Ask the Cat Doc: Cat Obsessed With Eating Plastic, Frequent Vomiting, How to Diagnose Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and More

Ask-the-Cat-Doc-with-Dr.-Lynn-Bahr

Welcome to our regular “Ask the Cat Doc With Dr. Lynn Bahr” segment! Once a month, Dr. Bahr answers as many of your questions as she can, and you can leave new questions for her in a comment.

Dr. Bahr graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991. Unlike most veterinarians, she did not grow up knowing that she would become a veterinarian. “It was a cat who got me interested in the practice and I am forever grateful to him,” said Dr. Bahr. Over the course of her veterinary career, Dr. Bahr found that the lifestyle of cats has changed dramatically. As the lifestyle of cats has changed, so did Dr. Bahr’s client education. In addition to finding medical solutions, she also encourages owners to enrich their home environments so that their cats can live long, happy, and healthy lives.

This new understanding led Dr. Bahr to combine her passion for strengthening the human-animal bond with her veterinary background and knowledge of what animals need and want to start her own solution-based cat product company, Dezi & Roo, inspired by two cats of the same names.

For more information about Dezi & Roo and their unique and innovative cat toys, please visit their website.

Cat with megacolon

I have a 4 year old cat named Mouse who has a mega bowel problem. She was a newborn that I bottle fed along with her 2 sisters. I noticed that it was harder to get her to poop than the others. At 6 mos a vet said the “lump” in her abdomen was a lipoma, but I noticed that the lump moved & she had very large stools. I’ve given her plenty of hairball medicine like Catlax daily & that’s the only way she can get out her gigantic hard stools, although she still has to strain a lot. My vet said that’s exactly what I should be doing & if she doesn’t poop in a week he’ll have to “clean” her out (enemas, etc) & the stress of it could kill her. I asked about surgery, but he said there wasn’t any. I worry that’s its only gonna get harder for Mouse to ‘go’ the older she gets! Please tell me if there’s any other way to help my poor kitty? – Cat Fleming

Hi Cat Fleming, I am so sorry to hear about Mouse and her mega bowel problem and sympathize with you and her. She is far too young to have to deal with something so terrible for the rest of her life and I understand why you both might feel distressed about it. Bowel problems are serious and Mouse needs a better long term solution than Catlax or enemas. I would encourage you to seek a second opinion from a veterinarian who has extensive and current knowledge in nutrition and gastrointestinal diseases. The likelihood that there are more successful remedies to Mouse’s problem is very good once the underlying cause is properly diagnosed. It could be as easy as a diet change and knowing more about what she eats would be helpful. If Mouse has never had bloodwork before, this is a good time to start with a baseline. I would need to know more about the size, location, and consistency of the lump you mentioned to assess whether or not it is pertinent to Mouse’s condition. However, when you take her for the second opinion, you should have it addressed at that time.

Given Mouse’s age, there is a very good chance she will overcome this issue once she is able to get a more accurate diagnosis and successful treatment for it. The best way to avoid permanent long term damage is to treat issues like Mouse’s early on. I hope you are able to pursue a second opinion soon. Good luck and please let us know how things turn out for her.

Resident cat is not accepting two new cats

Hi. I have a resident cat that has been introduced to two new cats within a very short space of time. The first was a male that she accepted a after a week or so. He is very mild mannered and submissive. Then we introduced a younger female, and ever since our resident goes AWOL for most of the day, only coming home to eat, and for a short period in the small hours of the morning to sleep a bit. She has only had a few encounters with this female, and each has resulted in hissing and growling from both, but no fighting. The new female appears to be more submissive as she tends to be the first to cower and start retreating, however despite this, our resident cat chooses to leave the property and disappear for hours. This is upsetting as this cat is generally glued to me when ever I am home, taking every opportunity to sleep on or near me. Is there anything I can do to assist with reassuring her and building her confidence so that she and the new female cat can work out some sort of order? I realise that that is what needs to happen for things to calm down, but at the moment our resident cat seems to be avoiding both new cats which isn’t helping with them getting to know and accepting each other. They don’t have to be best buddies, just an acceptance of each other so that I can have all three of them safely in the house at night. Thanks, Nicky Rogers

Hi Nicky, introducing new housemates is challenging, tricky, and sometimes doesn’t work out as expected. While there are many instances where cats bond or live cohesively together, there are also situations where they don’t. Think about what happens to so many kids when they go off to camp or enter freshman year away at college. Typically, it’s the first time in their lives where they have to live with strangers in tight quarters. While camp or dorm life and roommate bonding are wonderful experiences to have, they can also be the source of some drama.

