Common Mistakes to Avoid Making as a Cat Parent

On our recent summer vacation, my wife and I met a lot of animal lovers, strangers, and relatives included. It was mostly a discussion on the happiness pets brings to our lives, how each is different, and an odd medical opinion on their pet. We were fairly taken aback when one of our relatives mentioned to my wife (also a veterinarian) that she had given her injured kitten Rosie, a dose Diclofenac (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) to help with pain management. We both got progressively more concerned as she went on to tell us that the kitten has been very tired and had inappetance (she wasn’t eating) since.

Very quickly, our primary concern had become the dose of diclofenac, and what potential damage it may have caused to her kidneys. Was Rosie not acting lively due to discomfort from pain or was it due to adverse effects of human painkillers given to cats? Did you know that indiscriminate use of pain medications have huge potential to cause GI ulcers, kidney damage and blood abnormalities in cats?

This episode helped reiterate the fact that there are so many things we may do (or not do!) for our pets that are actually harmful to them, without realizing the true potential of it. Thankfully, Rosie did very well within a few days of rehydrating her body and a lot of loving care from her family.

Following is a list of some other common mistakes to avoid as a cat parent:

  1. Leaving stringy toys and hairbands unmonitored in the house – can cause cats to accidentally swallow them and lead to serious intestinal obstructions.
  2. Using leftover antibiotics from before – is never ok, as you may not know the adequate dose or length of course needed. Also, as different antibiotics target different bugs it may not be a good antibiotic choice. Such indiscriminate use can lead to resistant infections and nasty superbugs.
  3. Allowing an outdoor lifestyle, without taking precautions for outdoor hazards such as fleas, worms, and viral infections (feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus) – be sure to keep your outdoor cat up to date on outdoor cat vaccines, deworming, and monthly flea prevention year-round.
  4. Feeding dry food (kibble) exclusively – this was considered ideal for cats till a few years back, but it is now recognized that a large portion of a cats’ diet should be canned or soft moist food.
  5. Believing that cats are not perturbed by environmental changes – on the contrary, cats are very sensitive to changes in their routine or environment. We should always consider and pursue environmental enrichment for these sensitive critters when it is time for a move, introduction of a new pet, upcoming childbirth, etc.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Clinic, Burnaby.

5 Reasons Why Cats Make Great Pets

There are five major reasons that make cats the first choice as a great pet for many, many people! When you are looking to adopt a new pet, consider your lifestyle and the characteristics of cats when going through the adoption process. Rest assured, cats make wonderful pets and can adapt to almost any situation!

1. Cats are Loving Companions

Forget what you’ve heard about cats being so independent that they don’t love their owners and don’t need attention—it is simply not true.

Cats love to be held and petted, and are very loyal. They will let you know that their lives revolve around you and many cats run to the door to greet their owners when they come home. They follow you around and sleep near you if you are busy—they may even try to sleep on the keyboard of your computer while you are trying to work and on your bed while you are sleeping!

Their independence is a wonderful characteristic for many reasons. It certainly does not prevent them from showing their love and appreciation for their owners. This marvelous characteristic of cats allows them to respond to affection to the same degree that it is offered to them.

2. Cats are Low Maintenance

Cats are not only inexpensive to adopt, but also they are much less expensive to maintain than dogs, and it requires very little work to look after them:

  • They are easily entertained, even with only an empty cardboard box, meaning you don’t need as many toys for playtime.
  • There is no long, grueling housetraining to worry about as there is with dogs. Cats can be trained to use a litter box within a couple of days or so. There will be no accidents unless kitty is ill. You don’t have to take cats out for walks in the rain, sleet, and snow, and you don’t have to get out of bed early in the morning to take them outside when they must heed the call of nature.
  • Depending on their breed and age, you don’t have to bathe a cat with water or worry too much about your pet’s cleanliness. Cats are incessant self-groomers. Even as kittens they take care of bathing all by themselves. They will still need your help to groom knots and tangles out of their fur however, as well as provide them with regular oral care.
  • You don’t have to worry or stress about a cat when you leave for work or go out in the evening. Cats are self-sufficient and there will be no worrisome whimpering or loud cries to disturb the neighbours when they are left on their own. Adult cats sleep about 15 hours a day. Your absence simply means a longer nap time for them.
  • As long as they have access to food, water, and a litter box, you can even leave your cat for a day or two if it’s really needed.

3. Cats Keep You Healthy

The companionship of a cat helps create health and happiness in your household:

  • Children who have a cat at home learn responsibility and empathy. Cats thrive in homes with children and will help them cope with unhappiness and loneliness.
  • Cats also help adults deal with stress and unhappiness. Studies show that cats notice when their owners are sad or worried, so they’ll often rub against their cat parents more aggressively and purr more loudly to comfort them when they sense their human is anxious. (Also, cats are so cute they cheer you up just by being around!)
  • Purring is considered by many people to be downright therapeutic. You can find online videos of cats purring used by people who find the soothing purrs help them fall asleep.
  • Research shows that owning a cat lowers a person’s blood pressure and reduces stress, which lessens the possibility of suffering a stroke or a heart attack by older owners and for people who are ill.

4. Cats Can Be Trained (Or Not)

Cats can be trained and have good memories. You don’t have to train cats to be quiet because they are quiet. They don’t create a loud ruckus when the doorbell rings, or when someone outside walks by the door, or when left on their own. All of these makes them ideal pets for apartment owners and for anyone living in a quiet neighbourhood.

It’s a good idea to train your cat to come when you call their name, which is especially important if you have an outdoor cat that likes to wander out of your yard and out of sight. Cats can also be trained to scratch a scratching post rather than your furniture, and to stay off of food preparation and eating areas such as counters and tables. You can train a dog to obey with a clicker and treats; you can train a cat the same way.

Make sure everyone in the household is on board with your training program and it will go much faster and more easily.

