Category Archives: Cat Health

Cats and FLUTD – what is it?

Healthy Male Kitten

Kitty

Cats and Urinary Tract Problems – What is FLUTD?

Basic Anatomy and Physiology

The urinary tract system is responsible for the creation, storage and elimination of urine. It comprises of the two kidneys which filter and clean the blood, forming urine by removing excess water and waste products. The two ureters are tubes which transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder. The bladder stores urine until it is voided. The urethra is a single tube structure which originates from the bladder and transports the urine to the outside.

What is FLUTD you might ask… Feline Urinary Tract Disease formerly known as Feline Urologic Syndrome is a group of clinical symptoms relating to your cats lower urinary system. Sometimes it may be called a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) There may also be numerous causes of the disease as well.

Feline Urinary Tract Disease is seen more often in middle aged to senior cats. FLUTD is rarely diagnosed in animals younger than one year, the average age is typically four years. A UTI usually occurs when the usually sterile urinary tract is colonised by bacteria or viruses. The common bacteria types found to cause infections are E. Coli, Staphylococcus spp, Steptococcus spp and Proteus spp. Some studies have suggested that 10% of senior cats with or without urinary blockages have the presence of bacteria in their urine.

Causes

FLUTD usually occurs spontaneously and the cause may be unknown. The causes could be many, see the list below. Other factors which may cause FLUTD can include obesity, too much acidity or alkalinity of the urine, dehydration or a diet high in magnesium or other minerals. On the other hand Idiopathic Lower Urinary Tract Diseases can occur without significant signs of bacteria or white blood cells in the urine.

Stones, crystals or debris accumulation (mucous or cells) in the bladder or urethra

Interstitial Cystitis (painful bladder syndrome)

Calicivirus
Gamma Herpesvirus
Urethral plug accumulation of debris from urine
Bladder inflammation or infection
Incontinence from excessive water drinking or weak bladder
Injury to or tumor in the urinary tract
Stress
Spinal cord problems
Congenital abnormality
Cancer
Male cats who have had a perineal urethroscopy
Cats who have been catheterised

Other conditions which may lead to Lower Urinary Tract Problems

Male cats are generally more prone to urethral blockages because of their narrrow urethras. Female cats are at a higher risk of infection due to their shorter urethra as bacteria descending from the perineum are the greatest cause of urinary tract infections in cats.

Cats who hold onto urine for too long are at greater risk of infection, the cause may be poor weather, dirty litter trays, poor location of litter tray and different types of litter materials

Endocrine diseases such as hyperthyroidism
Diabetes mellitus can cause lower urinary tract problems in cats due to the fact that glucose and protein in the urine, along with lowered immune response can produce a favourable environment for bacterial growth

Symptoms

Inability to urinate or only passing small amount of urine

Bloody or cloudy urine

Loss of bladder control, dribbling urine

Straining and/or crying in pain when trying to pass urine

Prolonged squatting in litter box

Strong odor of ammonia in urine

Lethargy

Vomiting

Increased water consumption

Hard and distended abdomen

Frequent or painful urination

Frequent licking of the urinary opening

Discomfort when petted

Urinating outside of the litter tray

If the cause of these symptoms cannot be determined then the cat may be considered to have bladder inflammation otherwise known as cystitis.

Diagnosis

A diagnosis is usually reached by eliminating other disorders. Obstructions such a Kidney stones and other disorders are usually eliminated first. Diagnostics such as urinalysis, blood tests, xrays and scopes may be used to detect obstructions and determine the presence of bacteria or parasites for example. The cat will be physically examined and a history of behavior leading to the visit will be obtained from the cat’s parents.

Treatment

If you suspect that your cat has any of the symptoms of FLUTD please visit your veterinarian immediately. It may be considered a medical emergency. Your vet will ask you questions and conduct a thorough physical examination including pathology and radio diagnostics. Depending on assessment and cause your cat may be treated as an out-patient or hospitalized.

Chronic blockages may require changes to the diet. Canned food which contains high levels of water is the usual dietary change recommended by veterinarians. Increased intake in drinking water is also recommended to flush the bladder of impurities.

Antibiotics may also be prescribed as treatment for bacterial and parasitic infections.