Roommate discord isn’t all that uncommon and there are many different reasons for it. That makes giving you an answer for your particular situation a bit difficult. In many instances like yours, I suggest trying to find ways to bring your three very different cats together. Sometimes all it takes is finding a common cause or activity. My philosophy is that playing cures everything so I encourage you to use it as a way to bring your cats together. See if you can interest them in fun and games, first individually and then together. Providing an abundance of resources for each cat is extremely important. Make sure there are lots of places to eat, hide, climb, potty, and sleep. The less they have to share the better life will be for them and, the more opportunities they are given, the happier everyone will be.

Each of your kitties is learning how best to cope with this new situation that requires them to share time, space, and resources with each other. Your resident cat may be acting like a petulant teenager who wants nothing to do with the interlopers and is upset her life is being turned upside down. She is unhappy about having to share everything that was previously all hers, including her parents, with strangers she didn’t bring home and doesn’t approve of. Your resident cat is stressed and feeling alone and instead of seeking you out, she has chosen to stay away from home. Lure her back into the fold with attention, food, and by making it fun, enticing, and worth her while. Show her your home is better than wandering the streets and neighborhood alone.

There is no reason this can’t turn out well for all members of your family and I wish you the best of luck. With a lot of patience, TLC, and understanding, your resident cat might even come around soon.

Cat with kidney disease and arthritis

My 15 year old boy cat has kidney disease, but has been relatively stable for the last 2 years with medication (Fortecor tablets). He is now developing arthritis and I would like any suggestions how to help him. My vet gave me green lipped mussel extract capsules which I must give him in his food. Unfortunately, he refuses to eat anything that I’ve mixed the powder into. Is there any other treatment? Thank you. – Liz

Hi Liz, I am so glad you asked this question. Arthritis is a common but complicated problem with no easy fix. Therapies that work for one cat may not for another. However, before a treatment plan can be made, there needs to be a diagnosis. Since cats can’t talk, we don’t really know where their pain is coming from. Figuring out where they hurt is important to know where to look for the source of the problem and how to treat it effectively. Arthritic pain in the spine is treated much differently than pain from ailing kidneys and what works for one may be harmful for the other. First you have to know that arthritis is truly the issue.

There are several ways to diagnose arthritis and most veterinarians start with a good physical exam paying special attention to weight, body and muscle condition score, and range of motion in each of the joints. Radiographs are necessary and should be performed in all cases. If bloodwork indicates other problems like kidney disease, then an ultrasound of the kidneys would be in order as well.

There are as many treatment options available, as there are causes of arthritis. We treat cats in much the same way we do in humans with a myriad of options like weight loss, diet, anti-inflammatory or pain relieving drugs, physical therapy, acupuncture, laser, pulsed electromagnectic fields, polysulfated glycosaminoglycan injections, CBD oil, and a variety of nutraceuticals. It is often beneficial to combine different remedies when attempting to provide the necessary relief. Discuss all your options with your veterinarian first to make sure what you are using can be safely given together. Unfortunately, there is no one form of treatment that will cure all.

Creating an easy to navigate environment at home is something you can easily do to help your arthritic kitty. Warm bedding, with easy access to favorite resting spots and litter boxes is essential and arranging your furniture to better accommodate your cat’s disabilities will make his life much easier and more comfortable. Arthritic cats need to move around and benefit from daily exercises that gently keep their joints and muscles flexible and physical therapy should be part of the treatment plan. It is an inexpensive way to help your cat stay mobile.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss arthritis in cats. It is a subject many cat owners want to know more about and you share their same concerns.

Cat is obsessed with eating plastic

Dear Dr. Bahr: Our kitty Ami seems to be obsessed with eating plastic – plastic bags. I know they are harmful, and we are very careful about keeping any plastic bags away from him but sometimes, he still manages to find one. What is this obsession? He also likes to eat shoelaces which we also try to keep out of his reach. Is he missing something in his diet? Please help … he is our furry child, and we certainly want to keep him healthy for many years to come.
Appreciatively, Sharon & Michael

Hi Sharon and Michael, rambunctious, fearless, children like Ami who don’t discriminate what they eat, worry me too. Intestinal foreign bodies are serious, costly and can be disastrous. How old is Ami? Kittens chew on things for different reasons than adult cats do. Is this behavior related or dietary in nature? I wish I knew more so I could help you.

I will, however, take this opportunity to discuss a topic I think is important and relevant. Why indoor cats need access to grass. Many cats enjoy eating grass and I am a strong believer in allowing them the opportunity to do so. It satisfies their need to chew, it is tasty, and has nutrients that are good for them. I suspect, or at least question, whether indoor cats turn to plastic and other odd things to chew on because there is nothing else appropriate within their environment for them to express their natural desire to eat greens. This idea is merely speculative on my part but I do wonder if there are ill effects to indoor cats that lack access to grass and other greens.

I am not suggesting grass is the answer to your question about Ami. However, I do think it can help deter him from chewing on other more dangerous things. As a pet parent, I would begin to look for alternative “safe” things for him to chew on and “safe” activities to keep him occupied. Food puzzles, games, foraging, grass and safe sticks to chew on will all help him express his needs in a more natural and safe way.

