Feline Aggression

Feline Aggression

Provided by the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University

Aggression in cats can be a complicated and upsetting problem for owners to solve. An aggressive cat can be very dangerous, especially toward children who may not be able to recognize the physical cues that are the warning signs of aggression. Additionally, cat bites and scratches are painful and can transmit disease.

The different types of aggression are not mutually exclusive. Your cat may show more than one type of aggression, and the problems may be more or less serious than those described below. However, some general principles apply to all types and levels of aggression:

  • Early intervention is best, before your cat’s aggressive behavior becomes a habit.
  • Physical punishment, even a light tap on the nose, increases your cat’s fear and anxiety. Some cats may even see it as a challenge, and become more aggressive.
  • Certain medications can help, but only in conjunction with behavior modification and environmental changes.
  • Recognizing the signs of aggression, then startling your cat without making physical contact are effective in curbing most aggression problems.
  • Whenever possible, avoid situations that increase your cat’s aggression.
  • Separate cats that have aggression issues and re-introduce them slowly.
  • Food treats can be used to effectively reward non-aggressive behavior.
  • My cat is aggressive toward me and my other cat. What should I do?
    Because aggression may be caused by a medical problem, first take your cat to your veterinarian, who will perform a physical examination and appropriate diagnostic tests. Painful conditions, like arthritis and dental disease, as well as central nervous system conditions and hyperthyroidism, have all been implicated in aggression. Alleviation of underlying medical conditions often resolves the aggressive behavior. Once medical causes have been ruled out, it is important to determine what kind of aggression your cat is displaying in order to formulate a management strategy, and ultimately, a solution.

    My kitten sometimes bites and scratches me when we play. I know kittens love to play, but her attacks are painful.
    Biting and scratching during play are typical of play aggression, a behavior most commonly observed in young cats and kittens. Kittens raised with littermates learn how to bite and scratch with reduced intensity, because play that is too rough causes pain to a playmate, resulting in either retaliation or the cessation of play. Consequently, play aggression is usually seen in kittens that were not raised with littermates or playmates, are under-stimulated, or lack appropriate play outlets.

    Play aggression can usually be recognized in a kitten’s body posture. The tail lashes back and forth, the ears flatten against the head, and the pupils (the black part of the eyes) dilate. This sort of posture usually develops from normal play and is followed by biting and scratching. Kittens that stalk moving objects, like your hands and feet, are also displaying play aggression. Play aggressive cats often stalk or hide, then jump out and attack as you pass.

    Try keeping a record of when this occurs to see if there is a pattern. You may learn, for example, that your kitten tends to hide under your bed and jump out as you’re getting ready to go to sleep. By anticipating this, and encouraging play prior to the attack, you may be able to curb this behavior. A bell on a breakaway collar around your cat’s neck clues you in to his whereabouts. You may need to deny him access to his favorite stalking places in order to stop this behavior.

    Another management technique is to use noise deterrents, such as a human-generated hiss, or a blast from a compressed air canister. These must be used within the first few seconds of the onset of aggression to startle, rather than scare the cat, into ceasing his behavior. Do not physically punish your cat, even with a slight tap on the nose. The pain of being struck can lead to more aggressive behavior, and your kitten will learn to fear and avoid you. Additionally, any physical contact may be interpreted as play, which rewards your kitten’s rambunctious behavior. Simply walking away and ignoring your kitten is much more effective; it teaches him that the consequence of rough play is no play.

    All of your play objects should be at a distance from your hands, so your cat has no opportunity to bite or scratch you. For example:

  • Toss moving objects like ping-pong balls, walnuts, or aluminum foil balls for your cat to chase.
  • Provide climbing perches, scratching posts, and ball toys that deliver food when batted about.
  • Buy a fishing pole toy with feathers on the end to dangle in front of your cat.
  • My ordinarily nice cat gets very agitated whenever anyone new comes into the house; she has even attacked some visitors.
    These are signs of fear aggression a defensive behavior toward unfamiliar stimuli, like people, animals, and noises. Unpleasant experiences, like a trip to the veterinarian’s office, may also trigger fear aggression. A cat displaying this sort of aggression hisses, bares her teeth, and crouches low with her tail and legs tucked under her body. Her ears are flat against her head, her pupils are dilated, and her fur stands on end.

    The management of this problem involves identification and, if possible, avoidance of fear-eliciting stimuli. You can attempt a gradual desensitization program, in which your cat is exposed to such stimuli a safe distance away for short periods of time, then rewarded with food treats for non-aggressive behavior. For example, if your cat has a fear of men, a man might stand at a distance that does not trigger aggressive behavior in your cat. Your cat gets a treat for her calm demeanor. With each session, the man moves closer, and gradually, the cat learns to associate the man’s presence with a tasty treat.

    There are two important things not to do with a fear aggressive cat:

  • Do not console her. Kind words and petting communicate your approval of her inappropriate behavior.
  • Visitors to your home should not retreat or show fear in front of a fear aggressive cat, because this teaches the cat that her behavior can make unwanted visitors go away. Lack of attention is a better strategy.
  • My cat kills outside mice and birds. I worry that he will attack our pet gerbil.
    A normal, instinctive desire to hunt prey, predatory aggression includes the stalking, chasing, and attacking of rodents and birds. This behavior is inappropriate when directed toward humans, and can be disturbing when directed toward wildlife or small indoor pets.

    A cat on the prowl shows hunting body postures. He slinks with a lowered head and a twitching tail, and lunges when the prey is within reach. Because this behavior is instinctive, it is especially hard to control. There are, however, some effective management strategies.

    If your cat shows predatory aggression toward indoor pets like gerbils, hamsters, or pet birds, it is wise to deny him access to those animals. If you do not want your cat to hunt wildlife, consider keeping him indoors. Some wildlife can also be deterred from your property by removing bird feeders and using tightly sealed garbage containers.

    Putting a bell on a breakaway collar around your cat’s neck so you know his whereabouts can help foil his sneak attacks on people. Take precautions with infants and toddlers, who are especially vulnerable to predatory aggression.

    My arthritic cat growls and hisses when I pick her up to give her medicine. I don’t want to hurt her, or be hurt, but I have to give her pills.
    A cat that dislikes being touched in a painful area may display pain-induced aggression in an attempt to stop you from handling her. This behavior can also be associated with past trauma. For example, a cat whose tail was once caught in a door may continue to resent any touching of his tail long after the pain is gone.

    Resolving or alleviating the pain is the best way to manage this problem. However, like the arthritic cat described above, you may need to handle a cat in pain in order to treat her. If so, handle her as gently as possible, wear gloves if necessary, and give her food treats so that she associates your touch with a tasty reward. If she acts aggressive while you are handling her, do not reward her with kind words and petting; this demonstrates that aggressive behavior is acceptable. Finally, ask your veterinarian about medications that can help your cat cope with her pain.

    Sometimes when I approach my cat while he’s on the windowsill looking outside, he turns around and swats at me, unprovoked. Why?
    Redirected aggression typically occurs when a cat is aroused by one stimulus, but another pet or person intervenes. In the example above, a bird outside the window may have stimulated the cat, but the unsuspecting owner became the recipient of the lashing instead. A cat exhibiting redirected aggression may growl and pace; his hair stands on end, his tail swishes, and his pupils dilate.

    Avoid the cat until he is calm. Interaction can lead to injury, and any attention, including punishment, may encourage his behavior. You may have to gently herd your cat to a quiet, dark room for a “time-out;” if necessary, use a thick, folded blanket or a board to protect yourself from injury. Periodically, enter the room, turn on the light, and put down a bowl of food. If your cat is still aggressive, turn the light off and leave. If he is calm, pet and praise him.

    If your cat has exhibited redirected aggression toward another cat in the house, re-introduce the two cats slowly, once the aggressor has calmed. Place the cats on opposite ends of the room and feed them; if necessary, you can place each cat in a carrier to ensure their safety. This will allow both cats to associate food with the other’s presence. Such behavior modification techniques are important for maintaining household harmony; if severe redirected aggression occurs regularly, your two cats will learn to fight whenever they are together.

    You may be able to prevent your cat’s redirected aggression if you can identify the stimulus that sets him off. However, if the stimulus is an outdoor noise, smell, or sight, you may have to block your cat’s exposure to the outside world. You can install electronic mats that deliver a harmless, mild shock, or put sticky tape on your windowsills. Window blinds are also effective deterrents. You can discourage outdoor animals from coming near your house by installing motion-activated sprinklers, removing bird feeders, and using well-sealed garbage containers.

    Finally, you can interrupt redirected aggression between cats by immediately startling them with a water gun or shaking a jar of pennies. This sort of remote punishment keeps you from getting hurt, and if consistent, may discourage further attacks.

    My cat begs for attention, but when I pet him for too long, he lashes out and runs away.
    A cat exhibiting petting-induced aggression will usually seek out attention, but at some point while being petted, he acts as though he’s had too much, and he attacks.

    Although a tensed body, flattened ears, and lashing tail are typical of the warning signs a cat gives before an attack, cat owners must learn to recognize signs that are particular to his or her cat. Young children are especially at risk because they may be unable to read a cat’s body language.

    To manage this problem, examine the ways in which you handle your cat. Try holding or touching your cat only when he seeks you out; avoid uninvited handling, physical punishment, or picking up your cat when he’s eating. When petting your cat, do not use physical restraint; this can increase his anxiety.

    You can systematically discourage your cat’s petting-induced aggression with the following tactics: Entice your cat onto your lap with a tasty treat, and lightly stroke him. Well before you detect his aggressive warning signs, place him on the floor with a treat to reward his peaceful behavior. Gradually increase the length of time you spend petting him, and he will learn that calm interactions are followed by treats.

    The hardest part of dealing with petting-induced aggression is accepting that your cat has limits to what he will tolerate. Yours may never be a cuddly cat, but he can learn to interact without violence.

    Our cat growls and hisses when we try to move her off our bed, although she constantly seeks our attention.
    This cat is attempting to control the situation through status-induced aggression. Other examples include cats that block doorways, or solicit attention from their owner or another cat by biting or swatting them as they pass, often with unsheathed claws. The signs of this kind of aggression include tail swishing, flattened ears, dilated pupils, growling, and hissing.