Treatment should provide and resolution to symptoms within 7 days. If you notice continuing signs and symptoms or new symptoms please notify the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Depending on the actual diagnosis treatments will differ. Treatments may include.

Antibiotics or other medication
Dietary changes
Recommended increase in water intake
Urinary acidifiers
Expelling of small stones through the urethra
Surgery to remove bladder stones or tumor or the correction of congenital abnormaliities
Urinary catheter or surgery to remove urethral blockage in male cats
Fluid therapy

Treatment of bladder stones may include a prescription diet which may help to dissolve stones. Large stones require surgical removal.

Encourage frequent hydration by replenishing water regularly.

Clean litter trays regularly.

Above all, be alert to changes in your cat’s behavior as prompt detection can result in a better outcome and or prognosis.

Switching  the cat from a dry diet to a wet diet either canned or raw which has a higher water content. This increases overall fluid consumption.

If left untreated complications may arise causing partial or complete obstruction of the urethra, this can prevent a cat from urinating. This is a medical emergency that can lead to Kidney failure and or rupture of the bladder, and can prove fatal if the obstruction is not removed.

Prevention

Depending on the cause and treatment, prevention may be as simple as being vigilant about your cat’s diet. Other ways which may discourage reappearance are;

Smaller meals more frequently

Commercial canned food – clean food bowls  regularly

Limit supplements

Provide plenty of fresh drinking water

Provide clean litter boxes

Limit events that may prove to be stressful to your cat

Cat Litter Tips

Kitten using Cat Litter Tray

Litter Tray for Cats

Keeping a well maintained Cat Litter Box will keep your cat very happy.

Cats are naturally clean animals, and that means their Kitty Litter just about assumes pride of place in their lives. Unlike dogs, cats instinctively toilet-train themselves. Even so, when setting up and maintaining their litter box and kitty litter, it’s important you get a few things right.

Location

Positioning of the cat litter box is the key to success. The first rule is to keep it separate to where your kitty eats and drinks. Cats usually prefer a quiet, private area to do their business, so placing it next to a noisy washing machine or somewhere with too much traffic won’t work. Make sure it’s always easily accessible, too. Your home may be filled with any number of ingenious hiding places for a litter box – but if you choose to store the box discretely, make sure it’s not hidden from your cat.

Double the Fun

If possible, have two litter boxes at home, particularly if you live in a two-storey house. After all, it makes sense. If your cat can’t get to one litter box, or isn’t comfortable using it for whatever reason, they can go somewhere else. Do you have more than one cat? Well don’t plan on them sharing a litter box. Some cats can accept this, but most definitely will not – and providing only one litter box will likely lead to “accidents” around the house.

If your cat spends most of its time outdoors then still provide a cat litter tray indoors just in case the cat is locked inside accidentally by other members of the household.

Your choice of Kitty Litter is also crucial, as many different types are available. Some are clay-based, some will clump when used and others look like crystals. Experiment with a few types to see which your cat prefers.

Change it up

Cats can be temperamental. They may have been content using their litter box for years, but don’t be surprised if one day they decide it’s no longer acceptable. First of all, consult your vet to rule out any underlying medical issues.

Dirty Work

Your feline friend appreciates a clean litter box and may get anxious if it’s dirty (or stop using it altogether). Scoop waste out of their litter at least daily or, even better, each time your cat uses it. How often you change the entire litter will depend on the type you use, so refer to the directions on the bag.

It also depends on how often your cat uses it. Indoor cats need their litter replaced more often that cats who sometimes do their business outside. Help your cat by refreshing their litter box and changing the type, if required.

References

Woolworths Pets Your Guide To Pet Care For Winter

Tips On How To Care For Senior Cats

Senior Cats Require Special Attention

Senior Cats Need Special Care

Elderly Cats require special care

Once your cat reaches about 10 years of age, it can be considered “senior”. As long as you monitor their health and address any issues early, you can still enjoy life together for many years to come.

Living an indoor life.