I apologize for not answering your question more directly but without knowing more about his age, diet, health and environment I can’t even begin to speculate why he is eating plastic and string. I do know however, that one day, doing so could get him into big trouble. Like you, I pray that doesn’t happen.

Cat always wants to eat

What is the maximum weight for a female Maine Coon. She always wants to eat. – Ilona

Hi Ilona, your Maine Coon kitty should have a body condition score of 5/9 and a muscle condition score of 3/3 in order to be considered normal weight. These days, we don’t really look at the scale any more as much as we look at the entire overall physique. Weight is just a number and doesn’t really say more than that. The ideal way to judge whether or not your cat is normal weight, overweight, or underweight is with a visual assessment that looks at body and muscle condition and give it a score. You can learn more on this subject by reading Why You Should Weigh Your Cat Regularly.

Active cats eat more than those who are sedentary and knowing your cat’s lifestyle would be helpful to determine if it is normal for her to be hungry all the time. How often is she getting fed? Most cats prefer small frequent meals and it is healthier for them to eat that way. Is your cat hungry for food or begging for treats? Certain disease conditions like hyperthyroidism and diabetes manifest as increased appetite so please make sure your cat is current on bloodwork and all is within normal range.

Hungry cats always have a reason for wanting food and I am not sure if your cat’s appetite is normal or not. It would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian who can give you a more accurate assessment and put your mind to rest.

Let us know if you have any other questions we can help you with.

Why is tooth resorption so common in cats today?

Tooth resorption is common in cats nowadays. 30 years ago this was not a problem. Why now? – Ron

Hi Ron, – I feel your frustration. It echoes my own. Tooth resorption is bad for cats and we don’t know how to prevent them from happening. But where did you hear that this was not a problem 30 years ago?

While we do see these lesions much more commonly in cats today, I wonder if it is because in the past 30 years cats have moved indoors where they are being closely observed and receiving vet care. Thirty years ago, cats undergoing routing dental procedures was a rare occurrence and definitely not as popular as it has become today. Either that or we truly are seeing more cats with tooth resorptions?

No one knows why resorptive lesions in cats occur and there are a lot of different theories being studied. They range from the cause being mechanical to metabolic. However, no definitive causes have been identified yet. Tooth resorption is a mystery still waiting to be solved. Hopefully, we will figure it out soon. In the meantime, regular dental care is essential to helping cats stay happy, healthy, and feeling good.

Cat vomits frequently

My cat Mickey is about 15 yrs old now. Since we adopted him at about 10 months old,he’s been vomiting, at least a couple of times a week. We had all kinds of tests done on him (some very expensive) and everything seemed ok. I give him treats for hairball, we have him groomed in the summer, but ..no change. Our vet says that any healthy cat should throw up once a week. What do you think? – Abi

Hi Abi, uUnlike your vet, I do not agree that a healthy cat should throw up once a week. In fact, I would consider that to be abnormal. All vomiting should be taken seriously, especially if it has been going on for an entire life. What tests were performed and what types of food are you feeding him? What are his stools like and how is his general health? Does he go outside or is he strictly indoors? These are all questions that would help point me in the right direction to figuring out why your kitty vomits so frequently. Are you able to take Mickey for a second opinion? Even if you choose not to pursue aggressive diagnostics for an accurate diagnosis, he could still benefit from specific diet changes or medications to help him feel better and vomit less. There are many different treatment options for chronic vomiting that he might benefit from and it is my belief he should not throw up so often. I am sorry your vet feels otherwise and hope Mickey gets the help he needs.

How to diagnose IBD

How can you diagnose IBD in cats ? They think my 12 year old kitty has it but the additional tests they want to run can be quite pricey and may not tell us for sure if he has IBD. – Enid

Hi Enid, there are many tests that can help to narrow down diseases to the gastrointestinal tract, but the only definitive way to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease is by obtaining intestinal biopsies. Unfortunately, that involves exploratory surgery. While there are risks associated with anesthesia and surgery, it is the most successful route to take when searching for an answer.

There are other diagnostic tests that are less invasive but none give you a definitive diagnosis. They can, however, help point you in the right direction or they may discover things other than IBD. I encourage you to look at all of the diagnostic options to help you decide which ones you are comfortable pursuing. Once you have decided on which direction to take make sure to have chosen a sharp diagnostician or skilled surgeon to work with.

How clinicians approach feline gastrointestinal diseases differs among doctors. There is no cookie cutter approach. However, I always start with a good history and complete physical. Where we go from there depends on a number of things like how stable the cat’s weight is, what he is eating, what are his symptoms and when did they first appear. Analytics help and having owners keep a log at home is a good way to guide the treatment plan and allow for flexibility and changes.
Hopefully, you will find the right way to pursue your kitty’s suspected problem. Let us know direction you decided to go in.

