Other Animal-Related Links
We thought you might like to know more about the problems associated with a cat who stops eating,
FATTY LIVER SYNDROME
What is the Fatty Liver Syndrome, and how does a cat get it? The feline Fatty Liver Syndrome (FLS) is also known as feline hepatic lipidosis. This disease is peculiar to cats and is one of the most common liver diseases seen in cats.
The typical cat with the FLS has recently gone through a period of anorexia (not eating). The chances of the FLS occurring are greater if the cat was obese before the anorexia began. As fat is broken down to supply nutrients for the anorectic cat, the fat is deposited so rapidly in the liver that it cannot be processed. It becomes stored in and around the liver cells, resulting in liver failure. The cat often becomes icteric or jaundiced as evidenced by a yellow color in the whites of the eyes or in the skin. At this point, the disease will be fatal if not treated rapidly and aggressively.
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosis of the FLS is made from blood tests for liver function and from a liver biopsy or aspirate. The latter involves inserting a very tiny needle through the skin and into the liver, removing a small number of liver cells, and examining those cells under the microscope. The FLS cat will have a large amount of fat in and among the liver cells. Generally, other tests are then performed to determine why the cat quit eating. If the cause for anorexia is treatable or resolved, the prognosis is reasonably good.
Is this a treatable disease?
This disease is very treatable, but treatment of the FLS requires that the cat receive nutritional support until the appetite returns. A consistently high quality diet will allow the liver to resume functioning so it may remove the fat. This does not occur quickly; it takes an average of 6-7 weeks. Therefore, a method of force feeding must be used to allow you to feed your cat at home.
How do I provide the necessary nutritional support?
Several routes are available for feeding the cat. We have chosen to use the esophagostomy tube which is a small rubber tube that enters through the cat's skin in the neck. It goes into the esophagus so that food can be delivered to the stomach. It does not go into the stomach because of complications that can arise.
A special food mixture, listed below, is syringed through the tube three to five times per day. This food is formulated to meet the cat's nutritional needs; it should not cause vomiting or diarrhea. To feed your cat, follow these steps:
When is the tube removed?
Persistence is essential. The average cat requires 6-7 weeks of feeding before it begins to eat. At least once weekly, offer your cat a small amount of its favorite food so that you will know when its appetite returns. The esophagostomy tube will not hinder chewing or swallowing. After your cat has been eating well for 3-4 days, it should be returned to the hospital for tube removal. Removal of the tube is simple and does not require anesthesia; however, you should not attempt to remove the tube yourself.
CAN CATS GET ACNE?
Acne is not just a problem reserved for teenagers. It may sound strange, but did you know that your cat can get acne also? -- although it may be a greater embarrassment to a teenager than to cat. How do you know if your cat has acne, and what can you do if he does?
Feline acne is common in cats of all ages. The symptoms are similar to human acne. Pores become clogged with an oily substance caused sebum, and inflammation results. But unlike human acne, feline acne can present itself in cats of all ages. The acne generally manifests itself on a cat's chin. It often begins as tiny "plugs" of dark material -- i.e., blackheads -- around the hair shafts of the chin and lower lip, which do not bother the cat, although he may also develop little bumps with some swelling and possibly some hair loss. It's easier to notice acne on cats with short, light-colored coats -- the area will take on a darker, dirty appearance.
There is no specific cause for feline acne, and some cats will have the condition for life. One common cause of feline acne is thought to be a hypersensitivity reaction to plastic bowls. If you cat eats out of an old plastic bowls, the bacteria can collect in scratches and grooves, reinfecting your cat with each meal. The bacteria can also be passed to other cats in the house. If you're using a plastic bowl, replace it with a glass, porcelain or metal bowl. If you're already using a porcelain bowl, try switching to a metal bowl, or vice-versa. If you still want to use plastic bowls, replace them regularly, and thoroughly wash and disinfect the bowls after each meal.
