Monday, September 24, 2012

But She Never Goes Outdoors: Why Indoor Cats Still Need to Go to the Veterinarian

A cat food ad states “We know what every indoor cat needs- a big window, sunshine, healthy skin and fur” The pretty kitty sitting in a window may give the appearance of being healthy and safe; but there are dangers to his health, even if he never goes outdoors. The person who really knows what your indoor cat needs to enjoy life to the fullest is your veterinarian. Your cat’s doctor will make sure he is healthy both inside and out.
One misconception is that indoor cats do not need to receive vaccinations. An indoor cat needs to be protected against diseases that can come in even if he does not go out. Rabies is the most serious of the viruses to which an indoor cat can be exposed. The most common carrier is a bat. Many owners have come home to discover their cat has cornered or killed a bat. An unvaccinated cat needs to be quarantined. If the bat tests positive and the cat is not current on its rabies vaccine, the authorities’ first recommendation would be to have the cat euthanized. The other option is strict isolation for three months in a facility equipped to handle those stringent requirements. Then three months of strict home confinement. Indoor cats also can become ill by exposure to upper respiratory viruses, which are very hardy and can live outside the body for 10 to 14 days. There are cats that shed virus but show no signs of illness. An owner may pet a seemingly healthy cat and bring the virus home.
Infectious diseases are not the only risks for an indoor cat. Some issues are more common if a cat lives indoors: obesity, psychological disorders resulting from boredom ( for example-overgrooming or destructive behavior). Your doctor will make recommendations to prevent or correct these problems. ( See previous blog, “ Do we really know what it takes to keep a cat happy”.) Many health concerns, such as diabetes, thyroid disease, arthritis, or intestinal disorders can remain undetected until they are so severe they are obvious, even to an untrained eye. Unfortunately, the cat may have been in pain for quite a while or it may be too late to treat the illness successfully or without great expense.
Keeping your cat indoors increases the likelihood that he will live a long life. However Abraham Lincoln’s bromide that “in the end it is not just the years in a life that count, but the life in the years” applies to our feline friends too. Regular veterinary care will maximize the probability that your indoor cat will live not just the longest but the best possible life. 

Originally published at FelineDocs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How To Care of Your Cat's Paws

Part of being a responsible cat owner is to check your cat’s paws. Cats have the reputation of being clean animals. However, this should not stop you from checking your kitty cat’s feet once in awhile to see if they are clean and healthy. Red swollen paws, obsessive cleaning, limping or favoring one paw are signs that your cat is experiencing paw problems.

Care for your cat’s paws by following these tips:

  • If you are a stickler for cleanliness and your cat goes out of the house during the day, check your cat’s paws at least once a day before turning in. Wipe all four paws gently with a damp towel.
  • Cats instinctively sharpen their claws as they climb up trees. In the absence of a tree, they will claw at anything that can help them keep their deadly weapons in tip-top condition. It’s best to provide your cat with her own scratching post. This way you can save your sofa or other furniture from utter destruction.
  • Cat claws are for climbing and for gripping things. There is really no need to trim your cat’s claws especially if your cat regularly grooms herself. Should you, for some reason, need to trim your cat’s claws, use a special cat nail clipper. You can buy these at your local pet store. Don’t use your nail cutter. Remember that cats can be sensitive about their nails. Hold one paw and gently give it a squeeze. This will make her extend her claws. Make sure to only trim off the white tip of her claw. Do not trim beyond the point where her nail curls. Otherwise, you might hit a vein and cause it to bleed.
  • Longhaired cats have fur that grows in their paw. If you notice that your cat is cleaning her paws excessively, the long fur may be causing her some level of discomfort or annoyance. Some cats even attempt to pull these out. Using a pair of scissors, trim the fur in her paws.
  • If your cat loves the outdoors, she can get splinters or foreign objects (like foxtails, burs and sticker paper) caught in between her paws. Use tweezers to remove these. Remember to be gentle.
  • Cuts on a cat’s paw are not uncommon. Thorns, broken glass, sharp rocks and burs are some of the things that can cause lacerations on her feet. Wash your kitty’s paw with antibacterial soap. Larger cuts are for your vet to take care off.
  • Make sure your cat’s paws do not emit any unusual smell or odor. Her paws should also be free from excretions or any other irregularities like infections. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, bring your cat to her vet as soon as possible.
  • In the winter, make sure to wipe your cat’s paw clean after each foyer outside. This is to remove both ice crystals as well as road salt from her paws. Road salt can cause dryness. Ask your vet what moisturizer he can recommend for your feline’s furry feet.
  • Cats that obsessively clean their paws may be feeling pain or discomfort at some level. Make sure to check her paws immediately and act accordingly. But even without the obsessively cleaning, make it a habit to inspect your cat’s feet once in awhile. Doing this is part of providing your furry friend with the right loving care she truly deserves.

Originally written by Linda Hightower and published on How to Do Things.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Keeping Your Cat from Getting Bored

There is ample evidence that cats who spend their lives entirely indoors live much longer than their outdoor-only counterparts. But keeping an indoor cat happy as well as healthy means providing more than just good nutrition and regular veterinary care - you must also enrich your kitty's environment. Eliciting a cat's natural behaviors with hunting and foraging games can do wonders for your companion's well-being.
With a little creativity, you can keep your cat stimulated and interested, even in a small apartment and on a limited budget. And the good news is that enrichment research has shown that toys that are removed and then returned after several weeks regain much of their novelty; extend your enrichment budget by rotating your cat's toys regularly. Get started with a few of these feline friendly activities, but begin slowly and be sure to get a thumbs up from kitty's veterinarian.
Foraging Fun
Separate each day's food rations into small batches. Place the clusters around the house and then toss a few small treats in random directions. Not only will this encourage active foraging, it'll also keep kitty from scarfing down her food too quickly.
Pleasurable Puzzles
Toss a few treats into a square Rubbermaid® bottle and leave it on the floor with the lid off for a great beginner puzzle.
Any plastic container with a secure lid can become a hanging puzzle. Just cut two or three slots around the bottom outer edge of the container and place a few treats in the center. String a cord through the lid and hang this puzzle over a doorknob. Once your cat gets the hang of it, you can encourage exercise by raising it higher.
Scent Searching
Use old socks as washable scent baits. Just mark the sock with a dab of perfume, lotion, vanilla extract or even peanut butter, or place a pinch of any aromatic spice inside, then rub it over a slice of lunchmeat to pick up the scent. Scatter the socks throughout the house and your cat will be on the prowl for hours, delighted by the variety of scents. If you're pressed for time, simply mark a scent trail with a bit of cheese and then hide the cheese at the end of the trail.
Bird Watching
Attach a suction-cup bird feeder outside your cat's favorite window. Hungry birds will provide hours of entertainment. Don't place feeders too close to the ground as it leaves birds vulnerable to enemy attacks, and be sure to keep the window closed - 'excited cats can push right through screens.
Mouse Trap
Leave a ping-pong ball in the bathtub and watch as your cat makes it sail around the curves during her hunt for the elusive orb.
Crafty Cardboard
Use cardboard boxes as beds, dens, tunnels and mazes.
Make a "busy box" by attaching small toys to short lengths of cord and suspending them from the ceiling of a large box. Cut window flaps in the den at various heights.
Add a "Tiger Tug," ' a miniature version of a game popular with both tigers and chimps. Feed both ends of a length of parachute cord into the box through small holes. Tie a toy or a large knot on each end. When the cat tugs at one end, the other end mysteriously comes to life. For multicat households, run the ends into separate boxes.

This article was originally published by PetFinder.