How to Train Your Cat to Walk on a Leash

Yes, it’s true! Your cat can be trained to walk on a leash. While letting your cat outdoors is not something we recommend, if your cat insists on going outside and you live in an area where it isn’t safe to let cats outside on their own because of traffic or other dangers, the only way you and your cat can have fun outside is to train them to walk on a leash. It’s not difficult to introduce your cat to the leash and if your pet is familiar with it, you can enjoy frequent outings together.

Will Your Indoor Cat Enjoy Going Outdoors?

You can let a cat outdoors on a leash if it absolutely insists on going outside. You need to be vigilant, of course, and make sure your pet is protected as much as possible against various bacteria, parasites, poisons, and the usual outdoor dangers that they may encounter. You also have to accept the fact that outdoor cats are never as safe as indoor cats because of the dangers. This is why we don’t recommend letting cats outdoors in the first place. Having your cat on a leash is the safest way to protect them if they want to be outdoors.

You may decide that you want your cat to remain indoors unless on a leash. The question is, will going outside be a treat and will the leash be accepted by your cat?

Maybe – Cats that are trained to walk on a leash generally enjoy being outdoors and exploring. As long as cats are trained slowly and at an early age, most of them can adjust to the outdoor experience. Walking on a leash can keep them from becoming bored and lazy. It allows them to have regular exercise, which helps to maintain their health and weight. It can also be fun for both of you!

Maybe Not – Some cats are never comfortable walking on a leash because of their personalities, their age, or their health. If you spend a lot of time slowly and patiently introducing the harness and leash with plenty of treats and praise, but your cat continues to resist, it is time to give up. Accept your cat’s decision to not walk on a leash and play indoor games instead.

How to Train Your Cat

When training your cat, each stage requires treats, praise, and patience.

1. Purchase the Right Equipment – The “right equipment” means a harness, not a collar. Cats can slip right out of a collar, so make sure you buy the correct sized harness, preferably one that is adjustable. 

2. Introduce the Harness – Leave the harness near the food dish so your cat associates it with something nice—food, of course! If the harness makes a snapping sound or the characteristic Velcro sound when the harness is adjusted, make those sounds with the harness multiple times for several days so that your cat is used to the sound before you try fitting it on. After a few days to two weeks, put the harness on your cat right before mealtime, and take it off afterwards. Repeat for several days.

Once your cat is used to the harness, try adjusting it for size—you need to be able to fit two fingers under the harness. Leave it on for a few minutes and offer your cat a treat, some praise, and a pat on the head before taking it off.

3. Introduce the Leash – Your cat may not mind wearing the harness or it may take several days or weeks before it is accepted; take your time. When your cat is used to wearing and walking around with it, attach the leash. Let it drag on the floor while you feed your cat treats, give praise and a pat on the head, play for a bit, and then take it and the harness off.

After the leash is accepted, pick up the end and follow your cat around the house with the leash slack in your hand. Don’t forget the praise and treats! Then try gently coaxing your cat with a treat while guiding the harness. Don’t allow your cat to back out of the harness because you don’t want that to happen when you are out on a walk. Repeat this exercise daily for a few days.

4. Take Your Cat For Walks Outside – With the harness and leash attached, pick your cat up in your arms and walk out of the house. Never allow your cat to walk out or your cat will be streaking out the door whenever it is opened. Carry a towel with you in case your cat gets scared when you put them down on the ground. That way, you can quickly wrap up your cat in the towel to avoid being bitten or scratched before taking them back into the house.

Try going outside each day for an hour, always staying close to the door so that you can go back inside at a moment’s notice. After building their confidence while outside, your cat will soon enjoy going for walks. If at any point your cat drops to the ground with tail twitching and ears flattened back, stop the training session or the walk. Your cat is always the boss and you do whatever the boss wants!

Useful Hints

  • Don’t tie up your cat outside and leave your pet unattended. A cat can be tangled up in the leash in no time or be spooked by another animal or a person and can’t get away.
  • Keep your cat from picking up items and licking or chewing anything. Have some treats handy as a distraction.
  • Remember that you are walking a cat, not a dog. Cats tend to be less inclined to be guided by a leash and they may decide for no obvious reason that today is not a good day for a walk. Or they may decide a walk is fine, but not at the same place as before, even though it was a perfectly acceptable place yesterday.

Most cats can be trained to walk on a leash, but not all. If you live in an area where it isn’t safe to let a cat outside and your cat refuses to cooperate with your training efforts, resign yourself to enjoying only indoor adventures with your pet. Again, we don’t advise letting cats outdoors, but if you need to then using a harness and leash is the safest way.

However, you could be lucky. Purchase a cat harness and leash and try training your pet. It may take many weeks of effort or you could be out walking with your cat quite soon. You’ll never know until you try!

