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.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

What Are My Options for Getting My Difficult Cat a Check Up? Part 1

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

What makes it so difficult to get a cat to the vet's office?
Most cat owners often wait until right before they need to leave for their appointment to try to get their cat into the carrier.  They also tend to keep the carrier tucked away in a closet away from the cat most of the time.  More than likely, the cat will only associate the carrier with having to ride in the car and going to a vet's office.  For a cat, the carrier can be a very scary trap that they want to avoid at all costs!  How can we make it easier to get our cat to the vet's office?  Here's a list of potential challenges and their possible solutions:

1. Problem: Hides when time to get into the carrier
Solution:  Plan ahead.  Permanently or at least for a few days prior to the appointment, leave the carrier out in a small room without furniture to hide under, or a central area where the cat spends a lot of time.  On the day of the appointment, calmly close off the doors to all other rooms.  Use the sound of shaking a bag of treats or opening a can of food to bring your cat to you.  Place the cat gently in the carrier.

2. Problem: Difficult to get into carrier - can't get all 4 feet in
Solution:  Consider a different type of carrier - perhaps even a dog one!  Plastic carriers tend to be best due to their durability.  A carrier that is too small or one that does not have a way to open the top of the carrier can make loading a cat difficult.  Mesh bag carriers tend to collapse down when attempting to put a cat in it.  In addition to brand new carriers purchased online or at the pet store, you can sometimes find great deals on used carriers at yard sales or flea markets that just need some cleaning and sanitizing.

3. Problem: Difficult to get into carrier - tries to scratch or bite
Solution:  In addition to the above solutions, for weeks prior to appointment, try to acclimate the cat to the carrier through use of treats and toys.  Use feline pheromone spray to make the carrier more appealing.  If possible, work towards a daily routine where the cat enters the carrier of it's own will as part of play or a treat reward system, with the idea that on the day of the appointment, you can just close the door.  If you are unable to acclimate the cat to the carrier, consider getting a tranquilizer medication from your veterinarian to administer to your pet.

4. Problem: Flimsy carrier - cat escapes!
Solution: Again, hard plastic carriers tend to be best.  Cardboard and mesh carriers can be destroyed by a motivated cat, which can be scary if the cat escapes outside or in the car while you are driving.

5. Problem: Meows incessantly or pants in the carrier
Solution:  If the cat has become acclimated to the carrier at home using the above advice, consider placing a calming collar on your cat before putting them in the carrier.  Use a blanket with your cat's scent or one of your old t-shirts to line the bottom of the carrier.  Preheat or chill the car ahead of time so that the cat will not be too hot or too cold.  Secure the cat carrier in the car, using a seat belt if needed.  Play soft music, talk quietly, and avoid sudden stops while you drive. 

6. Problem: Urinates/Defecates/Vomits in carrier
Solution:  If the cat has become acclimated to the carrier at home using the above advice, consider fasting the cat for a period of time before your appointment.  Ask your veterinarian for guidelines based on your cat's age and health.  

You can find additional tips in a helpful brochure produced by the American Association of Feline Practitioners here

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Why is My Cat Such a Fan of Boxes?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

Many cat owners have captured their cats in boxes of all shapes and sizes.  These "cat traps" appear to be irresistible.  Cats like to use them for sleeping, hiding, or for planning their next sneak attack. 
The box may seem way too small or large, yet not seem to be a deciding factor for the cat.  Some objects only have to be "box like" for the cats to choose them for their new lair: dresser or vanity drawers, linen shelves, baskets, sinks, etc. 

Why do they choose these areas?  Cats like the protection offered from being able to sleep in partially or totally hidden areas.  Some nooks may be particularly comfortable if there is a blanket or towel to lay upon.  Other spots may be extra snug, allowing the cat's body heat to radiate which makes it extra warm and cozy. 

New boxes with new smells help alleviate boredom and can provide entertainment for the cat in an inexpensive way.  In some cases, cats may be ill if they are spending too much time hiding in a cubby somewhere so make sure to keep track of your cats habits.  Also, be careful of accidentally enclosing your cat into places like clothes dryers!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

How to Be a Great Petsitter for Cats

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

Previously, we have discussed how to screen a pet sitter for your own cats.  This time, we will look at how to be a great cat sitter for someone else.  Being responsible and trustworthy are the top qualities that a cat parent is looking for in a cat sitter.  They are entrusting you with a furry family member's health and well being. 

