Ask the Cat Doc: When to Adopt Another Senior Cat, Socializing a Kitten, Cat Begging After Eating, 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.

Dr. Bahr will be taking a short break. Leave your questions
in a comment on this post, and she’ll answer them in January.

When to adopt another senior cat?

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. – Cheri Collins

Hi Cheri,

Your comments warmed my heart. Let me beginning by thanking you for adopting cats no one else wants and giving them a loving home. They are lucky to have found such a wonderful guardian in you.

Rosie is particularly blessed to have the ability to choose what she wants and where she wants it. She sounds like a very special kitty to be able to make friends so easily.

Only you know what is best for her individual situation. Continue to trust in your heart and gut instincts because it has served you, and Rosie, well so far. No one else is as qualified as you are to make the right decisions on her behalf. You are her trusted guardian and you really do know what is in her best interest.

Rosie appears to be thriving well in your care and there is no reason to believe things will change otherwise. Whether or not you end up adopting another cat soon, you are correct to rely on the fact that the “right” one will find you soon.  Let me know when that happens.

How to socialize a kitten

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. – Tracy Burton

Hi Tracy,

Congratulations on adopting your kitten and giving him a great home. Being comfortable around your family is what matters most and I would not worry about his reluctance to socialize with strangers. Allowing him to hide and retreat to safe places when he is feeling scared and anxious is the best course of action you can take for now. Under no circumstances would I recommend forcing him into situations he feels uneasy or uncomfortable about.

If, however, it is important to you that he become less skittish then I would recommend working with a feline behaviorist that has the expertise to guide you through the process. While there are some easy and simple things you can do to help him acclimate better to strangers, it is probably best to get professional guidance if you want to truly be successful.

Otherwise, I would recommend you accommodate his feelings by setting up several quiet, warm, and cozy places for him to retreat to. Similar to giving a child a security blanket or favorite stuffed animal to make them feel safe and sound. The more successful you are at making him feel comfortable and away from harm’s way, the happier he will be.

Cat howls to go outside

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 suggestionswill be wonderful. Romeo was rescued from an apt complex after being left behind by owner’s. – Kris

Hi Kris,

Your question opens up a can of worms as I am not a staunch believer in keeping every cat strictly indoors. I believe many that are can safely enjoy the outdoors too. For me, the indoor/outdoor issue is not black and white and I see lots of gray in between.

Romeo appears to be a kitty that has known freedom and seeks more of it. And, he is feeling cooped up indoors just like we’ve been experiencing during this awful pandemic. Covid19 has given us a glimpse of what life feels like to live in four walls and it can be claustrophobic or depressing.

Was Romeo surviving and thriving or was he in pretty bad shape when you first found him? Is where you live with him now safer than where he was living in the apt complex?

Depending on the answers to the above questions, there may be some gray area for letting Romeo explore the outdoors safely. If he is allowed safe access outdoors while you control the situation, it might lessen his inclinations to escape.

Safe access is achievable with supervised outdoor time, leash walks, strollers, catios, and window boxes. I would guess that Romeo is a pretty savvy boy with street smarts. Is it possible for you to supervise him playing outdoors? Do you have a yard that can be kitty fenced proof? Or a deck where he can hang with you? Have you tried to get him accustomed to a harness?

Hopefully, you will be able to find a suitable way for Romeo to satisfy his urge to explore the outdoors. However, if you are unable to, then I would suggest you improve his indoor environment. It is essential that you play with him several times a day, keeping his toys and surroundings new, novel, and exciting and provide him with ways to express his natural instincts to play, explore, climb, investigate, and hunt. It may also help to grow grass for him indoors so that he doesn’t need to door dash in order to find it outside.

Environmental enrichment that stimulates him both mentally and physically is the best way to keep Romeo happy and healthy indoors if there is no way in which he can go safely outside. Even opening your windows daily will help too.

Good luck and I hope you are able to find a happy medium that makes both you and Romeo happy.

Cat cries after defecating

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 and 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? – Margie Love

Hi Margie,

Congratulations on successfully treating your kitty’s hyperthyroidism. It is terrific to know she is better off for it. Bravo!

While I am happy to hear she runs around like a kitten now, I do not believe that it is normal for any cat to cry out in pain while defecating. In my experience, there is almost always an underlying condition behind it.

Hard stools or constipation is a common reason for pain during defecation. If the stool softener has helped her, then perhaps she may need just a little bit more but, ask your veterinarian before you attempt to do that.

Arthritic knees, backs, and joints can contribute to pain too. These conditions can make it more difficult to use the bathroom without hurting. So can impacted anal glands, polyps, or rectal strictures.

Your keen observations along with a thorough veterinary exam will help you and your veterinarian determine the cause of your cat’s pain. Follow up and let me know what you both find.

