Saturday, December 22, 2012

On the Fourth Day Of Christmas, my True Love Gave to Me, Four Mewling Kittens: How to Help Your Cat Avoid the Animal Shelter this Holiday (pt. 4)

Orange cat in Christmas decorations
While this part of the holiday hazard series is not about emergencies, it does address another serious holiday pet topic. As pet ownership is a huge commitment, giving a kitten as a gift should be considered with great caution.  For one thing, cost is a huge consideration – not of the cat itself (depending on the breed), but of the financial commitment that is involved in the cat’s day-to-day care in addition to veterinary costs. If you Google “yearly cost of owning a cat” you’ll get hundreds of results, ranging from $100/month to over $1000/month for food, litter, veterinary care and toys. These estimates do not take into account medical emergencies (hopefully no holiday-related problems, since you’ve read this blog!) or chronic health issues. The first year of life also tends to be quite a bit more expensive because kittens receive a series of vaccines, and will need to be spayed or neutered (this will cut down on medical costs later in life by preventing unwanted pregnancies, reduces the risk of certain types of cancer, and prevents unwanted behavioral problems for which many cats end up unwanted in shelters). 

Whatever the cost per month, you should be certain that the recipient of the cat is aware of the ongoing cost and prepared to give the cat the financial investment to keep it healthy. Often, especially in this time economic slump, many pets end up in shelters or on the streets because people are no longer able to provide care and shelter for their pets. 
Also, consider the effect on other pets and people in the household. Are you giving a kitten to a teenager who will be going off to college in a few months and possibly be unable to house the cat in the dorm with them? Is anyone in the household allergic to cats? Do you own a large, hostile dog or a boa constrictor that might find a tiny kitten to be a great snack?
Kittens are hard to come by at Christmas time because cats tend to breed during the summer months, so also consider that, if a feline friend is welcome as a gift, maybe an older cat would be a good choice. It may be best to plan to visit the shelter or rescue* together to pick out the new cat, to make sure that the person receiving the cat is getting a cat that they feel a connection with.
If forethought is put into the decision to make a gift of a cat, then the gift can be up to 20 years or more of valuable companionship, but it is not a gift to be given lightly.
*While many people choose purebred cats, remember that only about 20-30% of shelter cats ever get adopted. Consider adopting a rescued pet. can even help you locate purebred cats that need adoption at local shelters and rescues, if only a purebred will do.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

On the Third day of Christmas, my True Love Gave to Me, Three Family Parties: How to Help your Cat Avoid the Emergency Room this Holiday (pt. 3)

Depending on how you feel about your family, you may just want to crawl under the bed with your terrified cat when the time comes for holiday parties and family get-togethers. Depending on your cat, these parties can be fun or they can be extremely traumatic. Some cats hide for days after a party.
Brown tabby hiding in blue jeans
If you are planning a boisterous holiday party with lots of guests, you might want to consider boarding your cat during the holiday. Otherwise, to help a shy cat cope, you can prepare a sanctuary in advance – a bed, food, water and litter – in a low-traffic area, a closet or the basement where sounds will be more muffled, and plan to keep them in their sanctuary for the duration of the party. Feline pheromone spray or a diffuser and items with your kitty’s own smell on them will help create a calming scent. Show your cat this area before the big day so she will know it’s her safe place. Cats that are frightened because of large numbers of people might dash for the door, or curious cats may slip outside along with an unwary visitor. This is an excellent reason why even indoor cats benefit from being microchipped. It is also a good idea to request that family members keep their own pets at home. Cats are creatures of habit, and the holidays are stressful enough without having an interloper to deal with. In addition, the last thing that you want to be doing just before Christmas dinner is rushing your cat to the ER with a bite wound if the animals decide that they don’t want to play nicely anymore.
Other concerns about holiday parties and visitors include inappropriate elimination. Some cats will urinate or defecate outside the box when they are overly stressed or anxious – another reason to consider isolating your cat in its sanctuary or planning to board her.
If you have specific concerns, antianxiety drug therapy could be discussed with your veterinarian. There are many calming medications available, ranging from human anti-anxiety drugs to herbal and homeopathic supplements, so you and your veterinarian can discuss which option would be most effective for your cat.

