Cat Advice | Paws and Effect Advice by cats, for cats and their people Sun, 17 May 2015 21:47:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Make Sure You Have a Plan for Cat Care In Case You Get Sick Sun, 17 May 2015 21:47:20 +0000 [...] ]]> A woman hugging her cat

Photo CC- BY Niels Kliim

Hi everybody, Thomas here. Today we’re going to write about a very important topic, and one that a lot of humans don’t think about: planning for your cats in the event that you get sick.

The reason we’re discussing this is because Mama’s in the hospital. (Don’t worry, she’s going to be OK! She’s been getting better every day.) Fortunately, Mama has some good friends, including my favorite, Auntie A, also known as Nice Fingernails Lady, and they have a mutual agreement to help one another in the event that something like this happens.

Bella: I want Mama back. I miss sitting in her lap while she’s on the funny white chair, and I miss her special petties and snuggling up with her in the giant cat bed that we let her share.

Thomas: Oh, I do too, but sometimes humans get sick in a way that they can’t treat at home by sleeping a lot and drinking lots of yummy-smelling soup.

Bella: Do you suppose we could go to the hospital and visit Mama?

Thomas: I don’t think that’s allowed. And that’s really dumb, because everybody knows cats help their people feel better. *grumble*

Bella: Do you suppose Siouxsie’s visiting her?

Thomas: Well, she always did love Mama more than anybody else, and now that she’s not in her body anymore, maybe she can sneak in while the nurses aren’t looking.

Bella: Oh, I hope she’s doing that! So, what should humans do to make sure their kitties get everything they need if they have to go to the hospital.

Thomas: The first and simplest thing is to do what Mama did: make a mutual care agreement with a good and reliable friend. Auntie A knows that Mama will take good care of her cats if she gets super-sick, and Mama knows that Auntie A will take good care of us.

Bella: It’s best if you have a few friends or family members who can help, because there may be a time when one friend can’t come over and feed your cats, and you want to make sure they have someone visiting them every day.

Thomas: If you don’t have friends or reliable family members nearby, it would be a good idea to establish a relationship with a pet sitter. If you know you might be prone to sudden hospitalizations, you can ask that pet sitter if he or she wold be available on short notice if needed.

Bella: In fact, that would be good to ask a pet sitter even if you don’t have any illnesses that you know of. And pet sitters might be willing to do this for a regular customer. Trust me, you don’t want to try to find a pet sitter when you’re sick enough to be in the hospital!

Thomas: Auntie A has been taking pictures of us every day and texting them to Mama to brighten her spirits …

Bella: I don’t know why she had to take a picture of me cleaning my pee hole, though. That wasn’t nice!

Thomas: Oh yeah? Well, at least she didn’t take a picture of your butt while you were eating!

Bella: Well, I suppose if it’s in the service of Mama getting better, it’s OK.

Thomas: But really. My butt? She could have taken a photo of my Royal Face instead!

Bella: Anyway, some of the things you should do for your backup caretaker are:

  • Provide keys to your building and your apartment or house.
  • Make sure the backup caretaker knows who your vet is and where the vet is located.
  • If you have pet insurance, make sure your primary backup caretaker is listed on the policy, so if your cat gets sick, the backup caretaker can contact the insurance company to get claims started.
  • Ensure that the backup caretaker knows what type of food your cats eat, and how much they should eat per day. If the food requires preparation, make sure they know how to do that, too.
  • Also, make sure the backup caretaker knows how much you’re able to spend in the event your cat does get sick or injured while you’re in the hospital. That will help the caretaker make better decisions on your behalf.

Thomas: How about you other readers. Are there any things you would add to this list?

Bella: Have you had to go to the hospital or been called away on an emergency? What did you arrange in advance for your cats? Is there something else you wish you’d done?

Thomas: Let’s talk about it in the comments so we can help each other to be more prepared for emergencies.

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My Cat Has Worms. How Can I Get Rid of Them? Sun, 10 May 2015 20:28:55 +0000 [...] ]]> Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

Our cat recently started leaving these yellow seed looking segments all over the bed. I am very nervous and scared all the time about getting sick so naturally this concerned me. What do I do? Will I get  or do I now have these worms too? If I touch them without noticing and grab something to eat, will I catch them? Or if I pick my nose, will they enter my brain and kill me? How can I get them to leave the cat for good?

