How to Motivate Your Cat to Take their Medicine

If you’re a cat owner, you know the only thing more difficult and stressful than a sick cat is getting them to take their medication. When it comes to oral medication, there are a few methods to encourage your cat to take it. The most effective methods vary, depending on the type of medication, (whether pill, capsule, or liquid) whether it should be taken with food or on an empty stomach, and of course, it all depends on the cat that’s taking it. 

If it’s your first time giving your cat a medication, don’t be discouraged by failed attempts. Keep experimenting to figure out a method that works for your pet, and ensure they’re as comfortable as possible while you’re keeping them healthy. Some of the most common ways to provide medication for your cat are the following.

The ‘meatball’ method

This is a great way to give medication that comes in a pill or capsule form, provided your veterinarian gives you the OK for your cat to take it with food. It’s a good idea to talk to them before you attempt this method.

The process is simple. Start by choosing a food your cat likes that can be easily rolled up into a ‘meatball’ shape—this could be your cat’s favourite wet food. If you’re trying this for the first time, it’s a good idea to provide a test meatball first before putting medication in it. This will ensure your cat will actually eat it! Once you’ve found a food that you think will work, place the pill or capsule into the centre of a small ball of food and give it to your cat. The entire ball should be small enough for the cat to eat it in one bite, which improves the odds of your cat swallowing all of the medicine. 

The meatball method is a great choice for many situations. However, it may not work if your cat generally chews their food well before swallowing. Cats tend to chew their food, which means they may end up biting into the capsule and tasting the medication. If this happens, the capsule or pill will be partially broken or dissolved and become harder to administer—not to mention that your cat may be less likely to cooperate in the future.

Administering by hand

If the meatball method doesn’t work for your cat, or if the medicine must be taken without food, you may need to administer it by hand. This can be tricky, as cats rarely like to cooperate when they know they’re taking medication. Thankfully, there are a few techniques to know that may make it easier for the both of you. 

One thing to keep in mind when giving oral medication to your cat is avoiding a bite. Cats have lots of bacteria in their mouth, and getting bit can lead to an infection, or at the very least, be quite painful. If you are bitten by your cat, clean your wound thoroughly and monitor for an infection.

The key to administering medication to your cat is to be confident, yet calm. You want to keep gentle but firm control over them the whole time. Follow these directions for giving your cat a pill or capsule orally: 

  1. Using your non-dominant hand, keep control of your cat’s head from the top down. 
    • Your cat’s cheekbones, otherwise known as the zygomatic arches, are a great place to keep a hold on the cat without causing any pain or discomfort. 
  2. From here, tilt the cat’s head back. Assuming you have a firm grasp on the top of the head, the cat will often instinctively drop their lower jaw. 
  3. Hold the pill or capsule in between your thumb and index finger in your dominant hand. You can also use your middle finger to keep your cat’s jaw open, just make sure you push down on the smaller incisor (front) teeth, and not on the sharper canines (fangs).
    • If your cat doesn’t open their jaw when you tilt their head back, follow the above instructions after using your middle finger on your dominant hand to pull their jaw open. 
  4. Using your middle finger to keep your cat’s jaw open, either drop the pill as far back on the tongue as possible, or use your fingers to push it towards the back of the throat.
    • If putting your fingers inside the cat’s mouth, work quickly to avoid getting bit.
  5. Once the pill is in your cat’s mouth, use your hands to keep their mouth shut. 
    • You can stroke the cat’s neck, or sharply blow on their nose. Either will encourage them to swallow. 
  6. You’ve successfully administered oral medication to your cat by hand!

Administering liquid medications

When administering liquid medications, you’re aiming to get it into the cat’s mouth, rather than directly down their throat.

  1. It’s alright to hold your cat’s head in order to keep them in place, but it’s very important to ensure their head is kept in its natural position, to avoid aspiration
  2. Quickly insert the medication via a dropper into the pouch between the cat’s cheek and teeth (on either side of the mouth). 
  3. Then, remove the dropper and hold the mouth closed. 
  4. Stroke their neck or blow on their nose as before until the cat swallows the medication.
  5. You have successfully administered liquid medication!

If you’re having repeated trouble with giving your cat medication, especially if it’s in pill or capsule form, talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of suspending it in liquid for easier administration. Many medications can be put into a liquid form, but not all of them. Always consult your veterinarian about your cat’s medication.

For tips on providing medication subcutaneously (aka through the skin), be sure to watch our YouTube video below where our staff provides a safe demonstration.*

*Please note: this video was recorded prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and does not fully reflect our staff’s current health and safety standards. For more information on how we are working to keep you and your family safe, please refer to our website’s COVID-19 section.

If you have more questions about keeping up with your cat’s medicine routine, or you’re simply looking to get your furry friend checked out by our team of expert veterinarians, contact us today with your questions or to book an appointment.

