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.

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 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!

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.

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.

How to Take Action and Save Your Obese Cat from Health Problems

Here’s a good question for you: have you ever tried to pick up your cat and cuddle them, only to feel like they weigh more than you can handle? If so, your cat may be obese, and this is not a good thing.

Being overweight holds many of the same dangers for pets as for humans. The term “fat cat” is different in human terms as it applies wealthy, powerful people; in the veterinary world it brings to mind a kitty cat who has been eating too much and is not getting enough exercise.

There is good news, however. There are several actions you can take to help him or her slim down before their weight causes some serious health problems for them.

Health Issues that Can Develop in Obese Cats

  1. Diabetes – The development of diabetes is one of the most common problems. Obesity causes an increase in the production of insulin in response to the increased blood sugar levels in an overweight cat. When kitty’s body is no longer able to produce the amount of insulin needed, diabetes can develop with all its inherent risks.
  2. Arthritis and Lameness – Expect three to five times the risk of your cat developing osteoarthritis, movement problems, and even hip problems. A heavy body puts a strain on the joints.
  3. Liver Disease – When overweight, a cat stores too much fat in his liver, which can eventually cause a decrease in liver function. This can be a life-threatening problem.
  4. Increased Risk if Surgery is Required – Extra fat obscures organs and makes it difficult to find a problem quickly if your cat requires surgery. It also takes longer for kitty to come out of anesthetic, and a longer time to heal.
  5. Heart Problems – As in humans, being overweight can contribute to cardiovascular issues.

Diagnosing the Big Problem

Start With a Weigh-In – An adult male cat should weigh roughly 9 to 12 pounds and a female should weigh roughly 7 to 9 pounds. Take your cat to your veterinarian to be weighed and to rule out any problems interfering with their ability to exercise normally. A thorough vet evaluation and possible blood and urine testing may be needed to determine how healthy your cat’s insides are before starting any diet change or restriction. If there is an underlying cause of your cat’s being overweight, this needs to be dealt with and it will help your vet select the correct type of diet and exercise program.

Reassess the Amount of Food You Offer – Above all, don’t offer too much food. Read the labels on cans and bags and don’t just dump food into their bowl. Use a measuring cup and give them only the suggested servings. Normally you should offer a meal twice a day. A cat doesn’t need to have food available all day.

Not Getting Enough Exercise

An indoor cat doesn’t get enough exercise walking around the house any more than you do. If your cat stays indoors, plan some exercises for them. Cats like to stalk prey, but lose interest after a few minutes so you need to adjust your playtime accordingly. Prepare to be involved in order to help your cat get the exercise they need: 

  1. Chase-Toys – A laser pointer skipping along the floor can keep a cat interested in the chase for a few minutes, and so can a string tied around a wad of paper that you dangle and dance in front of your cat. A ping pong ball is a great toy because it is light and goes a long way when hit. Put your cat in an empty bathtub with a ping pong ball and watch the fun! 
  1. Critter Toys – Cats like toys that squeak and behave like the creatures that a cat would hunt, like mice, birds, and rabbits, although cats won’t play by themselves for long. You’ll have to help. A walnut makes a live-creature noise and moves irregularly when rolled across the floor, which will encourage your cat to chase it. 
  1. Leash Training – You can train your cat to walk with a leash but only to get them outside for a while and to stay safe while they get some fresh air and new things to sniff. They won’t run around that much, but they will probably like the change of scene and move around more. 
  1. Another Cat – Getting a second cat can help with exercise, but if you’re introducing a new cat to an old one, also introduce some new toys, new treats, or new foods. You want the older cat to view the newcomer as a creature who brings more comforts into the home so that he or she will be more likely to welcome the new cat.

If you reassess the amount of food your cat eats, increase your playtime with them so that he or she becomes more active, and ensure they are healthy via an exam at your vet clinic, your obese cat will lose weight. You will be rewarded with a cat who is happy, is in good health, and remains your companion for a long time.

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

Ask an Expert: Cat Flea Prevention

Q: My indoor-outdoor cat has never been itchy; does he still need to be on flea preventives?

A: Yes, all pets that have any kind of access to other outdoor pets should be on a flea prevention program.

The old saying “prevention is better than cure” is especially true for a flea-infested pet. It can be very difficult to clear your house of a flea infestation, once your pet brings fleas home.

While most pets itch due to fleas, cats can carry a large amount of fleas in their hair coat without obviously suffering from this parasite.

Use only flea preventives approved for cats; some flea products made for dogs can be very toxic to cats.

Dr. Jangi Bajwa
Veterinary Dermatologist
Hastings Veterinary Hospital
Burnaby BC.

