Sunday, July 13, 2014

What kind of cat litter should I use for my cat(s)?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital
Tucson, AZ

There are several things to consider when choosing a cat litter:
  • Clumping vs Non-Clumping
  • Biodegradable vs Non-Biodegradable
  • Expense
  • Fragrance and Odor Control
  • Cat Preference

Clumping cat litters allow clumps of urine to form.  Frequent removal of urine clumps and feces from the litter box allows superior hygiene and odor control.  Most clumping cat litter does tend to stick to a cat's foot leading to tracking of the litter away from the litter box.  These litters tend to be soft and smooth on the cat's paws, allowing comfortable digging behavior and litter box use.  However, most these litters can be dusty which may irritate sensitive cat and human lungs.   Sandy clay based clumping litters tend to be relatively inexpensive and economical since not much is wasted.  Some clumping litter has a strong fragrance added to help control odors but your cat may dislike the fragrance, especially if it is strong.  A few types of clumping litters can even technically be flushed down your toilet.

Non-clumping litters can vary from inexpensive clay litter to recycled newspaper to plant based to synthetic crystals.  These litters can be more difficult to keep sanitary and tend to be more wasteful since all of the litter needs changed at the same time, at least once a week.  Some plant based litters like pine may have a strong odor that your cat may dislike.  However, these litters tend to be less dusty and may cause less tracking of litter away from the box.  The newspaper and plant based litters tend to be more environmentally friendly since the ingredients are biodegradable.

A few tips:
  • Do not abruptly change your cat's litter type
  • When changing types of litter, keep one litter box with the old type of litter and a different litter box with the new litter
  • Avoid strong fragrances
  • Scoop litter boxes with scoopable litter daily
  • Observe your cat in the litter box to see how they react to their litter

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What Should You Know About Pet Health Insurance?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital
Tucson, AZ

What is the difference between human and pet health insurance?
The main difference between human and pet health insurance is that your veterinarian does not accept the insurance as a form of payment.  After you pay and receive your invoice from your veterinarian for services and medications, you submit your invoice and claim form to your pet insurance company.  Some companies accept electronic claims and others require claim forms be filled out and signed by your veterinarian.

Why should you get pet insurance?
Paying for adequate veterinary care for your pet is a required part of pet ownership.  Pet insurance is a way to help budget for your pet's medical bills.  It can also help for unexpected or emergency situations that arise.  With pet insurance, you have the peace of mind that you can make the best decisions for your pet's treatment without having to focus so much on the costs involved and whether you can afford it.

When should you sign your pet up for health insurance?
The best time to look into pet insurance is when your pet is young or still healthy. A new pet insurance policy will not cover preexisting medical conditions. Some policies may not cover conditions that are hereditary in certain pure bred animals or require add on coverage for those conditions. 

How much does pet insurance cost?
Most plans have a low monthly premium, less than $40 per month. Although pet insurance will not cover 100% of your bill, many comprehensive medical plans will substantially reimburse you, when you submit a claim covered by your pet's policy.  Remember there will likely be a deductible as well as an annual benefit limit.

Hector (tabby) and Salisbury (black)
What kind of plans can you get for your pet?
  • Wellness plans that cover preventive care
  • Injury or emergency plans
  • Comprehensive medical plans
How do you choose an insurance company?
A list of the top 10 pet insurance companies can be found here.  You should compare the cost, coverage, claim caps, deductible, and company reviews.  Your veterinarian may have advice based on their experiences and client feedback.

Dixie, Molly, Iris, Hector, and Salisbury are ready for you to visit and adopt

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Is your cat included in your estate planning?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital
Tucson, AZ

As a caring pet owner, one has to plan for the possibility of not outliving their beloved pet.  No one likes to talk about this fact, but it is important to have a will to help your loved ones know what your plans are for your pets after your death. Without a formal plan, your pets may end up at a pet shelter and sadly may not get a new home.  Losing you will be stressful enough for your pet so please make plans to provide as smooth of a transition as possible for your pet.