    To manage this cat, the owners must ignore the cat’s demands for play, food and attention; such rewards must only be given when the cat is relaxed. A relaxed cat holds her tail up, has normal sized pupils, and does not swat. Owners should never physically punish their cat; even a harmless tap on the nose may be viewed as a challenge and the cat may become even more aggressive. The most effective reaction to status-induced aggression is to ignore the cat completely.

    My cat has been very nasty toward the new cat I just brought home. They have violent interactions and I worry that they’ll hurt each other.
    Cats tend to defend their territory by exhibiting territorial aggression when a new cat is added to the household, and even when a resident cat returns from a hospital stay bearing unfamiliar smells. Owners often observe the territorial aggressive cat swatting, chasing, and attacking the new or returning cat.

    The most effective management of territorial aggression is to prevent it from occurring when first bringing home a new cat. However, the following steps can be taken even if you have already introduced a new cat and your cats are brawling. All of the following steps should be taken slowly; rushed introductions are the most common cause of failure.

  • Your new cat should be confined to his own room with litter, food, and water. The two cats should be able to smell and hear each other through the closed door, but there should be no physical contact.
  • After a few days, switch the positions of the cats. Allow your cat to investigate the smells of the newcomer, while the new cat explores the house and the scent of his new playmate. Expect some hissing. Switch them back after they have had some time to explore.
  • The next step is place them on opposite ends of the same room, either in carriers or restrained with harnesses and leashes. Both cats should be fed, so that they learn to associate the pleasure of eating with each other’s presence. If the cats won’t eat, or seem anxious or aggressive, they are probably too close together. However, if they eat and seem relaxed, they can be moved closer together at the next feeding session.
  • The final step is to release them from their carriers and feed them, still keeping them far apart. Monitor them for anxiety and aggression.
  • This whole process can proceed only as quickly as your cats allow, and can take weeks or even months. Signs of anxiety or aggression usually indicate that the introductions are proceeding too quickly. If the territorial aggression still cannot be controlled, your veterinarian may prescribe medication for both the aggressor and the victim. Keep in mind that medication is only part of the solution; it must be used in conjunction with slow introductions and consistent rewards for peaceful behavior.
  • We took in a pregnant stray cat that recently gave birth. The mother cat gets very agitated and hisses if we try to approach her or the kittens.
    The mother cat has maternal aggression. This behavior usually subsides as the kittens age. In the meantime, it is best to provide a low stress environment, keep visitors to a minimum, and avoid approaching or handling either the mother or her kittens if you are met with maternal aggression.

    If you must handle the mother cat during this time, she can be muzzled or gently restrained. If the kittens need to be held, try to entice the mother away with some tasty food.

    Our two male cats wake us up with fighting and hissing.
    Male cats are often involved in inter-cat aggression, which usually erupts as one cat reaches social maturity at two to four years of age. Although this type of aggression is usually seen in males due to hormone-driven competition for mates, it can occur between cats of any sex when territorial conflicts occur. Such cats exhibit the typical signs of aggression: flattened ears, puffed-up hair, hissing, and howling.

    Because there is a hormonal component, the first step toward alleviating this aggression is to neuter or spay all cats involved. If this has already been done, the cats should be separated, each with their own food, water, and litter box, whenever they are unsupervised. When you are monitoring them, they should be rewarded with treats for peaceful interactions. Put distinct sounding bells on breakaway collars on each cat so that you know their whereabouts. Immediately startle them with a loud noise (i.e. a compressed air canister, or shaken jar of pennies) or a squirt from a water gun whenever they behave aggressively.

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    Cat Vomit

    Vomitting

    Vomiting is a very common problem in dogs and cats. There are many causes of vomiting. Primary or gastric causes of vomiting are those that are due to diseases of the stomach and upper intestinal tract. Secondary or non-gastric causes of vomiting are caused by diseases of other organs that cause an accumulation of toxic substances in the blood. These toxic substances stimulate the vomiting center in the brain causing the animal to vomit.

    A problem that can be confused with vomiting is regurgitation. Vomiting is the ejection of contents of the stomach and upper intestine; regurgitation is the ejection of contents of the esophagus. The esophagus is a narrow, muscular tube that food passes through on its way to the stomach. In health, food moves quickly through the esophagus to the stomach. If the muscle of the esophagus loses tone, the esophagus dilates, a condition called megaesophagus. A dilated esophagus does not effectively move food to the stomach and the animal will regurgitate food usually shortly after eating. The food may also be inhaled into the airways causing pneumonia and cough.

    When you present your pet to the veterinarian because he or she is vomiting, the veterinarian will ask questions in attempt to differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation and to try to determine if your pet is vomiting due to gastric or non gastric disease. Vomiting is an active process. The pet is apprehensive and heaves and retches to vomit. If food is present in vomit, it is partially digested and a yellow fluid, bile may be present. Regurgitation is fairly passive. The animal lowers its head and food is expelled without effort. The food brought up by regurgitation is usually undigested, may have a tubular shape, and is often covered with a slimy mucus. The pet will often try to eat the regurgitated material. You may bring a fresh sample of “vomit” for the veterinarian to examine. The pH of vomit containing food is acid, the pH of regurgitated materials is higher. Your ability to answer questions about your pet’s activity, habits and environment will help the veterinarian decide which causes of vomiting are most likely in your pet. A history of any drugs your pet is receiving is important. Over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen can cause severe stomach ulcers in dogs depending upon the dose and duration of treatment. The veterinarian may ask you to describe the appearance of the vomit, as well as describe how your pet looks when it vomits and the relation ship of vomiting to eating. If the vomit contains blood it may be fresh, red blood or look like coffee grounds if the blood is digested. Blood is most often seen with stomach ulcers, stomach cancer or uremia (a collection of signs including vomiting seen in pets with kidney failure). Stomach ulcers can be caused by drugs or the presence of a mast cell cancer in the skin. Mast cell cancers release histamine that leads to stomach ulcers. Regurgitation often, but not always, happens right after eating and the pet will try to eat the regurgitated food. Vomiting occurs a variable time after eating or may occur in a pet who is off food. Animals with a twisted stomach, gastric dilation-torsion, may make frequent attempts to vomit without producing anything. Pets with a hacking cough may retch and sometime vomit at the end of an episode of forceful coughing. An accurate description in this case would lead to an investigation of the causes of coughing, rather than vomiting.

    If your pet vomits just occasionally and has a specific series of actions associated with vomiting, you may consider video taping an episode of vomiting to help describe the episodes to the veterinarian.

    The physical examination of the vomiting pet can also provide information to narrow the list of possible causes. The presence of fever, abdominal pain, jaundice, anemia or abnormal masses in the abdomen will help the veterinarian make a more specific diagnosis. The mouth should be carefully examined as some foreign objects such as string can wind around the base of the tongue with the rest of the object extending into the stomach or small intestine. A nodule may be palpated in the neck of cats with hyperthyroidism.

    The list of non-gastric causes of vomiting is long.

    Pancreatitis in the dog causes vomiting that is sudden in onset and often severe. The dog may have a painful belly. Pets with pancreatitis often have a history of eating garbage or fatty table scraps. Tumors of the pancreas can cause similar signs to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis occurs in the cat but the signs are subtle and non specific and often don’t include vomiting.

    Kidney failure is a common cause of vomiting in dogs and cats. The kidneys can be acutely (suddenly) damaged by poisons such as antifreeze or by severe dehydration. Waste products that the kidneys normally get rid of, rise to high levels in just a few days. The kidneys can also gradually lose their ability to remove waste products from the body as the pet ages. Early signs of kidney failure include drinking and urinating large amounts called polyuria and polydipsia or PU-PD. PU-PD may be present for months to years before the kidney failure is severe enough to lead to waste product accumulation and vomiting. Vomiting in chronic kidney failure may began as occasional episodes and progress to severe, frequent vomiting. The pet with chronic kidney failure will often lose body condition and may have pale gums due to anemia.

    Non-spayed, middle aged female pets can develop a uterine infection called pyometra. Pyometra occurs within 2 months after a heat cycle and often results in discharge of pus from the vagina. The pet may frequently lick the vagina so discharge may not be seen. Dogs develop pyometra more often than cats. Other signs may include PU-PD and depression.

    Liver failure causes vomiting as well as other signs depending on the type of liver disease. Other signs of liver disease may include seizures, jaundice (a yellow discoloration of the areas of skin not covered by fur), PU-PD and fluid accumulation in the belly or legs. Bladder obstruction or rupture will cause a sudden onset of vomiting. The urethra that leads from the bladder to the outside can get plugged by stones or tumors. The animal will strain and pass just a few drops of urine or none at all. They will also have a painful belly. Bladder obstruction if not corrected, is fatal in just a few days. The bladder can be ruptured by blunt trauma such as being hit by a car or kicked.

    A form of diabetes called ketoacidosis will cause vomiting along with depression and PU-PD.

    Addison’s disease is a deficiency of hormones from the adrenal gland and causes vomiting, diarrhea and weakness. Addison’s disease occurs most commonly in young to middle aged dogs, most of which are female. Addison’s is rare in the cat. The signs of Addison’s disease may be intermittent or may be very severe and constant.

    Diseases of the inner ear can cause vomiting accompanied by incoordination, circling and tilting of the head to the side. Motion during car rides stimulates the inner ear and can cause vomiting.

    A sudden onset of vomiting in young, poorly vaccinated pets may be caused by infectious agents including canine distemper, canine parvovirus and feline panleukopenia virus.

    There are many toxins including lead, insecticides, antifreeze and other chemicals that can cause vomiting.

    Cats with elevated thyroid function, hyperthyroidism, may vomit in addition to other signs including, increased appetite, weight loss, hyperactivity and a poorly kept coat. Heartworm disease in cats may cause vomiting in addition to coughing, respiratory distress, weight loss and depression.

    Primary causes of vomiting include acute gastritis often due to eating garbage or other types of dietary indiscretions; the ingestion of large amounts of hair during grooming; ulcers of the stomach; stomach or upper intestinal cancer; parasites; food allergies; the presence of a foreign body stuck in the stomach or upper intestine; twisting and dilation of the stomach; and intussusception which is a telescoping of one part of the intestine into another piece of intestine.

    The stomach is usually empty 6 to 8 hours after eating. Vomiting of food when the stomach should be empty suggests an obstruction of the stomach or abnormal motion of the stomach muscles that normally grind food and push the ground food out of the stomach.