Indoor cats have been shown to live longer than their outdoor peers, as their exposure to dangers, such as traffic, is eliminated. As your cat slows and their ability to jump out of harm’s was decreases, it’s best to keep them indoors. It’s perfectly healthy for a cat to live like this, as long as they have plenty of mental stimulation, windows to look out of and patches of sun to curl up in. Their feeding and toilet areas should be kept clean at all times, too.

Be on the look out.

Arthritis is common in order cats, but they hide it well so you may not notice they are suffering from this painful condition. Keep items such as food, water, bedding and litter boxes low to the ground, or set up steps so they can still access their favourite elevated spots inside your home. If their coat looks dishevelled, they may have had trouble grooming. This is a big deal for cats, so help them with regular brushing. They may also have trouble keeping their claws short, particularly if they’re kept indoors, so ask your vet about how to groom them.

Consult with the experts.

Most changes in a cat’s behaviour will be normal signs of ageing, but others may indicate something more concerning. For example, kidney disease is very common in older cats. Increase your vet check-ups to twice a year as your cat ages, so you can pick up on issues early. Your vet may also recommend a change in diet, as specific foods are more suitable for senior cats.

Senior Cat Nutrition

The average life expectancy of a cat is 12-14 years. This varies widely depending on the breed, general lifestyle, and state of health and standard of care. Mature cats are classed as between 2-10 years old, while seniors are 10 years or older. It’s important to ensure that older cats get all the necessary nutrients to remain fit and healthy. Forming a close relationship with your cat will mean that you are more likely to be aware of any subtle changes to your cats’ diet, activities, sleeping patterns and medical problems.

Tip

An indoor cat’s typical life span is 12-18 years, but many make it into their early 20s

References

Woolworths Pets, Your Guide To Pet Care For Winter
http://insurance.woolworths.com.au/pet-care/cat

What Happens To My Cat If I Die?

What happens to my cat if I die?

What happens to my cat if I die?

What happens to my cat if I die? This is a question that we all ask ourselves every now and then. We may ponder this question for a moment, then put it out of our minds. It’s hard enough to face our own mortality let alone what happens to our cat or cats should something happen to us.

Have you prepared for your cat’s future without you?

Statistics tell us that only less than 50% of the population have a will in place and that only less than 2% of those that do, have also made provision for their pet/s. However, if prompted by their attorney to add provisions for a pet, this percentage increases to 90%. This means that those who are not prompted or unable to afford legal assistance in preparing their will, may fail to provide for their pets future care.

Statistics also tell us that we are an ageing population and as such 6.500 people die daily. However, it’s not just death that is an issue, as an ageing population we are also prone to illness, disease and accidents. This means that we still need to make plans for the provision of our cats’ care in the event of not only death but also illness. In neglecting to provide for our cat’s future we risk the chance that they become one of the 1.5 millions animals who are euthanized each year.

Where to start

It is important to be aware that, whether you can afford legal assistance or not there are ways to provide for your pet in case of death or illness. We discussed  the importance of collecting documentation regarding your cat’s care in another article. It is vital to have all of your cat’s vaccination certificates and other documentation for the future carer of your cat. While you are at it, write down a care plan for your cat, including all the things that a carer would need to know in order to carry out the care, and meet the needs of your cat.

The care plan should be documented in a trust, or pet protection agreement, if you have one of these and also kept with a copy of the will. If you have a carer identified then give a copy to them also.

Documentation

Here is a summary of documentation that you can prepare for your cat in the event of your death:

  • Veterinarian’s contact details
  • Recurring medical conditions
  • Medications
  • Spay/neuter certificate
  • Vaccination certificate
  • Microchip certificate
  • Registration number
  • Pedigree papers (if applicable)
  • Burial or cremation arrangements or preferences
  • Cattery
  • Pet insurance documentation

Care plan
 Kitty’s activities of daily living

  • Habits and idiosyncrasies
  • Favorite foods and treats, their brands and quantities
  • Exercise, does the cat walk on a leash?
  • Grooming requirements and favorite type of petting.
  • Whether or not the pet can eat table scraps
  • Behaviors – does your cat liked being picked up?
  • Behaviors – Is your cat terrified of thunder or fireworks?
  • Behaviors – does your cat hate other cats or dogs?
  • How to calm your cat if s/he becomes frightened or aggressive
  • Where they sleep – on the bed, on the floor, on a pillow in a box
  • Is car sickness an issue? Do you own a pet carrier?
  • Favorite play activities – chasing a ball of scrunched up foil
  • A piece of clothing with your scent on it, to provide comfort to your cat once you have passed away.