Cat munches on outdoor plants

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? – Sharon

Hi Sharon,

What a lucky kitty Ami is to have access to both a patio and catio. He is certainly blessed.

Many cats enjoy eating greens and it would be prudent for you to begin growing ones that are safe and tasty for cats. That will help deter Ami from munching on yours while satisfying his craving for plants of his own.

I grow grass for my cats and use a blend of rye, wheat, oat, and barley seeds. It is easy, grows quickly, and my kitties love the opportunity to eat it. There is an extensive list of non-toxic plants for cats that include common ones like Spider plants, catnip, and lemongrass you might be interested in growing for him. Check some out on the internet that you can either grow yourself or purchase for delivery.

Thank you for writing in and allowing me the opportunity to help you.

Ulcers on tongue

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 Holthaus and BoBo

Hi Ina,

Bobo is so fortunate to have found you and lucky to have someone like you to love him and provide him with a great home.

I am sorry to hear about his ulcers. While I am not quite sure why he has them, I do think you should take him for a second opinion immediately. If you have a boarded veterinary dentist in your area, that would be a reasonable place to start. If not, check to see if there is a highly recommended feline-only veterinarian willing to see him.

Oral ulcers can certainly affect quality of life and I do believe Bobo’s should be investigated further. It is important that you know what they are, why are they there, and how to treat them. The list of causes is extensive but most are easily diagnosed and I highly encourage you to let another professional examine him and weight in on what is going on. And, at the very least, I would inquire about pain medications to help him feel better if the diagnosis is grave.

Paws crossed that with your help, Bobo finds relief soon.

Cats are begging after eating

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. – Rhonda

Hi Rhonda,

Thank you for writing in and giving me an opportunity to address your problem. The best way to stop your cats from begging would be to first understand why they are doing so. Then you can better figure out to help redirect them in more positive ways.

Could it be that your cats have started begging because they are hungry and not getting enough to eat? This is a good start to sorting out why their behavior has changed since you changed their diet. The caloric needs of all cats differ and depend on factors like their age, weight, BCS, and health. However, an average, healthy, 10 pound cat should consume between 200 – 300 calorie a day depending on whether they are obese or not.

Check to make sure that the one 6 0z can of food you are feeding each a day provides at least the minimum of 200 calories needed in order to thrive. If not, then increase the amount you are feeding and that should take care of your problem.

If however, your cats are getting the recommended amount of nutrients and calories they need, then you might want to consider feeding them more often. I prefer that cats eat more frequently than twice a day and yours might too. Is it possible to give them a few snacks in between meals? Perhaps that may curtail the begging.

There are also medical reasons for increased appetites and if your cats have not had a recent veterinary checkup with bloodwork and a urinalysis, then now is a great the time to get one scheduled. It would be a shame to chalk up this up to their loving their food too much when it was an underlying medical issue the was at the root of the problem all along.

Begging for food is certainly an annoying behavior and I understand you wanted to put an end to it. Let me know once you figure out the real reason your cats are asking to be fed more.

Kidney disease and chronic pancreatitis

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? – Dilcia

Hi Dilcia,

Your confusion is understandable. The pancreas and kidneys are separate organs that don’t have much in common. So trying to treat them the same medically is difficult and so is trying to feed each with diets that support their individual health.

Diet is important for improved health and I thank you for trying to find the best one for Susie. Both of her medical issues are important to address and the discussion of what is the best diet to control both should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Start off by asking whether or not diet will help either of these conditions and if so how. Understanding each of your cat’s illnesses and how you can successfully manage them will help you achieve a better long term outcome.

The number one rule of thumb when it comes to sick cats and their diets is to offer them healthy choices but if they refuse to eat, give them what they want.  It is always better to have a cat eating, sick or not, than one that does not eat at all.

In general, pancreatitis can be more influenced by diet than renal disease and might be the one you choose to address first. It is also more painful than early kidney disease so I recommend you take that into consideration, too. But it also depends on the severity of each condition to determine which one demands the most attention. The squeaky wheel gets the grease in my opinion.

Hopefully, you have a qualified veterinarian (preferably feline only), internist, or veterinary nutritionist to rely on and help you navigate Susie’s health as she ages. If not, then this would be a good time for you to establish a relationship with a professional you trust with Susie’s long term care. I know you want her to be with you for many more years to come.

7 Comments on Ask the Cat Doc: When to Adopt Another Senior Cat, Socializing a Kitten, Cat Begging After Eating, and More

  1. Sarah
    November 18, 2020 at 11:28 am (2 weeks ago)

    Hi Doc. I have a 3 year old calico cat named Meeka. She is well behaved, until it comes to eating. She meows and caterwauls until fed. Even after we feed her, she returns to meowing once she finishes eating. She has plenty of fresh water, and is fed regually 1/4 cup of dry cat food, one scoop in the morning and one scoop at night. How can I stop her from meowing so much and begging for food even after she is fed?

