TIME TO BEGIN MONTHLY FLEA TREATMENT!

With spring fully upon us, it’s important to begin treating your indoor-outdoor pets for fleas.  In Oregon we didn’t have a hard freeze this year, so those nasty pests are hardy and just waiting for a host such as your pets.  Flea saliva causes severe, itchy allergies in some cats.  Fleas also carry tape worms that can infect your kitty.

REMEMBER ONLY TO USE THE BRANDS OF FLEA DROPS RECOMMENDED BY YOUR VETERINARIAN! Some over the counter flea treatments are unsafe and/or ineffective.  You can get great deals on Advantage and Frontline Plus on Amazon.com for much less than sold at your vet’s office.

Mark your calendar NOW to remind yourself to put the drops on your kitty monthly.

Laura Speirs, Feline Behavior Consultant

REMEMBER YOUR CAT’S NEEDS DURING THE HOLIDAYS

We all get so caught up in all the holiday shopping, baking, socializing, etc., while also trying to work at our  jobs.  Our precious cats will often get neglected during this busy time.  It’s important to make it a priority to keep kitty’s schedule of feedings, playtime, and interaction as normal as possible.  They don’t understand what’s different about December.  Their lives are always the same and that’s just the way they like it!

If you’re going to have guests coming to stay or visit, be sure to make arrangements for your cat’s happiness based on his/her temperament.  Some cats love being in the middle of things while others spend the time cowering under a bed.  If yours is one of the latter, set him/her up in their favorite room before guests arrive with all the necessities and play the radio softly with soothing music.  Close the door but don’t forget to spend 5 minutes visiting your kitty several times during the sequestering for cuddles and a little interactive play.

Some cats will react to the stress of all these changes in the home, their schedule, and strange people in their environment in several ways.  Some will become aggressive, hissy, or stop using their litter box.  Some cats will also spray urine on luggage or other strange smelling things (gifts or boxes) that enter the house, so be sure to keep these inaccessible to your cat.  This is totally normal behavior for a cat, so PLEASE DON’T PUNISH YOUR KITTY.  Keeping things as normal as possible will lessen the stress that causes unwanted behaviors.

Remember the dangers to cats associated with the holidays:  holly, poinsettias, tinsel, electric cords, candles, human food, tree ornament hooks, the water in the tree reservoir, mistletoe, ribbons, etc.  If your cat tends to be an escape artist, before you open the door to guests, KNOW WHERE YOUR CAT IS!

Have a wonderful holiday season this year.

Laura Speirs, Feline Behavior Consultant

CONSIDERATIONS FOR AGING CATS

With more cats living safely indoors and advances in veterinary medicine and feline nutrition, it’s commonplace for them to live 17-20 years or more! Just like ours, their little bodies begin to wear out and may need more help from us than before.

The three main medical conditions seen in older cats are kidney failure, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism.  All of these can make a cat lose weight and that would be your first clue that something’s going on.  With kidney disease and diabetes, you’ll see a marked increase in urination and water intake.  It’s important to watch what’s going on in the litter box and monitor your kitty’s weight and appetite.  Since we see our cats day after day, it’s sometimes hard  to notice weight loss until it becomes quite pronounced.  It’s recommended that cats over age of 8-10 have a vet visit twice a year to monitor for such changes.  Your vet will likely do a blood test to check for these three conditions and, if present, recommend a course of treatment.

Older cats may also develop arthritis and be unable to jump on the couch or bed or even get into a high-sided litter box. There are stairs you can get from catalogs to help them reach too-high furniture.  Arthritic cats will also seek out warm, soft areas to rest.  Offering a heating pad set on “low” wrapped in towels will help keep kitty more comfortable.

**Cats do not tolerate anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or adult aspirin. Never, ever medicate your cat without asking advice from your veterinarian.**

Your cat may also not be as comfortable eating from dishes on the floor because of the strain it puts on the back and neck.  There are commercially available food dishes in a holder that will raise the level up about 4″ and be more comfortable for kitty or you can improvise something similar.

A cat’s ability to groom themselves often becomes a problem later on and may need your help and even a bath.  Be sure to brush your cat and clip the nails diligently.  Cats  may stop scratching their posts so that their nails’ outer sheathes are not shed. Further, a more horrific consequence of not maintaining your cat’s nails is that they can grow so long in a circular pattern that they’ll eventually pierce their foot pads and continue growing!

