Thursday, December 22, 2011


Most cats LOVE playing with a dangly, twitchy, bouncing string.  Some cats take play too far.   Take Jake, for example.  Jake was helping his owner embroider some Christmas gifts.  Enter the  Rayon Embroidery Thread......It came on a spool that rolled.....It was RED and a snake.  It was fun to chew.  It felt good against my teeth...OOOOPS!  I swallowed some!
 48 hours later, really sick cat, scared owners.

Does any of this sound familiar?  Have you ever pulled a string out of your cats mouth?   Here are FOUR things to know about "string foreign bodies" that may prevent your cat getting into Jake's situation.

ONE:  If the string is "organic", it may digest.  Cotton is organic.  If you hold the string tight and pull, and it breaks, it is probably organic.  MOST thread and yarns are MAN MADE fibers -nylon, polyester, rayon -this is the stuff they make fishing line out of -This thread will not break when pulled.  And it will not digest.  SO, if you let your cat play with string or yarn -BE SURE IT WILL BREAK when pulled!

TWO:  Often, a string that is swallowed will pass thru the GI tract.  You may see tell-tale evidence in the litter box.  If you do, consider yourself lucky, but FIND THE SOURCE of the string and eliminate it.

THREE:  If you EVER see a string hanging out of the rectum of your pet (cat OR dog), NEVER PULL ON IT!  You should cut it short, and wait for the rest to pass on its own.  Pulling can cause damage to the intestines if the string is a MAN MADE FIBER (see rule one.)

FOUR:  IF your cat likes to chew/ swallow foreign material, I can guarentee that they will NEVER learn their lesson.  You will need to police their environment 24/7 to keep them away from whatever they love to chew.  You may need to put the embroidery thread, or yarn or fishing rods under LOCK AND KEY (really)! 

Jake is now home from the Fox Valley Cat Clinic, recovering nicely from his stomach and intestinal surgery.  I am certain that Jake's owners have learned their lesson, but I am pretty sure that Jake will soon be up for a quick game of "dancing thread!"

From my cats to yours, a Wish for a  Holiday full of purrs and happy feet, a warm nap with your favorite person,  a squirrel outside your window, and a tummy full of your favorite meat.
Dr. Maureen Flatley

Monday, December 12, 2011

An Ode: In Memory of Franklin

This piece first appeared in the Portland Oregonian on September 11, 1925.  It was given to me, framed, as a gift in 1995  in memory of a special patient of mine.  I am now sharing it with you after the passing of a very special dog in my life-Franklin. 

"Where shall I bury my dog?"

There are various places in which a dog may be buried.  I am thinking now of a Australian Shepherd dog, whose coat was flame in the sunshine, and who, so far as I am aware, never entertained a mean or an unworthy thought.  This dog is buried beneath an apple tree, under four feet of garden loam, and at its proper season the apple will strew petals on the green lawn of his grave.  Beneath an apple tree or a cherry tree or any flowering shrub of the garden, is an excellent place to bury a good dog.  Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy summer, or gnawed at a flavouous bone, or lifted his head to challenge some strange intruder.  These are good places, in life or in death.  Yet it is a small matter.  For if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams actual as life, eyes kindling, laughing, begging, nudging, it matters not at all where the dog sleeps.  On a hill where the wind is unrebuked, and the trees are roaring, or beside a lake he knew in puppyhood, or somehwere in the flatness of the farmer's field where most exhilarating cattle graze.  It is all one to the dog, and all one to you, and nothing is gained and nothing is lost -if memory lives.  But there is one best place to bury a beloved dog.

If you bury him in this spot, he will come to you when you call -come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death, and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again.  And though you may call a dozen living dogs to heel, they shall not growl at him, nor resent his coming, for he belongs there.  People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his foot fall, who hear no whimper, people who may never really have had a dog.  Smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing.  The best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Going RAW (with your cats diet).

Raw diets  are quite popular with some  people, and with many cats.  There are those who believe that a raw diet is the best thing since sliced bread.  Many veterinarians however extol the dangers of raw diets with words of Salmonella poisoning and zoonotic disease potential.

My opinion has changed with my recent study of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  You see, the Chinese have believed for 1000's of years that "you are what you eat".  In  Chinese Medicine, it is believed that different foods and herbs have varying potentials to help keep the body balanced.  Some foods support a deficient condition (like chronic renal failure in an old cat) and some foods are more appropriate for an excess conditions (like some types of cancers).   Balance is an essential key to good health, and our diet is a large part of what keeps us healthy. 

