Friday, November 18, 2011

Celebrating Thanksgiving with your Cat

A cat with a Pilgrim hat on 

Do your cats hate the holidays? Do they run when company comes over? It might be a good idea to set your cats up with a special room in your house for the holidays - a quiet place where they can escape the hustle and bustle of friends and family getting together to celebrate. Make sure that their safe place has a litterbox, food, water and a comfy bed in case they hide for more than a few hours. Some cats readily overcome their fear of strangers and come out to mingle on their own, but most cats would just prefer to wait until after the house is quiet again before they emerge.

Sometimes, very timid cats may benefit from anti-anxiety medications at busy and chaotic times of year.

Some more curious cats may try to come help cook the turkey and stuffing - be careful about cats near hot stove burners, or getting shut in the pantry, especially if there are extra helpers in the kitchen that don't know your cat's habits.

When it comes time to sit down for your turkey dinner, you may want to make sure that your cats are celebrating elsewhere and not begging at the table for some gravy! While turkey is a very appropriate food for cats, be aware that some of the spices we may use are not. Sage is an herb that cats are extremely sensitive to, and can cause an upset stomach or depression of the nervous system. Onions and garlic can cause the destruction of red blood cells. Small bones can cause choking or bowel obstructions. Ingestion of broken bones can cause perforations of the intestinal tract, so if you offer turkey meat, make sure it is boneless.

In addition, cake batter has raw eggs that can carry salmonella, and bread dough can expand in your cat's stomach and become quite uncomfortable. Be aware that parchment paper, tin foil or saran wrap with yummy turkey drippings (or other tasty treats) on it could also be a hazard, as they are easily swallowed while a cat is licking the deliciousness off of them.

Watch out for the begging cat that weaves around your legs while you're carrying that 20-pound turkey to the dining room table!

And, of course, after the hustle and bustle is over, make sure to spend some quality snuggle time with your cat, letting him know how thankful you are that he's willing to put up with all these silly human shenanigans and share your home with you!

We at Exclusively Cats are thankful for all you loving cat owners that trust us with the care of your beloved companions! Happy Thanksgiving!

A cat dressed in Native American costume
(This and other adorable pet hats are available from "To Scarborough Fair" at!)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hello, baby! - Preparing your cat for a new addition to the family

A tabby cat peeking out from under a couch  | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI
Since babies are a big deal around E-Cats right now, this seems like an appropriate topic to write about! Many cats adapt quite well to new babies, but cats are creatures of habit and the chaos and excitement introduced by a new little one may make your cats disappear, or in some cases, eliminate inappropriately outside the litterbox. The most important tip is to try to keep your cats’ routines as close to normal as possible.

First: While a woman should not clean litterboxes during pregnancy, there is no need to get rid of the cat.

Second: Make sure that your cat is up to date on her vaccinations, is on a monthly parasite preventive, and has had a recent stool exam at the veterinary office prior to bringing the baby home. There are so many other things to think about with a new little one in the house that worrying about your cat’s health, or whether your baby could contract an illness from your cat should be dealt with before you’re distracted and sleep-deprived!

Cat on a crib tent  | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI

Slowly begin to introduce baby items into your home. Set up the crib ahead of time. Try to discourage your cat from sleeping in the crib, since he won’t understand why you want him to stop sleeping there once the baby arrives. Once the baby arrives, naps are best taken with the door shut, or with a crib tent; placed over the top of a crib. While a cat does not steal a baby’s breath, as myths suggest, it is safer to make sure that the cat does not have access to a baby while it is sleeping. Another option could be to install a temporary screen door on your baby’s room until the baby is more mobile. Below is a link to one such crib tent at our Amazon Affiliate page.

A cat playing with a baby gym  | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI
Allow your cat to investigate baby items, learning the scents of baby powder, formula, wipes and diaper cream.

While you are in the hospital, send home a used receiving blanket ahead of the baby so that the cats can become acquainted to the baby’s smell before they see him. When your cats investigate the blanket, give them praise or treats to reinforce calm, curious behavior about the baby versus fear.