Laura Speirs, Feline Behavior Consultant

FELINE HEARTWORM DISEASE?

I’ll bet you’ve never heard of it, right?  Well, sadly, heartworm disease, that has heretofore been found mostly in the mid west and east,  has made it into Oregon.  This often-fatal disease, spread by mosquitoes, is even more deadly in cats than in dogs.  First, there is no treatment for it in cats, although some cats’ immune systems will kill it.  Second, as with so many feline diseases, symptoms do not show themselves until the disease is quite advanced.

INDOOR CATS ARE AT RISK AS WELL!  Mosquitoes enter our houses and can bite and infect your cat.  Monthly heartworm preventatives are available from your veterinarian.  The most common name is Revolution®, a topical treatment for fleas, ear mites, and other parasites.

Ask your veterinarian if heartworm preventative is prudent for you cat.  He/she may recommend a test to determine if your cat is heartworm positive before recommending treatment.  Once the cat is determined to be negative,  the preventative agent can be begun and you can rest easy!

Laura Speirs, Feline Behavior Consultant

WHEN THE CARRIER COMES OUT, DOES YOUR CAT DISAPPEAR?

Cats, as we know, are NOBODY’S FOOL!  They know that the carrier means something bad is going to happen – like going to the vet.  Just when we are in a hurry to get them somewhere, they hide and/or wedge themselves in the most inaccessible place they can find, right?  The antidote to this is to put the carrier in the middle of the floor a couple of days before you need to put kitty inside and go.   Then, put some catnip around and inside the carrier and feed the kitty about a foot away from its door.  Conduct interactive play a few times a day around the carrier and offer treats if your cat likes them.  For each feeding, move the cat’s dish closer to the carrier’s door until you put the food right inside it.  This way the cat will begin to associate pleasant things (food/play) with the carrier and make him/her less likely to run when it’s time to go.

This ritual will need to be performed any time you need to prepare for an outing.  If you can leave it full time in the area where your cat hangs out as a resting place, so much the better!  The cat will then view this as a cozy, safe place.

Laura Speirs, Feline Behavior Consultant

LOOKS LIKE AN EARLY SPRING!

At least it is in the Northwest and South and that means that fleas are active and multiplying.  For those of you whose cats go outside, it’s time to begin monthly flea treatment (mark your calendar  now to remind yourself!), and, in most areas of the country, heartworm preventative.  Those nasty fleas not only make  cats miserable and infest your house, carpet, and furniture, they also carry tape worm to infect them.   Mature, untreated tape worms will rob your cats of needed nutrients from their food.

Please be sure to buy your flea treatment that’s recommended by your vet from him/her or online.  Don’t try to cut corners with treatments sold at pet stores.  They are notoriously ineffective and one brand has killed a number of cats in the past.  Heartworms are easily prevented with a monthly pill or with Revolution®, which also kills external parasites, including ear mites.

YOU MAY NOT KNOW that indoor cats are very much at risk for acquiring heartworms.  This deadly disease, carried by mosquitoes,  is easily transmitted by them to your cat in your house.  Be sure to protect your kitty.

Laura Speirs, Feline Behavior Consultant

PORTLAND’s LOW COST SPAY-NEUTER SPECIAL

From February 14-March 17, 2010, very low cost cat spays ($25) and neuters ($10) will be offered and underwritten by several area animal rescue groups.  These fees are unprecedented for their low amount.  Targeted will be low-income apartments and housing areas, but anyone can take advantage of this program. If you know someone whose cat is unaltered, please tell them of this opportunity.

Contact 503-286-2411, e-mail: spayday@spayoregon.org, or http://www.spayoregon.org.

I just returned from the island of Kauai where I visited the Kauai Humane Society twice.  The shelter is a very nice facility and the only one on the island.   They house around 50 cats.  I was impressed by the 3 cat rooms I visited where all the cats free roam and have  outdoor enclosures with plenty of fresh air and backs up to a lovely courtyard.  The cats I met seemed happy and were mostly friendly wanting to get on my lap and spend time with me.  If  you happen to visit Kauai, I would recommend you stop by the shelter and check it out.  I’m sure the cats would appreciate a visit from you as well!