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Preventive Medicine for Pets: Why We Do What We Do

At Hastings Veterinary Hospital, we are all about providing pet owners with preventive medicine. So here’s what you need to know.

What is Preventive Medicine for Pets Exactly?

There are several different forms of preventive medicine that goes into our regular veterinary care services. Examples include vaccinations, blood testing, and flea and parasite control.

Basically you’re not bringing your pet in to see the veterinarian the minute they’re sick; you’re bringing them in to the vet office before such a stressful event can take place and cause you and your pet greater anxiety.

Why Do You Practice Preventive Veterinary Medicine?

Simple: we do what we do because we care about your pets. We all have pets at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, and we treat them like family—with love and respect. So, we always treat our pet patients and their families like they’re a part of our own family too.

We don’t want our pets to get sick, or be scared, or feel anxious—we know you don’t want that either. To avoid such stress in our lives, we make sure to follow up on scheduled appointment times and pay extra attention to the details of each pet’s case during an examination. In the event a specialist is needed, we’ll make the referral for you so your pet gets the best possible care they need.

Other benefits of preventive medicine for pets include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

  • It’s less expensive. While there are surgical procedures that do fall under the category of preventive medicine, such as spaying and neutering, these procedures are far less costly than it would be if you only take care of your pet when they are sick and need more urgent care.
  • It’s less stressful. Going back to our previous point about reducing anxiety, by practicing preventive medicine through our routine check-ups and exams, we will be able to detect underlying conditions or address future concerns before they become an even bigger problem. For example, a bump on your pet’s skin could be a flea bite, or it can mean something else; either way, by bringing your pet in for an exam, you’re also bringing your family veterinarian’s attention to their case now as opposed to later when it may be too late to prevent secondary conditions from developing. Finding out that there is a problem now and addressing it sooner than later reduces future anxieties on you and your pet going forward!
  • It’s more considerate. From your pet’s perspective, they can only do so much to communicate to you whether they are happy and healthy or sick and in need of help. It’s tougher in some cases, especially for cats, since their natural reaction to pain is to hide it from potential predators. By practicing preventive solutions in your daily pet care routine, you are in turn contributing to the reduction of their fear and anxiety surrounding veterinary services. The less stressed out you feel about going to see the vet, the less stressed out your pet will be too.
  • It’s more beneficial to you and your pet’s well-being. Stress is the number one factor in causing harm to the body in both humans and animals. Once your pet is receiving preventive medicine and care, you will see a difference in their well-being tenfold. The alternative would be having to treat conditions left undiagnosed and untreated for too long…and that’s definitely not something we recommend you doing.

How Does It Work?

All you have to do to make preventive medicine for pets work is bring your pet in for their annual checkups and routine vaccinations and deworming. It’s that easy!

Ask any and all questions you have for your vet during checkups to ensure that your pet is getting the help they need. The more educated you become on how to best care for your pet, the greater the preventive solutions will be and the happier your pet will be for it. If you’d like to continue to learn more about pet care, our blog is a good start.

If you still have any questions regarding preventive medicine as a veterinary service, we are here for you. Contact us to learn more about our practice or if you’d like to book an appointment.

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Creative Ideas to Keep Pets Out of Christmas Decorations

If you’ve ever raised a cat or dog, you probably know that the holidays tend to bring new levels of challenge when it comes to keeping your furry friend safe. With all the exciting decorations, delicious food, and new people coming and going, the holidays can be an overwhelming time for pets.

One of the most common causes for pet injuries around this time of the year involves some kind of holiday decoration, whether it’s a Christmas tree or a strand of lights. Avoid unplanned visits to the veterinarian this winter with these creative ideas to keep pets out of your Christmas decorations.

How to Pet-proof Your Decorations

There are a number of decorations in the home that can be hazards for your pets. Of course, every animal is different, and what might be completely safe for one could be a serious danger to another. However, here are a few common Christmas decorations to keep a watchful eye over:

  • Christmas trees are a cherished and classic holiday decoration. However, because of their height, and the fact that they’re normally loaded with enticing, dangling decorations, they’re also one of the most common causes for holiday pet accidents.
  • Christmas lights are beautiful, but pose a couple of safety risks to many pets. The light bulbs, being so colourful and exciting, might be a temptation for a bite-happy dog. Likewise, playful pets might bite right through the cord, risking electric shock or even a fire. Finally, animals of all kinds have been known to get tangled up in the strands of lights, which could lead to injury.
  • Garlands are often seen in the home around the holidays. Whether they’re artificial or real, these decorations can be hazardous to keep around mischievous pets. Your cat or dog might get tangled up in the garland, possibly injuring themselves in the process. Also, the needles on some garland’s might shed, especially if you’re using the same decoration year after year. If your pet ends up getting these needles in their mouth, they could be a choking hazard.
  • Candles are a great way to set the holiday mood. Unfortunately, many animals find them alluring for the same reasons as humans, and could end up burning themselves or even knocking the candle over and starting a fire. 
  • Wrapping paper can be a hazard as well. If your pet is prone to eating little bits of whatever they can find, be sure to properly dispose of even the smallest scraps of wrapping paper after the gifts have been opened.