5. Many Miscellaneous Benefits

The following advantages of cat ownership may not fit into any particular category, but cat owners appreciate them:

  • Cats hate bugs and spiders as much as you do! These critter problems disappear when you bring a cat into your home (if there are too many critters to find, however, you should call an exterminator).
  • Cats usually dislike travelling, but they are easy to transport when you have to take them to the veterinarian or if you need to move to a new home. Purchase carriers for them and away you go! You can also walk a cat using a collar and leash, which is very nice if you have an indoor cat and live near a busy street or in a rural area with lots of natural cat enemies. Kitty can get some fresh air while staying safely by your side.
  • It is heartbreaking to lose a pet. That’s why it is comforting to know that cats have reasonably long life spans so you can expect them to live longer than most dogs do.
  • During the darker and colder seasons, it’s seriously wonderful to have a warm cat cuddled up on your lap or wrapped around your neck.
  • A cat will love to play with you, but not for so long that you become bored. They don’t show any disappointment when you have had enough and want to stop.

If you want a pet that is easy to care for, gentle with children, enjoys playing but sleeps a lot, and is good for your health and disposition, adopt a cat. Cats make great pets; you won’t be disappointed!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

How to Have a Great Summer With Your Cat

As the weather gets warmer, seasonal care for cats is needed. There is a way to plan a summer of fun with your cat and ensure they are safe, healthy, and happy! To do that you will need to know the seasonal conditions worth preparing for. You can also check out activities to keep you and your kitty entertained.

If your cat is an outdoor one, it’s crucial you anticipate and prepare for the risks that exist whenever he or she goes out to play. Even if he or she is an indoor cat, there is the possibility it may decide to stop lazing about and rush outside when an unscreened door opens or when an open window invites it to find freedom.

Outside Risks

Ideally, it’s best to raise your cat as an indoor one so that the risks of being outside can be avoided altogether. However, if your cat insists on enjoying the warm weather outside and there’s little to no traffic around, prepare yourself and your cat for the call of the wild:

  • Teach it its name. Use its name often and always when you call to it for dinner. Cats can be hyper aware of the sound of dinner preparations—the noise of the can opener, the crinkle of the dry food bag, and the clatter of silverware tapped against their food bowl—so you should call his or her name whenever you go to get food so he or she connects the name with the pleasure of eating. Also, call him or her at various times and have a treat in your hand. He or she’ll catch on so when he or she is outside and hears his or her name being called, he or she’ll probably come.
  • Make sure your cat has received the vaccinations he or she needs such as rabies and de-worming preventatives so he or she can play outside without risk.
  • Equip your cat with an ID collar. If he or she has not had preventative flea treatment from his or her veterinarian, get treatment right away and then put the ID on an easily detachable collar. If he or she gets lost, anyone who finds him or her can contact you, and the collar will prevent your kitty from being caught in a dangerous situation.
  • Have an ID microchip registered with your cat’s name, your name, and your phone number embedded under the skin. This is a simple, painless procedure that your veterinarian will be happy to perform at your cat’s next checkup or if you call ahead before an appointment. Shelters and animal hospitals always scan for microchips when lost or injured cats are brought to them and they will contact you.
  • If you are travelling with your cat, don’t leave it alone in the car. Take it with you in a travel case even if it becomes awkward to carry. You probably don’t need another reminder of why you must do that, but here is another one anyway: if you leave your pet for only a minute and circumstances turn that minute into an hour, your beloved pet may be trapped in a dangerously hot car, and possible heat stroke can occur.
  • If your cat is in accident, a fight with another animal, or shows unexpected symptoms of illness or poisoning, take him or her to a cat clinic or hospital as soon as possible. Have the phone number and address handy at home, or on your phone so there will be no delay.

Make sure you know the common symptoms of problems, illnesses, or poisoning for which you need professional help. It’s a good idea to be familiar with basic first aid too such as how to keep a frightened, injured cat from biting you and how to transport an injured kitty to a cat hospital.

Remember that cats will try and conceal pain because it shows weakness to their enemies in the wilds and makes them targets for attack. This instinct is so strong that they will not show their distress to their loving owners either. Be alert. If your cat comes into the house and immediately hides, or if an indoor cat hides and won’t come when called or to eat, it may be in pain. Examine it carefully and give it whatever help it needs. 

Keep Kitty Cool Indoors and Out

Cats love warm weather but older cats and kittens are less tolerant of the heat and sun. Watch out for conditions that could cause heat stroke or dehydration for cats of any age.

  1. Water – Keep your cat’s water bowl full and check it often as he or she will need more water than usual when the weather is warm. It is a good idea to have more than one bowl of water available. Check out our blog post if you’re not sure just how much water your kitty will need.
  1. Sun – Your cat is better off inside on very hot days or during the hottest time of the day (between 10am and 3pm). Once the temperature has lowered and he or she insists on going outside as usual, make sure a water bowl goes outside with him or her, and make sure there is shade he or she can reach when he or she wants to get out of the sun. A cardboard box on its side can do the trick.
  1. Inside the House – When your cat is indoors, make sure it’s not trapped in a room that gets too hot for comfort. Cool tiled floors, open screened windows, fans and air conditioning, and closing blinds and curtains and windows during the hottest time of the day can all help keep kitty cool inside.
  1. Walks – If you take your indoor cat outside for a walk, choose the coolest time of day and stay off the hot pavement and sidewalks. Test these with the back of your hand for five seconds, and if the surface is too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your cat.
  1. Cooling Suggestions – Try putting cold water in a hot water bottle or cool a towel in the freezer and put it on their bed so kitty can lie on it. You can also put an ice cube in his or her water bowl to give him or her something to play with while also staying cool.