A baby lying on a young cat  | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI
One of the most disturbing things about a new baby, in a cat’s perspective, is the noise that babies make. Some cats run and hide when they hear a baby cry, others redirect aggressive behaviors to other members of the household – people or other cats – because they are stressed. It’s a great idea to get your cat used to the sounds of a new baby before they actually have to deal with it on a daily basis. You can go online and Google “baby cry sounds” or similar search criteria, or record the baby of a friend or family member. There is even a CD of baby sounds available for purchase. Better yet, have someone visit with their baby – no pinching him to make him cry, though! Offer your cats treats while they listen to the sounds of babies crying.

If your cat is of the more delicate or dramatic temperament, you may want to place some Feliway diffusers in the baby’s room or near places in the home that the baby will spend time. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone that smells like the scent that cats leave in areas when they are marking things that they like.

A cat sniffing a baby's head  | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI
Allow your cat to approach by choice
Once the baby comes home, allow the cats to approach the baby on their own. Many cats, having had an introduction to scents and sounds of the baby prior to its arrival, will show hesitant curiosity and will come up to the baby and sniff it while you are holding her. Never leave your cats unattended with your baby. You may want to allow your cat to sit on your lap while you are feeding the baby so that you can talk to both your cat and your baby and make positive associations between the two.

Make sure that even amidst the changes to your life that you still find time to set aside just for your cats – grooming, playing or just sitting and enjoying each other’s company.

A cat passing through a cat-friendly baby gate  | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI
Give your cat a way around baby gates
Cats on cat-shelves and walkways  | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI
Give cats elevated escape from the baby
While your baby is still non-mobile, start to plan for when the little one starts to move around on his own. Think ahead about how to keep cat food, water and litter out of reach of your baby but still easily accessible to your cat. Provide your cats with elevated perches or other areas where they can escape from curious little hands and mouths. Some strategically placed baby gates can allow cats access to escape areas by climbing over (or under) while keeping your baby safe. You may even want to create a quiet little cat paradise area well stocked with blankets and toys in a childfree zone.

A baby chewing a kitten tail  | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI
Tails are not for pulling!
You will also want to desensitize your cats to the kind of handling they might expect from small hands. Touch their faces, tails, toes, and in the ears and mouth – anywhere small hands might explore. This will decrease the likelihood that your cats will bite or slap at the baby if she gets to “fresh”. However, as much as you can train your pets to be tolerant, all animals, just like people, have a frustration threshold. You cannot teach an animal to endure repetitious pain, no matter how well-mannered they are. As your baby matures, small pats may become more vigorous or even become slaps. A 6 lb. baby sitting on a 12 lb. cat is more tolerable than a 20lb. child sitting on a 12lb. cat. You also have to teach your baby to be gentle and respectful of the pets in your home as well. There are children’s books on the subject, and it is a good idea to teach your child the term “Gentle!” as soon as possible – it works with pulling people’s hair and hitting as well as with pulling kitty’s tail!
Tabby cat sniffing baby's hand  | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI
Teach babies as soon as you can to let a cat smell them before petting
A baby gently touching a happy cat on the head  | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MIAlso make sure to trim your cat’s nails well before the baby comes home. Some people may advise you to have your cat declawed if you are having a baby, for safety’s sake, but if you teach your cat and your baby mutual respect, you should have little to fear about your cat scratching your baby. In fact, putting your cat through surgery when it is already traumatized by the changes to the household may not be in the best interest of your cat’s health. Also, declawing cats over a certain age and weight can result in prolonged recovery – it can be done, but is a very unpleasant experience for your cat. If your cat’s paws are fully loaded and you are concerned, then you may want to try applying Soft Paws to her nails. This allows your cat to keep her claws, while making them safe for baby. Be aware, however, that Soft Paws need to be changed about every 4-6 weeks or the nails, which are still growing beneath the colorful caps, will grow into your cat’s paw pads – which can both cause pain and infection.

If you are having trouble acclimating your cat to a new addition to the home, you may want to involve your veterinarian. The doctor may have additional suggestions for your individual situation, or in some cases a behavioral medication may be recommended.

If you're a multi-species family, a great resource for information on introducing dogs and babies is Family Paws Parent Education.