These are just some of the more common holiday hazards that could wind up causing trouble for your pet. Keep your cherished decorations in good shape, and keep your pet safe by taking a few simple precautions.

Choose Decorations Wisely

There are a huge variety of decorations available for trees, and taking the time to choose the right ones will go a long way in ensuring a safe holiday for everyone.

  • Fragile hanging baubles and glass decorations can be risky temptations, particularly for dogs who like to try eating whatever they can get their paws on. 
  • Since these decorations are liable to shatter, we advise keeping them off the tree, or at the very least, ensuring they’re higher up so your dog can’t reach them. 
  • The same goes for cats, since many are enticed by dangling objects. If you have a particularly mischievous cat, we’d recommend avoiding any tempting decorations entirely, since they’re likely to try and climb the tree to get at whatever catches their eye.
  • We also advise against any food-based decorations, such as strings of popcorn. These are just another temptation to most animals, and could be the thing to send them after your Christmas tree.

Consider the Pros and Cons of Real Trees

A real Christmas tree is a beautiful and nostalgic piece of holiday decoration, but you should consider carefully if it’s the right choice for your pet. Needles from a real pine or spruce tree can be a hassle and a hazard. Not only will your pet likely track them all through the house, but also they could be choking hazards for smaller animals, or possibly even be mildly poisonous depending on the type of tree and any chemicals present on the needles. In general, an artificial Christmas tree is likely to be the safest option for your pet.

Make a Barrier Around the Tree to Protect it from Nosy Pets

If you can’t seem to shake your pet’s interest in your Christmas tree, consider blocking access to it in some way. You could use a baby gate or a moveable play-pen to enclose it, or even block the way with larger gifts if your pet is small enough. The more you do to keep your pet away from the tree in general, the less likely they are to run into trouble.

Use Sprays to Deter Pets from the Tree

Pet deterrent sprays are available at most pet supply stores, but if those don’t work, or you’d prefer to make something at home, you can try spraying it with a concoction of water and turmeric. We recommend consulting with our veterinarian first to find out the safest way to deter your pet without bringing risk to them or your family.

Keep Electrical Cords Safe and Secure

Electrical cords pose a major hazard to pets, particularly to dogs with a knack for biting on things they shouldn’t. If possible, route Christmas light cables and extension cords high up so your pet doesn’t have the chance to chew on them. If this isn’t possible, you could always securely tape the cords to the floor. Just make sure to keep an eye on your pet to ensure they don’t try to pull the tape off in order to get at the cable.

Ensure the Tree is Well Secured

If you’re going to put a Christmas tree in your home with your pet, you should ensure it’s as securely placed as possible. Even small animals can climb up the tree, push it, or get tangled up in the branches, causing it to topple over. Not only can this injure your pet, but also it could hurt a family member, or at the very least wreck the tree, the decorations, and other objects in the room. 

Avoid this by ensuring the tree is well-secured to its base. It’s even better to have an additional point of contact, ideally at the top of the tree that’s fastened to a wall, ceiling, or curtain rod, to ensure the tree can’t be knocked over—no matter what.

Secure Your Decorations to the Tree

Another great way to ensure your decorations stay on the tree is to securely fasten them when you place them. You can use twist ties, clips, string, or stiff wire to do this. It’s best (and easiest) to do this for every ornament as you’re hanging them, and it’ll go a long way in keeping your decorations out of the mouth of any curious pets.

In General, Choose Safe Decorations Around the House

We all have our favourite seasonal decorations, but it’s important to keep your pets in mind when choosing them. There are a few decorations that can be major hazards to your pets, and should either be placed with extreme care or avoided entirely. 

Candles are a common choice for holiday decor, but are quite risky to keep around pets. The flickering flame is likely to catch the interest of your pets, particularly if you have an especially curious cat in the house. No matter what kind of pet you have, be very careful with candles, as they may try and play with it, potentially burning themselves or even knocking the flame over and starting a fire. If you want to achieve the same look, consider battery-powered candles with no heat or open flame. 

As you can see, decorating a house for the holidays with a pet in the equation comes with a few extra considerations. However, with a little extra thought and preparation, you can keep your home looking festive and beautiful, just the way you like it, while ensuring your pet has a safe and comfortable holiday as well. 

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How to Keep Your Cat Happy and Safe During Christmas

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

What about your pets though, particularly cats? A reality all cat owners must face is a huge number of hazards to watch out for during this busy time of the year. Luckily, we have some cat care-based solutions. These tips will help you both enjoy the holiday 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 a cat 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 kitty 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, your 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 any kitten 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 your kitty can’t reach, leaving you ample room for decoration!

Speaking of such… let’s talk about ornaments for a minute.

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 cats! 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. Try using a marker to write on your wrapped gifts instead of adding a tempting bow.

