Why, When, & How Should My Cat’s Nails Be Trimmed?

Cat nail trimming is something we’re very frequently asked about at our clinic, and for good reason! Cat’s nails are retractable, meaning they’re kept hidden until the cat needs to use them. These nails can grow back fast sometimes! Almost every cat needs to have their nails trimmed regularly; others, not so much for a few reasons.

Regardless, it’s a good idea to prepare your cat for nail trimming by using certain strategies in your cat’s regular grooming routine. For you, the cat parent, you will need to learn how to trim their nails safely. Here is what you need to know.

Why Do Some Cats Not Need to Have Their Nails Trimmed?

Trimming or not is generally dependent on your cat’s lifestyle.

Outdoor Cats – If your cat is an outdoor cat, it may be a bad idea to trim his or her nails because they are needed for important tasks:

  • Climbing – Cats need to climb to navigate their territory and also to escape danger when pursued by other animals.
  • Scratching – Cats nails are always growing, and scratching is an instinctive act that keeps the nails trim and sharp.
  • Marking Territory – Cats have scent glands in their paws, and will scratch as well as urinate to help them mark their territory outdoors and keep other strange animals away.

Indoor Cats – If your cat is an indoor cat, you may need to trim your cat’s nails more frequently:

  • If your cat has a scratching post and likes to use it, his or her nails may need only occasional trimming when young, especially if his or her nails grow very slowly.
  • If you regularly take your indoor cat outside for walks on a leash, he or she may have opportunities to scratch and wear down his or her nails and reduce the amount of trimming needed.

Why Do Almost All Cats Need to Have Their Nails Trimmed?

  1. An indoor cat may not be very interested in using a scratching post and so their nails may grow too fast and too long to be curbed by the post.
  2. As an outdoor cat ages, he or she may become so much less active that the nails grow out. This increases the risk of their nails growing into a curve that drives into their footpads, and in turn causes your cat pain, mobility problems, or even infections.
  3. Both indoor and outdoor cats need to have their nails trimmed because their nails can be snagged and caught in soft surfaces, or the cat may lose their ability to retract their claws altogether.
  4. Arthritic cats, indoors or out, usually don’t exercise enough to keep their nails short via scratching.

How Often Should My Cat’s Nails be Trimmed?

  • For indoor cats, nail trimming in general should be done every ten days to two weeks.
  • A senior indoor or outdoor cat will often develop thick, brittle nails that need to be trimmed more often than when they’re a kitten. Stay alert.
  • Declawing cats was made illegal in BC in 2018 by the B.C. College of Veterinarians. It is now understood that declawing means that the ends of the toes are amputated during the surgery, which has been stated as “ethically problematic and not an appropriate means of dealing with feline behaviour issues”. So now if you live in BC you must learn to trim your kitty’s nails properly, or either pay a groomer or visit your cat’s veterinarian to perform this task.
  • An outdoor cat may become more of an indoor cat when he or she is old and arthritic, so regular nail trimming will become a necessity.
  • Usually it is only the front paws nails that need to be trimmed, but if you notice that the back paw nails are digging into you when your cat jumps up into your lap, you should trim those nails as well.

Here is the Nail Trimming Process

  1. First Things First
  • Most cats don’t like to have their nails trimmed and some will absolutely not tolerate it. If your cat won’t even allow you to hold his or her paws, you may have to rely on a pet groomer or your cat’s vet to trim your pet’s nails.
  • If you take a slow and easy approach, you can succeed in time, especially if you have treats ready, and your cat may associate the nail clipping routine with yummy treats.
  • Don’t attempt to clip your cat’s nails if your pet is upset or if you are upset.
  1. Organize Your Supplies:
  • Towel – You can gently wrap your cat loosely in a towel if you are afraid he or she might suddenly bolt off your lap and scratch you.
  • Sharp cat nail clippers – There are a variety of good nail clippers for cats. Some of them are designed to make sure you don’t clip too close to the vein that runs into the thick part of the claw.
  • Styptic Powder – If you have clippers that aren’t designed to protect the vein and you accidently cut into it, you can apply a small amount of powder to stop the bleeding.
  1. Rehearsals are Important
  • Even an outdoor cat should become used to the idea that you can hold and massage his or her paws and extend the nails when your cat is seated on your lap. It’s easier for a young cat to become used to a routine rather than introduce it when your cat is older and it becomes a necessity.
  • For several days prior to the first nail trimming, hold your cat in your lap facing away from any windows and away from you in a quiet room. Gently massage your cat’s neck and then the front legs and paws. Talk quietly to your little pet as you do this. Gently press on the footpad to extend a nail, then quickly release it, and give your cat a treat. Do this every day on a different toe. Note the pink part of the nail, called the quick—this is the extra sensitive part of their nail consisting of nerves and blood vessels.
  1. Do the Deed!
  • When you and kitty are used to this routine, pick a time when your cat is sleepy and relaxed after eating, and prepare to clip only one or two nails—no more. Do everything the same as usual, only this time, cut the tip off one of the nails. If everything goes well, cut the tip off one more nail and give your kitty a treat.
  • Proceed until you have clipped all of the front paw nails over a period of five days or so, and your cat will soon adjust, especially to the regular treats! You will then be able to trim all the nails on the front and back paws at one sitting.

