Sunday, December 29, 2013

Do you and your cats share New Years Resolutions?

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

As humans, we often apply human emotions and thought patterns to our pets.  For this week's blog, I thought it would be fun to guess what New Years resolutions our cats might have or which ones we would like them to have.  At the same time, there may be suggestions that our cats may wish to contribute to their human's list of resolutions.  Let's take a look at some playful ideas that might even be true!

Here are some ideas for resolutions that our cats might give us:
  • Pet and play with your cat until they are satisfied.
  • Spend more time sitting to provide lap time for your cat.
  • Supply your cat with more of its favorite treats on demand.
  • Do not disturb your cat when it is sleeping by making loud noises or causing them to move.
  • Buy an aquarium and fill it with fish for your cat to watch. 
  • Place a bird feeder outside your cat's favorite window.
  • Provide your cat with boxes for sitting and hiding.

Here are some ideas for resolutions that humans might offer their cats:
  • Try to expel your hairballs on easy to wipe surfaces instead of on the bed or in shoes.
  • Avoid waking your human for food or attention before their alarm goes off.
  • Cover your tidings left in the litter box.
  • Avoid eating plants so you do not get an upset stomach.
  • Sleep beside your human instead of on their head.
  • Sit beside the newspaper or laptop your human is using, instead of on it.
  • Graciously tolerate nail trims and other grooming.
  • Lay next to your human's clean clothes.
  • Avoid the temptation to knock over your human's belongings. 

Remember that adoptable cats at the PAWSitively CATS shelter would love to fulfill their New Years resolution of being adopted in 2014.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Should I Use a Petsitter or a Board My Cat?

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

We all worry about our pets when we are not going to be home to personally take care of them for a period of time.  Cats can be difficult creatures when it comes to accepting changes to their routine.  With a pet sitter, the cat can at least stay in their normal, home environment.  At a boarding facility, everything is much different than at home and can be very stressful.  Stress can lead to your cat's appetite decreasing, fear aggression, or illness. 
If you have a trip planned that will last for 3 days or less and own a healthy cat, you may be able to just have a friend come over, that the cat knows, to take care of feeding the cat and scooping the litter box.  If you have a longer trip planned or own an ill cat, it may be best to hire an experienced, professional pet sitter or to board your cat at a kennel.  Make sure to make reservations in advance, especially around holidays and summertime so that you are not disappointed with a lack of availability.

Things to ask a professional pet sitter:
  • Bonded and insured?
  • Recommended by your veterinarian or available references?
  • Personal experience in owning cats?
  • Any veterinary medicine experience?
  • How many years of pet sitting experience?
  • Availability to stay overnight vs make daytime visits?
  • Ability to give medications if needed?
  • Willingness to transport your cat to your veterinarian if ill?
  • Fee schedule?
If you decide to use a pet sitter, it is important to have a "meet & greet" so that they can learn the layout of your house as well as meet your pets.  Discuss your needs for short visits vs staying over night.   Be very clear regarding what days they are expected to take care of the cats. Have a duty list prepared for the pet sitter to use for reference, that also includes watering plants, bringing in mail, etc. Make sure they have your emergency contact information and your veterinarian's contact information. Show them where the cat carrier is located.   

Before you leave, make sure that you "cat proof" your house even more than usual. Consider closing off doors to rooms or closets where the cat may hide and prevent the pet sitter from being able to check on them. Put away any items that your cat may have increased interest in investigating due to boredom in your absence.

Things to ask and look for at boarding facility:
  • Recommended by your veterinarian?
  • Vaccine, flea prevention, fecal testing requirements?
  • Quiet, with no dog barking heard in cat area?
  • No strong chemical or litter box smells in cat area?
  • Spacious, clean cat cages/condos with comfortable temperature?
  • What hours are staff available on site?
  • Ability to give medications if needed?
  • Willingness to transport cat to your veterinarian if ill?
  • Fee schedule?
  • Online reviews?
If you decide to use a boarding facility, make sure that you personally tour the place that your cat will be staying.  Pack enough of your cat's regular food to last for a few more days than you are expecting to board your cat.  Food changes can cause your cat to not eat or have stomach issues.  Pack blankets, beds, or toys with the familiar scent of home.  You may want to confine your cat to a small area so that you will be able to get them into the carrier when you are ready to leave.