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 kittens 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 your cat, 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 vet-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 kittens 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 cat in the mix, we’re sure you won’t miss the other stuff at all!

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How to Get Your Cat to Exercise More (They Need it Too!)

Cats aren’t exactly renowned for their highly organized exercise regimens. When you think of a cat, you probably think of naps and carefree stretching, punctuated by brief explosions of energy. Although outdoor cats usually get a decent amount of exercise in a day, it can be tougher to keep an indoor cat in shape, so that’s what we’re going to focus on in this article. 

In combination with a proper diet, exercise will go a long way to keep your indoor cat in the best possible health. Otherwise, you run the risk of your cat becoming overweight, which can lead to serious health issues such as diabetes, heart problems, arthritis, and more. With that in mind, here are Hastings Vet’s top ways to get your cat to exercise more:

Exercise games for cats

Physical games are some of the most effective (and fun) ways to get your cat more active. Although the energy levels of cats differ widely depending on their age, breed, and personality, you should always try to play with your cat as often as possible. Some of the best things you can use to play with your cat are:

1. Feathers or other objects on sticks and strings

The majority of cat toys are some variation of a lure on a string, attached to a stick. Think of it like a fishing rod, only you’re trying to catch a four kilogram predator instead of a fish. Moving the stick around mimics the movement of a small animal, which will get your cat’s hunting instincts going and encourage them to go for the ‘kill’. This can be a lot of fun for cats and humans alike, and is a great way to encourage your indoor cat to get some exercise, all while honing their natural instincts.

2. Playing with a ball

Playing with a cat-friendly ball is another great way to get your cat moving. Seeing an unassuming ball rolling along the floor, practically begging to be pounced on, is basically irresistible to most cats. Simply rolling it around is usually enough to spur your cat into action, keeping them active while promoting their predator instincts. Obviously, make sure the ball isn’t small enough for them to swallow, and keep an eye on your pet just in case.

Build the indoor environment with exercise in mind

Playing with your cat is great, but you don’t want your pet to solely rely on you for exercise. Setting up your indoor space with your cat’s activity in mind is a great way to make sure they’re getting enough exercise, even when you’re not around to tempt them with a toy. Cats love to climb, scratch stuff, hide in little places, and generally cause mischief, so outfitting your place with things to help with this will not only save your furniture, it’ll help keep your cat healthy as well!

Some of the best ways to set up your space for your cat to get exercise are:

1. Getting a scratching post or a cat tree

This is one of the best things you can do for your cat. Although there’s a common joke that the more time you spend finding the perfect scratching post, the less likely your cat is to use it, this isn’t always the case. A scratching post will likely see a lot of use, especially if you rub a bit of catnip on it once in a while. If you’re able to, get a cat tree with a scratching post included. This way, your cat has something to climb around on, a high-up place to relax, and a scratching post all together in one convenient package. 

An important note on scratching posts is that it should be the right one for your cat. Get one that’s tall enough that they can fully extend against it, and ensure the post will support their weight. The better suited the post is to your cat, the more likely they are to use it. 

You can also experiment with other things to get your cat moving around the house. Some cats love those long tubes that they can run through and hide in, and some might just be satisfied with a few boxes here and there for them to climb in. Play around and see what your cat likes best, and what gets them moving the most. 

2. Cycling a few toys in and out to keep things fresh

Cats love a good toy, but like kids, they tend to get bored of the same ones eventually. Keep it exciting by rotating toys in and out, encouraging your cat to go on the hunt and get active at home. The more interesting the toy, the more time they’re likely to spend playing with them, so make sure they’ve got enough to do around the house!

3. Give your cat an elevated spot

Cats love to find a vantage point to survey their kingdom (your home) and watch the world. Try to find a good (and safe!) spot in your house, somewhere they can get a good view of everything. If you’re able to put this spot near a window, that’s even better. This is a great way to foster your cat’s natural hunting instincts, and is more likely to get them into their natural mindstate, promoting a more active lifestyle.

4. Make time for your cat!

While having stuff at home for your cat to play with is great, nothing is more fun than playing with their person. Make sure you’re making as much time as possible to play with your cat. Whether you’re whipping a fake mouse on a string around, or simply chasing them throughout the house, your cat is sure to have a lot of fun and get a lot of exercise if you simply engage with them. You might get a few scratches along the way, but that’s part of the joy of cat ownership, right?

Keeping your cat in good shape

It can be challenging to keep your indoor cat in a healthy lifestyle. However, with a little bit of care put into their toys and their home environment, along with ensuring you’re frequently available to play with them, you’ll be able to stimulate them and keep their natural instincts sharp. If you’ve done the above, but your cat is still acting more like Garfield than a frisky kitten, you should consult your vet to see what other changes can be made.

If you have more questions about keeping your cat healthy, please don’t hesitate to contact Hastings Veterinary Hospital today!