Healthy Cat Checklist

  1. Pest Protection – Keep your cat safe from outdoor pests, even if he or she is an indoor cat. Fleas and other parasites can be carried indoors on footwear and clothing and if other pets are visiting. Even indoor cats can suffer from flea allergy dermatitis. Check outdoor cats carefully for ticks when you are grooming them and bring them to a vet ASAP if you find any that have latched on! Make sure your pets are protected from all parasites with regular treatments from your vet. Check out our blog post on the subject if you’re looking for prevention tips.
  1. Vaccination Schedules – As we mentioned before, it’s a good idea to keep your cat’s vaccinations up to date. Diseases don’t take a vacation and your outdoor or indoor cat needs his or her booster vaccinations for protection. Your kitty may also need booster shots for non-core vaccinations (e.g., leukemia) if it is receiving them. Don’t let vacation plans interfere with kitty’s healthcare!
  1. Cat Disease Safety for Humans – Be alert for diseases that can spread from cats to humans, especially if you have children in your house. Caution them against touching cat feces, touching cat litter (and be careful yourself!), or playing in sandboxes that are not covered. Keep your cat off of surfaces in your home where food is prepared or eaten.
  1. Hairball Problems – Cats develop hairballs more frequently in the summer months because they lick themselves in an attempt to stay cool, and when playing outside, they want to keep themselves clean. You can cut down on the hairball problem with daily brushing and combing, and feeding your cat food that is high in fiber, often called “hairball formula.”

Let’s Have Some Fun!

  1. Toys – Cats love toys that appeal to their hunter instincts such as mice, bugs, and birds. You can attach a toy to a length of string and take your cat on a merry chase. Use a laser pointer to skip along on the floor like a bug does. Expect your cat to get bored quickly and be ready with another toy to replace it. Let it catch something now and then and put a treat someplace where the toy or the laser takes it in order to keep kitty entertained. An empty box provides amusement for a long time!
  1. Training – Take time in the summer to train your cat. Work on having it come when you call, teach it to stay off of furniture (like the table where you eat), or to stop scratching couches or climbing curtains.
  1. New Experiences
  • You can take your indoor cat on walks using a leash.
  • Try to help your cat adjust to riding in the car by letting it get used to their travel carrier in the house. Put some toys or treats inside so kitty can go in and out and get used to it before taking him or her out to the car. When you take kitty out on a ride, give it a treat just before you start the engine.
  • Blow bubbles from a non-toxic solution outside in a safe area where your cat can jump, chase, and catch them.
  • Show your cat a treat and place it under a plastic cup so he or she has to figure out how to knock it over.

With some preparation, you can have a fun summer with your cat while making sure he or she stays safe, healthy, and happy, and in turn makes your summer more enjoyable, too!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

How to Reunite a Lost or Abandoned Cat with Its Owner

Please note: while this article is very cat-centered, these tips can apply to our pooch friends, too!

Picture this: you’re out on the usual walk, minding your own business, perhaps on a walk home from work, or you’re out for your morning jog. Suddenly, you hear it—a cat’s meow. You pause, look around, and realize the sound of the cat has come from a place where they shouldn’t be—near a dumpster, or from under a garbage can lid, or from around the corner where you normally walk. You take a step closer, and the cat either pops out from around the corner or they pop out from under a garbage can or dumpster. That’s when you glimpse it—a collar around their neck, or a thin ribcage.

This may not be a normal situation, but there are times when a pet cat can get lost on their way home or, in some cases, be abandoned by their previous owner. Cats who live their lives as strays do not receive the medical attention they need, and a lost cat may end up in an even worse predicament than described (especially in the city!). If you are ever in a situation such as the one we just described, there are steps you can take to ensure if these cats need a home, or are missing theirs.

How to Tell if a Cat is Actually Lost or Abandoned

Sometimes, a cat is actually not lost at all but simply prowling its neighbourhood (especially if it’s being raised outdoors, but this is actually not a very good idea!). If this cat looks familiar to you, and you don’t see an owner calling out its name or desperately searching for the cat, it’s probably fine.

If you’re really not too sure, read the list below to see if the cat matches any of the following:

  • A clean, healthy looking fur coat
  • Bright eyes, with no goop from its tear ducts or redness
  • A friendly, easygoing temperament
  • A healthy physique, i.e. it looks well-fed

You should be more concerned if these signs are evident in the cat, however:

  • Shy and timid behaviour (i.e. the cat runs away from you, or tries to hide)
  • Aggressive behaviour, i.e. the cat hisses and bats at you when you draw near it
  • A dirty and dull fur coat or patches of skin where fur should be
  • A thin, visible ribcage
  • Irritated eyes or goop-filled tear ducts
  • Visible face wounds
  • Limping

If the above applies, the cat likely needs help.

Always Look for Identification

A collar is usually a dead giveaway that the cat belongs to someone else. However, some cats hate wearing a collar, and they may escape outside if they’re being raised as strictly indoor cats. The other best means of identification is either one of two things: one, a series of numbers inside the cat’s ear flap, and two, an embedded microchip. These are permanent forms of identification that can help a lost cat be reunited swiftly.

If there is ID on the cat’s person, follow the next section on how to safely get the cat to its owner. If there is no ID to be found, or the cat appears to have been outside and fending for itself for some time, skip the next section and read the one that comes afterwards.

How to Return the Lost Cat to their Owner

Unless there is an owner nearby calling out the cat’s name, or searching desperately for their pet, these tips can be done if the cat is lost:

  1. Try and bring the cat to a veterinary office or an animal shelter and get them checked out for a microchip. This is because microchips are actually not visible at first glance; they are inserted under the cat’s skin between the shoulders. Often, microchip numbers are registered with the manufacturer’s company online. Vet offices and shelters have scanners to read the number, which will definitely be registered to the company and is searchable online. The number that is identified on the microchip should be on file at the vet office or shelter.
  2. If you see a serial number tattooed inside of the cat’s ear flap, and there’s no owner to be found, get the cat to a veterinary clinic or shelter right away! Each province in Canada has their own unique alphanumeric code for identifying which vet clinic applied the tattoo. This makes reunions with lost cats and their owners a much easier task!
  3. Get on social media! Take a photo of the cat and then post about what has happened to your social networks (Facebook and Instagram are good places to try and reach out to fellow pet owners). Some groups on Facebook were created specifically for this purpose, and you can join the group if the need calls for it; perhaps they’ve posted information on the very cat you’ve just found?
  4. If there are any posters of the cat you’ve found in your neighbourhood, get the info you need from it and then contact the owner. While posters may be a bit outdated compared to social media, in some cases they still work well as a means of notifying fellow pet owners that a cat needs help.
  5. Ask around your neighbourhood in person about the cat. This will require some door-to-door action, but it’s better to do that than to find out the cat was indeed missing when it didn’t appear to be!