Many cats don’t need their nails trimmed, but if yours does, learn how to do the job safely. If it will help, make massaging the toes and extending a nail part of their regular grooming and care. If you know you must trim your cat’s nails, rehearse with your pet until you are both comfortable before attempting the job. Expect to trim your cat’s nails every 10 days or so as part of your cat’s regular grooming routine. If all else fails, ask your cat’s groomer or your veterinarian to do the job for you.

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

Why Is My Cat Drooling & What Can I Do About It?

Cats don’t drool very much and when owners discover their cat drooling at all, they often worry about it. Sometimes, there is good reason to worry. It is important to note if your cat drools only now and then or if it is ongoing or excessive, in which case, it indicates a problem needing treatment.

In general, the reason for cat drooling falls into one of three categories:

  • Emotional stimulation
  • Mouth or jaw irritation, or a foreign body in the mouth or throat
  • Disease, poison, or respiratory condition

If your cat drools only once in a while, don’t worry, they’re probably fine! However, if your cat drools a lot, it means there is a problem and you need to take your cat to a veterinarian. Watch for other symptoms that accompany the drooling and report these to your veterinarian. Providing as much additional information as possible can help speed up the diagnostic process and determine the appropriate treatment needed. Remember that preventive solutions and, if needed, early treatment equals a more successful outcome.

Emotional Stimulation Can Cause Drooling

  1. Happy and Relaxed – Cat drooling often occurs when pets are happy or when they are asleep. Drooling in these cases means you have a happy cat. When being pet and cuddled, some cats show that they are relaxed and are enjoying your attention by drooling blissfully. When sleeping soundly and relaxed, they sometimes drool slightly just as humans do. Drooling will stop when the relaxation or joyful period ends.
  2. Fearful and Nervous – Some drooling occurs when cats are afraid and nervous, such as when travelling or reaching a new destination, or when a new pet is introduced into the household. After a period of drooling, some cats will vomit, especially if travelling and the motion causes nausea. Drooling will stop soon after the travelling is over or after kitty adjusts to the new surroundings, or the new situation.

Don’t worry if drooling occurs now and then under these conditions and only a small amount of saliva is produced.

A Cat Drooling Because of Irritation or Trauma Needs Attention

  1. Dental Problems or Gum Disease – Both of these conditions can cause drooling and require veterinary care and attention. If a cat has a broken tooth, cavities (known as resorptive lesions), a lot of tartar on their teeth, or is suffering from irritated gums or gum disease, your cat will drool in an attempt to remove whatever is hurting from his or her mouth. Other symptoms you may see of dental problems in cats are traces of blood in the saliva or their mouth may have an unpleasant odour, or your cat may resist or absolutely refuse to chew on their favourite hard food and treats.
  2. Jaw Trauma – If your cat has been injured by an encounter with another animal or a fall or by any accident that has caused a problem with the jaw, your cat will start drooling because it is too difficult or painful to close his or her mouth. Your cat may refuse to let you touch their jaw and face.
  3. A Foreign Body Swallowed – Occasionally a cat may accidently swallow something that gets caught in the mouth, tongue, or back of the throat such as a fish bone or sharp grass blade. Anything that causes your cat pain in the mouth or throat will cause him or her to drool in an attempt to soothe the pain or remove the foreign body.

All these problems will cause excessive and ongoing drooling, so your cat must be taken to a veterinarian to determine exactly what happened and what can be done to help.

Seek Urgent Care for Cats Drooling from Disease, Poison, or Respiratory Problems

  1. Various Diseases Cause Ongoing Cat Drooling
  • Oral Cancer – Owners should keep watch for clinical signs of cancer in cats, especially in the mouth. These signs can include drooling, bad breath, refusing to eat, dropping food from the mouth, and weight loss. Early treatment means a prolonged life.
  • Kidney Failure – This is a serious illness to which cats are prone to. Clinical signs of kidney problems are drooling, bad breath, weight loss, increased thirst, and increased urination as shown by larger than usual clumps in the litter box. Mention all these signs to your veterinarian so that tests for, and treatment of, kidney problems can begin immediately.
  1. Poison Needs Immediate Attention
  • Corrosive poisons – These are as dangerous to cats as they are to dogs. Laundry detergent and various cleaners can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, but much bigger problems in cats include burns in the mouth, tongue, esophagus, and stomach, indicated by excessive drooling. If this happens, carefully flush out the mouth of your pet with water and offer a tasty liquid like canned tuna water or milk to soothe your pet and dilute the substance. Contact an Animal Poison Control Centre and your veterinarian for advice and help.
  • Plant poisons – As with corrosive household products, some plants can cause intense burning of a cat’s mouth although they are not nearly as dangerous to a cat’s life. (An exception is the deadly Easter lily—don’t allow one in the house!) For most other plants, flush your pet’s mouth out with water and then offer some to drink. Consult a veterinarian if your cat continues to drool excessively and also vomits and refuses to eat.
  1. Respiratory Conditions
  • Some cats can contract a viral respiratory condition that leads to mouth ulcerations. The sign is the development of excessive saliva, and the pet parent can check inside their cat’s mouth and see the ulcers. The veterinarian will treat the respiratory infection as well as the cat’s sore mouth.