Finally, you should consider contacting your veterinarian before your trip and leave the contact information for your pet sitter or boarding facilities with them.  Also, to help prevent a delay of treatment in case your cat becomes ill and you cannot be contacted, consider a letter authorizing treatment by your veterinarian, with financial parameters if needed.

Bertie and Mia are available for adoption though PAWSitively CATS

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What Should I do About Neighborhood Stray Cats?

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

You may have noticed a single or a dozen cats roaming around your neighborhood.  You can ignore the cat(s) and hope that they have a home and can adequately take care of themselves.  Or, you can take an active role in their life to help find their owner, and possibly provide food, water, shelter, veterinary care, and a new home if needed. 

Note Al's left ear tip is missing.

You should try to determine if the cat is a lost or abandoned (stray) cat, an owned indoor/outdoor cat, or a feral cat.  A stray or indoor/outdoor cat is more likely to be friendly and approach you in a quiet environment.  A feral cat is not socialized to human contact and tends to be more elusive, avoiding close proximity and human touch.  Feral cats, or stray cats that have been previously trapped, may be missing the tip of one of their ears, indicated that they have been spayed or neutered.  There are stray or owned cats that may be shy and seem feral when you first encounter them, but they should bond easier than feral cats with enticing foods. If the cat has a collar, try to look for an ID tag with an owner's contact information. 

It is very important to be safe when approaching and handling a cat that you do not know, since they may try to bite or scratch depending on their personality and history. If the cat is very friendly, you can get them into a pet carrier and take them for a microchip scan at your local veterinarian or humane society.  If no microchip or owner is located, you may decide to keep the cat or try to find it a new home.  Please follow your local laws on how long you should keep the cat, notify local animal shelters, and post "Found" signs and online alerts.  In the meantime, you should keep the cat segregated from other pets that you may have until your new cat is determined to be disease free and acclimated to your home.

If the cat is shy or unfriendly, you can lease or buy a humane cat trap to capture the cat.  Your local animal shelter may be able to assist you.  Once you capture the cat, you need to decide on where to take the cat.  You can take the cat to your veterinarian for evaluation of a possible microchip, health, and spay/neuter status.  You can also surrender the cat to your local humane society or no kill shelter for them to find the owner or prepare for adoption. 


Truly feral cats are not viewed as adoptable by most animal shelters and may be euthanized.  An alternative for feral cats is to have them vaccinated and spayed/neutered and then release them back into the neighborhood, also called TNR for trap/neuter/release.  In Tucson, PAWSitively CATS can help assist you with TNR.

Al, Larry, Chrissy, and Blizzard are available for adoption though PAWSitively CATS

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Do You Know the Top 5 Holiday Hazards for Cats?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

1. Decorations
Breakable ornaments and decorations that are knocked over can lead to skin or paw wounds.  Ideally they should be placed where cats cannot access them.  Strands of tinsel or garland that are ingested can potentially cause a serious intestinal blockage and therefore use of garland or tinsel should be avoided.  Some adventurous cats will attempt to climb and potentially knock down trees, harming your cat and damaging your prized heirlooms.  Consider placing the tree in a corner or anchoring it to help avoid accidents.  If using a live tree, make sure the water source is protected from your cat, especially when using commercially prepared mixes or additives to increase the tree's freshness, as they may be toxic.  To prevent electrocution, consider electrical cord covers or protectors if you cat seems interested in playing with or chewing on the cords. Candles should definitely be kept out of your cat's reach to prevent burns or house fires.

2. Presents/ Ribbon
Certain presents may contain food items that smell enticing to your cat, even through packaging and wrapping paper.  Be sure to store these items safely away from your cat.  Cats love to play with string like items and even chew on them.  Ribbon can cause a serious intestinal blockage, if ingested.

3. Table scraps/Trash
During food preparation, during holiday parties and dinners, and after festivities, there are more food items out in the open than usual.  Confining your feline away from these tasty temptations can be necessary to avoid unwanted sampling.  Some cats may even explore the trash.  Many people foods can potentially cause vomiting or diarrhea and other foods can even be toxic to your cat.  Caution your guests against feeding any snacks to your pets. The ASPCA Poison Control website has a list of toxic people foods.