The face is that raw diets are a feline's natural diet.  The healthy gastrointestinal tract of the cat is specifically designed for this diet, with a very acidic stomach and relatively short intestine, allowing a shortened transit time.  This decreases a cats risk of infection from eating a raw diet.  However, a raw diet, being unprocessed, requires a very healthy GI tract to breakdown, and also requires more energy to metabolize.  Therefore, while being a VERY APPROPRIATE diet for the young healthy cat, it is not an appropriate diet for EVERY cat.   For example, cats that have gastrointestinal disease  may not tolerate a raw diet, until the imbalance in the GI tract is addressed.   Cats that have a weakened GI tract due to old age or chronic disease may not have the extra metabolic energy required to break down and utilize an  unprocessed and "cold" raw diet. 

Raw diets, if fed as a sole source of nutrition for your cat, need to be well balanced with essential vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids for health.  Some premade raw diets ARE balanced and some ARE NOT.  Be sure to label read. If its nutritionally balanced, it will say so.  If your inspired to make your own raw diets, do your research thoroughly first, including consultation with a veterinary nutritionist.  How to contact a Veterinary Nutritionist.

When chosing a raw diet, it is best to stick to the motto "feathers and hooves".  This means chicken, turkey, duck, beef, venison, lamb.  No raw fish -there are a variety of reasons for this: about feeding your cat fish.

Transitioning to a raw diet, as with any new diet, should be done slowly, over a period of 2-4 weeks.  This allows the gut's flora to accomodate to the food change.

At my house, my 2 young healthy cats, Posie and Peabody, enjoy a meal of Nature's Variety raw medallions as part of their diet 3 times a week.  My dog Franklin, who I am managing for a cancer condition, has been on an  exclusively raw diet for over 1+ years, and doing very well!  Consider adding a raw meal into your weekly rotation of food for your pet.
Dr. Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

5 Things to Do If You Vacation Away From Your Cat.

A very good client of mine went on a 10 day vacation, leaving her 15 year old cat home alone.  The neighbor was to check on Kitty daily, offering fresh food and water. But, the worst thing happened:  the neighbor forgot.  Kitty went without food OR water for at least 7 days.  When her owners arrived home, Kitty was alive but dehydrated and listless.  With medical attention, Kitty was able to recover from this episode, but the owner was heartsick about what her beloved cat had endured. 

Kitty inspired me to cover this topic today.  Here are 5 things to think about before your next vacation.

Keep in regular contact with your pet caregiver while on vacation. In this day and age of twitter, facebook and gmail, daily contact is easy and convenient and reassuring.  A daily "doing great today" or quick camera picture of Fluffy sleeping on the bed is proof positive that things at home are going well.

Notify your veterinarian of your plans.  If a stranger needs to bring your cat in for a medical problem while you are away, this advanced notification will streamline the process.

Put all of your pet care instructions in writing each time you go away.  Include how much to feed and how often, how often to scoop the box, what to expect as far as appetite and activity level, what to watch for that would indicate a call to the vet is needed (and leave the clinic name and number).

Consider a professional pet sitter, or a boarding facility- especially if your cat is geriatric or has medical problems.  There is much less risk of an unnoticed problem developing if a professional is watching your cat.  For example, at our boarding facility we document the appetite, urine and stool output twice a day for each boarder .  A professional would be able to identify a problem early, before it became serious.

Have a back up plan in place.  If a problem develops with your pet, what will you do.  What if your pet caregiver can't follow thru with care while you are gone.   It is essential that you leave an emergency phone number no matter where you are going.  Perhaps leave a phone number of a close family member in case you can't be reached, or aren't able to return early if necessary.  Have the pet caregiver contact your veterinarian if they have questions about care while you are gone.  These plans may not be needed, but are much easier to put into place before you leave on your trip. 

We all deserve a vacation, but it is so important to know that our pets are healthy and happy while we are off traveling!

If you have found this helpful, please feel free to share it with your cat loving friends.
Dr. Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic

Friday, November 4, 2011

East meets West in Menasha

As some of you know, I have gone back to school.  I am studying to become Certified in Chinese Herbal Veterinary Medicine.  Since I have started integrating Chinese Herbal Medicine into my practice I am suprised to find a ready acceptance to a more natural, holistic approach to treating my patients. 

What is Herbal Medicine?  Herbal therapy is the use of therapeutic medicines derived from whole plants.  Herbs are used to move the Qi (energy) thru the appropriate meridians as well as tonify (strengthen) the Yin or Yang, guiding the body back to its natural state of balance.

What are Herbal Formulas?  Herbal formulas are a carefully chosen complex grouping of plants that act together in a very specific way in the body.  These plants are processed into a powdered extract that is a very strong and effective treatment for a variety of diseases.  The herbal formulas can be used alone or in combination with western medicines to increase the therapeutic effects of treatment, or allow a lower and safer dose of medicine to be effective.