~ Kris

Thomas: First of all, Kris, those yellow seed things are almost certainly tapeworm egg sacs. The good news is that tapeworms are easy to get rid of and they very, very rarely infect humans.

Bella: You see, tapeworms are transmitted by fleas, which a cat may eat while they’re grooming.

Thomas: The stomach digests the fleas but doesn’t have time to digest the tapeworm eggs before the cat’s meal moves on to the intestines. Once the eggs hatch, the worms attach themselves to the intestinal wall.

Bella: The only purpose of a tapeworm’s existence is to reproduce itself, so it feeds and creates egg sacs, which are shed when the cat poops.

Thomas: And those egg sacs are what you’re seeing.

Bella: The best way to get rid of tapeworms is to get a deworming medicine that contains praziquantel or epsiprantel. Drontal, Profender, Droncit and Cestex are the most effective of these.

Thomas: Drontal is a broad-spectrum dewormer, meaning it kills roundworms, hookworms and two types of tapeworms including the one transmitted by fleas. Drontal only comes in pill form.

Bella: Profender is a topical product like “spot on” flea and tick prevention products, and it too is a broad-spectrum dewormer.

Thomas: Droncit and Cestex only treat against tapeworms, and therefore are a little less expensive than Drontal and Profender.

Bella: All four of these products must be purchased from or prescribed by a veterinarian.

Thomas: There are lots of home remedies for treating tapeworm infections, but the majority of them are ineffective if not outright dangerous. One home remedy involves feeding garlic to your pet, and garlic is highly toxic to cats!

Bella: Better to spend a few dollars and get the product that works and is safe!

Thomas: Now, as for your question about whether humans can be infected: it’s possible, but the odds are very remote! The only way you could get tapeworms is if you accidentally ingested a flea.

Graphic of the flea tapeworm life cycle, produced by the Centers for Disease Control.

The flea tapeworm life cycle

Bella: According to a 2014 article in Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, a human infection with flea tapeworms is rare. In the past 20 years there have only been 16 reports of flea tapeworm infections in humans, and almost all the cases were found in children.

Thomas: So there’s no reason to freak out. Also, they can’t get up your nose and into your brain — I promise! Like most parasites, they require very specific conditions to hatch and survive, and those conditions are only found in the intestines.

Bella: If you did accidentally swallow a tapeworm segment, the acid in your stomach would destroy it before it hatched.

Thomas: So, our advice to you is to take your cat to the vet, get some tapeworm pills and use them as directed to treat the infection.

A tapeworm with egg sacs separated from the worm's body.

Tapeworm. The big parts separated from the worm are egg sacs.

Bella: The very best way to prevent tapeworms is to prevent fleas, so we recommend that you use a topical flea control medicine. Your vet will know which ones work best in your area.

Thomas: And once again, when it comes to flea goop … buy the good stuff! Yes, it’s expensive, but you’re paying for a product that’s safe and effective.

Bella: Most of the inexpensive flea medications, flea collars and the like that are sold at pet stores are much less effective, so buying that crap is being “penny wise and pound foolish,” so to speak.

Thomas: Good luck, Kris. Go forth and deworm!

Bella: What about you other readers? Do you have advice for Kris on deworming or keeping his home worm-free? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Can Cats Hurt Themselves While Playing? Sun, 03 May 2015 23:20:14 +0000 [...] ]]> Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I was lifting my baby Toby (a year old now) up and his head accidentally hit the lower edge of the table. I heard the sound. I FELT SO HORRIBLE I WANTED TO HURT MYSELF. He was shocked and immediately began to viciously bite my arm. I took him to the room to calm him down and see if everything was okay; he was pretty aggressive and bitey and angry with me for about ten minutes but then he calmed down and curled up next to me as usual. Now I’ve seen him bump his head here and there pretty often. I’ve also seen him fall while entertaining himself at home (from a maximum height of about 1.5 ft) and I freak out, but Granny says cats are “tough ol’ things.” But I need to know, exactly how much physical trauma is a cat body equipped to handle? Will the head bump incident lead to anything serious? Do they ever get cracked bones from household bumps and falls? If anything happens to Toby I’ll never forgive myself.