4. Guests
During the hustle and bustle of friends and family members coming and going, a cat can easily slip out the front door by accident.   Your cat may be scared and not appreciate being approached by strangers, possibly resulting in scratches or even a bite wound.  During holiday parties and dinners, the safest place for your cat is enclosed in a quiet room with their food, water, and litterbox.  As an extra precaution, have your cat wear an ID collar or be microchipped.

5. Plants
Most people are aware that poinsettias can make cats ill, but they may not realize that is also the case with certain pine trees, holly, and even mistletoe.  All of these plants can cause vomiting, however mistletoe can be deadly.  Be very careful with your placement of these plants if you decide to use them or if guests bring them to your house. The ASPCA Poison Control website has a comprehensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants. 

Remember that Sunday, December 8th is the PAWSitively CATS Cat Lover's Holiday Celebration.  Click here for more details.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Does your cat drink or urinate more than they used to?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

As discussed in previous blogs, cats do not give us many symptoms when they are ill.  One of the few sets of easily recognized symptoms is increased water consumption (polydipsia) and urination (polyuria).  These symptoms often go hand in hand, usually due to diseases that prevent the kidneys from properly concentrating the urine and therefore increasing thirst.  An exception is an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), where the cat compulsively drinks water.  The other two most common reasons in the cat for increased thirst and urination are kidney disease and diabetes.  Less commonly, cats will have certain cancers, adrenal diseases, infections, or hormone/electrolyte abnormalities causing the polyuria and polydipsia. 


Luckily the top 3 diseases are easily diagnosed with routine blood and urine tests.  The sooner these diseases are diagnosed, the more likely we are able to avoid complications and to slow the progression of the disease.  These are treatable diseases, not just old age changes.  Treating kidney disease involves things such as maintaining proper hydration, feeding prescription food formulas, addressing any infections or electrolyte abnormalities, and monitoring for nausea and blood pressure changes.  Diabetes treatment initially involves insulin administration, diet changes, and addressing underlying infections, with some cats eventually going into diabetic remission and no longer requiring insulin.  Treating hyperthyroidism can be achieved with low iodine diets, oral medication, radioactive iodine treatment, and rarely surgical removal of the thyroid gland. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Should my cat be microchipped or wear a collar?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

All cats should wear some sort of identification in the form of a collar or microchip.  Indoor only cats can escape the house accidentally by pet sitters, repairmen, children, etc.  Natural disasters are also a cause of being separated from your pet.  If your pet is found injured and taken to a veterinarian for medical attention, you definitely want to be located as soon as possible so you can make decisions regarding your pet's care. 


Microchipping is considered permanent identification that will last for the duration of your pet's life.  A microchip is a small electrical circuit encased in a capsule, similar in size to a grain of rice.  Microchips are placed using a large needle under the skin between the shoulder blades.   The microchip itself only contains an identification number that can be read by a microchip reader found at a veterinarian's office or local animal shelter. 

When a microchip number is registered into a database, your name and contact information, as well as your pet's name is recorded.  Most cats obtained from rescue organizations are already microchipped. Your veterinarian can confirm the presence of a microchip by using a scanner during your cat's exam. You may need to confirm or register your contact information with the microchip company.

Microchipping is an important way to find your pet if they become lost.  When your lost pet is scanned, the identification number obtained by the scanner via radio frequency is then looked up in the database to find your contact information.  Today's microchips do not have GPS capability and cannot track your lost cat.  The disadvantages to having a microchip is that your pet must be scanned to find the number and that you must keep your contact information up to date in the database.



Collars can be tricky for cat owners, since cats are often less agreeable to wearing a collar compared to dogs.  Proper cat collars contain a "quick release" or "breakaway" type of latch or elastic that allows the collar to be removed by the cat if they get their collar caught on something, to avoid strangulation.  Collars can be fitted with an identification tag.  The advantage to collars is that the cat is known to have an owner quicker, than with a microchip. The disadvantage is if the collar is removed by the cat or by a person who finds the cat, all identification is lost.