How to Prevent Your Cat from Drooling Too Much

Taking your cat to your veterinarian for an annual checkup can certainly reduce some of the problems that cause ongoing or excessive drooling. Keeping your cat’s vaccinations up to date reduces the chances of illnesses, and having your veterinarian monitor your cat’s teeth and gums will ensure they remain healthy, which also reduces drooling problems.

An indoor cat runs less risk of encountering dangerous animals and situations that can cause poisoning, injury, or respiratory infections compared to outdoor cats.

Introduce your cat to a carrier by placing it in a room nearby with treats and toys inside. When your cat learns to go in and out, you can close the door a few times very briefly. When your cat is used to this action, you can take him or her outside in the carrier and place your cat in the car with a special treat for a little while. Eventually, you can drive around the block and then go for longer trips until your cat is used to the carrier, the car, and the traveling motion. Few cats ever enjoy traveling, but you can lessen your cat’s fear and the drooling that accompanies it.

Cats don’t drool very much or very often; therefore, if your cat starts to drool excessively, pay attention. Note all the other symptoms that are present at the same time and take your cat to a veterinarian and report them. Something is wrong and your cat is depending on you to take care of their problem.

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

These Tips Make Litter Box Training for Kittens Easy

Have you adopted a kitten recently? If so, congratulations! Now the next step after you bring your new kitten home: litter box training.

However, you don’t have to worry about training a kitten to use the litter box if you have chosen a good location for it and have all the supplies on hand before you bring your new kitten home. Kittens instinctively want to relieve themselves in sand or dirt—or its equivalent, such as kitty litter—so as long as you show your kitten where the litter box is, nature will take care of the rest. A little help in training from you is always welcomed though!

Tip 1. Have Supplies on Hand When You Bring Your Kitten Home

There are a lot of choices when it comes to selecting a litter box, a suitable type of litter, and the tools needed to keep everything clean and fresh.

Buy a Good Litter Box: a “good” box means one that is the right size for your pet not only when your kitten is small but also when he or she becomes an adult. Kittens grow very fast!

  • Make sure your kitten can get into the box easily when small, and if there is any difficulty at all, add a little ramp of plywood or some other suitable material attached to the underside to the box. It can be removed when your kitten is bigger.
  • The box should be big enough for your kitten to turn around and become comfortable when using it, and deep enough to bury the feces.
  • You may want to provide an enclosed litter box with a top, which helps contain the litter and the odors. If so, plan to remove any doors and hood at first so that your kitten doesn’t feel the space is cramped.

Provide Suitable Litter: there are lots of choices for kitty litter. You should buy one that is as dust free as possible and is readily available in most stores. Cats become used to their favourite litter and may object if you decide to change it or can’t find it when shopping.

  • Unscented litter is more popular with kittens, and you should avoid perfumed litter just in case it bothers your pet’s nose or lungs.
  • Avoid buying clumping litter when your new pet is still a kitten. Kittens sometimes eat clumping litter, which can harm their intestines.

You Need a Scooper and a Drop Cloth: put a drop cloth under the litter box so that any litter that is kicked out is easy to clean up. A scooper is necessary for the daily ritual of scooping out the urine and feces so that the litter box doesn’t smell which does disturb your kitten as much as it disturbs you!

Tip 2. Prepare Your House

When you first bring your kitten home, make sure you have chosen a good place for the litter box and introduce your kitten to it right away.

Find the Best Location for the Litter Box: the box should be in a quiet, private place in or by a room where your kitten may spend a lot of time.

  • If you put the litter box in the laundry area beside the washer and/or dryer, the sounds of the machines may frighten your kitten. You don’t want your pet to look for and find a quieter location instead—like behind the sofa!
  • If you have more than one cat, have a litter box for each pet. The anecdotally accepted rule is to have a litter box for each cat plus one.
  • If you have to move the litter box after your kitten is used to its location, move it a few feet at a time over a period of several days so that your kitten is not confused.
  • Avoid placing the litter box near your kitten’s water and food dishes. Your new kitten will not be comfortable with that arrangement.

Confine Your Kitten for a Few Days: it is a good idea to confine your kitten to one or two rooms when he or she is first brought home to reduce the likelihood of accidents happening. Most kittens know immediately how to use a litter box, but it takes some kittens a few days to adjust to where it is and its purpose. If it’s possible, remove nearby carpets and rugs to make cleaning up after your cat easier until their litter training is completed.

Remove Potted Plants: to prevent your kitty from finding an alternate source of litter than what’s in the box, remove your big potted plants out of sight and reach. Keep them away until it’s established that the litter box is the spot your kitten must choose each time.

Tip 3. This is How Actual Litter Box Training for Kittens Takes Place

Most kittens will know all about litter boxes and how to use them if they have been with their mothers for a while. If not, they usually catch on fast, but it may take some kittens a few days to learn. Always be patient.

What to Do First: as soon as you arrive home, place your new kitten in the litter box to introduce it to the location, smell, and the feel of their litter box. Your kitten may not use it right away, but the familiarity will help.

