Cats are the most popular pet in the world, and yet, so much about cats is still unknown. Even those of us who spend a large part of our lives learning about and trying to understand cats still feel like we have a lot to learn when it comes to these beloved, yet often enigmatic creatures.
Making a decision about whether or when the time is right for euthanasia is one of the hardest things someone loving a pet will ever go through. Unlike human medicine, veterinary medicine is fortunate to be able to legally offer the option of gently ending suffering when there seems to be no hope for recovery. It is a difficult decision to make at best, and it can be nearly impossible for some pet owners. There are so many factors that play into it. The term that is used the most in this context is “quality of life.” But what does that really mean? Are there hard and fast rules as to what constitutes good quality of life? Of course not. Quality of life means something different for every person, and for every animal.
There are some fairly obvious markers. Pain is one of them. No pet owner wants to see a beloved pet suffer. Animals, especially cats, are masters at masking pain, so this can be difficult to detect. Another marker is appetite. For most pet owners, the first indication that something is wrong is usually when a pet stops eating. A third important marker is dignity. Is the pet still able to relieve herself on her own, or does she need assistance with urination and defecation?
But even these three markers are not always helpful when trying to make a decision. Pain can be managed with medication. Some pets stop eating or eat very little but are still happy and are enjoying life. And who is to say that the dog that needs assistance with being carried outside to urinate or the cat who needs help to get into the litter box and needs to be cleaned off afterwards does not appreciate this level of care from his loving human and is otherwise happy and content? Each pet is different, and each relationship between human and animal is unique. There is no one right answer.
It is often said that making the decision to euthanize a pet is the final gift of love we can give our animals. I wholeheartedly believe that, but it still does not make the decision process any easier. Love and denial can be intricately linked, and it can sometimes be difficult to separate one from the other.
It is often said that we will just “know” when the time is right. And I believe that when we do connect with the essence of our animals and manage to set aside worry and fear for even just a few moments at a time, we will know. It takes courage to set aside our fears, and to tune in to the animal and really “hear” them. Ultimately, the only way any of us can make this decision is by listening to our animal friends with our hearts, not with our heads. It becomes a decision of love, not something to be reasoned out on an analytical and intellectual level.
Every year, a large number of cats are surrendered to shelters because a new baby has arrived and parents believe well-meaning relatives or old-school obstetricians who have convinced them that keeping a cat risks the health and well-being of their child.
There is absolutely no reason to give up a cat when a baby arrives. Simple, common sense precautions can prepare your cat for your baby’s arrival, and keep both safe.
Prepare your cat for the new baby
Acclimate your cat to baby-related smells and sounds. Apply baby powder or baby oil to your skin so your cat will associate the scent with you. Play a recording of baby noises. Make it a pleasant experience for your cat by rewarding her with treats and play while you do this.
If you have friends with babies, ask them to bring their children over for brief visits. Supervise these visits carefully, and offer praise and treat to your cat for good behavior so she will form a pleasant association with babies.
Start your cat used to probing and poking baby fingers. Gently give your cat a little poke, prod or pinch. Reward good behavior with treats.
The baby’s room
Decide whether the baby’s room will be off limits to your cat, or whether she will be allowed in the room. If the baby’s room will be off limits, remove any furniture your cat likes to lie on or sleep on from the room so she will still be able to use those favorite pieces elsewhere in the house.
If your cat will be allowed in the baby’s room, she will most likely be fascinated by the crib. Discourage her from sleeping in it by placing cat deterrent devices like the SSSCat near the crib. Provide alternate sleeping places for your cat in the baby’s room. Add a cat bed or cat tree, and reward your cat for using them.
When baby comes home
Before you bring the baby home from the hospital, send a blanket or sock or item of clothing with the baby’s scent on it home so your cat can get used to the scent.
When you return home with the baby, have someone else hold the baby in another room while you greet your cat and play with her. Keep things lowkey.
Help your cat enjoy being near the baby. Offer praise, toys and treats when she approaches the baby, but don’t force her to be near the baby. She’ll investigate when she’s ready.
It’s a myth that cats try to smother babies. If you see your cat sniffing your baby’s face, praise him for her nice, calm behavior.
Always supervise interactions between cat and baby
It’s best to keep a watchful eye on both cat and baby. Don’t hover or worry, but be aware and ready to intervene if you have to. Always be gentle about any needed intervention.
Minimize changes in routine and attention
Your schedule will be hectic once the baby arrives. If you need to change your cat’s feeding schedule and the times when you’ll be able to give her attention and play with her, make the changes before the baby arrives.
Resist the temptation to give your cat extra attention before the baby arrives. This will only makes things more difficult for her when you find yourself having less time to pay attention to her. Try to ease your cat into a schedule that is realistic for you, but doesn’t short change your cat.
The relationship between cats and children can be very special if you nurture it from an early age. Studies have shown that children who grow up with pets have higher self-esteem and improved social skills. They learn to care for others at an early age. There is also evidence that growing up with pets may help develop non-verbal communication.
This article was previously published on Answers.com and is republished with permission.
Most of us have had one or more of these cats: they are happy, sweet, maybe even affectionate on their own terms, but they simply refuse to sit in our laps. Allegra is one of them. It took months after I first adopted her at seven months of age before she would even come near my lap. She liked being in the same room with me, even sit right next to me, but my lap? That was off limits territory as far as she was concerned. After almost four years with me, she has just recently started to come around and is starting to ask for some lap time.
