Sunday, June 7, 2009


Questions On Dogs and Cats has devoted quite a bit of space to cats and their medical problems over this past year. However, Helpful Buckeye has received a few e-mails from cat owners who feel just a little slighted...even by the title of this blog. The cat owners have rightfully pointed out that there are now more cats as pets in the USA than dogs. They also have reminded me that "Cat" even comes before "Dog," alphabetically-speaking.

So, as my gesture of complete and full acceptance of their desire for more cat information, this week's issue will be solely about cats. For you dog owners, don't despair! Go ahead and read this material might be surprised and actually find something you enjoy. If there's possibly a cat in your future, this would be the place to start.


  • All cats are descendants of one type of cat. Whether your kitty meows or roars, it is a descendant of the Felis silvestris species, which is divided into the African wildcat, European wildcat and Steppe wildcat.

  • The smallest of the descendants is the rusty-spotted cat found in Sri Lanka. It is about half the size of the domestic cat. The largest is the tiger. The male Siberian or Amur Tiger has a total body length in excess of 3m (10 ft) and weighs up to 300kg (660 lb). The lion is the king of the cats. It stands out from the other cats, not just in its distinctive appearance but also in being the only felid that lives in organised social groups. Adult male lions weigh up to 225kg (500 lb) and grow up to 3m (10 ft) in body length.

  • The fastest cat, the cheetah, is also the fastest land animal. It can reach 95 km/h (60 mph) over short distances. Unlike other big cats it does not roar - it makes high pitched yelps, barks and chirruping sounds. And like your kitty, it does purr. The cheetah is the only cat that cannot retract its claws.

  • Domestic cats purr at about 26 cycles per second, the same frequency as an idling diesel engine. A domestic cat hears frequencies up to about 65 kHz, humans up to 20 kHz. Its sense of smell is about 14 times stronger than that of humans.

  • In the rear of a cat's eye is a light-reflecting layer called the tapetum lucidum, which causes cats' eyes to glow at night. This reflecting layer absorbs light 6 times more effectively than human eyes do, allowing a cat to see better than humans at night.

  • There are more than 3000 types of domestic cats, but only 8% are pedigree. And, unlike other cats, they are found all over the world... in abundance.

  • In the US, there are more cats than dogs, and people annually spend more on cat food than on baby food.

  • Domestic cats - or any other cats - do not have nine lives. They also do not always land on their feet. It is said that a cat that falls out of a 20-story building has a better chance of surviving than when falling out of a 7-story building because it takes a cat at least 7 stories to co-ordinate itself to land on its feet.

  • Cats step with both left legs, then both right legs when they walk or run. The only other animals to do this are the giraffe, camel and the maned wolf.

  • The tails of wild cats almost never lift higher than their backs, as opposed to your domestic kitty.

  • Cats cannot see directly below their heads that is why they do not see the food when you put it under their nose. Keep this in mind when you're feeding your kitty.

  • Meow or roar, the cat is a hunter. All cats are direct descendants of the wildcat - even your kitty.

  • Did you know that dogs are mentioned 14 times in the Bible, lions 89 times, but domestic cats are not mentioned?


A checklist of 10 signs of possible sickness will alert you to the advisability of having your cat examined by your veterinarian:

  • Inappropriate Elimination Behavior
    Client education about litter box care and normal elimination behavior is important for prevention and treatment of medical and behavioral problems. Clients should be aware that inappropriate urination and defecation often accompany an underlying medical condition and do not occur “to get back at the owner.” 1-->A cat that is urinating inappropriately may have any number of conditions associated with the behavior, including lower urinary tract disease, kidney disease, urinary tract infection and diabetes mellitus. It can also be a sign of arthritis, which makes it difficult for the cat to get into the litter box. 2 --> Blockage of the urinary tract signals a veterinary emergency. A blockage is treatable, but timing is critical. Once identified, the cat must receive veterinary care as soon as possible. Otherwise, fatal complications could develop. Signs include straining in the litter box with little or no results, crying when urinating and frequent attempts to urinate.

  • Changes in Interaction
    Cats are social animals, they enjoy interaction with their human family and often with other pets. Changes in those may signal problems such as disease, fear or anxiety. They may also signal pain, which can cause aggression. For example, a cat may attack an individual who causes it pain, such as a person combing over a cat’s arthritic hips or brushing a diseased tooth.