    Reply
  2. Becky
    November 12, 2020 at 9:31 pm (3 weeks ago)

    Hi Dr. Bahr,

    About 3 weeks ago, our cat’s tail was suddenly hanging limp and he was in pain/moving slowly. We took him to the emergency vet, where they took x-rays but didn’t find anything and gave him Onsior.

    He was doing much better for about 2 weeks, when he was in obvious pain, constipated and wouldn’t eat. Since our vet was closed, we took him back to the original emergency vet and they gave him an enema and more pain meds.

    Finally, after he kept getting worse, we had him see a second emergency vet this past Friday. We had an upcoming neurology appointment at the same practice, but didn’t feel he could wait until the scheduled appointment. The ER vet gave him a stronger dose of gabapentin (50mg) and buprenorphine. They suggested crate rest. (We’ve been doing bed rest in a small bedroom with no furniture since the visit.)

    We took him back for his scheduled neurology appointment. They did an MRI and found he had a bulging disc. They suggested continued crate rest for 4 weeks and continued gabapentin. (He had already shown great improvement after a couple of days of bed rest.) They said they were optimistic that conservative treatment would work for him because his symptoms were mild (he retained the ability to use his back legs and use the restroom, although he did have difficulty jumping and some constipation which we’re treating with Miralax) and he had already improved greatly since the ER visit on Friday.

    Although we talked the vet and have tried to read a little, we’re still unclear about this problem and the prognosis. These are the specific questions we have:

    Would a bulging disc fall under IVDD, or is that a separate condition?

    Would there a possibility of the disc fully healing?

    If he’s doing better after crate rest, how serious of a problem does this present for the future? The vet said we would have to make lifelong modifications to restrict jumping, etc.

    We’ve read varying things, but the outcome seems to depend on the severity of the problem.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Betty
    November 9, 2020 at 8:17 pm (3 weeks ago)

    Everyone has probably moved on but I’ll add a couple of thoughts anyway as the two cats begging for food stayed with me for some reason. I agree with the poster who expressed the opinion that Tiki and Weruva do not have a hight enough fat content for healthy cats but both foods are good for cats with pancreatitis since they need low fat foods during the healing process. And certainly both are way healthier than the wholesale processed food the vet sells for pancreatitis or for the average grocery store processed canned food. Anyway, healthy cats do need more fat IMO.

    As to the two cats begging for food, it is easy to assume they are hungry. One can find out on line how much food to generally feed per weight plus the doctor posted that information in response to the question. My little guy is almost nine pounds and he gets three meals a day of a 3 oz can of high quality food. He sometimes leaves a bite or two each meal but I’d rather that than to have him hungry. I make sure he has play time as well. Let us hope the begging problem is easily solved with more food and it isn’t a health issue.

    Reply
  4. Cheri Collins
    October 26, 2020 at 6:14 pm (1 month ago)

    Rhonda,
    I would say the cats probably need more food. My senior girl eats three 3 oz cans / day. And I’m a label reader, before I buy any food in a package or can I read the label. I’m convinced neither Tiki nor Weruva always have enough fat in the food. Tiki I think is always too low in fat. Cats burn fat for energy. I look for at least 4-5 % fat in canned food. I can’t ask them, but as fat is satisfying for humans, I suspect it is for cats, too. I would try offering Wellness, a good brand, ones with higher fat content. And another can / day. I think your cats really are hungry.

    Reply
  5. Timmy Tomcat
    October 26, 2020 at 12:21 pm (1 month ago)

    Great post today we learned a lot. Thanks

    Reply
  6. Janine
    October 26, 2020 at 7:08 am (1 month ago)

    Lots of great info on here today. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Cheri Collins
      October 29, 2020 at 6:33 pm (1 month ago)

      Here she is: her name is Lucille (Lucy) now. She’s 12 and has hyperthyroidism. Bennie was 12 when I adopted her and had hyperthyroidism. So this is familiar territory, as it were. Very different cats, tho.
      Lucy has a megawatt personality and is very clever. We had to move a bit carefully getting to know each other. Lucy expresses dislike or discomfort (either) with a hiss. If the hiss doesn’t stop what she wants to stop, she growls. I understood right away, and didn’t try to get to familiar too quickly. I soon learned she expresses pleasure with a LOUD purr. She has her favorite places to nap now, and her favorite toys to create games with, and teaches me how to join in. … When / if I figure out how I’ll send a photo.

      Reply

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