    Tests to differentiate primary causes of vomiting include x-rays or ultrasound of the abdomen and endoscopy. Endoscopy is the technique of passing a flexible scope into the stomach and upper intestine to examine the inside of these structures. It may be possible to remove a foreign body with endoscopy and small biopsies of the lining of the stomach and intestine can be taken for microscopic evaluation. Endoscopy requires general anesthesia.

    If the pet vomits sporadically, the results of all tests may be normal. Many healthy dogs and cats vomit occasionally without identifying a cause. Sometimes the cause of vomiting is as simple as the pet eating too fast. The treatment for vomiting depends upon the cause. Nonspecific treatment for vomiting includes fasting, and fluids to correct or prevent dehydration. In episodes of sudden onset of vomiting, food is withheld for 24 – 48 hours and water for 24 hours. Water should never be withheld from an animal with known or suspected kidney disease without replacing fluids intravenously or subcutaneously (under the skin). If vomiting stops, small amounts of a bland low-fat food are fed 3 to 6 times daily for a few days, with a gradual increase in the amount fed and a gradual transition to the pet’s normal diet. Water is also reintroduced in small amounts on the second day. You may start with ice cubes and then gradually increase the amount of water over the day if vomiting does not reoccur.

    If the pet is bright and alert and has had no previous health problems, episodes of acute vomiting may be managed at home, although veterinary consultation prior to home treatment is advised. Consultation with a veterinarian in your region may reveal a recent outbreak of an infectious disease causing vomiting or identify a cluster of recent poisonings. With this type of knowledge you will want to have your pet evaluated rather than waiting a few days. Dogs and cats who vomit for longer than a few days or are depressed or dehydrated should be presented for veterinary evaluation.

    Vaccines

    Vaccines

    Provided by the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University

    Deciding which vaccines your cat should receive requires that you have a complete understanding of the benefits and risks of the procedure. For this reason, it is extremely important that you discuss vaccination with your veterinarian so he or she can help you decide which vaccines are most appropriate. Be sure to inform your veterinarian of your cat’s lifestyle, environment, medical history, current medical problems, and medications your cat may be receiving. Remember, your veterinarian is more than willing to answer any questions you may have and will help you make the right vaccine choices.

    Why does my cat need to be vaccinated?
    The immune system plays a pivotal role in maintaining your cat’s health. One of the most important functions of this complex system of specialized cells and molecules is to protect cats from disease and infection caused by viruses, bacteria, and a host of other microbes and parasites.

    Vaccines help prepare your cat’s immune system to fend off invasion by a particular disease-causing organism. Vaccines contain antigens, which to the immune system “look” like the organism but don’t, ideally, cause disease. When a vaccine is administered, the immune system mounts a protective response. Then if your cat is subsequently exposed to the disease-causing organism, its immune system is prepared to either prevent infection or reduce the severity of disease. Though vaccines play an important role in controlling infectious diseases, most do not induce complete protection from disease, nor do they induce the same degree of protection in all cats. For extra protection, you should make every effort to reduce your cat’s exposure to infected cats or contaminated environments.

    Why do kittens require a series of vaccinations?
    During the first few hours after birth, kittens ingest maternal antibodies contained in their mother’s milk. These antibodies help protect the kitten from infectious diseases until its own immune system is more mature.

    Unfortunately, maternal antibody also interferes with a vaccine’s ability to stimulate the kitten’s immune system. To counteract this problem, veterinarians often administer a series of vaccines, usually beginning when the kitten is around six to eight weeks of age. Vaccination is then repeated at three- or four-week intervals until maternal antibody has waned, usually at around twelve weeks of age. In some cases (e.g., rabies vaccines) the initial vaccine is not given until maternal antibody has disappeared altogether.

    Does my adult cat need to be vaccinated every year?
    The answer depends in part on the vaccine. For example, certain feline rabies vaccines provide protection for longer than one year, so vaccination with a triennially approved rabies vaccine every three years (after the initial series is completed, and when consistent with local rabies vaccine requirements) is sufficient.

    Recent research suggests that panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus vaccines provide adequate protection for several years, so that many veterinarians are now recommending that this vaccine be boosted no more than once every three years.

    Unfortunately, far less is known about the duration of protection provided by other vaccines. Until that information is known, annual vaccination with those products-when their administration is necessary-is a good idea.

    Are vaccines dangerous?
    Not usually. Unfortunately, a perfect, risk-free vaccine does not exist. Vaccines are indispensable in fighting feline infectious disease. But as with any medical procedure, there is a small chance that reactions may develop as a result of vaccination. To maximize the benefits of vaccination while minimizing the risks, it is important to vaccinate only against infectious agents to which your cat has a realistic risk of exposure, infection, and subsequent development of disease. Also, make sure to inform your veterinarian of any problems your cat is currently experiencing, medications your cat is receiving, or vaccine reactions experienced in the past before your cat is vaccinated again.

    Reactions may be mild or (very rarely) severe.

    Mild Reactions
    The following reactions are fairly common and usually start within hours to several days after vaccination. They typically last no more than a few days.

     

    • discomfort at the site where the vaccine was given
    • mild fever
    • diminished appetite and activity
    • sneezing about four to seven days after administration of an intranasal vaccine
    • temporarily sore joints and lameness following calicivirus vaccination
    • Development of a small, firm, painless swelling under the skin at the site where the vaccine was given. The swelling usually goes away after several weeks, but if you notice such a swelling, contact your veterinarian.
    • Lameness, loss of appetite, and fever beginning approximately one to three weeks after Chlamydia psittaci vaccination.Serious Reactions
      These reactions occur very rarely:
    • a serious and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction within several minutes to an hour after vaccination
    • a tumor called a sarcoma developing at the vaccine site several weeks, months, or even longer following vaccinationWhat should I do if I think my cat is having a reaction to a vaccine?
      By all means, consult your veterinarian. Even though vaccine-related disease is uncommon, the consequences can be serious. Your veterinarian is the person most qualified to advise you if adverse side effects occur.

      What vaccines are currently available for my cat?
      Panleukopenia: Feline panleukopenia (also called feline distemper) is a highly contagious and deadly viral disease. Signs include extreme listlessness and loss of appetite. Fever, vomiting, and diarrhea are frequently seen, but some cats die suddenly with few clinical signs. A high percentage of cats with panleukopenia-especially kittens-die from the infection. Feline panleukopenia virus is shed in the feces of an infected cat and can survive extremes of temperature and humidity for months to years. The virus is resistant to most available disinfectants.

      Until recent years panleukopenia was the most serious infectious disease of cats, killing thousands every year. Thanks to the highly effective vaccines currently available, panleukopenia is now considered an uncommon disease. Immunity induced by panleukopenia vaccines is excellent, and most vaccinated cats are completely protected from infection and disease. Vaccination is recommended for all cats.

      Feline Herpesvirus and Feline Calicivirus: Feline herpesvirus (the cause of feline viral rhinotracheitis) and feline calicivirus are estimated to be responsible for 80-90 percent of infectious feline upper respiratory tract diseases. Although usually not serious in adult cats, disease caused by these viruses may be severe-and sometimes fatal-in kittens. Sneezing, runny eyes, runny nose, and fever are the most typical signs of infection. In addition to upper respiratory tract disease, lameness and chronic oral inflammatory disease have been linked to calicivirus infection. Both viruses are shed in secretions from the nose, eyes, and mouth of infected cats. Cats become infected by direct exposure to infected individuals, either from sneezed droplets, or from contaminated objects such as food and water dishes.

      Most cats are exposed to either or both of these viruses at some time during their lives, usually during kittenhood. Once infected, many cats never completely rid themselves of viruses. These carrier cats shed viruses either continuously or intermittently for long periods of time-perhaps for life-and serve as a major source of infection to other cats. Protection induced by the currently available vaccines minimizes the severity of disease, but does not prevent disease in all cats. Nonetheless, vaccination is recommended for all cats.

      Rabies: Rabies is an increasing threat to cats. At present, the number of reported feline rabies cases in the United States far exceeds that of dogs and all other domestic animals. Rabies is routinely fatal and is a major public health concern. Because of the potential for human exposure, rabies vaccination is recommended for all cats and is required by law in many parts of the country.

      Feline Leukemia Virus: Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is the leading viral killer of cats. The virus is spread in the saliva and nasal secretions of infected cats; infection is transmitted through prolonged contact with infected cats, bite wounds, and from an infected mother cat to her kittens. Disease caused by FeLV is very serious, and it is estimated that fewer than 20 percent of infected cats will survive more than three years after being infected. Anemia (a deficiency of oxygen-carrying red blood cells), cancer, and secondary infections resulting from immune deficiency are the most common consequences of infection.

      Outdoor cats, indoor/outdoor cats, and cats exposed to such individuals are at greatest risk of exposure to FeLV. Cats living in households with FeLV-infected cats or with cats of unknown infection status are also at risk. Kittens younger than 4 months of age appear to be much more susceptible to infection than are adult cats. Indoor-only adult cats with little chance of exposure to potentially infected cats are not likely to be exposed or infected. Vaccination against FeLV is recommended for cats at risk of exposure, especially those younger than four months of age. Vaccination is not recommended for cats with minimal to no risk of exposure, especially those older than four months of age. Because FeLV vaccines do not induce protection in all cats, avoiding exposure to infected cats remains the single best way to prevent your cat from becoming infected.

      Chlamydiosis: Chlamydiosis is caused by the bacteria, Chlamydia psittaci. Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the tissues lining the eyelids and covering part of the eyeball) is the most common sign, but sneezing and nasal discharge may also occur. The bacteria are transmitted through direct contact with an infected cat, and the highest rates of infection are in cats between five weeks and nine months of age, especially those residing in multiple-cat environments with a history of respiratory tract disease. Cats vaccinated against chlamydiosis are not protected from infection but are expected to experience less severe disease if infected. Adverse reactions associated with chlamydia vaccines are more common than with many other feline vaccines, but the reactions are usually mild and resolve completely with treatment. Vaccination is recommended if your cat resides in a multiple-cat environment where chlamydiosis has been confirmed in other cats.

      Feline Infectious Peritonitis: Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) results from infection with feline coronavirus. Many different strains of the virus can infect cats, but most do not produce serious disease: usually less than 1 to 5 percent of coronavirus-infected cats develop FIP.