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How to Prevent Heat-Related Problems for Indoor Cats

Summer is the prime time of the year when the heat is on…both outside and inside our homes. Do you raise an indoor cat 24/7? If so, did you know that even indoor kitties can get overheated?

It’s true. Even if your cat may not usually go outside or they only ever go out onto an enclosed patio, they are just as prone to heat problems as outdoor pets!

What Kinds of Heat-related Problems Should I Be Concerned About?

The most common type of problem is called hyperthermia, or heatstroke. Hyperthermia is the opposite of hypothermia in that rather than showing symptoms of being too cold, a cat may show signs of being too hot. Heat exhaustion or overheating is another common problem seen in cats, even indoor ones.

All of these problems can arise for a few reasons. A lot of exercise for your kitty while it’s hot is one; excessive heat in a location such as the patio is another.

Most of the time, cats know when to find a shady spot if they’re getting too warm. If you see your indoor cat displaying certain signs though, that’s when you should be concerned.

What are the Signs of Heat-related Problems in Cats?

Since cats are notorious for hiding their symptoms from sight, these signs may appear at first as vague. That being said, they can include the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Decreased or no appetite
  • Hiding
  • Sweaty paws
  • Dull looking and dry gums
  • Vomiting
  • Staggering
  • Restlessness
  • Panting (unlike dogs, cats don’t normally pant, so this is a serious sign)

Some of the above signs will be more extreme depending on whether or not your indoor cat has pre-existing medical conditions. Examples include obesity, feline asthma and other respiratory conditions, and heart disease. Older cats with such conditions will have a lower tolerance for heat compared to younger, healthy cats. 

What to Do if You See these Signs

Time is of the essence if you see these signs of overheating in your indoor cat. 

  • Move your kitty to a shadier, cooler spot. This may involve closing your curtains and blinds and turning off the lights.
  • Grab a dish cloth or paper towels. Soak either or in cool (not extremely cold) water. Wring out the water as much as possible and apply it to your cat’s paws and body, taking care to not get water in their ears. Unlike dogs who love to be soaked in water, cats have the opposite reaction so be careful with this step! 
  • Start a fan at low speed. Make sure the fan is not directed towards your cat as it may scare him/her.

If your indoor cat is showing any of the above signs and your attempts to cool them down aren’t working, bring your cat to a veterinarian right away! 

Prevention Tips for Heat-related Issues in Indoor Cats

These tips are your best means of ensuring hyperthermia or heat exhaustion doesn’t happen to your indoor cat in the first place. It’s helpful if your home has air conditioning (if not, we have a pointer about that as well).

  • While there is no “exact temperature” to keep in mind, the basic rule of thumb is, if it’s too hot for you even indoors, then it’s definitely too hot for your cat. Try to cool off your home for both your sakes.
  • Your cat may not appreciate this tip, but it’s got to be done: keep your cat inside while the sun is out at its hottest, usually between 11am and 3pm.
  • Open windows and curtains only when it’s cool outside. Close these during the hottest hours of the day, as described above. You can re-open them in the evening once it’s cooler out. Keep an eye on the temperature outside meanwhile (a quick check on your phone online, or by glancing at a thermostat outside, can help you determine this).
  • If your indoor cat must go out on the patio, leave a spot where they can withdraw and find shade when needed. As much as cats love to sunbathe, you should always make sure they stay cool. 
  • Air conditioning usually helps regulate the temperature inside. That being said, not every home has A/C. If your home is the latter, keep the rooms where your cat frequents the most cool with a ceiling or other form of fan.
  • Keep your indoor cat’s water flow going. Clean out their water dish if it gets too dirty. A water fountain may also be worth your consideration since they allow cats access to water at a regular rate (maintaining this matters too though; change the filter, clean the fountain, and refill it as recommended by the manufacturer).
  • Add some water to their dry food if hydrating your indoor cat is a struggle. Wet food is recommended by your cat’s vet, and also depends on their lifestyle and health needs.

Remember, even if your kitty lives indoors at all times, that doesn’t mean they’re immune to heat-related problems. Give us a call if you have any questions about heat-related problems in indoor cats or if you would like to schedule an appointment.

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How to Tell Your Cat is Stressed

Stress. It happens to everyone, for many reasons. Did you know that pets can feel stressed too?

Although both cats and dogs can get stressed out, cats are a little more concerning in terms of identifying stress thanks to their natural means of hiding their pain. Cats are predators by nature, so from their point of view displaying weakness means giving other predators an advantage over them.

The more stressed out a cat may be, the more they will try to hide that pain from you. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your cat’s behaviour and make note of any disruptions that have happened recently. Such disruptions may be the underlying cause for your cat’s anxiety.

