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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 Dezi and Roo on Etsy.
Cat pees over the side of the box
My 7 yr od spayed female Maine Coon mix rescue cat has developed an odd behavior for some time while voiding. She always goes in the box but when facing a certain direction she often (not always) raises her back end mid-stream and ends up voiding on the floor. My vet said she doesn’t know what could be causing it. I have a 4 yr old neutured male too, and there have been no changes to speak of in a long while. She is healthy. Do you have any ideas what could be causing her odd behavior? – Kathleen May
Hi Kathleen, I am so glad to hear that your Maine Coon mix is a healthy girl and that you discussed this issue with your veterinarian first. If her urinalysis was normal, and the likelihood of suffering from cystitis has been ruled out, another medical issue I would consider is the whether or not arthritis is an issue that would cause her to adjust her position while urinating.
However, it sounds more likely to me that she is exhibiting the normal behavior of urine marking. Cats communicate with each other in many ways like scratching, bunting, and urinating. There is a lot of information they garner from from the smell and position of urine and your girl might just be talking to you and the other members of her household. In order to better deal with the urine landing outside of the box I have some suggestions for you. Make sure the litterbox she is using is big enough to accommodate her appropriately, that it is placed in a quiet location, is always kept clean, and that there is more than one litterbox for her to choose from. There are some options for high sided, large boxes, that you can either purchase or fashion yourself from plastic bins.
As long as arthritis is not the issue, we are happy to hear that your girl is otherwise normal and healthy. You may simply need a different style litterbox to help remedy the current situation.
Hello! I have a rescue cat who is about 6 (no one is exactly sure) who at one point was someone’s pet. Her person died, the family cleared out the house but left pets behind to fend for themselves. Dory, my cat, survived on her own until a kind neighbor called the rescue organization that saved her. She was bloody in the field behind the house. Her face and back of neck raw open wounds. They think a flea collar bridled in her mouth and caused a burn reaction on her pretty face. She now has what I joke are “joker lines” at the sides of her mouth that caused permanent scars up to the apples of her cheeks. The back of her neck has a spot where fur no longer grows but it’s healed and is now healthy skin. I’ve had her for a couple years now; she’s happy and seems healthy overall. We’ve had laser treatment on the skin where the hot spots are, we’ve done steroids, we’ve narrowed food down to cool protein foods feeding only dehydrated food with no byproducts or allergens. She’s had skin biopsy done and everything comes back with no issues to note. The issue is she still scratches, and often. We keep a cone on her most of the time to save her little face. She is inside only, an only cat.
I’m at a loss. I’d like to not pump her full of Prozac or other drugs but fear it’s the only option to stop the phantom pains she seems to feel. Any further suggestion is helpful. – Mandy
Hi Mandy, bless you for giving Dory a loving home. She is a lucky cat. It appears that she has been thoroughly worked up for her issue of scratching but that an answer for the root cause has not been found. How unfortunate for both you and her.
Without the benefit of actually examining her firsthand, it is difficult for me to adequately guide you in this situation. However, going off your description, some of my thoughts involve the possibility of pain from scar tissue similar to what you mentioned about phantom pain. It is well documented in human medicine that scar tissue can cause excruciating and debilitating pain. With this in mind, I would be more apt to prescribe medications specifically for pain, as opposed to medications that alter behavior. I would recommend you seek a pain specialist who will know the best treatment options available for addressing this type of discomfort in your sweet girl. I hope you are able to find the right practitioner who will offer you a treatment plan aimed at alleviating the discomfort of her scar tissue without trying to change her personality. Best of luck to you.
Feeding a feral cat
Dr. Bahr I am feeding a feral cat every morning with 9 lives pate Ocean Whitefish and Bar S Bologna with Chicken and Pork will it hurt her she eats 2-3 slices a day. Thank You – John Wissinger
Hi John, I am so grateful to you for making sure your feral cat is fed every day. I typically recommend feeding a variety of flavors and brands and rotating foods regularly. Your girl is luckier than most by having the benefit of a meal certain every day and what you are doing to make sure she does not go hungry is wonderful. As long as the bologna is not the only nutrition she is receiving, I wouldn’t suggest you change your routine. She is used to it and as long as she appears to be healthy and thriving, I would continue with your regular practice. Has she been spayed? If not, I would encourage you to pursue getting that done asap. That way you won’t have the problem of having to feed more mouths than hers and she will live a longer life.