Gray and white cat in boarding cage
Foxy poses in a boarding cage
If you will be traveling throughout the holidays and your cat is not going with you, the most ideal option for pet care is to have a non-traveling family member stay in the home with the cat. This allows the cat the comfort of a familiar face and surroundings to provide the least interruption of his or her normal routine. A qualified pet sitter is the next best choice – someone who is trained to recognize signs of illness. Ideally, the sitter would stay in your home with the cat, or visit a minimum of twice daily for 30 minutes or more.  The third option would be for cat owners to board their pets at a reputable feline-only boarding facility. There are a lot of holiday hazards that a cat can get into at this time of year, so cats should not be left alone unattended. Cats with medical problems and daily medications should not be without their medications at this time of high stress.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

On the Second Day of Christmas, my True Love Gave to me, Two Toxic Plants: Helping your Cat Avoid the Emergency Room this Holiday (pt. 2)

Black and white cat in pointsettias

Many people decorate their homes with festive holiday plants that are gorgeous to look at, but may be deadly if eaten. In addition, many are busy baking and cooking in preparation of big family meals together. Since we’re so busy, sometimes we may not notice if our mischievous cat is trying to snack on something she shouldn’t.
Here are some of the top holiday items that cats love to eat (but shouldn’t!):


Black cat and white cat under mistletoe
Mistletoe should be kept well out of cats' reach
First of all, it is important to note that even non-toxic plants can cause coughing, choking, stomach upset or mild vomiting. Sometimes a leaf can even become lodged in a nostril or scratch or irritate an eye. If your cat eats a plant and needs to seek medical attention, it is always a good idea to bring the plant that was eaten with you to the vet – that way if you are uncertain of the species, your vet may be able to identify it and determine the treatment needed. Also, bringing the plant helps to evaluate exactly how much and what part of the plant was eaten. A tiny bite of a certain plant leaf may be safe, while the berry or flower of the same plant is lethal.
Holiday plants vary in their toxicity. Lilies (all of the Lilium family and Hemerocalis species), amaryllis bulbs and mistletoe are the most dangerous. If you or anyone in your household suspects that your cat may have ingested any part of a lily, no matter how small, please seek immediate veterinary attention. Hesitation may mean the difference between life and death for your cat! If more than 6 hours pass between lily ingestion and treatment, your cat’s chance of recovery decreases from fairly good to guarded-to-poor, and you can expect some long-term kidney damage.
There are several species of mistletoe including Phoradendum and Viscum – some of which are highly toxic and some of which are less so. Any type of mistletoe ingestion should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian.
Black cat outdoors in holly bush
Cats should be monitored around holly
Holly (Ilex spp.) – certain species contain the methylzanthine Theobromine (also theophylline which is used as a respiratory aid, and caffeine – I'm sure you know what that does!) in all parts, but concentrated in the leaves. Theobromine is the toxic substance that is also found in chocolate. Leaves can cause cuts or irritation in the mouth and esophagus. The berries, which contain glucosidic saponins, are mildly toxic to humans in small quantities, but can cause toxicity to varying degrees in pets. It is best to contact a veterinarian if your pet has ingested holly.
(for more about Holly toxicity)
Jerusalem cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum) is a decorative species of nightshade with bright red berries that are poisonous.
Poinsettias (Euphorbia) have gotten a bad rap as an extremely poisonous plant due to an urban legend dating back to 1919. They do cause some intestinal upset, but rarely cause death. Pine needles and Christmas cactus usually cause irritation and intestinal upset but are less toxic. The most common signs of plant toxicity are: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and excessive salivation (drooling).
Black and white cat in pointsettias
Poinsettias aren't as bad as many people think
If you have a live tree, Christmas tree water may contain fertilizers or preservatives and stagnant tree water can breed bacteria, but ingestion of a small amount of water does not usually cause severe issues. Covering the water with chicken wire or other mesh allows you to refresh your tree, but prevents your cat from drinking the water. Pine sap is not toxic but is sticky and hard to remove. Cats may lick excessively or pull at their fur if sap becomes adhered to their fur. Vegetable oil works better than shampoo when removing sap from your cat’s fur.
Exposure to plants in the Lily family is far and away the most serious holiday threat. Dr. Bailey has seen more deaths in cats due to this, than all the other toxic plants combined.
Some non-toxic winter plants that you can safely place in your home include: Christmas palm (Veitchia merrillii), Christmas orchid (Cattleya trianaei), Christmas dagger fern (Polystichym spp), and Mistletoe cactus (Thipsalis cassutha).


