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.