If you have not met the cat(s) before, arrange a meet and greet so that you can have an idea of the cat's personality and general appearance.  Ask the cat parent about any known health problems or odd behaviors.  Become familiar with where the food is kept, where the food and water dishes are located, where the litter boxes are, and where the cat's favorite hiding places are.  Discuss the exact dates of the trip and plan to be available for an extra day or two later in case of travel delays.  Ask if there will be a duty list provided and if not, take notes of the expected feeding schedule, etc.  Determine the frequency and method that the pet parent would like to receive updates.  Make sure you have emergency contact information for the pet parent and their veterinarian.

While pet sitting, follow the given instructions to help maintain the cat's routine which helps decrease stress.  Monitor the cat's appetite closely and only feed the food or treats in the quantity requested by the pet parent.  Allow extra time during your visits for some quality time, including petting and playing with appropriate toys.  When scooping the litter box, examine the bowel movements for consistency and the urine clump size and quantity.  Check all of the water dishes and refill with fresh water as needed.  Survey the the home daily for evidence of hairballs or vomit, as well as anything the cat may get in trouble with if they find it.  If you have any concerns, it is better to contact the pet parent than to wait.   Changes such as decreased appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, or urinating outside of the litter box may require a trip to the veterinarian. 

Following the guidelines listed above will help guarantee a successful pet sitting experience for everyone. 

PAWSitively CATS has adoptions on Saturdays at the shelter at 3432 E. Ft. Lowell Rd from 12-4 pm and at PetCo at 22nd/Harrison from 11am-3pm, or by appointment.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Arizona Gives Day: How It Helps Our Shelter Cats

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Tucson, AZ

On April 9th, 2014, the second annual Arizona Gives Day will take place statewide for 24 hours online.  During this time, you can support your passions by contributing to causes, such as the local Tucson cat shelter PAWSitively CATS.  Your tax deductible donation of $10 or more is processed through your internet capable computer, tablet, or smart phone. 

In addition to the amount of your direct donation, there are monetary prizes for the nonprofits who have the most donors, most donations, or most donors in a specified hour.  Also, certain individual or corporate sponsors will pledge to match up to a certain goal amount of donations to a specific nonprofit like PAWSitively CATS.  You can see how important your donation is for helping the shelter reach two or more goals at the same time!

How does your donation help PAWSitively CATS?
As a nonprofit organization, every penny is spent very wisely at this no-kill shelter.  It takes approximately $15,000 every month to run the shelter.  This includes veterinary care, rent, utilities, food, cat litter, payroll, and property/liability insurance.  Veterinary costs alone can reach several thousand dollars per month in order to ensure the health of the cats. 

What are some specific examples of where donations will go?
  • $15 buys 40 pounds of scoopable cat litter
  • $25 provides a week's worth of dry cat food for 20 cats
  • $50 will vaccinate a momma cat and her litter of 4 kittens
  • $100 provides the veterinary care to ready a kitten for adoption
  • $200 enables care for the diabetic shelter cats for 1 month
  • $300 provides a dental exam and basic dentistry services for 1 cat

Please mark April 9th on your calendar so you can join your fellow Arizonans in providing support to your favorite cat shelter, PAWSitively CATS on Arizona Gives Day!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What Should I Know About Adopting a Shelter Cat?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

Deciding to add a new cat to your home is a big decision, regardless of where you decide to get your cat.  You have to be practical as far as knowing whether your budget can allow buying food and litter supplies, as well as veterinary care.  Is there only enough space where you live to have a certain number of cats/pets?  If you rent, does your landlord allow cats?  Do you have enough time to devote to a new cat?  Will you commit to providing a forever home for the cat for up to 20 years?  If the answer to any of these questions is no, instead, consider sponsoring a special cat at your local shelter or become a volunteer.  Later, when circumstances change, you will hopefully have already met a special cat that you are ready to take home!

If you are ready to adopt a cat, most shelters require an application be submitted.  Some applications may appear picky or overly detailed, and may even require a background check.  The reason behind asking so many questions is to confirm that you are indeed ready for a cat and are committed to providing a safe, forever home as well as any required veterinary care.  Although shelters are willing to take back cats after they are adopted, they prefer to find a permanent placement where the cat can live out their life, in a well cared for manner.

