Monday, July 28, 2014

Pet Safety Month: Animals in Disasters: Part 2: During the Disaster

In honor of Pet Safety Month, here are some suggestions to help you weather an emergency with your pet.

Evacuate early. If a serious emergency is on its way, don't wait for a mandatory evacuation order. Leaving in a calm, controlled fashion is not only better for your pets, it is better for you, too, especially since many pets can be stressed by the smell of smoke, the sounds of high winds, or flashes of lightning. Some people who have waited until emergency officials evacuated them have been told they had to leave their pets behind.

Identify a safe area of your home where you and your family can stay together, if you must wait out a storm or other disaster at home. Make sure that the safe area is animal-friendly:
  • Close off or eliminate unsafe nooks and crannies - Frightened cats may try to hide in small spaces when they are fearful, and may become trapped in areas where you cannot reach them if you eventually end up needing to evacuate.
  • Move dangerous items - Any tools or toxic products that have been stored in your safe area should be relocated, in case there is a possibility of a leak or spill.
Be sure to close your windows and doors, stay inside, and follow the instructions from your local emergency management office.
  • Stock your emergency supplies in your "safe room" in advance - Have your pet's medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers, along with your other emergency supplies, as well as a pet carrier or crate for each pet. Close off any open fireplaces, vents, pet doors, or similar openings in the house, with plastic sheeting and strong tape.
Listen to the radio periodically, and don't come out until you know it's safe.

Fresh water is particularly important. If power outages are a possibility, fill up bathtubs and sinks ahead of time to ensure an adequate supply of water.

If flooding is expected, make sure that your safe area is in the highest location in your home, or in a room that has access to counters or high shelves where your animals can take shelter. Your pets are closer to the ground and will be affected by high water sooner than a human.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pet Safety Month: Animals in Disasters: Part 1: Plan Ahead

 In honor of Pet Safety Month, here are some suggestions to help you weather an emergency with your pet.


- Make sure your pet is microchipped. Collars and ID tags are important, too, but if your cat is wearing a safe break away collar, the collar could be lost and your cat's identification would be lost with it. Most of the lost cats that we hear about are not microchipped. If your pet has a chip with current registration information, they have more than 70% chance of finding their way back to you, compared to only a 10% chance if they have no identification. Onlyabout 1-2% of dogs and cats that appear in shelters as "found pets"have any kind of identification. Reasons that microchip identification fails to work include: unregistered chips, disconnected phone numbers, failure of the contacted owner to respond to phone calls or letters about their pet.

- Even if a collar could become lost, training your cat to wear a safe, break-away collar is a good idea, since that is the first form of identification that rescuers will look for. It is also more obvious that your pet has ID if they are wearing a collar, than if they are only microchipped, even if the only tag on the collar is the one that indicates your pet has a microchip! You may want to make sure that the phone number on your cat's ID tag is a cell phone and not a land line in case you need to relocate and cannot be reached at your home number.

- Know where the pet-friendly hotels are located in the near (and far) vicinity. If your house loses power and you need to relocate, you may not know how far you need to go to reach an area that is safe. You may also want to make an agreement with a distant friend or relative who will allow you to come stay at their house with your pets (or allow JUST your pets) in exchange for you agreeing to allow them to do the same. If you have multiple types of pets, you may need to make separate arrangements for each species (or even each pet!).

  • Make sure your back-up caretaker knows your pets' whereabouts and habits.
Let your back-up caretaker know where your pets' food is and where you normally feed them and keep their water bowl, and if they need any medication.

If you need help locating pet-friendly hotels, there are a number of online resources that can help you:

If you know that severe weather is approaching and that you may need to relocate, you may want to Michigan State Animal Response Team (MI-SART) is equipped to set up several animal shelters located near human shelters and is partnering withthe Red Cross to assist people in evacuating and caring for their pets.  
call ahead for reservations. Currently, Red Cross shelters do not admit any animals other than designated service animals to their shelters, however, the

- You may also want to locate emergency veterinary services outside your area, in case your pet is injured in a disaster and cannot be treated by your regular veterinarian. Also keep a list of boarding facilities or veterinary offices that plan to function in emergencies. Be aware that animal shelters bear most of the brunt of housing found pets in emergencies and will be stretched to the limit during these times, and may not be able to accommodate you.

-Exchange pet information, house keys and emergency information with a trusted nearby friend or neighbor. If you are unable to return to your home in an emergency situation, your friends or neighbors can evacuate your pets for you. If you have a regular pet sitter, he or she may be able to help, but it is a good idea to make plans in advance. Plan where to meet in case of emergency, in case power and phone communication is interrupted.

- Have an emergency kit for your animals with some important supplies and information that is ready to grab and go. We will be posting some emergency kit tips in our next article.