How is an Herbal Extract given to my cat?  Herbal medicines come in several forms.  Powders can be mixed directly into canned food, mixed with liquid (water, milk, broth) and given orally by syringe, or  put into capsules and given like a pill.  Or you can mix with cheese, yogurt, ice cream, tuna, butter -whatever your cat will eat readily.  Most cats will take the herbal prescription in food if you start with a very small amount and gradually work up to the recommended dose.

What kinds of diseases can the herbs treat?  Chinese Herbal Medicine can be used to treat a great variety of medical conditions including:  skin allergies, chronic vomiting, chronic colitis or diarrhea, weight loss,  asthma, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, renal disease, chronic cough, arthritis, and liver disease, just to name a few!
Dr. Maureen Flatley

Friday, October 28, 2011

10 things you may not know about cats

1. The nose tells all.
Nose-to-nose greetings between strange cats don't happen, as it puts both in a vulnerable position. However, cats who know each other  but have been apart for a while feel safe enough to do this to confirm visual recognition and gain information about where he has been and what he has been doing.

2. Purring means...
Purring usually indicates contentment, however, a deep purr can also indicate pain or stress. If you know your cat well you will be able to tell the difference in his demeanor

3. Cats Prefer Baby Talk
Cats appear to retain their kitten vocal signals to communicate with their owners, but they use an adult repertoire of sound with other cats.

4. Cats and Lilies Don't Mix
The flower, the leaf and the bulb of ALL lilies are toxic to the cats kidneys.  Watch those inexpensive fresh floral bouquets, they almost all contain lilies.

5. Cat Naps
Cats like to nap rather than sleep but if relaxed enough to enter a deeper sleep, they produce the same brain wave patterns that we do when we dream.

6. Cats Don't  See Eye to Eye
Cats blink and narrow their eyes when they accidentally make eye contact. Eye contact can actually be quite threatening to any animal.   To make friends with an unfamiliar cat, blink and look away when you catch his eyes.

7.  Cats require Positive Reinforcement for Good Behavior
Cats cannot understand punishment as humans do, they must be praised and rewarded for desired behaviour instead.  Consistency is the key.

8. Cats Can Clean Their Teeth with Meat
Giving your cat a strip of raw meat everyday to chew on will help keep his gums and teeth in good condition. Suitable meats include poultry, rabbit, or beef that has been deboned.  This is how cats in the wild maintain healthy teeth and gums.

9.  Kittens learn litter habits from Mom
Kittens as early as 3-4 weeks of age develop litter substrate preferences depending on what is available in their environment, and also by watching to see what  their mother prefers to use.

10. Cats Purring Remains a Mystery
Scientist do not know exactly how the purring sound is made, although some believe that it originates in the cardiovascular system rather than the throat.

The idea for this list, and some of the information I did take from the Reader's website -but I modified several of the items, and made some of the facts a little bit more accurate.  Enjoy!
Dr. Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why Squeak LOVES her carrier...

The truth is that my cat Squeak does not HATE the carrier.  I do not struggle with her and she is not afraid of the carrier.   Here is how I accomplish this magic with my own cats.

I plan ahead.  I start the day before by preparing the carrier with a favorite fleece blanket that smells like her and her favorite cat toys.  I leave the carrier in the garage so she can neither see it or hear it or smell it.  I cover it with a towel in preparation for the next day.

After Squeak and I have gone  to bed, my husband takes over.  His job is to noiselessly transer the covered carrier from the garage to the bathroom.

My AM plan of attack:  Every AM Squeak and I have a routine.  While I get ready for work, she eats her breakfast,  and gets personal "mom" time in the bathroom with me.  The bathroom door is usually shut, and she is used to this. 
SO (and this is really important) I do not change my routine at all.  The only difference is that the towel covered carrier has magically appeared in the bathroom overnight -but up on the counter where she does not usually look or go.  The door closes.  Breakfast is served and eaten.  Mom attention is given.  The carrier is  then quietly lowered to the floor against the wall( so it does not move/scare the cat).  I sit on the floor, speak encouraging words as  I gently pick her up and persuade her inside and shut the door.

Yes, Squeak is 15 years old, so she knows the routine.  But I have never trained her to HATE the carrier.  I have never chased her around the house or pulled her from under the bed .  I have never put her into her carrier when she is scared.  In her mind the carrier does not equal fear.

