Feline Health

Holiday Safety Tips for Your Pets

christmas_cat_dog_wreath

It’s that time of year again!  As you get ready to celebrate the holidays, keep in mind that some of our most cherished holiday traditions can be hazardous for our pets.  The ASPCA offers the following holiday safety tips:

Try to keep your pet’s eating and exercise habits as close to their normal routine as possible. And be sure to steer them clear of the following unhealthy treats, toxic plants and dangerous decorations:

O Christmas Tree

Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. This will also prevent the tree water-which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset-from spilling. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he imbibe.

Tinsel-less Town

Kitties love this sparkly, light-catching “toy” that’s easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery. It’s best to brighten your boughs with something other than tinsel.

No Feasting for the Furries

By now you know not to feed your pets chocolate and anything sweetened with xylitol, but do you know the lengths to which an enterprising fur kid will go to chomp on something yummy? Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.

Toy Joy

Looking to stuff your pet’s stockings? Choose gifts that are safe.  Dogs have been known to tear their toys apart and swallowing the pieces, which can then become lodged in the esophagus, stomach or intestines. Stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible, Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible. 

Long, stringy things are a feline’s dream, but the most risky toys for cats involve ribbon, yarn and loose little parts that can get stuck in the intestines, often necessitating surgery. Surprise kitty with a new ball that’s too big to swallow, a stuffed catnip toy or the interactive cat dancer-and tons of play sessions together.

Forget the Mistletoe & Holly

Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. And many varieties of lilies, can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Opt for just-as-jolly artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.

Leave the LeftoversFatty, spicy and no-no human foods, as well as bones, should not be fed to your furry friends. Pets can join the festivities in other fun ways that won’t lead to costly medical bills. 

That Holiday Glow

Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. And if you leave the room, put the candle out!

Wired Up

Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, while shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth.

House RulesIf your animal-loving guests would like to give your pets a little extra attention and exercise while you’re busy tending to the party, ask them to feel free to start a nice play or petting session.

 Put the Meds AwayMake sure all of your medications are locked behind secure doors, and be sure to tell your guests to keep their meds zipped up and packed away, too. 

Careful with Cocktails

If your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.

A Room of Their Own

Give your pet his own quiet space to retreat to-complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle. Shy pups and cats might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrying case or in a separate room away from the hubbub.

New Year’s Noise

As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a cat’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears.

The Conscious Cat
wishes you and your furry family members
a  happy and safe holiday season!

Winter Health Tips for Your Pets

let-it-snow

Do you enjoy winter and love to play in the snow, or would you rather curl up in front of a warm fireplace with your favorite feline?  Regardless of your preferences for this cold season, being aware of the challenges this time of year can bring for your pets can help keep them safe all winter long.

1. Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.

2.  During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.

3. Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm – dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.

4. Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.

5. Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.

6. Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.

7. Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.

8.  Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him in tip-top shape.

9. Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Visit the ASPCA Poison Control Center for more information.

Thanksgiving Safety Tips for Your Pets

Thanksgiving dog and cat

ASPCA experts offer these tips for a fulfilling Thanksgiving that your pets can enjoy, too.

Sage Advice

Sage can make your Thanksgiving stuffing taste delicious, but it and many other herbs contain essential oils and resins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression to pets if eaten in large quantities. Cats are especially sensitive to the effects of certain essential oils.

No Bread Dough
Don’t spoil your pet’s holiday by giving him raw bread dough. According to ASPCA experts, when raw bread dough is ingested, an animal’s body heat causes the dough to rise in his stomach. As it expands, the pet may experience vomiting, severe abdominal pain and bloating, which could become a life-threatening emergency, requiring surgery.

Don’t Let Them Eat Cake
If you’re baking up Thanksgiving cakes, be sure your pets keep their noses out of the batter, especially if it includes raw eggs-they could contain salmonella bacteria that may lead to food poisoning.

Too Much of a Good Thing
A few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn’t pose a problem. However, don’t allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse-an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In fact, it’s best keep pets on their regular diets during the holidays.

Keeping these tips in mind will ensure a happy and healthy Thanksgiving for all family members, human and furry!

Benefits of Probiotics for Cats and Dogs

Probiotics for Cats and Dogs

Source:  Holistic Pet Info

Many of us think of bacteria as harmful, or even deadly, but did you know that certain bacteria are not only desirable, but necessary for your pet’s good health?

“Friendly” bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifido-bacterium bifidum, and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are just a few of the helpful microorganisms that can reside in your dog or cat’s intestinal tract where they play an important role in defending his body against disease and illness. These kinds of bacteria are referred to as “friendly” because, rather than causing illness and disease, they serve to defend your pet from harmful organisms which can invade his body from time to time.  

Keeping this complex ecosystem of microorganisms in balance, however, is not always easy.  In this ongoing “tug of war” between friendly and harmful bacteria, sometimes the friendly bacteria get outnumbered due to a number of causes:  

  • The use of prescription drugs
  • The aging process
  • An inadequate diet
  • A compromised immune system
  • Fertilizers, pesticides and chemical pollutants
  • Stress 

Probiotics and Antibiotics

One of the most common ways that the ratio of friendly-to-harmful bacteria gets nudged out of balance is through the use of antibiotics. Of course, the use of these drugs is not always avoidable, especially if your dog or cat is fighting a serious infection.

