On February 1, we launched our new “Ask the Vet With Dr. Kris” segment. Once a month, we’ll post a reminder for you to post your questions for Dr. Kris. He’ll answer as many of them as he can each month, and I’ll publish his answers in a subsequent post.
Dr. Kristopher Chandroo is a veterinarian, scientist, photographer, animal welfare advocate, and creator of Stress to Success (STS): The Essential Guide to Medicating Your Feisty, Grumpy or Reluctant Cat. Dr. Kris wants your cats to be twenty years old. And counting! And he wants to provide medication and therapy to them in a way that respects the bond between cat and human.
Here are Dr. Kris’ answers to some of your questions asked in February. If your question didn’t get answered here, Dr. Kris will answer them on his own website, in the future. Subscribe to his updates so you’ll be notified when the answers are published.
Persian male cat bites Himalyan’s neck
Dr. Kris, never had this in 30+ yrs experience with cats. I have a Persian n male, 3 yrs old, sweet, easy going, loving to all, even our yappy Yorkie. All are spay/neut. 7 months ago I adopted a 3 month seal PT Himalayan male, recently neutered. Now the male Persian mounts, no other word for it, the Himalayan and his hips do little jerks. Himalayan doesn’t retaliate, just lays there. Sometimes Persian starts by biting, not hard, the Himalayan’s neck. My husband says ” very disturbing” . As long as Elvis isn’t hurt, I leave them. (Suzanne Walker)
So, you’ve got a cat named Elvis, and a Persian who is doing something naughty? I recommend that you listen to this song as you read this answer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emjLXdsj6xA
You look like an angel
Walk like an angel
Talk like an angel
But I got wise
You’re the devil in disguise..
Your Persian is literally now “doing the Elvis”. Hip thrusts and all. It’s sexual behaviour on display. Just like Elvis did in the 50s. Believe it or not, cat’s have a “lust system”.
Ok, ok, ok. So here is what’s happening. Mr. Himalayan arrived on the scene. That’s a relationship change. Relationship changes in groups of cats are all about psychology. It doesnt matter that he’s been around for seven months and just starting the behaviour now. Because it’s all about how they feel and think about their group as time goes by.
If it gets worse, your Persian might need something else to occupy his time. Toy’s, treat ball, more places to climb and hiding spots for Elvis. Of course, Feliway Friends and Zylkene could play a role as well.
But I agree with you – as long as Elvis isn’t hurt, it seems reasonable to leave them.
This all assumes they are successfully neutered and spayed for sure!!! It’s hard to screw up that kind of surgery, so I would be surprised if they were not. Im also assuming there is no vaginitis / lower urinary tract infections going on (which can change behaviour and odours produced by your cats).
P.S. – Your hubby is hilarious!
Tortie constantly wants more food
Hi Dr Kris! I adopted a beautiful tortie girl 5 weeks ago, aged 3.5 years. She is very loving and was previously homed, not a stray. I am feeding her ZiwiPeak wet food 3 times a day (first thing in the morning, when I get home from work and later in the evening before bed). She has a small amount of dry food available but will only eat a few at a time if I encourage her or during the day when she’s alone. In the evenings she seems to constantly want more food, meowing whenever I get up (especially if I go to the kitchen where she is fed, obviously). I’m feeding her as guided on the can, and she often leaves some food from her second meal. I also introduced some poached chicken but she vomited a couple of times while eating that (though this was hours after eating, early in the morning), so I have been holding off giving it to her again to see if she is sick at all without the chicken. She doesn’t jump on the counter and only occasionally begs for food off our plates (we never give her anything), and will typically just watch from afar when I’m preparing human meals. I am able to get her to sit while waiting for meals now.
I get the feeling she isn’t liking being left alone during the day and is trying to make up for it by being needy at night. I give her lots of attention and try to play with her, but she just isn’t really interested in playing much at night until after the third meal. I tried a treat ball but as she doesn’t really like dry food much she isn’t keen on that. My vet suggested feeding her more regularly but that is obviously difficult while at work (she didn’t like the automated feeder I got her), and trying a limited diet if she is vomiting regularly, before any further tests etc. I’m really worried about her, I just want her to be happy in her new home and do the best for her wellbeing. Is it likely she is still just settling in?
Ooohh torties are awesome. I once house sat while working in Vancouver Island, and it was me and this little Tortie watching movies over winter.
Ok, lets talk about food first. Maybe it’s the issue driving her behavior, maybe it isn’t. Because maybe she could just be settling in. That could make one anxious, right? And then, it could be both. Because you have a cat. And they are mentally complex. So the only way you really know is to test things. Like you’ve been doing.
