Ask the Cat Doc: How to Get a Cat to Exercise, Cat Cries in the Middle of the Night, 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 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!

How to get cat to exercise more?

How do I get my beautiful torti cat to exercise more?? I adopted her when she was 6 yrs. old, was told she came from a home with 7 other cats. She was very timid when she first came home with me, constantly hiding under the bed. I’ve had her for 3 years now and she’s improved a great deal. She’ll even come out by herself to the other rooms of the house briefly. We show her lots of love and do everything possible for her. She lives in our bedroom, sleeps on our bed most of the day. When I try to get her to clean & comb her, however, she’ll run under the bed. At night she has a huge slider window in the bedroom to look out and spends most of her time looking for animals, coming by, but she doesn’t run, hardly plays beyond swatting, when I use a wand toy. When I can get her, I carry her into the living room which is down a long hallway from our bedroom, put her on the couch. When she jumps off the couch I chase her down the hall so she runs. I’ll clap and praise her & then give her a treat or some food. However, that’s the extent of her exercising. She is not exactly aerodynamic, as she has a large, barrel shaped ribcage. Please give me some advice on how she could get some exercise! A friend’s cat developed diabetes, because he wouldn’t exercise. The vet wanted to know if he moved at all. Thank you for your help and all you do for these wonderful animals! – Ariel

Hi Ariel,

First, let me thank you for giving your beautiful girl a loving home and I appreciate your concern about her lack of activity. Some cats are not as active as others, but you are right about wanting to make sure your kitty stays fit.

To begin getting her to play more, you will need to understand what motivates her the most. If it involves food, then throwing kibbles or treats across the room is a wonderful way to get her moving more. Alternatively, you can place the food or treats on top of a table or cat tree in order to encourage her to jump or climb up to reach it. Or, walk around the house and drop treats as she follows you. I like to put a few pieces of food on paper plates and leave them around the house so that the cats have to walk from room to room to find them.

If she is not food motivated you will need to find other ways in which to entice her to play. Using scent as enrichment works for some cats and hopefully, it will work for her too. Sprinkle some silvervine powder or catnip on a few toys and hide them in a corner of the room, underneath a chair, behind a door, etc. and let her sniff the toys out and then play with them.

Have you tried leaving out boxes with the paper packing inside for her to play with? What about bringing in some branches with leaves on them for her to smell and scratch? Some cats respond to laser pointers and chase them endlessly. If you try it and she likes it, make sure to leave a treat or toy for her to catch at the end of the game.

Clicker training is a wonderful way to bond and interact with your cat while teaching her simple tricks to perform. Keeping her mentally fit is just as important as physical fitness is and clicker training is an easy way to get her to engage with you more.

Here are some more tips that may help you entice your precious bundle of fur to play more. Let me know if any of these suggestions work for you or if you have other concerns I can help you with.

Managing Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Chronic Kidney Disease

My cat, Max, is a 5 year old neutered orange tabby. He has IBD and I had been managing it with a diet that doesn’t include chicken or fish. Proteins include rabbit, venison, and sometimes beef or lamb. He also takes budesonide 2x a week.

Recently, he was diagnosed with Stage 2 CKD. My vet wants me to switch him to a prescription hydrolyzed diet to help manage both the IBD and CKD.

I’m trying to transition him slowly, mixing the new with the old. I literally use a Magic Bullet to mix them together because on it’s own, that hydrolyzed protein has a weird gel-like texture.

He’s seems to be ok when I blend both with water, but he’s more likely to eat if I blend with beef bone broth, but should I worry about the phosphorous content?

By the way, I’m not sure if I’m completely on board with the hydrolyzed diet (Hill’s z/d) because I still want to make sure he’s getting enough protein, so that’s the other thing I’m not sure of.

Plus, this Hill’s has chicken liver, which I’ve tried to avoid in the past, so now I’m a bit confused. – Abby C Abanes

Hi Abby,

I am so sorry to hear about your cat’s medical issues but grateful that he has you to advocate for good medical care on his behalf.

Unfortunately, I am unable to answer your questions without having more knowledge about his conditions and I would not want to comment on your current veterinarian’s recommendations without having seen your cat or his lab results.

However, I would suggest you ask more questions of your current veterinarian until you are satisfied with the answers given. Or, seek a second opinion which is always helpful. I encourage clients to get second, and sometimes even third, opinions and recommend you find a veterinarian that you trust completely. Do you have any boarded internists near you?

