Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 7, 2023 by Crystal Uys


Welcome to our regular “Ask the Vet With Dr. Kris” segment! Once a month, Dr. Kris answers as many of your questions as he can, and you can leave new questions for him in a comment.

Dr. Kristopher Chandroo is a veterinarian, scientist, photographer, animal welfare advocate, and creator of Stress to Success (STS): The Essential Guide to Medicating Your Feisty, Grumpy or Reluctant Cat.  Dr. Kris wants  your cats to be twenty years old. And counting! And he wants to provide medication and therapy to them in a way that respects the bond between cat and human.

Here are Dr. Kris’ answers to some of your questions asked in June. If your question didn’t get answered here, Dr. Kris will answer them on his own website in the future. Subscribe to his updates so you’ll be notified when the answers are published.

11-year-old cat with cancer of the spleen

Hi there. I have an 11-year-old cat named Tom, and he was diagnosed with spleen cancer early this year. I want to do a splenectomy and maybe chemo, but the procedures are expensive and I can’t afford them. I feel like if I just him “go” my heart will be broken, and I’m not sure what to do. The vet is great and we are giving him meds for his other conditions (thyroid, hepatitis and a heart issue stemming from the thyroid problem) as well as meds for blood in his stool but we aren’t really treating “the cancer” so to speak right now. I am wondering if it would be good for Tom to have the surgery and maybe chemo if needed, assuming I can find the money, or if putting him through surgery would be hard on him. My vet thinks it would be a quick procedure and might give Tom more time, but I want him to feel better too—that would be my main reason for trying this. I’ve been reading your site for awhile and thought I’d ask your opinion. Thanks so much!

There is one very important thing I want you to know.

You’ll never be that person that “will just let him go”.

And this will remain true, whether you opt for surgery or not.

I’ve seen dogs and cats do amazingly well after removing the spleen, and have years of happiness.

I’ve had a patient die within 48 hours after splenectomy. A splenectomy that got paid for with credit cards. There were two ways those folks could have responded. Anger is the first way. Instead, they printed a portrait of me and their pet they took years earlier in an exam room, gave it to me as a gift, and broke down and cried. It is hard watching grown men cry.

You will always feel conflicted about making a decision like this. One way won’t ever be right over the other.

If you do the surgery, I always tell people that we are hoping for the best, but we must be prepared to say goodbye much faster than we would like.

If you don’t do the surgery, then you need to believe that there is something called “dying well”.

That even when our bodies are passing, which all of our bodies will do, that we can still nurture and tend to our relationships. So this valuable, special time we have left is honored.

So your heart will still break. But you won’t ever be just letting him go.

Should you toilet train a cat?

How successful are these kits which tell you that you can train your cat to use a toilet? Do they actually work? Is it traumatic for the cat. I am old live alone, and am starting to have trouble bending down to clean the litter box.

Ingrid’s reply: I’m sure Dr. Kris will address this, Terry, but in the meantime, here’s my input: I don’t believe cats should be toilet trained – it goes against their natural instinct. You may want to take a look at this litter scoop, which can be used without having to bend down:

Dr. Kris’ reply: I agree with Ingrid on this. Training a cat to use the toilet is a testament to how trainable and adaptable our cats can be. If done right, and you have a healthy, non-arthritic cat, I would not call it traumatic, it can be done.

But there is much to be said for proper scratching and burying behavior in the litter box. I’m sure within the population of millions of cats, there are folks out there who have cats doing well with the toilet training, or have some combination of toilet and ground choices.

Having said that, it sounds like the litter box needs to get closer to you, or the scoop needs to get closer to the litter box.

A cat can climb a short hill, find a great place to use the bathroom, then come back down. They are going to the bathroom on an incline.

So, there aren’t any rules that say you can’t put the litter box up on something sturdy, so the cat walks or jumps up to use it, and you don’t have to bend down as much. Of course you have to do it so your cat feels good about using it this way.

I’ve got 35 year old turtles (the red-ear slider types you used to see in dime stores). I’ve had them since I was a little kid. They live in my living room in a converted outdoor pond. It’s so well designed, if you didn’t look, you wouldn’t know at first they were there (they do like their privacy sometimes). But instead of on the floor, it’s on a very sturdy Ikea coffee table with a metal base. So for maintenance, I’m not wrecking my back…and I like my turtles off the floor, and they get to look out the window and see the whole world.

I’m sure in the comment section people might tell you about their experiences with hi-tech litter boxes (self-cleaning etc), and of course, that long scoop Ingrid mentioned might be just the ticket.

Good luck!

Male cat “pretends” to spray

One of our four-year-old neutered male cats (they’re brothers we adopted when they were three months old) “pretends” to spray–he backs up to something, usually a cabinet door, and does the shimmy/wiggle as if he’s marking. He’s not bothering us or anything, and obviously nothing is coming out, but what’s his deal with this? His brother does it too every once in a while, but I get the idea he’s just being a copycat (however, our copycat is also weird; he has a thing for carrots–they make him crazy. Catnip does nothing for him but a give him a piece of a carrot and he rolls around on it).

Ha ha ha. Your cats are hilarious!

This is what I want to know. Are you guys eccentric or quirky!? At least a little bid nerdy? Please tell me yes. Please tell me you have the quirkiest family with quirky cats, because that would be the best thing ever.

This sounds normal to me…normal for an awesome weirdo, full of personality quirky cat who will show you a diversity of behavior that only he or she knows the reason to.

Cat doesn’t like to be stroked

I’m looking after a friend’s cat. She likes to be stroked because she comes running and rubs herself against me. She will tolerate a brief petting on the head and neck but if I stroke her too much, she spits and hisses and lashes out. She doesn’t like the base of her tail being touched either – something that a lot of cats like. Do you think there might be a physical reason why she doesn’t like being stroked? Does this sound normal behaviour? I have had several cats in my life, all of them enjoying a stroke more than this cat.

Providing your friend’s cat is healthy (i.e. no debilitating arthritis, anxiety, cystitis etc. etc. etc.), I often call this NYSS.

New York Subway Syndrome.

Which, is, just because I come close to you, sit right beside you, and then our bodies happen to touch on a crowded subway, it doesn’t mean I give you permission to purposefully touch me. And if you do, despite the fact I’m sitting right next to you, and I’m really attractive, look out cause I’m gonna go all ninja on ya.

It’s not just a cat thing.

Cat with eosinophilic syndrome

My cat is being treated for Eosinophilic syndrome. His white cell count is very high but shows nothing definitive. He is on treatment w/ steroids, and has a feeding tube in as he lost weight and was not eating. He as put on some weight and eats some. I was wondering what else we can do? I have even tried a couple of sessions of acupuncture!

Oh no! Sorry to hear this. I am happy he has gained some weight!

The fact that his appetite has dropped means we must consider chronic eosinophilic leukemia. I’m not saying that he has that, but it is worth a discussion about that with your vet. There are other reasons as well (feline gastrointestinal eosinophilic sclerosing fibroplasia), and usually you need an ultrasound to suss them out. I would also want to know what this kitty’s vitamin B12 situation is. Those are all talking points I would take your vet.

Best wishes!

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