Common causes of stress in cats

There are several causes of stress and anxiety in cats, mostly due to their daily routine being disrupted:

  • Moving to a new home
  • A new pet has been introduced to the house
  • Competition for food and water (if your home has multiple cats)
  • A new baby has arrived
  • Guests are visiting
  • A change in your cat’s diet has occurred
  • The litter box is too small, not cleaned enough, or placed next to the food and water
  • A change in your routine, such as being away from home for longer periods than normal

Some of these changes are preventable and easily remedied after your cat’s stress has been diagnosed. Other changes, however, are pretty big and unavoidable. The best thing you can do in terms of unavoidable change is to keep your cat’s routines as normal as possible while these bigger changes are going on. Keep an eye out for any of the below symptoms in the meantime.

The signs of stress in cats

Typically these are the top signs of a cat that’s very much stressed out:

  • Overgrooming, especially around their legs and belly
  • Inappropriate behaviour involving their litter box (urinating and defecating where they shouldn’t)
  • Aggressive behaviours (newer than per usual), such as biting, scratching, and hissing
  • Inactivity (especially if their personality is playful by nature!)
  • Trying to escape constantly
  • Loss of appetite or excessive eating
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Cat ‘flu’ (i.e. a runny nose and eyes)

What’s frustrating about these signs is they are very similar to both stress in cats and disease-triggered symptoms! If any of these signs are present in your kitty, it’s time to stop stalling and take them to the vet.

What can I do for my cat?

The only way to properly decrease a cat’s stress and anxiety is to remove the stressors and causes. One of the best first steps you can take to achieving this is to discuss your cat and their stress and signs of it with your veterinarian. They can make a few recommendations such as diet, litter box, and if needed separation tips if you own multiple cats.

It’s worth mentioning that keeping vet appointments stress-free can help too! Before your appointment, get your cat used to their carrier. Leave it out in the open for your cat to pop in and out of, and throw the occasional treat inside it (not too many treats though!). Leave your cat’s favourite soft bedding or pillow inside of the carrier; familiar smells can be a great comfort to cats.

Once at the vet office, continue to keep your cat’s anxiety to a minimum. Only your veterinarian can determine whether the signs of stress are because of an underlying disease or they’re the beginning signs of one. They can also guide you on further prevention tips to keep your cat’s stress to a minimum.

Outside of going ahead with vet visits, there are several ways you can decrease your cat’s stress and prevent further behaviour problems at home:

  • Keep routines as normal as possible. Cats hate change (even though some changes are unavoidable!). The more you can keep routines as normal as possible, the better. Always practice kindness and patience with your cat if you’ve moved to a new home, for example.
  • Playtime is great anytime! Your cat may not be getting the activity they need. Be sure to make playtime a priority to lower your cat’s stress levels.
  • Cats prefer their world to be vertical. Adding a new cat tower or tall scratching post or perch can give your cat the luxury they need.
  • Afford your cat a hiding space if need be. Don’t force your cat to be social if they don’t want to be. If you have guests in your home, tell them the same.
  • Never, ever yell at or punish your cat for inappropriate soiling. These actions increase stress in cats, not decrease it!
  • Keep these rules in mind with your family and be consistent. For example, if you have a no-table rule (i.e. the cat is not allowed on the table) that you follow, but a family member allows your cat to do this, this can really confuse them and cause further stress! Again, patience and kindness are the best actions for this step.
  • Pheromones and anti-anxiety medicine for cats are a possibility if all else seems to fail. You can ask your veterinarian for recommendations or a prescription, or even purchase a pheromone diffuser through them. Be sure that when you receive these forms of stress relief for cats to follow your vet’s directions exactly.

Do you have any more questions or concerns about stress in cats? Give our staff at Hastings Veterinary Hospital a call. You can also book an appointment if you want to get an official diagnosis or you’re seeing the signs and need some extra help from a vet!

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Signs Your Cat is in Pain & Needs Help

Cats are not exactly known for their openness! If you’ve ever had the painful lesson after surprising a cat with a belly rub, you can attest to this fact. Cats can be difficult to read at the best of times, and this is even more true when they’re sick or in pain.

Like you, we are always looking for ways to keep our furry friends safe, healthy, and happy. That’s why it’s so important to go over some of the signs of pain or illness in cats, so that you can identify when there’s a problem, and get them help as soon as possible.

Why All the Secrecy?

After thousands of years of evolution and natural selection, even the friendliest kitties have the instincts of a predator. One of the most important behaviours when it comes to staying alive in the wild is hiding weakness. After all, an animal won’t be so concerned about seeing a cat if it knows they don’t pose as much of a threat. By hiding their pain, cats kept predators at bay and continued to strike fear into the little hearts of rodents everywhere. Additionally, this behaviour would help a wild cat avoid being left behind by their group.

This behaviour makes perfect sense for cats in the wild, but you’d think that with food in the bowl and a nice sunny spot to relax, cats would feel more at ease showing their vulnerable side. However, old habits die hard. Domestic cats may feel that they’ll have to compete for food and water, or even worry that they’ll become a meal for other animals in the home. As much as we wish we could reassure our feline friends that we’ll love them no matter what, the best we can do is keep a careful eye for any of the behaviour listed below.