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 Prepare for Your Kitten’s First Veterinary Appointment

First of all, congratulations on becoming a new kitten parent! However, there is a lot that needs to be done other than providing the new kitty with lots of cuddles and playtime. There is new food to get for the kitten, new toys to provide so he or she doesn’t get bored, a new litter box to be set up…and a new veterinary appointment to book.

There is nothing to be nervous about on your part, but that may not mean the same for your kitten! They are likely still trying to adjust to all of the new sights and smells you are exposing them to on a daily basis. From a kitten’s point of view, meeting the vet can be a scary thing! However, there are ways in which you can make their first veterinary appointment a smooth one. Here are some tips.

Making the Appointment

Depending on when you adopted your new kitten, you need to bring them in to see a veterinarian within 48 hours of adoption. The standard age a kitten should be brought in is between 8 and 12 weeks old.

Though the 48 hour timeline is the usual recommended time to bring a new kitten in to the veterinary clinic, you should bring your kitten to the vet sooner if they seem ill. Signs of illness you should look out for include the following:

  • Watery eyes or tear ducts
  • Sneezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Breathing problems

Making the appointment is easy: pick up the phone and call the vet! Your new cat’s veterinarian may ask you some questions prior to the appointment.

You will also need to provide paperwork detailing your kitten’s medical history. Kittens from animal shelters can be released after 8 weeks and it’s very likely they will already have received their first round of vaccinations. The shelter will tell you if your vet needs to provide your new kitten with a booster shot.

Before the Appointment

Before bringing your new kitten to the veterinary clinic, you need to make sure you have a secure, appropriately sized cat carrier in which your kitten can travel. Your kitten may not like the carrier at first, so you need to get them used to it. The carrier should also be big enough for when your kitten becomes fully grown.

Place the carrier on the floor and leave the door open so the kitten can sniff inside and walk in and out of it. It wouldn’t hurt to place down a small blanket or even treats inside of the carrier! That way, the kitten will associate it with something pleasant rather than fearful. Depending on the kitten itself, it may or may not even choose to sleep inside (this would be a great thing to happen! Again, you want to make sure its mode of transportation is pleasant).

Once the kitten is used to the carrier, try closing the door behind them. Then when they’re inside, lift and move the carrier into another room before letting them out and give them a treat. Repeat this until the kitten is used to the motion. Take short trips in the car with the carrier, followed by a treat so that, again, the kitten will not grow to hate their carrier.

When it’s time to leave and go to the vet clinic, talk to your kitten soothingly when they need to go into the carrier. Never raise your voice or get angry with the kitten if they still don’t like the carrier; some cats never get used to it despite our best efforts. When the kitten is inside, add a few more treats and keep talking to them as soothingly as possible before, during, and after traveling to the vet.

During the Appointment

Allow your kitten to explore the exam room when you bring them in for their appointment so that they get used to the strange, new smells and surroundings. Let them look around until it’s time for your vet to properly examine kitty.

A physical examination of the kitten should be expected at every veterinary appointment. Your vet will check the kitten’s ears for mites, their eyes for watering or crusty areas around their eyelids, and their mouth, teeth, and tongue for oral problems. They will also listen to their heartbeat to check for any murmurs and gently palpate their stomach for abnormalities. Your vet will need to take your kitten’s temperature rectally to ensure they don’t have a fever or underlying problem as well. Allow your kitten to walk around so your vet can make sure their joints and muscles are normal and that there’s nothing wrong with your kitten’s knees or mobility.

A fecal examination may be performed to ensure there are no parasites such as roundworms, hookworms or tapeworms living inside your kitten’s body; depending on their previous environment your vet may ask you to bring in a stool sample. Your kitten’s vet will also comb through their fur to ensure no fleas or eggs are present on your kitten.

If your new kitten was not spayed or neutered prior to their first veterinary appointment, now is the time to bring it up. Spaying or neutering cats is helpful in preventing them from contributing to the over population of cats. It will also discourage certain behaviours such as spraying if done at the correct time. A follow-up appointment may be required if your new kitten is in fact not spayed or neutered; again, talk to your veterinarian about this.

Vaccinations for your kitten will be provided usually when they are around 8 weeks of age, with boosters at ages 12 and 16 weeks. Feline distemper (FVRCPC) is a typical vaccination for your kitten to receive during their first veterinary appointment. Your veterinarian will discuss with you if it’s necessary to provide vaccinations against FELV (feline leukemia) and rabies based on your kitten’s new lifestyle.

After the Appointment

Never hesitate to ask your vet any questions that were not covered during the appointment! The more they know about your kitten, the better they can help them lead a happy and healthy life.

If your kitten is given a clean bill of health from your vet and their required vaccines are all up to date, you’ll be advised to do a follow-up exam next year and then be sent home.

Once the kitten is brought back into your home, be sure to give them cuddles, treats, and playtime! Enjoy being with your new kitten!

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.

Planning a Trip? How to Treat a Cat with Travel Anxiety

Does your cat hate riding in the car? It’s very common for cats to generally dislike travel of any kind by any means. However, with a few simple tricks, you can reduce kitty’s travel anxiety by a lot, even if he or she never seems particularly happy on a trip.