Another concern you may have is why is there an adoption fee, or why is it so expensive.  Most shelters here in Tucson have a cat adoption fee around $100-$200, which generally includes their spay/neuter, FeLV/FIV test, initial vaccines, and microchip.  In addition to having provided these services to your new cat, the shelter also has to pay for the day to day expenses of rent, utilities, staff wages, food, litter, veterinary bills, etc.  As you know, adopting a "free to a good home" cat or kitten from the classifieds who has not had these services performed, would have much higher costs in the short term than the adoption fee paid at a shelter, especially if they have health problems that you are not told about when you take them home.

Talia & Andrea (bonded pair)
When you adopt a shelter cat, the staff is often very knowledgeable about each cat's personality and any potential health issues, which is very helpful for you to find your perfect match.  Most shelters have cats of all ages and appearances, too.   If you know that you will not be at home as much as is ideal, you can consider adopting a bonded pair of cats so that they can keep each other company.  After you adopt a shelter cat and save their life, another cat can take their place, which saves their life too!  In addition, sharing your positive adoption experience with the shelter to your friends and colleagues, allows word of mouth to help get even more cats adopted. 


PAWSitively CATS has adoptions on Saturdays at 3432 E. Ft. Lowell Rd and PetCo at 22nd/Harrison, or by appointment.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Should I Worry About My Cat Getting Rabies?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

Rabies should be a concern for every pet owner, whether the pet goes outside or not, since it is always fatal if they are not vaccinated.  Here in Southern Arizona, we are lucky to have a low incidence of the disease compared to other parts of the United States.  However, no matter where you live, rabid bats or other infected animals can potentially get into your house and expose your pets and family to the disease.  According to the CDC's 2010 data of rabies cases, cats have the most reported cases of rabies, 4 times more cases than in dogs. 

Rabies virus is mostly transmitted via saliva through direct bite wounds.   Rarely, the virus can be spread through other routes of contact with saliva, such as inhalation, or through the placenta during pregnancy.  Depending on how much virus is injected into the bite wound and where the bite wound is located on the body, it can take weeks to months for any symptoms to be observed.  By the time symptoms are present, the animal can transmit the infection to others.  Within 10 days of the start of the disease, death occurs.

Symptoms can include:
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Hypersensitivity to light and noises
  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Aggression
  • Decreased appetite
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Abnormal walking or weakness
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • Death

Rabies can only be a suspected diagnosis in a live animal.  Confirmation requires examination of the brain after euthanasia or death.

Please vaccinate your cat for rabies on the schedule required by your local laws and as advised by your veterinarian. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

What is pancreatitis?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

Pancreatitis is defined simply as inflammation of the pancreas.  The pancreas is an organ near the stomach, which produces enzymes to help digest food and insulin to regulate blood glucose (sugar).  The pancreas can become inflamed suddenly (acutely) or can be inflamed over a long period of time (chronic).  The symptoms can range from subtle to drastic in nature, with no symptoms that are specific to only pancreatitis.  Pancreatitis can occur at the same time as other diseases, which can further complicate its diagnosis and treatment.

Acute pancreatitis usually has more serious symptoms than chronic pancreatitis.  Cats may have decreased or no appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, fever, weight loss, and/or abdominal pain.  With enough inflammation, the bile duct can be affected, causing jaundice (yellow skin/tissue).  Sadly, with aggressive types of acute pancreatitis, death is possible. 

Any cat that is showing the above symptoms should be taken to their veterinarian to help determine if the cat has pancreatitis, or another disease.  Pancreatitis can occur along with inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, diabetes, and certain types of infections.  Pancreatitis can cause enough damage to the pancreas to cause diabetes or digestive enzyme insufficiency. 