Overweight cat

I am really tired of people telling me that my Lucie is overweight. She weighs exactly the same as she did 5 years ago when I adopted her. She is built broad in the rib cage, not slim and sleek like a Siamese, for instance, and she is long-hair fluffy. Where is the room for concern? – Terry Hoffman

Terry, People can certainly be rude and should know better than to comment on anyone’s weight, even if it is a cat they are talking about. You have every right to feel annoyed. It appears that people’s comments are getting your attention and making you ask yourself if there is any truth to the matter. If you want to know if Lucie is really fat or just fluffy read this article. It’s all about body condition scoring to determine ideal weight as opposed to a number on the scale.

Obesity is a serious problem and a cause for concern. It should not be taken lightly since it causes many medical, mental, and physical issues that decrease quality of life. Keeping Lucie close to ideal weight is one of the best ways to maintain health and well-being and she will be happier for it. Let us know what body condition score you give her once you have looked at the charts.

Do you have a question for Dr. Bahr?
Leave it in a comment and she’ll answer it next month!

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22 Comments on Ask the Cat Doc: Cat Obsessed With Eating Plastic, Frequent Vomiting, How to Diagnose Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and More

  1. Abby
    August 1, 2018 at 1:30 am (9 months ago)

    Can a cat diagnosed with cystitis and possible food allergies to chicken take a product called Uromaxx?
    The reviews have been mostly positive, but it does have chicken as part of the ingredients. My cat is on a prescription diet and his last urine test did show improvement, but there are still some abnormalities. I was told by the manufacturer that cats who did have chicken allergies were able to take this 0roduct and it did help them. I’m just trying to see what I can do to better take care of my cat.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 1, 2018 at 5:35 am (9 months ago)

      I’m not familiar with the product you mention, but if your cat is allergic to chicken, supplements that contain chicken will trigger an allergic response unless the chicken protein in the supplement is hydrolyzed.

      Reply
      • Abby
        August 1, 2018 at 10:23 am (9 months ago)

        Thanks. When I talked to the manufacturer, he said that it had chicken broth, which I guess would still be an issue? My problem is that the vet couldn’t confirm for sure that it’s a chicken allergy. First, she had me put him on a novel protein prescription diet (royal canin in PV and PR) which was supposed to address both issues, a month later only to find that it didn’t have SO? I’m in the process of now switching my cat to a prescription hydrolyzed protein diet (Purina HA) which has SO and only comes in dry food. I’m struggling with this, because I’ve read a lot of info saying the best way to treat cystitis is with a wet food diet and not a dry food diet only. I can get him a urine test later on to check with the cystitis, but I’d have to get him another ultrasound to check his lymph nodes. My cat had an ultrasound and was diagnosed with enlarged lymph nodes and that specialist said it could be due to food allergies and common allergens are as you know, chicken and fish. So, that’s why the novel protein diet initially. I’m supposed to bring him back for another ultrasound in a couple months to see if the prescription diet addressed the lymph nodes. As you can guess, dealing with one issue is bad enough. Dealing with two is horrible. I just don’t want to make the wrong move. I know this a complicated issue and I appreciate the chance to vent a bit.

        Reply
  2. Ena Stanley
    July 8, 2018 at 3:33 pm (10 months ago)

    I have a male kitty who was born the first week of September 2005…therefore he’s 12 going on 13. To me this is not an old kitty; however, he has scoliosis (my diagnosis) and an out-of-alignment back left leg. Otherwise he seems quite healthy. About 2 months ago he started hissing at me an my husband. At first it was as we were petting him. We surmised that it could be that we were in some way hurting him; however, it happened when we’d just pet the top of his head, too, which was truly a no possible pain zone. As time went on, sometimes he’s just his when we walked in the room and certainly when we’re telling him he must do something he’s really not in favor of doing…Like coming in the house from the porch, where he loves to be all summer. He doesn’t leave the porch (we have chairs and a table during the summer months), nor do we allow him to stay out when we leave the house and after dark…There are other animals around our house and we’d never know if one would come around who particular loves the taste of kitty!

    At any rate, we are concerned that we are not getting some tpe of message. Going i a car is a horrendous traumatic experience, so going to the vet is a last resort!