So, the bottom line to accomplish this magic yourself is to plan ahead, work with the cats daily routine, confine them to a small room (with no hiding places) before putting them into the carrier, move quietly, speak encouraging words so they have no reason to be afraid .  Top-loading carriers are great.  Zippered bag carriers are even better.  Remember, we can all out-smart our cats, and train them at the same time - if we just plan ahead.
The cat needs a big hug after this!!
Dr. Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic

Monday, October 3, 2011

Muffin Can't Breathe!

Muffin lives indoors.  She is a normal very frisky young girl cat , but since the hot, humid, muggy weather of August, she has been less active and very wheezy.  She now stops playing to cough.  She arches her neck out to catch her breath.  She literally can't breathe!   Muffin's owners were preparing their home for sale:  painting walls, cleaning floors and cabinets, deoderizing carpets.  They had even put scented deoderizing crystals into each room to make things smell nice.  Remember that a cats sense of smell is 14 times that of a humans.  What may smell nice to us may be offensive or irritating to our cats!   Remember too that our home is only part of our overall environment, but for our indoor cats, it is their ONLY environment.

Air quality affects the respiratory tract.  Aerosol sprays should not be used unless the cat is put out of the room (including hairspray, deoderant, perfume) .  Be aware of the cleaning products, paint fumes, scented cat litter, potpourris, plug-ins, carpet fresheners, spray cleaners, fabreeze-type sprays.  Particulate matter (dust) comes from furnaces with dirty air filters, pollens and molds, wood stoves, dust-laden forced air vents, cigarette smoke. 

Any and all of these items can cause your cat (and you) to cough, wheeze, have a runny sore nose, or irritated eyes.  If you use  these products often , your cat could even  develop asthma symptoms: chronic coughing spells and shortness of breath, decreased energy, decreased appetite .   If your cat is coughing, please contact your veterinarian. 

This story has a happy ending!  After removing all the scented products, cleaning smells and deoderizing crystals from the house, and airing it out well, Muffin is now back to her young frisky cat behavior.  Now we can all take a deep breath....and hug the cat :) !
Dr. Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic

Friday, September 23, 2011

Another cat -a great idea or a nightmare?

Adding another cat to your household can be either a great idea and a nightmare .  The end result depends on many factors:  the size of your home including vertical space, the number, health, and temperament of your present cats, and your own patience and expectations.
First, chose the right newcomer.  It is MORE important to chose a new cat for their  personality than their beauty.  The newcomer should be friendly, confident, and relaxed around other cats. Kittens are less threatening to a resident adult cat, but their youthful exuberance may not always be appreciated. If you have an older resident, they may appreciate a more mature, less energetic adult friend.  Young male cats tend to play rough at times, and also weigh more, so consider this with an older female cat.

Have PLENTY of vertical space for your cats to perch and observe. This allows even a small home environment to be  multiple-cat friendly.  Padded window seats, multi-level cat towers, access to tops of shelving, are all examples of vertical space, and cat friendly perches should be present in most rooms in your house.

Cat society is a delicate balance of solitude and sociability and you are now messing with the balance.
A newcomer will be viewed as an invader of the territory.    To decrease the liklihood of fighting, housesoiling, stress and  hiding, confining the newcomer to their own space (room) initially  is ESSENTIAL, and so is TAKING THINGS SLOWLY.  The newbie sanctuary should be equipped with all the needed comforts of home, but well away from the resident cat(s). Spend quality play time with the newbie every day.   This will allow the new cat  time to adjust to you, and his room, his new food, his new litter box, and will greatly decrease HIS  overall stress level.

This is the perfect  time to use FELIWAY.  Feliway is a spray or plug-in  to use in your home, that helps cats to relax and relieves anxiety.  Want more more information on Feliway? , click here.

Remember, your newcomer is a source of potential disease: fleas, ear mites, ringworm, lice, intestinal parasites, herpes virus , feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, and more. Confining the newcomer until after they have been examined by your veterinarian, and given the "all clear" signal is a smart move, and may prevent you from having to treat your whole menagerie for a disease or parasite.

During this ESSENTIAL confinement period (days to weeks) , you have work to do.  First,  STEP ONE:  scent swapping. Scent swapping allows the cats a non-confrontational way to become acquainted.  Taking a towel, give the newcomer a  daily rubdown around the face and back (assuming no contagious skin diseases), then leave the towel near a spot that your resident cat frequents.  Repeat in the opposite direction for the newcomer.  Do this daily and place the scented items in a variety of places, and gauge the responses. Go to step two only when you are seeing NO NEGATIVE responses with step 1.

