Indoor vs. Outdoor Cats-What are the risks?

A subject of much controversy is whether to let cats roam free outside. For now, let’s focus on the welfare of the cats themselves. Of course cats are safer inside a home but I believe they live healthier lives having the benefit of fresh air and exercise. Because of this I have built an enclosure for my cats to safely enjoy the outdoors but I have one cat, Chuck, who cannot, for many reasons, be kept inside at all times. I know that I am taking a risk letting him outside, although he is not allowed out after dark. If you are thinking of letting your cat go outside or feel guilty when your cat wants to go outside, please know the risks.

cat stories

  • Lifespan: Free roaming cats generally live 2-3 years; cats kept inside can live up to 16 years or longer.
  • Cars: Cars are the number 1 killer of cats. Approximately 50% of all free roaming cats are killed in car accidents. 80% of all major traumas seen at emergency clinics are the result of being hit by cars. In addition, in cold weather cats will crawl under the hood of cars to stay warm. Severe injury results when someone not knowing the cat is in there turns on the car.
  • Disease: Cats outside are exposed to many diseases, many of which may be fatal; among them; FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus), FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis. All of these diseases are transmitted from cat to cat.
  • Poisons: Cats can get into poisonous chemicals. Bait used to kill rodents; treated lawns and anti-freeze are commonly used in all neighborhoods. Cats are especially attracted to the taste of anti-freeze and only a few licks are enough to kill a cat.
  • Other animals: Raccoons, other cats, dogs, skunks and coyotes, etc. are all animals that will attack cats. This may even happen on your own property!
  • Parasites: Some of the parasites that cats can contract from being outdoors are: Fleas, tapeworms, ear mites, roundworms as well as other internal parasites. Many cats suffer from allergies and skin irritations due to these parasites. While treatments are available for these, they can be costly, involve chemicals and be unpleasant to your cat.
  • Injury: Free roaming cats can suffer from ear and eye injuries, abscesses, broken bones and many other injuries. Many cats are not able to make it back home and may die on their own. Cats can caught in deadly steel leg hold traps and perish from this.
  • Human abuse: Sadly cats may suffer abuse, may be used in dogfights or hurt by other methods. Neighbors who are not cat lovers may be annoyed by them and take matters into their own hands. People have been known to trap cats and take them to another location.

It’s not a perfect world and we need to do the best we can to keep our cats safe. Feel free to contact me for suggestions on keeping your cat happy inside or building a safe, open air cattery. Your cat will thank you!

 

Nail and Foot Care for Cats

I just got 3 beautiful foster kittens to take care of and the second thing I noticed (after seeing their gorgeous faces) was the size of their paws! The largest kitten who I am calling Mittchell because he has such large mitts – has 7 toes on each of his front paws – 3 thumbs – and an extra toe on each of his back feet. He has 24 toes instead of the normal 18 toes and is what is called a polydactyl cat. This is a natural mutation that occurs in many cats. Many sailors thought that polydactyl cats were extra good luck but mostly people love them because they are so adorable!

nail_and_foot_care_for_cats

 

The polydactyl kitten or cat needs extra attention paid to those nails to make sure they do not grow into the pad. Healthy mobile animals will naturally wear down their nails; although many will need an occasional nail trim. Depending on your pet, trimming nails may be done at home by you, by a groomer or by a vet tech in your vet’s office. Go slow and be gentle as some animals may be very sensitive to having their feet handled for a number of reasons so give treats afterwards as a reward. Here’s some advice on healthy foot care for your cat:

 

 

Pay attention to:

  • The length of all nails. Some nails are hidden and easily forgotten about but when overgrown and growing into the pad, can be the source of much pain. Take action to keep nails trimmed and well away from growing onto the pad. If you are not comfortable doing this, ask for assistance or request lesson on how to do this. Going slow at first and only doing a few nails at a time is a good way to get both you and your kitten or cat used to this procedure.
  • The base of the nails. Is there infection, dirt or fungus present? Is there a bad smell? Healthy feet should not smell bad! Consult with your veterinarian if any of the above are present.
  • The pads of the feet. Are they dry and cracked, or red and painful? Cats with very furry feet that stay constantly damp from going outside in wet weather are more at risk for infections. Sometimes simply keeping the hair trimmed and the feet dry will help alleviate problems. If you live in a snowy area make sure your cat’s feet are free from ice that can collect between the toes.

