Cat Advice | Paws and Effect Advice by cats, for cats and their people Sun, 28 Sep 2014 18:53:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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Since My Cat Was Spayed, She Hates Everyone. Help! Sun, 21 Sep 2014 19:55:15 +0000 [...] ]]> Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I have a cat, Boo, who is about 2 years old. I found her in my backyard when she was just a kitten: she still had blue eyes and could barely walk. I think she was abandoned by her mother because she was very small and had a cold. During this time, she was loving towards everyone, and especially my dad when she was old enough to go into heat.

But when I had her spayed, everything changed. She now hates my dad and almost everyone else. My sister and I are the only ones she likes and will be affectionate towards, and she tolerates my mom. But everyone else, she hisses at if they so much as stand near her, and sometimes she’ll swat at them, especially if they try to pet her. Sometimes she’s in the fearful aggressive position, but other times she’ll just be lounging and will hiss.

Why the change in behavior? My dad feeds her in the mornings so that’s not a possible solution. Neither is a behavior consultant because my family things it’s “stupid and unnecessary” though I would love to have her looked at. I’ve tried (at the advice of my vet) calming collars and those calming aroma plug-ins but they are no help whatsoever. I currently have two dogs that she tolerates, and will affectionately rub against and a third temporary dog. The third dog is a recent addition so it’s also not the source.

I think it could have something to do with my dad being a generally loud person, as she also severely dislikes other loud people. But that wasn’t a problem before she got spayed. I love my Boo, and I hate that everyone else only sees her as evil.

~ Haley

Siouxsie: Well, Haley, we know how heartbreaking it can be when your kitty does a 180 in her personality, but we think we’ve got a couple of solutions for you.

Thomas: First of all, if you don’t have any high places like a nice, tall cat tree or some wall shelves, you need to get some. A cat that lacks confidence — and it sounds like Boo is lacking confidence after her experience at the clinic — needs places where she can get out of the way of dogs and feel like she can watch her territory from above.

Bella: Besides, tall cat trees are fun because you can run up and down them and goof off and play catch with your toys and jump on top of other kitties …

Siouxsie: Hey, knock it off!

Bella: I already did knock it off. See? My favorite mousie is on the floor right over there!

Siouxsie: That’s not what I mean, and you know it. Now, get serious because we’ve got work to do here!

Bella: Meanie!

Thomas: Anyway, Haley, having some high places is a great start. I’m talking like a seven-foot-tall cat tree, like this one Mama got for us!

Bella: I remember that cat tree. It was super-fun! And I was sad that Mama had to give it away when we moved across the country, but I’m glad Mama got us another one almost exactly like it.

Thomas: You can also get shelves to install on the walls, and suction cup-mounted window perches. Basically, try to create a “highway” that Boo can use to get around the house without having to be on the ground.

Siouxsie: It doesn’t have to be expensive to do stuff like this. Here’s a great how-to article on building DIY cat shelves.

Thomas: And here’s a great IKEA hack cat tree.

Bella: And here’s another cat shelf tutorial.

Siouxsie: You’re also going to want to play with Boo more. Playing builds confidence and it makes a shy kitty feel like she “owns” the space a bit more.

Thomas: Use an interactive cat toy and move it around like prey. Also, make sure your dad plays with her. You want her to start associating other good times with your father so she doesn’t feel so fearful around him.

Bella: By the way, if you want some tips on how to play with Boo LIKE A BOSS, check out Mama’s article on Catster.

Siouxsie: You can also coax her up the cat tree or onto her cat shelf by using an interactive toy.

Thomas: So, Haley, if you give Boo some nice, high places and a “freeway” around your home so she doesn’t have to get cornered by dogs or visitors, that should help her to calm down a bit.

Bella: And playing with her every day will also boost her confidence. Try these things and let us know how it goes.

Siouxsie: How about the rest of you readers? Do you have any other tips for helping a frightened cat calm down and feel confident again? Please share them in the comments.