STEP TWO, allow the newbie to roam the house AFTER CONFINING ALL RESIDENT CATS.     Depending on newbie's confidence level, this exercise may need repeating several times before the whole house has been explored in a relaxed manner.  The opposite of this is confining the newbie to a carrier, putting the carrier in a closed room, and allowing the resident cat access to the newbie's sanctuary.  Remember,  do this daily until you see:  NO growling, no puffy back hair, no flat-to-the-head ears -just relaxed happy inquisitiveness from ALL cats.

Once you are seeing no negative responses, it is time for STEP THREEvisual introductions, in a controlled manner.  Again, using your cat carrier, confine the newbie, and set the carrier in the middle of the family room, allowing the resident cat a slow, gradual, non-threatening view and smell of the newbie.  Stay close and use a calm relaxing encouraging tone to your voice.  Do not reprimand or say "NO" to growling or hissing.  This is an expected response initially.  Reverse the scenario the next time with the resident in the carrier.  Be positive and relaxed, as the cats will pick up on your reactions.

LAST STEP, they meet.  You will need 1 person per cat for this, each with food treats and control of their cat.  Stay separated in a large room  where the cats can see each other, but at least 5+ feet apart.  Using food treats, gauge the response of the cat(s).  If everyone is eating and happy, you can let them interact. If not, separate and attempt this again the next day.  Be patient. Go as slow as necessary.

Even after the introduction, I would recommend separating the newbie when your are gone (to work) and when you are sleeping at night.  This will help to control their interactions until you are certain that everyone is behaving appropriately.

Taking these steps slowly -days or even weeks -will help insure that your new family member will be accepted as one of the gang.    Congratulate yourself on a job well done!  Now you can honestly say, "adding another cat was a GREAT IDEA"!
Dr. Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Are you moving to Mars?

From your cats perspective, moving to a new home or apartment is like moving to a  new planet.  There may be steep mountains to climb (stairs), and dangerous cliffs to avoid (balconies).  There will be foreign terrain (carpet/ flooring) and dark scary caves (basement or storage areas), and also strange smells.   The old safe spots and hidey-holes have disappeared.  Perhaps even foreign-smelling new furniture has been delivered. 

Moving is stressful for people too, but at least we are prepared for the changes in store.  It may be tempting to throw away the old hairy cat beds, and well used litter boxes when you move, but these "smell" like security and familiarity to your cat.  Any change you make will be one more thing that is foreign is a new world of foreign-ness.

Ideally, set up a small room with all the cats favorite "old" things:  toys, cat trees, beds, favorite chair, scratching post, blankets, litter boxes, food and water - and remember to add some places to hide.  Then use this room for the temporary cat sanctuary.  Let them de-stress in the sanctuary (with the door closed) until the moving chaos  and noise comes under some control.  Exploring the new world at their own pace (once things have settled down), while having access to the sanctuary if scared, is the perfect way to accustom them to their new home.   Allow the sanctuary to exist as long as they need this added security.   You will know when they have conquered the new world with the first midnight relay race thru the house!
Dr. Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Season of Kittens

Did you know that there is a "kitten season".  It starts mid summer and stretches until late fall.
You see, female cats cycle seasonally:  as the days start get longer (February), adult female cats start to become amorous.  Sixty three days later, kittens start to be born (late spring) when the weather is warm, and babies are most likely to survive.
 These early kittens, at 8 weeks of age (mid summer) are ready to find a home, and often end up at a shelter or rescue or a rummage sale or a flea market.  This "season of endless kittens " continues until the days start getting shorter and cooler again (autumn) when adult females will lose their interest in intact males (until it starts all over again next year.)

Seasonal ovulators, like cats and rabbits, also have the ability to have up to 3  litters in a season, and will have between 1-8 kittens per litter on average.  And also like many mammals, female cats can become pregnant while they are themselves still young -as early as 6 months of age.

So the average unspayed female cat, in her lifetime, could have over 100 kittens.  It is said that  a single pair of cats and their kittens can produce as many as 420,000 kittens in just 7 years. 

If you know anyone that has an unspayed female or intact male cat, please encourage, cajole, nudge, sweet talk, hint,  or offer to pay to GET THEM FIXED.  There is nothing in the world as cute as a kitten, but there is nothing in the world sadder than seeing the shelters and rescues in late summer once again FILL UP with kittens, young adults, and adult cats that have no home.
Spread the word. 
Dr. Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cat Vomit Making You Crazy?

I know how you feel!   I would estimate that up to  1/4 of all cats vomit at least once a week.  Most cat owners accept this as "normal".  Or they believe that if their cat vomits up hairballs weekly, that the cause is hairballs.   Or if their cat vomits right after eating,  the simple answer is that "my cat eats too fast".