What Not to Do: Kittens don’t need to be shown how to cover up their feces by, say, your taking hold of a paw and helping with the digging. Kittens will not react well to this action! Covering feces and urine is instinctive for kittens, so even though it may not happen at first, it will soon.

How to Keep Your Kitty on a Schedule: Pick the kitten up and place him or her in the box upon waking up, after each meal, or after some interval of time has occurred. You may have to do this frequently at first or maybe only for a day or two.

  • If you see your kitten squat outside the litter box, assume the box is needed and then pick him or her up and place your pet in it.
  • Establish a regular feeding schedule and assume your kitten will likely need to use the box about 20 minutes later.

Offer Praise, not Punishment: if you see your kitten use the box correctly, pet and praise your little pet. Never scold or get angry at your kitten if they forget.

How to Deal with Accidents: if an accident occurs, help your pet smell the box’s location afterwards. Pick your kitty up and place him or her in the box as a reminder of where they are supposed to go if they have to. Don’t ever rub the noses of kittens into the feces or urine! Doing this is confusing and frightening to them. Clean up the accident area thoroughly so there is no smell remaining; it could encourage your kitten to consider the spot as their bathroom.

Tip 4. Keep the Litter Box Clean

Kittens don’t like unpleasant odors as much as we don’t. They will tend to avoid using a dirty litter box, so you need to keep it clean.

Clean the Litter Daily: use the scooper on a daily basis to remove the urine and feces.

Clean the Box Frequently: about once a week, dump the litter into a garbage bag and wash the box with soapy water or a non-toxic cleaner. Rinse, dry, and fill it with fresh litter after washing.

Unlike potty training dogs, which can take a little while, litter box training for kittens is usually a simple matter of finding the right box, finding the right litter, and making sure the box is easily accessible and regularly kept clean. Kittens can usually be trained in a day or two—it’s easy-peasy!

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

Smelly Cats & Other Questions About Cat Anal Glands

Yes, just like dogs, cats can develop unpleasant, smelly odors. Are you a fan of the TV series Friends? If so, you may already be familiar with the song “Smelly Cat” that Phoebe sings. It’s a funny song because, after all, everyone knows that cats are fastidious about keeping themselves clean. How could a cat be smelly?

As it turns out, it really can happen! Everyone can see that cats are constantly bathing themselves, which is why it is always surprising if you suddenly realize you have a smelly cat.

There are several reasons for a bad odor, and that smell may be coming from your cat’s mouth, skin, ears, or the rear. If the bad smell really is coming from your cat’s rear, there are several possibilities as to why, some of which include their anal glands.

Mouth, Skin, and Ear Odors in Cats

Again, you must first check for the source of the odor and then look out for other symptoms.

Causes:

  1. Mouth Odors – Dental disease can cause bad breath. Plaque, tartar, inflamed gums, food particles lodged in gum pockets, bacterial infections, and oral tumors all produce foul odors. As well, bad breath can be a symptom of various diseases such as kidney disease, which produces an odor similar to ammonia; diabetes, which sometimes makes the breath smell fruity; or liver disease which may make the breath smell like feces.
  2. Skin Odors – A yeast infection produces a musty smell; a wound that becomes infected or an abscess with pus draining from it usually smells putrid. Allergies, parasites, or any serious skin problem can also cause a bad odor.
  3. Ear Odors – Ear odors usually stem from bacterial ear infections, yeast infections, or an ear mite infestation.
  4. Other Symptoms – Biting and licking an area can help point you in the direction of the problem. Remember that your cat will try to conceal their pain and discomfort from you. If your kitty stops eating or hides from you, it means the problem is very serious.

Solutions: All of these problems require a visit to your cat’s veterinarian for treatment or for further testing to discover the underlying cause. Ear problems in particular can cause excruciating pain, and other problems can be very painful or itchy and must not be ignored.

Rear End Odors Can Be Particularly Smelly

Causes:

 

  1. Matting – The fur around your cat’s rectum and genitals can matt and collect smelly urine and feces, which cause terrible odors.

Matting is a problem for long haired cats in particular because their hair is prone to mat. Any cat can have a matting problem causing a smelly rear if there is a cut or scrape under or around the tail to which the fur is sticking.

  1. Poor Grooming – It may have become difficult for kitty to groom his or her rear end.

If your cat is overweight, grooming will become increasingly tricky for your cat, and there may be more skin and fat folds around the rear that make thorough cleaning a problem. If your cat has arthritis, the pain and stiffness will make it difficult for your kitty to reach all parts of the body that would normally be groomed, especially around the rear and genitals.

  1. Urinary Tract Infection – If your cat develops a urinary tract infection, the bacteria may cause the urine itself to smell unpleasant and it may dribble out in the urethra area and cause a bad odor around your cat’s rear end. Urine may be bloody or cloudy and your cat may be uncomfortable when trying to urinate.

 

  1. Diarrhea – It can be difficult for a cat who suffers from diarrhea to keep the area around the anus clean, especially if fluid is leaking out of the rectum and onto the fur and folds around it. Your cat may bathe even more frequently but can’t keep up with the job, and may be feeling a bit sick as well. If you examine the litter box, you can see if there is only liquid rather than stool being produced which is the biggest sign something is wrong.

