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Welcome back Dr. Bahr! After a three month absence, our “Ask the Cat Doc With Dr. Lynn Bahr” segment is back! 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 is a 1991 graduate of the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine and founder of Dezi & Roo, a company that designs, manufactures, and sells solution-based products that enhance the lives of cats and their owners. She volunteers at numerous animal-related charities and causes and serves on the Fear Free Advisory Board, the Parliamentarian of the Society of Veterinary Medical Ethics, the Cat Committee of the Pet Professional Guild, and the Alley Cat Allies’ Feline Forward Task Force.

Dr. Bahr is co-author of Indoor Cat: How to Enrich Their Lives and Expand Their World, available from Amazon.

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 is not very friendly, does not want to be picked up

Dr. Bahr, Sophea is going to be 3 years old. She is a very fussy cat. We can’t pick her up and by chance, we do she growls, spits, and jumps out of our arms. Once in a while, we can pet her. She is a Tortie. We have had her since she was born and treat her with kid gloves. Will she ever get over this? When we have friends in she runs and hides. She is very unfriendly. Is there something we can do so she gets over this or will she be like this the rest of her life. Thank you, Delores

Hi Delores,

Thank you for giving Sophea a loving home and for understanding her personal preferences for physical contact. While it is sometimes difficult to resist picking up a cat to love on, not all them enjoy such public displays of affection. In fact, most don’t. In the wild, being picked up typically only occurs when a cat is being carried away by prey. So, the feeling of being lifted off the ground often evokes fear, stress, and anxiety. My own cat, Roo, is extremely skittish and will likely remain so for her entire life. That is her personality and being a scaredy cat is who she is at her core. So instead of trying to change her, I simply honor her peculiarity and accept that she will always bolt at the slightest sound or movement and will never feel comfortable being held.

I am sure you already know that in Sophea’s case, for her to feel safe it is best not to attempt to pick her up and only pet her when she seeks physical contact on her own terms. Otherwise, it will likely exacerbate her level of stress and increase her anxiety.

There are many suggestions in my book, Indoor Cat: How to Enrich Their Live and Expand Their World, that may help your situation. One entire chapter is devoted to “Purrfecting” PDA and there are plenty of helpful tips that you may find useful. However, first ask yourself if making her more friendly is in her or your best interest? Are you attempting to change her catitude because she will be happier if she is more social, or will doing so make you happier? If the answer is the former, then there is a lot of hope that she can learn to trust her environment over time. She is still an impressionable young girl with lots of room for personal growth. If the latter rings truer, then it is best to honor Sophea’s wish for more purrsonal space.

I appreciate your concern and interest in alleviating her anxiety. If it affects her quality of life, then I would suggest you discuss the situation with your veterinarian to see if medical intervention if warranted.

End stage kidney disease

My rescue cat, age estimated to be between 13-15, has kidney disease and has been losing weight. At the weekend, our vet advised we try her on a course of steroids over 2 weeks to see if she can gain weight. If this doesn’t work, the vet has said we need to talk options. Am I right in thinking we’re nearing the end and the humane thing would be to let my girl go? I’m scared of giving up on her too early. – Jo

Hi Jo,

I appreciate how much you love your girl and want what is best for her. You have my sincerest sympathy and healing prayers during this sad time.

Knowing when to say goodbye to a beloved pet and making the decision to humanely allow them to pass is the most difficult one a pet parent could face. It is often clouded by negative feelings like guilt, sadness, pain, helplessness, and grief which creates an even bigger dilemma for the grieving parent. I am sorry you are facing this now with your baby.

The decision should be made together with your veterinarian. He/she is in the position to give you the best advice regarding your girl’s physical health while you are the appropriate person to assess her mental well being. Keep in mind that cats don’t look ahead to the future and, enviably, live in the meow. For them, quality is a priority over quantity of life. Your girl will never feel like you gave up on her EVER and you should not worry about letting her go too early. A regret I hear often from clients is that they waited too long to make the decision to ease their beloved pet’s pain or suffering. I haven’t had many situations where caregivers regretted letting them go too soon.

The loss of a pet can be absolutely devastating. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help those who have a hard time coping with the pain. Please reach out if you find yourself in a similar position.

My heart goes out to you during this difficult time. Let me know how else I can be of service to you.

Cat is anxious and depressed after move

Dear Dr Bahr, My indoor cat is 13 years old. I moved recently and am staying with a friend while I find a new place. My cat is anxious and seemed depressed. I started taking her outside and it really perked her up but now she is kind of obsessed and wants to go out every day like a dog! I monitor her but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea or not. What do you think? Thank you. – Carol

Hi Carol,

I am so glad you recognize and acknowledge your cat’s anxiety and depression.  Bravo to you for being an astute pet parent.

Your intuition to help her with enrichment is spot on. The best way to boost mental well being is with exercise, activities, fun, joy, and new and exciting pawsibilities. Safely monitored trips outside are a wonderful way to introduce positive mood-enhancing experiences. The great outdoors allow her to explore new things, breathe fresh air, enjoy the sunshine, eat grass, scratch tree trunks, or climb on fences. No wonder she wants to go out all the time.

On days when she cannot be monitored outside, you can add indoor enrichment to help her cope better too. Get her chasing a wand toy, open the windows, provide scent enrichment with silvervine, catnip, honeysuckle, or valerian, warm a towel and let her roll in it. There are lots of ways in which you can keep her active, engaged, and entertained indoors and doing so will go a long way in keeping her happy and healthy.

Thank you for reaching out and for recognizing your cat’s emotional needs.

Horned claws on 21-year-old cat

I look forward to your book.

Recently I discovered a claw sheath growing between the toe pads of my 21 year old cat’s front paw. I think these are called “horned claws”. Could you comment on cause and treatment. My vet trimmed it and discovered one on his back foot, too. He is limping and having difficulty getting around. The growth on his front foot looks like it must be painful. I am very concerned. He has arthritis, too. Thank you. ~Debbie Chapman

Hi Debbie,

Congratulations on being lucky enough to parent a 21-year-old kitty. You are so blessed.

If your cat truly has horned claws, then these are benign growths. Most are not painful but that is not always the case. Did your cat begin to limp before or after the horns were trimmed? If after, then I would recommend a recheck to make sure they have not become infected.

At your boy’s age, I would highly recommend medical intervention to alleviate his pain (whether due to arthritis or the horned claws). There is no reason he should have to suffer with discomfort when there are several available medications and modalities that can help.

I wish you both lots more quality time together.

Kitten’s back legs shake when he’s asleep

I would like to ask a question please. I have a six month old kitten. He has had regular vet visits and seems to be in great health. I have noticed the last few days that when sleeping he has very rythmic and steady shaking of his back legs. It does not seem as if it is like he is dreaming, as it doesn’t look like a run, jump etc. It is very steady. Should I be worried? – Michelle

Hi Michelle,

Hopefully you will understand and forgive me, but without more information at my disposal about your kitten’s leg spasms I am unable to answer your question. However, I do recommend that you investigate it further with your veterinarian.

It would be greatly beneficial for you to film the episodes as they happen to show to your veterinarian. Take as many videos as you can so that he/she can fully evaluate the situation.

Thank you so much for taking time to write in. I appreciate it.

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