Online Resources:
Pet Microchip Number Look Up
Home Again microchips
AVID microchips
24 Pet Watch microchips

The above cats are available for adoption through PAWSitively CATS.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Why is my cat's skin itchy?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

Most cat owners notice their cats scratching or chewing their skin occasionally, just like us humans get the random itch.  If your cat starts scratching or chewing their skin more frequently, especially if they start losing hair, there may be a health problem.  The most common causes of itchy skin include parasites and allergies.  Less common causes include ringworm, poor diet, or obesity.

Skin parasites are mainly seen on cats who go outside but can also be found on indoor only cats.  In most areas of the United States, fleas are a very common skin parasite that infest pets.  Not all cats itch as much as other cats do with fleas.  There are several varieties of ticks in the US.  In addition to causing skin irritation, fleas and ticks can also spread very serious diseases.  Lice and mange are less common in cats but can also cause itching.  Your veterinarian can perform some tests in their office to help identify these parasites. 

Allergies in cats cause itchy skin, instead of the sneezing and runny eyes that people experience.  There are several categories of allergens including direct contact, inhalant, and food.  Certain laundry detergents, carpet or upholstery cleaners, and odor neutralizing sprays may cause your cat to itch when they come in contact with the chemical residue.  Outside, contact with certain grasses or weeds may cause itching.  Inhaled allergens include mold spores, pollens, and dust mites.  Food allergies can develop over time in response to certain proteins or carbohydrates.  Your veterinarian can discuss your cat's exposure to these allergens to help determine the possible cause of the itching.

Certain lower quality diets may not provide enough nutrition for your cat's skin and coat.  Optimal levels of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are necessary to maintain proper skin and coat quality.  Certain diets may also predispose your cat to obesity.  Your veterinarian can make recommendations on brands of food that are healthier for your cat.

Obesity can indirectly cause itchy skin.  Overweight cats have trouble performing adequate grooming.  They are more likely to develop hair mats, dandruff, and poor hygiene around their rear end.  Mats are uncomfortable, itchy, and can lead to skin infections.  Poor rear end hygiene can also lead to skin as well as urinary tract infections.  There are several types of weight loss diets available that can get your cat back to their ideal body condition.

Come check out the PAWSitively CATS Facebook page and view our adoptable cats!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What will happen if I have my cat euthanized?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

What is euthanasia?
Euthanasia is also known as putting an animal to sleep or putting an animal down.  Euthanasia is the process of providing a peaceful death in a relatively painless way.

There are several important decisions that pet owners must make when they decide to euthanize their pet:
  1. Do you want the procedure performed at your house or at your veterinarian's office?
  2. Do you and your family want to be with your pet during the process?
  3. Do you have a place to bury your pet or would you prefer cremation?
Setting up the appointment:
Your veterinarian's office staff can advise you of the method your veterinarian will use to put your cat to sleep as well as how much it will cost.  All veterinarians can perform euthanasias in their office during normal office hours.  Emergency 24 hour care facilities have a more flexible schedule.  Some regular as well as most mobile veterinarians can set up a specific time to come over to your house to perform the procedure. 

During the euthanasia:
Some veterinarians will have an IV catheter placed before giving a sedative, while others will give an initial sedative under the skin or in the muscle.  If a cat is severely ill, an initial sedative may not be needed.  After the cat is very sedated, an injection of a high dose of barbiturate anesthesia will be given that will quickly circulate causing your pet to pass within a few minutes.

You can choose to be with your cat for all or just part of the process.  Some people are embarrassed about the emotion they will display, however your veterinarian has performed the procedure in front of people showing various levels of grief and will not judge you by how you show your love for your pet.  As long as you are able to provide soothing love for your cat in their final moments, you should feel comfortable staying with your pet.  If you know that you will be unable to stay with your pet, feel confident in your veterinarian and their staff to provide a peaceful passing. 

What to do with your pet's body:
Some people have access to an area where they can legally bury their pet in their yard or at a pet cemetery.  The Pet Cemetery of Tucson is an option for Tucson residents.  This business provides transportation of your pet, burial sites, and cremation services. 

Your veterinarian may offer cremation through a local animal crematorium.  Your pet can be cremated with other pets and placed in a group burial site or your pet can be individually cremated with their remains returned to you. 

Some local human funeral homes will also perform pet cremations.  Most local animal control facilities and humane societies can also help with your pet's remains.