Blood work and/or ultrasound can be used to diagnose pancreatitis.  Like most diseases, early diagnosis and treatment increases the success rate of medical therapy.   Depending on the severity of the symptoms, your cat may need hospitalization for intravenous fluids, anti-nausea medication, pain medication, antibiotics, antacids, anti-inflammatories, or a feeding tube.  Many cats have B12 deficiencies and malnutrition from not eating due to the disease, therefore it is critical to reestablish the cat's appetite as soon as possible.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Why is my cat scooting and/or licking their rear end?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

If your cat is actively and frequently licking their anal area, your cat is trying to tell you there is a problem!  While many people think that their pet may have worms, this is actually an uncommon cause for anal irritation.  Other possible reasons for an irritated rear end include diarrhea, constipation, a wound, a tumor, or most commonly, an anal gland/sac problem.  A visit with your cat at your veterinarian's office can help determine the source of the issue. 

What are anal glands? 
Anal glands are tiny sacs, located just inside of the anus in the rectum, that are normally filled with some amount of a tan colored, odorous fluid, which is expressed through small ducts during a bowel movement.  This fluid may also be released abruptly due to fear or by scooting the read end on the floor. 

What happens with anal gland disease? 
Some cats do not seem to express their anal glands properly when they defecate.  Although there may be no true disease, the cat feels discomfort which leads to licking or scooting.  This discomfort can be relieved by anal gland expression, a procedure performed at your veterinarian's office. 

Abnormal anal gland fluid is thick, colored yellow-green, or bloody.  Irregular anal gland fluid color indicates an infection that requires treatment by your veterinarian.

Sometimes the gland can become impacted, which means the anal gland fluid cannot escape through the duct.  Impaction seems to happen as a result of thick, granular material becoming lodged in the duct, therefore blocking it.  If the impaction is caught early, your veterinarian can manually express the material out of the sac. 

If the impaction is not found soon enough, an abscess will form, causing a large bulge, which can eventually rupture the anal sac.  When an abscess forms, your cat will likely have a fever, causing lethargy and a decreased appetite.  If the gland ruptures, there will be noticeable wetness, that is red or yellow-green in color.  Most cats will need to be sedated and be given pain medication for successful treatment at this stage of the disease.

How do I prevent anal gland issues?
For some cats, a food change to a high fiber, grain free, or limited ingredient diet can help prevent future anal gland flareups.  Other cats require intermittent anal gland expression by your veterinarian.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Feline Aggression Part 3: How to Resolve Aggression Towards Humans

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

Obtaining a new cat with aggressive tendencies or having your established cat develop aggressive tendencies towards humans can be frustrating as well as a potential safety hazard.   People typically respond in one of two ways: yell at the cat or try to console the cat.  Do not attempt to soothe the cat with petting or touch!!  Your best course of action is to leave the cat alone for awhile.  During that time, figure out what triggers the aggression: certain noises, type of play, petting, restraint/handling, or redirected anger/frustration.  Also, consider how severe the aggression has become and when it started.

Things to think about:
  • Does your cat become combative after hearing noises outside, such as a stray cat meowing?
  • Does your cat resent being held?
  • Does your cat seemingly become grumpy out of nowhere when petted?
  • Does your cat stalk you from underneath furniture or around corners?
  • Does your cat hide and hiss when approached?
  • Does your cat swat at you or actually scratch the skin?
  • Does your cat bite you and leave bleeding wounds?
  • Has your cat been showing symptoms of arthritis, weight loss, trouble eating, or an infection?
  • Does your cat have adequate escape routes around the house where the aggression occurs?

Some cats just prefer less affection than other cats.  Certain cats prefer to only be petted when they approach you, not the other way around.  Other cats do not like being picked up or held, whether that be correctly or incorrectly.  All cats prefer to have an available escape route or hiding place in case something scares them or they just want to be left alone.  Most cats have the desire and drive to have play time to release their predator instincts.  Certain medical diseases and conditions can cause a cat to become grumpy and act aggressively, especially if disturbed.

Regardless of the cause of your cat acting aggressively towards humans, you can apply some of the solutions selected in the aggression between cats blog from last week.  Make sure that there are enough safe zones for hiding and high up perches. Also, consider purchasing feline pheromone sprays or plug ins that can help calm cats. You can discuss with your veterinarian about purchasing prescription foods meant to calm stressed out cats. Make sure your cats are receiving adequate, vigorous play time (10 - 15 minutes) to provide a release for their prey drive instincts. You can have your cats play out their natural instincts before meal times.  The cat is thoroughly tired out by a serious play session with wand or fishing rod type toys with their preferred "prey" attached to the toy. After they have sufficiently "killed" the prey, they are rewarded with eating.  In addition, make sure your cat has quiet areas where they can rest, eat, drink, and use the litter box in peace. 