    Reply
    • Marge
      July 9, 2018 at 9:03 am (10 months ago)

      I can relate to the car issue – my two oldest have/had a really tough time with the ride (when I last changed vets several years ago, it was a 10 minute drive – now after a move it is about 40-45, but I like the vet/office, don’t want to change.) The oldest (19+) usually vomits 2/3-3/4 of the way there, the other drooled, vomited and sometimes pooped himself!
      That said, when was the last time he was checked and did they do a senior panel? There are any number of issues that could cause pain and leave kitty angry. Some vets want to start these senior panels at 10, but certainly by 12 he should have these done! In particular CKD will not show symptoms and can be caught in the early stages. If you have had at least one done, they would have a baseline and could see if anything changed.
      It might be as simple as arthritis, but without being able to have a real chat with cats, having regular checkups is a must! Identifying something in the early stages can help kitty – as many note, cats are masters at hiding pain/illness, so if your guy is grouching at you, clearly something is wrong and he should take that nasty trip.
      Despite hating the car ride, my almost 15yo was seemingly healthy, last year’s panel showed VERY early kidney disease, but he was showing real signs of issues and I took him right away to the vet. Unfortunately nothing worked – suspect was kidney tumor (he had what is known as big/little kidney, so one was not functional) and he went downhill very quickly.
      So again, I would get him to the vet – if he’s been good all these years, something is not right.

      Reply
  3. Ingrid
    July 4, 2018 at 5:51 am (10 months ago)

    Dr. Bahr will address Patricia’s question, but I wanted to jump in and address the issue of scruffing cats. While it was commonly use to restrain cats in veterinary settings or during grooming, the Feline-Friendly Handling Guidelines published by the American Association of Feline Practitioners in 2011 discourage scruffing as a means of restraint.

    Reply
    • Marge
      July 4, 2018 at 2:05 pm (10 months ago)

      I would fully concur about avoiding scruffing whenever possible, HOWEVER, in some cases there is no other option, at least none that I am aware of, that actually works. If someone from this “American Association of Feline Practitioners” wants to come over to my place and gently hold my kitties for me, I’m ALL for it!!! Send them over!

      Scruffing does NOT require lifting the cat up – if that needs to be done, support the back/hindquarters. Sometimes it might only require holding that area and the cat will wait for release. In general, I try to keep their back feet on the ground or other surface, or just sitting or lying on their side, so I am not making them support their weight by the scruff, just triggering the old mom-carry instinct. Sometimes it only requires “gripping” this area while the cat remains lying on their side – it will sometimes make them more compliant about getting groomed or nail trimmed. See the following for how, why and when:

      https://www.wikihow.com/Hold-a-Cat-by-the-Scruff

      …and heed the warnings (aka READ the whole page):

      Warnings
      ***Do not attempt to pick up other kinds of animals by the scruff. Some can turn around in their own skin to bite. Others would be uncomfortable or even injured.
      ***Be aware that cats are still capable of turning on you while their neck skin is being pinched. Scruffing as close to the ears as possible will prevent this.
      ***If done improperly, scruffing can cause serious injury to neck muscles and the skin around the neck. If you are not comfortable with properly scruffing your cat, allow your veterinarian or a veterinary technician to do so.
      ***Do not attempt to scruff a cat who is clearly agitated or unruly. Only a skilled professional, such as a veterinarian or veterinary technician, should scruff a cat with this type of temperament.

      For the grooming issue, if a cat can be held in some way without scruffing by one person and the other can get the grooming done, great, go for it (the main part of my recommendation was having at least a second set of hands!) Starting slow, minimal brushing and increase as it can be tolerated. See that wikihow page. In my case there are only TWO hands, there is no one to assist. The one cat I have who needs some help with grooming her belly will NOT, I repeat with MORE emphasis, NOT, sit still and this can only be done by scruffing. If I had ANY other option, I would take it, but it is what it is. I keep the “episodes” to about 30-60 seconds to minimize any upset. Vet staff are hilarious when they say things like “Oh we got the pill down easily” – surrrre, but there are at LEAST two of you involved in that! Same thing with checkups – the vet has a tech and/or me to “restrain” the cat – they do NOT generally get to examine the cats without some one else holding/restraining. There are rare cats who would tolerate this without restraint, but in general SOMEONE has to hold/restrain them!!! Dental cleaning? Sure, you the vet does this with anesthesia!! You the vet expects me to brush the teeth of a rolling ball of fur embedded with razor blades – I always tell them when I can grow extra arms like the East Indian god/godess, then fine, I will brush their teeth. Until then, nope. With 11 mostly non-compliant cats my day would consist of 4-5 feedings (no dry food), rinsing/washing said dishes and the remainder of the day would be incurring multiple wounds – my body would be one giant scar by now. I would also have no time for anything else!!! If possible I would prefer the brushing of the teeth to anesthetizing any day. The more you anesthetize, the more likely you might encounter issues…

      I have never seen a vet use scruffing, ever, during a visit. I have had cats for about 45 years. The majority are mostly scared and try to get away, but gentle restraining by holding them is about all the vet tech and/or I do. Generally they are scared and don’t fight back… much. One I had years ago loved the vet office (attention seeker) and had to be put back in the carrier when his check was finished or he’d get in the way! The most recent addition is a 12-14yo semi-feral who spent 10 years in a shelter prior to adoption with little to no handling and he absolutely shuts down at the vet office. They use a towel over him to assist with the holding. I cannot even put ear meds in at home (he closes up shop for them, but here he will fight me, nasty hissing, ears back, lashing out!) I am looking for an alternative way to treat his ear (they would do it, but it requires a 40m trip each way and a recheck 2 weeks later! I am trying to limit how much we mess with this guy. We are “friends”, more than acquaintances, but friends only to a certain degree and I do not want to have that change.)