The Last Will and Testament

If you don’t have the financial means to get a will done by a lawyer at least get some advice before completing a last will and testament. Community centers sometimes provide free basic legal counselling which may assist. Inexpensive wills kits can be found, the internet is a great source of wills that can be saved, downloaded and printed out.

All that is required is a provision that leaves the cat or cats to a particular beneficiary. Money may be left for the care of the cat/s to the carer or another person who distributes it to a carer. There are a number of things to consider, firstly a will only protects the welfare of your cat if you die and not if you are hospitalized. Arrangements still need to be made in the interim as the estate may not be distributed for months after your death.

The money left to a person to care for your cat will also be paid out in a lump sum and there is no way of knowing if your wishes will be complied with, as you specified in the will. Once you create a last will and testament, ensure that you leave a copy with the executor/executrix as well as the documentation that they will need to pass on to your cat’s carer. If you have everything sorted and everyone in agreement and the chance of your will being contested is low, then this alternative may meet your needs.

Trusts

A trust is a legal structure into which you transfer an asset or the ownership of something into. You can transfer the ownership of your cat to a trust and specify the care, duties and finances however, you have to appoint a carer and trustee. The trustee will oversee the care and finances as stipulated in the trust deed. The trust can be created separately from the will and thus can apply in the event of illness or hospitalization. There are two types of trusts, the traditional trust and statutory trust.

Traditional pet trusts are valid in all states of America and can be included in Estate Planning or can be done separately, however as it requires professional legal assistance, and costs associated with set up and funding, it can work out to be expensive. That said, it can confer peace of mind as the appointed carer and trustee are legally bound to carry out your intentions.

The trust can be acted on whilst you are still alive, especially in the event of sudden illness or an accident. You can also specify how long it last and nominate a back up trustee and carer in the case that the original ones appointed should predecease your cat. You can also specify that any monies remaining in the trust after the death of the pet may be donated to a particular person or organisation. If you have the money and have someone to nominate as the trustee and carer then this seems to be the most legally efficient way to ensure the ongoing care of your cat for the rest of its life.

Statutory pet trusts are only valid in 46 states, at the time of writing. They offer protection however it may not be as legally rigorous as a traditional trust in withstanding attempts to contest the trust. A statutory pet trust is basic and may consist of a basic provision in a will. In any event it could be as simple as “I leave $$ in trust for the care of my cat”.

Aside from the statutory and traditional trusts which can be created there is the possibility of creating those trusts to take effect in the event of illness before death or after death. Both types are different in the way which they take effect, are funded and the speed with which your cat’s care can be assumed.

A trust can be set up to take effect once you die. This means that it is less expensive as it is funded essentially by your estate or benefits paid at your death to the estate, as provided for in your will. Because it doesn’t take effect until probate you have to consider the cat’s care in the interim.

A trust can be set up which takes effect in the event that you die or become incapacitated. This enables the elected trustee to control the situation, get the carer and administer funds as required. As mentioned above this is the more costly structure, as the trust needs to have funds allocated when it is created, there are also start up costs and ongoing administrative costs as well.

Legal assistance is required to set up either of the above trust structures. An attorney experienced in the area of pet trusts will be able to advise on all areas and suggest amounts for funding the trust and how to fund the trust. They should be able to approximate the set up and ongoing administrative costs and refer you to an accountant for taxation advice.

Pet Protection Agreement

A Pet Protection Agreement is available for purchase through the legalzoom.com website. This type of agreement is quite simple to complete, available online and relatively cheap starting at $39.00 for a basic set up. The agreement enables you to specify a carer, leave money for care and can be utilized in cases of illness or hospitalization. The agreement does not require any funding on set up and therefore is slightly different to the traditional trust in that respect.
Pets Letter of Wishes

This is a letter that you write to state your wishes for the care of your animal in the event of your death. The letter can be done separately to the last will and testament and if one already exists it can just be attached to it with the instructions of care and necessary documentation. These letters can be bought from the internet and this site has a basic legal pack for an individual starting at $60.00.
Carers

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney authorizes a person or people nominated to act on your behalf in the event that you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions independently. It can cover the areas of financial, medical and guardianship. You can specify who is to perform those tasks and therefore insert instructions regarding your cat’s care. The documentation can usually be found on the internet at no cost and can be signed with witnesses.