This is a good time for you to gather the right team together to help you and Max keep both of his conditions under control. Hopefully, he has lots and lots of good, quality years left to live and it would nice for you both to have professionals you can trust to guide you.  Good luck.

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Cat screams in the middle of the night

Why does my 16 year old cat yell out in the middle of the night, a blood curdling scream for several minutes. After we speak to her, she calms down. She goes downstairs to do this. Her best friend was put down last month, so it could be grief but she has done this for possibly a year. She is very quiet at all other times. – Margie Love

Hi Margie,

There are several possible reasons for your kitty to have recently become vocal in the night and I would suggest you get her checked out by a qualified veterinarian ASAP. She could be dealing with hypertension, hyperthyroidism, or even senility among other things.

I would recommend a complete physical exam, bloodwork, urinalysis, and blood pressure check be done on her to start. The results should enable your veterinarian to have a better idea as to the cause of her problem. Fortunately, once a diagnosis is made, there are usually treatment options to help.

It would not surprise me if there was an underlying medical issue causing her to cry out at night, especially given her age. Please let me know what that turns out to be.

12 Comments on Ask the Cat Doc: How to Get a Cat to Exercise, Cat Cries in the Middle of the Night, and More

  1. Louise
    October 15, 2020 at 9:27 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Hi, I have a new to me 2.5 year old very petite kitty, Olive. When I adopted her she was about 6.5 lbs. Now she’s 6.1. She seems to love dry food and I’ve been giving her different types of wet food – Weruva, etc. to entice her to eat more but she seems to be losing weight and not much interested in eating unless it’s dry food. Any suggestions on ways I can fatten her up? I was thinking of trying kitten food.

    I have a vet appt. scheduled for December – the first available. I would appreciate any suggestions in the meantime.

    Thank you,
    Louise

    Reply
  2. Cheri Collins
    September 28, 2020 at 4:03 pm (4 weeks ago)

    Rosie is 9 now and has been with me 7 years. I “rescued” her from the city shelter because she had been there too long — at 3.5 months she’d set a record. She’s beautiful and friendly, but she was found living in a feral colony and has some feral traits. She prefers the company of other cats and makes friends with them easily. I had two senior male cats when she arrived, and was worried about how they would get along. The boys were not at all inclined to want her friendship, but in 2-3 days she’d convinced them they did. 4.5 years ago I adopted another senior, a female, who was likely to be euthanized because no one wanted her. Again, Rosie easily made friends with her. We have an outdoors which is safe for cats, and Rosie spends almost all her time outdoors during the dry weather. 2 neighbors’ cats do the same, to she has friends. But all the cats she has known living with me/us are now gone. I have no idea if she understands they’ve died. They were all older. Occasionally when she comes in, she looks around the house and quickly leaves. Is it possible she’s looking for the cats who were here? I plan to adopt another senior cat when one shows up who’s in need. But I’m not hurrying. I believe the “right” cat will present herself. But I’m wondering if I should adopt before the rain season comes in case that would make Rosie more comfortable indoors again. ???

    Reply
  3. Tracy Burton
    September 24, 2020 at 3:12 pm (1 month ago)

    Hello – I’m looking for advice on how best to socialize my 6 month old kitten with other people. As a foster kitten he always came running to the door meowing and purring when either myself or my wife entered the room. We’ve now adopted him and he’s had the run of the house for a couple months and is comfortable with us and our dog but whenever anyone else comes over he runs and hides under the bed. Any suggestions? Is it better to let him hide and come out if and when he is ready or try to swaddle him and bring him out to say hi? I’ve tried toys and food but neither has been enough motivation for him to come out.

    Reply
  4. ariel
    September 22, 2020 at 9:31 pm (1 month ago)

    Thank you, Dr. Bahr, I will try these things with Tori, my torti!

    Reply
  5. Kris
    September 22, 2020 at 12:57 am (1 month ago)

    My 3yr old rescue ( Romeo) sits by the door howling to go outside. He howls/ scream to go outside. I’ve had him for almost 2 yrs. He’s quite the escape artist. Any suggestions
    will be wonderful.
    Romeo was rescued from an apt complex after being left behind by owner’s.