  • Changes in Activity
    A decrease or increase in activity can be a sign of a medical of condition. As cats age, there is increased risk for arthritis. Discomfort from systemic illnesses can also lead to a decrease in activity. It's important to understand cats don't usually slow down just because they are old. More activity is often caused by hyperthyroidism. Changes in activity warrant a visit to your veterinarian.

  • Changes in Sleeping Habits
    The key to differentiating abnormal lethargy from normal napping is knowing your cat's sleeping patterns. The average adult cat may spend 16 to 18 hours per day sleeping. This is normal, but much of that sleeping is “catnapping.” The cat should respond quickly to usual stimuli, such as the owner walking into the room or cat food being prepared. If your cat is sleeping more than usual or has discomfort laying down and getting up, this may be a sign of underlying disease.

  • Changes in Food and Water Consumption
    Contrary to popular belief, most cats are not "finicky" eaters. Look for changes, such as a decrease or an increase in consumption and how the cat chews its food. Decreased food intake can be a sign of several disorders, ranging from poor dental health to cancer. Increased food consumption can be caused by diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism or other health problems.
    Changes in water consumption may be more difficult to observe, especially in cats that spend time outdoors or drink from toilets and sinks. Increased water intake can be an early indicator of thyroid problems, kidney disease, diabetes or other conditions.
    If food and water intake is questionable, clients can measure the food and water given, and then measure what remains after 24 hours to get a more accurate picture of actual consumption.

  • Unexplained Weight Loss or Gain
    A change in weight does not necessarily correlate with a change in appetite. Cats with hyperthyroidism or diabetes mellitus can lose weight despite good appetites. Many other diseases cause both appetite and weight loss. If your cat goes to the food dish and then backs away from it without eating, nausea may be the source.
    Weight changes often go unnoticed because of a cat's thick coat. You can assess body condition by feeling gently along the ribs. The ribs should be easily felt but not prominent.
    On the other hand, obesity has become a serious health concern in cats, with increased risk of diabetes mellitus, joint disease and other problems. Cat owners can purchase small pet scales to chart weight at home. Take the cat to the veterinarian if there are any unplanned changes in weight.

  • Changes in Grooming
    Typically, cats are fastidious groomers. Note whether your cat's coat is clean and free of mats. Patches of hair loss or a greasy or matted appearance can signal an underlying disease. Also watch to see if your cat has difficulty grooming. A decrease in grooming behavior can indicate fear, anxiety, obesity or other illnesses. An increase in grooming may be a sign of a skin problem.

  • Signs of Stress
    Yes, your cat can be stressed despite having an “easy” life. Boredom and sudden lifestyle changes are common causes of stress in cats. Stressed cats may spend less time grooming and interacting, or they may spend more time awake and scanning their environment, hide more, withdraw and exhibit signs of depression. They could also change their eating patterns. These same signs may indicate a medical condition. It is important to rule out medical problems first and then address the stress. Because the social organization of cats is different from that of people and dogs, changes in the family, such as adding a new pet, should be done gradually. Please contact your veterinary hospital for information on how to successfully make changes in your household.

  • Changes in Vocalization
    An increase in vocalization or howling is more common in older cats and is often seen with some underlying condition such as hyperthyroidism or high blood pressure. Many cats also vocalize more if they are in pain or anxious. If you note a change in vocalization, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out medical problems and to obtain suggestions for minimizing or eliminating the behavior.

  • Bad Breath
    Studies show 70 percent of cats have gum disease as early as age 3. It is important to have your cat's teeth checked every six months to help prevent dental disease or to start treatment of problems. One of the early indicators of an oral problem is bad breath. Regular home teeth brushing and veterinary dental care prevent bad breath, pain, tooth loss and spread of infection to other organs.


OK, now you've established that there might be a health problem for your cat. How do make the trip to your veterinarian as easy as possible for your cat?

Getting Your Cat Into the Carrier
If you don't already own a carrier, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind when buying one.

  • Be sure it is convenient for you, your cat and your veterinarian.

  • Keeping the carrier out in your home and putting favorite treats or toys inside helps train your cat to see the carrier as a safe place.