Ask an Expert: Cat Diets

Q: What is a good diet for my cat?

A: Nutrition is based on a number of health needs for an individual including species, age, lifestyle (indoor versus outdoor) etc. Cats have different needs in order to provide them balanced nutrition compared to canines. For example, taurine is an essential amino acid required for companion cats.

Cats should also be fed a primarily canned or soft food diet in order to supplement adequate water intake. Human food and excessive treats should be avoided. Some dry food feeding is suggested as well but older cats used to dry food may find it difficult to adjust to a primarily canned diet.

Dr. Jangi Bajwa
Veterinary Dermatologist
Hastings Veterinary Hospital
Burnaby BC.

How to Keep Your Pets Cool this Summer

When the temperatures soar this summer, you can help your pets chill out and stay safe using our cool ideas! (Pun intended.) While some of these ideas are useful for both cats and dogs, we also have some dog-specific tips as well as cat-specific tips. We’re also including a handy checklist to help you spot the signs of dehydration in pets.

Why Hot Temperatures are So Dangerous to Pets

Dogs – Dogs are particularly prone to becoming overheated because they don’t sweat. Instead they regulate heat by panting and by the few sweat glands in between their toes. Dogs are often exposed to such danger because of how often they’re included in family outings, shopping trips, outings to the park and the beach, and on walks in general. If it is extremely hot, it’s actually better to leave your dog at home and keep their walks short. Stick to being in the shade as much as possible and go out during cooler times of the day, such as early morning.

Cats – Cats have sweat glands on their paws and a few on their bodies as well, although they don’t help cool them very well through their fur. However, cats are usually left at home rather than being taken on family outings and aren’t usually taken on walks. Even so, they also need protection from the heat whether they’re indoor or outdoor kitties.

6 Hot Tips for Keeping Pets Cool in the Summer

  1. Pets in Vehicles Awareness – No pet should be left unattended in a vehicle in the summer. The car or truck is a heat trap and, even with all the windows cracked open, temperatures can climb to dangerous levels within a few minutes. For more tips on the subject check out our pets in vehicles-centered post.
  2. Water Supplies – Make sure fresh water is always available. Keep water bowls in the shade and secured so they won’t spill. Bring portable water and water bowls for dogs with you while you’re on the go. Cats—especially outdoor cats—should have multiple bowls left around the house or yard during hot weather. Put a few ice cubes in your cat’s water bowls to help keep them cool as well as hydrated – some kitties love to play with ice anyway!
  3. Shade– Make sure outdoor pets can find a shady spot in the heat of the day. Construct one if necessary. When indoors, pets may enjoy lying on tiles wherever they can find them. Check outdoor buildings before closing doors as a cat may seek shelter inside and become dehydrated because they can’t get out.
  4. Air Circulation – Cool air helps pets feel more comfortable. If your pet is indoors, open a window and put a fan on a low box near it. If there is no cooling breeze, create one by putting a frozen water bottle in front of the fan.
  5. Cool Him Down – A cool wet cloth rubbed gently over your cat can help cool them down; a dog may enjoy a light spray from a mist sprinkler or cold packs wrapped in towels. Don’t assume a dog instinctively knows how to swim and he or she should be watched carefully around a pool or lake. Standing in a tub of cool water can be refreshing for a dog but don’t use ice water as it is dangerous to cool them too quickly.
  6. Exercising Dogs – Alternate between grass, asphalt, and sidewalks when walking your dog. Booties may be needed if you can’t avoid the asphalt. Choose the coolest times of the day (usually early morning or late evening) for walks and don’t play chase games when it is really hot, as dogs don’t know their limits. Bulldogs and other flat-faced dogs have more difficulty breathing than other dogs when they get hot or when exercised in hot weather, thus it is especially important to make sure these dogs are kept cool.

Watch for the Signs of Dehydration and Heatstroke

Dehydration is dangerous for pets and can quickly turn into life-threatening heat strokes. If you see any signs, get help. A pet suffering from dehydration may have difficulty swallowing water, but a veterinarian can quickly and safely hydrate a pet.

The signs of dehydration are as follows:

  • Dogs will pant excessively and, when a cat begins to pant, he or she is already overheated.
  • Dogs and cats will have increasingly thick, sticky gums and saliva, and will drool as swallowing becomes more and more difficult. They will vomit and lose interest in food.
  • A dog’s eyes will become sunken, their urine will be dark, their skin will lose its elasticity, and they’ll be wobbly on their feet.
  • Dogs and cats will become increasingly lethargic and unwilling to move.

