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Frequently Asked Questions for Cats

Can I feed my cat canned food? My vet said it was bad for his teeth.

We as a profession have become better educated about use of canned food for cats over the past few years. We had been taught that canned food for cats was bad because the increased water led to deposits on the teeth, and that increased fat content in canned food versus dry food would cause our feline friends to become Obese.

In reality, the increased water content (up to 70%) helps to protect the cat's lower urinary tract, encouraging more water consumption and helping the cat's kidneys and Bladder to function better. Studies have shown significant reduction in lower urinary tract Disease in cats who are fed canned food as part of their diet.

The higher protein and fat content in most canned cat foods also helps to maintain a healthy weight by mimicking more closely a cat's natural diet, small animals who are high in protein and fat and lower in carbohydrates. Many veterinarians will recommend a canned food diet (in moderation!) to help with healthy weight loss.

Check with your veterinarian for specific brand recommendations and how to make the switch if this is a better choice for your cat.

Does my cat need heartworm prevention? She doesn't go outside.

Heartworm disease in cats is a very different disease than it is in dogs. Cats do not suffer the same large load of worms in their hearts that causes heart failure and coughing in dogs. They do, however, suffer severe irreversible changes in their lungs, known as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease. These changes occur as the cat is trying to fight the heartworm infection, so blood testing for heartworms may not show us whether or not they have heartworm disease.

Recent surveys have shown that up to 30% of all cats infected with heartworms live exclusively indoors. In general, if flies and other bugs can get into your house, so can mosquitoes. If they can get in, then they can bite and infect your kitty.

With many different options available for prevention of heartworm in your cat, it is far easier to give preventative and not worry than to hope that your cat does not come in contact with this deadly disease. Please discuss this with your veterinarian.

How do I know when a lump on my pet needs to be examined?

All new lumps found on your pet should be examined by a veterinarian. During the examination, the doctor will palpate (feel) the lump, measure it, and take a needle biopsy sample. This initial test will let the doctor know if it is a benign lipoma (fatty tumor), cyst, or a malignant lump that needs removal. If a lump is cancerous, early removal can be curative. Therefore, it is important to get lumps checked out early.

My cat sometimes squints one eye and has a discharge. Do I need to be concerned?

It is not normal for a cat to squint one or both eyes, with or without discharge. Cats have the potential to develop a chronic eye problem called conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the pink membrane part of the eye. It can become quite reddened and swollen in some cats, and often it is just in one eye and not in both. This causes intermittent or constant squinting. It can occur on and off, for months to years. The conjunctivitis may occur without any other eye problems, or the eye may also have a corneal ulcer or erosion.Signs include squinting and mucoid or watery discharge. Sometimes the cat also shows signs of an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI), and is sneezing. Most of the causes are infectious. The three most common organisms that cause conjunctivitis are Feline Herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1), Chlamydia, and Mycoplasma. It is important to know that a case of conjunctivitis can have one, two, or all three organisms together causing the problem, and that Feline Herpesvirus cannot be transmitted to people — only to cats. If your cat has any of the symptoms of conjunctivitis, it is important to have him/her examined by a veterinarian. There are different diagnostic tests that can be performed to find the exact cause and best treatment options. Sometimes your doctor may recommend referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist if your cat's eyes are not improving with medication or are worsening.

My older cat meows all night. Should I give a sedative?

Nighttime yowling can be very stressful for both the owner and cat. In older cats, the possible causes include hypertension (elevated blood pressure), hyperthyroidism (elevated thyroid hormone), decline in cognitive function, hearing loss, or chronic pain. It is important to have your cat examined by a veterinarian. Diagnostic tests can reveal the most likely cause of the late night vocalizations. If your cat is otherwise healthy, a medication called Anipryl can be used to treat dementia. Sometimes anti-anxiety medications are used. These have a calming and sometimes sedative effect that helps everyone sleep through the night.

My older pet is having accidents in the house. Is that just a sign of old age?

When an older pet has urine accidents in the house it can indicate an underlying disease process, such as diabetes, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, and others. These pets may drink and urinate significantly more (referred to as polyuria/polydipsia or PU/PD) leading to house soiling. Primary urinary tract problems, such as a urinary tract infection, prostate problems, or tumors of the urinary bladder can also lead to an increased need for a pet to relieve himself. Another possible cause is urinary incontinence.  Decreased urinary sphincter function and neurological dysfunction can result in incontinence. Declining cognitive function in a geriatric pet can also lead to accidents in the home.

What initially appears to be a behavioral problem, often time turns out to have an underlying medical basis, and can be treated accordingly. A thorough history and examination of your pet, along with additional diagnostics such as urinalysis and blood work, will help our veterinarians provide appropriate medical treatment.

Why does my cat like to scratch posts or furniture?

Scratching is a completely normal and natural behavior in cats. Scratching is an important means of communication between cats. It is necessary in the maintenance of healthy nails and strong upper body muscles. Even declawed cats will engage in this behavior. Scratching is fun and makes cats happy.

Most cat lovers don’t object to scratching. They know that it is part of a cat’s essential nature. What they do find objectionable is where they scratch. The good news is that nearly all cats can be taught our preferred locations. The key is to provide a surface that is more attractive than the stereo speakers or the couch.

Scratching posts can be vertical, horizontal or any angle in between. Vertical posts need to be very stable so your cat can really sink hers claws into it without the worry of it tipping over. Look for high quality carpet or Sisal coverings. Here again, it’s all about what your cat prefers. Rub catnip into the covering to draw her attention. Many horizontal scratchers are made of inexpensive corrugated cardboard and come packaged with catnip to sprinkle into the cervices.

Location is everything. The post needs to be located in an area that your cat will enjoy. Remember, scratching is a form of feline communication so hiding the post in the basement or behind the washing machine does not meet their needs. Place the post where the family gathers or near a favorite napping spot. Many cats like to have their posts near the front door or a window so they feel their message is getting out. Introduce her to the post at a quiet relaxed moment. Praise her for showing interest and give a special treat. Place her paws on the scratcher and praise her again. Play with a favorite toy next to the post. Dangle a fishing pole toy over and around the post to encourage her to touch it then give more treats. She will soon learn that great things happen when she goes to the post.

Call us for more information on redirecting scratching behavior, lessons on nail trimming or additional help to improve the life of your fabulous feline.