Stop Ankle Attacks (Feline)

If your cat frequently attacks your ankles, most likely you are reinforcing the behavior by giving him the attention he’s craving. Sure, cats need to play, but an ankle is not an appropriate plaything. So how do you get him to stop?

Make sure that he is getting multiple play sessions each day. Never use your hands as a toy. Encourage him to pounce on the toy by dragging it away from him. Follow the last catch with either food or a treat. Make sure your cat has plenty of places to climb onto, cat scratchers and toys to play with.

The most important thing to reduce the behavior is to give him a timeout when he gets overstimulated and attacks. Block his view of your ankles with an object or cardboard, go into another room and close the door. Keep a timeout super short; a few seconds is plenty. Your cat will soon learn that when he attacks, his favorite person/people disappear and stop attacking you.

Cats & Heartworm

Yes, you read the title correctly. Primarily when we talk about heartworm, it’s in relation to dogs, but heartworm can and does affect cats and it affects cats quite differently. In a dog, a natural host for heartworm, a dog can primarily coexist with heartworm (in small doses). For a cat, as a resistant host, a cat’s body instantly reacts and the inflammatory response is much more severe. (Being a resistant host simply means that heartworm is intended to infect canines but it will settle for a feline body.) The heartworm parasite is found everywhere throughout North America. Keeping your cat strictly indoors isn’t necessarily going to stop the spread of feline heartworm, as mosquitos (the carriers of heartworm) can carry the infective blood indoors.

Diagnosing a canine with heartworm is relatively easy. For felines, not so much. The same test that is quite reliable for dogs will time and time again produce false negatives in felines. Dogs are also usually rife with heartworm, but it can take as little as one heartworm to infect a cat. If you or your vet suspect a heartworm infection, he will likely perform an “antibody” test screen (though the results can’t show whether the infection is active or from a previous infection) and x-ray the chest. What to watch for? Heartworm disease mimics feline asthma. Your cat will probably be coughing or wheezing. In fact, if your cat has been diagnosed as asthmatic, get a heartworm check done too. Many cats are misdiagnosed.

There are no approved feline treatments for feline heartworm disease. Treatment will include supportive care with steroids to control the inflammation. It may include bronchodilators and/or antibiotics. Treatment will also include prevention of further infection or re-infection by administering a heartworm preventive medicine. Treatment for your cat will likely span several years as you’re going to have to wait for the heartworms to die of old age.

The best way you can help your cat avoid lung damage or death from a heartworm infection is to prevent it in the first place. When you’re taking your dog in for his heartworm prevention, take your cat too. Heartworm in felines is more common than we all think.

Need a Kitty Vacation?

Below are vacation spots where you can go to get a feline fix.

  • The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West, Florida — About 40 to 50 polydactyl cats (Hemingway’s favorite) live and reside there
  • The island of Tashirojima, Japan — Known as cat island; a large number of cats, shrines and monuments and cat-shaped buildings are found on the island
  • The island of Aoshima, Japan — Known as Japan’s lesser known cat island; the residents continue the feed the cats hoping for good luck and prosperity
  • Largo di Torre Argentina, Rome — 250 feral cats reside among the ruins where Julius Caesar was assassinated
  • Protestant Cemetery, Rome — This is the home of Rome’s most famous semi-feral cat colony
  • Houtong Coal Mine Ecological Park, Taiwan — The train station’s footbridge, that looks like a cat, connects to Cat Village, where 80 cats live
  • Turquoise Coast, Kalkan, Turkey — A large number of cats wander by the old mosque and walk along the Kalkan beach
  • Neko Bar, Akanasu, Tokyo — The world’s first kitty pub
  • Calico, Tokyo — The largest and oldest cat café in Tokyo is home to 28 felines
  • Cat’s Store, Tokyo — Tokyo’s very first cat café is still going strong
  • Cats Theatre, Moscow — Watch the talented felines perform astounding acrobatic feats
  • Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, London — Named after Alice in Wonderland’s cat, this was London’s first cat café and is home to 11 feline residents
  • Le Bristol, Paris — Fa-Raon and Kleopatre, the resident felines watch over this Parisian palace hotel
  • The Algonquin Hotel, New York City — Matilda, the resident feline can be found at this hotel
  • Kishi Station, Japan — Tama works four days a week and has her own office at the Wakayama Electric Railway; Tama even has an official title, she is the station master
  • Le Café des Chats, Paris — 12 cats live at this café
  • KitTea, San Francisco — KitTea is San Francisco’s first cat café where you can see 10 to 12 cats
  • The Cat Town Café, Oakland, California — The Cat Town Café was the first cat café in the U.S. and still stands as the only non-profit café. At any time, there are 8 to 24 free roaming cats available for adoption

13 Tips for a Successful Cat & New Baby Introduction

When a new baby is due to come home, there are a lot of things to be done. Setting up the nursery, picking out all the baby paraphernalia and setting up the house, but don’t forget there’s other family members that need to be readied for this new family member. Cats crave routine and need to be in familiar surroundings, a new baby can cause them stress if they’re unprepared. Below are 13 ways to prep kitty for the new baby.