      Coronaviruses are shed primarily in the feces of infected cats. Most cats become infected by ingesting the virus, either as a result of direct contact with an infected cat or by exposure to virus-contaminated surfaces such as litter boxes, feeding bowls, bedding, clothing, or toys. A high percentage of cats residing in multiple-cat environments are exposed and ultimately infected with feline coronavirus, but exposure is far less common in households with fewer cats. Even though cats of all ages can develop the disease, most of those that develop FIP are younger than two years. Individuals with FIP rarely survive regardless of treatment. A vaccine to prevent FIP is available, but considerable controversy surrounds its ability to prevent disease.

      Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is another viral killer of cats. The primary mode of virus spread is through bite wounds, so cats that get outdoors and fight are at greatest risk of infection. Cats in households with stable social structures where housemates get along well are at little risk.

      Infected cats may appear normal for years. However, infection eventually leads to a state of immune deficiency that hinders the cat’s ability to protect itself against other infections. The same bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi that may be found in the everyday environment – where they usually do not affect healthy animals – are responsible for many of the diseases associated with FIV.

      Keeping cats indoors and away from potentially infected cats that might bite them markedly reduces their likelihood of contracting FIV infection. Vaccines to help protect against FIV infection are available. Not all vaccinated cats will be protected, so preventing exposure will remain important even for vaccinated pets. In addition, vaccination may have an impact on future FIV test results. It is important that you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of vaccination with your veterinarian to help you decide whether FIV vaccines should be administered to your cat.

      Bordetellosis: Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacteria that can cause disease of the respiratory tract in cats. Cats with bordetellosis may cough, have a runny nose or runny eyes, sneeze, and occasionally have a fever. The signs of disease are very similar to those caused by feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus. Cats are believed to become infected by breathing the bacteria into their noses. Cats residing in or entering rescue shelters and multiple-cat households have the highest risk of exposure, especially if respiratory tract disease has occurred in the environment.

      A vaccine to prevent disease caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica is available. Studies conducted by the manufacturer indicate that the vaccine can reduce the severity of disease in infected cats. Your veterinarian may suggest vaccinating cats entering or residing in multiple-cat environments (for example, shelters, catteries, or boarding facilities) where disease associated with Bordetella bronchiseptica infection is suspected or has been confirmed.

      Giardiasis: Infection with the single-celled parasite, Giardia lamblia, may be associated with gastrointestinal tract disease of either short or long duration. Diarrhea is the most commonly encountered sign of infection. The organism is shed in the feces of infected cats, and other cats become infected by drinking contaminated water, by direct exposure to an infected cat (such as through mutual grooming), by exposure to contaminated litter boxes, and from consuming prey. Giardiasis tends to be a greater problem in some multiple-cat households. Giardia vaccination can be part of a comprehensive control program in environments where exposure to the organism is associated with disease, although the vaccine has not been evaluated for its ability to hasten elimination of infection from multiple-cat environments.

      Which vaccines should my cat receive?
      The decision depends on the following factors:

    • Your cat’s risk of exposure to the disease-causing organism, in part dependent on the health of other cats to which yours is exposed, and the environment in which your cat lives.
    • The consequences of infection
    • The age and health of your cat
    • The protective ability of the vaccine
    • The frequency or severity of reactions associated with vaccination
    • The risk an infected cat poses to human health (e.g., rabies virus)
    • Vaccine reactions your cat may have experienced in the past

     

    Ringworms

    Ringworm

    Ringworm (dermatophytosis) is a fungal infection that can affect the hair, skin or nails of cats, dogs and humans. It is the most common contagious skin infection in cats. In humans, the infection often causes classic ring-like lesions, but these are seen less commonly in cats and dogs. In most patients, ringworm is self-limiting; that is, it will self cure over time. However, because this infection can be transmitted from cats and dogs to other animals and also to people, every pet owner should be aware of the symptoms, transmission and treatment of ringworm.

    Where is the fungus found? 
    Several different fungi found throughout the world can cause ringworm, however, the vast majority of cases in cats and dogs are caused by Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum, or Trichophyton species. The fungus is most commonly found either on an infected animal or in the living quarters of infected animals. Spores from infected animals can be shed into the environment and live for up to 24 months. Humid, warm environments encourage growth of the fungus. Spores can be on brushes, bedding, furniture, or anything that has been in contact with an infected animal or the animal’s hair. Cats can be asymptomatic carriers and harbor and shed the organism without showing signs of infection. Animals thought to be chronic carriers can be routinely cultured to determine if they are actual carriers.

    How is ringworm transmitted? 
    Ringworm can be transmitted by direct contact with fungal spores. These spores can be found on a infected animal, on infected grooming equipment or brushes, in a contaminated boarding facility or cattery, or in the environment where an infected animal has visited. Because ringworm spores can survive for long periods in the environment your cat can contract ringworm from just about anywhere other dogs or cats have been. Fortunately, most healthy adult cats have some natural resistance to ringworm and never develop symptoms from the fungus. Young cats under a year old are most often infected. Cats with a suppressed immune system from diseases or overuse of steroids are also more susceptible to contracting the disease. Senior cats, free-roaming cats, and those who are under stress, malnourished or have other diseases such as parasites or viral infections also appear to be at increased risk. In addition, genetic factors may play a role, as Persians appear to be more susceptible to ringworm.

    What are the signs of ringworm? 
    Cats with ringworm may have skin lesions which can appear different depending on where they occur and how long they have been present. The classic symptom is a small round lesion that is devoid of hair. The lesion will often have scaly skin in the center. Small are often found in the lesion. The lesion may start as a small spot and continue to grow in size. The lesion may or may not be irritated and itchy. Lesions are most common on the head, ears, and tail. In some infections, the fungus will not be in a circle and can spread across the face, lips, chin, or nose and look like an autoimmune disease or other generalized skin disease. Occasionally, the infection will occur over the entire body and create a generalized scaly or greasy skin condition. Hair loss may be mild or severe. In some cases the first sign may be excessive shedding, and hairballs may occur when large parts of the body are affected. Scratching at the ears is also common. Ringworm can also occur in the nails, often causing them to grow malformed.

    How is ringworm diagnosed?
    Ringworm cannot be diagnosed by simply looking at a lesion, but at least one of several testing methods must be used. One method is through the use of a specialized black light called a Wood’s lamp. Several species of the ringworm fungus will glow a fluorescent color when exposed to a Wood’s lamp. However, it is estimated that up to half of the most common species of M. canis do not fluoresce under a Wood’s lamp, and T. mentagrophytes does not fluoresce. Other substances may fluoresce and cause a false positive reading. In addition, a healthy animal may have spores on his coat but may not have an active infection. So, this is not the most accurate method.

    Another method for identifying ringworm is to pluck hairs from the periphery of the lesion and examine them under the microscope. Between 40% and 70% of the infections can be diagnosed this way.

    The most reliable way to identify a ringworm infection is by collecting scales and crust from the skin and coat and performing a fungalculture. Your veterinarian will commonly use a toothbrush to collect the sample of hair and scales from the cat to culture. There are special culture mediums designed specifically for identifying ringworm infections. Your local veterinarian can easily perform this routine culture.

    Cats with ringworm should always be evaluated for underlying disease(s) that may have made them more at risk for this fungal infection.

    How is ringworm treated?
    In healthy shorthaired kittens and cats with small isolated lesions, the lesion is often treated with a topical cream containing an antifungal such as miconazole or thiabendazole. In addition, it is important to treat any underlying conditions, provide good nutrition, and prevent the spread to other animals and humans.

    In more severe cases, a combination of oral and topical treatments is generally used. Often the lesions are clipped so the topical treatment can reach the skin. Many veterinary dermatologists feel that all longhaired cats must be shaved completely to achieve any success with ringworm treatment. Care should be taken not to irritate the skin when clipping, as this may cause the infection to spread. Also, realize that the clipped hair, clippers, and any grooming instruments that come into contact with an infected animal will harbor the spores and must be heat or chemically sterilized before being used on any other animal. The recommended topical treatment is lime sulfur dips. These dips have a bad odor and can temporarily turn the coat a yellowish color, but they are extremely effective and should be used if recommended by your veterinarian.

    Alternatives to lime sulfur dips include miconazole shampoos and rinses, and enilconazole (available in some countries). Oral antifungal agents are generally recommended for any cat with severe generalized lesions, for longhaired cats, and in cases where the nails are infected. Oral antifungal agents may also be recommended when there is no response to topical therapy after 2-4 weeks of treatment. Itraconazole is the preferred drug of choice, and terbafine may also be used. Griseofulvin is another alternative, but has a higher risk of adverse effects.

    Treatment is generally continued until there have been two negative cultures a week apart.

    Some veterinarians have recommended using Program® (the once-a-month flea pill) at a higher dose to treat ringworm in cats, but it has been shown to be ineffective against ringworm.

    How can ringworm be controlled in the environment?
    Because the ringworm fungus can survive for such long periods in the environment, it is critical that an effective cleaning plan be used in all infections. Spores are very light and are carried in the air, so wherever there is dust and hair, there may be spores. Whenever cleaning, avoid sweeping and other types of cleaning that may actually spread spores through the air. Vacuuming, damp mopping and using a Swifter-type mop are generally recommended. Carpets should be steam cleaned and disinfected. Heating and cooling ducts and furnaces should be professionally vacuumed and filters replaced if a culture from the ducts comes back positive. Furniture and drapes should be vacuumed and the vacuum cleaner bags should be disposed of promptly. Housing units that contain wood or rusty metal should be re-painted. After vacuuming or mopping, clean with water and a detergent solution. Then, use bleach diluted to 1:10 with water and left on for at least 10 minutes to kill most of the organisms. All grooming tools, bedding, kennels, cat carriers, and cages should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected with bleach, as well.

    How can ringworm be controlled in catteries?
    Some of the most difficult cases of ringworm come from catteries or small breeders, particularly those with Persian or Himalayans. Eliminating ringworm from these units can take months to years of diligent treatment. Remember that it will take a complete commitment to properly eliminate ringworm from a cattery. The owner must be willing to devote a large amount of time and make some difficult decisions if success in treatment is to be achieved.