Unfortunately, antibiotics are not able to distinguish between friendly and harmful bacteria, so when eradicating the harmful bacteria (the source of many serious infections), they also kill off a large number of friendly bacteria. This leaves your pet with even less of a defense the next time he is exposed to harmful microorganisms.  

Chemicals in the water supply and soil can have much the same effect. They do eliminate many of the harmful bacteria your pet is exposed to; but they also upset the balance between good and harmful bacteria. In this way, chemicals can also have a negative impact on your pet’s health.  

Even a natural event such as aging can affect the balance of good and harmful bacteria in your pet’s intestinal tract. Regardless of the cause, if your pet shows any of the signs of an unhealthy intestinal tract, this should serve as a red flag: It’s time to intervene and help your pet get his intestinal ecosystem back on the right track. Some of the most common symptoms of an unhealthy digestive tract are the following:  

  • flatulence
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • sluggishness
  • skin problems
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
    Irritable Bowel Syndrom (IBS)    

Probiotic Supplements for Dogs and Cats

One of the simplest and most effective remedies for poor digestion is to administer probiotics to your pet. Probiotics are  supplements comprised of different kinds of friendly bacteria. The ingredients in them may vary from brand to brand, as do the methods of delivery. For instance, probiotics may come in capsule, paste, liquid, or tablet form. They may even be included in some brands of commercial pet food, although this is not considered the best source since, according to some studies, certain brands do not contain the amount or even the kind of probiotics that are stated on the labels. For this reason, supplements are considered the more effective way to go.  

The Right Formula

So what should you look for when shopping around for probiotics? Above all, you want a formula that is comprised of quality ingredients that will help restore the balance of microflora in your pet’s intestinal tract. A formula that contains a 1:1:1 ratio of Lactobacillus Casei, Bifidobacterium Thermophilum, Enterococcus Faecium should address this need.

If you are looking for information on how to manage your pet’s health with holistic or natural pet care products like nutritional supplements, vitamins, nutraceuticals and other natural medicines, Holistic Pet Info is the place for you.  They carry more than 100 natural pet products including vitamins and nutritional supplements, nutraceuticals and other natural medicines.  The site also offers a wide range of well-written and researched articles and other information on animal health issues.

H1N1 Confirmed in Cat in Iowa

swineflu

The news about a confirmed case of H1N1 in a 13-year-old cat in Iowa broke yesterday, and is causing concern among pet owners and veterinarians.  Previously, the H1N1 strain was thought to affect only humans, birds and pigs.

In the case of the Iowa cat, the cat’s owner had been experiencing fly like symptoms, and it’s believed that the cat contracted the virus from the humans.  The cat’s symptoms included lethargy, difficulty breathing, and loss of appetite.  The cat has fully recovered, as have the humans in the household.

The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) issued a public statement on its website yesterday:

A cat in Iowa has tested positive for the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, state officials confirmed this morning, marking the first time a cat has been diagnosed with this strain of influenza.

The cat, which has recovered, is believed to have caught the virus from someone in the household who was sick with H1N1. There are no indications that the cat passed the virus on to any other animals or people.

Prior to this diagnosis, the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus had been found in humans, pigs, birds and ferrets.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) are reminding pet owners that some viruses can pass between people and animals, so this was not an altogether unexpected event. Pet owners should monitor their pets’ health very closely, no matter what type of animal, and visit a veterinarian if there are any signs of illness.

The AVMA is actively tracking all instances of H1N1 in animals and posting updates on our Web site at http://www.avma.org/public_health/influenza/new_virus.

This is a developing story, and there is much about this virus that is not known at this point.  That being said, it’s important to not overreact until we have more information.  Keep the following things in mind:

  • Stay calm.  The good news is that both the cat and the human family members all fully recovered from their bout with H1N1.
  • In this instance, the virus passed from human to cat, not from cat to human.  There is, as yet, no evidence that the virus can pass from cats to humans.
  • This doesn’t change the basic good advice about how to protect yourself from getting sick that has been circulating for quite some time:  wash your hands frequently, keep your immune system healthy and strong.
  • If you do get sick with H1N1, the AVMA recommends that you avoid close contact with your cat.  If your cat shows respiratory symptoms, seek immediate veterinary care.

With a developing story like this one, it will probably be a challenge to separate the facts from the inevitable panic this kind of news can cause.  Know your sources when it come to health information, and don’t overreact to every snippet of news you see come across the internet or your tv screen.

The Importance of Good Dental Health for Your Pets

cat dental health

Dental disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for pets.  Dogs and cats are particularly prone to tooth and gum diseases.  An astounding 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society.

Normal teeth in both cats and dogs should be white or just a little yellow.  Gums should be light pink and smooth (except in breeds with pigmented gums). 