To keep those nails healthy and to promote good scratching habits, always offer your kitten or cat an appropriate place to scratch. Cat scratchers made from sisal, cardboard or even a log from outside will keep your kitten or cat from using things such as furniture and/or carpet.

Start training your kitten or cat from an early age and redirect them to something more appropriate when they chose something you do not wish them to scratch on. Now go and enjoy the cuteness of those precious little cat feet!

 

What Anyone Taking Care of your Pet Should Know and Have

Going away on vacation or holiday this summer? Want to make sure your pet is properly cared for in the case of an emergency and you have to leave home quickly? Giving important information to the person caring for your cat or kitten can mean peace of mind for you and a safe and enjoyable time for your pet. Take time to fill out the checklist below and give a copy to your pet’s caretaker. You might also give another copy to a trusted neighbor and/or friend in the event your pet’s caretaker has an emergency or is unable to come as scheduled.

cat stories

What Anyone Taking Care of your Pet Should Know and Have:

  • A written description of your instructions with the most important information first. Pictures are very helpful if there are multiple pets. (Also if your pet becomes missing this will be helpful for making up flyers.) Household instructions should be written on another sheet.
  • An emergency phone number where you can be reached at all times. If you are unable
  • to be contacted is there someone else who can make decisions?
  • Does anyone else have a key to your home and will they be coming in?
  • What are your pet’s normal habits? Do they occasionally vomit? Miss a meal?
  • What foods can they be tempted with if they are not eating?
  • Where are their favorite hiding places? Do they ever sneak outside?
  • Who is your regular veterinarian?
  • Who provides medical emergency or after hours care?
  • What arrangements are in place for emergency care?
  • What are the financial arrangements for paying for emergency care?
  • Is there a monetary limit?
  • What are specific instructions as to what is to be done with your pet?
  • Do you want to be contacted if your pet passes away?

It is also a good idea to contact your veterinarian and let them know who will be caring for and possibly bringing your pet into the hospital. This is also a time to discuss financial arrangements and concerns older pet or one with health problems.

Now fly away, have a great time and imagine the wonderful reunion awaiting you when you return home!

Keeping Your Cat Hydrated

Throughout its life and especially as cats age, it is important that your cat stay well hydrated. Offering fresh water and feeding fresh and canned foods will help avoid dehydration and will encourage a healthy urinary system.

Ways of getting more moisture into your cat are:

  • Canned food or a balanced raw food diet
  • Cooked chicken or turkey breast with broth
  • Low fat plain yogurt
  • Organ meats such as heart, liver or kidneys given on occasion
  • Gizzards given on occasion
  • Steamed vegetables such as squash or broccoli. Grinding helps break down cellulose and make them more digestible.
  • Encouraging water consumption.

bumblefluids2

 

To encourage your cat to drink more water, provide plenty of cool fresh water at all times and drinking stations through out the house and outside. Many like to drink fresh running water and there are several different types of water fountains for cats on the market. Some can be suspicious of new things; so make sure you know they are drinking out of the fountain before removing the other water bowls. Filtered or spring water is a good idea to use as it may taste fresher. Do not use distilled water as it may actually flush needed minerals out of the body.

When possible, cater to your cats wishes for drinking (except out of the toilet.) Try different types of bowls; some prefer a really wide bowl or have a preference for glass, ceramic or stainless steel. Many will appreciate their own glass of water on the night table. (Use caution and/or plastic cups, as some cats have been known to knock over the glass in the middle of the night!)

One friend got her cat to drink more by floating his favorite treats in the water bowl. Another puts a few inches of clean water in her bathroom sink every morning. Think out of the bowl and provide your cat with plenty of opportunities to get more fluids!

Adding warm water or broth to your cat’s food is another good idea. Low sodium beef, chicken, vegetable broth or tuna water can be offered to supplement your cat’s fresh water. If you want to serve your cat low sodium soup, read the list of ingredients carefully, and do not serve it if the soup contains onion powder as this can harm red blood cells and can cause illness or even death.

