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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.

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.