Although a legal document, again it does not guarantee that your cat will be cared for in the manner that you wish. It is advisable to seek a potential carer and a secondary carer and give them a copy of the power of attorney and the relevant documentation pertaining to your cat’s care or at least the location of such. If you wish to contribute to the funding of care this will need to be arranged also.

Always ask those that you wish to care for your cat, if they are willing to do so. Sometimes the people you think would be ideal may have other plans in life, always check first before nominating anyone. Consider also, the person you nominate to care for your cat, may also pass away before your cat. What is the planned alternative should this occur? The best outcome for your cat would be to find a carer who is familiar with your cat, loves cats and is willing to take in your cat no matter what its age.

If you do manage to find someone who is willing to take on this role, then put it in writing, giving them a care plan, the location of the documentation and a house key, should anything happen. It is important to clarify whether they are available not just in the event of your death but illness or hospitalization. If they are unable to do short term emergency care then you will have to find someone like a neighbor who can step in and assume care or at least organize for the cattery to collect kitty. All of this means that you avoid the possibility that your cat ends up in a shelter.

If you live alone and have no person to whom you can entrust your cats’ care then a no kill shelter may be your only alternative. If you are hospitalized then a cattery may be your only choice in these circumstances, so ensure that you have selected one that suits you, should this happen. Find out what is available to you in your area, shelters usually take animals under circumstances such as death and only for re-housing not permanent care. However, they may not take kitty if you are in hospital. Therefore, you will have to make different arrangements to cover for both scenarios. A cat guardian service exists in the U.K. and services all of the U.K. and the service is free, although they do accept donations.

This type of shelter requires registration and provides a kit so you can let others know of your wishes, they can also collect your cat and guarantee to re house your cat. They require a codicil in your will to enable them to carry out your wishes, however this seems like a worthwhile alternative. If you can find a cat shelter in your area, it is worth asking if they offer a similar type of service, even if they don’t advertise that they do.

Some shelters may not be able to guarantee that they will hold your cat indefinitely until it is housed, and that it may be put down. Also, are there any cat retirement facilities or sanctuaries who will take your cat for the rest of it’s life? Would you prefer your cat to be rehoused in a loving home, spend its life in a sanctuary or retirement facility, these are the alternatives from which you will have to decide.

If you have a terminal illness there maybe organisations specifically appropriated to meet your needs. One such organisation that I have found is able to rehouse pets, however you will have to research your own state to see if such an organisation exists.

Once you have made arrangements keep a note inside your wallet or purse letting people know what action to take. You could also leave a note inside your house, in a prominent position (inside your front door), with phone numbers, to enable a person to call the organisation or person to collect your cat/s. If your cat is going to go to an shelter or cattery ensure that all of the documentation that needs to go is also readily available. This also applies to any neighbor or carer that you have nominated either informally in a trust or other agreement.

Remember that any wishes specified in your last will and testament cannot be enacted on until probate is completed, so ensure that you have an agreement in place either informally or via a separate trust to ensure that your cat is able to be cared for immediately in the case of either hospitalization or death.

There are many resources available on the internet to assist you in deciding how best to protect the welfare of your cat in the event of illness or death. It is advisable to read all you can and follow up as soon as possible. Often, we don’t know where life is going to take us, but at least you would have the comfort of knowing that if anything should happen to you, at least the needs of your cat are provided for and that he or she will suffer less in your absence.

Further Reading:

Planning for your cat’s care – if you are no longer there

Frequently asked questions about pet trusts

Leaving a gift in your will 


How To Get Rid Of Hairballs

Ginger cat

Orange Kitty

First of all, the word Hairball is usually used interchangeably with the word furball, however for the purpose of this article I will use the word hairball. The medical terminology for a hairball is trichobezoar.