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Does My Cat Know I’m About to Have A Baby? Sun, 14 Sep 2014 19:11:05 +0000 [...] ]]> Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I am expecting my first child and have been in the early stage of labor for about the last three days. I’ve noticed recently that my eldest kitty is increasingly clingy, meows much more frequently, and follows me around the house like a shadow. She absolutely insists on being in whatever room I’m in now, including the bathroom. It doesn’t bother me at all; in fact I find it quite endearing because I feel like she’s worried about me. I’m curious if kitties can actually tell what’s going on with their humans in this regard though or if I’m perhaps anthropomorphizing her actions. Elsa is very healthy and active still, just much more ‘Mama’ oriented and demanding of attention. Is there anything I should be aware of as my labor progresses?

~ Erica

Siouxsie: We cats absolutely can tell when something huge is going on!

Thomas: As we’re sure you know, when a human is about to have a baby, there are lots of changes in your hormones, which produce subtle changes in your pheromones.

Bella: You can’t consciously sense those pheromones, but your cat sure can!

Siouxsie: Your  doctor probably told you that as you start your labor, you’ll start producing lots of a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone tells your body to start producing breast milk and it drives the labor process.

Thomas: Your body also starts producing more endorphins, which are the body’s natural opiates. These endorphins help you to manage your pain while you’re in labor.

Bella: Your body may also be producing a lot of adrenalin, which is the “fight or flight” hormone. If you’re feeling really stressed out or worried about the birth, or if there are stressful things going on in your home, your body will produce too much adrenalin. This can slow or even stop your labor, so you want to produce as little adrenalin as possible.

Siouxsie: I wonder if your eldest cat had some kittens of her own at some point. That would probably contribute to her desire to follow you around and protect you. Also, if you’re feeling stressed, she may be trying to make sure you’re as calm as possible.

Thomas: I’ve never met a pregnant kitty. I wonder what their pheromones are like.

Bella: I’ve never met one either. Mama, can we go meet some pregnant cats (and maybe some pregnant people)? Will you get pregnant so we can find out what it’s like?

Mama: Sorry to disappoint you, Bella, but I’m not planning to get pregnant any time soon — or any time ever, for that matter. If I did that, I wouldn’t have time to give you lots of affection and petties because I’d be so busy with the baby.

Bella: Oh! Okay, well, don’t get pregnant, then. I want you to take care of me!

Siouxsie: I’ve met a couple of pregnant people before. They do smell different when they’re pregnant than they do when they’re not, and I’m sure they smell even more different when they’re just about to have their baby.

Thomas: Long story short — even if you don’t believe in cats being able to telepathically sense what’s going on, we do respond to physical changes in your body chemistry, and on an instinctive level, I’m sure your eldest kitty knows it’s because you’re about to have a baby.

Bella: You know, cats can be trained to sense other biochemical changes, which can help them to be able to do things like detect seizures before they start or to sense if diabetic people’s blood sugar readings are too high or low. Cats have been known to wake their people if they have heart fibrillation. You hear a lot about dogs doing this, but there are plenty of  medical-alert cats, too.

Siouxsie: We hope your labor and delivery goes smoothly, that you and your baby are super-healthy and form a wonderful bond that will last through both of your lifetimes. And we know your eldest cat will also get to be your baby’s buddy, too.

Thomas: Please let us know how everything turned out, and how your eldest kitty and all your furry friends react well to your new family member.

Bella: How about you other readers? Did your cats react when you got pregnant or when you were starting your labor? We’re really curious! And did your cats turn out to like the baby? Please share your stories in the comments; I’m sure Erica will be glad to hear them too.