At some point, your vet may recommend giving subcutaneous (SC) injections of sterile saline solution under the skin to support hydration and keep the kidneys flushed. Low potassium levels can be an issue and some vets will add potassium to the fluid bag for additional benefit. Vitamin B may also be added in case the cat may be deficient in this vitamin (due to poor appetite) and to help stimulate appetite. A trained veterinary technician can show you how to administer the fluids if you chose to do this at home.

Is Your Cat Ready for Spay/Neuter?

I recently posted an in-depth information on spay and neuter and was thinking to make it more simple, if you just want to determine if your cat is ready for the spay/neuter procedure. I prepared a short presentation with a quiz to help you determine if your cat is ready.

Just a disclaimer though, this is just based on my experience and the questions that vets have asked me before I had my cats spayed/neutered. This should only give you an idea whether your cat is qualified for spay/neuter procedure as these are the common questions vets ask before your cat can undergo the procedure. I will still defer to your vet’s professional advice :).

Spay Neuter Wizard

Spay and Neuter Up Close : An Overview of the Procedure And Its Benefits To Our Pets

A spayed cat is a happy cat.
A spayed/neutered cat is a happy cat.

I’m a strong supporter of spay/neuter programs. For a developing country such as the Philippines, spay/neuter is a concept that is surprisingly not too common to the people. Taking the breeders out of the equation, based on my observation, there are 2 major reasons why this practice is not deemed common in the society. One is religion. For some people, it doesn’t feel right to desex their pets and taking their rights to reproduce.  And secondly, its just that not a lot of people know about it. I was even surprised to meet a person that thought spay/neuter only applies to dogs – but not cats. It is the lack of education on responsible pet ownership.

On a brighter note, spay/neuter is increasingly becoming popular in the last few years due to huge efforts of several non-government animal welfare organizations, funded by private citizens and volunteers. Ever since I rescued my first cat, Nishi, I have been a strong supporter of spay/neuter campaigns. I encouraged everyone that I know and acquaintances to the best that I can, to spay/neuter their pets, to the point that I have sponsored several people that I have convinced, and some that just didn’t have the means to do the operation in their beloved pets.

Setting my moral reasons aside why I support spay/neuter programs, I’d like to shed some light in the procedure itself, based on research and vets that I have consulted. There are a number of people that are hesitant to do the procedure to their pets because they do not have a clear idea what they are putting themselves, and their pets in to. I felt the same way too when I had Nishi spayed. I was afraid because I didn’t know. But knowledge is power, and gave me peace of mind. So here’s spay/neuter in details.

Nice to Know : Neuter or Cat Castration (for male cats)

  • Castration or Neuter procedure is performed when the cat is at least 5-6 months old.
  • Operation is performed with general anesthetic.
  • Pet is given an injection of antibiotic to prevent infection, and also a dose of pain killer.
  • Pet wakes up withint 30-60 minutes after the operation is finished. Note that they will be groggy and sort of disoriented – but worry not. This is a normal reaction. They will usually be groggy for the rest of the day.
  • Neuter procedure is a common procedure. You can bring home your pet and care for him the same day of the operation.
  • In rare cases, the vet will not allow you to take your cat home if your cat is still too sleepy and you may be asked to have your pet stay in the clinic overnight for observation. Your cat has too be 100% awake and responsive.
  • Your pet must be confined in the house for a few days to recover, until he’s fully coordinated. Neuter healing process is quite fast, to be honest. The cat is usually back in his old self as early as in 3 days.
  • After the operation, just offer small amount of food and water to your cat. Some animals may vomit after anesthetic, so just give them small amount of food until the next morning.
  • The cat will just have 2 small incisions and there will be small swelling around this area.
  • Your cat will want to lick the wound, but prevent it as much as possible as it may bleed. If it’s uncontrollable, put a cone of shame (Elizabethan collar).
  • You can clean the wound once a day with betadine or saline (1 tsp salt + cup cooled boiled water), and then let it dry.