Symptoms of Cat Pain or Illness

While exact behaviour will differ from cat to cat, there are a few general signs to watch out for. Here are some of the most common symptoms of sickness or pain in cats:

Hiding or Withdrawal

As mentioned before, primal instinct can take over when a cat feels they’re endangered. Wild cats would find hiding spots to rest and recover, keeping them safe from predators and the elements in the meantime. This behaviour often carries over to domestic cats, who will sometimes withdraw from interaction with humans or animals.

Sick cats will prioritize themselves over things they would normally be interested in. This includes socializing with people or other animals, playing with toys, hunting, or any other activities that take a lot out of them. This will all be harder to tell with a cat that’s already more on the aloof side, so pay special attention to their favourite activities and whether your cat is keeping up with them.

Sitting Still 

Cats in pain will often move less, particularly if they’re experiencing arthritis or another condition making movement more painful. You’ll notice this if your cat is typically more active, but even their body language can tell you a lot. If they’re hunched up or in an unusual position, there’s a good chance they’re in some discomfort.

Hygiene 

Cats are naturally a bit obsessive over their hygiene. Not only is it a relaxing ritual, it helps to stimulate blood-flow, control body temperature, and keep wounds clean. Sick cats will often neglect to groom themselves, so keep an eye out. If their fur is matted and dirty, or if they’re beginning to pick up an odour, there may be something wrong. Additionally, sick cats may over-groom a single spot. This could be a symptom of stress, which often accompanies injury or illness. They could be trying to relieve an itch caused by a rash or other skin condition.

Unusual Noisiness 

Cats in pain may make an unusual amount of noise, or even noises that you haven’t heard before. Excessive meowing, crying, and other unusual vocalizations can all be cause for concern. However, these calls won’t always be a clear indicator of discomfort in your cat. Even excessive purring can be a warning sign that something’s wrong.

It’s important to bear in mind that in some cases, excessive vocalization isn’t always a cause for concern. Some breeds, such as Siamese cats, tend to be a bit noisier by default. Likewise, intact cats (cats that haven’t been spayed or neutered) may be louder during mating periods. Vocalizing in the litter box could be an indication of underlying urinary issues or constipation. However, if you’re in any doubt, it’s best to get a professional opinion on your noisy kitty.

Unusual Aggression 

It’s no secret that cats can be a bit…unpredictable, even at the best of times. One minute they’re rubbing against you like you’re best friends, and the next they’re in full on ‘psycho-kitty’ mode. This is pretty standard for many cats; however, atypical or extended aggression towards otherwise friendly environments can be a cause for concern. If your cat is being unusually destructive or violent, it may be confused, or aggravated by pain or illness.

‘Accidents’ 

By instinct, cats like doing their business in private, enclosed places, which is why litter boxes tend to be the go-to for a cat in need. If your cat normally uses their litter box, but then starts going wherever they please, there might be a problem. It’s possible that getting into the litter box has become too difficult for the cat, or perhaps it’s too far away from their current favourite spot.

What to Do If Your Cat is in Pain 

The best thing you can do for a cat that’s sick or in pain is to get help from the professionals. You know your cat better than anyone, which makes you the expert on knowing when something is out of the ordinary. If you notice unusual behaviour from your cat, it’s best to see a veterinarian and get to the bottom of what’s causing it. 

If you have other animals or small children in the house, do your best to keep rough-housing with your convalescing cat to a minimum. Giving them a peaceful environment will keep stress levels down and help them to heal faster. It will also help your cat trust people more, which is important for keeping an eye on their condition.

One thing to never do is administer any human-intended medication to your cat. Even a Tylenol can make them very sick, or possibly even kill them. Whether it’s painkillers or simply a supplement, you should always check with a veterinarian before giving your cat anything.

How Your Vet Can Help 

A veterinarian will help you to interpret the signals your cat is giving you, and determine what exactly is going on. From there, they’ll come up with a treatment plan to get your pet back in top shape. They may recommend medication, supplements or a new diet.

At Hastings Veterinary Hospital, we want to see your cat get back to normal as much as you do. Our dedicated staff offers professional animal care, with the end goal of making your pet feel safe, healthy, and at home. After all, a cat, or any pet, is another member of your family, and we treat them like a member of ours as well.

If you have any questions about pain, illness, or injuries in cats, don’t hesitate to contact Hastings Veterinary Hospital today.

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Are Cats Allowed to Drink Milk? (The Answer is No & Here’s Why)

To answer the question, “Should cats be allowed to drink milk?” the short answer is “no.” The puzzle that leaps to mind is, why are we cautioned against it when the sight of kittens and cats happily lapping up saucers of milk are shown everywhere? Not only do we see it in numerous movies, cartoons, and picture books, but also we see kittens fed milk by mother cats, and they obviously love drinking it. It’s the food for kittens provided by nature.