So your cat is a specialized hunter. They are designed to eat 10 to 20 small prey items in a day. Now some are better at this than others. Some are more driven than others. Now imagine a voice in the back of your cats head – an urge to go hunt 20 to 40 times per day. “Let’s go hunting….let’s go stretch our legs, let’s stalk and sprint and pounce….”.
It’s the same frequency that we check our smartphones right? Now imagine your forgot your phone, and you’re stuck at work. It feels weird. You reach into your pocket every 10 minutes, and it’s not there. You can’t satisfy the urge…
We’ve got to activate her brain when she is eating the wet food. Satisfy the voices in the brain.
You want a wet food puzzle feeder: http://foodpuzzlesforcats.com/wet-food-puzzles
Start simple, then go more complex.
Test it, then report back. Extra points for considering calming pheromones (like Feliway) or adding Zylkene into their food for a couple of weeks.
Does it work? Great, problem solved. Doesn’t work? You’re the proud owner of a cat. The feeding enrichment now becomes your baseline, and you work up from there to solve the other potential issues driving her behavior.
Test it, and report back to us!
Cat coughs after drinking water
Hello Doctor Kris, I have a 2 year old female cat, she’s generally very healthy but lately almost every time she drinks water the water seems “to go down to wrong way”. She makes noises like she’s coughing up a hairball for around 20-30 seconds and then everything goes back to normal… is this normal? This used to happen occasionally when she would drink from the water fountain, but now it also happens when drinking from a bowl. We had a vet check her today and found nothing wrong
I gave her hairball medicine just in case. She’s using her litter box normally and eating normally as well… sometimes when she eats she will try to expell the food out, like a piece got stuck in her throat or something. It seems water is the main irritant though.
Dr. Kris, I write to you with an update. Since my comment my cat still hacks (I have a video of her doing this, I wish I could send it to you) when she drinks water. There was a day when she did it 2-3 without actually drinking water, so we worried a took her to the vet again. The vet said he heard a noise inside her throat and took xrays, we found out that her heart might be a little bit bigger on one side. We are waiting for another vet who is a specialist to do a ultrasound. I live in Turkey so forgive me if I don’t use medical terms.
When I play with her (I make her chase a ball around the house) she never shows any distress, actually I get tired first. I have played with her this week and nothing has changed in that regard. A couple of months ago the doctor saw redness at the back of the throat and said it was gingivitis, we gave her medicine once and it went away.
We’re still waiting for more results, but if you could tell us what to watch out for I’d appreciate it… thank you! (Lucia)
Hi Lucia, you are on the right track. You were right to be concerned, as cat’s are really good at putting the food and water down the right tube. I would be looking for irritation, inflammation or something affecting the path of food and water from her mouth to her stomach. Sometimes when they hack, it’s actually a cough…it can be tricky to figure out, so make sure to bring the video to the specialist as well.
Assuming she is otherwise ok, main thing that I would be watching for is her body weight. If she’s dropping weight, I want to know and figure out what is going on faster.
Good luck and let us know how things go.
Vaccinations for cats – which ones, and for how long?
I recently read some conflicting opinions on the need for certain vaccinations for cats (other than rabies). What is your opinion on how often vaccines should be given and at what age they can be stopped? (Peggy Zamboni)
Good question Peggy.
Literally (I kid you not), my approach with vaccination comes from this 1971 interview with the great one, Bruce Lee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJMwBwFj5nQ
I promise you I am going somewhere with this.
As a vet, I will meet all sort of people from every walk of life.
And our experiences in life will of course give us the opinions we have, right?
So the biggest positive impact I can make in a person and their cat’s life is to respect their views, and work with them towards their goals. The things that are important to them.
And that is why I resonate with what Bruce said in 1971.
“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle”. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot”.
Someone really believes what Jenny McCarthy says about vaccines? It’s ok. We are all susceptible to the larger than life opinions of celebrities at some time or another.
Someone has had a bad experience with vaccines in the past and is concerned about how a new kitty in their life might react? Very reasonable way to feel, isn’t it?
Someone had had a pet or family member pass away or get really sick from infectious disease? We talk about the role of vaccines in preventing that.
So, I need to be formless, and bend to that person’s situation, their history with vaccination, and how they feel about this medical procedure (a vaccine is technically a medical procedure, with pro’s and con’s like every other medical procedure).
“Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”
Bad diseases can drip, or they can crash. So can reactions to medical procedures, like vaccination.
So, for me, it’s a case by case evaluation. Not one size fits all. I definitely tell them about legal obligations if their cat is interacting with the public (i.e. rabies vaccination), and will form my opinion based on the age, behavior, medical status and exposure to the illnesses we vaccinate for.
