Friday, April 30, 2010

Feline Foraging Toys - Easy, Fun And Effective!

You don't have to make your own foraging toy like the article here describes - they sell variations on this at major pet stores.


What's important to remember is that all cats, including the Domestic Shorthair have their own specific needs and motives behind their behavior. A key part of that, is keeping in mind that cats need stimulation to satisfy their minds, and their prey drive. You won't find too many folks talking about that. By contrast, the prey drive of a dog is a topic of higher precedence in my experience. Is it because dogs are larger, more likely to inflict damage or to kill because of their size... or that they spend more time out with us in a social setting? Perhaps.


Are there things that we can do to help cats live to their full potential? Yes! Stimulating experiences are important. An environment that is engaging - fun cat toys, cubbys to play in, interaction from their people - and foraging toys. You see, cats are wired to hunt for their food - their prey drive. They like to do it. Most toys have only half of the equation right for keeping felines happy as far as the need to hunt - but there is nothing to show for their work. They need to get the food in the end.

I have a fun and easy solution: Foraging toys. (Ever see a dog with a Kong? Same principle.) These unique tools help cats to utilize their instinctive skills. Foraging toys are easy enough to make at home, for free... and you can recycle at the same time! I made a new one today out of a recycled sports drink bottle and filled it with a ration of cat food, treats and maybe a little catnip to spark interest. Just set it on the floor, get their attention and there you go. Simple enough, right?

You can use empty, clean water bottles, and even plastic pop bottles with secure lids are good choices - having a variety of toys to rotate each week is helpful. Simply ream out holes big enough for food and treats to trickle out as your kitty bats the toy around. Initially, choose clear vessels so that they can see the goodies inside and have a chance to get accustomed to how it works.


Maybe I should try this on my own cats. I just gave Boochi a crumpled foil ball, which used to be one of his favorite toys when he lived at the clinic. He looked at me like I was crazy and walked away. Sigh.

Click on the link to read the whole article.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Help Your Cat Live All 9 Lives

AVMA has a new podcast in conjunction with the CATalyst Council, which was founded in response to the current lack of medical care provided to too many pet cats.


Help Your Cat Live All 9 Lives

In 2006, owners took their dogs to veterinarians more than twice as often as cats. To address this discrepancy in care, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) released their Feline Life Stage Guidelines. These guidelines provide health care recommendations specific to the various life stages of cats and offer strategies to help veterinarians address common stressors and work more successfully with anxious cats. In this podcast, Dr. Jane Brunt, past president of the AAFP and executive director of the CATalyst Council, talks about these new guidelines and the importance of bringing your cat to the veterinarian … even when she doesn’t appear to be sick.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Eliminating E. Cuniculi In The Household

I found this enlightening article about the rabbit parasite Encephalitozoon cuniculi (say THAT three times real fast) over at Worms & Germs. It fits right in with my recurring theme of zoonotic diseases on this blog. I suppose if I were smart I would just post links to Scott's blog all day long and save myself the trouble of writing anything at all. He's always informative and often entertaining.

The Dr. Gayle take-home message: if you have bunnies, don't eat bunny poop, and wash your hands after handling them. If you are immunosuppressed, wash again (or reconsider the whole bunny thing).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cat's Treatment Inspires Owner To Help CSU Center

Most of you know that I went to veterinary school at Colorado State University. One of my professors there, and one of my favorites, was Dr. Steve Withrow. He was an internist with a special interest in veterinary oncology, which was in its infancy at that time (I know, I'm dating myself). He went on to do great things in the field of animal cancer treatment, such as developing limb-sparing treatment for appendicular osteosarcoma (a deadly cancer of the long bones of the legs which is primarily a canine problem).

Well, now he has gone and pioneered this treatment in a cat (who admittedly had the good fortune to belong to a founder of Cisco Systems).

The end result is a happy owner, a happy cat, and probably lots of money to fund more good works by my alma mater. I'm gonna have a glass of wine in quiet celebration.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rabies-Infected Feral Cats Attack Humans (Volusia, FL)

Just a reminder about being careful around the neighborhood stray cats, who are more active and aggressive this time of year due to the breeding season........there appears to be a significant rabies problem developing in the strays in Volusia, FL according to this piece on

We recommend rabies vaccination for ALL cats regardless of lifestyle or housing. This is in keeping with the position of CDC and WHO. Your housecat can easily get outside and have unplanned contact with feral strays, and we DO still have rabid bats all over L.A.County that can spread the disease to other species.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Emergency Phone Outage Today

This afternoon our phone lines are down because the AT&T repair idiot working on our neighbor's phone outage managed to completely sever OUR phone line and remove the junction box altogether, and then he disappeared. We have called AT&T to get our own repair idiot out tomorrow (Wednesday). In the meantime, you can reach me at 818-xxx-xxxx (my cell). Sorry for the inconvenience.

Alison is in the process of trying to get the CMVC number forwarded to her own cell phone while I am down at Starbucks stealing their internet to type this.

UPDATE: The phone guy (NOT an idiot) came out late this afternoon to fix the severed phone lines. I guess AT&T figured that, since they were responsible for the outage, it would be wise to correct the problem sooner rather than later.

On the up side - we now know how to forward the clinic main phone line to a cell phone.

Eye Problem Basics

One of the more common complaints I see cats for is eye trouble. The underlying cause may be infectious (viral or bacterial) or mechanical (traumatic injury, foreign body), but to my clients they all look pretty much the same: squinting, watering, redness. And our advice when a client calls is pretty much always the same, too: play it safe and get the cat in for an exam pronto.