- Be aware of your cat's favorite hiding places so that you can locate him quickly in case of emergency. If you know ahead of time that severe weather is approaching, you may want to close off areas of the home from which it is difficult to retrieve your cats. 

- If an emergency does occur, remain calm. Your cats can sense your stress level and if you are upset, they will be, too. Some pets will feel comforted by interactions with you in a stressful situation and others will prefer to be left alone, or may benefit from being placed in a pet carrier with a blanket over the top, simulating a secure, cozy nest. Be aware that some pets may experience dramatic behavior changes during times of stress - a loving cat may become aggressive. 

- If your cat is used to going outside in a fenced yard, have a plan for the possibility that your fence might be damaged or destroyed in a severe storm. Make sure that your cats have been brought inside if a severe weather warning has been issued. Some cats may become disoriented if severe weather has affected their normal scent "directional markers" and may not be able to find their way home. Additionally, high winds or flooding may spread or spill chemicals that may be dangerous to your cat, such as chemicals, fertilizers, or other dangerous substances.

- If your cat becomes lost during an emergency, they will likely end up at an animal shelter. Keep a list of the local shelters in your area and their phone numbers and locations.
Mobile Animal Shelter Trailer

- Make sure to keep your cat's vaccinations up to date, since many emergency shelters will require vaccinations prior to admitting pets for sheltering, or will require special sheltering care, such as quarantine, for animals with no proof of vaccination.

- The most important rule: If it is not safe for you, it is not safe for your pets! Even if you think you will only be gone a short time, take your pets, since you may find that even after the emergency has passed, travel may be restricted due to road damage, downed power lines, or other post-emergency problems. In addition, if they are left behind and your house is damaged, your cats could become injured or escape from your damaged home.

Additional Resources

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July 15th is National Pet Fire Safety Day!

Did you know that firefighters rescue more pets than people from burning buildings? People can get out of a house on their own, but pets, especially cats, can become frightened and hide in small places, making it difficult to evacuate them.

If you need a sticker for your door or window to alert emergency personnel that they should watch for pets in your home, visit this link. When you receive your window cling, write down the number of pets you have and then attach the cling to a front window. Your local fire department may also have stickers available.

Here are some additional pet fire safety tips:

  • Extinguish Open Flames - Cats are curious critters and will investigate cooking appliances, candles, or even a fire in your fireplace. They will walk across hot stoves, and they will bat at hot irons. Ensure your pet is not left unattended around an open flame or other heated appliance and make sure to thoroughly extinguish any open flame before leaving your home. Note: a different kind of burn (chemical) can occur when cats come into contact with scented oils in diffusers or heated oil lamps. Please make sure that your cat does not come into contact with these aromatic oils. These burns worsen over time, so if your cat does spill scented oil on itself, please seek emergency attention for your pet immediately, even if the burn does not appear too bad.
  • Pet Proof the Home - Take a walk around your home and look for areas where cats might start fires inadvertently, such as the stove knobs, loose wires and other potential hazards.If you have a cat that likes to chew wires, wrap the wires in bubble wrap, or spray them with a bitter tasting spray such as Bitter Apple.
  • Secure Young Pets - Keep cat, especially young kittens, separated from potential fire-starting hazards when you are away from home.This may mean your kitten needs a special play-room when the house is empty until he or she is old enough to outgrow chewing behavior.
  • Keep Pets Near Entrances - When leaving pets home alone, keep them in areas or rooms near entrances where firefighters can easily find them.  
  • Practice Escape Routes with Pets - Have a plan for your cats in case you have to evacuate quickly or firefighters need to rescue your pet. If your cat hates the carrier, have alternative carry methods such as a secure cardboard box or a knotted pillowcase. If your cat has not had to travel in a carrier, or if your cat hates the carrier, try to acclimate your cat to it by leaving a carrier out at all times. If you have a carrier that comes apart easily, you can take the top off and convert it into a bed with a cushion or soft blanket. You may try feeding your cat meals in the carrier to decrease the negative feelings your cat may associate with it. Practice putting your cat in a carrier at times other than when you plan to take them to the veterinary hospital, so that they learn that not every trip in the carrier ends with shots!
  • Pets Can't Escape a Burning Home on their Own - If you have a home security system, you may want to install monitored smoke detectors which are connected to monitoring center personnel that call the fire department. Or, if you do not have or want a home security system, a product such as the Nest Protect will send you notifications on your Smart Phone when smoke or carbon monoxide are detected in your home and no one is home.
  • Keep Your Information Updated - Firefighters are familiar with pet alert window clings so keep the number of pets listed on them updated. Knowing the accurate number of pets in the house aids rescuers in finding all of your pets. Also make sure to keep your pets' microchip information up to date in case they escape your home on their own. While you can't track them, you have an 86% greater chance of finding them if they have a microchip versus those pets that do not. If you have recently moved or changed your phone number or email address, take a moment and update that information with your microchip company. If your pet is not currently microchipped, you may want to think about having it done.
  • Summer is Grilling Season! - Be aware of your pets around the grill, as well! June and July are the peak months for grilling accidents. Your cat may try to jump on the grill and investigate that yummy cedar-planked salmon or sink their claws into those just baby back ribs!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Meet the Cats of July!