~ Maya

Thomas: Maya, the good news is that your granny is right — we cats are pretty tough.

Bella: That doesn’t mean we’re invincible, of course, but it does take quite a bit to seriously injure a cat, and regular household play usually won’t cause injury in a healthy, young cat like your Toby.

Thomas: Cats have extra-flexible spines and soft paw pads that act as shock absorbers when they jump to the ground from distances.

Bella: Even an odd fall from a distance like 1.5 feet shouldn’t cause harm. Our poor Siouxsie *sniffle* sometimes fell when she jumped up to the counter, and even though her dignity was bruised and she may have been a tiny bit bruised herself, it didn’t cause major damage, even for a very old cat.

Thomas: Cats can get hurt from serious trauma like being hit by a car, jumping or falling from a couple of stories high, or acts of deliberate abuse.

Bella: We know of one cat that got a broken leg after his horrible human threw him across the room in a fit of rage, and he got tangled up in the spokes of a bicycle tire and his leg bet the wrong way.

Thomas: So, Maya, we’re sure Toby got a good knock on the head but we doubt he fractured his skull.

Bella: Have you ever moved wrong and knocked your head on something? If you have, you know it hurt like heck and you might even have gotten a lump (bruise) on your head, but it probably didn’t cause any long-term symptoms.

Thomas: Toby’s temporary aggression toward you was probably more because h was scared and hurt than because he was seriously injured.

Bella: That said, if he’s been having odd symptoms like staggering or his pupils (the black parts of his eyes) are of different sizes, or if he has random behavior changes or sudden fits of serious aggression, or seizures, that could indicate he got a concussion. So if Toby has been acting weird since the accident, we’d recommend a visit to the vet just to be on the safe side. Your vet could probably do a lot to reassure you about what does and doesn’t cause serious injury to cats.

Thomas: Now, Maya, we do want to address something else that concerns us. You said that when you picked up Toby and accidentally knocked his head on the table, you felt so bad you wanted to hurt yourself.

Bella: Self-injury is a very serious thing, Maya. Mama’s struggled with it in the past, and she knows lots of teenagers and young adults who have, too. Because she used to self-injure, Mama understands the motivation and reasons for doing it, and she asked us to tell you that if you self-harm, it’s really important to ask for help.

Thomas: It can be hard to talk about, especially if your family isn’t really good about discussing feelings. School counselors and even hotlines could be a place to start. Here’s a website that will help you understand self-injury and provide some resources to get started in healing.

Bella: Give your Toby some love for us, and give yourself a break too. You didn’t mean to hurt Toby, and from your email it looks like he forgave you very quickly. Now the next step is to forgive yourself.

Thomas: We’re sure your vet will be delighted to help you learn everything you want to know about how to take care of Toby. Mama’s talked to several vets who told her it totally makes their day when a person asks lots of questions and really wants to learn about keeping their furry friend healthy and happy.

Bella: So, how about you other readers? Could you talk about experiences you’ve had with your cats , doing crazy things and not getting hurt? Let’s try to reassure Maya, shall we?

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Farewell, Sweet Siouxsie. What An Amazing Trip It’s Been. Sun, 26 Apr 2015 03:38:50 +0000 [...] ]]> I don’t even know what to say right now. My grief is so big and raw I don’t even think I can fully comprehend the scope of it.

My beloved friend, furry familiar and Top Cat and Queen Of All Western Cats, Siouxsie Mew, earned her wings today with the help of a very compassionate and kind veterinarian. She was just a week shy of celebrating her 19th birthday.

JaneA holds Siouxsie a few minutes before her euthanasia.

At the vet’s office, giving Siouxsie a hug.

I promised Siouxsie a long time ago that if she wanted help to leave her body, I would honor her wish. A couple of days ago, in the wee hours of the morning, she told me in no uncertain terms that it was time. And today, I kept my promise.

Siouxsie and her sister Sinéad adopted me in June of 1996. They were only six weeks old at the time, but they knew what they wanted. Back then I didn’t know that cats should be at least 8 weeks old before they leave their mama, but by the time I realized they could have used a couple more weeks of weaning, they’d already stolen my heart. So I bought kitten milk replacer and fed them “kibble cereal” so they could get the nutrition they needed.

Siouxsie explores the kitchen sink, 1998

Siouxsie was 2 years old when this photo was taken.