  • While there are many carriers on the market, it is best to choose one that has both a top opening and possibly an additional opening on the side. Top-loading carriers are much easier for placing your cat inside. Your cat can easily go into and out of an opening on the side. Other options include carriers on which the top half is removable, so the cat can remain in the carrier during the examination.

  • Never dump the cat out of the carrier. Either let your cat walk out or gently remove your cat from the carrier.

Adjusting to Car Rides

  • When traveling with your cat in the car, always put the cat in a carrier or other protected container. Rather than allowing the cat to roam freely, this is safer for both of you.

  • To make your cat comfortable when riding in the car, take the cat to places other than the veterinarian’s office.

  • Start with short rides at first, then gradually extend the length of the drive.

  • Because cats travel best on an empty stomach, do not feed your cat for several hours before traveling.

  • After each successful car trip, reward your pet with positive attention and treats.

Pleasant Veterinary Visits

  • To make your cat feel at home in the veterinarian's office, bring the cat's favorite treats and toys with you.

  • When at home, practice regular care routines such as grooming, nail trimming and teeth brushing. Pretend to do routine veterinary procedures with your cat. You can do this by touching the cat's face, ears, feet and tail. This should help your cat adjust to the veterinary hospital and any needed home care.

  • Make trips to the veterinary hospital for visits that don't involve examinations or procedures, such as checking the cat's weight. It sets your cat up for positive experiences at the veterinary hospital, and lets your cat be more comfortable with the clinic and staff.


Written by: Debra M. Eldredge

Cats are living longer lives. An 8-year-old cat was considered a senior 15 years ago. Today, many veterinarians wait until ages 10 or 12 to classify a cat as senior. And more and more cats are living into their 20s! However, along with longer lives come increased health concerns. It only takes a few adjustments to your cats daily routine to improve its well-being and quality of life well into the golden years.

Lifestyle Changes

Indoor-only is the way to go for your older cat, even if it went outdoors as a youngster. Indoor cats have less exposure to disease and parasites. This lifestyle also protects cats from trauma, such as automobile injuries, vicious animal attacks and unscrupulous human treatment. As your cats vision and hearing become less acute, the indoors offer your pet an abundance of safety and security.

Its also important to re-examine your senior cats diet. Have you noticed a reduction in activity level? Ask your veterinarian about reducing your cats calorie intake to prevent obesity. Gradually adjust the diet according to your veterinarians recommendation: Abrupt change can cause serious liver damage and even death. Maintain top quality protein in your cats diet so it continues to receive those important amino acids available only in animal protein.
Older cats often need special diets for their medical conditions, says Betsy Arnold, DVM, a veterinarian and Siamese breeder in Rochester, N.Y.

In addition to a dietary change, you may need to assist your cat with its grooming tasks. Your consummate groomer may develop arthritis, which makes thorough grooming a challenge. The nails can become brittle and some cats experience trouble removing the old, outer sheaths. Check your cats nails twice a week and trim them as needed. Use a slicker brush on your shorthaired cat or a wide-tooth comb on your longhaired cat to keep its coat shiny and clean. Regular grooming also provides valuable bonding time for you and your cat.

Your senior cat will especially appreciate creature comforts. Senior cats cannot tolerate temperature changes as well as they did in their younger years. Provide cool places for your cat to lie in the summer and a warm, soft bed for the cold winter months. If climbing is a challenge, offer step stools or ramps, or move a bed to the floor. If arthritis becomes a problem, provide warm, comfortable beds and encourage regular exercise. Ask your veterinarian about safe pain medications and food supplements that can help keep your cat's joints supple.

Some senior cats become a bit forgetful or lose their orientation. Many cats cry at night or wander around the house as if lost. Usually talking to them, holding them or even leaving a nightlight on can help.

Health Concerns

Older cats need regular checkups twice yearly is ideal. Expect your veterinarian to periodically run bloodwork to check for changes in liver or kidney function, along with looking for anemia, diabetes and hyperthyroidism. You may also want to request a urinalysis to detect diabetes and kidney problems. Some veterinarians will check your cat for high blood pressure and do an X-ray or ultrasound to check for signs of heart problems or cancer. Early detection often means more successful and less expensive treatments.

Many older cats become less active and quieter, but some cats suddenly seem to rejuvenate. If your cat is active, hungry all the time and losing weight, it may be hyperthyroid...having too much thyroid hormone. Possibly caused by thyroid cancer, this disorder leads to an increase in metabolism. A blood test offers the best method of diagnosis, and several treatment options are available.