This is one situation where "wait and see" in not a good idea. All too often, what starts out as a minor eye irritation can rapidly lead to devastating complications and ultimately permanent vision loss or even loss of the entire eye. A minor herpesvirus infection in a Persian cat, for instance, is likely to lead to corneal ulceration if not treated aggressively.

Cats that spend time out-of-doors are susceptible to a wider variety of eye problems, including foreign body (grass awns) and fight wounds from other cats' claws or even teeth. But housecats can also develop serious eye problems.

When in doubt, always get your cat's eye problems evaluated sooner rather than later.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Snowball Is Going Home To Oregon

Sometimes lost kitty stories have happy endings, as in this story from the Philadelphia Daily News:

"The pet cat, who was born in Elizabethtown, Ky., got lost from his owners in Syracuse, N.Y., last summer.

"He was found on the street in Syracuse by a young woman coming to Philadelphia to college.

"She brought him with her but couldn't keep him after the move and gave him to a friend here.

"The friend also decided to move and had to surrender Snowball to the Morris Animal Refuge in Center City.

"Now, thanks to the shelter and the modern miracle of microchipping, Snowball is flying off in his cat carrier Friday to Portland, Ore., to be reunited with his original owner, a 10-year-old girl named Raven with whom Snowball used to sleep every night......"


Last spring we reunited TWO lost cats with their owners because they had microchips when brought in by good samaritans. My own cats are microchipped in case they ever get outside and wander away, and I STRONGLY recommend it for all cats.

We use the ResQ chip by Bayer which uses the universal standard technology so it can be read by various scanners. Our scanner reads ResQ and AVID chips (and others, IIRC). Currently we charge $80 if the microchip is placed while the cat is awake (because of the need for sedation/pain medication - it uses a BIG needle) and $55 if we place it while the cat is being sedated/anesthetized for another procedure. The price includes lifetime registration with Petlink, but it is the owner's responsibility to keep their contact information with Petlink current (they have a user-friendly website).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

And Now, For The Cat Owner Who Has Everything!

We all know the cat parents who spare no expense, who buy every cat toy and trinket and doodad and treat they can get their hands on, and when it's time to give them a gift, well, what the heck does one DO? now has the perfect gift for the cat owner with everything: the Control-A-Cat Remote Control. $6.99, and NO batteries required!

I gotta get me one.

Lumps & Bumps

An interesting case came in today - the 15-year-old medium-haired cat had developed an elongated "lump" along its back. Being conscientious people, the cat's owners brought it in for me to evaluate.

Lumps and bumps in cats come in all types. We commonly see harmless little mast cell tumors, basal cell tumors, and sebaceous ademonas. And then we can also see less common but much more dangerous squamous cell carcinomas, fibrosarcomas, undifferentiated sarcomas, mammary tumors, and the very deadly sweat gland carcinoma. Then there are all the lumps that are NOT tumors: the abscesses, developing fly larvae called Cuterebra and Wohlfartia, ear hematomas, scabs due to various allergic reactions, and matted fur.

Fortunately for my patient this morning, her problem was the last on that list. I got out the electric clippers and whisked it off in just a couple of minutes (it WAS rather large and tightly matted to the skin). Kitty allowed me to give her back a few good run-throughs with the shedding comb, and was good to go.

Unfortunately, for every easy non-problem like this that I see when the appointment book says "check lump", there are a dozen that need action of a more serious sort. Because so many skin lumps in cats can be dangerous malignancies, I tend to be pretty aggressive with their removal. And of course if it's worth removing, it's worth sending to the laboratory for a proper pathological analysis and diagnosis.

I always try to remove suspicious lumps sooner rather than later. Depending on the location, size can be a major factor in whether or not we can successfully remove the whole thing. It's uncommon for me to take a wait-and-see approach on anything larger than .5-1.0 cm.

If you have noticed any skin (or subcutaneous) masses in your cat, please get them checked. These days with digital photography it's a simple matter to photograph lumps for future comparison purposes. And if there is anything at all suspicious about it, no matter how small and insignificant it might seem to you, we may need to act swiftly to save your cat's life.

A Garden For Your Cat?

Spring is officially here, and the internet is full of articles about gardening. Los Angeles Times had this piece about square foot gardening (a technique well suited for small city lots), and First Lady Michelle Obama has started planting in the White House garden again.

I know, I know, this sounds like it has NOTHING whatsoever to do with cats, but bear with me for a moment.

There is at least one thing you can plant in your garden for your cat that I can enthusiastically recommend: catnip. I have grown fresh catnip in the past for my own cats, and it was a BIG hit. This perfectly safe plant is a mild euphoric, but the effects last only about 15 minutes. Some cats don't react to it at all (it's genetic), but most really enjoy it. The dried organic catnip available at the pet store is fine, but fresh is a real treat. I have heard that transplanted catnip seedlings have a lot more of what cats like than plants grown from seed, so buy the young plants at a nursery.

One word of caution - if your cat goes outside, you may find that it rolls all over the catnip plant and eventually kills it with love (ask me how I know this), so a wire protective cage might be warranted. You can also grow it in a pot or planter.

Now on to something that you should NOT plant for your cat: "cat grass". This is a very coarse grass that can be highly irritating to the gastrointestinal tract and cause unnecessary vomiting and diarrhea. I also have seen at least one cat choking on the grass, and there are published reports of the grass blades being inhaled and causing very dangerous (and costly to treat) complications.

If you have a weird cat like my Eddie was, you may find it likes raw spinach. Bloomsdale Longstanding is a savoy or curly-leaf heirloom variety that is almost crunchy when fresh. Eddie would always try to steal a leaf or two when I picked it so I would let him chew on it (he was mostly playing and not eating). He never vomited any of it, so I consider it safe in small amounts.

Happy gardening! And if you wind up with too many tomatoes this summer, I am always available to take your oversupply.