Health

Weighing Cats

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Pet scaleHaving lost a beloved cat recently, I have learned how important it is to monitor their weight on a regular basis. Cats don’t often show signs of illness until it is rather serious. However, all three of the cats we’ve lost over the years had lost a significant amount of weight since their last vet visit. It was a slow process and one that we didn’t notice.

We have two cats now. Wayne is a big cat, both in structure and in weight. He’s clocking in at 19 pounds currently. He’s up 1 lb from a few years ago, but should be a few pounds lighter. Liv is underweight at 8 pounds, which is 2 pounds lighter than her healthy weight. Now that we only have two, we’re focusing on getting Liv’s weight up and Wayne’s weight down.

I am now weighing the cats weekly and keeping a spreadsheet with their weights. Monthly is probably a fine interval. There are a couple of ways to weigh your cat.

  1. Use your bathroom scale
    This is the easiest method. Step on the scale holding your cat and record the combined weight. Set your cat down and weigh yourself. Subtract your weight and you will have your cat’s weight.
  2. Get a pet or baby scale
    I bought an infant/toddler scale and now weigh the cats on it. It’s similar to what they use at the vet’s office and the cats tolerate it well. It has a tray to hold the baby and also is a safe area for the cat to sit. They will try to walk off, but both have settled in and now sit while I record their weight.

If your cat needs to lose or gain weight, this will help you monitor the progress. If your cat is a healthy weight, this will help you if he or she starts losing weight unintentionally. You can schedule a vet visit sooner to get ahead of any health problems.

If you are trying to help your cat lose weight, work with your veterinarian. It can be dangerous for cats to lose too much weight too quickly.

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Oh, barf!

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Photo by matuzalems
Photo by matuzalems

 One thing you will quickly learn when sharing your life with a cat is that they throw up on occasion. You’re lucky if it is a rare occurrence. Generally, if it does not happen often and the cat seems fine afterwards with a healthy appetite, it’s nothing to worry about. If you cat is listless or won’t eat, don’t take a chance and take him to the vet to get checked out.

Two of the most common reasons that your cat throws up are  hair balls and eating too fast. Lucian vomits his food up when he has a hair ball that he’s having trouble passing. After a few tries, there is usually a hair ball in the mix of barely digested food. Kiggy used to throw up almost daily in the summer when I lived in apartment that got too hot during the day. There’s nothing like finding a pile of goo in stocking feet or worse bare feet. Blech! One word of advice, if your cat is vomiting don’t pick him up! I did that once with Michi to get her off the carpet. It ended up with me running with a cat who projectile vomited all over the walls. Ewwww

My husband loves the cats but he has a strong gag reflex and has a hard time cleaning up the mess. (Or at least that’s what he claims ;¬) ) His aversion to cat vomit actually helped him come up with a winning method of cleaning up the mess.

Hard Floors

  1. Cover the mess with a paper towel or two. (A nice absorbent towel like Bounty works well.)
  2. Leave it alone and let the towel soak up most of the fluid. (If you have wooden floors, you may want to clean it up sooner so that it doesn’t soak into the wood.)
  3. Grab a plastic grocery bag and place your hand inside.
  4. Scoop up the towels, barf and all and flip the bag around so that the mess is inside. This way you don’t actually have to touch the goo.
  5. Dispose in the trash.
  6. If you have hard floors, you can wipe up any remaining mess with a damp paper towel. Use a little dish soap if your floors are tile or something else that can handle it. With wooden floors you may want to try diluted vinegar. 

Cleaning Carpet

If you have carpet, you can follow steps 1 – 5 above. There will likely still be a stain left behind. Club soda works wonders for getting the stain up. Keep club soda in a clean spray bottle handy. The club soda will remain a good cleaning agent even after the carbonation has gone away.