    Reply
  6. Margie Love
    September 21, 2020 at 9:02 pm (1 month ago)

    My kitty cries out when she is having a poo, then when finished, she’s fine and runs all through the house. Just a brief cry out. She had radiation therapy for hyperthyroidism and made a remarkable recovery at age 14. Afterwards she crouched down on her tummy a lot, so my vet suggested that she may have a stomach ache a need a mild laxative to make her more comfortable. So we put a teaspoon of a mild laxative in her morning meal, which seems to help. But she cries out when in her box, only when having a bm. Afterwards she is happy as a kitten.
    Suggestion?

    Reply
  7. Sharon
    September 21, 2020 at 6:20 pm (1 month ago)

    Dr. Bahr: Our kitty, Ami, is an indoor spoiled kitty but we have a catio on our patio where he gets a chance to enjoy the outdoors. However, I let him roam on our patio for a few minutes before I put him in the catio as I go about tidying our patio and surrounding plants. I’ve caught him being sneaky as he munches on violet plant and morning glory plant leaves. He’s done it more times than I care to admit and hasn’t had any adverse affects. Are they harmful to kitties?

    Reply
  8. Ina Holthaus
    September 21, 2020 at 11:06 am (1 month ago)

    In early October 2019 I took home a 12year old male cat named BoBo after his previous caretaker died suddenly. He was taken to a vet in the morning and I rescued him in the evening from being euthanized. So needless to say, he had a very traumatic event in his life. It may be the reason why he runs to hide behind my bed whenever somebody comes to the door. According to the Vet he had no health issues and they gave him whatever vaccines they thought necessary. It took him only a few days to lose his fears of being in a strange place and with a strange person. He ate, he drank his water and used the box . I provided him with cat beds, heating pads, pillows, cat trees and toys throughout my 2 bedroom condo, he loves to sleep on the bed with me at night and joins me out on the balcony on sunny days. I am home every day (retired) , answer every one of his meows (even in the middle of the night) and there is no doubt – we love each other. In early November I saw a tiny spec on his tongue, took him to the Vet and it turned out that it is some kind of ulcer. Why?? Blood tests revealed nothing. So I was told that it is most likely cancer and any treatment at his age would probably not do anything but give him a few more weeks or months to live. The ulcer grew rapidly, a second one appeared and after 1 month the growth rate slowed down but did not stop. I prepared myself mentally to lose him around Christmas/New Year. But he is still with me 11 months later, enjoying his life. The Vet said, that maybe it’s an allergy, but no matter what, it would have to be treated with steroids . Because of a severe heart murmur he would most likely not survive that kind of a treatment. The ulcers are still there, they are huge, impossible to tell whether they have stopped growing or what is really going on and I wonder, whether you have any idea of something I could do to find a possible treatment for him.
    Thank you for listening and BoBo says Meow-Hello – he just jumped up on my desk to see what I am writing.
    Ina and BoBo

    Reply
  9. Rhonda
    September 21, 2020 at 11:00 am (1 month ago)

    About a year ago I stopped giving my 2 kitties dry food. I occasionally give them raw, only one likes the raw and canned food primarily Tiki Cat and weruva. I don’t give them much fish but a variety of other meats. They love it so much that they have become beggars. I split a 6oz can between them 2x a day and after an hour or two they are begging again. Especially my one cat Zeta, she even jumps on my kitchen counter looking for food. How do I get them to stop begging? Btw they both 13 yrs old. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Barb W
      September 24, 2020 at 10:32 pm (1 month ago)

      My 14 yr old kitty was not eating enough until I found probiotics eliminated her constipation so I’m happy to say she now eats a 5.5 can of wet food a day. She also isn’t interested in people food some of which would be very good for her. So I’m happy if I find her on the table. We’ve come a long way from her not eating enough to eating well. I feed 4 portions per day, If she wanted more I’d be happy. If she begged for more.

      Reply
  10. Janine
    September 21, 2020 at 6:59 am (1 month ago)

    Thanks for the tips on how to get a cat moving more. Pele is far from overweight, but she doesn’t seem to want to move much and mostly lays around. The tip about scattering food reminded me of how she used to play one time. We would toss kibble and she would run after it. I’m going to try that again.

    Reply
  11. Dilcia M Gilman
    September 21, 2020 at 6:39 am (1 month ago)

    My Susie is 14 years old, and has a mild kidney problem and chronic pancreatitis disease, I have been looking for a diet that will help with both problems, but all I can find is information in one or the other, it is very confusing. Can you give me any suggestions?

    Reply

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