Ask the Cat Doc: Skittish Cat, Continued Weight Loss, When to Start Joint Supplements, and More

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

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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.

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

Formerly abused cat is extremely skittish

My 1 1/2 year old has been with us for one year. She was abused as a kitten, and left with a deformed front leg. I heard that the abusers were boys who used her as a baseball. THAT being said, she is scared of my husband. She’s OK with him as long as he feeds her, and gives her treats. But if he looks at her, she low crawls away. I can understand her reactions, and hope with time it might abate a bit. However, my low key Maine Coon mix, who is almost 4, has learned the signals from the new one. She is always on high alert, and a spoon dropped in another room, has them both running for under the beds. There are two adults and two cats in this household. I’ve tried ‘natural’ remedies along with CBD oil, and no changes. Is it time for kitty prozac? – Bridget

Hi Bridget,

I can relate to your situation since I also have a cat that is extremely skittish. She was born to a feral mom and trapped at an early age. As a kitten, the only way I was able to charm her out from hiding, was through play. It was the one thing she found irresistible, and fortunately, still does. While she is extremely affectionate when hungry, it is rare for her to seek physical attention otherwise, and she does not love being petted for more than a minute. Anytime there is movement or sudden noises, she bolts to safety. Time has helped a little (she is now 8 years old) but it is my belief that she will remain skittish for the rest of her life.

Running for cover at the thought of danger is a survival technique that serves cats in the wild well. It helps them avoid being preyed upon and is an instinctual response they need in order to stay safe. Some kitties are more highly developed in this area than others and it sounds like yours is one of them. This should not be perceived as something that needs fixing, unless it is affecting your cats’ quality of life. Generally, owners are more frazzled by their cat’s fearfulness than the cats themselves.  Do your cats appear to be happy? Are they thriving in their environment? Are the majority of their days spent relaxing, eating, playing, and exploring? If so, I wouldn’t recommend medications like Prozac unless you believe the problem is affecting their health and happiness. And, it probably wouldn’t be my first drug of choice.

Some of my recommendations would include trying other calming remedies like Solliquin, music for cats (David Teie – Scooter Bere’s Aria), Feliway, interesting hiding places (Hide and Sneak, cat caves, etc.) and lots of play sessions throughout the day. You might want to investigate the possibility of clicker training your cats as an activity that keeps them stimulated and accustomed to interacting with you and your husband.

The important thing to consider is whether this is more of a problem for you or for your cats. If they act skittish at appropriate times like rapid movement or loud noises then so be it. If not, then a discussion with your veterinarian is warranted.  If I missed any other suggestions, I am sure comments from other readers will follow and I look forward to hearing their contributions.  Good luck and thank you for writing.

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Hyperthyroid cat continues to lose weight

I have a 15 year old female cat who is on thyroid meds. She is always hungry but continues to lose weight. Recently, she was treated with antibiotics for a kidney infection and appears to have recovered. I am concerned about her weight loss. Is there anything I can do to build her up. – Camilee Marryat

Hi Camille,

Hyperthyroidism is a common condition that causes cats to lose weight despite the fact that they are eating all the time. Hyperthyroidism speeds up a cat’s  metabolism and body’s energy expenditure so they are actually burning up their calories faster than they can eat them. So, they feel ravenous but can’t keep weight on while their thyroid is out of whack. They tend to lose muscle mass as well.

The best way for you to help your cat maintain proper body weight is to keep her thyroid well controlled. I do realize that this is sometimes easier said than done. It takes frequent blood monitoring and vet checks to keep her levels of thyroid hormone on an even keel. Make sure your veterinarian has also ruled out other medical conditions besides her hyperthyroidism that could be contributing to her weight loss too.

Feed your kitty food that has as much protein as possible. Look for quality foods that have high protein and low carbohydrates profiles; something in the range of 50-70% protein, 5-10% carbohydrates, and 30-40% fat. That will help her replace the protein she is losing and prevent additional loss of muscle mass.

You are right to be concerned about her weight and I appreciate you writing in about it. It helps other cat owners that are concerned too.  Thank you.

At what age should you start joint supplements?

When cats are 10 most develop arthritis. Isn’t it a good idea to start them on a glucosamine, chondroitin, & MSM by age 9? – Ron Krikorian

Hi Ron,

Arthritis is as common a condition in cats as it is in people, and once it becomes advanced, it can negatively affect the quality of our lives.

I am thrilled you brought this topic up for discussion. It is heartwarming to hear from owners like you that want to be pro-active with their cat’s health. Bravo to you for caring so much. Your question about using nutraceuticals to prevent arthritis and whether or not it is a good idea to start cats that are 9 years old on it is a complex one to answer.

The only time I recommend owners give their cats something specifically because of age is vaccines for kittens. Otherwise, I treat my patients individually and would not recommend all owners start their cats on glucosamine at a particular age. While it is true they might develop arthritis, not every cat does and not every cat does so in the same way. Arthritis is not exclusive to cats over 10 years of age so how can we pick a certain age in which to give it. We don’t truly know how effective glucosamine is at prevention, either. Many would argue it’s not. And, there are still questions as to why it works for some cats with arthritis and not for others.

I prefer to work with patients individually to get a full assessment of their physical condition from nose to tail. A full body work up and complete history is essential to determining a proper plan for prevention or treatment of arthritis. And, it typically involves a multi-modal approach to suit each individual patient’s needs. Fortunately, we have many beneficial modalities available to us these days. Glucosamine is just one of them. However, they are not all created equally and, I would only use one that has been recommended by a medical professional.

Rather than say all 9 year old cats should receive glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM, I would prefer to say all 9-year -old cats should see their veterinarian this year and discuss the possibility of arthritis with them. Discussions about proper weight, exercise, and diet are crucial to the prevention of not only arthritis, but many other conditions as well. Well visits make great opportunities to learn everything you can to keep your cat happy and healthy for many, many, many more years of living a good life.

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5 Comments on Ask the Cat Doc: Skittish Cat, Continued Weight Loss, When to Start Joint Supplements, and More

  1. Candace Sheldon
    March 17, 2020 at 2:41 pm (7 months ago)

    I meant that to say a half hour.

    Reply
  2. Delores Swanson
    March 16, 2020 at 11:22 pm (7 months ago)

    We have a Torte kitty who is 8 mo. old. We adopted her when she was 3 mo. old. Her mama past away and left 3 kitties in all. She is spayed and has all her shots. She is very skittish when we try to pet her. She will come up and sit in my lap and cuddle. Doesn’t like to be held. Will she soon get over this? It’s just me and my husband in the household.

    Reply
  3. Karinda
    March 16, 2020 at 11:33 am (7 months ago)

    I have a morbidly obese cat she’s an inside cat, she’s about nine years old and she eats the other cats food. I’ve had her tested they say no diabetes that it’s her metabolism but it is so hard to get her to lose weight any tips any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Candace Sheldon
      March 17, 2020 at 2:39 pm (7 months ago)

      I also have a kitty that is overweight and eats the other cats food. I practice a 1.2 hour limit on eating and if the food isn’t consumed by then I pick it up. I also feed them in separate rooms so I can tell if she is going for another dish.

      Reply
  4. Janine
    March 16, 2020 at 8:27 am (7 months ago)

    One of my cats is extremely skittish too. She will be 10 this year. She was thrown out of a car onto a busy street when she was about 6 weeks old (according to our vet). She has just recently started to bond with my husband and lays on his lap when he’s watching tv, but she doesn’t like to be picked up or touched too much.

    Reply

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