Laura Speirs, Feline Behavior Consultant

HOLIDAY GREETINGS TO YOU & YOUR KITTY!

MAKE IT MERRY FOR YOUR KITTY, TOO!

During this busy time, remember to spend quality time with your cats. Don’t forget to provide the cuddles and playtime they’re used to!

Resist the temptation to give your kitty food from your table. These human goodies will likely cause stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea that will likely end up on your carpet! No one needs unexpected visits to the vet for the holidays!!

Beware that tinsel, pine needles (vacuum them up often), and ornament hooks are particularly dangerous if swallowed and can cause cuts in the stomach and intestines.

You may have a cat or new kitten that will try to climb up your tree, so be very sure your tree holder’s base is sturdy. Some owners even secure their trees to the wall with wire because their mischievous cats can’t resist the climb!

There are a number of things associated with the holidays that you may not know are POISONOUS to your cat and they are:

Poinsettias
Anything that comes from a bulb, e.g. onions, garlic, all lilies, tulips, amaryllis, etc.
Mistletoe
Holly
Water in your Xmas tree reservoir
Chocolate
Grapes/Raisins
Pot pourri oil
Artificial snow
Christmas cactus

Make sure kitty has no access to lighted candles that could be knocked over or burn a tail.

Ribbons, string, breakable ornaments, and light cords can all cause harm to kitty if chewed on. Make a point of cleaning up wrapping/ribbons immediately after opening gifts, so kitty doesn’t swallow anything she shouldn’t.

During holiday parties, why not create a safe haven for kitty in a room away from the festivities? Most cats will appreciate this. Use a quiet space set up with your cat’s favorite things, litter box and food, and a radio playing softly.

The repeated opening of the door to admit guests can be dangerous to indoor-only cats. If your cat isn’t in his/her safe room, make sure you know where she is before opening the door!

Have a great holiday, everyone!

Laura Speirs, Feline Behavior Consultant

All Weather Cat Enclosure

At this time of year shelters are inundated by callers wanting to get admission for the stray cats they’ve been feeding all summer.  Suddenly, it dawns on the good Samaritans that cold, rainy weather is here or soon to arrive and they worry for the kitty.   Shelters, especially no-kill shelters, rarely have spots for these cats and also some of them require indoor only homes.  Maybe the stray cat wouldn’t do well inside all the time, so that option is out.  So, now what?

I advise continuing to care for the cat and create a cozy place for him to get out of the wind and rain.  I made one for my outside stray out of a Rubbermaid storage container.  They’re inexpensive and will be impervious to the wind and rain.  I cut an 8″ X 8″ hole in the middle of one end, lined the inside walls and lid in foam packing material I glued on and put towels and blankets inside.  If you put the hole towards the bottom of the container, rain might seep in.  Then I put the container on my deck with the opening pointing towards the house so the wind wouldn’t enter there easily.  My kitty loved it and stayed dry and relatively warm.

For additional warmth in the very cold months, you can put a Snuggle Safe disc in the little “house.”  You warm it in the microwave, wrap in a towel and put it in the house for the kitty to sleep on.  It will hold its heat for several hours.  A less expensive option is to create a cloth envelope filled with uncooked rice.  Sew one end closed and heat it in the microwave and wrap in a towel.  It doesn’t hold the heat as long, but costs practically nothing to make one.

If you’re one of the many good-hearted people caring for a stray, there is a special halo for you.  Thank you for what you’re doing for the cat.  He/she is indeed lucky to have found you.

Laura Speirs, Feline Behavior Consultant

Happy Autumn

With the return of cooler weather, kids and teachers going back to school, and vacations done, please remember that these are changes that will impact your cat.  He/she may now feel more lonely and bored with no one home.  Are you remembering to make time for interactive play and quality affection time with your furry feline?

Boredom and depression can manifest in cats in different ways.  Some become withdrawn, others will become destructive, groom compulsively, overeat, or not eat.  If you see any of these behaviors (sometimes subtle, so watch for them!), pay attention and engage your cat morning and evening with something fun to do.  The old wives’ tale that says cats are solitary animals that need no interaction is just not true.  Cats are social and want interaction and closeness with us.   It doesn’t take much time to make a world of difference for your cat!

Laura Speirs, Feline Behavior Consultant