      I had never used this scruffing method until the Great Flea Infestation around 2011 (one kitten came in with tapeworm and fleas, which required massive cleaning and long term treatments monthly for everyone – 8 at that time), as I noted in my comment, but there are some cats who will NOT allow handling/picking up of any kind. Since clearing up the fleas, and staying indoor only, none of them gets any flea treatments and we have NO fleas. I watched someone’s pictures (video extracts) about cleaning cats teeth – I do not think a single one of my cats would sit quietly like that one from the video while I pry open their mouth and brush! Some kind of restraining and a second set of hands would be *required*! That one cat who did not understand scruffing? Just trying to get him into a carrier once for a vet visit, I got scratched three times on my arms (not minor) and then he took a chunk out of my face – so, recommendation for these cases? Two sisters adopted at 4yo (shelter kitties up until then, now 12yo) absolutely will NOT be picked up – I tried many times when it was vet day and I referred to them as “soaped eels” – pick one up and zoop zoop zooooop, gone! The no-scruff guy and his sister are/were also both hands-off kitties. The only alternative was getting them into a smaller area and more or less chasing them into the carrier – so, which is worse, a quick scruff or terrorizing them? I choose the quick scruff.

      A few of my cats, taken in as kittens, are not bad about being picked up, so they get into carriers without scruffing (not happy about it, but compliant to a degree). However there are several here who will NOT be picked up, even those adopted as kittens, and will not get into the carrier, so scruffing is required when we have to go to the vet. None of them willingly gets into a carrier – and yes, I leave the carriers out, often finding some cat or another in them, but when I need to get them into it, I get my yearly exercise (6x/yr, x2cats each time!) I keep medications to absolute necessity (currently and most of the time no one is taking any meds), but again, any medication would require restraining. Without another set of arms, vet visits and any treatments needed would never happen without scruffing! Since the vet visits are generally only once/year, I do not see this as an issue. If they needed daily, weekly, monthly or whatever handling, it *might* be a problem and need to be addressed. I did get and use a “grooming” bag for one who needed IV fluids years ago but would not sit still for it – I still have it, but given that it zips up the back of the cat, it is of limited, if any, use in the case of grooming this one cat I have. If the front end is secure around the neck and the front legs are in, at least temporarily, then some grooming of the belly area can happen without zipping it up, but again, what’s worse, terrorizing the cat to get it into and stay trapped in this “bag” or to scruff with support for a minute or two??? Sometimes the lesser of two evils path must be followed… The only other alternative not addressed here is to skip the grooming, but having seen the videos of cats who NEEDED it and did not get it – whoa! Also, first hand experience with the Great Poop Stuck on Butt episode here this year, it is better to scruff than not, if there is no less intrusive way to get the job done.

      The only other comment about this is consider that before they realized vaccinations can sometimes cause sarcoma at the injection site they ALWAYS vaccinated in the scruff area. *NOTE* – if you vet still does this, FIND ANOTHER VET!!! I suspect this area is naturally less sensitive, since the mother cats (and dogs and other animals) carried their offspring this way. Again, if there is an alternative, sure go for it. If not, keep it to a minimum, support kitties weight when needed and reread that wikihow page!

      (I would suggest the pheromone sprays and plug-ins, but my experience with them was not positive. The no-scruff cat who needed to calm down PEED on the plug-ins! It apparently works for some – a few- cats, but it has never helped ANY issue it is purported to work with here. It could be tried, can’t hurt to try anything once, twice if you like it! I have tried it multiple times and got ZERO effect from using it.)

      Reply
  4. Amanda
    July 3, 2018 at 5:09 pm (10 months ago)

    The problem with giving cats access to grass though is that in my experience it guarantees they will either vomit or drag poop out of the litter box because the blades of grass dont get fully digested. Am I wrong about this?

    Reply
    • Marge
      July 4, 2018 at 3:29 pm (10 months ago)

      I would concur with the vomiting part (never had anyone try to get at anything in the poo – a dog, yes, but no cats!) Waaay back in the day when I did allow cats outside, I had one who only went out long enough to ingest grass, then want back in and promptly puked it up. I certainly do not believe cats “need” to eat grass. It might help when they have fur balls, because it likely induces vomiting (my experience, same with some dogs, and others’ cats.) Like other comments I have made, sure, give it a try and see if it works. Yes? Great, go for it. No? Just brings on vomiting? Ditch it!

      As noted in my comment to Sharon about her plastic eating cat, only ONE of my 12 was a plastic seeking/finding/eating cat. The others could care less (might play in a plastic bag, as it “crinkles”, but no one else ate any!) So what purpose would grass serve here and why would it stop this bad habit?