What to Do if the Cat is Abandoned

Most abandoned cats hang out where there is a food source, i.e. garbage dumpsters and cans or in alleyways where predators cannot find them easily. It’s a sad fact that kittens may end up being abandoned too, usually because the owners did not think their ownership through or the kittens are born to a feral mother.

In all cases where the cat is abandoned, notify your local animal shelter and give them as much information as you can about the cat or kittens. If for any reason you cannot leave the cat’s side, or the cats in question are kittens, stay put and call the animal shelter.

What Not to Do

There are some no-nos that can and do apply in the event of a lost or abandoned cat:

  • Do not attempt to trap an abandoned or lost cat yourself! It’s very likely that in both cases they will try to run away from humans. They may also be ridden with parasites such as fleas if they have been out on the streets for that long. An animal shelter has the means to trap the cats humanely as well as work with veterinarians in the event that medical attention for the cat or cats is needed.
  • Don’t feed the cat or give them treats if they keep visiting you. Not only will this make them needy, their owners may not be too happy that you’re overdoing it with the treats!
  • Don’t attempt to take the pet home with you. Unless the cat or kittens have been abandoned on your property, you may be unwittingly causing an owner grief by doing this!

All pets should be raised in a loving, nurturing environment, but unfortunately homelessness for cats is a reality, and some cats do go missing. In the case where a cat is lost, it’s an incredibly stressful situation for their owner! Imagine their relief if and when you help them find out their cat is safe and swiftly being returned to them. Hopefully by following our tips, and in the best case scenario, you can make yourself a hero to felines everywhere, whether it’s by reuniting a caring owner with their fur baby or helping abandoned pets find a new and loving home.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Cat Dental Care Tips & How to Clean Your Kitty’s Teeth

Did you know cats can develop dental problems just like humans? Cats may not need to worry about quitting smoking or cutting back on their coffee intake, but they do need dental care just like we do. They can’t brush their teeth themselves (if they could, they’d go viral on YouTube for sure!); they need our help to keep their mouths clean. That’s why you need to pay attention to their teeth and gums in addition to the rest of their well-being.

In honour of Pet Dental Health Month, we’re going to offer you some veterinary dentist advice. Be aware of the following oral health issues in cats, when to take your kitty to a veterinarian, and how you can help keep their teeth clean at home.

When to Take Kitty to a Cat Hospital

Some oral health issues in cats are best left to professionals to treat and care for them. Do take your kitty to a cat hospital if the following reasons apply to their situation:

  • Their gums are bleeding or look swollen/red
  • They’re excessively drooling at an unusual rate
  • Their breath smells terrible
  • They’re showing visible signs of pain such as withdrawal or crying out when you touch their jaws or face
  • They’re losing weight
  • They’re not eating their food, or they’re avoiding eating their crunchy food

All of these signs are causes for concern and require a veterinarian’s diagnosis in order to provide proper treatment.

The Most Common Oral Health Issues in Cats

Fractures – sometimes kitties can bite down the wrong way if they’re on a dry food diet, or they nibble on something they shouldn’t have, or if their toys are hard. If you see any signs of pain, such as your kitty withdrawing from your touch around their jaws, it may be because of a fracture or even a broken tooth. Both need a veterinarian to look at them properly.

Gum disease, or periodontal disease – yep, cats aren’t exempt to this dental issue either. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, leads to all sorts of long-term problems and in some cases it is a symptom of them. Periodontal disease in cats develops over time and starts out as gingivitis and plaque and tartar buildup on their teeth. If it’s left untreated, gum disease can develop into infection and in worst cases tooth loss. It’s easily preventable though by having your cat’s teeth regularly cleaned.

Bad breathbad smelling breath is usually a sign of a more serious, underlying issue such as periodontal disease, halitosis, or inflammation. It could also be a symptom of more pressing issues such as kidney disease or diabetes.

Tooth abscesses – a tooth abscess can form on your kitty’s gums and they’re a red flag for tooth decay or, in severe cases, oral cancer. In the case of a normal abscess, your vet may perform surgery to remove the cause of the problem; if the tooth has decayed too much, it will need to be removed. Antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian can help clear up an abscess in about five to seven days; you will need follow your vet’s instructions exactly when administering the medicine to your kitty at home.

How to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth at Home

First, you need a toothbrush and toothpaste. You can find them at your local vet clinic or at the nearest pet store. Different flavours are available such as chicken, fish, and beef (all yummy for kitties!).

Do not give human toothpaste to cats, ever! It contains chemicals that are very toxic to cats.

For the toothbrush, we recommend using the soft rubber brush that will fit over your first finger. If they refuse the toothbrush, your fingers can be a good alternative.

It’s a good idea to give your kitty a tiny sample of the toothpaste for tasting before attempting to brush their teeth. Massage the toothpaste on their gums or let them lick the toothpaste off of the brush. Some kitties need to be introduced gradually to feline dental care, so this is a good first step to take to get them more comfortable with the routine.

Once they’re ready, you need to get your kitty. Always speak to them soothingly and hold them gently in your lap, helping them get comfortable. Don’t be afraid to get a buddy to hold your kitty while brushing their teeth—sometimes it can be a two-person job (depending on how comfortable your cat is!).

After you or your partner have managed to get hold of kitty, apply about a quarter teaspoon of toothpaste to the brush. Allow your cat to sniff the toothpaste. Gently lift their upper lip and rub the brush against their front teeth in small circles. Make sure to brush down and away from the top of the gum line to get rid of any food crumbs lodged in their mouth. For the bottom teeth and jaw, brush up and away from the gum line. Keep brushing around the outside of their teeth until you’ve brushed the entire mouth.