Discuss with your friends and family who is willing and able to take in your pets after your death.  Create a back up plan so you have at least two people able to take in your pets.  If you are unable to find a friend or relative who can take in your pet, look for other options.  Here in Tucson, the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, offers a Guardian Angel Program where pet owners can ensure lifetime care of their pet in a private home.

Determine how much money you can and will leave behind to help pay for the day to day expenses of pet ownership, as well as unforeseen medical expenses.  Sadly, you cannot leave money directly to your pet, but you can leave money behind to someone for the care of that pet.  Consider creating a formal trust fund for your pet's care, which will legally obligate your pet's new caretaker to use the provided funds to care for your pet. 

Please contact your lawyer to help make sure your will properly reflects your wishes for your pets.  Also consider including a donation in your will to help PAWSitively CATS continue their mission to take the best possible care of their cats. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

What is the connection among Toxoplasma, cats, and pregnant women?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital
Tucson, AZ

Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that can infect birds and mammals, including humans.  Cats become infected by eating the parasite "egg" or infected small mammals or birds.  Cats are the only animal in which Toxoplasma reproduces, with the "eggs" being found in cat feces.  However, most cats can clear the infection and do not continue to pass infected feces after a few weeks.  Other cats are infected with Toxoplasma for life, with the organism living in their organs or tissue.

In addition to direct exposure to Toxoplasma in cat feces and litter, humans can be exposed when handling raw meat or eating undercooked meat, handling or eating raw vegetables, and handling garden soil without gloves.

The symptoms of Toxoplasma in cats and people can vary from no signs in most patients with a strong immune system to severe diarrhea, heart or lung disease, liver disease, neurologic disease, eye disease, etc in patients with a weak immune system. 

A human mother who has been exposed to Toxoplasma prior to pregnancy, who already has antibodies against Toxoplasma which she will pass to her offspring, has a very low risk for her baby to become infected.  A human mother with a first time, new exposure and infection due to Toxoplasma has the highest risk for her baby to become severely affected, especially during first trimester.  A blood test can be performed by a obstetrician to look for Toxoplasma antibodies in the mother.

While pregnant, in conjunction with passing the litter box duties to another family member, wearing gloves while gardening, hand washing, rinsing produce, and safely handling raw meat and properly cooking meat help prevent exposure to Toxoplasma. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

What should I do if I can't afford to take my sick cat to the vet?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital
Tucson, AZ

All loving cat owners dread the idea of not being able to properly care for their pet.  Sometimes, unexpected expenses or illnesses arise during the course of pet ownership.  No one wants to be forced to choose euthanasia if they are unable to afford treatment for a treatable or curable disease.  Sadly, this can happen without knowing all of your available options, especially if you think your only option is the cash you have in your bank account. 

While your pet is healthy, look into pet insurance.  A new pet insurance policy is very unlikely to cover preexisting medical conditions.  Most plans have a low monthly premium, less than $40 per month.  Although pet insurance will not cover 100% of your bill, many comprehensive medical plans will substantially reimburse you, when you submit a claim covered by your pet's policy.

Very few veterinary practices allow clients to make payments on their bill.  Luckily, the acceptance of Care Credit as payment has become more commonplace.  This credit card can also be used at select human dentist offices, hearing doctors, eye doctors, etc.  Although the regular interest rate is very high, the promotional interest for balances over a certain amount can be as low as 0% for 6 months.  The option of making payments over 6 months can be a literal lifesaver.

You can also ask family or friends to help make donations.  The popularity of websites, such as Go Fund Me, and social media have made it easier to raise funds quicker than you can by word of mouth.  Even if people can only chip in $5-$20, that can quickly add up if you are able to reach 50+ people.  In this situation, even strangers who learn of your pet's story may open their heart and donate to the cause.

PAWSitively CATS relaxing at the shelter
Another option is to contact local rescue groups or animal charity groups.  Unfortunately, most of these organizations rely on donations and do not always have the funding available to help all cases.   However, the one you call may have a name and phone number of another organization to try. 