Siouxsie outlived Sinéad and two other feline housemates, Dahlia and Kissy, and became one of the most well-traveled cats I’ve met when she, Thomas and Bella made the cross-country drive with me from Maine to our new home in the Pacific Northwest.

She enjoyed robust good health until about a year and a half ago, when her senior blood panel revealed hyperthyroidism and some degree of kidney disease. The arthritis that had been a minor annoyance for her became much more severe, and she developed a couple of severe urinary tract infections.

She was a brave and strong cat, and she soldiered on. I did my best to manage her pain and treat her illnesses, and I thought things were going pretty well until just last week, when she developed such an epic urinary infection that she was losing control of her bladder. Although antibiotics got the infection taken care of, Siouxsie decided she’d had enough. One night as I was half asleep and all my “left brain” filters were down, she looked up at me and I heard, “Mama, I’m tired. I’ve had enough.”

Siouxsie on my lap, looking exhausted.

Siouxsie soldiered on, but I knew she was getting tired.

I picked her up and hugged her and said, “I hear you, I honor you, and I’ll respect your wishes. Just one thing — could you help me make sure I heard you correctly — come to me in a dream or something like that?”

Well, bless that amazing cat. She didn’t come to me in a dream, but as I lay awake in bed with her snuggled between my left arm and my body, wondering if I’d ever fall asleep, I rolled over and she peed all over me.

That was about the most concrete sign my logical mind needed.

I’m grateful to work in a place where everybody knows how important our animal companions are to us. After I called the vet during my break to make the euthanasia appointment, several of my friends noticed that I looked sad. When my friend Carmen asked how I was doing, I broke down in tears. I got so many hugs that day. My friends cried with me. My supervisor was incredibly compassionate and kind when I apologized for not being on the ball. Everyone there has been through it.

The end of this amazing and magical 18-year friendship is about the saddest damn thing I’ve ever experienced. The fact that I knew it was coming didn’t make it any easier.

Siouxsie in my lap after getting the sedative part of the euthanasia.

Siouxsie relaxed in my lap after Doctor E administered the sedative.

Everyone at the clinic, from the receptionist to the techs and assistants and the vets, was amazing. I felt so loved and supported.  Doctor E, who performed this final mercy for my beloved friend, explained what was going to happen — first the sedative, which would make her very relaxed, alive but anesthetized, followed a few minutes later with an overdose of a barbiturate anesthetic, which would stop her heart peacefully and quickly.

He hugged me as I cried and thanked him for walking through the last couple of months of Siouxsie’s journey with me.

My friend Carmen drove me to the vet’s office today. She sat with me as I reminisced. She took the photos of Siouxsie and me that you see in this post. She held me as I wept after the final injection. She listened as I told her the amazing things Siouxsie had done for me, not the least of which was saving my life by giving me a reason to live when I couldn’t find any others. She took me out for coffee and ice cream and a walk in Sunset Park.

View of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains from Sunset Park

Sunset Park provides a beautiful view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, and being out in nature was very grounding.

When I got home, I picked up Siouxsie’s dish and hung her collar in a place of honor with Dahlia’s and Kissy’s.

I still can’t quite believe she’s gone. My heart aches and my head hurts.

I know you all have come to know and love Siouxsie over the 12 years we’ve been writing this blog together, and I know we’re all going to miss her so much. Paws and Effect will, of course, continue on with Thomas and Bella at the helm (and of course, me as their devoted secretary and slave).

If you want to do something concrete to honor Siouxsie and you have the resources to do so, please make a donation to your local shelter or your veterinarian’s compassionate assistance fund (if they have one). Advocate for black cats and work to overcome the ridiculous prejudices against them. Encourage people to adopt adult and senior cats. Spread kindness and compassion — the world needs as much of that as it can get!

A Buddha statue with three cat collars draped over it.

Siouxsie’s collar joins Dahlia’s and Kissy’s on my altar.

Blessings and love to you as one journey ends and a new one begins. There’s a new star in the heavens tonight, and her name is Siouxsie Mew.

Farewell, Siouxsie. I leave you with this mantra from the Buddhist Heart Sutra: Gaté, gaté, paragate, parasamgate — Bodhi soha! (Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone far beyond — O, what beautiful enlightenment!)

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