Stephanie Bouchard can relate – to the point that she published a charming little book about the topic. Continue Reading
Guest post by Katie Friedson on behalf of Morris Animal Foundation
Blood clots are a potentially deadly complication of heart disease. These clots can form when changes in the shape of the heart walls cause blood to move through the heart in an abnormal flow pattern, leaving stagnant spots were coagulation can occur. The vast majority of these clots lodge at the very end of the aorta, the biggest artery in the body, where it branches off to supply the rear legs and tail. When this happens, the affected cat will be literally fine one second and paralyzed the next. The pain is excruciating. This is a life-threatening crisis with a very poor prognosis for survival. It is a frightening scenario for any cat guardian.
It is estimated that between 200,000 and 600,000 cats develop blood clots every year. Only one third will survive the first blood clot, Continue Reading
I’m not a football fan, and I couldn’t care less who wins the big game. So why will I be watching football come Super Bowl Sunday this year? Why, it’s because I’ll be watching Hallmark Channel’s Kitten Bowl! After years of having to wait for Animal Planet’s Kitten Halftime Show during their annual Puppy Bowl, cat lovers finally get their own event.
In this feline showdown, there will be two preliminary playoffs and a championship match. Continue Reading
With cat guardians understanding the importance of regular preventive care, and with veterinary medicine becoming more and more advanced, cats live longer lives than ever before. However, despite all the advanced treatment options, some illnesses are considered terminal. In the past, euthanasia was often the only option pet owners would consider at that stage. An alternative to premature euthanasia that is garnering more attention in the world of pet care is hospice care.
What is hospice care?
The definition of a terminal illness is an illness for which there is no cure. It is an active, progressive, irreversible illness with a fatal prognosis. Hospice care provides an alternative to prolonged suffering and is designed to give supportive care to cats in the final phase of a terminal illness. The goal is to keep the cat comfortable and free of pain, with a focus on quality of life.
Hospice care is not about giving up, or even about dying. It may actually involve providing more care for a terminally ill cat than pursuing aggressive medical treatment, not less. The decision to provide hospice care should be made in conjunction with your veterinarian, who will become an integral partner in the process.
What does hospice care involve?
Hospice care focuses on keeping the patient comfortable. This may mean providing additional soft bedding with easy access to food, litter boxes, and favorite sleeping spots. Depending on the cat’s condition, gentle handling may be required because many terminal medical conditions create discomfort and pain.
Pain management, also known as palliative care, is one of the cornerstones of hospice care. Cats are masters at hiding pain, so it is up to the cat’s guardian to watch for even subtle signs of pain, such as hiding or avoiding contact with family members or changes in sleeping position. Work with your cat’s veterinarian to develop an appropriate pain control program for your cat.
Provide easy access to food and water at all times. You may need to experiment with special foods to get an ill cat to eat.
Sick cats may not be able to groom themselves normally. You may have to assist your cat with grooming by gently brushing, and keeping eyes, ears, the area around the mouth and around the rectum and genitalia clean.
There are many non-invasive, gentle holistic therapies that can provide relief to terminally ill cats. Energy therapies such as Reiki, Healing Touch, Tellington Touch and others are particularly effective.
A time of peace
Hospice care can present logistic and emotional challenges for cats and their guardians, but this can also be a time of peace and increased bonding with your beloved feline companion. Additionally, hospice care allows cat guardians to gently prepare themselves for the impending loss.
Diagnosis of a terminal illness does not have to be the end. Hospice care can provide a compassionate and loving final phase of life for both cat and human.
This article was previously published on Answers.com and is republished with permission.
When we lose a special cat, it’s the stories of that cat’s life that sustain us as we navigate through the devastating grief that comes with losing a best friend. For some, sharing those stories with a wider audience becomes an integral part of the healing process. This was the case for Tom Templeman, a Nashville based songwriter/artist.
Templeman was no stranger to loss. At age 4, he watched his 7-year-old brother being killed by a car. As an adult, he grieved the sudden, early death of his mother, and buried three of his closest friends. And yet, he was not prepared for the profound heartbreak of losing his 17-year-old grey tabby Tiger to heart disease.
There is no question that vaccines protect against disease – but they also present considerable risk. Sadly, far too many cats are still being over-vaccinated because too many veterinarians, and cat guardians, still think annual “shots” are necessary. Vaccines are implicated in triggering various immune-mediated and other chronic disorders (vaccinosis). Vaccines are also implicated in the high incidence of vaccine-induced sarcomas in cats. The incidence of these tumors ranges from 1 in 1000 to 1 in 10,000 cats. They can develop as quickly as 4 weeks or as late as 10 years post vaccination.
There is some compelling evidence coming from a study conducted at The Center for Companion Animal Studies at Colorado State University that shows that the common FVRCP (feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and paneleukopenia) vaccine may cause long-term damage to cats’ kidneys that increases with every booster.Continue Reading
Sara Goldenthal, a practitioner of both TTouch and Bach Flower Essences has more than a dozen years experience working with cats with all kinds of behavioral challenges in private homes, as well as in animal shelters and rescues. In this small volume, she introduces a deceptively simple method of working with timid and traumatized cats that gradually eliminates fear, stress and anxiety.Continue Reading
There is no question that cats are good for us. They can function as therapists and comforters. They lower our blood pressure, remind us to live in the moment, and keep us warm at night. And sometimes, they grace us with special moments that melt our hearts.
These special moments don’t happen every day. I’m not talking about the joy we feel when our cats greet us at the end of a long day, or the exhilaration we feel when we watch them play. I’m talking about those truly magical and rare moments. Continue Reading