Grieving is a natural, expected process that will occur after your pet's euthanasia.  You may feel a mixture of guilt, anger, and sadness before you are able to accept your pet's death.  Do not feel rushed during this process.  Everyone recovers in their own time.  There are online resources such as Help Guide available to assist you.

You can make a donation to PAWSitively CATS in memory of your special pet.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

How do I know if I should put my cat to sleep?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM

Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

Euthanasia is a topic that can be difficult to discuss due to the deep feelings most pet owners have for their cats.  Choosing to euthanize your feline in a humane way, when they are no longer able to participate or enjoy life properly, can be a tough but kind decision that is our responsibility as a pet owner.  Your veterinarian can be very helpful in discussing the quality of life your pet has based on their known illnesses, current symptoms, and changes in behavior.  Some changes in quality of life indicators can be treated with medications or certain lifestyle changes while you determine the final decisions regarding your pet. 

Let's look at a list of factors regarding your cat's quality of life:
  • Pain
  • Appetite
  • Hydration
  • Mobility
  • Breathing
  • Mood/Interactions
  • Urination/Defecation
  • Lethargy
  • Hygiene
  • More Good Days Than Bad

Pain can be difficult to assess in cats since they are programed to be solitary hunting creatures that hide illnesses and pain.  Any cat crying, growling, or hissing because of pain has an unacceptable and severe pain level that needs addressed immediately.  Signs of less severe pain can include hiding, changes in normal habits such as less jumping, scruffy appearance, lethargy, or decreased appetite.

Appetite changes are very important in cats. Are they eating a normal amount of their regular food?  Are you enticing them to eat with special foods?

Dehydration can occur even in cats who seem to be drinking a normal or increased amount of water if their bodily organs are not working properly.  Dehydration can cause dry gums, sunken eyes, and/or increased skin turgor.

Changes in mobility are subtle in the beginning.  At first, a cat may sit in front of an object they want to jump onto for a few moments before they complete the jump.  Some cats may stop using the litterbox if it has high sides.  Eventually, limping or even wobbling may be seen.

Abnormal breathing can indicate stress, pain, or diseases affecting the lungs.  When you watch your cat breathe, how many breaths per minute do you count?  Does your cat's nostrils flare as they breathe?  Are they open mouth breathing or panting at times?

Mood changes can affect how your cat interacts with you and other household members.  Does your cat appreciate being petted?  If your cat grumpier with household members than usual?  Is your cat seeking less attention?

Changes in urination and defecation can be very problematic.  Is your cat urinating at least once daily?  Is your cat defecating daily?  Is the feces hard or diarrhea in consistency?  Is your cat using their litterbox?

Lethargy in the cat can include increased duration of sleeping, not greeting you like usual, not coming out to eat, and not moving to their usual locations throughout the day.

Changes in hygiene usually involve lack of grooming and a scruffy appearance.  Fur matting can be uncomfortable and lead to skin infections.

Finally, looking at all of the above factors, does your cat have more good days than bad? 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Help! My Cat is Urinating Outside of the Litterbox!

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

One of the more annoying things that can happen while living with a cat is if they stop using their litterbox consistently, aka inappropriate elimination, urination, or defecation. Many cat owners assume the cat is doing so out of spite or anger.  This is NOT the cause in most cases. 

Cats of any age that are urinating outside of their litterbox may be having a health issue such as a urinary tract infection, bladder irritation from crystals or stones, or rarely bladder cancer that is causing them to have an increased urgency to urinate. Your veterinarian can collect a urine sample from your cat for analysis, take an x-ray, or perform an ultrasound to help determine the cause. Your older cat may even have arthritis causing them to have a difficult time entering the litterbox.


Litterbox hygiene that has been neglected can be a major source of avoidance for a cat.  Daily litter scooping helps prevent a litterbox from becoming too odorous for your cat to use.  Covered litterboxes can also cause bad smells to build up.  Make sure you have at least one litterbox per cat, in different quiet areas of your living space, that allow easy access.  Some cats are very picky about their litter and may stop using the litterbox if you suddenly change brands or types of litter. 


