Cat Advice | Paws and Effect Advice by cats, for cats and their people Sun, 19 Oct 2014 22:12:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 An Open Letter to Belladonna’s First Family Sun, 19 Oct 2014 21:59:03 +0000 [...] ]]> Hi everyone. The cats have generously allowed me to take over this week’s column to write a letter of my own. To help BlogPaws celebrate Adopt a Shelter Pet Month, I want to talk to the people who adopted Belladonna before I did.

Bella in the diabetic kitty room at at HART of Maine.

I took this photo the day I met Bella. When our eyes met, we both knew it was meant to be. Photo by JaneA Kelley

First of all, thank you for adopting a cat from your local shelter. You could have gotten a cat from anywhere, but you chose to stop by your local humane society. And you didn’t just adopt any cat — you adopted a black cat, and we all know that black cats can have an awful time finding forever homes, thanks to an array of stupid superstitions that have no place in 21st-century life.

I’m sure you thought you’d spend many happy years with your new baby. When you took her for her first post-adoption checkup, everything looked great. Other than ear mites and an innocent heart murmur (only grade 1 out of 6), she was a perfectly healthy 6-month-old kitten.

Bella hops in her carrier for the ride to her forever home.

Adoption day, and Bella’s ready to hit the road!

But only a couple of months later, things started going wrong. You took Bella to the vet, reporting that she was lethargic and you weren’t seeing anything in the litter box. Strangely, though, she was also ravenously hungry and she had a special fondness for getting into bread and licking the grease out of used frying pans.

The vet did a thorough exam and found that poor Bella was dehydrated and that she was looking a little too skinny. She gave Bella some subcutaneous fluids to help resolve the dehydration, and because she suspected parasites or a possible infection, she gave Bella a deworming pill and gave you a prescription for metronidazole. She had you put Bella on a bland diet because her stools were soft.

Bella goofs off on the cat tree

Bella made herself right at home. She didn’t even wait for the “proper” introductions — she just ran out of her room and said “Hi, I’m a kitten!”

Six days later, you were back at the vet. Bella’s condition hadn’t improved despite the medication. This time the vet drew blood and sent the sample off to the lab for a complete “senior blood screen,” which checks pretty much every chemical and cell value there is. The vet noted that Bella’s blood was very lipemic — it had a lot of emulsified fat particles in the serum. This can be a sign of any number of issues from liver disease to starvation to diabetes.

The vet ran a quick blood chemistry in house and found that Bella’s blood glucose was 513 mg/dl. Judging from the exam notes, the vet was shocked, too. It’s very rare for a kitten to be diagnosed with diabetes, and what little literature there is on diabetic kittens paints a pretty gloomy picture.

Screen shot from Bella's exam notes.

Even the vet was shocked to find that Bella is diabetic.

When the vet told you about her findings, I’m sure you felt like you’d been hit by a truck. Diabetes can be a devastating diagnosis to receive. I’m sure all kinds of things went through your head — “What kind of life could this poor kitten expect with such a bad disease? What does this mean for me? Can I afford to treat my cat’s diabetes? Can I deal with the extra care required? Should I feel bad that I don’t think I’m capable of caring for a diabetic cat? Should I have her put to sleep? But she’s only a baby! I adopted this cat and made a lifetime commitment, and should I feel like a schmuck for even thinking these things?”

Your vet may have had to talk you out of having Bella euthanized. She told you she’d do whatever she could to make sure Bella had a safe home. She called the humane society from which you adopted Bella, and they advised that they don’t have the facilities to take care of a diabetic kitten. But your vet didn’t give up: she called two other shelters — and she found one that could take Bella in. And that’s where I met Bella — at HART of Maine, on my volunteer orientation tour. It was love at first sight for both of us.

Bella, Thomas and Siouxsie on a hotel room bed.

Bella and the Paws and Effect Gang had a huge adventure — we moved from Maine to Seattle last year, and all the cats did great!