I’ll tell people if I’m strongly for vaccination for their cat or kitten, or if I feel it’s much lower on the priority list to optimize the health of their cat. I always want the big health bang for the buck.
And the last thing I tell people about vaccination is that nothing that we decide is written in stone. We can always re-evaluate any plan.
“Be shapeless, formless, like water”.
Cat is overgrooming
I have 7 indoor cats; healthy, get along for most part, and use the litter box. I have a pair of orange and white, 7 yr old sisters that do slightly bully the others. One sister, Libby, is licking off her fur and it seems to be getting worse. First it was just on her tummy, then the underside of her tail, and now one of her arms. Is there anything I can do to help this? (Sheila Tabone)
Assuming that Libby has no thyroid issues, acquired allergy or food sensitivity, parasitic or other physical health issues (hint hint take her to the vet), then you might be looking for ways to help her with social stress and anxiety.
There is lot’s of info about that if you google it.
But here is the trick.
I used to work with fish. Big, large rainbow trout, way back in the 90’s. Part of my research was looking into social stress. Sometimes fish would bully each other as well. And you know what we knew to be true? That the fish that was the bullier, was sometimes just as stressed out (physiologically speaking) as the fish that got bullied.
And things could get better when we modified stuff about the fish tank, just as much about doing anything with the individual fish. The tank was what we needed to treat (for science geeks out there, the tank was the experimental unit, not the individual fish).
Your home is the tank. Help Libby as an individual, but also realize that true success comes from making changes for all the cats.
Now why do vets always say check them out in the clinic first, even though you have a strong hunch it may be a behavioral / anxiety problem?
First, lets say it is purely a social stress and anxiety problem. Well, that’s an immunosuppressive force hitting your cat. Chronic stress is a driver for physical illness. And unless you catch that, it’s hard to make them healthy in the way you intended.
Secondly, some of these guys need supplements or medication.
Lastly, it always sucks when you have all the right techniques in place to deal with the social anxiety and stress, and the undetected medical illness makes it look like nothing is working…your cat has concurrent issues and all your efforts become confounded.
Good luck Sheila!
Cat is peeing on the bed
I have a 10yr old cat that seems to have taken up not urinating in kitty litter trays even though they are clean. How can I stop this behavior. He is always urinating on their bed I changed the mattress but that has not helped he is doing the same thing to the new mattress. Is there something I can spray on the mattress to put him off using it. Is there anything that is chemical free that i can use? Thanks. (Gladys Gauci)
Gladys, see this answer I posted here: http://www.iwillhelpyourcat.com/dr-kris-qa/#/pee-and-poop-outside-the-litter-box/
Kitten has seizures
Hello Dr. Kris! I’d be ever grateful if you could help me with my question. Six months ago I rescued an 8 week old kitten from a gas station parking lot. She has been having a grand Mal seizure occasionally, the first on Nov. 24th, then one 6 weeks later, and a less severe seizure last week. When I brought her home she was seen by a vet and de-wormed. Her stool has been mostly loose and very smelly since being wormed. The same vet saw her after the first seizure and ran tests which were normal. He thought maybe she was getting too much fat in her diet so recommended low fat canned food but she’s since had the other two seizures. I found a blog that suggested grain and gluten in her canned food could be causing intestinal inflammation and her seizures, so recommended changing foods and supplementing with natural healthy omega fats. Since she was a stray it’s unknown if she had head teams but didn’t seem to have a head injury when found. Have you experienced the seizure reaction in cats due to grains and gluten in their food? I’ve since switched all my cats to grain-free, gluten-free and carrageenan-free food and have made coconut oil available for my cats to nibble at their option. The kitten’s stool seems improved already. I am very concerned to stop the root cause of her seizures because I also read that the more seizures she has, the more likely she will be to have them in the future. Thank you for any insights or advice you may offer! (Amanda Becher)
I live by two seizure rules.
I don’t like seeing them very early in life, and they are rarely good news if they begin very late in life.
You are really an awesome person for intervening for this little life you found in the concrete jungle of a gas station.
You are doing an amazing job focusing on nutrition. It’s the foundation of good health and trying to get them to return to health. To answer your question, I have not observed seizures in kittens due to grains and gluten in their food.
When seizures start this young, then I think about Congenital anomaly’s (things they are born with that affect their nervous system), encephalitis (things that cause inflammation in the brain – not food based though), FIP, Toxoplasma, Cryptococcus (I use to see that a lot on the west coast) and toxicity. There are probably other reasons, and a talented veterinary neurologist could help.
You are right. Find out the root cause if you can. It’s not inexpensive to do that. Do the best you can.