Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Happy Cats Need Perches

Hello fellow cat lovers-

I wanted to make a little Blog entry to inspire all of you to make sure your cats have places to jump, climb and perch.

Felines naturally love to climb, especially onto high places.  Their ancestors in the wild do this for safety and security.  The "Big Cats" will carry their prey up into a tree to keep it from scavengers, and they will nap up high to keep themselves safe from other predators.  They use perches a vantage points so they can scout their territory. When climbing trees, they use their claws to grab the trunk, hence the importance of their retractable nails (with the exception of Lions).  Cats will naturally stretch and scratch against trees and rough surfaces to keep their nails sharp and clean.  There must be a natural "feel good" aspect to scratching, since even declawed cats will still try to scratch against a scratching post.  What's important to know is that your cats NEED areas where they can climb, scratch, stretch, and explore.  If they do not these special areas, they can become destructive, or worse, they can be more fearful since they won't have places where they feel "safe." Providing areas where they can climb and jump also keeps them active, limber, and lean.

Ah yes... every house cat feels like a Leopard on the inside...

Here is the Schock version of our "Tree" for the cats.  Cat Trees are available in all sizes and for all budgets. The area on the lower left has rope wrapped around it, which is the cats' favorite scratching post.  In my experience, cats LOVE this type of scratching surface.
Also note- the cats can watch the fish tank as entertainment.

Even if you don't have a fancy tree, a stool placed near fish tank is still  a great
"entertainment center."

Got a bookshelf?  Cats LOVE to get into the high, hard to reach places. Of course, here is Cosmo taking in the view.  He got up their by jumping from the back of a chair.

This is NOT my cat or my house--- but I thought this was clever!  An extra high scratching pole (with the popular rope wrapped around it) allows this kitty access to the top shelf.  If I had this in my house-- which I might copy-- I have no doubt that the cats will be on top of the book shelf daily.

Got a window? They you've got the perfect place for a perch.  This is Jaime sunning himself in his younger years.  If your cat wants to sit in the window sill, be sure you have a secure, tight screen.  Otherwise, you might have an escaped kitty, or even worse, an injured kitty if they fall from
any height.

This is one of my favorite products-- it is a soft perch that attaches to a window sill using velcro, then rests against the wall underneath.  Every home with a cat should have one or two of these!  Outside the window, place a bird feeder, and your cat will be so pleased.

Again- NOT my house!  But I took this photo at one of the SPCA facilities in Massachusetts where my husband used to work.  This was in one of the community cat rooms.  The steps, the high "cat walk", and the cubbies with little cat beds helped keep these kitties feeling comfortable while they waited to be adopted.

I cannot emphasize enough that your cats need areas where they can climb and explore.  Be creative and think like a cat-- where would you go if you were a curious kitty? Every home and apartment has room for a window perch, cat tree, or a secure bookshelf. Remember that many cats seem satisfied with the back of a couch, a baby's changing table, or the top of a refrigerator. Nevertheless, try to offer them something new as environmental enrichment.  I would love to hear where your cats' favorite perches are!  Feel free to share via comments on my Blog.

- Dr. Schock

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Getting the Cats to the Vet

I KNOW....
Getting a cat to the vet (let alone multiple cats!!!!) can be VERY challenging.

As a matter of fact, one of the most common reasons we don't see as many cats as dogs in the vet office is because the ordeal can be so difficult for the owners as well as for the cats themselves.  Many people feel that the process is so difficult that it just isn't worth the hassle.  Well, I'm here to give you a few pointers that can help your kitty (and you) make it to the vet office with a little less of a struggle.

It is no secret that once you bring out that scary cat carrier, all household felines will disappear.
They hear it, the smell it.
They hate it.

(To see how to desensitize them to a comfy, non-clunky carrier, skip to the END of the blog!! )

Anyway- I'll tell you how it goes in my house.
4 cats = 4 carriers.  They are usually kept in the garage, which is near the laundry room.  I close the laundry room door and bring all the carriers inside (quietly!!). Behind the closed door, they can't see them and there is less time for them to escape.  Leave the carriers open.

