Sunday, August 25, 2013

Traveling With Your Cat Part II: By Plane

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Tucson, AZ

Long trips with your pet in the continental USA typically require plane travel and a veterinary health certificate issued within 10 days of the flight. Travel on planes can be done with the cat in the cabin or in cargo depending on the airline.  A cat traveling in the cabin must be very accustomed to their carrier or they may need to be sedated in order to have a pleasant experience. Please check with your airline for approval regarding sedation if it may be needed. 

A cat flying alone in cargo cannot be sedated so that they can react to their environment in case of turbulence or other events. Cats traveling in cargo are subject to sometimes drastic temperature fluctuations and for that reason, airlines only allow cargo travel during certain times of the year.

Bridget Monrad of Happy Tails Travel, Inc in Tucson, AZ has the following recommendations: "Cats are brilliant! They will know something is up when it comes time to go to the airport, so keep your cat in a bathroom, with water, her litter box and a soft bed to lay on until it is time for you to go in there and gently put her in for the trip to the airport. We want minimal stress for you and your pet. Being late to the airport can cause your pet to be turned away.  Finding the most direct flight is ideal, however a connection is AOK if not too short or long.  Two hours is a good timeframe."  Click here for more information on flying with your cat.

For international travel, I cannot emphasize how important it is to start your research as soon as you know you will be relocating your cat to another country or Hawaii. The USDA APHIS website is an up to date resource for travel abroad.  Contact your veterinarian as soon as you know what country and what date you will be moving.   Some countries require special microchips be placed before a Rabies vaccine is considered valid.  You may be required to have your cat vaccinated for Rabies within a certain specific time frame that necessitates advanced planning.

Certain countries require special blood tests for Rabies vaccine antibody levels (OIE-FAVN).  These tests require blood samples be taken four or more months before your flight is scheduled to leave so that the results will be done in the appropriate time frame.  Other countries require specific external and internal parasite testing and treatments.

Each country has different requirements and forms, some of which are several pages long. After your regular veterinarian completes the form, the form needs to be mailed or driven to the state veterinarian or veterinary services veterinarian to be approved and endorsed.   A list of the APHIS offices that can endorse your health certificate and answer your questions can be found here.  Some forms and fee payments may need submitted to your destination days or weeks prior to your flight arrival with your pet. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Traveling With Your Cat Part I: By Car

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Tucson, AZ

Travel plans with your cat can vary from a short trip to your veterinarian's office to a flight to another country.  Length and route of travel can greatly affect the amount of planning that is needed before leaving.  Permanent identification of your cat in the form of a microchip is the best way to help ensure being reunited with your cat if they get lost during your travels.

For a short trip to your veterinarian in the car, planning involves having a safe, proper carrier available, knowing your cat's location, and being able to smoothly get your cat in the carrier. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has an excellent handout about this process.  Bridget Monrad of Happy Tails Travel, Inc in Tucson, AZ recommends that cats "associate the crates with positive things, like praise, food, treats, comfort and sleep". 


Longer car trips within the United States also call for your cat in a carrier as well as preparation for potential motion sickness, vocalizing, and anxiety.  Your veterinarian can help you decide if preventative anti-motion sickness medication or sedation is appropriate.  If your trip requires an overnight stay in a hotel, make sure to check ahead of time for pet friendly hotels. 

If your car travel involves crossing the Mexican or Canadian border, you will need certain documents.  At the time of posting this blog, for Canada, you will need a current Rabies vaccine certificate from your veterinarian that includes the date of vaccination, type of vaccine administered, and specific cat identification features.  The Rabies vaccine has to be given with the 3 years prior to entering Canada. For Mexico, you will need a special health certificate issued and signed by your veterinarian and your cat needs a current Rabies vaccination.  If your pet normally lives in California, Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas, the health certificate is valid for 6 months, but only for 10 days if from another state.

Ms Monrad also advises that "Planning ahead of time is the most important thing you can do, so you have peace of mind that you have done all of the proper preparation for your cats safe and comfortable travel."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why Should I Spay or Neuter My Cat?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Tucson, AZ

First, let's start with what a spay or neuter procedure entails.  A male cat has his testicles completely removed in a surgical procedure called a neuter, castration, or sterilization .  A female cat has her ovaries and uterus removed in a surgical procedure called an ovariohysterectomy, spay, or sterilization.  Many animal shelters and rescue groups will perform this procedure as early as 8 weeks of age or when the kitten reaches at least two pounds in body weight.  Most veterinarians perform this procedure by 5 - 6 months of age before the sexual hormones become apparent. 

If a female cat is not spayed by 5 - 6 months of age, she will go into heat, also called estrus.  During her heat cycle, a female cat may try to escape the house or yard in search of a mate.  She will be very vocal and extra affectionate.  A female cat can come in and out of heat every few weeks, unlike a dog.  Each heat a female cat goes through greatly increases her risk of having malignant breast cancer later in life. Unneutered male cats will come around the house or yard due to sensing the pheromones her body is producing. Male cats over 6 months of age become territorial.  They will get into fights with other males causing infected bite wounds and contracting diseases like FeLV and FIV.  They will also start spraying urine to mark their territory outside as well as inside.  A pair of intact cats can produce three litters of 4 - 6 kittens in a year!

Feral or stray cats are at the highest risk for the above consequences since they are not housed away from other cats.  There are TNR organizations that can help with trapping, spaying or neutering, and releasing these cats back into the wild. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What is Feline Leukemia?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Tucson, AZ

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is an uncommon but deadly disease that can affect cats.  It is a retrovirus similar to FIV and HIV, but it is not spread between cats in the same way as FIV.  FeLV is spread by casual contact of infected bodily fluids such as saliva, blood, urine, feces, nasal discharge, and milk.  For this reason, transmission is possible through shared litter boxes, food dishes, communal grooming behavior, cat fights, and from mother cat (queen) to kitten.  Luckily some cats exposed to the virus have an immune system capable of completely eliminating the viral infection within 6 weeks of exposure.


Cats that cannot defeat the virus before it enters the bone marrow will have the disease for life.  These cats can develop several different types of outcomes. The two most common consequences are severe anemia or lymphoma cancer.  Other FeLV infections may result in a suppressed immune system, secondary infections, inflammatory conditions, neurologic diseases, and/or intestinal diseases.  For this reason, the symptoms of an infected cat can be very different in each case.

When you adopt any new cat or kitten, it is very important to have them tested for FeLV.  This is especially important if they will be living with other cats since the disease is so easily spread.  Most cats will be positive on a FeLV test within a month after initial infection but it may take up to 3 months for a positive test result.  Asymptomatic cats that can be kept quarantined may be retested again to see if they will eliminate the virus.

There is no cure for this disease but there are treatments available for the different diseases and symptoms cause by FeLV.  Most infected cats only survive a few years after diagnosis.

For cats at a high risk of being exposed to FeLV positive cats, there is a vaccine available.  Common household disinfectants can kill the virus.