Month: May 2010

Feline Asthma

Written by Renee L. Austin

Feline asthma is a respiratory condition that involves inflammation and excess mucous build-up in the airways. Muscles spasms cause constriction of the airway, resulting in respiratory distress. Feline Asthma shares some characteristics with asthma in humans, including symptoms.

Signs of feline asthma may be as mild as an occasional soft cough and/or a wheeze. At times it may seem as though your cat is trying unsuccessfully to bring up a hairball. In extreme and chronic cases, one might notice a persistent cough along with labored, open-mouth, harsh breathing. At this point, an asthma ‘attack’ could culminate in a life-threatening crisis.

There are a number of treatment options which might include oral medications, inhalers similar to those used in human medicine, and nebulizers. These serve to help with daily prevention and also manage more severe episodes as they occur by reducing inflammation and helping to relax the muscles of the airway.

Even though the exact causes of feline asthma are unknown, it is believed that allergies could play a part. In addition to medical management, it may help to watch for possible triggers in the environment. Consider whether your litter is low-dust and unscented. If your cat has allergies to grains, corn and wheat based litters may pose a problem as well. Be careful when using household products such as aerosols, cleaners and polishes. Reduce exposure to vapors from garages, work areas, and special projects. Vacuum frequently and wash bedding often to help reduce dust mites. Watch for areas where mildew and mold may build up. If you notice seasonal occurrences, be mindful of open doors and windows. Look for reactions in stressful situations and limit exercise when appropriate. You may even want to discuss your cat’s diet with your veterinarian.

It is beneficial to keep a detailed journal of episodes. Include any observations of your cat’s behavior and activity level leading up to an event, indoor and outdoor temperatures, weather conditions, and any household activities such as vacuuming and cleaning or projects using paints or chemicals. Note any changes in the diet you offer, bedding, and with the brand of litter you use. It is especially helpful to describe the signs you are seeing. Developing a scale where you can measure the severity of attacks and the effectiveness of any treatments you are using will help to add a little bit of objectivity. In doing this, you’ll have an invaluable resource for your veterinarian and a possible means of anticipating problems.

In case of an attack be certain that you have your emergency supply of medications on hand at all times because an episode can occur with little warning. Since an already panicked cat will sense your anxiety, try to remain as calm as possible. Sometimes with mild episodes, just simply talking quietly and petting lightly and gently can help settle breathing. Be sure that you don’t hover too closely. Holding or wrapping in towels or blankets will only result in increasing the sense that your cat is suffocating. Allow for a short bit of time to pass after giving oral medications or using a rescue inhaler or nebulizer. This gives you an opportunity to see if the treatment has been effective and also helps you to calmly prepare for the next step if more aggressive treatment is needed.

Many other medical conditions including infection, heart worms, foreign bodies, lung worms, cancer, and heart disease may mimic feline asthma, therefore it is vital for you to take your cat to your veterinarian for a thorough exam and medical work-up. Feline Asthma is typically diagnosed through clinical presentation, radiographs (x-rays) and lab work. Once diagnosed, your veterinarian will work with you to determine the optimal approach to treating your cat.

Initially, the diagnosis and management of feline asthma can be a frustrating and unnerving process, but if you suspect that your cat has this disease don’t ignore the signs. Untreated, this can be a very uncomfortable and potentially life threatening condition for your cat to live with.

Copyright © 2008 Renee L. Austin/Whimsy Cats LLC All rights reserved

Renee L. Austin is the founder of Whimsy Cats, a specialized home care business for cats with chronic medical conditions and special needs. She also provides consulting services for veterinary practices. For more information visit

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How to Select Healthy Cat Treats: Tips & Human Food Options

maine coon cat having treat

You will find a lot of information on feline nutrition on this site, but one aspect I haven’t covered in detail is treats. While treats should always be used judiciously, especially for cats that have a tendency to gain weight or are already overweight, realistically, most cat guardians want to occasionally spoil their feline charges with a special treat.  Treats also have their place when it comes to training (and yes, cats can be trained).  Since most of us will give our cats treats, it’s important to choose healthy options.Continue Reading

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Why is My Cat Is Not Using the Litter Box: 9 Reasons & What to Do


Your cat may not be using the litter box for many reasons. If you have ruled out diseases by taking your cat to the vet, you should go over this list I came up with. Your cat might be unhappy with one or some of those issues.

The 9 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Not Using the Litter Box

1. Too few boxes

The ideal number of litter boxes in a home is at least the number of cats + 1. If you have two cats, you should have at least 3 litter boxes.

With four cats at home, I keep five litter boxes in the house. I have one in each floor, and two in the basement, the biggest room. It works well for us, even though I would like to have one more. I just can’t seem to find the right place for it (handy for the cats and hidden from visitors).

2. Box is in the wrong place

The litter box should be in a quiet place — away from the furnace and any other machines that emit noises. Cats don’t like to be surprised while in the bathroom. The box should also be in a place easily accessible for your cat. If it’s too difficult to reach the box, he may not make it there on time, especially if your cat is older and arthritic.

If you have several cats, a lower-ranking cat may have trouble accessing the litter boxes. If he’s trapped by other cats on his way to the loo, he may choose to pee somewhere else, given the circumstances.

3. Box is hooded

Most cats don’t enjoy hooded litter boxes. They trap the pee and poop odor inside, make it darker and much more difficult or even impossible to escape if another cat blocks the door.

My litter boxes are tall, clear plastic storage containers without the lid. I bought them at Target and drilled a hole in the side of each box (This one might do the trick). This way, my cats can easily access it from a door, see if any other cat approaches and escape from the top if necessary. Since the walls are clear, my cats can see better inside (more light). The fact I don’t cover them help ventilate any scents from a previous visit to the bathroom, so the cats don’t get overwhelmed.

Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

4. Box is too dirty

If you buy clumping litter, scoop the litter box at least once a day and change the whole content every couple of months. Some people rotate litter boxes every six months so one box can “breathe” (they let the pee scents dissipate) while the cat uses the other one.

If the litter you use does not clump, change to clumping litter. If you can’t, scoop at least once a day and change the litter at least every week.

5. Box is too clean

If you clean your cat box with harsh-smelling chemicals such as bleach, your cat may avoid the place. Cats are very sensitive to smells.

6. Unwanted liners

Some cats hate the feel or the crackling sounds of plastic liners — or both.

7. Wrong litter

Cats can be fussy about litter. Some types of pine litter don’t absorb the smell of pee, which may disgust your cat and make him look for another bathroom. Some clay litters have a strong perfume smell to please humans. But they might displease your cat. I use World’s Best Extra Strength made out of corn, and we’re all very happy (cats and humans).

Image Credit: Seika Chujo, Shutterstock

8. Litter is not deep enough or too deep

Figure out how much litter your cat wants in the litter box. My cats hate it when I don’t pour enough litter, and they find themselves scratching the bottom of the box to cover their poop. They leave the thing uncovered and vanish. I have to put up with the perfume.

9. Animosity between cats in the house

If you have cats who don’t like each other, increase the number of litter boxes in your house. Again, make sure they are uncovered and made of clear plastic, so they can see when another cat approaches and can escape safely and quickly. If your cat feels unsafe in the box, he will look for another place to relieve himself.

Daniela Caride is the publisher of The Daily Tail (, a participatory blog about pets with stories, tips, and reviews. She lives with three cats, Crosby, Gaijin and Phoenix, three dogs, Frieda, Geppetto and Lola, and her husband, Martin, in Cambridge, MA

Featured Image Credit: Sari ONeal Shutterstock

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