat owners spend enough time with their cats to be familiar with their routines. Is the cat eating less, or not finishing her food with her normal alacrity? Does her heartbeat seem quicker than usual? Is she not only hot, but also shivering? Any combination of these symptoms points more conclusively to a potentially dangerous health issue.

Hot cat ears and fevers of unknown origin

Fevers caused by viral infections in cats may subside as quickly as they arise. Fevers caused by secondary bacterial infections are usually accompanied by wounds that you can easily observe or can be indicated by unnatural areas of swelling if they are internal.

If your cat has experienced feverish conditions four or more times over the course of two weeks, the cat may have what is referred to as a fever of unknown origin. Make careful note of any and all changes — behavioral, physical and otherwise, including the first time you noticed hot cat ears. That way your vet can begin the difficult process of identifying the problem.

Can temperature signal other cat ear problems?

Wondering, “My cat’s ears are hot — does he have any sort of ear problem?” Where cat ear health is concerned, there are always more obvious signs of disorder and disease than hot cat ears. The most common cat ear issue is otitis externa, or an infection of the outer ear. Cat ear infections are most frequently traced to two sources, ear mites and yeast infections, with mites being the problem in the majority of reported cases.

Ear infections may present with ears that are warmer than normal. But this can be attributed to the cat paying them more attention than usual. Abnormal amounts of scratching at an ear with paws, or intently rubbing them against furniture, will necessarily raise their temperature and cause reddening. Whether the source of the infection is mites or yeast, these microscopic organisms wreak havoc only when conditions are optimal.

Excessive buildup of ear wax reduces ventilation and raises the internal temperature of the ear canal. The pinna, or the outer part of the ear that you see and touch, may become warmer as well, but it is the heat inside that permits mites and fungi to flourish. Symptoms of an ear infection more alarming than warmth include dark-colored discharge and a strange, pungent smell.

Bottom line: Don’t be stressed if you’re thinking, “My cat’s ears are hot!”

Cat ears are fascinating organs. Heavily muscled in spite of their delicate appearance, each is capable of moving and turning independently of the other. Subject to the vicissitudes of their environment, the external temperature of the pinnae varies wildly. A cat can have warm ears one hour and cool ones the next.

If the heat emanating from one or both cat ears is a cause for concern, don’t panic. Look to the whole cat before you call the vet. Discoloration in and around the ear canal can alert you to serious issues, along with marked shifts in behavior and unusual odors.