Nice to Know : Spaying (for female cats)

  • Spaying operation should be performed when the cat is at least 5-6 months old.
  • It is recommended that your cat is spayed before it hits her first heat cycle. It is best to perform the operation on immature stage.
  • It is not recommended to undergo spaying procedure when the cat is currently in heat. Heat cycle usually last for a week, so you need to wait until the cycle has passed before you schedule a spay operation.
  • Procedure is performed under general anesthetic.
  • The vet will make an incision either on the side or on the abdomen. The most common practice is in the abdomen.
  • In a spay procedure, the ovaries and uterus are removed.
  • The incision is closed usually by an absorbable sutures in the muscles and under the skin, and non-absorbable sutures on the skin. The sutures are usually short and small, not too scary.
  • Pet is given an injection of antibiotic to prevent infection, and also a dose of pain killer.
  • Pet wakes up withint 30-60 minutes after the operation is finished. Note that they will be groggy and sort of disoriented – but worry not. This is a normal reaction. They will usually be groggy for the rest of the day
  • Spay procedure is a common procedure. You can bring home your pet and care for her the same day of the operation.
  • In rare cases, the vet will not allow you to take your cat home if your cat is still too sleepy and you may be asked to have your pet stay in the clinic overnight for observation. Your cat has too be 100% awake and responsive.
  • Your pet must be confined in the house for a few days to recover, until she’s fully coordinated. Avoid jumping and strenuous activities for a week. Unlike neuter, spay procedure is more delicate that requires more recovery time for female cats.
  • After the operation, just offer small amount of food and water to your cat. Some animals may vomit after anesthetic, so just give them small amount of food until the next morning.
  • There will be swelling around the sutures which is normal, and may sometimes induce inflammatory reaction. As long as there’s no discharge or puss, and your pet have a good appetite and in her normal behavior, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
  • Your cat will want to lick the wound, but prevent it as much as possible as it may bleed and remove the sutures.  If it’s uncontrollable, put a cone of shame (Elizabethan collar).
  • You can clean the wound once a day with betadine or saline (1 tsp salt + cup cooled boiled water), and then let it dry.

Some information and advantages of neutering/spaying your pet:

  1. Neutering your cat will prevent unfavorable behaviors like spraying urine and marking territories.
  2. Spaying your cat will avoid the messy heat cycle. Your female cat will no longer annoyingly meow ever so loudly to call for mates attention.
  3. It prevents aggression with other cats.
  4. Eliminates the possibility of having breast and ovarian (female), prostrate or testicular (male) problems that can lead to cancer.
  5. The desire of getting out and roam will be lessened because there’s no more urge to find mates. Thus, there will be less chances that your cat can get lost, get in to a fight outdoors, or worst, get hit by a car.
  6. Neutering/spaying your pet doesn’t alter his/her personality.
  7. Neutering/spaying your pet doesn’t make your pet fat. It’s always the diet that makes the cat fat. Applicable to humans. True story.

Special thanks to Ms. Rhea Asumen of VILLAGE VET Veterinary Surgery and Services in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, Philippines, for providing the information shared in this blog entry.

 

Cat Eating Grass/Plants – Is This Normal?

I’m sure you have wondered at least once why cats like to nibble on green leafy plants. Cats are known to be obligate carnivores, but sometimes, they just have cravings for something fresh and greeny.

Sylvia, eating my skinny flowering plant in the balcony.
Sylvia, eating my skinny flowering plant in the balcony.

My mom said that cats (and even dogs) eat grass when they feel indigestion or abdominal pain. She said it’s their form of self medication. Reading through a number of articles online about cats eating grass or plants, it seems that my mom’s theory is very close to what cat experts say about this cat behavior.

While it may look weird that your cat likes to be a goat at times, it’s totally normal for cats to nibble on plants or grass. There are theories that when a cat have indigestion, they eat grass or leafy plants. Cats don’t have the enzymes to break down vegetables (explains why they are obligate carnivores) so by eating grass, it sort of invokes vomiting and thus removes the undigested items in their digestive track. Eating grass also helps them puke out hairballs.