And therein lies the difference, and the answer—milk is the food provided for kittens, not cats. Mother cats feed their kittens milk and then wean them off from nursing in four to ten weeks, sharing solid foods with them instead. Mother knows best! Milk as a whole food is perfect for her babies, but it’s no longer good for them when they begin to mature.

As kittens are weaned from nursing and they begin to eat solid food, the mother cat stops producing milk. It is no longer available for the kittens by the time they are eating a regular solid food diet.

Why Does Milk Stop Being Ideal for Cats?

A few weeks after birth, there is a reduction of the enzyme lactase in a kitten’s body. Lactase is needed to break down the sugar in a mother cat’s milk to allow the young kitten to digest it properly. Kittens produce this enzyme in smaller amounts as they develop, and by six months of age, most kittens have adult levels of lactase. These adult levels are insufficient to digest milk and their bodies can no longer tolerate it. Basically, like some humans, most cats become lactose intolerant.

In addition to no longer producing lactase, kittens no longer have access to their mother cat’s milk since it dries up when she stops nursing. This means any other milk you decide to feed your older kitten or adult cat is even less suitable and less easily digested by your cat, who is now, very likely, lactose intolerant.

When cow’s milk is pasteurized, the protein in the milk changes and particles of homogenized milk will leak into a cat’s gut, which causes digestive problems for kitties. The same difficulty occurs if you decide to feed ice cream or cheese to your cat, which will also cause digestive problems since they are processed dairy products.

Milk is not a “whole food” for adult cats any more than it is a whole food for adult humans. Humans need many different types of foods to satisfy their nutritional needs. So do cats.

Are Some Cats Able to Drink Milk?

Yes, some adult cats can drink milk; not all of them are lactose intolerant. However, even if your cat is one of the lucky ones who can enjoy milk as a treat now and then, there are other problems with relying on whole milk as a staple in a cat’s diet.

One is a possible lack of meeting your cat’s nutritional needs because your kitty may fill up on milk and then not eat the variety of food necessary for good health. The other—equally serious—is cat obesity.

Why do Cats Crave Milk in Spite of the Problems it Creates? 

Because cats are not capable of linking cause and effect, your kitty will never make the connection that drinking milk is causing his or her digestive distress afterwards. Fortunately, you can. You may wonder why cats continue to love milk when it is obviously not a good idea for them to drink it. These are the reasons:

  1. Cats love milk because it is cold and fresh, and they love the familiar taste and smell
  2. Cats connect drinking milk with old, positive memories (as kittens), and it remains a comfort food for them.
  3. Cats need liquid and may prefer milk to water.

Although your kitty may not be interested in drinking water, liquid is important for hydration and you must supply water regularly rather than milk:

  • Keep water in your kitty’s water bowl.
  • Add a little wet food to your kitty’s diet.
  • When serving water-packed canned fish, add a little water to the liquid. 

What are the Symptoms of Cats Suffering From Milk Consumption? 

In spite of a cat’s determination not to show pain because of an instinctive fear of showing weakness to predators, there are distress signs of which cat owners should be aware. 

Signs of Adverse Effects of Drinking Milk:

  • Stomach Upsets – Your kitty may vomit and stop eating until he or she has recovered from the stomachache.
  • Diarrhea – This problem is unmistakable and is caused by undigested sugar that draws water into the intestine.
  • Gassiness – Most cats do not routinely expel smelly gas. The gas is created by undigested sugars fermenting in the intestine.
  • Bloating – A distended abdomen can be a sign of bloating caused by gas from fermenting undigested sugar.

Even if your cat is able to tolerate milk and shows no symptoms of distress after drinking it, you don’t have a free hand to let your kitty drink milk regularly no matter how urgently he or she meows for it.

Obesity is Another Adverse Effect 

Obesity is a health risk for animals just as it is for humans. Obese cats and obese humans have shortened life spans and are at risk for many unpleasant ailments.

If your cat has a regular supply of milk, your kitty will eat less of the nutritional, balanced diet you provide through canned food, which is much lower in calories. Most cats also enjoy eating dairy products such as ice cream and cheese, which add even more unwanted and unnecessary calories.

How Did the Message That Cats Can Drink Milk Become so Widespread?

People who don’t know any better spread messages about animals who eat foods that aren’t good for them. Animal experts no longer accept old-fashioned ideas about animal eating habits:

  • Mice don’t normally eat cheese—Cinderella’s friend Gus is an exception.
  • Dogs shouldn’t chew on bones, which can be dangerous to them—Scooby Doo takes lots of risks.
  • Rabbits shouldn’t be offered carrots except in small amounts now and then—never mind what you saw in Bugs Bunny.
  • Older kittens and adult cats shouldn’t drink milk regularly, if at all—forget what you learned from The Aristocats.

In the same way that you have to control children’s access to candy, you must be strong and not allow your cat to drink milk. It will help protect your beloved pet’s health and life.

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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.