    There are several different approaches to controlling and eliminating ringworm in a cattery. The first approach includes total depopulation of the cattery, decontamination of the facility, and repopulating with only animals that test negative on three consecutive cultures performed at two-week intervals. The second approach is to treat the entire colony and facilities with appropriate topical medications, systemic therapy, and environmental cleanup. The colony is isolated and breeding and showing are interrupted. The third option would be to treat only infected kittens. This third option is only suitable for a breeder that produces kittens for the pet cat market and usually is not recommended for most breeders. Breeders will need to work very closely with their veterinarian to develop the best program for their facility.

    Cultures should be performed on new cats coming into the cattery or returning from a show or a breeding. They should be quarantined and dipped once with lime sulfur. Since dogs and humans can carry ringworm into a cattery, both human and canine visitors should be kept at a minimum.

    How is ringworm prevented?
    Ringworm is a disease where an ounce of prevention is truly worth more than a pound of cure. If you have cats in your home, be very careful about bringing a new kitten into your household. Cat shows, kennels, and grooming facilities can also be a source of infection and caution should be used when exposing your cat to these places. Breeders of Persians and Himalayans need to be especially cautious about bringing any new animal that has not been cultured into their facility. If any sign of ringworm is seen, make sure you isolate the infected cat and seek prompt veterinary attention.

    Is ringworm transmissible to people?
    Yes. Ringworm can be transmitted between cats and people. Persons with suppressed immune systems, such as those with HIV infections or AIDS, and those undergoing chemotherapy may be especially vulnerable. Persons should wear gloves when handling affected animals and wash hands well afterwards. If you contract ringworm, treat with an OTC anti-fungal, such as Lotrimin.

    Plants Poisonous to Cats

    Poisonous Plants

    Provided by The Animal Planet

    Some plants are more toxic than others, so we suggest that you be particularly aware of the dangers associated with these common houseplants.

  • Lillies (Lilium spp). Although the toxin involved has not been identified, one bite of a leaf or a taste of the pollen from a plant in the lily family can cause lethargy and vomiting within 12 hours of ingestion. If not treated, your cat may go into kidney failure.
  • Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta). Once exclusively an outdoor plant, the sago palm has recently begun making an appearance on windowsills and coffee tables. The entire plant is poisonous to cats, but the seed pod, sometimes called the nut, contains the greatest amount of toxin. Just a few nibbles can cause vomiting, diarrhea and even seizures. If left untreated, cats can experience liver failure.
  • Calcium Oxalate plants. These include dieffenbachia, philodendrons and Chinese evergreens to name just a few. Insoluble calcium oxalate, microscopic crystals that look like needles, is present throughout these plants. One bite and the needle-like crystals shoot into a cat’s gums and tongue. Symptoms include drooling and vomiting. To reduce irritation, give your cat goat milk or other calcium-containing substances, such as yogurt. If enough mouth swelling occurs, breathing could become difficult, but this is rare.
  • Dracaena. Over 40 species are included in this family of popular houseplants, including the red-edged Dracaena, the dragon plant, and the Dracaena Janet Craig. Cats that eat the long, skinny fronds that are typical in the Dracaena plant family will vomit, sometimes with blood, become depressed and lose their appetites. Kittens can get a little wobbly and appear to be drunk. Luckily, these plants are not usually lethal and symptoms should disappear in 12 to 24 hours.
  • If your cat decides a houseplant is put to much better use as food than as decoration, your first step should be to call your vet. She will want to know what plant ended up in your cat’s stomach. Use a smartphone or digital camera to take a close-up picture of the plant and email it to your veterinarian for identification. If you’re not sure which plant your cat has gotten into, get your pet to your vet as quickly as possible so that the vet can observe any symptoms for clues.

    If the plant is toxic, your vet may suggest inducing vomiting at home or giving your cat activated charcoal capsules. Activated charcoal, which can be purchased at a pharmacy, binds to toxins while still in the stomach, preventing absorption into the blood stream.

    It’s a good idea to have activated charcoal on hand for emergencies, but you should never attempt any home remedy without contacting your veterinarian first. Making a cat vomit or swallow pills can be tricky, and activated charcoal capsules are not as concentrated as the liquid version used by veterinarians. Getting to the vet should be your priority. If something as toxic as a lily is ingested, expect your cat to be placed on intravenous fluids for a couple of days to flush out the toxins.

    The ASPCA’s Web site has a comprehensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants. The center is also staffed with veterinarians available to answer questions if you suspect your cat has ingested a poisonous substance. The 24-hour emergency poison hotline number is 1-888-426-4435. A fee is required but may be well worth it for your peace of mind or your cat’s life.

     

    Nail Trimming 101

    Nail Trimming 101

    Provided by ASPCA

    Make manicures enjoyable and easy for both you and your cat
    Does your kitty disappear when the clippers come out? Do you have to wrap her in a towel to give her a manicure? According to our behavior experts, calm, enjoyable nail-trimming sessions are not only possible—that’s how they should always be! Check out the following tips for getting kitty to relax while you trim, turning nail-clipping sessions into enjoyable together time.

    Setting the Mood
    Ideally you should introduce your cat to nail clipping when she’s a kitten. Choose a chair in a quiet room where you can comfortably sit your cat on your lap. Get her when she’s relaxed and even sleepy, like in her groggy, after-meal state. Take care that she isn’t able to spy any birds, wild animals or action outside nearby windows—and make sure no other pets are around.

    Make Friends with the Paw
    Gently take one of your cat’s paws between your fingers and massage for no longer than the count of three. If your cat pulls her paw away, don’t squeeze or pinch, just follow her gesture, keeping in gentle contact. When she’s still again, give her pad a little press so that the nail extends out, then release her paw and immediately give her a treat. Do this every other day on a different toe until you’ve gotten to know all ten.

    Get Acquainted with the Clipper
    Your cat should be at ease with the sound of the clippers before you attempt to trim her nails. Sit her on your lap, put a piece of uncooked spaghetti into the clippers and hold them near your cat. (If she sniffs the clippers, set a treat on top of them for her to eat.) Next, while massaging one of your cat’s toes, gently press her toe pad. When the nail extends, clip the spaghetti with the clippers while still holding your cat’s paw gently. Now release her toe and quickly give her a treat.

    Never Cut to the Quick 
    The pink part of a cat’s nail, called the quick, is where the nerves and blood vessels are. Do NOT cut this sensitive area. Snip only the white part of the claw. It’s better to be cautious and cut less of the nail rather than risk cutting this area. If you do accidentally cut the quick, any bleeding can be stopped with a styptic powder or stick. It’s a good idea to keep it nearby while you trim.

    Time to Clip
    With your cat in your lap facing away from you, take one of her toes in your hand, massage and press the pad until the nail extends. Check to see how much of a trim her nails need and notice where the quick begins. Now trim only the sharp tip of one nail, release your cat’s toe and quickly give her a treat. If your cat didn’t notice, clip another nail, but don’t trim more than two claws in one sitting until your cat is comfortable. Be sure to reward her with a special treat afterward. Please note, you may want to do just one paw at a time for the first couple of sessions.

    Clipping Schedule
    A nail-trimming every ten days to two weeks is a nice routine to settle into. If your cat refuses to let you clip her claws, ask your vet or a groomer for help.

    What Not to Do

  • If your cat resists, don’t raise your voice or punish her.
  • Never attempt a clipping when your cat is agitated or you’re upset. And don’t rush—you may cut into the quick.
  • Don’t try to trim all of your cat’s claws at one time.
  • Do NOT declaw. This surgery involves amputating the end of a cat’s toes and is highly discouraged by SNAP Cats. Instead, trim regularly, provide your cat with appropriate scratching posts and ask your veterinarian about soft plastic covers for your cat’s claws.
  • FVRCP Vaccine

    FVRCP Vaccine

    What Does FVRCP Stand For?
    Cats are susceptible to many contagious diseases, most of which are caused by viruses. Fortunately, we have vaccines to prevent our feline friends from succumbing to several of the worst ones. A series of four FVRCP injections (three weeks apart) is given to kittens. The vaccine series is usually started at six to eight weeks of age. It is then given as an annual booster for the remainder of the cat’s life. There are three preventive agents in the FVRCP vaccine. The following is an explanation of each of those agents.

    FVR Stands For Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis
    Rhinotracheitis is a severe upper respiratory infection caused by a feline type 1, herpes-virus. It is most severe in young kittens and older cats, and is one of the most serious upper respiratory diseases seen in the feline species. The virus is airborne and very contagious in susceptible animals.

    Cats with this infection are lethargic, and show signs of respiratory involvement with much sneezing and coughing. There is usually a discharge from the nostrils and the eyes, and a high temperature may be present. Some cats develop pneumonia and occasionally ulcerations in the eyes. Infested cats do not want to eat or drink because the nostrils are plugged and the throat is sore. Dehydration and weight loss are common.

    The disease is debilitating and chronic. Many cats require hospitalization, intravenous fluids and intensive care to help them get over the infection. Antibiotics are given to treat secondary bacterial infections. Some cats suffer permanent damage to the eyes and the respiratory system. Fortunately, the vaccine is an effective preventive agent.

    C Stands For Calicivirus Infection
    There are several strains of caliciviruses that affect the cat. They can cause a range of diseases, from a mild almost asymptomatic infection, to life-threatening pneumonia. Most cases show only evidence of problems in the mouth, nasal passages and the conjunctiva (mucus membranes) of the eyes.

    Early signs are loss of appetite, elevated temperature and lethargy. Later, sneezing, oral ulcers and discharge from the eyes are seen. The course of the disease in uncomplicated cases is short, and recovery may be expected in seven to ten days. Some of the more virulent strains can cause severe symptoms. They may cause rapid death in young kittens and older cats.

    The disease is transmitted by direct contact with an infected cat or object (bowl, cage, brush, blanket, etc.) that harbors the virus. The virus can survive eight to ten days in the environment. Carrier cats can pass the virus into the environment for up to one year.

    P Stands For Panleukopenia
    Panleukopenia (also known as feline distemper and infectious feline enteritis) is a highly contagious disease characterized by a short course and high mortality rate. The disease is caused by a parvovirus similar to the parvovirus seen in dogs. It is very resistant and may remain infectious in the environment for up to a year.