Since she’s been a member of my family, Bella has gained fans all over the world. She’s traveled 3,000 miles from Maine to Seattle, in the back seat of my car. She’s been in remission from her diabetes since January of 2013. And she’s got a super snuggle-buddy in the form of Thomas.

Bella loves running around my house like a monkey on crack. She’s brought me, and all of the Paws and Effect Gang’s fans, so much joy with her antics and silliness.

Bella bathing in a sun puddle

Bella enjoys a sun puddle in our new Seattle home.

So, I’m writing this letter just to let you know — Belladonna is happy, healthy, and brilliant. Thank you for adopting her, and thank you for trusting your veterinarian to find a place for her where her diabetes could be managed when you realized you weren’t going to be able to manage caring for a diabetic cat. I’m sure it was a gut-wrenching decision, but I want you to know you made the right choice by realizing you were in over your heads and placing your trust in your vet and whatever higher power you believe in, to ensure that Bella would be all right.

Blessings to you, from me and from Belladonna.

Bella and Thomas snuggling in a heated cat bed

And Thomas says, “Thank you for sending me such a wonderful, cute snuggle buddy!”

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by BlogPaws. I am being compensated to support Adopt a Shelter Pet Month with an educational post, but Paws and Effect only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. BlogPaws is not responsible for the content of this article.

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Why Is My Cat Crying All Night? Sun, 12 Oct 2014 19:17:58 +0000 [...] ]]> Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My eight-year-old long-haired female cat cries at times during the night. It is really a nasty, loud call and it wakes us up. There is nothing wrong with her physically. What’s up?

~ Mimsie

Siouxsie: When you say there’s nothing wrong with your cat, we assume that means you’ve taken her to the vet and had her checked out from nose to tail, including a blood test.

Thomas: The reason we say this is that there are many medical reasons why a cat may howl at night.

Bella: Although it’s not terribly common in 8-year-old cats, hyperthyroidism is a main cause of nighttime howling. We should know — before Siouxsie got treated for her hyperthyroidism, she howled like a banshee!

Siouxsie: That’s not nice, Bella! You’re just lucky you’ve never known how crazy it makes you to have an overactive thyroid gland. I just got so anxious …

Thomas: Another common reason for nighttime howling is high blood pressure, which can occur due to a number of conditions.

Bella: If your kitty is losing her sight or hearing, she may get disoriented or confused, which can also cause excess vocalization.

Siouxsie: But if you have tested your cat for these conditions, and she is indeed healthy, the issue could be behavioral.

Thomas: One thing you can do to keep your kitty calm overnight is to give her a big round of exercise. Fifteen or 20 minutes of full-fledged, high-energy play with a “thing on a string” toy, followed by a small meal, might get her to settle down and sleep through the night.

Bella: If you do feed her a small meal before bedtime, don’t feed her more than you did before, just divide her usual portion up so that you have a little to feed her before bed. If you feed her more, you risk weight gain, and obesity is not good for kitties. Not that I have that problem, of course; I’m a slender, willowy little thing.

Siouxsie: Oh, quit your bragging, Bella.

Thomas: Another possibility is that she’s seeing something outside that’s making her aggravated. Does she howl when she’s looking out a window? If so, there may be another cat or some sort of wildlife like squirrels, raccoons, skunks, and so on, that are getting her overly excited.

Bella: Squirrels! Squirrels! Oh, I love squirrels, and they’re all over the place here. Look, there’s one right over there! And there’s another one — right on our porch. Oh, Mama, can I get out and chase them? Pleeeeease? Kek-kek-kek-kek …

Siouxsie: Oh, honest to goodness. No, you can’t go out to chase the squirrels! Come on, we’ve got work to do here.

Bella: You’re no fun.

Thomas: If your cat is reacting to outdoor life, you have a couple of options. You can either place deterrents in your yard or you can block the windows so she can’t see out.

Scarecrow wildlife deterrent sprinklier

Scarecrow motion-activated sprinkler

Bella: Deterrents can be very humane. You can get motion-activated sprinklers or motion-activated sonic deterrents that emit a supersonic noise when intruding critters come into your yard.