Your cat may not like having their teeth brushed at all at first, so if you need to stop or they’re struggling, leave it for another time. Don’t force them into it. It may take time before your cat will accept the toothbrush or toothpaste, or both. Patience is key.

Other At-Home Dental Solutions for Kitties

One alternative solution to brushing their teeth at home is to invest in dental chews for cats. However, it will take a while to see results from these chews (and it is not as effective as brushing), plus it’s not recommended if your kitty is overweight. Double-check with your vet if you want more information about this solution.

It’s also a good idea to check out the toys you’re offering them. If there are any that look like they could cause teeth fractures or other cat dental problems, consider giving your kitty softer chew toys instead.

Cat dental care isn’t exactly pretty, but it is important. Make it a point this year to practice good feline dentistry at home and get your kitty regularly examined by your vet for any dental health problems. It could save their life!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Cats Can Catch Colds Too! What to Do If Your Kitty is Sick

Did you know that? It’s true—cats catch colds just like humans do. Normally if they catch a cold the symptoms will clear up in a few days. Still, it’s best to stay alert and take your kitty to a veterinarian for testing and treatment if those signs last longer than a few days.

The symptoms of a cat cold are the same for humans: sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, fever, a loss of appetite and energy, and even a loss of the voice (i.e., their meow). However, as with humans, the symptoms could be caused by something more serious than a mild cold and should not be ignored.

Cats Show Cold Symptoms Under Certain Conditions

Feline cold symptoms can be caused by exposure to a variety of organisms. Symptoms, therefore, can be the result of:

  • Exposure to, and infection from, bacteria or a virus or a combination of both spread by direct or indirect contact with other cats who are contagious or have a chronic condition, or by contaminated objects.
  • A secondary infection that develops after a few days of experiencing a simple cold, which increases the intensity of the symptoms or of particular symptom, depending on where the secondary infection strikes.

Symptoms of a simple cold will usually clear up in anywhere from two to ten days. If it continues or does not improve beyond the initial couple of days, take your kitty to a veterinarian.

Sometimes Cats Can be Particularly Vulnerable to Colds and Infections

Cats can’t spread their colds or diseases to humans, nor can they catch them from humans; however, they can catch and spread colds and diseases to and from other cats. Your cat’s resistance to colds is reduced by a weakened immune system, which can occur under a variety of stressful conditions:

  • Cats are usually unhappy about changes in their routine or their surroundings, like moving to a new residence, a family member leaving home or a newborn arriving, their main caregiver no longer at home most days, or a new pet being introduced into the household. Stress from such changes may lead them to be more vulnerable to viruses and the flu.
  • A cold will weaken your cat’s immune system and make him more vulnerable to secondary infections that can follow a simple cold.

A weakened immune system caused by any number of stressful situations can lead to the development of an illness or a secondary infection, especially in young kittens and older cats.

Watch for Signs That Kitty Needs Treatment From a Veterinarian

If your cat shows symptoms of a cold and then develops more severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, or a worsening of any of the other symptoms, you should wait no longer and should take your kitty to your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Here are some of the possibilities that cause most upper respiratory infections (URIs) in cats:

1. Viral Infections

There are two main viral infections that can cause cold symptoms, and they are the herpes virus and the feline calicivirus (FCV), both of which are very contagious between cats. Fortunately, ill effects of these viruses can be prevented by making sure your kitty’s standard vaccinations are kept up to date. These vaccinations greatly reduce the symptoms and the severity of these illnesses.

Feline Herpes Virus – This is similar to humans only in that a cat may have it for life. It’s best to have your cat vaccinated against herpes as a kitten and then take booster shots when required. This will help your cat develop more antibodies to fight the disease. Although there is no treatment that will completely cure the herpes virus, good overall care and prompt treatment of symptoms from the virus can help cats live a very normal life.

Feline Calicivirus – There are unfortunately hundreds of strains of this virus that your cat can catch, and if they do catch one of them, afterwards they may become a chronic carrier if their immune system is too weak.

This is why regular vaccinations are very important, because if your cat encounters one of the strains included in their vaccine, your cat will probably show nothing more than sneezing and a runny nose. However, there is a slight chance that they may catch a strain that has mutated over time. If this happens, your kitty may develop ulcers on the tongue, throat, roof of the mouth, and around their nose—take them to your vet for treatment at once!

2. Bacterial Infections 

There are three main bacterial infections that cause cold-like symptoms in cats: mycoplasma pneumoniae (feline infectious anemia), bordetella bronchiseptica (feline kennel cough), and chlamydia psittaci (feline chlamydiosis). Fortunately, all of these infections can be remedied with antibiotics.

If your cat shows symptoms of a cold plus conjunctivitis (similar to “pink eye” in humans), they may have contracted Mycoplasma, which is very common, or possibly the rarer Chlamydia.  If he or she has a cold accompanied by coughing and gagging, it’s possible they have kennel cough, although this is rare in cats. Your veterinarian will know how to test for these infections and will prescribe the best medicine for whatever infection it is.

How to Prevent Your Cat from Catching a Cold

You can introduce viruses and bacteria into your home on your clothes or your skin, which means that even an indoor cat can catch a virus or any other infection. Most cats catch illnesses from other, unvaccinated cats. If you have more than one pet, or if you let your cat outside even for brief periods of time, it is doubly important to use precautions.

  • Make sure your kitty has all the booster shots they need as advised by your veterinarian.
  • Ask your vet if there is any merit in taking a supplement when your cat is under stress—moving, leaving home for any reason, introducing a change into the household—to keep their immune levels at maximum.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect items that your cat shares with any other pets (e.g. litter boxes, bowls, blankets, beds, and carriers).
  • Make sure that any new pets introduced into the household have been checked over by a veterinarian.