Messrs. and Miss July - Joey, Roger, and Delilah 
As told by Joey
Eight years ago, while still a very small kitten, I (the Tuxedo on the left) was found wandering the halls of a Catholic high school in Plano, TX. After a brief stay with a family, and an incident with two schnauzers that I still say was not my fault, Mommy picked me up from a shelter.

Me and Mommy are now far away from Texas - we live on a small lake in Waterford, with Daddy and lots good of smell-o-vision. In October 2012, I had a stay-cation at Exclusively Cats, and I came home with two cats of my own, Roger and Delilah.

Trisha rescued "Dodgie" and "'Lilah" from underneath a Dumpster in Flint, and I'm very happy that they're my cats now. Roger, the big black cat on the right, and Delilah, the little gray and white cat in the middle, have come a long way since we all came home almost two years ago. They started out being very shy, hiding behind the drier, but now they take naps with me, and we chase each other all over the house. Roger is still very shy around the bipeds, but Delilah will jump up on the couch - or let Daddy scoop her up - for rubs and scritches. She also likes to fling toys off the top of the cat tree and send them across the den.

I started out as the big brother, but Roger may be a little bit bigger than me (just a little). I still win when we wrestle. Just sayin'. I see another cat who lives outside, Yeti, and he gets the best food ever that Mommy and Daddy put out for him. Daddy says it's the same kibble I eat, but I know better. I hope I get to adopt him soon, too!

Kitty BFFs!

Monday, July 7, 2014

How do I know if my cat has high blood pressure?

This is Kitty - why is she falling?

Does this cat look like she has high blood pressure? It's hard to tell from the outside, so routine testing, or "screening" is usually the best way to tell.

Most of the time, when we diagnose cats with high blood pressure, their owner has no specific complaints about their cat's health or behavior. That is because most of the negative effects of high blood pressure in cats are subtle, and act internally before outward signs are seen.

One of the most common causes of sudden blindness in cats is high blood pressure. This is because the tiny blood vessels are put under a lot of strain when a cat has chronic high pressure. This can cause the vessels to rupture or break and small areas of the retina lose blood supply. Once the blood supply is gone, small lesions or detachments form, giving your cat spotty vision. If this goes on for long enough, the entire retina can detach and cause complete blindness.

Fortunately, if high blood pressure is caught early, before too much retinal damage has been done, the lesions can heal, with treatment.

This particular cat was brought in to have an exam because she was wobbly and had started falling off a chest of drawers where she liked to sleep. The only thing that was found on her exam was that she had high blood pressure and some changes to the retina:

So, that's one problem on her list - but is her high blood pressure making her fall?

Sometimes, when a cat has high blood pressure, it is due to the presence of another disease, such as kidney disease, or hyperthyroid disease. In fact, 61% percent of cats with chronic renal failure and 87% of cats with hyperthyroidism have high blood pressure, according to research (citation below).

For Kitty, we took a blood sample to test for kidney disease and hyperthyroid disease. We discovered that Kitty did have some mild changes to her kidneys, too. We started blood pressure medication for Kitty, and when she came in to have her pressure rechecked, her owner told us that she was a changed cat! She had significantly improved, and was no longer wobbly or falling off her favorite sleeping spot.

High blood pressure can cause signs that owners can note, but again, most people only recognize that there was a problem after their cat's high blood pressure is being treated. We hear comments like: "Fluffy is so much less cranky!" or "Callie's appetite is so much better!" or "Smokey seems so much less restless and has stopped crying at night!" when people come in for their blood pressure rechecks.

Other symptoms of high blood pressure (besides blindness and retinal detatchment) include:
  • Seizures
  • Circling/disorientation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hemmorrhage (bleeding) of the eye or nose
  • Blood and/or protein in the urine
  • Abnormal kidneys
  • Heart murmur
  • Weakness
  • Signs of thyroid disease
If you think your cat may have high blood pressure, or if your cat is over the age of 7 years and you would like your cat screened for high blood pressure, you may want to consider participating in a current high blood pressure study that is being run. For more information about the study, visit or read more about it on our blog at "Feline Hypertension: What you need to know!"