  1. Remove the bulk of the vomit using the steps above
  2. Spray club soda on the carpet 
  3. Blot the stain with a clean white towel. (Old towels or shop towels work well for this purpose. They don’t need to be white, but it helps to see the stain transferred to the towel.)
  4. Keep spraying and blotting until the stain is gone. You should see the carpet get clean and the towel get dirty. 
  5. Let the carpet dry. It should only be damp so it shouldn’t take long. The club soda will not leave a residue like other carpet cleaners that seem to attract new stains in the future.
  6. Give your cat some hair ball remedy and remind him how lucky he is to have you to clean up after him.

    

Photo by Ocean Yamaha
Photo by Ocean Yamaha

Hairball Prevention 

I’m sure you’ve heard the proverb, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. The best way to not have to clean up cat vomit is to prevent the hairball formation. Cats are great groomers and generally keep themselves very clean. Cats clean themselves by licking their fur. Some of that fur ends up in the cat’s stomach. If your cat has long hair this makes the hairball issue more of a problem. Regular brushing of your cat’s coat will help him shed less and help prevent hairball formation.

You Want To Do What With That Brush?

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It may seem strange to brush a cat’s teeth. They don’t have dental care in the wild. So why would they need good dental hygiene as pets?

A pet cat’s diet is vastly different from a cat who hunts for his food. Eating dry kibble and moist canned food is not the same as crunching little mice bones. While cats do not get cavities, they do develop gingivitis and gum disease on a frequent basis. Your veterinarian can clean the tarter off of your cat’s teeth, but this usually requires that the cat be sedated which has some risks and is expensive.

Not all cats will take to a toothbrush with grace. Most likely, he will wonder why you’ve gone mad and will run away, swat and/or bite. I’ve had good luck with my three, but they are generally good about letting me brush them and trim their claws.

There are special toothbrushes for cats and special toothpaste that they actually like. It is usually flavored with chicken or fish, not minty-fresh like ours. While you can use a child’s toothbrush, never use human toothpaste.

There are some great videos online that will help you get started. Patience, a sense of humor and lots of treats are a must.

Videos

This video shows a veterinarian giving instructions on how to brush a cat’s teeth. We use the same cat toothbrush. It works very well.

Cornell Cat Health Videos

Cornell University has a series of videos showing you how to ease you cat into brushing.

Feeding Fatty

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wayne-on-stool
Wayne waiting for food

If you live in a multi-cat household, you likely have one or more cats who are gluttons when it comes to meal time. We had this problem when we only had two. Kiggy would eat her dinner and then saunter over, push Michi out of the way and finish hers too. At that time, we had a fairly simple solution. We put Michi’s food up on a shelf. Kiggy had trouble jumping up on anything higher than the couch or bed.

When we adopted Liv and Lucian, they could easily jump up and finish Michi’s food for her. We started feeding Michi on the enclosed patio until a raccoon decided to join in. Poor Michi, she was always low kitty on the totem pole.

Now that we have Liv, Lucian and Wayne, it’s now Liv who is the one who gets pushed aside. Lucian usually eats some of his, pushes Wayne out of the way, who then makes a beeline to Liv and finishes her dinner. Unless we stand vigilant or feed her in a separate room, the boys get more than their fair share.

Wayne is a big cat, but he’s also rapidly becoming a fat cat. Feline obesity is a serious problem worldwide. The current consensus is that a dry food diet coupled with a sedentary lifestyle is causing our cats to become chubby. We’ve started feeding them more canned food and switched the dry to a low carb version. The theory is that a cat’s natural diet consists of hunting live food that consists mainly of protein and little carbohydrates. It’s been nicknamed the Catkins diet. It makes sense and seems to be helping.

Cat Feeder with too much food!
Cat Feeder with too much food!

We also realized that they beg for food all through the day when we’re home. We work long hours on most days and they go for a long stretch with no food. We purchased an automatic feeder that has six compartments that rotates at programmed times. Now, while we are gone they get a little dry food at regular intervals. Wayne has lost a little weight and he no longer waits by the door howling to be fed the moment we enter.

Here’s the formula that seems to be working:

  • Canned food (has more protein and water)
  • Low-carbohydrate dry food
  • Feed small portions at more frequent intervals

Cat Scratch Fever

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Biting Cat
Biting Cat

I always thought Cat Scratch Fever was a venereal disease based on the Ted Nugent song and album. I was surprised to find that it is a less salacious disease caused by cat scratches and bites.