How to Reduce Kitty’s Discomfort if They Have a Cold

There are some things you can do to reduce kitty’s discomfort if and when he or she has a cold:

  • Never give your kitty medications intended for humans, but do make sure you give them all the medication prescribed by their veterinarian for as long as you are directed. Don’t stop just because your pet seems better. If you’re having a hard time persuading them to take the medication, ask your veterinarian for help.
  • If a stuffy nose keeps kitty from eating a normal amount of food, try enticing them with special treats. You can also try soaking dry food in warm water, or offering a little wet food.
  • Keep an eye on their water bowl and make sure they’re drinking as usual, and urinating and defecating normally. If there are any issues, consult your veterinarian.
  • Playing with your cat to keep them happy in a hot and steamy bathroom may help open up your cat’s airways and make them more comfortable.
  • Your cat will love warm blankets for their bed!
  • You can gently clean the discharge from their eyes and nose with a warm washcloth.

Having the cold whether you’re a cat or a human stinks! If your cat’s caught one, always watch them carefully and take them to your veterinarian for testing and treatment if they’re not back to normal within a few days.

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How to Keep Your Cat Happy and Safe During Christmas

Christmas is the busiest time of the year for everyone. There’s so much to do, especially if you are planning to have family and loved ones visit this year. The tree needs to be decorated, there’s planning and shopping for gifts to do, there’s food and baking to prepare for…the list goes on.

What about your pets though, particularly cats? A reality all cat owners must face is a huge number of hazards to watch out for during this busy time of the year. Luckily, we have some cat care-based solutions that will help you both enjoy the Christmas season without throwing an emergency trip to your veterinarian into the mix!

Problem #1: Christmas Trees

Who doesn’t love Christmas trees? They’re a classic symbol of the Christmas season. Unfortunately, your cat is also a fan of them. It’s hard to keep kitties from playing with Christmas trees and their decorations. Glass balls, garlands, beads, fake snow, ribbons, strings of Christmas lights, candy canes…you name it, it’s all hazardous for kitty. Your cat may also get the bright idea to climb up and into the tree!

The type of tree you decide to decorate can also pose problems. If you chose to put a real tree in your home for Christmas, kitty may want to drink the water from the tree stand which contains tree oils that are toxic to cats. Accidents such as bowel obstructions and poisoning can happen when Christmas trees and cats are mixed together, leading to an emergency trip to the veterinary hospital.

Solutions: Aside from keeping a close eye on your kitty during the day, it’s best to put up your tree in a confined room where the door can be shut. Keep your kitty distracted while the tree is being decorated by providing them with toys and even a few treats away from the excitement. You may even need to put kitty in a separate room with the door shut when it’s time to decorate. You will need to confine your kitty away from the tree whenever you are not at home or sleeping as well.

If your cat’s encounter with a Christmas tree is unavoidable, there are ways to cat-proof your tree. Try using a citrus repellant to spray on or near the tree; it can add a pleasant smell for you and keep your cat away (cats hate citrus smells!). You may need to re-apply the spray whenever necessary. If you insist on using a real tree for Christmas, find a covered tree stand to keep kitty from drinking the water out of it or conceal your current one.

One creative solution we can offer is to vary your form of Christmas tree this year. For example, if you own a lot of books, why not make a book tree this year? There are lots of great ideas for how to make a book tree online if you don’t know already. You can set it up wherever kitty can’t reach, leaving you ample room for decoration!

Speaking of such…

Problem #2: Decorations

We’re not only talking about the ones you find on a Christmas tree, but also around the rest of the house. Tinsel is still sold in stores and used as a decoration, but it’s the number one hazard for kitties! Basically, anything that glitters, glows, dangles, and spins will all convince kitty to play. Even the ribbons on top of your Christmas presents under the tree can be a choking hazard.

Solution: Plastic decorations are a good alternative to the fragile glass ones offered in stores. Any decorations that are matte, less shiny, and less than likely to dangle will also be less appealing to your cat. Be sure to fasten your decorations as securely as possible and to hang them out of kitty’s reach. When it comes to gift wrapping, it’s best to avoid adding ribbons and bows entirely.

Problem #3: Christmas Plants

Poinsettias are another classic Christmas symbol, but did you know they’re actually highly toxic to cats? Holly, mistletoe, pine needles, amaryllis, and Christmas cactus leaves are also bad for kitty and could result in poisoning if ingested. If you see any signs of poisoning in your cat such as excessive drooling, vomiting, lethargy, breathing problems, diarrhea, or tremors, take them to your veterinarian right away!

Solution: Just like with decorations, there are plastic variations of Christmas plants that won’t bring harm to kitty, and you won’t have to give up decorating your home. If your kitty can’t reach certain areas in the home and you simply must have Christmas plants, keep them out of kitty’s reach just as you would with your regular decorations.

Problem #4: People Food

Both dogs and cats are guilty of trying to eat the same food humans do, especially roast turkey with gravy or ham. The smells are so enticing they can’t help but nibble. Unfortunately, human food is not okay for pets, and Christmas is another one of those holidays where pets may try to nibble on chocolate, much like on Halloween and Easter.

Solution: Offer your kitty some turkey or chicken-flavoured wet food that’s veterinarian approved instead of allowing them to eat human food (the tins wet food comes in usually contain gravy, so bonus!). Feed your kitty away from where you’re having Christmas dinner. If you have kids or are expecting children visitors, it’s a good idea to take them aside and show them exactly what they can and cannot give kitty as far as treats and food go.

We understand that these are a lot of precautions to worry about during Christmas, but don’t let this get you down! You can still have a wonderful holiday season by following our cat care advice. This is the time of the year where being with the ones you love matters the most; if you include your kitty in the mix, we’re sure you won’t miss the other stuff at all!

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Call a Veterinarian If Feline Herpes Virus Strikes Kitty

One of the most common causes of upper respiratory infection in cats is the feline herpes virus. This virus is also known as rhinopneumonitis (FVR), the rhinotracheitis virus, and the feline herpesvirus type 1 (FHV-1). They all sound like worrisome illnesses but, fortunately, this virus as well as its variations are quite common and can be treated and managed successfully by your veterinarian.