If you have multiple cats, your cat may be bullied by the other cats and not feel safe using the litterbox.  Anxiety or stress can also cause a cat to not go into their litterbox, such as strangers or workers in the house, new pets or household members, etc.  Stress can be helped with pheromone sprays or diffusers, special calming diets, their own special cat room, and/or a consistent routine.  Some cats may need prescription medication for their anxiety.


Your best course of action is to figure out the real cause as soon as possible so that the inappropriate urination does not become a habit.  Your cat will thank you and be quite happy as well!

(The above cats are available for adoption from Pawsitively Cats )

Sunday, October 6, 2013

How Should I Introduce a New Cat to My Other Cats?

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

When people first find or adopt a new cat or kitten, they are very excited to get them accepted into the household as soon as possible.  However, if possible, there are a few things that you should determine before you even bring the new cat into your house.  Has this new kitty been tested for Feline Leukemia and FIV? Have they received any vaccinations?  Have they been dewormed or tested for intestinal parasites?  Are they showing any symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, vomiting, or diarrhea?  Do they have any fleas, ticks, or ear mites?  If you do not know the answer to these questions, you should make an appointment to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. 


Once you know the health status of your new feline, you can start slow introductions between the new cat and the established cats.  There a couple different methods that can be used.  The most commonly used way is to segregate the new cat in a room with a closed door, litterbox, food, and water.  This way, the cat can be in a small area where you can keep an eye on her appetite and litterbox use, as well as monitor any health problems the cat may have.  If your new cat does not have any contagious diseases, you can allow the other cats in a separate area to investigate the carrier the new cat came home in.  You can also feed the cats daily on opposite sides of the door that the new cat is enclosed in so that the cats associate each other's smell with something positive, like food. 



After a week or after any contagious disease has been treated and resolved, you can allow supervised visits of the new cat into the rest of the house.  You may want to consider keeping some rooms closed off if the new cat is skittish or scared so that they don't end up hiding somewhere you cannot find them or get to them.  If you are lucky, besides some hissing, the new cat will be accepted into your cat family.  If things do not go as smoothly as expected, continue to keep the new cat segregated with daily introduction visits until your cats seem to tolerate each other.  It can take time for bonding to occur in the form of sleeping next to each other, communal grooming, etc.  Play time with fishing rod type toys can help produce positive interactions between the cats. 

(The above cats are available for adoption from Pawsitively Cats )

Sunday, September 29, 2013

What Vaccines Should My Cat Have?

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

Most veterinarians use the guidelines developed by the American Association of Feline Practitioners to help determine which vaccines are needed on an individual basis for each feline patient.  Core vaccines should be given to all cats during their lifetime since they are the most important to guard against.  These core vaccines include:

Feline Rhinotracheitis aka Herpes virus
-   Symptoms: Upper respiratory infection: fever, sneezing, nasal discharge, runny eyes, eye ulcers

-   Transmission: Direct contact, 2 - 6 day virus incubation

-   Vaccination lessens symptoms, does not prevent disease

Feline Calicivirus
-   Symptoms: Upper respiratory infection: sneezing, fever, nasal discharge, mouth ulcers

-   Transmission: Direct or indirect contact, 3-4 day virus incubation

-   Survives 1 month in environment

-   Vaccination lessens symptoms, does not prevent disease

Feline Panleukopenia aka Parvo/Distemper
-   Symptoms: fever, vomiting, lethargy, severe dehydration, sometimes diarrhea

-   Transmission: Direct contact – fecal oral or from queen, 2 – 9 day virus incubation

-   50 – 90% mortality rate!

-   Vaccination gives complete protection in most cats


Until recently, Rabies was also considered a core vaccine.  Since Rabies can spread to people, most states and counties require cats receive Rabies vaccinations so in that way it is still a core vaccine.

-   Symptoms: behavior change, drooling, can’t swallow, paralysis


-   Transmission: bite wound, saliva into skin wound, placental

o   3 week to 6 month virus incubation period

Other available vaccines include: Feline Leukemia virus (FeLV), Feline Immunodeficiency virus (FIV), Chlamydophila, Bordetella, and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP).  These vaccines can be considered in outdoor cats and cat colonies and shelters.