Get help from your veterinarian pronto before these symptoms become worse! The next stage is heat stroke and progressive illness can occur.

Try to keep you and your beloved pets cool this summer. Try using healthy exercise options, make sure they get plenty of water and shade, and protect them from excessive heat. They will love you for it!

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

Caring for Kittens, The Series. Stage 2: 8-12 Weeks

Welcome to part two of our “Caring for Kittens” series! This is an exciting period for you and kitty as your adventurous, playful little pet will be forming their very first impressions of people and the world. During these weeks, you will need to monitor his or her learning experiences and ensure they are both healthy and safe.

Normal Characteristics between Weeks 8-12

By week eight, most kittens know how to use a litter box. If your kitten does not, you can housetrain them in a few days by providing them with a litter box. Scoop kitty up and place them in it each time he or she starts to urinate or defecate. Never punish them while they are learning this important skill. Be patient.

You should also expect the following changes and habits:

  • During these weeks they will sleep about 20 hours a day.
  • When awake, kitty will be on the go, running, climbing, jumping, stalking, pouncing, and more than eager to play. Now is the perfect time to offer them paper bags, plastic, flexible straws, and anything they can chase as toys.
  • Kittens have very small tummies and will thrive on 4 small meals a day. They need access to a water bowl at all times.
  • They love to use their claws and will be happy to scratch and shred anything on which they can get their little paws—even you! You can deter this behavior by providing a scratching post.
  • They will grow bigger and heavier every week.
  • Whenever you run your hands over your kitten, there should be no lumps, bumps, or any indication of sensitivity to touch. If there are, you need to contact your veterinarian.

How to Make Sure Your Kitten Stays Safe

  • Cover any exposed wires in your home, and keep cleaning products, insecticide baits, and sharp objects out of kitty’s reach.
  • Make sure kitty doesn’t have access to the attic or basement if these areas aren’t well ventilated or if they expose tiny, inviting places where kitty can wiggle in and can’t get out.
  • Introduce him or her slowly to other household pets and supervise them until you are sure they all get along. Again, you need to be patient with this; all animals need lots of time to get used to each other’s scent.
  • Check for doors in your house that don’t close properly or give kitty access to rooms you want kept out of bounds. Also check for broken screens on windows and outer doors that could allow kitty to escape from the house.
  • Have your veterinarian insert an ID chip under kitty’s skin to make sure they can be identified if he or she is lost or comes to harm and is taken to a shelter or clinic.
  • Invest in a travel carrier. You will need it when taking kitty to the veterinarian and for visits elsewhere, and you should keep it near kitty for a while so that they will grow more used to it.

Checkup and Vaccinations

Kittens should have a nose-to-tail checkup from a veterinarian and a vaccination program started or planned.

When kittens stop receiving mother’s milk, they no longer have immunity from diseases for which their mothers were immunized or developed antibodies against. Kittens usually receive their first vaccination between 6-8 weeks, boosters at 12 weeks and 16 weeks of age, or 4 weeks after their first visit. Let your veterinarian be your guide to the vaccinations needed. Typically during their first visit your kitten will receive vaccination against feline distemper. Your veterinarian will discuss with you if there is any possible need for vaccinations against FELV (aka feline leukemia) and rabies based on your kitten’s lifestyle. 

Feedings

Make sure your kitten eats an appropriate diet—your veterinarian will be happy to make recommendations. If your cat receives canned food, don’t let it stay out for longer than 20 minutes. Canned food should be offered early as it does have some health benefits for kittens; you should also gradually introduce your kitty to dry food at this age.

Avoid letting him or her eat food intended for humans or dogs. Keep their water bowl full; it needs to be changed frequently in order to give them access to fresh water. If the water has a peculiar odor or taste and kitty turns away from it, you can give them bottled water.

Useful Training Tips for Kitty

  • Get them to socialize: Take time to pet and play with your kitten daily and introduce him or her now and then to other people so that he or she will learn to like and trust humans in general.
  • Teach them to accept the carrier: Put treats inside the carrier and, when he or she is used to wandering in and out, shut the door and move them to another room, then let them out right away and give them a treat. Take short trips in the car followed by a treat so that he or she will not be afraid of the carrier.
  • Train them to use their scratching post: If he or she starts to scratch your furniture or carpets, discourage them and then move them to the scratching post.
  • Teach kitty to come when you call: Use their name often and, when he or she starts to look up or at you when they hear their name, reward them with a treat.

Congratulations, you now have a healthy and happy kitten in your life!

Did you miss out on part 1? Read Caring for Kittens, The Series. Stage 1: Age 0-8 Weeks.

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