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Tag Archives: Cat Reproduction

Cats are like Potato Chips

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Cats are like Potato Chips

By Terry Spencer, DVM

Admit it. You have a couple of cats as pets. Maybe the cats live in the house full-time. Maybe the cats are indoor-outdoor models. Or maybe, you don’t really claim the cats; you just feed the cats every day outside your back door. Cats are like potato chips; you usually can’t have just one.

Having more than one cat to call your own is apparently the norm in America these days. In fact, according to many surveys of American pet ownership, more than 50% of the American public has a pet and most of those pets are cats. Who knew that the cat had replaced itself as a human’s best friend?

But if most of the pet-owning public owns at least one cat, where are they? More dogs than cats regularly visit veterinary offices. It seems that clients willingly bring their dogs for exams and veterinary care, yet leave the cats at home. If there are so many cats in the U.S, why don’t cats visit the veterinarian as often as do dogs?

Perhaps it is the dreaded chore of getting the cat into a carrier to travel to the veterinarian’s office? It is definitely a risky task to stuff an unwilling cat into a travel box. Cats have their ways of showing who the boss in the relationship is! The trick is to make the cat think he/she thought of the idea first. Here are some tips to convincing your cat that the carrier really is a safe place:

  • Regularly leave the carrier out for cats to explore. Cats like to play in most boxes and bags, why not the carrier?
  • Use the carrier as the daily feeding or treat dispensing station.
  • Store favorite cat toys in the carrier and encourage the cats to play in the carrier.
  • Spray the inside of the carrier with Feliway spray (an over-the-counter pheromone spray that calms cats).
  • Travel with your cats on short trips to places other than the dreaded vet’s office. Otherwise, cats quickly associate the carrier with trouble.

Or perhaps cats don’t visit the veterinarian as often because disease symptoms of cats are more subtle than in dogs. A dog will usually grab your attention and almost shout, “I am sick here!” Cat’s, on the other hand, gradually fade away. They are typically finicky eaters to begin with, can stay hidden for several days even if they feel well, sleep most of the day anyway, and hide their bathroom habits in a box that isn’t always cleaned daily. So a cat with decreased appetite, lack of energy, increased urination, or diarrhea might go unnoticed for several days.

Because cats are such masters at hiding their symptoms, it is very important to keep up with veterinary visits. A veterinary exam can detect feline diseases early, when those diseases are less expensive to treat. Your veterinarian will likely recommend blood tests because many feline diseases can only be detected that way. Blood tests can detect common cat diseases such as kidney disease, urinary track problems, thyroid disease, diabetes, heartworm infection, and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

The one thing that cats don’t need every year is vaccines. Cats do need protection from viral diseases, just not every year. Over vaccination of cats can result in life-threatening tumors, referred to as “Vaccine Associated Sarcomas.” Let your veterinarian be your guide for setting an appropriate vaccine schedule for the risks faced by your cats.

Cats do need other cost-effective preventions. Cats need microchips, flea control, regular deworming, heartworm prevention, dental care, and blood tests to keep them healthy. But of course, to get these preventions, your cat first has to go to the vet.

This week I examined a cat that hadn’t been to the vet in at least six years. The cat’s owner really loved this cat. The cat had been the companion to an ill husband for the past few years until the husband died. To the owner, the cat seemed like it was “getting old.” It was skinny, weak, and drinking a lot of water. In fact, the cat that used to weigh 10 pounds, now weighed only 4 pounds. Its heart was racing at over 200 beats-per-minute instead of the more normal 120 beats-per-minute. It’s gums were pale instead of pink, and it was dehydrated despite having a great thirst. The cat was old, but it was also in kidney failure and suffering from an over-active thyroid gland. It was hard to tell this client that age is not a disease. I wish I could have diagnosed this cat’s problems years earlier. But first, the cat would have needed to go to the vet.

Dr. Spencer practices at Bayonet Point Animal Clinic in Port Richey 727-863-2435

Kitten Season

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Kitten Season

It must be “kitten season” because the last four appointments kept me busy dealing with feline reproduction issues.

In Room 1:  A very cranky 9-month- old cat presents because last night she delivered 4 dead kittens.  The queen seems healthy as she swats my stethoscope with her razor-sharp claws.    I understand her irritability.  She went through 63 days of pregnancy and the attentions of a tom cat for this?  It is time to spay her so this can’t happen again. 

In Room 2:  A Good Samaritan found two orphaned kittens under her shed.   One is a male and the other is a female.  They weigh only 12 ounces each—so tiny!  But things don’t look so good for these kittens.  They are weak and refusing to eat.  They are covered with fleas, likely anemic, and have diarrhea.  Poor little orphaned babies.  Have to warm them, force feed them, and rid them of fleas fast!  What a way to start life. 

In Room 3:  A very pregnant recently adopted cat.   She has been hanging around the neighborhood for weeks.  Nobody claimed her until a young woman decided to take her in.  The ultrasound shows that all the fetuses are viable.  It is too late to vaccinate now.  Will just test the queen to be sure she is negative for feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus, and feline heartworm disease.  It will be an ethical dilemma to deal with if she tests positive. 

In Room 4:  A new kitten.  Someone was giving away free kittens in front of the grocery store.  Isn’t he cute?  But now he needs vaccines, deworming, flea control, heartworm prevention, treated for ear mites, and neutered.  The free kitten no longer looks like such a good deal to the adopters.  They cannot afford the medical care needed to keep the kitten healthy.   Nothing in life is ever free, especially when it is a very young pet or a very old pet. 

I think of myself as the “spay/neuter Nazi” on days like this.  Each of these cats is suffering because of lack of sterilization.  I’ve done my fair share of sterilization surgeries to try and prevent tragedies like these.  Last year I personally sterilized more than 5000 cats and dogs.  But they just keep coming.  I am on a mission to help my clients sterilize their pets before they can reproduce. 

Did you know that intact female cats all go “in heat” together?  Their reproductive cycles are tied to daylight cycles.  As the days begin to lengthen, cats go into season!  And, they stay “in season” until they are bred.  Unlike dogs, cats only ovulate when they are bred.  Then they carry the fetuses for 63 days, give birth, and go back into season.  Each queen can produce about three or four litters during a “kitten season.”  That is a lot of kittens!  I better get busy in surgery….

Dr. Spencer practices at Bayonet Point Animal Clinic in Port Richey     727-863-2435