 

  1. Other Symptoms: For any problems that result in smelly rears, cats may try to reach around and grab their tails; scoot, or drag their bottoms along the ground or floor; lick and bite their rears; and sometimes strain or cry when using litter boxes.

Solutions: You should brush long-haired cats daily; use baby wipes to clean around the anus and genital areas of cats who are not able to groom themselves properly; and try to help overweight cats lose weight by cutting back on the treats and providing extra play time. Consult your veterinarian for help with weight loss, arthritis, and any suspected infections, or ongoing diarrhea, which may indicate food allergies.

Another Cause of Smelly Rears is an Anal Gland Problem

Having a problem with anal glands is less likely for cats than dogs, but it is something for which pet parents should watch. If you examine your smelly cat’s mouth, skin, and ears and find no odors and no symptoms of a problem, and if your cat has no barriers to good grooming such as being overweight or arthritic or long haired, and if diarrhea is not a problem and there are no symptoms of a urinary tract infection, you must consider the possibility that your cat is exhibiting trouble with his or her anal glands.

Cats have two anal scent glands, which are sacs located just inside the rectum that are used to help mark a cat’s territory with dark, smelly liquid. The liquid is normally squeezed out along with the stools when your cat uses the litter box; however, treatment is needed if problems develop.

In regards to the subject of anal glands, our clinic receives these two questions the most from our clients: “What happens if I don’t express my pet’s anal glands regularly?” and “How often should my pet have their anal glands expressed?”

Here is the answer to the first question:

      1. Glands can become impacted – The ducts or tube by which the anal sac is emptied may become clogged. If that happens, it becomes difficult and painful for your cat to relieve himself or herself and may become constipated as a result, which makes the situation even worse.
      2. A bacterial infection may continue to be present – If bacteria accumulates in clogged anal glands, a full-blown bacterial infection will develop and cause terrible pain and itching in your cat.
      3. An abscess can develop – this pus-filled mass is the most painful of all the problems, and your cat’s vet must lance and drain it.
      4. Chronic soft stools can cause a problem – If your cat suffers from chronic soft stools, they will not exert enough pressure to release the fluid in the glands, which causes a painful build-up of liquid.
      5. Other Symptoms: Other symptoms are the same as those of other problems that result in smelly rears.

Solutions: If your cat’s anal glands become infected, clogged, or abscessed, they will cause a foul odor around your kitty’s rear end. You need to consult a veterinarian to empty their anal glands, to drain an abscess, to receive antibiotics to deal with an infection, or to diagnose the problem behind the soft stools.

To answer the second question, your cat’s anal glands should be expressed regularly only if your cat has a medical history of infected anal glands. If not, you can leave them alone.

As a pet parent, you must take any development of an unpleasant odor in your cat seriously because the reasons for it may be serious. If your cat’s rear or any other area is always smelly, get the help your kitty needs so they can smell nicer again.

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

“Why Does My Cat Urinate Outside the Litter Box?”

Our veterinarians are often asked this question: “Why does my cat urinate outside the litter box?” This is an excellent question to ask us because there are several possible answers, and cat owners have taken the first step in finding the right one by consulting with us!

Generally, a cat will urinate outside the litter box because of an underlying medical issue or a behavioural problem. You cannot ignore this behaviour in the hope that it will go away by itself. If your cat is peeing all over the house, it’s frustrating for you as an owner because the odor is very strong, requires constant and thorough cleaning, and can damage the floors and baseboards in your home.

Cats are normally very attentive to being clean, so this unusual problem is a definite sign that something is wrong. Our veterinarians can rule out a possible medical issue and can treat your cat’s problem if one is discovered upon closer examination.

Medical Issues That Cause Cats to Pee Outside the Litter Box

There are a number of bladder and urinary tract problems in cats that a veterinarian can discover and treat successfully. Normally this will solve the dilemma of a cat urinating outside the litter box. Your cat’s vet will usually ask to examine a sample of your cat’s urine and conduct a physical check-up. During the check-up they will feel various parts of the cat’s body to see if there are lumps or bumps where there shouldn’t be, or if your cat reacts with pain when they’re touched somewhere.

These are some of the most common medical problems that cats experience in regards to peeing outside of their litter box:

  1. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Bacteria in the urine means there is an infection or inflammation in the urinary tract, and your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic. Your cat will probably need a follow-up examination to make sure the infection is completely gone.
  1. Bladder Stones. There may be stones in the bladder that can cause pain or blockage. If your veterinarian suspects stones, a radiograph will be used to determine how many and how large they are. Sometimes they can be dissolved with a special diet, but if the stones are large, surgery may be required and possibly an antibiotic, too.
  1. Crystalluria. Crystals will form in the urine if the pH (acidic level) of your cat’s urine is too high or too low, and crystals will irritate the urinary tract. Treatment usually means a special diet and possibly anti-inflammatory medication or antibiotics as well.
  1. Idiopathic Cystitis. This is the name for bladder inflammation when the cause is unknown and blood in the urine is detected. If there are no bacteria, no crystals, and no stones, the problem will be diagnosed as idiopathic cystitis.
  1. Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). This is the name for any urinary tract disease that has become chronic. Both FLUTD and idiopathic cystitis are treated with a special diet and sometimes additional supplements to strengthen the cat’s urinary tract.
  1. Other Medical Issues. If your cat is obviously trying to pee but can’t, or only a small amount of urine is expelled, immediately take your kitty to your family cat clinic. There could be an obstruction or blockage, which is a dangerous situation for your pet.