If you do suspect that your cat has acne, don't try to treat the area yourself with human over-the-counter products. Your cat's skin is more sensitive than human skin, and if your cat happens to ingest any of the product, he could become ill. Take your cat to the veterinarian. He will be able to diagnose the situation and suggest a cleansing routine. In some cases, just as with humans, the area can become infected, resulting in swollen pustules that require draining or blisters around the mouth. At this point, your veterinarian will need to prescribe antibiotics. Clavamox, taken orally, is often recommended.
The easiest form of treatment is simply keeping the area clean. Two or three times daily, clean the area with warm water and a pet-safe shampoo (your veterinarian will be able to recommend a good one). If your cat is calm and will let you examine his chin, use a warm compress on the area, and then GENTLY remove the plugs with your fingernails. Some cats will let you do this, while others will flee as soon as you get near them. Once you have washed the area, swab it with a cotton ball or wipe soaked in peroxide. Your veterinarian can also supply you with a benzoyl peroxide gel, which normally will relieve the problem.
While the symptoms of acne can often be controlled with appropriate topical or oral medications, maintenance treatments may be needed to keep the symptoms from recurring. Even though the appearance of acne has disappeared, continue to clean your cat's chin daily. Don't worry. In most cases, acne is neither painful nor harmful. It's a bit unsightly, but that's it.
NATIONAL ADOPT A SHELTER CAT MONTH
Each spring, shelters across the nation are inundated with kittens. In an effort to bring awareness to this situation, June is National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month.
Did you know:
A recent study by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, published in the July issue of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, lists the top 10 reasons why people relinquish cats to shelters:
YOU CAN'T DECLAW WITH LOVE
The decision to declaw your cat is very controversial. There are those who say that when the surgery is performed properly, the cat is OK once he is through the healing stage. But most animal welfare organizations, and many veterinarians, are speaking out against this surgery. This procedure is even illegal in United Kingdom and many other countries. And with the variety of available alternatives, such as Soft Paws vinyl nail caps or behavior modification classes, declawing should only be considered as a final option to euthanasia.
The claw of a cat is similar to the last phalanx, or bone, or a human finger or toe. Declawing ? onychectomy -- is the surgical removal of these bones from the cats' forepaws (most cases involve declawing only the forepaws, although some people choose to have all four paws declawed). The cat is given a general anesthetic, and the amputation of the nail is accomplished with a guillotine nail cutter, which cuts across the first joint and may also involve the footpad. The feet are then tightly bandaged for two to three days to prevent hemorrhaging. If the bandages are put on too tightly, the foot may become gangrenous, necessitating amputation; often, when the bandages are removed, the cat will begin to hemorrhage, requiring re-bandaging.
A less invasive, and less common, procedure, called tenotomy or deep digital flexor tendonectomy, sometimes is done, where the tendons controlling the claws are severed without removing the claws.
Many cats suffer from complications after surgery. Obviously, for the next few weeks, his paws will be so tender that his ability to walk and jump will be drastically impaired. Some cats have been known to actually walk on their hind legs to avoid using their painful forepaws.
Physical complications include partial regrowth of the nail due to the fact that the entire nail bed was not removed, disfigurement of the feet, lameness and "sequestrum." If a cat's nail is brittle or the trimmer is dull, the bone may shatter, creating a sequestrum, which serves as a focus for infection and continuous drainage from the toe. It can only be corrected by a second surgical procedure.
A 1994 study by the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine found that of 163 cats who were declawed, 50 percent had one or more complications immediately after surgery. Of the 121 cats whose progress was followed after surgery, 20 percent had continued complications, such as infection, bone protrusion into the pad of the paw and prolonged intermittent lameness and abnormal stance (standing posture).
One of the most common behavior problems that arise after declawing is the refusal to use the litterbox. The cat may associate the pain in her paws to scratching in the litter box and begin to use the box inconsistently or not at all. Ninety percent of cats with litter box problems-after ruling out medical conditions-are declawed.
Some cats will undergo a profound personality change upon being declawed. Frequently, the cat becomes distrustful of his owner and/or veterinarian. He may become extremely time or unusually aggressive, and a declawed cat is more apt to bite if he feels threatened -- his teeth are now his only defense.