Increased hunger may also be caused by diabetes. A diabetic cat tends to drink more and urinate frequently. Veterinarians normally diagnose diabetes with a blood test and urinalysis. Most cats are treated with insulin injections and dietary modifications.

If your cat suddenly drinks more water than usual, get it checked for kidney failure as well as diabetes. Cats with kidney problems are often not hungry, just thirsty, while diabetics are hungry and thirsty. Most kidney diseases cannot be cured, but many cats improve with extra fluids and dietary changes.

Dehydration can be a problem in older cats, especially if their kidneys aren't 100 percent, says Nancy Freeboro, DVM, a veterinarian in Syracuse, N.Y. Having fresh water available at all times, and mixing water in with canned food can help.

Cancer can show up in a wide range of disguises. Obvious growths are one way, but subtle weight loss, decreased activity and a decrease in appetite can all warn of a malignancy. Again, routine checkups are invaluable. Caught early, some cancers are curable and many can be controlled for some amount of time.

Dental problems and some tooth loss is common for senior cats. Starting a kitten on regular dental care will help prevent some of this. Take your senior cat in for a veterinary dental cleaning, followed by more regular care. If your cat experiences tender teeth and gums, feed it room-temperature or slightly warmed food. Remember that cats can get oral cancer, too. Be vigilant to any changes in eating or chewing behavior, and follow up immediately with your veterinarian.

Age eventually catches up with us all, and you are your cats best health advocate. If you detect changes in your cats behavior, eating or elimination, take it to the vet for a checkup. Your careful attention and lifestyle modifications, along with your veterinarian's sound advice, make a great health-care team for your aging cat.


Dr. Jean Hofve is a holistic veterinarian from Denver, Colorado, and a pro when it comes to traveling with pets. She has driven her cats seven times back and forth from California to Colorado without having to endure constant yowls of protest. She offers these six tips designed to maintain your sanity when traveling with cats and checking into pet-friendly hotels:

  • Never feed your cat the day of travel by car or airplane to reduce stomach upset.

  • Select pet carriers that are big enough for a cat to turn around and curl up in, but not too large.

  • Include a current health certificate for your pet. You may need to present it when crossing state lines.

  • Limit car travel to nine hours and include frequent short breaks.

  • Keep your cat in a pet carrier in the back seat of your car with the carrier tethered to the seat belt.

  • Before putting the cat inside the carrier, spritz the carrier with a calming flower essence such as Easy Traveler or Rescue Remedy or Feliway. Stash the bottle in a side pocket of the carrier for easy access.

“I’ve learned the hard way to not let my cats out of their carriers in the hotel room because they crawl under the bed and it is nearly impossible to get them out,” says Dr. Hofve. “They are far safer inside the bathroom and you are more apt to get a good night’s sleep because they won’t be roaming all over the room at night.”


  • ...the person that had took a bull by the tail once had learnt sixty or seventy times as much as a person that hadn't, and said a person that started in to carry a cat home by the tail was getting knowledge that was always going to be useful to him, and warn't ever going to grow dim or doubtful. -Tom Sawyer Abroad

  • A home without a cat--and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat--may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?- Pudd'nhead Wilson

  • You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does -- but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you'll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it's the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so; it's the sickening grammar they use. - A Tramp Abroad

  • One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.- Pudd'nhead Wilson

  • A cat is more intelligent than people believe, and can be taught any crime.- Notebook, 1895

  • Of all God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.- Notebook, 1894

  • By what right has the dog come to be regarded as a "noble" animal? The more brutal and cruel and unjust you are to him the more your fawning and adoring slave he becomes; whereas, if you shamefully misuse a cat once she will always maintain a dignified reserve toward you afterward--you will never get her full confidence again.- Mark Twain, a Biography

  • Some people scorn a cat and think it not an essential; but the Clemens tribe are not of these.

  • When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.- "An Incident,"



  1. Thanks Doc, for helping me figure out that I'm not a cat; my husband never chases me through the back yards anymore, either!

  2. my cat always pees when it travels so we have to put a tray underneath.

  3. I think point that you can keep in mind is..Before you bring your new cat home, put his food, water, toys, scratching post, and litter pan in a quiet room you can close off, such as a spare bedroom.
    pet care safe