TIP:   A little while before getting the carriers, I close all bedroom and closet doors in the house to limit hiding places.

All carriers ready.... get set....

Then, one by one, I walk around the house and carry one cat at a time into the laundry room. I close the door behind me BEFORE putting that kitty in a carrier.
(If a laundry room isn't an option, a bathroom can work, too.  You can put the cat in the bathroom, close the door, and then bring the carrier to them, too.)

.... GO!  First kitty victim was Nemo on this particular day.
I recommend holding cats in towels if the tend to panic and scratch.

Eventually, after every kitty has been caught, brought to the room, and placed in an individual carrier, we are ready to go!

All four victims have been captured.  

TIP: Many cats will PEE or POOP (or puke...) on their drive.  If this happens, I recommend putting that cat in a plastic carrier with a towel or disposable wee-wee pad for easy cleanup upon arrival at the vet hospital.

Jaime HATES this.  He likes to pee in the car, hence a plastic carrier is needed.
Sadly, this is how many of my patients appear once they arrive to see me.

Okay-- once you get to the hospital, we all know how awkward it can be to carry the cats inside.  Some carriers are easier to move than others.  

If possible, DO NOT carry the cats at your sides.  It is awkward, the cats swing all over the place, and the view from that position is very scary to a feline.


Instead, carry the box at chest level (or if you have a shoulder strap, use it). This is safer, easier on your back, and provides much more soothing, less rocky, movement for the cats.

Don't be shy- ASK FOR HELP from our staff!! We can help get the other kitties out of the car for you.  You can even call from the parking lot.  


After checking in with our friendly staff, have a seat in a quiet area of the benches, away from dogs if possible.  If dogs are barking or the waiting room is loud, we will try to get you into a quiet exam room as soon as we can.

When checking out of the hospital, do not place the cat carrier on the floor.  It can be very scary to be a eye-level with doggies... even if they appear friendly :-)


Instead, place the cat carrier on the counter.  Then, they will not be face-to face with canines. 

YES :-)

Okay. So how can we make his process even easier? Start fresh and make a carrier a fun, comfy hiding spot, instead of a noisy, scary threat that they only see a few times per year.

1) Buy a new, comfy, light, top-loading carrier.  There are many brands, but SHERPA offers great options.  Plus, they are approved for many airlines.
2) Leave the carrier out in the open 24/7. 
3) Leave the carrier unzipped and in an inviting place.  
4) Sprinkle catnip, treats, and FeliWay phermone inside.  These things all will invite the kitty to check out the carrier.
5) Be patient.  Start this process at least a week before leaving the house with the cat.
6) You might eventually see the kitties exploring the carrier, maybe even going in it.  This is good!
7) Eventually, you can easily zip up the carrier with the cat inside, and it will be far less traumatic.
8) You can carry the cat around the house in the carrier, then let them out and let them see that they will NOT die after such an experience.
9) Even after the vet visit, leave the carrier out.  Let it become part of the cat's environment.  It will then be seen as a comfort, rather than a threat.
10) Be sure to take cute pictures :-)

Here is our comedian, Cosmo.  The carrier is not scary or threatening when it's just sitting out on the coffee table.
Notice the Jacob "photo bomb" in the background.....

I hope this entry was helpful! Please remember that our staff wants to help you in any way we can.  YOU are the most important part of your cat's health care.  Without you, we can't examine and treat your feline friends.  Call us if you need more helpful hints!

- Dr. Schock

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Feeding a Sick Paulie

Yes, even a veterinarian's cat will get sick.

Paulie, our "special" orange kitty, gave us quite a scare. It started with a few episodes of vomiting all over our bedspread (which was wonderful to find right before climbing into bed at night....), and then it progressed to refusing all meals. After the second or third day of Paulie's food strike, it was time to take action.

I did all the tests that I recommend  for my own patients: Blood work, Xrays, testing for FIV/ FeLV, and even Abdominal Ultrasound.  All of his tests came back normal.