FVR is very contagious and many cats are exposed to it at some point in their lives. A cat may develop a mild case that clears up without formal treatment. However, the majority of cats who have the virus never get rid of it altogether and the risks are that it will reoccur, become chronic, and, if not treated, encourages secondary effects and bacterial or other infections. A cat with this virus in their system may be a lifelong carrier.

Watch for These Symptoms

An FVR or FHV-1 infection has flu-like symptoms and is frequently referred to as “feline influenza.” As you might expect from this name, the first obvious symptoms are upper respiratory problems such as sneezing, a runny nose, redness, inflammation, swelling of the inner lining of the eyelids, eyelid spasms, and squinting.

The next symptoms that may occur later are a fever, cough, lethargy, and anorexia, which may develop as kitty loses their appetite. After the initial symptoms disappear, a secondary bacterial or some other type of infection may develop, usually in the eyes, nose, or mouth.

There are Several Ways Cats Can Catch this Virus

Both wild and domestic cats of all ages, sizes, and breeds are prone to the feline herpes virus. It is usually spread through direct contact with the secretions of an infected cat. The virus is also airborne; a cat can catch it when an infected cat sneezes near them. Humans can’t catch herpes from a cat and neither can a dog, and it is a different herpes virus from the one transmitted to humans.

Any discharge from a cat carrying this virus will infect other cats. It is spread by sharing food and water dishes, sharing litter boxes, and when cats groom each other. Sadly, an infected cat can become a latent carrier and spread the virus without showing any symptoms. If symptoms do reappear, it usually means the infected cat has been subjected to emotional, medical, or environmental conditions that have weakened or stressed them out, such as an illness or a physiological stress.

Any cat can be at risk, but Persians and other flat-faced cats are more prone to feline herpes. Cats with weakened immune systems and kittens and senior cats are also at risk. If your cat has ever been diagnosed with FVR or FHV-1, be on the lookout for a recurrence.

What to do If You Suspect Your Cat Has the Virus

If you note the symptoms of an upper respiratory infection or any flu-like symptoms in your cat, take him or her to a veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment if any is required. Even if no treatment is needed because the disease is very mild, their condition requires ongoing supervision.

How to Reduce the Chances of Your Cat Catching Feline Herpes

There are several ways to reduce the chances of your kitty getting an FVR or FHV-1 virus:

  • Have your cat vaccinated against rhinotracheitis as a kitten, and be sure to take him or her to your veterinarian for booster shots as advised by your vet. Although the vaccine won’t completely protect your cat from the virus, it will lessen the severity of an upper respiratory disease. It will also prevent or reduce the possibility of secondary infections.
  • If your cat receives all of their core vaccinations and boosters, they will strengthen their immune system so that he or she will be less likely to be affected by bacterial and viral threats.
  • Isolate any of your cats showing symptoms of the virus from the other cats in your household (if there are any). This may be helpful temporarily when the symptomatic cat is showing signs of being affected by the virus, but it is important to consider that there may already have been or will be exposure from one cat to the other if they live together.
  • Keep your cat carrier clean. Disinfect it if it is used by another cat.
  • Keep your cat strictly indoors.
  • Do not let your cat mingle with unknown, unvaccinated cats if he or she is going to meet a friend’s cat, for example. 

Tried-And-True Treatments Help With Unpleasant Symptoms

Even though it is unlikely that an infected cat will ever be completely rid of the feline herpes virus, there are a number of treatments for the symptoms that accompany it and treatments for any secondary infections that may follow. A veterinarian can determine what, if any, treatments are required.

  • If your cat is sneezing but doesn’t have a fever, a cough, an eye infection, dehydration, or a loss of appetite, your veterinarian may decide that no medication is required, but will want to see them again if other symptoms occur.
  • For a serious respiratory infection, an eye infection, relief of pain, or to prevent a secondary infection from occurring, your veterinarian may prescribe medicine.
  • If kitty is refusing food and liquid, your veterinarian will recommend one or more treatments to make sure he or she gets the food and liquids they need to recover.

You can help your distressed cat feel better with special care:

  • Clean their eyes and nose with a warm, damp cloth so that hard, uncomfortable crusts don’t form from discharges from the eyes and nose.
  • Put a humidifier or vaporizer in the room they use the most to relieve their nasal congestion.
  • Offer them their favourite nutritious food and treats to keep him or her interested in eating, and lots of water to keep them hydrated.
  • Make sure their water and food bowls are kept clean and the litter box is changed frequently.
  • Encourage rest by keeping them calm and comfortable. Make sure your family leaves them alone until kitty is feeling better.

To help keep your kitty free from adverse effects of feline herpes virus, make sure he or she has all the vaccinations they need and see that they have an annual checkup and boosters; this combination will keep their immune system strong. If you recognize the telltale feline herpes virus symptoms, take kitty to a veterinarian right away for an examination.

As long as you carefully follow the advice you are given, your kitty will soon be back to normal and any residual problem can be managed.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Prevention Tips for a Safe and Happy Halloween for Your Cat

October is a busy time of year, isn’t it? Not only do we have Thanksgiving to celebrate (for us Canadians, anyway), but also Halloween! We get turkey and treats in the same month. How cool is that?

However, we must remember that not everyone is enthusiastic about this time of the year. In this case, we’re talking about our feline friends. Halloween may mean trick-or-treating to some, but Halloween for your cat could mean being alarmed by the sound of fireworks going off, fake cobwebs to get tangled in, and even treats that can make them sick. Not to mention just because you think kitty looks adorable in a witch’s hat, that doesn’t mean your kitty will agree!

There are all sorts of problems you may not realize can be a hazard to your kitty as well as to you, the owner, on this holiday. That’s why we’re here to help. If you want to keep your kitty happy and safe this Halloween, here are our top prevention tips to do just that.

