Cat Advice | Paws and Effect Advice by cats, for cats and their people Sun, 23 Nov 2014 23:40:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How Can I Help My Chronically Constipated Cat? Sun, 23 Nov 2014 23:40:45 +0000 [...] ]]> Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My long-haired cat has been constipated since I got her. I brush her daily and give her tonic lax a couple of times a week, but she rarely goes. When she does, she goes outside of the litter box. Sometimes she cries and drags her bottom. If she does poop in the litter box, she won’t urinate in there, so now she is also urinating outside of the box. I’ve taken her to the vet twice with no answers. I’m wondering what to do.

~ Carmen

Siouxsie: Well, Carmen, the first thing we recommend is that you get a second opinion about your cat’s constipation.

Thomas: Cats normally pass one to three bowel movements a day, and if she’s not doing that, something is definitely out of whack, and obviously the tonic lax isn’t doing anything to change that.

Bella: Another reason why you should seek another opinion is that your cat may be suffering from a urinary tract issue. The reason we say this is because now she’s stated peeing outside the box — a common symptom of urinary tract troubles.

Siouxsie: So, what causes constipation in cats? The most common causes are dehydration and impaction by fur or hairballs.

Thomas: You’re brushing your cat every day, so you’re certainly doing your part to prevent her from filling her stomach and digestive tract with fur.

Bella: Dehydration is pretty common in cats. You see, we cats are evolved from desert creatures and so we have a very low thirst drive. We’re designed to get all the moisture we need in our food, and when we eat only dry food, we’ll almost certainly get dehydrated!

Siouxsie: So, we recommend feeding canned food, and maybe even adding more liquid to the canned ration by putting a teaspoon or two of warm (not hot!) water in it.

Thomas: Also, make sure to keep your cat’s water supply fresh. Wash and refill her water dish every day, and consider investing in a cat fountain because some cats prefer to drink from running water.

Bella: Other potential causes for constipation are blocked or abscessed anal glands, tumors, a foreign body she ate that’s blocking her digestive tract, and metabolic conditions like diabetes or kidney disease that cause excessive urination.

Siouxsie: I know that sometimes I get a little bound up because when my hips get sore it hurts to assume the poop squat. Hey, I’m an old kitty — my aches and pains are legitimately earned! Fortunately, Mama makes sure I get plenty of liquids in my diet to keep my constipation to a minimum.

Thomas: Whatever the cause is, Carmen, you need to talk to a vet — either your current vet or another one — to find out what’s really going on. It may require diagnostic tests like X-rays and blood work to figure out the underlying cause of your kitty’s chronic constipation.

Bella: But if you don’t get your cat’s issue correctly diagnosed and treated, her chronic constipation could result in megacolon — when the colon gets so full of feces that it stretches out and loses its ability to move stools.

Siouxsie: So, Carmen — up her liquid intake by feeding her canned food with a little extra water in it; make sure she always has fresh, clean water to drink; and get her to a vet who will help you figure out what’s going on with her.

Thomas: How about you other readers? Have you had a constipated cat, and what did you do to relieve the problem? Please share your tips, too.

Bella: In the meantime, Carmen, we hope everything comes out okay. Tee hee hee!

Siouxsie: Oh, honestly, Bella…

Thomas: Please let us know what’s going on with your cat and if you were able to get he regular again. Purrs to you!

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How Can I Keep My Cat From Bringing His Prey Indoors? Mon, 17 Nov 2014 00:39:42 +0000 [...] ]]> Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My cat, Munch, loves hunting, and despite my best efforts to discourage him he continues to catch both mice and birds. I know now that hunting is instinctive to him, and I don’t expect him to ever stop completely. Instead, I was wondering if there’s any way to at least discourage him from bringing his prey into the house. He seems to love chasing whatever he catches around the living room, leaving a trail of feathers (and, unfortunately, blood) and it’s both horrible to see and a pain to clean up!

~ Rhiannon

Siouxsie: Well, Rhiannon, be prepared for some strong reactions to your question because the indoor vs outdoor cat debate is quite heated in some circles.

Thomas: That said, we’ve been both indoor and outdoor cats ourselves, so we see the benefits in both lifestyles — and we understand the risks inherent in outdoor life for kitties.

Bella: I’ve never been an outdoor cat. Can I be an outdoor cat, Mama?

Mama: Nobody’s going to be an outdoor cat here until I build a nice, safe “catio” for you on my balcony.

Bella: *pout*

Siouxsie: In any case, you are correct — hunting is a natural instinct in cats. And so is bringing our prey to a place we feel safe enough to eat it.

Thomas: When we lived on the family homestead and got to be indoor-outdoor kitties, Sinéad sometimes caught mice and brought them inside. But she didn’t know what to do with them, so she dropped them on the floor and chased them around the room until Mama caught them and put them outdoors again. I was a very good hunter, if I do say so myself, but I never brought my kills inside to eat them.

Siouxsie: Good thing, too. Most of them were rats. Ick!