Indoor only cats should continue to be vaccinated on a schedule determined in a conversation with your veterinarian at your cat’s annual exam visit.  Vaccination is determined by your cat’s age, lifestyle risks, and the health status of your cat.  At our hospital, we have had clients with indoor only cats exposed to rabid bats who somehow made it into the house.  Cats exposed to rabid animals or cats who bite a person who seeks medical care,  are required to have a 6 month quarantine if they are not up to date on their Rabies vaccine. 

Also, most cat owners get another cat later down the road.  These cats are usually strays or rescues with unknown vaccination and health status, so isn’t it better to keep your cat current on immunizations in case you rescue a new cat in the future?  Also, that way if you ever need to board your cat at a kennel, you don’t have to stress with making a last minute appointment at your veterinarian’s office to get updated on vaccines.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What do I do if my cat has fleas?

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

What are fleas? 
Fleas are the most common type of external parasite found on cats and dogs. Most often, infected pets are affected by cat fleas, and rarely are infested with dog fleas or human fleas.  Bird fleas can also infect cats and dogs.  All fleas are tiny, jumping insects that are visible to the naked eye.  Some pets are allergic to the flea saliva and are very itchy, while other pets may show no symptoms.  Fleas prefer warm and moist environments, which is why there are not many flea issues in Tucson.  

What problems do fleas cause?
Pets who are allergic to fleas can self-inflict significant skin damage which leads to infection from scratching and chewing at their own skin.
If your pet eats the fleas as they chew on their itchy skin, they can become infected with tapeworms.  They can also become infected with certain different types of bacteria which can cause Feline Infectious Anemia in cats or can cause Cat Scratch Fever in humans. 
Small or young pets can become anemic which can cause weakness or even death in severe cases.

How do I get rid of the fleas?
Treatment is aimed at killing adult fleas and preventing eggs from hatching.  There are many safe, effective treatments now available.  You can read more about options here that can be used directly on your pet.  To help prevent eggs from hatching, you should treat the environment with an insect growth regulator product. Your veterinarian can answer your questions about the different types of treatment.

How long do I need to treat my pets?
First, you need to determine how your cat obtained the fleas so you can decide on the length of treatment required.  If your cat goes outside on a regular basis, your cat probably became infested from where they roam outside.  If your cat does not go outside but your dog does, your cat may have caught them from the dog bringing them into the house.  If you recently brought home a new cat, they may have come with fleas already.  If your cat or other pet is going to continue to potentially bring fleas inside your house, you need to use frequent, continuous flea medication on your pets.  If your cat and other pets will remain inside in the future, you can treat your pet and house for a couple months and eliminate the fleas.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Should I declaw my cat?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital
Tucson, AZ
First, let's explore what declawing entails.  Declawing is a surgery in which a partial toe amputation of each toe on both front feet is performed by a veterinarian.  Based on that description, most pet owners know there is some pain involved, but may not realize that their cat could experience moderate to severe pain.  For this reason, all of the alternatives to this surgery should be explored before considering having this surgery performed on your cat.

Cats love to and feel a drive to claw objects, such as furniture.  Most cats will accept more appropriate scratchers if they are introduced properly and convenient for the cat to use.  I recommend cat owners have individual scratchers made of cardboard, carpet, and wound rope.  Some scratchers should be horizontal on the ground and others should be vertical surfaces.  Scratchers should be stable and secure so that the cat can feel comfortable using the scratchers and can use them effectively.  The scratchers should be located in places where cats spend most of their time, not hidden away.  Cats can be lured over to scratchers with favorite treats, catnip, cat toys, and laser pointers.  When using laser pointers, be sure to not directly point the light into your cat's eyes.

If your cat still prefers to scratch inappropriate objects, you can work on making those objects less appealing to your cat.  Couch or seat covers may help.  Placing sticky tape, sticky side out or double sided tape onto areas the cat has been scratching can help.  Plastic wrap or foil can be wrapped over preferred scratching areas.  Certain sprays are available at the pet store to keep cats away.  While using these methods, it is important to continue to redirect the cat to the appropriate scratchers.  We want to replace the bad behavior with good behavior. 

While transitioning your cat from scratching undesired surfaces to preferred scratchers, nail trims can be very helpful to limit destruction.  Soft paws are a type of soft nail cap that is glued onto a freshly trimmed nail. 