Chirping noise while purring
Hello Dr. Bahr! We got a new kitty a month ago, she’s a 4 month old british shorthair, everything is ok except for a weird little noise she makes when purring. Its high sound is separate from the purring, it sounds a bit like a bird chirping. I showed my vet an audio of her purring and he listened to her lungs and throat, he suspects the sound comes from the nose. I suspect it too because I can hear the high-pitch noise coming from it. She doesn’t always do it, actually she hasn’t done it as much as she did before, just wondering if you had any more insight or if you think there’s something we should check or worry about. I check her breathing and it seems fine, but I’m very intrigued as to why she’s making that noise! Hope you’re well and thank you for taking the time to answer these questions! – Lucia Faria
Hi Lucia, congratulations on your new bundle of joy! There is nothing better than filling your house with the love of a cat and I wish you both years of happiness together.
I am happy to hear that her breathing is fine and that your veterinarian has given her a thorough exam. Since you both suspect the unusual noise is coming from her nose, there could be several possibilities that would cause it. Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome is a medical term given to various upper airway problems found in short-nosed, flat-faced cat breeds. Does your kitty have an unusually short nose or are her nostrils smaller than normal? Stenotic nares and other physical defects like an elongated soft palate or enlarged tonsils would be some things that I would want to make sure are not causing the high-pitched noise. However, with that being said, it appears that your baby is outgrowing her problem because you mentioned that you are hearing it less often. Paws crossed, it totally resolves with age or that it is just something benign and unique to her. Enjoy your special baby and let me know if you have any other concerns.
Cat won’t adjust to harness
My Loki is a Maine Coon cat. He didn’t like being picked up until I bribed him with treats. Now he tolerates being picked up. which is more than I hoped for. He’s a grumpy old man, even tho he’s only 5 years old. He has shown a lot of interest in the outside world. Sometimes I think he’s bored. I bought a Kitty Holster and a leash, and I introduced the harness to him over a period of two weeks. I sprinkled catnip over the harness. I also used the clicker, clicked it and gave Loki a treat every time he came near the harness. He would lie down on the harness, and he didn’t seem bothered by it until I put it on him. Then he cried and refused to move.
I thought that was normal, so after 20 minutes I took the harness off. I’ve put him in the harness several times since then, and the result has been the same. Once I put the Kitty Holster on him and then fed him. He hid for 20 minutes, then he came out and took his usual seat in the window. He roamed around the apartment but he panicked when it was time for me to take the harness off. Each time I talk to him and give him treats but he’s not thrilled with this at all. Afterwards he sometimes acts skittish around me, as though he thinks I’m going to grab him.
I don’t want to torment him. I realize that Loki might not ever adjust to the harness, but I would like to give this a fair try. Do you have any suggestions for me? – Serbella McGee
Hi Serbella, I appreciate you writing in with a common question other readers would like to know more about. Indoor cats certainly do get bored easily and it is hard to keep them active, engaged, and entertained. I commend you for recognizing the problem and trying to give your Loki more activity by attempting to leash train him. However, many cats like him don’t take to harnesses well or appreciate your attempts to get them outdoors safely. It really takes a special personality for a cat to acclimate to a being leash walked and it sounds like Loki is not a fan of it. Because of that, I would not push the issue as it could harm your relationship with him.
Instead, I would attempt to alleviate his boredom in other ways. Open the windows daily and let him smell the outside. Play for 5-10 minutes at a time at least 2-3 times daily. Continue to clicker train him to perform many different acts like getting into his carrier, giving you a high-five, etc. You may explore the option of a kitty backpack or safe stroller to take him outdoors in. I have written several blogs on how to bring the outdoors in and how to make an indoor hunting playground and new ways to eliminate kitty boredom that will help you with creative ideas on ways to keep cats like Loki entertained indoors. It does take effort but is well worth it.
Believe it or not, Loki is exhibiting normal behavior with his displeasure of being picked up. Did you know that most cats view being picked up as something that is dangerous? In the wild, the only time (other than when they were first born) that all four legs would be off the ground at one time is if they were being carried away by a predator. Being picked up equates to being eaten and is a reason to be fearful. Like Loki, many cats learn to tolerate it, but most don’t like it at all. Unless they have been habituated to being picked up from a young age, I recommend people let them sit on their laps or beside them instead. It feels safer and more comfortable from a cat’s point of view.
I hope you feel better knowing that Loki is normal in his response to the harness and I again thank you for bringing this subject up. Getting cats accustomed to leash walking is best accomplished when they are young and more and more owners are attempting this with their kittens. For cats who are well acclimated to it, safely going outside is a wonderful way to add enrichment to their lives and allows them to enjoy fresh air, sunshine and the ability to explore.
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