Thomas: Oh, come on. I didn’t actually eat the rats — I tried one and it tasted disgusting! — but I left them on the doorstep so Mama could see what a helpful kitty I am. Mice, voles and baby rabbits, on the other hand … mmm, tasty!

Bella: Can I eat some rabbits?

Mama: I gave you some rabbit the other night, but you wouldn’t touch it!

Siouxsie: In any case, Rhiannon, since Munch goes outside and, like any cat, goes hunting while he’s out there, the only way you’re going to keep him from bringing his prey inside is to make it so he can’t come indoors while he has a kill.

Thomas: Or if you want him to be able to come and go as he pleases, perhaps you can relocate his cat door to a place that’s easier to clean up if he brings his prey inside.

Bella: Or you can try to satisfy his “indoor hunting” instinct by playing with him. There are lots of great interactive toys on the market designed to be fun for aerial hunters who like to catch flies or birds and for ground hunters who like to catch rodents, lizards and snakes.

Siouxsie: Get a couple of different interactive toys and see which one Munch likes best, then give him a good, vigorous play session at least once a day — and more often if you can. Munch will be a lot more interested in the toys if you move them like the objects they’re supposed to be: Observe how birds, mice and lizards walk and move, and make the toy move in similar ways.

Thomas: You can also get battery-operated “mouse under a cover” toys that move randomly and can pique a cat’s interest..

Bella: You could always keep your cat indoors, too, and I know that’s what a lot of our U.S. readers would recommend.

Siouxsie: I go outside in a lead and harness sometimes. That’s kind of fun because I know I’m safe and Mama’s nearby, and because people adore me everywhere I go. But then again, I’m not quite as interested in hunting these days as I was when I was a kitten.

Thomas: Anyway — Rhiannon, the odds are very slim that you’re going to be able to get Munch not to bring his prey indoors. That leaves you with three options if you want him to be able to go outdoors: Don’t let him in when he has prey; move the cat door to an easy-to-clean room; and use hunting

Bella: Do you other readers have more tips? Have you been able to train your indoor-outdoor cats to enjoy their a la carte meals outdoors even when they can go in and out as they please? And if you’re planning on writing a nasty comment because Munch goes outdoors, please, just don’t.

Siouxsie: And Rhiannon, please let us know if you were able to help Munch change his dining habits!

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Why Is My Kitten Suddenly Acting Out? Mon, 10 Nov 2014 01:13:47 +0000 [...] ]]> Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My 4-month-old kitten, Haru, is suddenly acting up. Two months ago, when I first got him, he was extremely loving and a little clingy. So, a month later, I got him another kitty, Aki, to play with. Haru and Aki became best friends — they played and ate and slept
together. But three weeks after I brought Aki home, he died of parvo. Even though it had only been three weeks, Haru seemed to miss Aki immensely. He searched all of Aki’s favorite hiding spots over and over again, and eventually got so frustrated he would let out a loud yowl and run around our apartment like he was possessed.

Thomas, a tabby and white cat, basks in the afternoon sunlight

Seeking solace. Photo © JaneA Kelley

After two weeks, Haru stopped searching for Aki. But now he has become very clingy again and won’t let me out of his sight. Sometimes he bites me really hard out of the blue, not while I’m petting him, but mostly when I try to pick him up. This was never a problem before Aki died. He always used to be good about using his scratching post, but now he scratches everything. He’s also lost interest in all his toys, even Da Bird, and rotating the toys doesn’t seem to do anything. Physically, he’s fine. He’s eating and drinking like normal and his stools are regular.

I just don’t know what to do when he’s acting up. Is it because he still misses Aki, or this regular behavior for 4-month-old kittens? Please help.

~ Sharon

Siouxsie: When a cat loses a friend, he can grieve every bit as profoundly as a person. A lot of the signs you mention are common behaviors for grieving cats: changes in temperament and behavior, becoming excessively clingy, looking for the lost friend and depression.

Thomas: When you say that Haru is physically fine, we trust that you’ve talked to your vet. We always recommend that when a cat has a behavior change or starts acting out with biting, especially when that biting is in response to specific stimuli like being picked up, you bring him in for a checkup just to confirm that there are no physical illnesses or injuries.

Bella: Some of what you describe can be regular 4-month-old cat behavior — the adult teeth usually start coming in around 4 months of age, so that teething can cause some extra “mouthy” behavior.

Siouxsie: But the depression in particular leads us to think that whatever else is going on, Haru is still missing his friend. Keep in mind that three weeks is a very long time in a kitten’s life — it would be like a couple of years for a pair of human child friends!

Thomas: So, Sharon, the first step for you is to make an appointment for Haru to see the vet, especially since Aki died of parvo (also known as feline panleukopenia or “distemper”), which is a highly contagious disease.

Bella: Normal kitten vaccinations do include a vaccine against panleukopenia, by the way.

Siouxsie: While you’re waiting for the vet visit and after you’re back, you’ll need to be especially understanding and supportive of him. I always recommend taking time to really emotionally connect with a bereaved cat. Imagine a wire connecting your heart to his. That wire transmits your feelings to him and his feelings to you. Take some time to sit quietly and “hear” and feel what’s coming through that wire.

