RSS Feed

Category Archives: cats

Cat Collars Save Lives


In the near future, the City of New Port Richey will discuss a new animal control ordinance designed to prevent animal homelessness and improve welfare for stray dogs and cats within the City. The ordinance will encourage sterilizing pets as well as identifying pets by using collars, license tags, and registered microchips. I hope the citizens of New Port Richey will embrace this important step in improving the lives of dogs and cats in our community. The mention of licensing, tagging, and microchipping pet cats will likely cause anxiety for cat owners, especially since there has never been an official concern for the welfare of cats in Pasco County

Such ordinances are nothing new for dog owners. Control efforts for canines have effectively reduced the number of dogs surrendered to local shelters and significantly reduced euthanasia rates for local dogs. The same good news does not apply to cats, however.

Historically, our animal control efforts have ignored cats in an effort to save taxpayer’s money. But the principle of “unintended consequences” applies. By doing nothing about cats, the most common animal surrendered now surrendered to our local animal shelters is feline. More than 7000 cats are handed over by citizens to the local animal shelter each year. Less than 10% of those cats leave the shelter alive. That is unacceptable.

The new ordinance will not result in animal control officers searching your neighborhood for loose cats. Nobody has the time or inclination to do that. But the new ordinance will ask cat owners to buy a license for your rabies-vaccinated cat to wear attached to its collar. If you also have your cat microchipped and sterilized, then the cost of the license will be reduced. Funds from the sale of cat licenses will support a fund for subsidizing spay/neuter costs for pet-owning residents of New Port Richey. The funds will also subsidize Trap/neuter/Return efforts to reduce the numbers of free-roaming and unowned cats in the City.

Some will worry that collars aren’t safe for cats, or that cats will refuse to wear such collars. Others will refuse to buy licenses because they keep their pet cats indoors. These are common misconceptions that lead to more suffering by cats. Cats do find ways to get outdoors and become lost. My own cat snuck out one evening and went missing for three months before her microchip helped her find her way back to me. And research shows that cats can safely wear collars. Of course, the collars must fit well, be the type that will break away if caught on an object, and the cat must be allowed to become familiar with the new life-saving tool around its neck. The good news for bird lovers is that research also shows that adding a tiny bell to a cat’s collar significantly reduces the number of birds and other wildlife taken as prey by outdoor pet cats.

Indeed, responsible cat owners will want their cats to wear life-saving collars. Hopefully, it will become the new fashion craze for cat lovers in New Port Richey. And hopefully, all the cats will enjoy the tinkling of tiny bells at holiday time.

Happy Holidays!

If you want more information about how cat collars and identification can save lives, here are some resources for you:

Arm and Hammer Free Cat ID Tag ( just buy two boxes of cat litter with baking soda)

http://www.armandhammer.com/Free-Pet-Tag.aspx

http://www.armandhammer.com/news/id-tags-and-microchips-key-to-your-cats-safety.aspx

Dr.Lord’s StudyAbout the Safety of Cat Collars

http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.237.4.387

Good Background on Types of Collars for Cats from FAB Cats

http://www.fabcats.org/owners/safety/collars/info.html

Research from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on How Cat Collars Reduced Predation

http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/catsandcollars2_tcm9-133147.pdf

The Madness of Moving


At our house, we are in the midst of moving. The process begins with thinning of possessions, much like on those “Clutter Buster” shows on cable. For weeks, we have been sorting into piles of “keep, sell, or donate.”

One of our cats tried his own move today. Twice he jumped into the open window of the truck parked in our driveway that was waiting to haul away our donations. We didn’t intend to donate him!

The pets definitely know we are moving. There are empty boxes in which to play and wads of newspaper to bat. The dogs try to escape from the open gate whenever we briefly prop it open to haul out boxes. It is a great game for them. I wonder whether they feel how the game helps increase my anxiety.

Moving creates madness. Each new day seems to bring more frenzied activity and chaos. Routines are disrupted. It is the perfect moment for a pet to escape.

So how can we make the moving process safer for our pets? Here are a few tips:

1. Make sure the pets have proper identification including a collar, a tag, and a microchip that is properly registered.
2. Take current photos of the pets and keep them with you.
3. Have your veterinarian prepare a Health Certificate that documents your pet’s current vaccinations and any health issues.
4. Get an extra supply of any prescription medications your pet may need as well as a copy of their medical records to take with you.
5. Ask your veterinarian to prescribe a mild sedative to give your pet before long trips, or try an alternative to sedation such as a pheromone collar (DAP or Feliway) or a few drops of a Bach Flower Rescue Remedy.
6. Long before beginning to move, make sure your pet is comfortable being confined to a carrier or a crate and knows how to wear a harness or a leash.
7. If traveling by airline, be sure to call the carrier several times on different days before your flight leaves. Confirm the rules for flying with your pet. Carriers have been known to frequently change their rules for shipping pets and you don’t want to get caught by surprise change at the airport.
8. Make a reservation at a good pet day care facility or boarding facility. Your pet may be safer there on the day the moving truck arrives.
9. When you arrive at the new location, do NOT let your pets near the outside doors for several days. They may try to bolt out the door. Now is the time to confine them to one room of the new house or to a crate. Use a DAP or Feliway diffuser in the room where you confine the pets, to help calm them in their new location.

And when the madness seems particularly chaotic, stop and take your pet for a walk. It will do you both good. It will help you both say goodbye to old familiar surroundings and become familiar with your new surroundings.

Bon Voyage!

Cat Talk

Posted on
Cat Talk

Does your cat talk?  If so, what does he say when he is hungry? “Meow?”  What does she say when scared?  “Hiss?” When she is happy does her motor go, “Purr?”   Compared to a parrot who might actually be able to speak hundreds of words, or a dog who might know a hundred words,  the verbal vocabulary of a cat is limited.  That isn’t to say that cat’s aren’t intelligent or that they cannot communicate.