      You want your cat to eat greenery? Grow some catnip! My neighbor gave me some of her planted catnip and I potted it – periodically I give them some of the dried stuff – boy, is it potent! It takes some cats a few minutes to dig in as the smell is much stronger than the dried stuff you buy! Just keep the plant out of reach or they will likely tear it up and dump the soil!

      Reply
  5. Alice
    July 2, 2018 at 2:50 pm (10 months ago)

    I had to laugh about that last question/comment from Terry Hoffman about people calling his kitty “overweight.” But that’s only because my first cat, Abby, who was a gray Persian, looked ginormous!!! But she had a little 7.5 lb. body under all that fur, which was definitely NOT overweight. If you know Persians, and I’m sure you do, you know how really, REALLY furry they can be, and Abby certainly was.

    Reply
    • Marge
      July 4, 2018 at 3:38 pm (10 months ago)

      One size does not fit all! I even went to the page in the link – I was already aware of what the best “shape” is, but wanted to see what they had posted. I have several cats who exhibit that “perfect” shape. Others not so much, but my vet always comments on how all my cats are of good weight/shape!

      That said, I have two sisters who drift over the 5 “perfect”, and I refer to them as “short round”. They are about 8-8.5 lbs each, came to me at 4yo, are now 12yo and are the same size/shape (no hourglass figure for these two girls!) This is quite obviously how they are built. Chester was a big boy, solid, but even at 13-14 lbs, he was not overweight. I would not say he had the hourglass look either, but he was not “round” like the two girls, and again that was him! A 2yo I have is drifting into the 15 lb range. He is also a big boy, built solid like Chester was. Unless he continues to gain and appear “fat” to me, this is who he is. His sister is likely about 8 lbs without all the fur she wears (and smaller in stature.)

      So long as the cat is not obviously obese, unable to groom all of him/herself, has normal vet visits, is healthy and any tests are normal, fluff off any comments from others.

      Reply
  6. Gina
    July 2, 2018 at 2:18 pm (10 months ago)

    Hi Dr. Bahr,

    What is a “safe stick”?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Marge
      July 4, 2018 at 3:45 pm (10 months ago)

      I wondered what that was as well. Just now I put “what is a feline safe stick” into google search and it came back with ‘silver vine’ – there were multiple query results, some of which are places that sell these. One does indicate the “active” ingredient is very similar to catnip and indicates it is non-toxic and non-addictive. If you have a cat who does not react to catnip, would wonder if this might be different (there are some that catnip does not affect.)

      If you wanted to know more, you could do a Silver Vine lookup, perhaps Wikipedia could answer many questions

      Reply
      • Gina
        September 14, 2018 at 4:18 pm (7 months ago)

        Thanks Marge. I thought I had researched and didn’t find anything which is why I asked the question, but I obviously didn’t do a very good search. :/ I probably didn’t use the word “feline.”

        Anyway – I might try this. Not because of the catnip effect – I actually prefer toys without it, and I feel like it wears out anyway – but because who knows, my cat might like the texture of these sticks to chew on. He chews EVERYTHING.

        Thanks again Marge.

        Gina

        Reply
  7. Sharon
    July 2, 2018 at 12:35 pm (10 months ago)

    Hi again, Dr. Bahr: It’s Ami’s mom — you know, the plastic bag junkie. I’m sorry that I didn’t provide you with enough info before. Ami will be five at the end of August. He eats, plays and sleeps normally but when he sees/smells plastic, he starts munching. Like I told you in my previous message, we are very careful about not leaving any around so this happens very rarely, thank goodness.

    Thank you so much for answering our question about this perplexing problem. I have read that cats like the petroleum in the plastic which, I know, can’t be a good thing. Is that true?

    Reply
    • Amanda
      July 3, 2018 at 5:06 pm (10 months ago)

      My cat is the same with certain types of plastic and also elastic. Its almost like she can sniff it out somehow.

      Reply
    • Marge
      July 3, 2018 at 9:17 pm (10 months ago)

      Sharon – I am glad you posted in the comment section as I wanted to let you know you are not alone! I also had a plastic chewer/eater, who also liked strings (pulling tiny threads on my bedspread or chewing on the corners, pulling bigger threads out of a woven throw rug) as well as pine needles that came in on my feet, maybe a random small leaf too. The tape on packages delivered had to be removed before allowing them to have fun with the boxes (the special “paper-like” tape Amazon uses was of concern because it has strings embedded in it!) However plastic was his big thing. I have told many people that there are bomb sniffing dogs, drug sniffing dogs, even cadaver sniffing dogs, but I had a plastic sniffing cat! Even the smallest little scrap had to be tucked away, and although soft plastic, like bags, was the preferred type, he chewed hard plastic, and even the warning labels on cords (thickness falls in between.)