Thomas: Share your feelings about Aki, too. Tell Haru that you miss Aki and you’re sad that he died. Tell him you love him and you’re sorry Aki is gone. Make sure he knows you didn’t just send Aki away, but that you couldn’t do anything to save him from his illness.

Bella: Okay, okay, I know that sounds all woo-woo and stuff, but really — it works! Right, Thomas?

Thomas: Yes, it really does. Mama did this with me after Dahlia died, and it helped me feel better to know that she was sad too. That way I could give her love and support her, and she could give me love and support me. She cried on my fur a lot, but I was okay with that, ’cause I cried a little on her fur too.

Bella: Awwww, Thomas. You’re so sweet.

Siouxsie: Oh, Jeez. Like I didn’t miss Dahlia, too? Mama talked to me and hugged me as well, but I just wasn’t such a crybaby about it.

Thomas: But … but … Dahlia and I were snuggle buddies. *sniffle* And she didn’t even want to be near me for the last week. *sniffle*

Siouxsie: Aww, I’m sorry, Thomas. I didn’t mean to be nasty.

Thomas: Anyway … *sniffle* … there are some other things that might help, too. Again, this is a little on the woo-woo side, so take it or leave it as you see fit. But there are natural remedies that can help grieving cats (and grieving humans, too).

Bella: We’re fond of a family of flower essences called Spirit Essences. Mama has used some of them with difficult inter-cat situations before and they really have helped. Two that might work out well in Haru’s case are Changing Times and Loss Remedy.

Siouxsie: If you’re outside the US, you might have an easier time getting  Bach Flower Essences. Rescue Remedy is a great soother for physical, emotional and spiritual trauma. There is an alcohol-free version of Rescue Remedy formulated just for pets.

Thomas: Good luck, Sharon. Please let us know how things turn out. We’re sending our purrs and kisses to Haru.

Bella: How about you other readers? Have you had to help a grieving cat? What did you do, and what worked best? Let’s talk in the comments.

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Why Is My Cat Pulling Food Out of Her Dish? Sun, 02 Nov 2014 19:16:13 +0000 [...] ]]> Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

Why is my cat picking up food with her paw and eating it outside her dish?

~ Kwantos

Siouxsie: I know this is going to sound really weird, Kwantos, but there’s this thing called whisker stress.

Thomas: You see, our whiskers are super-sensitive. They grow out of special hair follicles with lots of nerve endings, and the messages we get from our whiskers can tell us all kinds of things.

Bella: But the flip side of this amazing sensitivity is that if our whiskers are pressed against the side of a dish, it can be annoying and possibly even painful.

Siouxsie: So if you feed your kitty in a small or deep dish, the pressure on her sensitive little whiskers can make eating out of that dish very uncomfortable.

Thomas: Sure, this whisker stress thing seems like just another silly thing invented by marketers to sell specialty bowls, but I promise you it’s quite real!

Siouxsie: Mama feeds us in wide, shallow bowls so we don’t have to worry about that annoying nonstop tingling we feel when our whiskers are rubbing the sides of our dishes.

Bella: I wish Mama would feed me in a shallow dish.

Siouxsie: Well, if you wouldn’t vacuum up your food in 15 seconds flat, Mama wouldn’t have to give you that “slow down, kitty” bowl. Maybe you should try not being so greedy.

Bella: Maybe you should try not eating in my special room. The other day, Mama fed you in my room and I didn’t know what to do with myself! I cried and cried and I couldn’t even eat my food because she put you in there!

Siouxsie: Maybe Mama was trying to give me a break from you and Thomas so I could actually eat something before I got shoved away from my supper.

Bella: Well, if you weren’t so slow, maybe we wouldn’t have to help you with your dinner.

Siouxsie: Help, my left rear paw! You try scarfing down food when you’re missing six teeth and see how fast you eat! *grumble*

Thomas: Come on now, ladies, be nice. Now, Kwantos, pulling food out of a dish and onto the floor is a key sign that your cat is feeling whisker stress.

Meme: Food dish is half empty: starvation is imminentSiouxsie: Another sign is that once your cat’s dish is half full, she might sit next to it or pace, meowing piteously. And you humans laugh about that! How cruel!

Thomas: If your cat is like this guy in the image on the right, try getting him a shallower dish and see if she actually finishes her meals.

Bella: Also, when you choose bowls for your cat, please choose glass, ceramic or steel. Plastic dishes quickly fill up with very tiny scratches which can harbor bacteria and other nasties.

Siouxsie: Some vets believe that the bacteria and allergens present in plastic dishes can contribute to feline acne.

Thomas: Feline acne can range from a few blackheads on the chin to lots of very painful and ugly inflammation.

Bella: So, Kwantos, try feeding your cat on a plate or in a very shallow and wide dish, preferably made of ceramic, glass or steel, and see if that solves your cat’s food-fishing issue.

Siouxsie: How about you other readers? Do you have a cat that fishes food out of his or her dish? What have you done to try to solve this problem? Now that you’ve read this article, are you planning to replace your cat’s bowl? Let’s talk in the comments!

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