If you absolutely feel as though you would like a declawed cat, adopt one who has already been declawed from your local shelter. There are thousands of declawed cats waiting for loving homes.
Any person who enters my house can automatically tell that I'm a cat owner. No, it's not the layer of white hair covering all of the furniture and the floors. It's the fact that all of my houseplants are plastic. Yes, I have a cat who is addicted to plants. He will go to any length to obtain the plants, which he immediately destroys. I once thought that if I got specific types of plants, he would avoid them. I knew that certain plants were cat magnets, such as Spider plants and ferns. So, in my naivete, I brought home a giant Aloe plant -- the diameter of the planter was about 18 inches and the plant stood just as tall. Within a week, there was nothing left but dirt. Every day I would come home to find chewed-up bits of aloe all around the house. My cat would literally sit contently in the middle of the planter and chew on the plant, like a cow chewing its cud.
This same cat also has also scaled 10-foot shelves to reach a hanging philodendron. And once, my husband brought home blue-dyed daisies. Unwittingly, we left the flowers in a vase on top of a bookshelf. When we returned home, there was nothing but sticks in the vase, and a white cat with blue lips in the middle of the foyer. We didn't catch him in the act, but the evidence was pretty clear.
Why are some cats addicted to plants, while others seem to have no interest in them? The only plant my second cat is even mildly interested in is catnip. As most cat owners will attest, cats often like to chew and eat plants. Outdoor cats have the luxury of munching on grass and other garden vegetation. Why they do this is not clear -- they could be instinctively searching for vitamins and minerals lacking in their diets, or they could be taking advantage of the emetic qualities plants have on the feline digestive tract; they often vomit after eating plants, which may help eliminate substances such as hairballs and worms. Or, they simply may like the taste, texture and smell.
Whatever reason cats have for wanting to go "vegan," the behavior can be annoying to owners who want to cultivate beautiful window gardens, or it can even be dangerous -- there are a variety of plants, both indoor and outdoor, that can prove fatal to cats.
How can you protect your plants from your cat and your cat from your plants?
FERAL CAT COLONIES
Now that spring has arrived, more and more cats will be taking to the outdoors. Many of these cats are housecats who, after a day of hunting and relaxing in the sun, will return to a loving home and nutritious food. But for many cats, there is no home. These strays will often form groups, not only for protection, but for breeding and socialization.
Stray cats are those cats who have, at one time, lived in human homes. While surviving on their own has caused their wild instincts to surface, if trapped, they can be re-socialized. It is the next generation of these cats that we must worry about -- feral cats.
Feral cats are those cats who have truly become wild, and the older the generation, the more wild they become. According to Alley Cat Allies, a nonprofit organization dedicated to nonlethal management of feral cats, there are more than one hundred million feral cats in the United States alone. And if we don't help them, they will continue to multiply, as well as suffer. One unspayed female cat and her unspayed female offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years.
It is very difficult for those of us who love cats to see feral cats and not want to help. The easiest thing for us to do is to leave food and water out in the hopes of helping these animals survive. But are we really helping them if that is all we do? Not really. By feeding these cats without reducing their numbers, you only ensure that the feral cat problem will get worse, not better.
There is also the thought that euthanizing these cats will eliminate the problem. Not only is that an inhumane answer to the problem, it doesn't work -- if the current cat colony is limited, new cats will move in to take their place. The best solution is humane management of a feral cat colony. In addition to providing adequate shelter and food for these animals, proper management includes ensuring that there will not be any new generations of these animals.
Proper management of a feral cat colony is a long-term, year-round responsibility and should not be undertaken lightly. Are you up to the challenge? If so, here are some guidelines to follow.
Feral Cat Resources
RECOGNIZING URINARY EMERGENCIES
Last week my cat suffered a potentially deadly problem. I had just arrived at work, when my husband called me in a panic. He had to leave for his job (which he was unable to be absent from), and our 3-year-old male cat was urinating blood. Could I please come home right away?
Luckily, I work for an animal welfare organization and was able to leave immediately. Chuck was not in any pain, but upon examining him, I could tell that he was uncomfortable. He would lie on his side with his rear legs spread apart, obviously to relieve the pressure on his bladder.