Unless you happen to live within walking distance of a veterinarian, your cat has to travel now and then. It pays big dividends to help your cat accept travel as best as possible. It’s a better strategy than trying to capture and thrust your struggling, furious kitty into a carrier or crate when a trip is necessary!

How to Help Your Cat Develop a Positive Travel/Carrier Attitude

It is important to introduce your cat to its travel carrier or crate well before he or she needs to take a trip. That way, kitty views this important item as comfortable and familiar instead of strange and unpleasant. It’s not wise to travel with kitty using anything other than a regular crate or a carrier. Cats can slip through very small holes and will be obsessed with finding a way out of any box or homemade restraint. This can be a serious hazard to the driver if kitty runs loose in the car!

To prepare your cat for travel, have the carrier sitting out for several days with the door open. Leave it in a room where kitty spends a lot of time, such as near his or her favourite napping place or a window.

Place one of kitty’s favourite toys and a treat inside the carrier, which will usually excite a cat’s curiosity and cause it to go inside.

After your cat has had a few days to become familiar and comfortable with going in and out of the carrier, close the door and carry it to another room, set it down, and open the door so that he or she can leave.

A day or two later, put your cat into its carrier, close the door, and take it out to the car and take a short trip. Talk to him or her and put a treat inside the carrier before you start the engine. Look back after the engine has started and talk to your cat again so that he or she is reassured by your calm voice.

A few short trips should help reduce a cat’s anxiety about going inside the carrier and travelling by car. He or she may still not like travelling, but at least you won’t have a fight on your hands every time you try to put kitty into the carrier.

Use These Steps to Reduce Travel Stress

As well as helping your kitty become used to being in its travel carrier and to being in the car, prepare for other travel difficulties and emergencies:

  1. If your cat is very unhappy with even short trips in the car, try putting a towel over the carrier so that he or she feels “hidden.” This may help kitty feel more secure.
  2. Talk to your kitty using its name and try singing to it during your trips as well. Playing soft music may also soothe him or her.
  3. Make sure you are prepared for the unthinkable and that, somehow, kitty gets out of the carrier and makes its escape from the car or the final destination. Make sure your cat is wearing a collar with its name and yours, plus your phone number. An additional safety measure is to have an ID microchip inserted painlessly by your veterinarian just under the skin of your pet’s shoulder area. Make sure the number is registered under your name and information with the microchip company.
  4. You can offer kitty some catnip when you are at home and see how he or she reacts to it. Some cats like it a lot, some become excitable, others become mellow, and others don’t react at all. If your kitty likes it and calms down, you can use it as a travel aid. However, if it doesn’t have the desired effect, talk to your veterinarian about what other mild, natural sedatives are harmless and available.

Three Ways to Make a Trip More Enjoyable for You and Kitty

Before starting a trip, put your cat in the bathroom with the door closed and the carrier or crate open while you make your trip preparations. Close up your home so that your cat doesn’t become alarmed by the activity. When everything is ready, place kitty in the crate and take him or her out to the car. 

Make sure you have packed everything your cat will need:

  • A leash to secure your cat if you want to take him or her out of the carrier to urinate or defecate, or to clean up the cage if it becomes sick, or to take him or her with you if you are going to leave the car and aren’t sure how long you will be
  • Regular food and treats, any necessary medication, and two bowls—one for food and one for water
  • Litter, a scoop, a litter pan, and some garbage bags
  • Kitty’s usual blanket and a toy or two

Always place the carrier in the back of the car, preferably where your cat can see you. At traffic stops, turn around and speak to him or her and make eye contact. If you can, place your hand low on the carrier so your cat can rub against your fingers when you have stopped.

At reasonable intervals, stop and let your cat out on the leash so that he or she can get some exercise, have a drink of water, and use the litter pan, and then put a treat and another toy into the carrier before putting your cat back inside and continuing your trip.

How to Ease Your Cat’s Arrival at a Destination

When you arrive at a location for the night or at your journey’s end, take the carrier into the bathroom along with your cat’s litter and litter pan, some food, and some water. Open the carrier so that your cat can come out when he or she feels comfortable, and then leave and close the bathroom door. You will be free to unload the car and become comfortable yourself while your cat becomes accustomed to the new environment for an hour or so.

Here are Some Final Reminders

Remember that your car is not a comfortable place for kitty to be by itself on either a hot day or a cold day. In fact, it can be a very dangerous place for pets if they are left in the car for too long. Get used to the idea that if you are going to stop and leave the car for anything, assume your return may be delayed and take your cat with you in the carrier or on a leash.

No matter how much you try and prepare your cat for travel, don’t feel that you didn’t do your job well enough if your cat seems unhappy—some cats never fully get used to travel. Do your best to reduce its travel anxiety as much as possible, and even though he or she may not show it, you will have made kitty’s life happier for the effort. Safe travels!

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.

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.

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.