Siouxsie: Blocking the windows may be easier, because you can just put some cardboard up at night before you go to bed.

Thomas: Another thing you need to do is not reinforce the behavior.

Bella: It might be hard not to pick up your cat or yell at her when she cries, but if you do, you’re telling her that she can get attention from you by making excessive noise at all hours of the night.

Siouxsie: Another option, if the problem is behavioral, is a short course of anti-anxiety medication. If she’s crying at night because she’s anxious or stressed, medication could short-circuit the overstimulation and stress that are causing the behavior.

Thomas: We’d recommend getting a couple of Feliway Comfort Zone diffusers and putting them in the rooms where your cat hangs out most often. Feliway is a synthetic “happy cat” pheromone, so if her yowling and howling is due to anxiety, it might help reduce the behavior. Feliway is available at most pet stores, vets’ offices and online shops.

Bella: If nothing helps, you should consider consulting a feline behaviorist, who can look at your cat, your home and your lifestyle and make recommendations that could help your cat feel better and safer … and howl less.

Siouxsie: Please let us know how things turn out. And if you other readers have some suggestions for dealing with midnight yowling, please share them in the comments!

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Why Has My Cat Stopped Playing With Me? Sun, 05 Oct 2014 20:57:31 +0000 [...] ]]> Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

Greetings from Peru! I have a sweet and playful 2-year-old cat named Eva. Everything was fine with her until I got two new 10-week-old kittens. She’s acting like their mommy, playing with them and they get along really well, which is great, but I have some serious questions. First, how can I get them not to suck Eva’s nipples? They’re harming her and she is letting them. My sister and I try to separate them every time we see this happening, but Eva looks at us with a really sad face every time we do this. Second, why has she stopped playing with us? My sister and I give her lots of love, but since the kittens arrived, all that has stopped. She used to play with us all the time — running around, hunting us, and even playing fetch! Now she won’t do that, even if we put all our efforts into it. I try to play with her in my room, which is her main territory, but she only plays a couple of minutes and then loses interest. She’s healthy, I took her to the vet. Its breaking my heart, and I don’t know what to do.  Please help!

~ Brenda

Siouxsie: Brenda, we’re glad you took Eva to the vet to make sure she’s not sick or injured, because that’s the first thing we recommend with sudden behavior changes.

Thomas: This behavior is actually pretty normal with mother cats. Their instincts guide them to give all their attention to their kittens.

Bella: Even though Eva didn’t give birth to these babies, it’s clear that she’s taken them on as her kittens, and she’s just doing what comes naturally.

Siouxsie: Lots of mom cats will start taking care of kittens if they feel those kittens are too young to be on their own or their birth mom can’t take care of them.

Thomas: Something like this happened to a cat being fostered by Mama’s friend Robin, who runs a small cat rescue group. Read all about it in this post on her blog, Covered in Cat Hair.

Bella: We don’t want to spoil the surprise, so go there and read the post to find out what happened!

Siouxsie: So, there are a couple of things that could be happening here. First of all, you didn’t way whether or not Eva is spayed or if she’s ever been pregnant before.

Thomas: If she’s not spayed, or if she’s ever had a litter of her own, her body may be releasing all the hormones that would be release if she’d given birth to those kittens naturally, so of course she’s going to act like a mother cat.

Bella: But also, think about it this way: If you see a baby crying, you probably want to do something to make that baby feel better. You may pick her up and hold her, feed her from a bottle, change her diaper, or do whatever else you need to do. Even if you never want to be a mother yourself, you still know what to do and you may even be happy to do it.

Siouxsie: How can you stop the kittens from sucking on Eva’s teats? She’ll stop them herself eventually, probably with growls, hisses and swats. Most experts say that kittens aren’t entirely weaned until they’re three months old, so it’s not surprising that the kittens are still engaging in nursing behavior, even if nothing’s coming out of Eva to reward them.