If no bladder or urinary tract problems are discovered, your pet may be experiencing pain or discomfort from some other parts of the body. More lab work is needed to check for serious problems such as diabetes or kidney disease and treatment should be started as soon as possible.

Behavioural Issues that Cause Cats to Pee Outside of the Litter Box

If medical problems have been ruled out, behavioural issues must be considered.

  1. Litter Box Problems – Your cat may be unhappy with the litter box for one or more of the following reasons:
  • The box may be too dirty too often. Litter boxes should be scooped out once and sometimes twice a day depending on how many cats live in the home. The litter should be replaced and the box washed every month.
  • The box may be clean enough but not comfortable enough if the box is too small or too deep for your cat. You could try introducing a large plastic storage box (the kind used for storing items under the bed), especially if your cat is big and fluffy, or you can try a large disposable box that can be thrown out as the odor accumulates, such as once a month.
  • Your cat may be unhappy if the box is covered. Some cats feel cramped or uncomfortable inside a covered box. Take the cover off and see if that solves the problem.
  • Kitty may not like the litter—the odor or the feel. Try a new litter that’s unscented and easy to scoop out.
  • Several cats using the same litter box can create problems, especially if one of the cats is a bully and insists on hogging the box. Also, if a new kitten is introduced into the home and uses the same litter box, the risk of parasitic diseases such as tapeworms becomes more likely to spread to your healthy, older cat. Other times, some cats don’t like the odor of the urine or feces of other cats, or are too timid to use the box if another cat is in the way or has just finished using the box. The solution is to have more than one litter box, preferably in different locations. If you do have a new kitten, get them vaccinated and treated for worms and then provide them with a designated, separate litter box at home.
  • Cats prefer a quiet and private location and one that is away from where they eat. Placing the box behind a door or behind a screen is a good idea.
  1. Stress – If a cat is anxious, stressed, or particularly timid, especially if other animals live in the house, your kitty may prefer to choose a “safer” place to go, which is away from the other animals. Provide your stressed cat with a litter box in a different location. Make sure it is not beside noisy machinery like a clothes dryer.

If there are cats gathering outside the house regularly, your cat may pee near the door as a way of marking their territory. Move a litter box by the door until you can discourage the outdoor cats from coming around.

Cats are creatures of habit, which means they may react to any major change in the environment—new people, new pets, or frequent noisy visitors. Cats may begin to pee in different locations because the smell of their own urine makes them feel safer if there have been changes in the household. Make sure your cat has a safe place to go, high or hidden, with a couple of treats to help with adjustment. There is also medication available if your veterinarian thinks it is a good temporary solution.

  1. Aging, Disabled, and Ill Cats – As cats age they may develop arthritis, which can make it increasingly difficult for them to climb in and out of their litter box. A cat with an injury may incur a permanent disability and no longer be able to perform the usual jumping and running activities that are easy for healthy cats to do. Also, if your cat is recovering from an illness, it may be temporarily difficult for your kitty to use the litter box in its current area.

For an ill or injured cat, make it easier to access their litter box by moving it closer or providing a ramp until your cat is back to normal so that accidents don’t occur.

If your cat is arthritic or has a physical disability, provide one or two new litter boxes so that there is one on each floor with permanent ramps.

Remember that old urine smells can attract a cat back to an area where he or she once urinated. If your cat has peed outside the box for medical or behavioural reasons, solving the problem itself may not be enough. Make sure you thoroughly clean and scrub away all traces of urine in any location outside the litter box, or your cat may start to think some other spot is an acceptable alternative to use.

There are many possible answers to the question of why your cat has started peeing outside the litter box and it is one of the most frequent problems for cats, even those who have had spotless records at the cat clinic for many years. To find out what to do, schedule a check-up for your cat. Meanwhile, make sure you are providing them with a happy environment and a clean and easy-to-access litter box—or boxes—designed to make your cat feel comfortable and safe.

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

Great Gift Ideas for Pet Owners and Their Pets

Are you looking for some gift ideas for your furry friends? We have some great suggestions to help take the stress out of making decisions in time for the upcoming holiday season!

We all know how much you and your friends love their precious pets, and we know that they usually treat their pooches and kitties with tenderness and affection. If you are a pet owner, you know exactly what I mean!

If you are currently choosing a gift for your own or someone else’s pet, there is a wide range of choices to fit any wallet. If you are looking for a gift for a pet owner, there is an equally wide selection. Gifts are available from pet stores and online, too.

Both Cats and Dogs Will Love These Gifts

If they knew how to write, we’re sure pets would add many of these items to their wish lists:

1. Treats – What pet doesn’t love a yummy treat? That’s right, they all do!

  • Choose from a variety of cat treats or dog treats that are both delicious and nutritious. They are great to use as rewards when training pets (e.g. training them to come when their name is called) and for comforting them when they are in stressful situations (e.g. after meeting new people and animals).
  • An alternative treat idea is a water fountain that both cats and dogs will enjoy and can even use together. Fountains can help a pet stay hydrated and most cats and dogs are attracted to the sound of running water. Pet fountains are usually made of stainless steal or porcelain and are easy to clean when necessary, but any fountain with a low brim that sits on the floor will do.