If you have lived with cats, you have likely been lightly scratched at times. I usually wash off the scratches, apply a little antiobiotic ointment like Neosporin and they heal up just fine.

Last week, I accidentally closed the tip of Lucian’s tail in a door. He screamed, launched himself at my calf and bit down – hard. I screamed, he ran away, Wayne’s tail puffed out and chaos ensued. After checking to make sure Lucian was okay (we also found a new hiding spot for the cats), I tended to my wounds.

Initially, I thought it was just a deep scratch and washed out the wound with soap and water, applied the Neosporin and bandaged my leg. The wound bled some, but not severely. At the time, I assumed he had just clawed me. That night after checking my leg and tending to the wound, I noticed it looked much more like a bite with four symmetrical puncture wounds that exactly matched his canine teeth. Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Indoors

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Whether or not to keep your cat indoors is a decision you should make before you adopt a cat. A cat who has always lived indoors is much more content at staying inside versus one who has tasted freedom. Most shelters will require that you keep any cat you adopt from them indoors. The reasons for this are numerous.

Safety

Cats are safer indoors. Cats who are allowed to roam outside face dangers on many fronts.

Outdoor cats will often fight to protect their territory. A bite wound often leads to an absess, which is a pus filled pocket below the skin that will require veterinary care. Exposure to other cats who may or may not be vaccinated puts them at risk for many diseases including feline AIDS, distemper, and possibly rabies.

Outdoor cats are also in danger of being hit by a car. Some cats learn the skills to navigate the roadways, but many do not and are seriously injured or killed. Outdoor cats are also in danger from predators. Coyotes have become more daring in suburban and urban locales.

Cats themselves pose a threat to local wildlife, especially songbirds. Some rare songbirds are in danger of extinction from these graceful hunters.

Getting Lost

Cat shelters are full of cats who once had a home. Some were given up by people who could no longer care for them, but many more got lost and could not find their way back home. You often see signs posted, “Lost Cat – Reward” with a photo of a beloved cat who didn’t come home one night. Keeping your cat indoors will help prevent an avoidable loss.

Life Span

On average, an outdoor cat lives to be 4 years old. The average life span of an indoor cat is 14. To me, that is answer enough. I want to have as many years as possible with my furry friends.

Read the rest of this entry »

Choosing a Vet

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Wayne at the Vet

Part of the responsibility in owning a cat is ensuring its good health. Cats are quite good at hiding illness, which is likely a survival instinct. An ill animal is much more likely to get attacked out in the wild. Often any symptoms your cat may show will be subtle until something is acutely wrong.

This is one of the reasons why it is important to find a veterinarian you trust long before you need one. You don’t want to be frantically searching through the yellow pages looking for a veterinarian during a crisis.

What To Look For

  • Proximity
    If your cat does not travel well, you may want to find one close to home. This is not the most important criteria, but something to be considered. Try to lessen the stress on your cat.
  • Friendly Office
    It’s nice to find an office where both the staff and veterinarian not only care about the animals they care for but care about you. A smaller office may be more likely to remember you and your pets. The downside is they may not be open on the weekends or evenings.
  • Someone You Trust
    Take your cat in for a general check up. See how they treat you and your cat. Are they gentle with your cat even if he fusses? Do they push treatment options on you without explaining the necessity? Do you feel comfortable asking questions?
  • After Hours Treatment Options
    Cats always seem to get sick on the weekend or at night when the offices are closed. Does your veterinarian have after hours options, even if it’s a recommended emergency clinic they work closely with?
  • Affordability
    Veterinary care can add up quickly. Is your veterinarian conservative in treatment while still putting medical care first? Do they give you estimates and payment options if treatment is prohibitively expensive?

Conclusion

In general, trust your instincts. Get recommendations from fellow cat lovers and try a few veterinarians out. You will be happy that you have spent the time finding a partner in your cat’s health.