Red persian cat and onion plants
Cats and the onion family don't mix
All members of the genus Allium (onion, garlic, leek, chives, shallots, and scallions) can be poisonous to both dogs and cats. Toxicity can cause damage to the red blood cells (RBC), resulting in Heinz body anemia. In particular, cats are 2 to 3 times more susceptible to RBC damage from these components than other species. While specific studies have not been done with garlic as to the safe levels of ingestion, acute onion toxicosis occurs in animals that eat more than 0.5% of their body weight at one time (less than 2 Tbsp. for a 10lb. cat). However, smaller doses given regularly over a period of time will cause the same problem.
Drinks with milk or cream such as alcoholic eggnog are a concern both because most cats are lactose intolerant and because cats are very sensitive to alcohol due to their small size. Even small amounts of alcohol can be fatal.
Cat chocolates by Goncharoff
Goncharoff cat-shaped chocolates
Chocolate ingestion can be serious, leading to seizures, if a large quantity is ingested. Chocolate toxicity varies by type of chocolate ingested – baker’s chocolate contains a higher concentration of Theobromine than white chocolate. Any ingestion of chocolate should warrant a call to your veterinarian, however. This is usually less of an issue for cats than dogs since they don’t seem to want to eat pure chocolate, but it should still be kept out of reach.
You should refrain from giving bones to your cats. Unlike dogs, cats do not have the instinct to gnaw on bones – and even dogs can damage or prematurely wear down their teeth with too much bone-chewing. 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, the herbs and spices that the turkey or chicken is cooked with can be a problem. Sage is an herb that cats are extremely sensitive to, and can cause an upset stomach or depression of the nervous system. Also, as above, onions and other members of that family can cause anemia. If you want to offer your cat turkey, cook up some unseasoned bits on the side, rather than sharing from the family’s bird. It is doubtful that cats can taste the spices the same way humans can, anyway.
Black and white cat with pill bottles
Many of the poisoning cases we see are due to pill ingestion
Medications are not something that people think about as a holiday hazard, but during this chaotic time, when many guests may be staying in your home, be vigilant about any medications that may spill, especially as family members that may be coming to stay may bring in medications that aren't usually in your house.

Cats lack some liver enzymes and metabolize many medications poorly; one Tylenol or Ibuprofen can be fatal to a cat. If your cat is on medications for her own health issues, ingesting additional human medications may interact with those she has already taken with devastating results.

If you think your cat has ingested someone's medication, please call a veterinarian right away. Have the pill vial handy while you are on the phone and bring it with you to your appointment so that you can give all the important information to the doctor about what kind of medication it was, the dose and an estimate of how many pills were in the bottle. Make sure that you are also aware of all the medications your cat normally takes and when the most recent dose was given. If your cat has ingested someone else’s medication and is due for a dose of their own medications, DO NOT give the normal medications until you have spoken with your veterinarian.

Most of the poisoning cases we see at Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital are due to improper medication ingestion - either cats eating dropped pills from a human or other pet in the house, accidental overdoses when more than one family member gives the medication on a busy or chaotic day, or from mixed up medications such as a dog parasite product being accidentally applied to a cat.

Return to the First Day of Christmas

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Meet the December Cats!

 Sadie and Devo
Age:  Just turned 9 on November 13th!

Weight:  Average sized kitties I would say we are.  Both of us are about 13 pounds.
Demeanor at vet:  Going to the vet is no treat for us.  I (Sadie) really dislike it and cry the whole way there.  My brother Devo does too.  Once there, Devo doesn't mind wandering about and typically hiding in the corner under the chair or curling up on mama's lap.  Instead, I prefer to just hide in the cat carrier and hope no one sees me.

How we found our home: Mom found us as wee kittens in a local pet store.  We had another sibling there too, but unfortunately mom knew she could only take two of us.  Our other sister was NOT interested in mom at all anyways.  Devo knew right away he wanted to go home with her.  I was a bit apprehensive at first but eventually curled up on her comfy lap and felt right at home.  We moved around a lot and met a lot of people, but have been comfy and cozy in our home now with mom & dad for about 5 years!

Favorite Toys: We are simple cats and prefer just a string and a bell or a little ball of fur to play with.  My brother Devo loves paper bags to curl up into and play around with.  Mostly our days are spent hiding out from the beast that mom & dad brought home one day.  I think her name is Emily.  There's another one too, but he doesn't seem so bad.....yet.  They call him David.  Only time will tell.  My favorite places to hide are under the dining room table.  Emily seems to leave me alone when I'm under there.  My brother usually fancies the bathroom sink upstairs.  

Food and Treats: I'm pretty okay with anything food-related!  I wish I got more of what mom and dad ate.  My brother is a bit more picky and I think mom is still trying to figure out what he likes best.

How we got our names:  Mom loves her music, so of course she had to come up with names that were music-related.  I am named after a song by The Beatles - Sexy Sadie.  My brother is named after a band - Devo.