Scenario #1: Escaping from Home

If your door is constantly opening and closing as you give out candy to trick-or-treaters, your cat may feel tempted to escape from your home. On a night when lots of people in costume are walking around and traffic grows heavier at night, it can be frightening to find out your cat has run away from home—and in the dark, it’s almost impossible to find them.

Solution: Prevent your kitty from having the chance to escape by keeping them in a room away from the front door; a bedroom should do fine. This can be their haven for the evening, complete with food, water, a clean litter box, toys, and bedding. It’s a good idea as well to check up on your kitty occasionally while they’re shut inside of the room so they don’t feel too lonely or unhappy.

If you know your cat is definitely going to want to escape, have them wear a collar with identification or get a microchip or a tattoo placed on your cat by your veterinarian. If your cat escaping is a huge concern, consider overnight cat boarding as an option instead, or not indulging in trick or treating.

Scenario #2: Noise Phobia

Halloween is fun for everyone unless loud noises are a problem…and for cats, that’s a big one! Noise phobia is exactly what you think it is: the fear of loud noises. Cats are exceptionally sensitive to sound given how excellent their hearing can be. If your cat has noise phobia, they may reveal the following signs: excessive pacing, shivering, hiding, and even drooling in some cases. If you’re having guests over for a Halloween party, too many people and noises in the room will definitely be too much for kitty to handle (especially if your guests love cats!).

Solution: Remember that room we mentioned before? Try giving your kitty a specific box or a designated area where they can hide in. Cats prefer to be as far away from stressful situations and loud sounds as possible, and tend to go into hiding when they’re stressed, in pain, or scared. If their noise phobia is especially bad, try giving them other solutions such as a natural pheromone collar or spray, anti-anxiety medication prescribed by your veterinarian, and of course a lot of TLC!

In the case of guests, it may be disappointing to let them know kitty won’t be joining them. Of course it’s okay to let your kitty socialize or let them come out of the room if there are a few people, but again, keep an eye on them in case your guests leave the front door open or if they’re getting overly anxious. Don’t force your kitty to be social if they don’t want to be. When all the excitement has died down, that’s when you can let your cat out of the room to roam around as usual.

Scenario #3: Black Cats

We love kitties of all sizes and colours; black cats are no exception! The black cat is one of many iconic Halloween symbols; in pictures you either see them riding on a broomstick with a witch or lying next to a jack ‘o lantern. Unfortunately black cats still have quite the reputation for being perceived as bad luck, and even the sweetest, gentlest black cat may fall victim to pranks being pulled on them, or worse. If a black cat ends up escaping out of the house, they’re as good as invisible outside at night, making them prone to all sorts of dangers.

Solution: Like with any cat, if your cat’s coat is black or dark-coloured, you should keep them situated in a room in your home safe from the outside. You can also make sure their collar is bright and colourful (neon yellow would work best, or a reflective neon orange if you want to be festive and safe!) so that they are more visible in the event they do escape outside. Again, a microchip and ID will work wonders if your black cat gets lost.

Scenario #4: Decorations

As the saying goes, “Curiosity killed the cat” and nothing makes a cat more curious than the different Halloween decorations on display in your home. Fake cobwebs, streamers, lit jack o’ lanterns…all these things are likely to cause kitty to try to play with them. This is a problem in many ways; most Halloween decorations are made of foil and plastic, all of which spell trouble if your kitty wants to nibble! Fake cobwebs in particular can be a problem because the ones you buy in the store are usually made of cotton balls or strings, or spray from a bottle—all of which are toxic or dangerous to cats. And don’t get us started on the dangers of cats and lit candles! Thankfully, there is also the saying “Cats have nine lives!”

Solution: Try getting creative with your decorations this year by skipping the cotton cobwebs and go for rubber instead; avoid them altogether if your kitty is prone to chewing on certain types of objects as chewing on rubber would be just as big of a hazard. For your jack o’ lantern, ditch the candle this time and use an LED light you can find at the store. If you simply cannot live without decorations, make sure they are all out of your cat’s reach and away from their climbable perches. You can distract kitty from any decoration by giving them their regular toys.

Scenario #5: Treats

Treats that are okay for kids and adults on Halloween night are more like tricks if your kitty gets hold of them! Plastic wrap has that crinkly sound that cats can’t resist since it’s also the sound accompanying their bag of cat treats. Batting those wrappers around could lead to swallowing them by accident, and that’s not something you want to deal with! And you may think dogs are the only ones who go after chocolate, but unfortunately so too do some cats, and it’s just as toxic to either pet.

Solution: Basic supervision should be enough to deter your kitty from nibbling on snacks that aren’t good for them. If you have kids, teach them about the sorts of treats that are good versus not good for their cat so in the event they want to spoil kitty, they won’t give them their own treats by accident! Store away any treats wrapped in plastic in the cupboard that you think your cat will be tempted to snack on. Keep any treats for trick-or-treaters sealed; a mixing bowl with a lid should work just fine. As for good treats, only offer the kind you know are good for kitty such as dental chews or other vet-recommended treats.

Scenario #6: Costumes

Like we said before, just because a witch’s hat looks cute in photo ops doesn’t mean your kitty will agree with you. Trying to dress them in costume may work for some kitties, but it all really depends on their personality or comfort level with foreign objects being placed on them. Most of the time once you put a hat on their head, they will do everything in their power to get it off of them! And if you’re thinking of dressing them up as ghosts, please don’t; not all kitties like being wrapped in sheets or towels. The idea may seem cute, but in actuality not being able to see is terrifying to them.

Solution: Ditch the costume ideas altogether if your cat is uncomfortable with wearing one. Opt instead for a festive collar. That way your cat will be able to see where they’re going and they won’t be hindered from moving around. A bowtie is okay (so long as it’s not too tight) and can make for some cute photos!

Halloween for your cat should be fun, not stressful. We hope our prevention tips ensure you both have a great time. Happy Halloween!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.