First let me say that acute vomiting can be the first sign of serious disease -pancreatitis, intestinal blockage, cancer.  This type of vomiting can be differentiated from chronic vomiting this way.  Acute vomiting is seen with cats that are listless, not eating well or at all, hiding, vomiting multiple times in 24 hours and are always dehydrated.  This type of vomiting is SERIOUS and should involve a physical exam ASAP.  This blog is talking about chronic vomiting:  once or twice a week or less with NO weight loss and NO loss of appetite or energy.

OK, back to my ramblings......Consider this-  Only some cats vomit (hairballs) but all cats groom their hair coat daily.  So, if all cats are swallowing hair daily and the hair is a problem,  why aren't all cats vomiting on a regular basis?
Consider this -all cats eat fast when they are hungry.  People eat fast.  Dogs eat fast.  Eating fast is not a reason for vomiting.  Vomiting is NOT normal, and should not be considered normal by cat owners.

I would like to propose another view of this common problem.  Lets suppose that some cats have a MILD inflammatory condition in their gastrointestinal tract that causes occasional vomiting.  When a cat vomits, up comes (undigested) food or a ball of hair.  The vomiting is the primary problem.  The hair and food  are "along for the ride". 

Inflammatory gastrointestinal disease is VERY common in cats, but can be challenging to diagnose.  Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a common name for a group of GI diseases with similar and variable symptoms:chronic vomiting, decreased appetite, soft stool, gradual weight loss.  Early cases of IBD can  start with chronic vomiting of food.

What can be done to decrease or control mild GI signs in your cat BEFORE they lead to trouble?     Here are some things to consider.

Some cats, like some people have a food sensitivity or food allergy.  If this is the case with your cat, the vomiting will stop when the allergy is controlled.  Hypoallergenic food or limited ingredient foods  needs to be fed for 8-12 weeks exclusively to rule this problem out.  Check out this link for more info on feline allergies:  ALLERGIES

Some cats are indiscriminate eaters -food scraps, grass, house plants, yarn, paper, plastic bags -and any of  this will cause GI upset.  Controlling their access to inedibles will solve this problem.

Some cats require a diet that is closer to what nature intended them to eat (some days I sounds like a broken record).  A trial of high protein canned food and NO dry food for 4-8 weeks is needed to see if this is the cause of the vomiting in your cat.  This is a link to one of my favorite Cat Nutrition web pages:

I have had great sucess in treating many of these "chronic vomiting" cats with herbal formulas  to decrease the inflammation in the GI tract,  strengthening  the health of the GI tract, allowing it to heal naturally  over time. This type of approach is holistic, in that it takes into consideration the previous history of the individual patient and  other related  sypmtoms and patterns.  This information is then used to prepare an herbal formula specific to the individual patient.  Want more information on my latest interest -Chinese Herbal Medicine?- continue following my blog!  I am currently enrolled in the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society's Certification course in Chinese Herbal Veterinary Medicine and expect to be certified in 2012.  And it is an amazing and effective approach to veterinary care.

Until next time, hug the cat for me!
Dr. Maureen Flatley
thanks for following my blog -I would love to hear your comments!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Keeping your ca'ts food FRESH is essential

A patient I saw recently, a cute little 3 year old orange and white tabby, was brought in for her annual wellness exam.  I was shocked to see that she had lost 2 1/2 lb since I had seen her last  (20% of her weight!!). 
After inquiring about her eating habits and diet, I discovered some dangerous facts:  She was being fed from a food dispenser.  Her large bag of dry food was being stored for months at room temperature.  One can of food was being fed a tablespoon at a time over a 2 week period.  This poor little girl was starving for fresh food, but unknowingly the owner was allowing the food to become rancid...
Here are the rules of thumb that I gave to the owner:

-Never -ever-ever (ever) use a free choice "fill-er-up" food dispenser.  Feed the cat fresh food DAILY, and throw away any of yesterdays leftovers.   This keeps the food fresh AND allows you to monitor your cats food intake.

-Only buy one month's supply of dry cat food at a time.  The food, once it is opened, will not stay fresh beyond 30 days at room temperature.  Store dry food in a sealed rubbermaid always.  Scrub the rubbermaid out completely between EACH fresh bag of food.  Oils go rancid quickly, especially in "natural" brands of food.  A cat's sensitive nose will detect this off-smell LONG BEFORE WE WILL, and they will stop eating!

-Canned cat food is meat.  Meat does not keep refrigerated beyond 5 days before going bad.  It is best to only store opened canned cat food for 1-2 days, as most cats are not fond of "old leftovers". 

The bottom line is that every cat needs and deserves FRESH food daily.  Along with lots of loving, play time, head scratches, brushing, belly rubs, a super clean litterbox, a fresh cool bowl of water, and any and all additional forms of feline appreciation!!