For the aggressive cat who tends to stalk or sneak up on the human, purchase a collar with a bell so that their presence is known before they appear.  That way, they can be distracted and taken out of the predator mindset before they attack.  Interruption can be done with a startling noise and then a toy can be thrown for the cat to chase in order to replace the aggressive behavior.

For other types of play aggression, never use your hands to wrestle with your cat.  Always use toys that create distance between your hands and the cat, such as: a fishing rod toy, laser pointer, balls or mice that can be thrown, treat dispenser toys, etc.

For the cat who attacks when petted, certain approaches can be implemented.  One is to only pet the cat around the chin and top of the head around the ears.  Some cats have no patience for petting along the length of their body.  Another approach is to not go to the cat and begin a petting session.  Instead, wait for the cat to come to you for attention first.  Use positive reinforcement with treats to reward the cat at short intervals while they are accepting the petting nicely.  If at any time the cat starts showing any sign of aggravation: tail swishing, ears back, etc, stop petting the cat immediately.  If the cat still continues aggressive behavior, stand up and walk away from the cat. 

Remember, your veterinarian is a valuable asset for diagnosing diseases that may cause aggression as well as for giving advice about treating behavioral cat aggression.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Feline Aggression Part 2: How to Resolve Aggression Between Cats

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

Most cat owners with multiple cats expect some rough play between their cats - playing chase, wrestling, etc.  What can be frightening is when one cat is obviously the victim, who spends most of their time hiding or hissing and in severe cases, not eating or not using the litterbox.  Typically intercat aggression is either transferred/redirected aggression, play aggression, or territorial aggression. 

For mild or severe cases of aggression, evaluate your home to make sure that there are enough safe zones for hiding and high up perches.  Also, consider purchasing feline pheromone sprays or plugins that can help calm cats.  You can discuss with your veterinarian about purchasing prescription foods meant to calm stressed cats.  Make sure your cats are receiving adequate, vigorous play time to provide a release for their prey drive instincts.  One scenario is to have the cats play out their natural instincts before meal times. Both cats are thoroughly tired out by a vigorous play session with wand or fishing rod type toys with their preferred "prey" attached to the toy. After they have sufficiently "killed" the prey, they are rewarded with eating.

Mild aggression
Anytime you are worried that the victim cat may be harmed, you should separate the cats when you are not available to directly supervise their interactions.  When you are home, you can use favorite food rewards for the cats tolerating each other's presence.  The victim should be be calm enough to eat without hissing and the aggressor should eat without growling.  In day to day life, if there are early signs of aggression, usually calling the aggressive cat's name or shaking a treat bag is enough distraction to prevent the fight from starting. 

Severe aggression
In cases where you have already witnessed harm come to the victim or the victim spends most of their time hiding or not eating, you should definitely separate the cats when you are not around.  The victim cat should be free to move about the house and the aggressor is blocked off into a bedroom or other small room with their own food, water, and litterbox. 
In severe cases, it may takes months for full reintroduction to occur.  You can attempt reintroduction with the cats in separate carriers.  Starting with the carriers far apart, favorite food rewards are used to reinforce calmness.  Over time, the distance between carriers is reduced.  An alternative is to feed the cats on opposite sides of a solid door so they associate each other's smell with something positive.  A baby gate or screen door can be gradually introduced so that the cats see as well as smell each other while eating. 
After reintroduction, if signs of aggression recur, you can use the above tips for distraction or you may need to squirt the aggressive cat with water or use a loud sound, such as clapping hands or using a compressed air canister. In some cases, prescription medication is needed to help "keep the peace". 

Next week, we will look at resolving aggression towards humans.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Feline Aggression Part 1: Why is My Cat Aggressive?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

Feline aggression is an important cat topic since it can greatly affect relationships and cause tension in the household. 