2. Toys – There are many cat toys and dog toys available that will keep pets amused and active all by themselves, and other toys that will also keep their owners active and amused when they’re playing with them!

  • Both dogs and cats love to chase balls. Even though the game is different for each kitty and pooch, try to find the right type and size of ball and plan on everyone having a good time. Some balls make interesting noises and flash sparking lights to entertain your cat, and others are perfect for tossing through the air for a dog to chase and retrieve. Choose one for your pooch that lights up at night for a fun evening game!
  • Toy choices that will make every pet happy are the chew toys. These can help keep a dog’s teeth healthy, and they’ll keep cats from chewing on electrical cords and wires or other dangerous items.

3. Comfort Gifts – Pamper pets with a cozy bed, or provide an aid for senior pets to make their life easier.

  • Every pet loves to have a bed that is just right for them even if they’re allowed to sleep on their owner’s bed now and then. There are memory foam beds for pets that live with arthritis, and there are thermal cushioned mats for senior pets that use an insulated layer to keep a pet warm using body heat rather than an electrical connection.
  • Pet stairs or pet ramps are a good choice for senior pets with arthritis since they may be no longer able to jump up onto the bed or the couch, or that allow dogs to get up into cars when travelling.
  • Brushing your pet’s coat not only feels good to them, but also it keeps pet hair and fur from building up on every surface in the home. Select a good brush for a pet and everybody wins!

More Gifts to Pamper a Pooch

  • What dog doesn’t love to play with a Frisbee? Even a senior dog will probably not be able to resist trying to catch a spinning Frisbee in the air or on the ground, and running back to their owner with it, chewed and covered with slobber. Good times!
  • Who wants to play tug of war? Dogs do, that’s who! Buy a good tug-of-war rope and you’ll make a dog and their owner very happy.
  • When it’s time to go out for a walk, dogs will appreciate having their paws warm and dry when the weather isn’t. Try finding them water resistant socks or shoes and you’ll make both them and their owner’s walks even better!

More Purr-fect Gifts for Kitty

  • Do cats love chasing wands, wand teasers, and bird feather teasers? Oh, yes, they do! These toys are not only fun for kitties, but also they provide good exercise. Cats will stretch up on their toes or jump up into the air to catch their “prey” whenever you offer them one of these!
  • Cats love to scratch, and scratching posts are welcome gifts for cats and their owners. Add a little catnip to really encourage kitty to scratch the post rather than the furniture.
  • Wind-up toys are always fun! They come in a great variety of small, tempting, “animal-looking” prey to excite and lead kitty on a merry chase.

Gifts That Please Pet Owners

There are a multitude of awesome gifts for pet owners that let them show the world that they love their pets, make playing with their pets easier, and help keep them safe.

  • Pet tote bags with illustrations of cats or dogs are welcome gifts. Owners can carry pet essentials (e.g., food, water, toys) on walks, travels, or visits to friends.
  • Pet owners need a crate for both cats and dogs for long-term travel, and are needed for cats even on short car trips.
  • A litter scoop is an inexpensive gift for a cat owner, and poop bags or a poop bag carrier is an ideal, inexpensive gift for a dog owner.
  • An attractive throw to protect a pet’s favourite sleeping spot on a sofa or comfy chair can make a pet owner very happy!
  • There are a lot of pet gates that will keep a dog (not a cat) out of a room or rooms. Some of them come with a hinged door and some with useful auto-close features that are useful when your hands are full.
  • Dogs love being taken for walks no matter what time of day! For late eveningwear, check out leashes with a light-up LED light or those made from glow-in-the-dark material.
  • A tennis ball holder for playing catch with a dog makes the fun easier on the owner, who may get tired before their dog does.
  • Placemats to put under pet food and water dishes, making cleanup for owners easier, and they aren’t too expensive.
  • Personalize gifts with their pet’s name and a pet owner will be over the moon! You can arrange for pet names to be embroidered on blankets, T-shirts, Christmas stockings, engraved on jewelry, stamped on dog or cat collars, placemats, etc.
  • Pet-themed bins for toys, jars for treats, collars for cats or dogs, owner T-shirts, welcome mats, socks, coffee mugs, phone cases, key chains, coasters—you name it, there will be a cat or dog theme for almost any gift item at a very wide range of prices.
  • Books on pet care, how to interpret a pet’s form of communication, subscriptions to magazines aimed at dog and cat owners, or a book full of humorous dog and cat stories will take care of gifts for pet owners who like to read.

We hope our suggestions help you find the perfect gifts for pet owners and their pets in time for the upcoming holiday season. Look for these items in your local pet store or online. Whatever gift you get them, we know your friends and their pets will love them. Have fun!

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

Older Cats Need Love, Too! 8 Reasons for Adopting One

Older cats make great pets! Their need for love and their willingness to return love so readily is only one of eight reasons to adopt an older cat. We love kittens just as much because they are so cute and cuddly, and it’s easy to lose our hearts to them even though, in many cases, an older cat might be a better choice for your household.