      I really don’t think grass would have solved his problem, and if that were the real reason, why do none of the other 11 have this desire? He was my son’s cat before I took him in 8 years ago, and this was not something that I was aware of when he was younger or the early years with me. It just developed later. Stress maybe? He seemed to be a very laid back cat, but who knows. There are also people who eat/chew on strange objects; they are known as pica eaters. Without some kind of psychoanalysis, would we ever know what causes this in cats or other pets? Certainly finding other safe things to chew on, including “cat grass” would not hurt, and in some cases may take care of the issue, but I would not be surprised to find out they continue to chew/eat plastic even with these other items. Whether your guy leaves off the plastic for these other things, I would still remain vigilant about removing the temptation! Despite my best efforts to put all plastic out of reach, he always managed to find some random little piece somewhere every so often.

      The only real thing I could do was be super observant and keep any one else working here compliant – put the plastic away where cats cannot get into it! I was very concerned with him doing this because if he did not barf it up it could cause intestinal issues, even death (my brother suspected one cat they had died from Easter grass, which is plastic too.) The pine needles, etc did not concern me as much, just the plastic and longer strings (you mentioned shoelaces – I tucked those into any sneakers left out, he was not too bad about them.)

      So, be proactive, keep all plastic out of reach or tossed, tuck those shoelaces in and keep Mr kitty safe! Best of luck -m

      Reply
  8. Mindy
    July 2, 2018 at 11:08 am (10 months ago)

    Hello, I’ve been feeding my cats Nutritional Yeast as a way to entice finicky eaters (1/8-1/4tsp sprinkled on top), twice a day; I know the. Enefits but I’m wondering if it’s okay to continue this everyday, forever, and if there are any downsides or long term problems

    Reply
    • Marge
      July 3, 2018 at 9:59 pm (10 months ago)

      Other options are Forti-flora (just enough from the packet to “flavor” it, lasts a while that way) or your could try Nature’s Variety Raw boost mixers. It is freeze dried raw that you can crumble over their food. Then it is just more food on top of the food. If your kitty likes the taste, it would help – my guys (one in particular) would sit and wait for the “sprinkles” on the actual raw food before they would start eating. Others are not interested, so it may or may not work, but it is worth a try.
      The only other suggestion would be to try other foods – different flavors or textures. I have a variety of minced, flaked, pate for most of them. I used Friskies Shreds for the most recent addition (an older 10 year shelter cat who was used to kibble and cheaper foods, but he has started eating a variety of the other canned foods!) The shreds are used on the raw he gets twice/day, split the medallion between him and a younger cat that turns her nose up to the raw!) You don’t say whether it is canned or dry food, so if dry food only, I would highly recommend trying cannedand if possible eliminate the dry food.

      Reply
  9. Patricia Hoover
    July 2, 2018 at 11:00 am (10 months ago)

    I have a 7 or 8 yr old neutered male cat w/ very long fur which gets matted easily. He, also, does not enjoy grooming, and lets us know that through various blood-letting ceremonies. (not his blood)
    Is there something I could give him that would make him a bit sleepy so I could clean him up w/o using so many bandages?

    Reply
    • Marge
      July 3, 2018 at 9:51 pm (10 months ago)

      My only fluffy doesn’t like grooming either. It would be best if there are two people – one to scruff kitty and one to do the grooming. Start with a little grooming and reward with treats might help. If he gets used to knowing treats are coming he *might* get used to it, but I don’t think my girl will! I don’t have a second person to help, but have been doing a little now and then on her belly (the rest is okay, except her butt area – I paid the vets during her exam to give her a “Brazilian”, because she got matted up there and had poo stuck – we had to make a special vet visit then and clean it up and treat her. So, at least once/year I plan to have them shave up that area to avoid a future problem!

      Reply
    • Marge
      July 3, 2018 at 10:13 pm (10 months ago)

      Follow on to my other comment – I never used to “scruff” my cats as it seemed cruel, but during a flea episode many years ago, my son assisted with treating all my cats and he scruffed them. It was funny to see the biggest one just go limp, with a look on his face that said “I don’t know what we’re doing and I don’t want to do it, but my legs are not working!” The caveat here is that ONE cat never got the memo on scruffing – he would thrash and lash out. He was tough to treat and get into a carrier for yearly vet visits!
      If you have one like that, it might be well worth it to pay someone else to do the grooming. He may not behave there either, so be sure to find someone who can handle difficult cats, preferably where you can stay/observe so you know he is not mistreated. Check with your vet – they may provide some grooming service as well. I really do not think you can get any medication to make him sleepy – I inquired about something to calm two of mine who regularly worked themselves up to vomiting during the ride to the vets office. They had no options for me (it would be something similar to what you needed.) The only one I can think of is an anti-anxiety med, but I prefer not to medicate my cats.

      Reply

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