I rushed him to the veterinarian, who, a few hours and hundreds of dollar later, determined that Chuck had was suffering from feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD or FUS). X-rays showed that although his bladder was full, there were no stones or blockage, and simple antibiotics could alleviate the problem.
We were lucky. If left untreated, FLUTD can lead to dangerous elevations of potassium, which can cause heart problems and death within a short amount of time.
While there are some behavioral symptoms of FLUTD, they vary depending on the cat, and some cats may show no initial symptoms and simply become very ill. Looking back, Chuck did exhibit a few minor signs, but we were not aware of their meaning. For about two days before I took him to the vet, he was lethargic (which I attributed to the extreme heat in our apartment), he was not scratching as much in the litter box (Chuck is one of those cats who tries to dig for China in the litter box-I was just grateful for a few nights of sleep), and he was constantly licking at his genitals (at least, more than he normally does).
These are not obvious signs of FLUTD. He did not cry in pain when I picked him up, and his appetite was still strong. The changes in Chuck were so subtle that if my husband had not noticed the small amount of blood, Chuck could have suffered tremendously.
Following are some signs of FLUTD to watch for. As always, if your cat exhibits any of these signs, see your veterinarian for an examination.
Knowing your cat's litter habits is important. The slightest change could mean serious problems. Sometimes it could be as simple as needing to change the litter, but other times it could be something like FLUTD.
Also, male cats are affected more than females, and due to their genetic weaknesses, white cats are affected even more. Chuck is pure white.
FLUTD does not appear to be caused by an infection and may be related to a dietary mineral imbalance, urine too high in pH or an inherent predisposing factor. Prescription diets can help prevent recurrences, and if the problem becomes severe, a surgical procedure called a perineal urethrostomy, which shortens, straightens and widens the cat's urethra, may be necessary.
Winter Weather Tips
Although the recent warm weather makes the season feel like spring, winter's frosty bite, which many people across the nation are already feeling, can have devastating effects on cats. Following is a list of safety tips to help you and your feline companion avoid cold-weather dangers.
As you celebrate the holidays, it's important to keep your cat safe from the many dangers that are specific to this season. Here are some helpful hints:
Planning to avoid hazards should be part of the usual holiday preparation.
KITTY TRAVEL BY PLANE -- PART 1
It is possible for your cat to ride safely on an airplane if you plan ahead, follow the rules, and are prepared to be a little pushy on your cat's behalf. In addition to federal regulations, each airline has its own regulations, so check the individual air carrier's rules before booking a flight for you and your cat. It is ideal if the cat can ride in the cabin of the airplane with you where he will never leave your care during the course of the trip. Not all airlines allow animals to travel in the cabin and others allow no more than two cats in the cabin per flight on a "first come, first served" basis, so it is important to make these arrangements far in advance of your departure date. The cat's carrier must be able to fit under the seat and the bottom should be lined with an absorbent material in case of accidents. ("Puppy pads" are made of the same material as disposable diapers and are excellent for this purpose.) Be prepared to present a veterinarian-signed health certificate dated no more than ten days before the scheduled flight. If the cat is riding with you, let the person sitting next to you know that you have a cat, just in case they have allergies or phobias.
If your cat cannot travel in the cabin with you, it will ride in the baggage hold. Although this compartment is pressurized and the extremes of temperature are regulated, it is still a good idea to travel during the coolest part of the day in the summer--the early morning or late evening. Choose a non-stop flight and request that your cat be hand-carried to and from the plane. Make sure your USDA-approved shipping crate is marked with contact persons at both the departure and arrival sites and has sturdy handles that won't come off during handling. Make sure all the bolts securing the halves of the carrier are in place and tightened. Your pet should be wearing an identification tag on an elastic collar. If the trip is longer than six hours, you will want to have dry food and ice cubes in untippable dishes in the carrier.
Be sure to talk directly to the freight handling personnel at the airport. Make the staff check and report back. (Most pet fatalities occur on the ground, when animals are left in their crates on the hot tarmac or in stifling cargo holds.)
