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 )