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My Cat Was Fine, Then A Week Later He Was Dead. Why? Sun, 07 Sep 2014 21:32:56 +0000 [...] ]]> Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

Last week I was watching my parents’ house while they were out of town, and I noticed my cat, Charlie, was having trouble breathing. It was almost like he was gasping for air. The next day I realized he hadn’t been eating either so I took him straight to the vet. They informed me that he had fluid between his lungs and chest cavity called pleural effusion, and that he had an enlarged heart. After two days, they sent me home with heart medication and diuretics to get the fluid out of his body. It seemed like everything was back to normal: he was eating again, his breathing was good, and he was sleeping with me every night. But a couple of days after that, I woke up and found him under the table, breathing rapidly and unable to use one of his back legs. I rushed him to an emergency vet, where they put him in an oxygen tank and wanted to keep him overnight till I could bring him to my regular vet. But they seemed to care more about money more than about helping Charlie, so I took him home. The next day I took him to my vet, where they told me he had a blood clot in his leg and there was nothing they could do. My dad came back that day and he made the decision to put Charlie down.

Dahlia meditating

Our sweet Dahlia got really sick and survived about a week and a half after her first trip to the emergency vet. She was only 6 years old, too. Photo Copyright © JaneA Kelley

I was devastated and I don’t understand where things went wrong. How could a healthy 6-year-old cat deteriorate that fast over the course of a week? And why did three completely unrelated things happen almost simultaneously? I feel like I did everything I could, but it seemed like everything was working against him.

~ Jessica

Siouxsie: Oh, Jessica, we’re so sorry for your loss. We know how hard it is to lose a cat friend that young.

Thomas: My sweet Dahlia got really sick and died within about a week and a half … *sniffle* … and she didn’t even want to snuggle with me toward the end … *sniffle*

Bella: There, there, Thomas. Come here and let me snuggle you and lick your tears away.

Thomas: *sniffle* Thanks, Bella.

Siouxsie: Even I kind of liked the little monkey. At least she was nice to me and didn’t chase me around the house, unlike some kitties I could mention!

Bella: Pfthhhhbt!

Thomas: Bella, that’s not nice, now stop it.

Siouxsie: Anyhow, Jessica, we think that the episodes that led to Charlie’s death are not as unrelated as they may seem.

Thomas: The three issues you mention are commonly related to a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM.

Bella: In this disease, the walls of the heart muscle are abnormally thickened, and that reduces the efficiency of blood pumping.

Siouxsie: Because of the thick heart wall and defects in the valves that move blood between the chambers of the heart, usually a cat with HCM will have a heart murmur.

Thomas: Unfortunately, in some cats, HCM can reach a critical stage and result in congestive heart failure. A key sign of congestive heart failure is a buildup of fluids in the chest or the abdomen, such as the pleural effusion your vet found when you took Charlie to the vet.

Bella: Another thing that can happen in cats with HCM is that because the heart isn’t working properly, blood clots may form. When those clots break loose from the heart, they travel through the aorta (the main artery that delivers blood from the heart to the rest of the body) and get stuck when the arteries start getting smaller.

Siouxsie: Usually this happens where the aorta splits into two smaller arteries to deliver blood to the legs. In this case, it sounds like the blood clot got stuck in one of those leg arteries, which resulted in Charlie’s inability to use that rear leg.

Thomas: Why do some cats get cardiomyopathy and some don’t? Well, some of it has to do with genetics: Maine Coon and Ragdoll cats seem to be more prone to HCM. But any cat can get it and it’s most commonly diagnosed in male cats between ages 5 and 7.

Bella: The bottom line, Jessica, is that you did everything right. You took Charlie to the vet and got him treated, and you did your best to keep him healthy and comfortable. But sometimes there’s just nothing anybody can do in that situation other than giving him a humane release from his suffering.

Siouxsie: It’s so ridiculously unfair when a cat gets so sick at such a young age! We all felt the same way when Dahlia got sick and Mama had to ask the vet to release her from her suffering.

 Thomas: Charlie knew you loved him and cared about him, and that’s really what mattered to him.

Bella: Please accept our deepest purrs of compassion and condolences, Jessica. We hope that maybe we’ve been able to alleviate your pain by explaining what might have happened.

Siouxsie: Have any of you other readers had a cat with heart disease? What tips do you have to offer to readers who may be dealing with this? Please share them in the comments.

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