Be aware that there are regulations regarding the range of temperatures when a pet may be shipped. If the temperature on the ground in your departing, connecting, or arriving city falls outside these limits, you may run into unexpected delays or cancellations. It is also wise to avoid peak travel times around holidays when air traffic is heaviest.
It is generally better not to have your cat tranquilized before flying. The combination of high altitude and limited oxygen is a challenge your pet's body is better prepared to meet if he is not sedated.
The Air Transport Association has a free booklet, Air Travel for Your Dog or Cat. It is available by sending a self-addressed, stamped, business-sized envelope to: ATA, 1301 Pennsylvania Blvd. N.W., Suite 1100, Washington, D.C. 20004.
KITTY TRAVEL BY PLANE -- PART 2
These unique ideas on how to keep your cat safe while flying are published in the book, 277 Secrets Your Cat Wants You to Know by Paulette Cooper and Paul Noble. They are recommendations from Bud Brownhill of Anaheim, California, the chairman of DO-IT, a pet travel advisory organization.
Choosing the Right Cat for Your Family PART 1
"There is no more important a decision than the decision to adopt and assume the responsibility for another life. That decision carries an obligation to nurture that life--to give it love--to care for it." -- Roger Caras, ASPCA
Before adopting a cat, consider carefully the commitment you are making. Indoor cats generally live to be 15-20 years old. Be honest with yourself. Is your living situation stable enough to accommodate a pet for this period of time? Animal shelters are filled with pets that were surrendered because the owners had to move and couldn't take their pets with them. It is difficult to find good homes for adult cats.
There are also financial considerations... it is estimated that the cost of care for one cat for 1 year is $500+. It is unfair to the cat to take it into the family for awhile, only to give it up when there is not enough money to pay for food, litter, or vet bills.
There is a time commitment. Cats are often portrayed as low-maintenance pets requiring little time and little attention. The truth is that cats are the most intelligent of all our domestic animals and they need a stimulating environment in which to thrive. They also form emotional attachments to their owners and can suffer separation anxiety when the owner is away. Bored and lonely cats manifest their unhappiness and stress in a variety of ways such as over-grooming (licking their fur off), over-eating, destructive scratching problems, house soiling, and depression.
A thoughtfully considered decision to adopt a cat or kitten can result in a long-term, mutually rewarding relationship, but an unwise, spur-of-the-moment decision spells h-e-a-r-t-b-r-e-a-k for family and feline.
Everybody loves kittens! They're adorable--soft and fluffy, adventuresome and playful, comical and crazy. They are irresistible, but a kitten may not be the right choice for you. Even long-time cat owners sometimes forget that having a kitten in the house is much like inviting a toddler to live with you. Suddenly your home becomes a feline Disneyland.
From the kitten's point-of-view, everything is created for his enjoyment. Curtains are made for climbing (as are legs--with or without pants), cords and wires are made for batting at and chewing on, everything is meant for tasting, and moving targets (including feet and ankles) are made for pouncing on and biting. Does adopting a kitten still sound like fun?
If the answer is affirmative and you are willing to kitten-proof your house, then a kitten may be a good choice for you. The kitten will be healthier and happier if he has a playmate, so get two! Believe it or not, there will be less wear and tear on your house and on you if your kitten has a friend to chase around. Kittens that enjoy playing with each other quickly learn to control their playful aggression. Bite too hard and you lose your playmate--a valuable lesson and one that you will appreciate when they get their grown-up teeth.
The goofy kitten stage is short-lived, at six months Kitty is looking like, and acting in many ways like, an adult. For some people the best idea is to bypass the kitten stage all together and to adopt an adult.
If there is an elderly person living in your home or a child under the age of five, an adult cat, rather than a kitten, is the better choice for your family. Kittens have a way of getting under foot and their playful attacks can easily pierce the skin of a senior citizen. They learn to retract their claws and to inhibit their biting as they mature, but until that time, Grandma and Junior can sustain considerable damage.