Why There Are Many Older Cats Available for Adoption

Older cats may be given up for adoption for a few reasons. Usually it’s because the owners:

  • are downsizing to an apartment that won’t accept pets
  • no longer want a cat after a baby is born into the family
  • have someone moving into the home who suffers from a cat allergy
  • develop asthma or some other allergy to cats
  • are moving to another area with accommodations and conditions unsuitable for pets
  • accept a new job that involves extensive travel and can no longer care for a pet
  • are moving into a seniors’ complex that doesn’t allow pets
  • become too sick to care for a pet, or are hospitalized for an indefinite time, or pass away

Older cats are often not chosen for adoption because people seeking a cat as a pet don’t realize the many benefits of choosing an older one, so they pick a cute little kitten instead. Lonely older cats yearning for a loving home may end their days in an animal shelter.

An older cat can be defined as any full-grown cat, which means it has reached the age of 18 months and, for some large breeds (e.g., a Maine Coon), at ages two to four years old. You can consider a cat to be a “senior” at approximately seven years old—again, depending on their breed. Most people consider a cat to be an “older cat” when the animal is beyond the cute kitten stage.

Whatever the definition, an older cat needs love just as much as a kitten does. Without further ado, here are the advantages of adopting an older cat.

1. Lower Costs

Most older cats have already received their vaccinations as kittens and may have had some of the booster shots as well. They have usually been spayed or neutered already as well. All these procedures have basic costs, which have been paid for by their previous owners, and it means that the costs of cat ownership are lowered by a lot for new owners. Your new cat needs to be registered and examined by a veterinarian where you can pass along all the information about her or him from the previous owner and/or shelter where you obtained ownership and you can ask questions about how to care for an older cat.

2. Easy Care

Speaking of care, it is a lot less work to care for an older cat than a kitten. You merely have to introduce your cat to the location of his or her litter box and you are free from the necessity of training your cat to use it. Also, you won’t need to entertain or play with an older cat as frequently as you must with a kitten since kittens require a lot of interaction. An older cat usually already knows the terms “no,” “down,” and “off,” and is more likely to come when called by name. Older cats have been socialized and are anxious to become part of a family.

3. Great With Kids

Young children have to be cautioned many times about being gentle with a kitten but often forget, or don’t really know what “gentle” means and, in some cases, don’t have the motor skills needed to be gentle “enough.” Kittens don’t understand acceptable behavior either, and they might often bite or scratch children without realizing their claws and teeth hurt, so they must learn to be gentle as well. Older cats already know how to keep their teeth and claws to themselves, have much more patience, will break free of children who hurt them rather than fight back, and will still love their little owners.

4. Great With Seniors, Too

An older cat is a great companion for an older adult. Senior cats as well as senior owners are more relaxed and move more slowly. Older cats have lower energy levels and are much less likely to do anything destructive, like trying to claw their way up the drapes or jump up on tables where there isn’t room for them. Older cats sleep a lot and enjoy households where the pace of living is slow and relaxing.

5. Great With Other Pets, Three

If you own other cats and want to introduce a new pet into your household, it is a lot easier if you choose a mature cat rather than a kitten. Kittens want to play, not only with you but also with your other pets. Kittens can create a lot of stress, especially for older cats who like their established lifestyle and routines and don’t want to deal with an energetic, playful kitten. It is also better to select an older cat that has lived in a household with other pets and has learned to live with them as well as with humans.

6. An Established Personality

When you choose a kitten as a pet, you have no idea what your pet will be like as an adult cat. Maybe your kitten will grow up to be absolutely delightful and a good companion for you, or may become an unfriendly annoyance who leaps on you from the top of the fridge or scratches your ankle from under the bed, or launches an assault on you while you’re sleeping (this is rare, though, and if present kittens will outgrow this behaviour). Former owners can describe their cat’s behaviour and staff at a shelter will know whether or not a cat gets along well with other animals and if it is friendly with people. You want to choose a cat who will be happy in your household, and you can make a more informed choice if it is an adult with an established personality.

7. Experienced and Wise

No matter how cute and sweet kittens may be, they require a lot of work to keep up with their energy. Kittens need time to learn how to use their litter boxes, not to jump up on tables and counters, not to climb up the curtains, and not to get into trouble when you leave the house. Older cats know how to use a litter box, understand how households run, don’t care if you leave them alone for most of the day, are happy on their own, are happy if you are there with them, and come when they are called.

8. Immense Love

Older cats are so grateful to be in a family household after living without an owner and/or in a shelter. It’s so easy to love a kitten at first sight, but it takes a lot of work to care for them and raise them when you have a busy schedule. An older cat needs love and gives tons of love back when they’re adopted. Any older cats who have been denied such a warm and loving environment for so long will be very happy to have found a new home and will love their new owners at once. You can count on them for devotion and to remain attached to you for the rest of their lives.

Even a senior cat can be a delightful companion. Many age-related health problems such as arthritis can be managed with good care. As long as they have the right owners, senior cats can live full and happy lives and prove to be perfect pets for many cat lovers.

There are many good reasons for adopting an older cat, even cats who have reached their senior years, and they have lots of love to give. Let your heart be your guide—as well as recommendations from animal shelter staff!

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

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 Hospital 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!

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