    The disease is most severe in young kittens, but can affect cats of all ages. The first symptom is loss of appetite, followed by vomiting and diarrhea. A blood count usually shows a lowered number of white blood cells, a fact which helps in diagnosing the infection.

    Infected cats usually must be hospitalized with intensive treatment such as intravenous fluids, antibiotic and supportive care. Mortality rate may reach 90% in young kittens under six months, and may approach 50% in older animals. The vaccine is very effective in preventing the disease.

    Feeding Your Cat

    Feeding Your Cat

    Provided by the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University

    Because nutrition is one of the most important keys to your cat’s health and longevity, one of your most important responsibilities as a cat owner is to provide your cat with the necessary nutrients required for its growth and maintenance. To do this, it is first necessary to understand what cats need in their diet.

    Obligate Carnivores’ Nutritional Requirements
    Cats are obligate carnivores and are very different from dogs – and people – in their nutritional needs. What does it mean to be an obligate carnivore? It means that cats are strict carnivores that rely on nutrients in animal tissue to meet their specific nutritional requirements. In their natural habitat, cats are hunters that consume prey high in protein with moderate amounts of fat and minimal amounts of carbohydrates. Cats also require more than a dozen nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids. These nutrients are the building blocks of various structural body tissues; are essential for chemical reactions (metabolism, catabolism); transport substances into, around, and out of the body; supply energy for growth and maintenance; and provide palatability.

    The important thing to remember about nutrients, particularly vitamins and minerals, is that your cat needs the correct amount-but no more. It is possible to have “too much of a good thing” when it comes to vitamins and minerals; the use of supplements not only is unnecessary but also can be potentially dangerous to your pet’s health. A key point to remember is that cats are neither small dogs nor people. Because of cats’ unique metabolism, what might be good for you might be detrimental to your cat. A high-quality cat food assures an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals in your cat’s diet; supplements should never be added without a veterinarian’s approval. Another important nutrient with respect to overall health is water. Water helps regulate body temperature, digest food, eliminate waste, lubricate tissue, and allow salt and other electrolytes to pass through the body. You should provide your cat with clean, fresh water at all times.

    What Types of Commercial Cat Food are Available?
    Commercial cat foods are formulated as dry, semi-moist, and canned. These products differ in water content, protein level, caloric density, palatability, and digestibility. The differences are primarily attributable to the processing methods used by pet food manufacturers.

    Dry Food
    Dry food contains 6 to 10 percent moisture. Depending on the specific formulation, meats or meat byproducts, poultry or poultry byproducts, grain, grain byproducts, fish meal, fiber sources, milk products, and vitamin and mineral supplements are combined, extruded, and dried into bite-sized pieces. The pieces are then covered with flavor enhancers, such as animal fat, which give them increased palatability. The primary advantages of dry cat food are lower cost and convenience in allowing “free choice” feeding. However, dry food may be less palatable to a cat, and, depending on the types and quality of the ingredients, may also be less digestible than moist food. If you do use dry food, it is important to store unused portions in a cool, dry location, and not to use the food after its expiration date (which is printed on the container). Often owners buy large amounts of dry food that can sometimes last for 3 to 6 months; therefore, checking the expiration date before feeding it to your cat is very important. Lengthy storage decreases the activity and potency of many vitamins and increases the likelihood that fats have become rancid. Storing dry cat food in an airtight container can help prevent nutrient deterioration and help maintain palatability.

    Semi-Moist Food
    Semi-moist food contains approximately 35 percent moisture and often resembles ground- or whole meat tidbits. Meat and meat byproducts are the primary ingredients. They are combined with soybean meal, cereals, grain byproducts, and preservatives. The cost is generally mid-range, and these foods may be more appealing than dry cat food to some cats. Semi-moist food can also be fed free choice. However, after the package is opened, palatability decreases and spoilage increases because of dehydration.

    Canned Food
    Canned cat food has a moisture content of at least 75 percent, making it a good dietary source of water. It is generally the most expensive type of cat food, but it also is highly palatable to most cats, and different varieties are plentiful, which can be helpful if your cat is a finicky eater. Canned food has the longest shelf life when unopened, but any unused portion of opened canned cat food should be refrigerated to maintain quality and prevent spoilage. Gourmet canned cat foods generally feature meats, such as kidney or liver, and whole meat byproducts as primary food ingredients. Some brands, however, may be nutritionally incomplete, and it is important to read the nutrition labels carefully on such specialty cat-food items to ensure that they have a nutritional guarantee.

    How Do I Choose a Food for My Cat?
    High-quality commercially prepared cat foods have been scientifically developed to give your cat the correct balance of nutrients and calories. Basic minimum nutritional requirements for cats have been established by the Feline Nutrition Expert (FNE) Subcommittee of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), and pet-food manufacturers use these standards in producing cat foods.

    When you’re shopping for a healthy food for your cat, reading the nutrition label on the packages is the best way to compare foods. Pet-food manufacturers are required to supply certain nutrition information on the package. Labeling regulations are established by the AAFCO (www.aafco.org) and the United States Food and Drug Administration. All pet foods that carry an AAFCO approved nutritional guarantee, often referred to as the “AAFCO statement,” are considered to be complete and balanced. These standards were formulated in the early 1990s by panels of experts on canine and feline nutrition. A food may be certified in two ways: (1) by meeting AAFCO’s published standards for content, or (2) by passing feeding tests or trials. Most researchers agree that feeding tests are superior in assessing the nutritional adequacy of a food.

    Throughout a cat’s life, there are stages in which the cat requires different nutrients. These stages include kittenhood, adulthood, pregnancy, and lactation. The nutritional claim on the cat-food label should state the stage of a cat’s life cycle for which the food is a complete and balanced product. It should also state that it meets the requirements of the AAFCO. Feeding a cat a product that does not have a nutritional claim on the label cannot guarantee a complete and balanced diet for the animal. Often owners will find products that say they have been formulated for “all life stages,” which simplifies things for owners with multiple cats of different ages or circumstances.

    In choosing a cat food, it is also important to read the ingredients list. This names all items used in the product, including flavor enhancers, artificial colors, and preservatives. The items are listed in order of decreasing proportional weight. Meat, meat byproducts, or seafood should be listed among the first few ingredients, because that indicates that the food probably contains enough animal-source ingredients to supply essential amino acids and essential fatty acids. Nonetheless, addition of some nutrients (e.g., the amino acid taurine, and B vitamins, including thiamine and niacin) may be necessary to offset the fiber content of the diet or degradation of nutrients that occurs during the manufacturing process.

    Once you have determined that a food is complete and balanced, choosing between the types of food may be a matter of what your cat prefers. Some cats like canned food, some like dry food, and some like a combination of the two. Today’s market offers many well-formulated foods for cats at all life stages, so you can choose the ones that work best for your cat.

    What About Homemade Diets?
    Formulating your own cat food is a difficult and time-consuming process. Also, the nutrients in the formula may not be available in the right quantities and proportions to be beneficial to your cat. It is usually recommended that cat owners use a commercial nutritionally balanced product, unless a veterinarian recommends a home-formulated recipe for medical purposes. Often these recipes come from published sources and are created by veterinarians certified in animal nutrition.

    Can I Give My Cat Treats?
    Giving your cat a treat from time to time isn’t going to do any harm, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Treats should only be fed occasionally. They should not be a steady diet for your cat, because they lack the proper proportion of basic nutrients a cat requires to maintain its health. A rule of thumb is not to let treats exceed 10 to 15 percent of the cat’s daily diet. Also, some foods should be avoided entirely. Although raw meat is an excellent source of many nutrients, it is not recommended as a food or a treat for cats, because it is a potential vehicle for toxoplasmosis and other infectious diseases. Some cats that have consumed canned fish products meant for humans have developed deadly neurological disorders. Also, milk is not generally recommended as a treat for cats. Adult cats fed a nutritious diet don’t need milk, and many cats are lactose-intolerant, which means that the lactose in milk and milk products can cause stomach upset.

    What Else Do I Need to Consider?
    Environmental conditions can affect a cat’s eating habits. For example, heavy-traffic areas, noise, the presence of other animals, dirty food containers, or nearby litter boxes can deter a cat from eating. Try to be sensitive to your cat’s eating behavior, and make necessary adjustments to provide optimum feeding conditions.

    Also remember that cats vary greatly in characteristics such as the amount of food they need to consume to ensure optimal weight and health maintenance. Be careful not to overfeed your cat. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, which is the most common nutrition-related problem in cats. An overweight cat is prone to other health problems such as diabetes and arthritis. Commercial pet foods formulated to help cats lose weight are available. Ask your veterinarian to help you determine the ideal body weight for your cat, and follow your veterinarian’s suggestions on how to adjust your cat’s diet to attain and maintain that weight.

    Although many cats are content to eat a single product, some cats may develop finicky eating habits and become very selective about what foods they’ll accept. Feeding your cat two or three different cat foods provides flavor variety, and may prevent your cat from developing an exclusive preference for a single food, so that if a medical condition dictates a change in diet, your cat may have an easier time adjusting.

    Also remember that not eating can lead to serious medical problems in cats. This is true for sick cats that lack an appetite, for cats on a diet, and for the finicky cat that refuses to eat. A veterinarian should examine any cat that refuses to eat and is losing weight.

    Cat Diets Are Different

    Cats Diets Are Different

    Provided by petmd.com

    Our wonderful life-supporting planet is home to a remarkably diverse and complex spectrum of living organisms. And although all living things do share some common traits and similar biochemical pathways and cellular functions, there are many notable differences that make each creature stand out from the crowd. So even with the thread of sameness joining all the planets’ life forms, diversity and difference makes us take note of each creature’s uniqueness. Maybe that’s why the cat is America’s favorite house pet … cats are different!

    This extraordinary four-legged feline has, for all of recorded time, evoked wonder and surprise, superstition and affection, damnation, and deification. From pharaohs to philosophers to paupers, the companionship of and affection for cats has been a result of the cat’s unique ability to make us humans gaze in awe and admiration.

    Eons of special environmental circumstances have forced the cat to evolve some interesting and individualized biochemical activities. Let’s take a peek at how unique the cat is inside, in that mysterious universe of liver and kidneys and glands and fluids where a million chemical reactions are going about their biological business in silent obscurity. And to make our little peek at the inner workings of the cat more interesting, let’s contrast a few of the cat’s biological activities to those of our next most favorite companion the dog.