Signs of aggression in order from mild to serious:
  • Ears pointed back or flattened to head
  • Tail tip twitching or whole tail swishing
  • Hissing
  • Growling or Yowling
  • Swatting or charging
  • Scratching or biting
In order to decide what type of aggression the cat has, there a few observations that need to be made. First, determine whether the cat is acting aggressive towards other pets or towards humans in the home.  Second, correlate what happens right before the aggression behaviors happen.  Third, observe and note which signs of aggression are displayed by the cat.

Types of aggression:
  • Transferred/Redirected
  • Petting
  • Play
  • Disease/Pain
  • Fear/Stress
  • Territorial
  • Improper handling
Transferred or redirected aggression occurs when a cat is agitated by an object, animal, or human, that the cat can only see, hear, or smell but cannot directly access due to a door or some other barrier.  The cat then needs an outlet for the provocation and acts aggressive towards the nearest object, human, or animal.

Petting aggression can seem spontaneous and confusing to pet owners.  Often the cat initiated the attention and does enjoy the petting for awhile, until suddenly the cat starts scratching or biting instead of just leaving when they were done receiving attention.

Play aggression is most common in kittens but can extend into adulthood.  Bottle raised or single kittens are more likely to do this due to lack of feedback from their mother or littermates.  Normal kittens may act combative if they are not provided with enough dedicated playtime or appropriate toys.  Rough play involving hands can lead also to this behavior.

Certain diseases such as infections or those that affect the thyroid or brain may cause aggression. Any source of pain like an injury, arthritis, or dental disease can also lead to aggression.

Fear aggression happens in situations involving foreign or offensive noises, smells, environments, humans, or animals.  A cat's upbringing, history of previous trauma, and even genetics can contribute to the cat's reactions.

Although territorial aggression can be caused by not having a cat spayed or neutered, for most households, it happens when a new cat is introduced to a home where cats already exist.  For established cats, it can happen after one of the cats is gone from the home and comes back smelling like a veterinarian's office or groomer.

Improper handling can also cause aggression.  Cats do not respond well to rough handling or being disturbed where they are sleeping or resting.  When picking up a cat, improper technique that causes a cat to not feel supported is also not well tolerated.  Many cats do not allow petting of the stomach area or around the legs/feet.

Next week, we will discover how to address and treat different types of feline aggression.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why is my old cat losing weight?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

A common observation made by pet parents about older cats is that they are losing weight or look skinny.  Unfortunately, some people may assume it is simply due to "old age".  Old age itself is not a disease.  Cats are more prone to certain diseases as they age, which can lead to weight loss.  Although for most cats, a one pound weight loss is not noticeable to the naked eye, 10% of your cat's weight has vanished!  As part of your cat's annual exam by your veterinarian, your cat will have its weight assessed.  As soon as you notice a decrease in your cat's weight, it is very important to seek veterinary care.  Here is a link to determining whether your cat is underweight.


Similar to younger cats, older cats can become thin due to causes such as stress, poor diet, internal or external parasites, food bowl competition, liver disease, and infections/fever.  Have you changed cat foods?  Has your cat's routine been disrupted by new human or pet household members?  Does your cat go outside?  Has your cat been hiding or sleeping more than usual?

There are other diseases that can cause weight loss due to a poor appetite.  A poor appetite (anorexia) can be due to simply not feeling well, nausea, difficulty eating, or trouble getting to the food dish.  These diseases can include heart or lung disease, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, kidney disease, constipation, dental or oral disease, cancer, or arthritis.  Has your cat been less active or having trouble breathing?  Has your cat been vomiting or having diarrhea?  Has your cat been drinking or urinating more than before?  Has your cat been defecating daily?  Has your cat been drooling or having a bad mouth odor?  Has your cat been jumping less, limping, or moving stiffly? 

There are also age related diseases that can cause weight loss despite an increased appetite (polyphagia).  These diseases include diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and pancreas enzyme insufficiency. 

Scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian for your older cat is a perfect time to discuss your cat's food intake, type of food fed, behavior or activity changes, litterbox usage, or other symptoms.  During your cat's physical exam, your veterinarian will evaluate your cat for signs of the above diseases and then recommend additional tests to confirm their diagnosis.  Afterwards they will discuss treatment recommendations that will assist your cat gain weight and increase their quality of life. 

Your donations to PAWSitively CATS help the shelter provide dental care and medications to our cats, such as Philip, Petra, and Necco, while waiting for their forever home!