BEFORE THE BABY IS BORN

  1. Keep a consistent schedule. If baby may change kitty’s feeding times, gradually change kitty’s schedule now so he’ll be ready for the new routine.
  2. Allow kitty to touch, sniff and investigate all the new baby gear. Unless all your baby’s gear will always remain in the nursery, your cat will probably see all this new stuff regularly. Let him investigate everything so he can be comfortable around them. You can even take it a step further and dab toiletries, such as baby powder, on yourself so your cat can get used to the new scents.
  3. Decide what you will allow the cat to do and start enforcing it early. If your cat won’t be allowed in the nursery, keep him out from the very beginning. If you want to allow him, put a cat tree in the corner so he can observe all the action from an out-of-the-way perch.
  4. Acclimate kitty to baby noises. Find CDs of babies crying and various other baby noises and start playing them softly at first and gradually increase the volume to get your cat used to the loud sounds your baby will make.
  5. Have a baby visit. Bringing in a live baby will help prep your cat for what a baby will do. Don’t force your cat to interact or the cat may react badly. Try to give him treats to keep him in the same room. This will encourage your cat to hang around and not to be afraid and associate the baby with positive things like treats.

INTRODUCING BABY

  1. Don’t force an introduction. If you were able to bring in a baby visitor before your baby was born, the same rules apply. If you weren’t, don’t force an introduction between baby and kitty. Retrieving your cat from his safe spot is stressful for your cat on its own, and he may associate baby with these negative feelings.
  2. Use familiar furnishings or blankets when you introduce kitty and baby. When you cat has had a previous opportunity to investigate baby’s furniture, this can help your cat accept the new baby. If your baby is on a blanket when kitty comes to say hi, if the blanket smells like you or another family member, this can help to create positive associations.
  3. Use treats. If your cat is shy or nervous, treat him to lure in the room with the baby to ease into the introduction. Cats associate food with good things, so treats may be a great push.
  4. Monitor all interactions between kitty and baby. Both your cat and baby will be curious about each other and will want to interact. Babies kick and pull and cats lick. Neither will realize why they shouldn’t, so be present to be able to supervise.

LIVING TOGETHER

  1. Be consistent. The rules were made before baby came home so try not to change them now. Your cat just used to the new changes and more changes will confuse and possibly stress kitty.
  2. Let your cat retreat. When your cat has had enough and is feeling overwhelmed, he needs to be able to escape and recharge. If he doesn’t have any, now is a good time to provide him with some tall cat trees. He can retreat to them but still be able to oversee the family’s goings-on.
  3. Clip kitty’s claws or use claw sheaths. To avoid an accidental scratch from being startled by a loud noise or other surprise, keep your cat’s claws regularly or use claw sheaths.
  4. Don’t be afraid to enlist help. If your cat remains tense around baby, there are pheromones or supplements you can obtain to help your cat adjust. Consult your veterinarian or a certified cat behavior consultant.

Integrative Medical Therapies

Veterinary medicine had come a long way and keeps seeing major medical advances all the time. However, medicine alone cannot do it all. Integrative medical therapy does have its own place. How do you know which treatment is best? Let this guide help you in figuring out the best approach so when the time comes, you and your vet can make the decision together. You can always try an integrative approach out for a trial period and if it doesn’t work, than go back for a medicinal intervention. Do not allow a holistic practitioner to convince you to continue with an approach if it’s not working. These methods are supposed to reduce stress, discomfort and to improve the quality of life. Don’t administer any products, including herbs, supplements or homeopathic remedies without your vet’s approval. Try to find an integrative practitioner that is also a vet or who is closely supervised by a vet.

ACUPUNCTURE

Acupuncture involves inserting thin, sterile needles into certain sites on the body known as acupuncture points. These points when examined anatomically fall along nerve pathways.

Acupuncture stimulates nerve fibers near acupuncture points. Acupuncture activate reflexes within the nervous system to reduce pain, relax muscles and help to restore a state of homeostasis.

Benefits: Pain reduction, muscle relaxation, stress abatement, improved immune function, neurologic recovery.

Risks: Infection at needle site, puncture of major vessels or organs. (Acupuncture has a strong safety record when performed by practitioners with solid medical backgrounds. Do your homework when choosing an acupuncturist.)

Efficacy: Acupuncture has a well-researched foundation and scientific basis. Acupuncture is one of the most credible modalities among veterinarians. More vets all the time offer acupuncture as an alternative treatment.

CHIROPRACTIC

Chiropractic adjustors increase joint range of motion to alleviate pain.