    In so many obvious ways, cats look, act, react, and respond differently than dogs. You never see a cat happily wag its tail; a dog’s reflexes are quick, a cat’s reflexes are incredible; dogs are doers, cats are watchers. These differences are easily noted by simple observation. Now let’s explore some of the unseen microscopic world of the cat — the invisible world of metabolism and chemistry that is just as real as those traits we can see with our eyes.

    To begin with we must get a good grip on two terms … carnivore and omnivore. The cat is considered by scientists to be a strict carnivore and the dog is considered to be an omnivore. Both species are in the Class Mammalia and the Order Carnivora, but here’s the difference: The cat cannot sustain its life unless it consumes meat in some form. Dogs, however, are able to survive on plant material alone; they do not have to consume meat. But always keep in mind that dogs do best and by nature are primarily meat-eaters. Just because by definition they are omnivores (can digest and utilize plant and animal food sources) does not mean that plant material alone makes a good source of nutrition for the dog. Far too many dogs have been undernourished by those cheap grain-based dog foods. And grain-based cat foods are even worse!

    So a good way to think of it is that cats are carnivores, dogs are omnivores, but they both have evolved as hunters of other animals in keeping with their nature as meat-eaters.

    There are numerous chemical substances that are required for a cat to remain alive. These substances, some very complex chemical molecules and some very basic and simple, must be provided along the internal chemical reaction pathways at all times. Like other living plants and animals, the cat can manufacture most of its own required substances within its own body’s chemical factory. For example, Vitamin C is a requirement for life sustaining processes for us Mammalia, and dogs and cats make plenty of their own within their body’s chemical factory — the liver. We humans don’t make enough within our body chemical factory … so to keep ourselves alive we have to find some Vitamin C already made (preformed) somewhere in our environment, gather or capture it, then eat it. Without the Vitamin C, we’d die.

    Dogs and cats don’t have to worry about gathering, capturing, and eating other preformed Vitamin C. They don’t care where their next grapefruit will come from because they make all the Vitamin C they need inside their own personal chemical factory.

    On the other hand, there are numerous nutrients and chemicals that cats need that they can only acquire if they eat animal-derived tissues. That is, they need to prey on other living creatures that do make the essential chemicals that cats don’t! Out of necessity, the cat has evolved ways to hunt down, capture and eat this prey in order to “borrow” the prey’s nutrients.

    Outlined below are just a few of the unseen, but still very real biochemical differences between cats and dogs. Look these over and you will be even more convinced that cats are different!

    Vitamin A
    Also called retinol, this vitamin is required at the cellular level by both cats and dogs.

    Cats – Process little or no enzymes that will break down the plant-produced carotenoids. Must eat preformed active Vitamin A (that is, Vitamin A that already has been converted from carotenoids to its active form by some other creature such as a mouse or rabbit). Here’s a good example of why cats are called strict carnivores … they need to eat some other animal in order to “borrow” its active Vitamin A!

    Dogs – Have enzymes in the lining of the intestine that can break down plant carotenoids and convert these into active Vitamin A.

    Niacin
    An essential B vitamin (essential means must be eaten, can’t be made inside the body’s chemical factory.)

    Cats – Can obtain Niacin only by eating the preformed vitamin. Cannot convert Tryptophan to niacin.

    Dogs – Obtain Niacin in two ways. One is by converting a dietary amino acid call Tryptophan into Niacin, and the other way is by eating preformed Niacin.

    Arginine
    A building block for proteins, it is an amino acid. Arginine is vital to many of the animal’s internal chemical factory’s functions. No Arginine and the entire factory goes on strike!

    Cats – Are extremely sensitive to even a single meal deficient in Arginine and are unable to make their own Arginine within their chemical factory. Cats need lots of protein, and Arginine is involved in aiding the elimination of the protein waste products so the wastes don’t pollute the whole factory!

    Dogs – Are not very sensitive to low levels of Arginine in their diets and produce enzymes internally that can aid production of Arginine.

    Taurine
    An amino acid that is not built into proteins, but is distributed throughout most body tissues. Taurine is important for healthy functioning of the heart, retina, bile fluid and certain aspects of reproduction.

    Cats – Must eat preformed Taurine. And since it is not found in plant tissues, cats must consume meat to obtain Taurine. Therefore, Taurine is essential in the diets of cats. Here again, meat has to be supplied to the factory so the Taurine can be extracted for its many uses.

    Dogs – Make their own in their internal chemical factory.

    Felinine
    It is a compound made from a sulfur amino acid (SAA) called Cysteine.

    Cats – Have a much higher requirement for SAA than other Mammalia and are the only creatures to manufacture the Felinine chemical. Felinine’s role in the overall function of the chemical factory is unknown, but like most factories whose wastes generate offensive odors, any Felinine present in the male cat’s urine alerts the neighbors that the factory is up and runnin’!

    Dogs – Don’t know and don’t care what this stuff is.

    Dietary Protein
    Cats – If fed a perfectly balanced and 100-percent digestible protein in a diet, the cat will use 20 percent of that protein for growth metabolism and 12 percent for maintenance. Here’s any easy way to say it … cats need more protein in their diets than dogs do.

    Dogs – If fed a perfectly balanced and 100-percent digestible protein in a diet, the dog will use 12 percent of that protein for growth metabolism and only 4 percent of that protein for maintenance. Here’s an easy way to say this … dogs need less protein in their diets than cats.

    Arachidonic Acid
    An essential fatty acid that plays a vital role in fat utilization and energy production.

    Cats – Cannot make their own Arachidonic Acid even in the presence of adequate linoleic acid. The reason cats can’t make Arachidonic Acid from linoleic acid is because the cat’s chemical factory (liver) contains no delta-6-desaturase enzyme to convert linoleic to Arachidonic. Tell your cat owning friends about this one. Tell ‘em about the cat’s lack of liver delta-6-desaturase enzyme and they’ll think you’ve got a Ph.D. in biochemistry!

    Dogs – Can make their own Arachidonic Acid if they consume enough linoleic acid by eating proper fats. Therefore, we can say that Arachidonic Acid is not an essential fatty acid for dogs.

    Fasting and Starvation
    Cats – Do not mobilize fat reserves for energy very efficiently and, in fact, break down non-fatty body tissues for energy. This upsets the internal chemical factory and can lead to a very dangerous feline disorder called hepatic lipidosis. Never put a fat cat on a starvation diet, it might just put the entire factory out of business.

    Dogs – Can tolerate prolonged fasts and utilize fat reserves for energy.

    So, there you have an insight into some of the invisible goings-on in our friend the cat. It should be obvious that a high quality, meat-based diet is imperative to a cat’s wellness. There are no vegetarian diets for cats! And feeding your cat a homemade concoction of meat may be a disaster. Often, the best recourse is to find a good quality meat-based diet for your feline.

    Cats Body Language

    Cats Body Language

    by Colleen Dougherty
    Provided by CatTime

    Cats are savvy communicators, using nearly every part of their bodies to “talk.” Being savvy yourself in interpreting their language can help you bond with your cat, alleviate frustrations, and even prevent accidents.

    Affection
    Did you know if your kitty “head-butts” or licks you, it means she really likes you? Rubbing on nearby objects is called “redirected affection.” If her tail pops straight up as she’s walking toward you, she’s happy to see you. If she’s grooming in short, rapid strokes, and looking at you, she’s saying, “all is well.” Bright eyes, perked up ears, and forward-facing whiskers mean she’s ready for some interaction.


    Aggression
    Aggression can be defensive or offensive. A defensive cat is fearful, and reacting to a threat. She might be curled up in a ball, rolled to one side, tail tucked in close. Her ears will be flattened, pupils dilated, and she may be hissing. If the threat continues, she may launch an attack. If you see your cat in this position, don’t approach; stay several feet away and speak softly until she calms down – and let her come to you for reassurance afterward. Offensive aggression is the “Halloween Cat” – hair standing up, back and tail arched, pupils huge, tongue curled, hissing or yowling… a cat in this pose is ready to (but may or may not) attack. Nevertheless, get out of the way.


    Boredom
    If your kitty is bored, she may groom constantly, with long, intense strokes. Her tail might be low, at “half-mast,” or swishing slowly back and forth, telling you, “I’m not happy.” She may pace back and forth, sigh, or talk to you as if to say, “I need something to do.”


    Illness
    A crouched body and tucked tail may mean your kitty is in pain or ill. Look for half-closed eyes, downcast ears, or a blank expression. Obviously a kitty lying on her side but unresponsive or breathing funny needs immediate medical attention.



    Overstimulation
    Many owners end up bewildered (and bleeding) by a “sudden” attack during a play, petting, or brushing session. Overstimulated cats sometimes respond with a burst of energy directed at the nearest object – maybe you. But there are warning signs: Her tail will begin to swish back and forth, ears will twitch forward and back, she may vocalize, or turn her head toward your hand. When you see these signs, stop the activity and give her a time-out until her adrenaline calms down. She may still strike out, however, so be prepared.


    Relaxation
    Cat owners have all seen (and envied) the postures of a relaxed cat. They just seem to melt into whatever surface they’re on. They roll onto their backs, or pose like a “J” with their head sideways and upturned, the rest of their body lengthened and still. Eyes can convey relaxation too, in slow blinks, normal-sized pupils, and soft gazes.

    Learning to interpret and respond to cat-talk can truly enhance your relationship with your feline. She’ll teach you – so be ready to learn.

     

    Bringing Home a New Kitty

    Bringing Home A New Kitty

    Going to a new home is one of the most stressful and frightening experiences in a cat’s or kitten’s life. It’s compared to the stress we would experience if our home burned down, we were forced from our jobs, and our friends and family disappeared – all in the same day. Some cats adapt readily to their new homes and are contentedly purring away in their new owners’ laps in a few hours, while others takes days or weeks. Regardless of whether your new pet comes from a shelter or a loving foster home, it will find you and your home strange and frightening. You can minimize the stress your new kitty experiences if you follow a few simple rules:

    1. Your new kitty should spend at least its first day and night in its own room (and at least a week if you have other cats/dogs. See #4 below). This can be any quiet room in your home – a bedroom or bathroom with a closed window is ideal. It should also be a room that you can spend a lot of time in to help the kitty transition. Being in its own room will allow the kitty to become accustomed to the sounds and smells in your home without the additional stress of confronting a complex physical environment. Place a litter box, bed, scratching post, food and water in this room. And make sure there is a place for the kitty to hide, i.e. under a bed, behind a chair, etc. And make sure the room is clean and void of anything the kitty could hurt itself on/with. Have all of this set up before bringing in your new kitty. Bring in the carrier containing your kitty, close the door to the room, and open the carrier. Allow the kitty to come out of the carrier on its own. DO NOT force the kitty out. If the kitty doesn’t want to come out when you’re in the room, leave the room for a while, then come back in to see if the kitty has left the carrier. If not, leave the kitty in the carrier with the carrier door open.