I firmly believe that health starts with good nutrition! 
Hug the cat,
Dr. Maureen Flatley, Fox Valley Cat Clinic
If you found this blog helpful, please share it with other cat lovers.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Scary World of Pet Food Recalls

We live in a global ecomony. What that means for pet food is that ALL pet food manufacturers are buying some  ingredients from inexpensive overseas suppliers.  And, just about EVERY CAT FOOD manufacturer has had at least ONE recall in the last 5 years.  That is a scary fact when you think about it.  They have left out  essential vitamins, they have  added  mineral at 10 times the recommended level, they have used ingredients that were laced with  toxic ingredients.  The most recent recall involved Salmonella contaminated meat. 

How can we protect our pets?  What can we feed that is safe?  I am now recommending to my clients to chose at least 3 or more reputable pet food companies (that are not owned by the same parent company) and rotating foods.  Specifically feed a different canned food every day if possible.  Rotate from one SMALL bag of dry food to another brand.  Consider rotating in a home made diet, or balanced raw diet.   Just rotating flavors from the same company is not enough.  Most of the recalls have included a large percentage of foods from the same company.  For example, the last wellness cat food recall, ALL their canned  cat food was lacking essential B vitamins except their 2 flavors of Wellness Core.
What does rotation do?  It reduces the likelihood that you will be feeding an unsafe food over an extended period of time.  The key is ROTATION and VARIETY.

More on home made diets and raw alternative diets next time.

If you enjoy my blog, please consider joining my email list!
Dr. Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic

Friday, August 5, 2011

The GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY

This is the first of several short blogs on what every cat owner needs to be concerned about...
How healthy is  the CAT FOOD we feed.
Today I will expound on DRY CAT FOOD.  (Hang in there, this is exciting stuff!)

First the GOOD news:
 -Dry food is convenient.  It will stay fresh in the bowl for days. 
-Cats like dry food. All dry food is surface sprayed with a very 'tasty" coating.
-Dry food  is nutritionally complete.  Dry food contains all the needed nutrients that your cat needs to live.
-Dry food  is inexpensive when compared to canned food, homemade diets, raw diets.

Here's the BAD news:
-Dry food  is processed under very high heat.  This kills bacteria, viruses, molds etc, but also destroys and degrades the nutritional quality of the ingredients.
-Dry food is very refined.  Look at the ingredients and you will see "meat meals".  This is like meat flour. All dry foods use a meal form of meat in their formulas
-Dry food contains plant proteins.  Cats are carnivores -meat eaters.  Their systems are NOT built to process and utilize plant proteins.  But, plant proteins are a much cheaper ingredient. 
-Dry food contains a large amount of carbohydrates -even "grain free" diets.  Carbohydrates are what makes dry food crunchy.  Hi carb diets are also responsible in part for  feline obesity , diabetes and possibly thyroid disease.
-Dry food contains ALMOST NO moisture, which can lead to dehydration, urinary tract disease, and more.  Because of this, dry food should not be fed as a solo diet to any cat over 14 years of age.

Many less expensive dry foods are LOADED with artificial flavors, colorants and preservatives, and are very high in carbohydrates.  That is why they are cheap!

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN CHOSING A DRY FOOD:  The first 2 ingredients should be meat based proteins.  Avoid foods that include corn gluten, wheat gluten, as these are plant proteins.  Try to chose foods that use complex carbohydrates.  Chose brown rice over white rice.  Chose sweet potatoes over white potatoes.  Stay away from corn -it is very undigestible (which means it ends up in the litterbox!).  The most important thing is to READ THE LABEL and know what you are feeding.

Coming up ...canned foods and more.
Dr. Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic

Friday, July 29, 2011

Get Grandma out of the basement.

I saw a 19 year old cat yesterday for a variety of issues, as you can imagine. Thru my history taking, I found out that the only litterbox was in their basement. They were, essentially, making grandma travel all the way down into the basement every time she had to urinate.  Since she was in kidney failure, this was 6+ times a day.
 Now this guy loved his cat, don't get me wrong.  He thought it was giving her needed exercise.  Makes sense. What makes MORE sense is to give an old cat the option of a litterbox on EACH floor of the house.
 It also makes sense to add more water bowls in conveniently located spots, as dehydration is a frequent and serious problem in older cats.
 Feeding only soft food to any cat over 14 is a recommendation that I make to all my clients.  Why? -it increases their water intake as most soft food is at least 75% water, it is easier to chew and digest, and it usually contains higher quality, less processed ingredients. 
 As your cat ages, making some simple changes to their home environment will not only make their life easier, it may actually help them live longer!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Maxie is peeing on the rug.