Eating grass does not only benefit the cats by puking, but also helps cats remove undigested particles that has already passed the stomach and is in their intestines  – a form of laxative to poop them out.

MMY_1297
Up close and personal : Sylvia enjoys green leafy snack.

So in general, if your cat likes to nibble on plants or grass, you need not to worry – this is perfectly normal. Just be aware that there are plants that are toxic to cats. If you have cats who like to nibble on plants, make sure you keep plants at home that are non-toxic. You can get a comprehensive list of what are the toxic and non-toxic plants for cats from ASPCA website. It would also be beneficial if you get them their own “cat grass” so they stay away from your beautiful indoor plants :).

grass

Playing With Your Cats – A Good Exercise

Cats, specially elder ones may seem to like to be left alone in their own little world, doing their own thing such as eating when they want, sleeping as much as they want, napping on odd places, or just staring blankly by the window. But it is also quite important, specially for indoor cats, to have physical activities as their exercise.

Sunday playtime annoying my cats in their cat condo.
Sunday playtime annoying my cats in their cat condo.

As much as I love chunky cats (they are so adorable and cuddly!), I am on the other hand tend to get paranoid on the side effects of overweight in cats. Just like in humans, it isn’t healthy. There are a number of factors that affects cat weight which is almost always their diet – what kind of dry/wet food we give them, how much grain does it contain and what not. And although we can always control how much food we give them, it would be nice if you can also push them to do some workout. OK, cats are their own masters so there’s no pushing that’s going to happen, that’s for sure. But what I mean is, we, as their humans, can stimulate activities for them.

To exercise my cats, I have 2 favorite tools : Cat ribbon and a laser pen. The cat ribbon is just an improvised thing. It’s just a long ribbon I tie at the end of stick and just wave it around like a gymnast – and when I have enough energy, I run around the house with it so they can chase me.  And if i don’t have the energy to run around with them, I use a laser pen. It’s quite tricky because not all cats get attracted to it, but it’s worth a try. 3 of my cats love it, but 3 of them don’t care much.  So still, my best tool is the ribbon.

Playing with Pan using a ribbon pompom. This was a gift from a friend that Pan loves to play with.
Playing with Pan using a ribbon pompom. This was a gift from a friend that Pan loves to play with.

A hanging cat toy with elastic is also a nice exercise tool. It pounces around so they tend to chase it and jump with it. The best part is, you can just leave it hanging on the door – saves you energy.

I’m not saying you exercise your cat everyday – we have tons of work lined up before us. But it is important to get them do some activities. So when you get a free time to spare, try playing with your cat even just for half an hour. I assure it’s not just them who will enjoy, but you too!

Cold Weather and Cats

It is the first winter of the Pupicats in Berlin. And although they are all indoor cats, I often ponder about outdoor cats and how they deal with the cold. My mother in law told me a story about their neighbor’s cat, who they often see outside, all night, in the cold. They felt so sorry for the cat that they built him a shelter in their backyard, in case the cat gets cold and can’t go in his own house. Aside from the obvious that this neighbor is an irresponsible pet owner, we don’t know the entire story why they often keep the cat locked out in the cold all night long. Although, I’ve heard that they think the cat, being an independent creature, can withstand cold because of its fur. That is not entirely true.

Cats may seem to be able to tolerate the cold weather in our eyes, because they don’t shiver like us, and they don’t normally demand for a sweater or a coat if they want to roam outside. But as any other domesticated animal, they have lost their wild instinct. They have lost that extra layer of fur or fats that they would have possibly developed if they were born and raised in the wild. And even so, they still can freeze and starve to death in the wild on cold/winter times if they don’t find a shelter. Their needs are basically the same as ours – get warm and dry. They may seem to get by cold weather outside better than us, but that doesn’t mean they are comfortable. If you let your cat out, make sure that he/she have an access back to the house in case you can’t wait for him/her anymore.

Bottom line, with or without snow, freezing or not, do not leave your cats outside the house. Just like you and me, they feel cold and lonely. They need warmth and a comfortable place to chill.

As for Sylvia, being a summer loving cat used to the tropical weather, here’s how she’s coping:

editedSylviaMuff