Kittens and some adult cats use their nails on their owners when they are playing.  Typically this is because the kitten or cat has been allowed to play with the owner's hands or with a small toy in the owner's hand.  Instead, consider using wands toys where there is several feet between your hand and the end of the toy in contact with the cat's claws and teeth.  This helps eliminate scratches on humans during playtime.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What is FIV?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Tucson, AZ

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), also called Feline AIDS, is a virus that is very similar to the HIV that causes human AIDS.  FIV is an uncommon disease that is most likely to be transmitted through bite wounds from fighting.  Outdoor, unneutered male cats are at the highest risk.  FIV can also be transmitted through sexual activity.  FIV can be passed from a queen (momma cat) to her kittens during pregnancy and through nursing.  FIV is not as contagious as Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and is not as aggressive as FeLV.  


FIV affects the immune system, specifically causing a decrease in a type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte.  For days or a few weeks after infection, the cat may show signs of lethargy, decreased appetite, mouth infection, eye infection, respiratory infection, diarrhea, or no symptoms at all. Some cats have FIV for years or an entire lifetime without developing any of the above symptoms or just mild symptoms.  Similar to FeLV, FIV cats are prone to developing a type of cancer called lymphoma.  FIV can also affect the brain, causing changes in behavior, seizures, and abnormal walking or weakness.  Cats with FIV are prone to other infections since their immune system cannot effectively fight infections. 


A very sensitive screening test for FIV can be performed in your veterinarian's office.  Most cats are positive for antibodies on the test within 2 months of exposure.  If your cat is positive, your veterinarian may recommend a confirmation test that needs sent to laboratory.  Positive kittens should be retested at 6 months of age since the antibodies detected on the positive test may be from the queen.  All newly adopted cats should be tested to determine their FIV status.  Cats who spend time outdoors around other cats should be retested yearly.


Cats with FIV need to be closely monitored for signs of illness and infection.  Infections need treated promptly before they become serious.  Keeping a FIV positive cat indoors helps prevent the spread of the FIV infection to other cats and helps decrease the exposure of the FIV positive cat to other infections.  There is a low risk of FIV spreading between cats in the same household unless there is fighting.


Prevention of this disease is easily accomplished by keeping your cat indoors only.  A FIV vaccine is available but has several drawbacks. First, the antibodies produced by the vaccine cannot be distinguished from the antibodies produced by infected cats on the blood test for FIV.  Second, the vaccine does not protect against all of the strains of FIV.

FIV is used as a model for understanding HIV in humans.  Research is being done at institutions such as the veterinary college at North Carolina State University to help figure out how FIV is able to affect the immune system and to develop new vaccines. 

On the PAWSitively CATS website, you can become a sponsor of a cat with FIV or consider adoption of a cat with FIV. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Can my cat get bed bugs?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Tucson, AZ

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are a type of small insect that can live in bedding and in the nooks and crannies of furniture and flooring.  Although they can be seen with the naked eye, the adult bugs are less than a 1/4" in length, with the immature bugs appearing even smaller.  People encounter bed bugs in taxi cabs, hotel rooms, movie theaters, clothing stores, restaurants, hospitals, cruise ships, etc and can bring them home on their clothing and accessories. 

Bed bugs, unlike fleas and ticks, do not live on their hosts.  Bed bugs prefer to feed on humans but may feed on household pets as well.  Bed bugs feed for 10 minutes at a time and then go back into hiding for about 5 days.  You can view pictures of bed bug bites here.  The adult bed bug can survive without feeding for over a year by becoming dormant. 

Although bed bugs can carry disease, they do not seem capable of transmitting that disease between hosts.  Some pets may be sensitive to the bites and become very itchy.  If your pet is scratching their skin and causing wounds or hair loss, please contact your veterinarian regarding treatment options for the allergic reaction. 

Treatment of pet with topical monthly flea medications are not always effective.  Bathing with insecticidal shampoos may be more effective. 

Clothing and bedding can be washed on hot and put through a dryer cycle to kill the bugs and eggs.  Your house should be treated by a professional exterminator every 2 weeks until the bed bugs are eradicated.   Bed bugs are very difficult to eliminate, especially in cases of large infestations.