Today Maxie peed on the rug by the back door.  She had done this once before, last week.  This time the owner called me for advice.
Cats pee out of the box for MANY different reasons.  But EACH cat has one very specific reason for starting this behavior.  The challenge is detecting the reason, and finding a solution.
I ALWAYS BEGIN with a physical exam and urinalysis to rule out a medical problem.  Medical problems do not go away, cause pain and can lead to a life threatening  urinary blockage.
If the urinalysis does not indicate crystals or blood or high protein or bacteria, and the physical exam is normal, then we are dealing with a behavior problem.  Maxie had completely normal urine and a very comfortable belly.
So, I put my detective hat on and asked the owner 20 questions. It turns out that Maxie's owner purchased a new dehumidifier last week, and set it up at the base of the basement stairs.  The litterboxes are in the basement, so Maxie, who is a nervous cat,  had to walk past the noisy, "scary new thing" to go to the bathroom.  Hmmmm!
I believe, in Maxie's case, adding a litterbox to the first floor, and putting the dehumidifier in an area far from the basement litterboxes will solve this particular mystery.  Now, Maxine can go back to being a perfect angel, and the owner can safely walk around his house in stocking feet without any suprises!

 Here is a fantastic link for anyone with this type of behavior problem.

The litterbox from Your Cat's Point of View

Next time:  What should I feed my cat?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My cat is too loud!


I do behavior consultations.  People with cat problems come to me for advice.   But I  was suprised to see "cat is too loud" on my appointment schedule.  Then I found out it was a Bengal, and I had to smile.  Purebred Bengals are amazing cats -they are inquisitive, active, social, very intelligent, they love people....and are very vocal.
When the owners showed up for their behavior consult everyone in the clinic could hear them arrive.  MEOW.    MEOW.    MEOW.........  This cat did not have an indoor voice!  While trying to discuss their concerns over the constant meowing (can cats scream?), I found out that the only time the cat is quiet is when he is A-sleeping  B-eating or C-interacting with one of the owners.  As the  conversation continued, the cat went from the the table to the floor to the counter to the floor to the windowsill to the  floor to the lap to the floor in the first minute.    I was getting dizzy just watching him. 
This  diagnosis was simple -(drum roll please) this cat is BORED!!!
Certain breeds (like Bengals) need mental stimulation and social interaction and exercise to be happy.  This guy was an only cat living with 2 adults.  He had no cat buddies, no kids buddies, no dog buddies, no bird buddies.    His food was served to him in a bowl.  He was strictly indoors.  He has no regular playtime, no cat towers, and no toy rotation.
One of my favorite links for fantastic advise on how to keep your indoor cat "busy and happy"  is
Indoor Cat Initiative .  You will find a section on indoor cats needs, life stressors, problem solving, and (yes) ideas for increasing the activity of your cat!  You can even train your cat to run an obstacle course,  and then compete in cat agility -REALLY.  Watch the video below for an example -oh and by the way, this is a Bengal running this course!
Dr. Flatley

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How hot is too hot?

Today I had a client ask me if 110 degrees was too hot for their cat.  They had a sun room that the cats enjoy and today the temperature was close to 110.  It is true that healthy cats enjoy warm temperatures and sunshine BUT they also will move out of the heat occasionally to regulate their internal thermometers.   Here is the danger.  In an enclosed sunroom where can these cats go to cool down IF they are too warm?  Hyperthermia is a life threatening condition that comes on quickly and needs to be recognized IMMEDIATELY.  The signs are very suble in the cat.  Prevention is the key!
Please do not allow your pets to "decide" all things.  I recommend treating your cats as if they were a 2 year old child.  Yes, they can make their own decisions, but they are not always the right ones.  They need to be watched, monitored and protected.
Heat index dangers are not just for people.  Keep your cats indoors AND cool during these severe heat spells.  A fan located near their sleeping area is a safe addition.  Scrub out the food and water dishes daily in this heat to decrease bacteria buildup.  Give fresh cool water  several times a day.  Did you know that animals are much less likely to drink water if the water temperature is over 80 degrees.
Keep cool... and hug the cat! 
Dr. Flatley

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Welcome to the Fox Valley Cat Clinic Blog!

I am very  excited to be writing a blog for  Fox Valley Cat Clinic.   I will be including up to date  helpful tips on cat care, information and guidance on cat behavior,  interesting  feline cases, my personal take on nutrition, and Chinese Veterinary Herbal Medicine.  PLEASE check back soon and often for new updates! 
Dr. Flatley