Thomas: As for how you can get Eva to play with you again — don’t worry; once her instincts tell her that the kittens are old enough to take care of themselves, she’ll start snuggling and playing with you again.

Bella: If Eva’s not spayed, we recommend you get that taken care of. Likewise, please make sure to have the kittens spayed or neutered as soon as you can, and by six months of age at the latest (as long as your vet says they’re big and healthy enough to have surgery).

Siouxsie: So, Brenda, what’s going on with Eva and the kittens is normal, and we’re sure she’ll be back to her old self soon.

Thomas: Please write back and let us know how things are going.

Bella: How about you other readers: have you been in a situation like Brenda’s? What did you do, and did your cat resume her people-loving ways after the kittens were old enough? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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What’s Up With This “Crazy Cat Lady” BS, Anyway? Sun, 28 Sep 2014 18:53:10 +0000 [...] ]]> Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I am having a major existential crisis! Help! Why is it considered okay by “society” to have like 16 dogs sniffing your butt, but if you have two (or, God forbid, more!) cats, you’re “crazy” — or worse? Whatta friggin’ double standard!

“Crazy” and proud of it,
~ Katrina and kitty-baby Julietta

Siouxsie: I know. It’s totally unfair!

Thomas: Mama’s had people ask her how many cats she “has,” and when she says “three,” she sometimes gets these weird looks and then people say, “Wow, that’s a lot!”

Bella: If Mama said she had three human children, people would be all like, “awww, how sweet!”

Siouxsie: If she had three dogs, they’d probably be complimenting her on her love for canine-kind.

Thomas: But when it comes to having three cats, it’s like they think she’s a “crazy cat lady” or something.

Bella: Mama doesn’t like the phrase “crazy cat lady,” either, even when it’s used in a “reclaiming” way like some LGBT people use the phrase “queer” and some African-Americans use the “N word.”

Siouxsie: Not that we’re equating being cat lovers with being a person who is oppressed because of something they’re born with like a skin color or a gender identity, mind you!

Thomas: Mama wrote this piece for Catster when World’s Best Cat Litter came out with its “I’m A Crazy Cat Lady” campaign, precisely because the stereotype is so tiring.

Bella: One of the comments on this post read, “I have a problem with the term ‘crazy cat lady’ too. I think it’s a pejorative term because it’s used to shame unmarried or unattached women (i.e., if you live alone with your cats, something must be wrong with you). And then we get to the use of the word ‘crazy’ and how it shouldn’t be okay to bash mental illness (real or perceived) and yeah, the term is not a winner.”

Siouxsie: And then there’s that whole “you’re just using your cats as a second-rate substitute for having children” thing.

Thomas: Men get hosed with the cat stereotype, too, as if “real men” can’t love and live with cats.

Bella: Besides, what’s a “real man,” anyway? If you know you’re a man, you’re a man, no matter whether you fit the stereotype of masculinity!

Siouxsie: It’s just a shame that in some parts of the world, people get such disrespect for being cat lovers. And I don’t get why more than two cats is somehow a sign that something’s wrong with you.

Bella: So I say, go ahead and love your cats, however many you have!

Thomas: As long as you’re able to take good care of your cats — feed them well, get them regular preventive vet care and treat their illnesses as needed, provide them the space and stimulation they need, and give them love with your full heart — who cares how many you have?

Siouxsie: The reason Mama stopped at three (beyond the fact that it’s hard enough to rent an apartment with three cats, let alone more) is that she knows that financially she wouldn’t be able to afford to take good care of more than three cats.

Thomas: So we say, go ahead and love your cats, and just scrape some used cat litter over the haters!

Bella: There are plenty of people in the world who will support you and who will know you’re not “crazy” for having multiple cats.

Siouxsie: What about the rest of you? What do you think of the term “crazy cat lady?” Have you been called a crazy cat lady? How have you responded to the weird looks and outright disrespect?

Thomas: Please share your thoughts and your stories so all you cat-loving humans can know you have a community of supporters bigger than the pool of uninformed haters!

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