Cat’s have a rich non-verbal  vocabulary.  The classic “Halloween” cat image communicates much about its attitude..  When a cat arches its back, fluffs its tail, flattens its ears, and opens it mouth, you had best beware!  It is likely safer to pet a cat that displays a softer posture, with half-opened eyes and erect ears.

Cats also communicate with chemical signals.  Special glands on their heads and on their paws emit an odor (a pheromone) that we mere humans cannot appreciate.  When a cat smells this scent, it has a calming effect on the cat.  The makers of a product called Feliway synthesized this pheromone and sell it in spray bottles and room diffusers.  It really works.  If you spray it inside a cat carrier before traveling, many cats will relax.  Room diffusers of Feliway will usually calm cats who are anxious about strangers or new surroundings.  I often install Feliway diffusers in the cat rooms at animal shelters and spray the towels I use in exam rooms.

Felines also communicate by marking with urine.  Yes urine.  Both female and male cats will “spray.”  The more cats in the household, the more likely one of the cats will start marking on walls, rugs, couches, and beds with spritzers of urine.  There is nothing more appalling to an owner than to come home and discover that the cat urinated on the pet owner’s bed or in their shoes.

What is the cat trying to say by gifting us with urine?  Many owners wrongly assume their cat is spiteful for some perceived wrong.  But cats have other non-verbal ways of showing anger or fear.  Cats that spray are simply saying, “Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine.”  The cats are claiming their territory, in a quiet, wet, and smelly fashion.  The tough part for cat owners to accept is that for a cat, communicating by spraying urine is normal behavior.  It is just as normal as meowing, hissing, or purring.  If you punish your cat for spraying, the cat will spray more because you obviously didn’t understand the message.  They will just try again and again, until they think the message has been sent.

So what can you do if you think one of your cats is spraying or marking in the house?  Begin by taking your cat to your veterinarian for an exam.  Let your vet first determine whether the cat has any underlying medical problems that might cause frequent urination that could be  mistaken for marking behavior.  Cats with kidney disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, or a urinary tract infection will sometimes urinate outside the litter box.  Cats that have developed an aversion to their litter box will also start voiding in inappropriate places.  (See my earlier blog on Cat Box Blues.)  If there are no medical issues involved, your veterinarian can prescribe an anti-anxiety medication such as fluoxetine (generic for Prozac)  to help your cat decrease its urge to communicate in this way.

For more information, visit these web sites:

http://www.feliway.com/us

http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/healthinfo/brocuhre_housesoiling.cfm

Dr. Spencer practices at Bayonet Point Animal Clinic in Port Richey, Florida.

www.BPAnimalClinic.com Please LIKE us on Facebook!

727-863-2435

 

 

Cat Box Blues

Posted on
Cat Box Blues

Thinking outside the box is generally regarded as a creative and rewarding activity. Unless it is your cat that is thinking outside his/her litter box. Feline litter box issues are the main reason cats either end up living totally outdoors or get surrendered to animal shelters. Best to prevent the problem if you can. If your feline friend has already decided that the litter box is out-of-bounds, here are a few tips that could help return the cat to the proper potty place.

How many litter boxes do you need? Veterinary behaviorists recommend you have one more litter box than you have cats. Yes, if you have three cats, you need four litter boxes! The boxes need not be all the same. Nor do they need to be in the same spot in your house. Some can be covered. Some can be open models. Many cats are fearful of the mechanical (self-cleaning) litter boxes, though, so don’t make this your only option.

What type of litter should you use? That’s simple. Use the type your cat prefers! Sometimes cats don’t like the feel or the smell of certain litters. To each their own. You might need to set up a kitty litter buffet to test which type your cat prefers for duty. You can do this by getting several cardboard soda flats from the store. Place a sample of different litters in each flat. You might try clay, recycled paper, corn cob, sand, some with odor crystals, some without, some pelleted, some clumping, etc. Paws down, your cat will accept the challenge and christen her preference. Not all boxes in the household need to have the same type of litter, however. If you have multiple cats you might offer a variety of litter types.

Where to place the litter box? You might know where you want the box. But your cat could have other ideas. Tucked away in the laundry room seems like the best spot for many households–until the cat is inside the box when the dryer alarm rings or the washer spins off-balance. Once the cat is startled in the privacy of her box, she may never return to that location. So pick some quieter, more private spaces. Next to the cat’s food and water bowl is not a prime choice either. If your cat is older, don’t make him climb the stairs to get to his box. Also get a low-sided box for cats that have arthritis symptoms. If your cat is already soiling the bathroom rug, you will need to put the litter box on top of the rug! Leave it there until the cat reliably uses the box on the rug, then gradually move the box an inch away each day until it is relocated in a more convenient place.

How often should you clean the litter box? Ideally you will scoop every day, each time the box is used. And you will empty the box and scrub it with soap and water at least weekly. Promise. Because if you don’t, you might later regret it. Cats are fastidious about odors and textures. If they need their box and it is already soiled or smells like bleach, they might decide to go elsewhere. Cat box liners are not recommended either. They might make your messy cleaning job easier, but cats typically don’t like the plastic feel in their space.

Remember, it is relatively easy to train dogs. For cats, just do what they want and everyone lives happily ever after.

Next time I’ll discuss what to do about cats that spray or mark objects (like your shoes) with urine. Spraying is a whole different cat problem that is not necessarily related to avoiding the litter box.

Have you ever experienced cat box blues in your household? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Dr. Spencer practices at Bayonet Point Animal Clinic in Port Richey, Florida

www.bpanimalclinic.com LIKE us on FaceBook!

727-863-2435