What is a Hairball?

A hairball is a mass of hair undigested hair mixed with digestive fluids and sometimes bile. When a cat regurgitates this hairball it is usually in a tube shape of various length and thickness in the color of the cats hair. Although hairballs cannot be prevented there are some steps you can take to reduce their occurrence and frequency. They may occur weekly or sporadically and there is usually nothing to be concerned about.

What causes this?

Cats being the constant groomers that they are, are predisposed to this problem because when a cat grooms itself he or she will ingest hair as part of the grooming process. The cats’ tongue is lined with fine projections called papillae which catch loose and dead hair, this is ingested and usually passes through their body, being eliminated in feces. Undigested hair may sit in the stomach and instead of passing through the bowel, eventually irritates the stomach enough, so that the cat attempts to regurgitate the hairball. Sometimes the cat will vomit food only, however the underlying cause may be a hairball. Some cats may eat grass to induce vomiting with the underlying issue being discomfort most probably caused by a hairball. As some cats are more pedantic in their grooming regime, they too will be more prone to hairballs. Long haired cats are more prone to hairballs due to the length of their hair, varieties such as Maine Coon and Persians may require extra grooming if it is a re-occurring problem.

What are the symptoms?

Usually your cat will exhibit the common symptoms which include gagging and retching followed by vomiting to try and regurgitate the hairball.

More serious symptoms may include ongoing vomiting, gagging or retching and the cat may be unable to produce a hairball. Absent or poor appetite, loss of weight, lack of energy, swollen abdomen and either constipation or diarrhea are other serious symptoms. These symptoms require an urgent visit to the veterinarian to exclude bowel obstruction, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease or cancer. An obstruction will require surgery.

Prevention

The best way of preventing Kitty from vomiting hairballs is to brush your cats’ hair daily if possible. This helps to dislodge loose hair and remove it from the coat rather than the cat doing this during a cleaning session. Bathing Kitty regularly may also assist if he or she allows it. If your cat is long haired, then professional grooming on a regular basis may help to control the amount of hair ingested. You may need to do extra seasonal grooming when your cat sheds its’ coat. If your cat is preoccupied with grooming then distracting them with a toy every once in a while might interrupt their routine and break boredom. Flea dermatitis or trauma may be the catalyst for excessive grooming, this can be controlled by treating the initial problem or using an elizabethan collar to prevent grooming to that particular area.

Cat food formulas

Pet food manufacturers produce a range of specifically formulated foods high in fibre to help control hairballs. Read the guidelines on the package to compare ingredients and introduce slowly. Start off with the smallest pack available or ask for a sample pack. The dietary fibre assists in bulking the stool and moving the hair through the digestive system. High fibre diets require extra water intake, so monitor kitty’s water intake and stool appearance, if he or she is not maintaining adequate hydration, stools are dry, kitty is constipated, or suffering from diarrhea, cease the food and return to usual diet.

Preparations

Pet stores stock formulations that may assist in controlling hairballs. Petroleum based products work by pushing the hair through the digestive system, like a laxative and are given once or twice per week. Always read instructions and follow carefully.

Combs

Visit a pet store online or offline and look at the range of combs and brushes available. Metal combs seem to be more efficient at removing hair as the teeth are closer together. Making this a daily habit will reduce the amount of hair that the cat swallows.

Homeopathy

Formulations exist which may assist in reducing the formation of hairballs, however exercise caution and follow instructions. Nux Vomica has also been recommended for its cleansing properties. I have read of people having success in using cooked pumpkin for its fibre content and vaseline for its laxative effect. A home cooked diet of meat and vegetables may be useful in increasing dietary fibre intake, if you dislike the idea of the commercially produced pet foods.

Ultimately the best way to reduce the amount of hair that your cat ingests is to remove some of that hair before your cat does. Daily brushing or combing will most definitely help achieve this. If your cat detests being combed or brushed then a petroleum based laxative once or twice weekly may be the best option. If you are concerned by your cat’s behavior, then a visit to your veterinarian for a check-up, however if your cat does exhibit any of the serious symptoms as previously mentioned, then visit your veterinarian immediately.