    This room is where the new kitty will stay until it’s ready to meet the rest of your home. You play with it in this room, introduce other family members to it in this room, and never take it out of this room for any reason. And never let other pets into this room while the new kitty is acclimating to it room.

    2. When left alone the kitty may cry anxiously. You can comfort it by talking to it quietly, petting it gently, and if it doesn’t seem too frightened, picking it up and holding it in you lap.

    3. If you have small children, it’s especially important that they leave the kitty alone during this time. Because small children make sudden loud noises and movements, they’re particularly terrifying to cats. Introduce children gradually. Ideally these visits should occur when the child is in a quiet, attentive mood. Tell the child, “We’re going to visit the new kitty now. We have to be very quiet and gentle, and move very slowly, so that the kitty will learn to trust us.”

    4. How soon you let the kitty out to see the rest of your home depends on the kitty and whether or not you have other pets. If you have no other pets, your new kitty is ready to come out of its room when you walk into the room and it’s no longer fearful of you, i.e. comes up to you to be pet, held, etc. If you have another cat, your new kitty should remain in its room for at least five-to-seven days, so they can get acquainted with each other by smelling each other under the door. The room will smell like the new kitty, and your other cat will treat the room as the newcomer’s territory. Your new kitty will thus have refuge when you finally open the door and let the cats meet face-to-face for the first time. If you have a dog, never leave the new kitty alone with the dog unsupervised. We have more information about introducing a new kitty to your dog.

    5. Once your kitty is ready to come out of its room, simply open the door and let it explore outside on it’s own pace. Never pick it up and carry it out. Never force it out. Let you new kitty explore on its own. And, once the kitty is out of the room exploring, NEVER close the door to the room behind it. If the kitty gets scared or startled, it’ll run back into the room to hide. If it can’t get back into its room it’ll scare the kitty even more.

    6. Once you observe that your new kitty only goes back into its room to eat, drink and use the litter box, you can then move its food and box to a permanent location. Make sure that your kitty knows where you moved its food and box. This can simply be done by picking your new kitty up and placing it next to the food/water and box. Never place your kitty in the litter box. This will scare it.

    7. Other tips:

    a. If you plan on feeding your new kitty a different type of food than it was previously eating, make the transition after the new kitty has acclimated to it’s room. It doesn’t need anymore stress in the first few days.
    b. If you plan to let your new kitty outside (not recommended unless you have a lot of property), don’t let it out for at least a month after bringing it home and/or it’s six months old. You want to make sure that your new kitty understands that your home is its new home. If it doesn’t understand this, once let outside, it’ll try to find the place from which you adopted it. And at six months old, your new kitty will be big enough to handle itself outside with other animals/cats.

    The confinement technique described here will avoid many problems such as failure of your kitty to find the litter box, running out the front door before the kitty recognizes you and your home as its new home, and hiding in places where you might not want it to (like under the washer). Your patience will be rewarded, and your new kitty who cowered under your bed for a week will become a loving family member who greets you at the door, brings you gifts (a catnip mouse, perhaps), and generally repays you tenfold with love and companionship.

    Bottle Feeding Kittens

    First, Cleanliness
    Young kittens must be protected from disease!! ALWAYS wash your hands before and after handling the kittens, and ALWAYS clean bedding and towels, and sterilize your bottles, nipples, brushes, or tube feeders in boiling water after each use!! If your kittens did not receive their mother’s colostrum (the watery milk the queen produces in the first couple of days after giving birth), your kittens are at an even higher risk as they did not receive the antibodies present in the colostrum. In that case, be sure to keep them separated from any other animals, also.

    Housing
    House your kitten(s) in a small room. A bathroom is perfect. At first they’ll only need an area for their bed. Then, as they grow, they’ll need areas for their food and litter box.

    First and foremost, kittens need to be kept warm and free from drafts. If not they can suffer hypothermia very quickly. A small box is perfect. Place towels in the box to create a cozy “nest.” You can place towels over the box (if needed) to keep the inside warmer. The bedding towels should be replaced frequently; immediately when wet. A heating pad – on low setting – can be placed under half of the area. This gives the kitten(s) the option of how much heat they require. Kittens need plenty of sleep, so the area that they’re in should encourage this.

    Bottle Feeding
    Bottle feeding a kitten requires special nursers (bottle with nipple) designed for hand-feeding kittens. Make sure the kitten is on its stomach, even if it’s in your lap or on your tummy. DO NOT turn the kitten on its back to bottle feed, as this will cause the kitten to aspirate and possibly drown in the formula.

    Nipple of bottle: poke a small hole in the nipple with a very fine needle. Once the mixture is inside the bottle, turn the bottle over (nipple facing down) and gently squeeze. The formula should drip out but not run out. If the kitten gets too much formula too fast it can aspirate. Increase the hole size accordingly.

    Gently insert the nipple into the mouth of the kitten then slowly pull up and forward on the bottle so that the kitten will have its head slightly elevated and extended while nursing. Be sure the kitten is actually suckling by checking the level of formula in the nurser bottle and check the sides of the kitten’s mouth for excess formula.

    If the kitten doesn’t take the bottle, mix the formula with wet food and make a soup/slurry. This should interest the kitten. If not, make sure there’s wet & dry food and water available all of the time.

    How much to bottle feed the kittens? 
    It’s better to under-feed than over-feed a kitten in the first few days. A bottle-fed kitten will usually stop nursing when it’s full. If, however, you notice milk coming out of its nose, the milk is being delivered too fast, which means that the hole in the nipple is too large. (If the kitten continues to bubble its formula out of its nose each feeding, call us and we’ll have our vet check the kitten carefully to be sure the inside palate are of its mouth has fully developed.)

    Formula Temperature
    You should warm the formula before giving it to the kitten, to 99°-101°F (the body temperature of cats). The best way to do this is by putting the sterilized bottle into a warm bowl of water rather than using the microwave, which can cause “hot spots” in the formula.

    Bottle vs. Syringe
    Some kittens just won’t suck formula from a nippled bottle. In this case you should use a plastic syringe (without the needle of course!). From the newborn stage until the kittens are about 1-1/2 weeks old, use a 3 cc. syringe, and feed every 2 hours. At 1-1/2 weeks old, they are ready for the 6 cc. syringe size and feeding every 3 hours, and at about 3 weeks old, move them up to a 12 cc. syringe, feeding them at least every 4 hours. An average meal for a 3 week old kitten can vary from a single syringe full (12 fluid cc) to three syringes full (36 fluid cc) for a large and hungry kitten!!!

    Formula
    We use the powdered form of KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer) formula. While the powdered form is more economical, it does not always reconstitute as lump-free as needed to flow through the syringes. So make sure that the formula is thoroughly dissolved before feeding. We also recommend mixing the formula with goat milk instead of water – one part KMR to two parts goat’s milk. DO NOT USE COW MILK! This ensures that the kitten is getting all the needed vitamins, nutrients and minerals it needs to grow strong. You can buy goat’s milk at any grocery store.

    How much formula to give?
    Normally, it’s recommended that you give 2 tablespoons of liquid formula for every 4 ounces of body weight per day. For very young kittens, you’ll need to divide their total daily amount into six equal sized feedings. And yes, this does mean during the night, also! As the kittens grow, the number of feedings and their frequency can be decreased. Also as they grow, they can let you know better when they are actually hungry. Kittens that are not getting enough nourishment may cry continuously, suck on each other or on themselves, and they may have prominent hips or backbones.

    Do I need to burp the kitten?
    After each feeding, you’ll need to hold the kitten against your shoulder and gently burp it. Another technique is to hold the kitten so its back is against your chest and gently cuddle it under your neck while rubbing its tummy. A steady weight gain of about 10 grams (or 1/3 of an ounce) per day is recommended, but do not be surprised if a kitten may stay at the same weight for a day or two, then suddenly the weight gains are seen. After feeding, burping and weighing the kitten, check to see if the kitten’s bedding needs to be changed, and that the temperature is correct. Then, put the kitten back in the box so that it can sleep. A properly fed kitten will sleep through to the next feeding.

    Stimulating Elimination
    If properly fed, kittens will have a couple of firm, yellowish stools per day. Also after each feeding, you will need to gently massage and stimulate the anal and genital area with a sterile cotton ball or piece of gauze dipped in warm water. This will cause the kitten to urinate and have bowel movements, and it is very important that you continue to do this for the kitten until it is definitely using the litter box on its own, even though most kittens can control their own bowel movements at about 10 days old. The skin area is very delicate and may become raw or sore from your efforts. If this happens, apply a tiny dab of Preparation H ointment to the affected area after each stimulation. Keep in mind that your kitten will probably not have a bowel movement every feeding, and sometimes even skip a day. This should be fine as long as the kitten is growing, eating well, not showing any signs of distress, and urinating.

    Litter Box – Use a non-clumping litter
    Eventually, kittens will need a litter box. This usually happens when they start eating solid foods. A box with shallow sides is best. Some kittens learn to use the litter box on their own. Some you’ll need to teach. After they’ve eaten, place them in the box. They’ll learn to use the litter box very quickly after a few “lessons.” Make sure to keep the litter box as clean as possible, especially if you have multiple kittens. Disease spreads quickly in communal boxes.

    Socialization
    Socializing is an important aspect of foster care. A well socialized kitten finds a home faster than one that hides in the back of their cage. Newborn to 4 week-old kittens should be handled daily; but only for a short period of time. Kittens this age are easily fatigued. At 4 weeks of age they’ll begin to come to you for attention.

    Questions/Concerns
    Email us any time if you have questions, concerns or problems with your kitten(s). If it’s an emergency please go to your vet.