Ask your veterinarian about reputable pet insurance companies, whether they accept care credit, and about local organizations that help clients pay for services.  This way you can have a plan in place, in case something does happen later, or know who to contact if your pet is already ill.

Visit the cats available for adoption from PAWSitively CATS.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Does My Cat Drink Enough Water?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital
Tucson, AZ

Domestic cats originated thousands of years ago from wild cats who lived in dry, arid regions.  Therefore, they do not drink as much as other mammals such as dogs.  As a result, cats can be more prone to certain urinary or kidney diseases.  To help maintain your cat's proper health, consider having multiple water sources available, as well as to offer canned food to help maintain proper hydration. Some cats even like having water mixed into their canned food, since it creates additional "gravy".

Each cat varies in their preferred drinking vessels and types of water.  Some cats prefer their water straight from the tap, even literally with some cats liking to drink a trickle directly from a sink or tub faucet.  Other cats like to drink from a human drinking glass on an elevated surface, such as a bedside table.  Certain cats prefer wide, flattened bowls, so that their whiskers do not brush the sides of the dish as they drink.  There are also cats who enjoy drinking from pet fountains, specially designed to provide moving, filtered water.  Some cats may show preference for filtered, purified, or distilled water, over regular tap water. The occasional cat may even enjoy ice added to their water dish.  Experiment with different choices for you cats in order to determine their preference. 

As a result of certain diseases, some cats drink way more water than they should.  You can read more about those diseases here.

Penelope, Rufus, and Tiggy are available for adoption from PAWSitively CATS.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

What Are My Options For Getting My Difficult Cat a Check Up? Part 2

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

What makes a cat appointment at the vet so difficult?
Some cat owners may dread what happens when they arrive at the veterinarian's office.  Loud noises like barking dogs may scare their cat in the lobby.  The cat may be huddling in the corner of the carrier or meowing in protest.  There may be a delay between arrival and being placed in a quiet exam room.  We know it is important for our cats to have an annual exam so how can we make this easier for our cats? Here's a list of potential challenges and their possible solutions:

1. Problem:  Loud noises/voices
Solution:  Avoid noisier times by asking for the first appointment of morning or afternoon, or ask the staff when a quieter time occurs.  Some offices may offer special "cat only" hours in their schedule.

2. Problem:  Long wait in carrier in lobby or exam room
Solution:  Avoid busy times by asking for the first appointment of morning or afternoon, or ask the staff when a slower time of day occurs.

3. Problem:  Difficult to get cat out of carrier
Solution:  Small carriers or soft, mesh carriers can be tricky for cat removal.  Larger plastic carriers with easily removed top portions of the carrier are ideal.  Cats feel safer in partially enclosed spaces, resembling boxes.  This avoids the need to dump the cat out of the carrier. 

4. Problem:  Rough handling by pet parent or veterinary staff
Solution:  In an attempt to speed things along, either due to trying the limit the amount of time the cat is at the vet or due to other time restraints, sometimes we can all be guilty of forgetting to be slow, gentle, and quiet during the entire appointment.  This includes when we get the cat out of the carrier.

5. Problem:  Despite following the above steps, cat is still grumpy/aggressive
Solution: Using feline pheromones in the exam room in the form of a spray or plug in can help.  Keeping the cat in the bottom half of the carrier for the exam and using a towel for the cat to hide can decrease stress levels.  Despite these efforts, some cats may try to scratch or bite.  In these cases, the cat may be best handled after giving a tranquilizer.  Your veterinarian may prescribe a medication to be given before future appointments. 

Other Considerations:

1. Cat only clinics: Most towns have one or two clinics that specialize in just cats.  This is an easy way to avoid the noise of dog's barking and the smell of non feline creatures.  All of the staff can be specially trained to cater to cats.

2. Housecall by regular vet or by Mobile vet: Sometimes it may just be easier to not have to get the cat in a carrier and take it into the veterinary office for exams, etc.  You can ask your regular vet if they make housecalls or know of any mobile vets that they recommend.  Some drawbacks are that the vet may not have an assistant to help, there may be no x-ray option, and there may be limited surgery potential.