Small children can pose a substantial threat to the health and well being of the kitten as well. Naturally children want to pick up and hold the only living creature that they've met that is smaller than they are. When the kitten squirms to get away, they squeeze harder to keep the kitten in their arms. The kitten may sustain internal injuries and the child may be bitten or scratched. Constant supervision is necessary to prevent such tragedies.
Families with small children would be better off selecting an adult, neutered male with a laid-back personality for their family pet. Males generally tolerate handling better than females and if the cat is over 18 months old, the personality and temperament are already well established-"what you see is what you get". Often pet owners adopt a friendly, cuddly, kitten only to discover that as the youngster matures, the personality may also change (due to the influence of the father's genes).
In a survey conducted by the Massachusetts SPCA, 40% of the respondents chose not to adopt an older pet because they felt that it couldn't be trained. This is an unfortunate misconception because many older pets are already well socialized and have had some good training. Even those who haven't can be very responsive to behavior modification techniques.
If you already have a resident cat it is important to take this cat's personality and activity level into consideration before selecting a feline companion. If you are too casual about this important decision, your house may become a war zone. Keep the following guidelines in mind when selecting your next family member. Remember that they are only guidelines and that there are occasional exceptions to the rule.
Whatever the combination, a slow, systematic introduction process will help to ensure that the resident cat and the newcomer will eventually share the house amicably.
LITTLE MONSTER STILL ATTACKING PLAYFULLY?
First of all, playful attacks are not accompanied by vocalizations-hissing and growling. A natural reaction to being grabbed or bitten, even playfully, is to swat at the cat. Don't do this!
Physical punishment may cause your cat either to fear you or to engage in even rougher play. If your cat becomes afraid of you, you may face a bigger problem--that of defensive aggression. If the attack can be anticipated, a blast of air from a compressed air can (obtained from a photography store), a squirt from a water gun, or the noise of an audible alarm or a shaker can (an empty soda can with pennies in it) may discourage the behavior if produced at the moment of the attack. Timing is everything. If "fired" a second or two after the incident, the deterrent will not be connected with the attack in the cat's mind and no training will take place, although the cat may be frightened and confused. Perhaps the best deterrent is the one that is always at hand--one's voice. A loud and shrill "Eek", followed by a sharp "No!" can be very effective with some cats.
The next step is to shun the cat for the next ten minutes. This means paying absolutely no attention to the cat. Don't lecture or scold the cat and don't pick it up to put it in a separate room. Any attention at this point can be reinforcing, so totally ignore the cat. This is precisely the way a kitten learns to inhibit his biting when playing with another kitten. If one becomes a little too rough, the victim will squeal and run away. The aggressor will watch his playmate run away and wonder what happened. Eventually he learns that if he wants to extend the play session (which he always wants to do), then he will have to be more gentle.
This training method works well--if you are patient and consistent.
We thought readers of FELINE FACTS might enjoy knowing about some of our favorite books.
Cats for Dummies by Gina Spadafori and Paul D. Pion, DVM, DACVIM.
Don't let the title put you off. This book is a great resource for those who have extensive experience with cats as well as for the first-time cat owner. Its detailed index makes it a handy reference book for those who are frequently asked cat-related questions. This fun-to-read book seems to cover every imaginable topic associated with cat ownership. Even those who pride themselves on knowing a lot about cats will learn something from this well-written and informative book.
For those who have an interest in solving feline-posed behavior problems we recommend: The Cat Who Cried for Help by Nicholas Dodman, DVM; Is Your Cat Crazy? by John C. Wright, Ph.D.; and Hiss and Tell by Pam Johnson. All three authors come from very different backgrounds but all describe interesting, and some very unusual, cases they have handled. Nicholas Dodman is a professor of pharmacology at TuftsUniversity School of Veterinary Medicine and director of the Behavior Clinic. Most of his cases are those that come to the clinic. John Wright is also a certified applied animal behaviorist and he mainly makes house calls. Pam Johnson does not have any impressive academic credentials, but her creative and effective solutions to feline behavior problems makes her book worthwhile and very entertaining. All three books provide valuable insights into how to deal with even the most intractable disorders.