Benefits: Unclear. There is little to no evidence of chiropractic benefit for the feline veterinary population.

Risks: Forceful adjustments on cats’ smaller structure and delicate joints could cause paralysis or further injuries of joints.

Efficacy: Unclear. Evidence of chiropractic benefits is inconsistent in humans, for whom the treatment has the longest track record.

DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS (NUTRACEUTICALS)

“Nutraceutical” refers to food products packaged like a pharmaceutical. They are designed to enhance health or supplementation of food (as in a special diet formulated for your pet’s needs).

Nutraceuticals supplement the diet with nutrients derived from food. They contain greater amounts of certain components found beneficial for certain organs or tissues. They may given to restore health or prevent disease.

Benefits: If your pet is suffering from arthritis, omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin or cetyl myristoleate (CMO) have been proven to help. Diarrhea sufferers or pets needing immune support can benefit from probiotics. The antioxidant s-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is often recommended for liver disease sufferers.

Risks: Avoid products that contain garlic for cats as it can damage feline red blood cells, causing anemia. Steer clear of products containing “glandulars” or “whole tissue supplementation.” These contain animal glands or organs from supposed-healthy animals (usually coming from cows, sheep or pigs). Glandular therapy says that a pet’s injured gland or organ should benefit from eating a healthy gland or organ from another animal. Who’s to say that the slaughtered animal was truly healthy and free from disease. Studies have not proven conclusive evidence that glandular therapy works. They have suggested a potential to actually worsen a pet’s condition.

Efficacy: Most research on nutraceuticals have focused on osteoarthritis which has huge benefits, including improved mobility. Probiotics have been shown to benefit the digestive tract and immune system.

BOTANICAL MEDICINE (HERBS)

Botanical medicines are products that are derived from plants that are thought to or proven by research to benefit health and/or treat disease.

Herbs, like drugs, work biochemically. But the amount of active ingredients differ from medications. There may be a gamut of herbs needed to replicate the desired effect that a single agent in a drug can produce. An example of a botanical medicine in nature would be catnip, valerian root or lavender.

Benefits: The value of herbs have not been widely studied. Anecdotal evidence suggests that catnip, valerian root and lavender all provide relaxing benefits for cats.

Risks: Differences between human, dog and cat metabolisms for herbs mean products designed for humans or that are found safe for humans may induce unpredictable or potentially serious side effects and/or interactions for pets. In fact, cat livers lack the ability to detoxify plant-based substances, leaving cats at a greater risk of toxicity which can lead to serious illness or even death. Herbs can interact with certain medications and cause over or under-dosing. The industry is unregulated and has been plagued by safety issues.

Efficacy: Unknown. Proceed with caution if you undertake any herbal supplement.

HOMEOPATHY

Homeopathic philosophy claim that “like treats like:” that minute dilutions of substances, given in larger amounts, could cause the symptoms of a certain disease, therefore you can then turn around and treat the disease.

Benefits: Human studies have found that the benefits of homeopathy are indistinguishable from placebos. Therefore, perceived effects are likely due to the belief that the treatment is working.

Risks: Waiting for a homeopathic treatment to work can cause disease progression, so much sometimes that the disease can become untreatable through medication or other integrative therapies.

Efficacy: Research on homeopathy has failed to show any reproducible benefits to patients.

FLOWER ESSENCES

Flower essences resemble homeopathy in that they constitute dilute mixtures of soaked plants that are preserved in alcohol. These plants are supposed to evoke changes in emotions.

Benefits: As with homeopathy, the benefits of flower essences match the same level of benefits from placebos.

Risks: The biggest risk of relying on flower essences for feline emotional or behavioral problems is that you’re neglecting a physical or household reason for the issue. Most flowers essences benefits are unproven and can delay proper diagnosis and/or effective treatment. Cats are also very sensitive to alcohol, so avoid using essences directly into their mouths; only apply topically. Flower essences are often confused with essential oils. Essential oils are concentrated plant compounds that can be toxic or lethal to cats.

Efficacy: Research suggests that flower essences work by “placebo effect.” You hope they’re working so you see benefits, but they aren’t really there.

MASSAGE

Massage uses techniques performed by the hands on the soft tissues of the body and promotes relaxation, pain reduction and improves function. Tension is reduced by relaxing muscles to benefit circulation, digestion and immune system by stimulating the nervous system network.

Benefits: Massage has proven to improve mobility, reduce pain and provide psychological comfort. You can also learn techniques that you can use yourself at home.

Risks: Aggressive massage can lead to injury. If your pet is not enjoying it or shows discomfort, stop immediately.

Efficacy: There is yet to be published research showing efficacy, but clinically we see the benefits in human research. Your vet may also suggest some simple movements to help your pet experience relief from muscle or joint issues. Don’t be afraid that the research hasn’t caught up to this treatment yet.