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!
Cat with runny eyes, overgrooming
Charlotte is 13 yr old spayed female. 4 yrs ago she started with a periodic runny eye, then both eyes. Vet said was not an infection, but gave me meds to put in them, but did not work. for the past 2 years she has got so bad, Her nose runs constantly, she has sneezing fits that produces large chunks of snot, most times I can hear her breathing 15 feet away, and she has licked all the hair off of her lower back and tail. Vet has no idea. She eats raw food and I rotate protein source, I’ve bought every type of holistic allergy meds and gut health supplements and nothing affects her, she looks so miserable. I would appreciate any ideas to help her feel better. – Shelley Shoreland
There are many common problems that could cause Charlotte’s symptoms and I would highly recommend you seek a second opinion to see how best to resolve them. She should not have to deal with a chronically stuffed up nose, and there is a good reason why she is licking herself bald.
Nasal polyps, viruses, secondary bacterial infections, foreign bodies, tumors, and even dental problems can all present with upper respiratory symptoms similar to those you have described. There are many diagnostics like imaging, endoscopy, and viral panels that can help rule in or rule out the underlying cause, which will help in formulating a proper, and specific, treatment plan. Procedures like a deep nasal flush, removal of polyps, dental extractions, etc. may be indicated and will go a long way in helping her to feel better. And, you will feel better about relieving her symptoms too.
Obsessive grooming can be caused by several things including, parasites, pain, stress, and a multitude of dermatologic conditions. Barbering along the lower back and tail is most commonly due to a flea allergy. If she has access to the outdoors or lives with other animals that do, you should consider an effective and safe treatment and preventative for fleas.
I am sure it breaks your heart, as it does mine, to see Charlotte looking so miserable. Fortunately, the likelihood of making her feel better is very good as long as you are able to get her seen by someone well versed in feline medicine. While I don’t know the true extent of her condition, I am confident she can be helped. And both you and Charlotte will be much happier for it.
Cats get along inside, but not outside
Why do my cats get along fine inside but not outside? It’s like they don’t recognize each other and the one chases and beats the other up making him hide and growl and hiss at me when I’m trying to rescue him. The sounds are aweful!! – Linda
I wish I could be of more help, but your question is too vague for me to postulate a good answer for you. More information is needed to determine the reason your cats have negative reactions with each other when outside.
Knowing the age of your cats, how long they have lived together, whether or not they mutually groom or sleep together indoors, if there are neighbor cats outside, how often they go out together, etc. are all useful pieces of information needed in order to assess the problem correctly. The more insight you can give the better.
Since it sounds like going outside is stressful to both kitties, you might want to consider keeping them indoors instead. Or, let them out separately to avoid the situation altogether? I am sure there are some workable options that will help everyone get along better and I look forward to hearing more details from you.
A note from Ingrid: You may want to consider working with a feline behaviorist. I can highly recommend Mikel Delgado http://www.felineminds.com/ and Dr. Marci Koski http://www.felinebehaviorsolutions.com/ Both offer remote consultations.
Weight loss diet
I have been told that dry food isn’t always bad. Our cats are on Hills Metabolic Dry. Our 3 are siblings and the 2 girls are a ideal weight, and our boy was a glutton when little and blossomed to 20 lbs. We have since by Vets orders changed to the Hills. He is now lost a pound and a half, it’s a gradual loss. To be sure they get enough water, we have a fountain for them to drink out of, and also when they get their dry we put water in it to help also. – Louise Ayers
Congratulations on helping your boy achieve gradual weight loss. That is wonderful! If the current diet is working for him then I would recommend you continue with it.
However, we do know that wet, canned, or raw food is lower in calories, higher in protein, and better for cats than dry. Perhaps you could discuss with your vet a more varied diet that includes both wet and dry, along with frequent feedings and lots of exercise and enrichment.
I typically don’t recommend a single food source for life and would encourage you to seek further guidance on how accomplish a more robust diet plan that will keep all three of your cats remain happy and healthy. Cats in the wild eat mice, squirrels, birds, bugs, and they dumpster dive a lot. Feeding one diet for life is unnatural and I believe unhealthy for them as well. While I do occasionally recommend prescription diets for specific problems, it is typically fed short term or until the condition I am treating has resolved. A prescription diet plan should be re-evaluated often and adjusted accordingly.
Keep up the good work with getting your boy to lose weight. We know how important it is maintain a purrfect body condition score and we are happy to hear that he is on his way to reaching his target weight. Bravo!
A note from Ingrid: While Dr. Bahr and I share the same overall view when it comes to feline nutrition, we differ when it comes to some of the particulars. I never recommend dry food or prescription diets for cats. You may find the weight loss tips in this article helpful: https://consciouscat.net/2019/11/18/weight-loss-tips-for-cats/
Cat won’t let woman sleep if her husband is awake
I work day shift and my husband works night shift, so no matter how the cookie crumbles, I will often need to sleep when he is awake and vice versa. We have 3 cats, but 2 of them don’t care. The last, however, is a different story. He is a Ragdoll, Mugen, of 7 years and he is a Velcro cat with no sense of personal space. He decided early on, that he was my baby and I absolutely adore him. He’s always near me and sleeps next to my pillow or is the small spoon. However, if I sleep (bedroom door open) and my husband is awake (usually playing video games or watching TV in his man cave – door ajar) Mugen will do everything in his power to keep me awake – meowing, scratching doors, knocking stuff off desks. We’ve tried everything we could think of; playing with him, letting him go in and out as he pleases (they’re indoor cats but we have a catio), leaving the lights on, hubby keeping his door closed, leaving the TV on – nothing works, except if my husband goes to bed. Why does he do this? And how can we teach him it’s ok for me to sleep? There are no problems when hubby sleeps and I’m awake. – Christina Bach
I am definitely stumped as to why Mugen tries to keep you awake, but it is obvious that he is deeply attached to you. Between you and your husband’s opposite sleep schedule, he could just be a little bit confused. While I don’t know the root cause, I can certainly offer you some suggestions to help curb Mugen’s persistent habit of keeping you awake.
There will probably be a bit of trial and error involved in finding the purrfect solution but, hopefully, you will find one that works for all of you. Have you tried playing with him just before you are going to sleep? If possible, it would be ideal to get him running, jumping, and chasing after a wand toy or laser until he has released a good amount of energy. Then give him a snack afterwards which may trigger him to take a nap after eating.
You can also try setting up nighttime playgrounds with boxes and toys. Or, place scented objects around the house for him to seek and find. Treats in puzzle feeders would work too. Here are some more ideas for you to try: https://deziroo.com/blogs/pawsitive-connections/ways-to-keep-your-cat-from-waking-you-up-at-night.
Does your husband play with Mugen while you sleep? It might help to have him keep Mugen occupied and distracted until he is ready to join you in bed. I assume you have already tried that but wanted to suggest it in case you had not.
Lastly, I would suggest you look into participating in some clicker training with Mugen. There are many resources on the internet to get you started. Once he has gotten accustomed to performing for treats and praises, your husband could use the clicker to attract Mugen to interact with him, instead of with you.
Hopefully, one or more of these suggestions will work for you. Please let me know if any are successful. Good luck.