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
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