We started appetite stimulants, anti-nausea medicine, and a stomach anti-acid.  Paulie would sniff the food, then sadly walk away.  As a doctor, it was very distressing for me because I still did not have a diagnosis, and I did not know how to fix him.

This scenario occurs sometimes with our feline patients.  The danger is, if a cat does not eat for more than a few days, their liver can actually become compromised.  As the body breaks down fat at a rapid pace to make up for lost calories, the fat can deposit in the liver and cause severe inflammation and jaundice. This is called "hepatic lipidosis", and it can be fatal.

The question then becomes, "How do I feed the patient if I don't know what's wrong and I'm not sure what to do?" 

The answer: A temporary feeding tube, or "Nutritional Access Port".

Poor little Paulie....

When I mention this option to owners, I often get looks of hesitance, fear, and sometimes horror. They imagine family members or friends in the hospital with feeding tubes while they lay sick.  The thought of "artificially" keeping someone alive seems wrong to many.  I beg you to think differently when it comes to our feline friends.

A temporary feeding tube, or "Esophagostomy Tube", is a soft rubber tube that is placed in the side of the cat's neck.  It can be placed under light anesthesia, and it is then stitched into place and wrapped up with soft padding.  Once awake, the cat can resume his normal activity.  He can still be offered food, given medications, use the litter box, and play with toys.

Until the cat starts eating on his own, canned food can be liquefied with water and slowly put through the tube with a syringe (usually a very large syringe, holding up to 60 ml).  Usually the cat sits quietly in your lap, the couch, or his bed during the 10 - 15 minutes it takes to slowly squirt the food down the tube.  Medications can be crushed, mixed with water/ food, and given down the tube as well.  Tube feeding is usually done about 3-4 times a day in order to maintain the caloric needs of the pet.

Paulie getting some nutrients.... and love.... during one of his feedings

This method of treatment is much more favorable to forceful syringe feeding by mouth. Cats HATE being syringe fed by hand, and it is nearly impossible to give them the calories they need this way.  Forcing food and medications by mouth can lead to resentment and aversion, especially if the pet is nauseated or in pain. It is messy, stressful, and just plain unfair.

Paulie at home, enjoying life with his E-Tube.  Here he is still able to jump 5 feet up onto his perch!
With Paulie, he started feeling stronger the day after the tube feeding was started.  Due to his lifelong history of being thin, picky about food, and intermittent vomiting, I made the assumption that he might have Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I started appropriate steroid therapy and a prescription "novel protein" diet of Hills d/d Venison and Sweet Pea.

After three days of tube feeding, steroids, stomach supportive medications, and his new diet, Paulie started to eat dry food by himself!  The great thing about the tube was he could keep eating as much food as he wanted on his own, but I could also supplement him with liquid meals through the tube to make sure he consumed enough calories. 

I  brought Paulie home to continue his supportive care. The other cats thought he looked a little silly with his special contraption, but they were glad to see him nonetheless.  Paulie immediately visited his regular scratching post, litter box, and favorite couch.  He was able to sleep in our bed and look out the window.  His quality of life was unchanged, and he got a little extra attention during his "special" feeding times.

After a week, he was eating well on his own, and I removed the tube.  No anesthesia is required to remove the tube.  The neck is simply unwrapped, the stitches are cut, and the tube is pulled out.  A bandage is placed over the neck for a few days to allow the hole in the skin to heal.  Infection rate is low as long at the bandaging is replaced regularly (every 5-7 days) and the tube site is scrubbed clean as needed.  I have had patients that keep a feeding tube for many weeks without consequence.

I encourage all of you to consider the option of a feeding tube if your veterinarian ever recommends it for your feline friend.  Appropriate cases include cats with hepatic lipidosis, inflammatory bowel, intestinal cancer, oral tumors, oral surgery, kidney failure, etc.  I can tell you first hand, it is the most stress-free way to support your cat if they can't or will not eat!!

- Dr. Schock
This message has been "Paulie Approved!"