Oral disease begins with a build up of plaque and tartar in your pet’s mouth.  Without proper preventive and therapeutic care, plaque and tartar buildup leads to periodontal disease, which manifests in red and/or swollen and tender gums, bad breath, and bleeding.  When the gums are swollen, they can be painful – a good rule of thumb is that if it looks like it might be painful, it probably is. Pets are masters at masking pain – when in doubt, assume that your pet is experiencing at least some discomfort.

The inflammation and infection associated with periodontal disease can lead to damage to other organs such as the heart, kidney and liver, and lead to other serious health problems.  Dental disease can also be an indicator of immune system disorders, particulary in cats.

Common indicators of oral disease in dogs include bad breath, a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face or mouth and depression.  If you notice any of these, don’t wait until your dog’s next annual check up, take him to the veterinarian for a thorough exam.

Cats rarely show any symptoms at all unless the situation is literally life-threatening.  They will eat even when their level of chronic mouth pain would send a person to the emergency room.  They almost never paw at their face, even with loose or abscessed teeth.  They get pretty smelly breath from eating cat food, so it’s tough to tell by smelling the breath whether your cat has dental disease or just had breakfast.  But even though they don’t show us much in the way of outward symptoms, chronic dental/periodontal disease can cause severe and often irreversible damage to internal organs.  So it’s important to get regular veterinary exams at least once a year, and twice a year for cats six and older or for cats with a known history of dental problems. 

Since our pets won’t just sit still and open their mouths to have their teeth cleaned like humans, dental procedures for pets require general anesthesia, something that makes many pet owners nervous.  While there are always risks with anesthesia, they can be minimized with a thorough pre-anesthetic check up, including bloodwork to assess kidney and liver function and rule out other underlying health issues.  This will allow your veterinarian to customize the anesthesia to your pet’s health status and potential special needs.  Keep in mind that leaving dental disease untreated may present a far greater risk than anesthesia.

For more information on anesthesia for pets, read this guest post by Dr. Louise Murray about Safe Anesthesia for Pets.

A special thank you goes to Dr. Fern Crist of the Cat Hospital of Fairfax for her contribution to this article.

Halloween Safety Tips for Your Pets

Halloween pets

As Halloween approaches and our thoughts turn to ghost and goblins, trick or treating, and parties, remember that some Halloween traditions are hazardous to your pets’ health. 

The ASPCA offers these common-sense cautions that’ll help keep your pets safe and stress-free this time of year. If you do suspect your pet has ingested a potentially dangerous substance, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

1. No tricks, no treats: That bowlful of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy.

Chocolate in all forms-especially dark or baking chocolate-can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Symptoms of significant chocolate ingestion may include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, increased thirst, urination and heart rate-and even seizures.

Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol sweetener can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, which leads to depression, lack of coordination and seizures. In cases of significantly low blood sugar, liver failure has been known to occur.

Ingesting tin foil and cellophane candy wrappers can pose a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockage.

2. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, yet they can produce gastrointestinal upset should pets ingest them. Intestinal blockage could even occur if large pieces are swallowed.

3. Keep wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet could experience damage to his mouth from shards of glass or plastic, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

4. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise extreme caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.

5. Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!). For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume can cause undue stress.

6. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au naturel or donning a festive bandana.

7. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.

8. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treat visiting hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.

9. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.

10. IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and become lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can increase the chances that he or she will be returned to you.

Safe Anesthesia for Pets

For most pet parents, the thought of their pets having to undergo anesthesia instills fear and worry.  This is often caused by a lack of knowledge about what questions to ask your veterinarian, and what constitutes safe anesthesia.  This article by Dr. Louise Murray explains in great detail what you should look for to ensure that your pet’s anesthetic procedure is done safely.

Guest Post by Dr. Louise Murray

As you can tell, my mission is to give pet owners the information they need to protect their pets’ health and to wisely choose the best veterinary practice to help achieve that. I believe that knowledge is indeed power and have seen too many pets suffer because their owners did not have the tools they needed to advocate for their animal companions.

Today I suddenly realized (duh!) that just talking about ways you can protect your pet isn’t enough; I need to show you. It’s one thing to babble on and on about safe anesthesia and having your older pet’s blood pressure checked and ensuring your pet receives safe and adequate pain control. It’s another to let you see for yourself. If nothing else, pictures are a lot less boring then listening to my nagging.

So, today let’s talk about, and take a look at, what is required for safe anesthesia. Safe anesthesia requires monitoring equipment, so that when your pet’s oxygen level or heart rate or blood pressure drops, someone knows about it and can do something to fix the problem before your pet actually stops breathing or her heart stops and…well, you know. Pets can die under anesthesia, and proper monitoring vastly reduces the chance of that.

At a minimum, your pet should be hooked up to a handy gadget called a pulse oximeter. This little gem monitors the animal’s blood oxygen level and heart rate, good parameters to keep an eye on if you want to make sure someone keeps living.

Here’s a picture of a kitty having his blood oxygen level and heart rate measured with a pulse oximeter. I think you’ll agree he seems quite happy about it.

kitty with pulse oximeter

You’re right, he’s not under anesthesia. You can also use a pulse oximeter in awake animals when you are concerned about their breathing, such as animals in heart failure or those with pneumonia. If the oxygen level is too low, the vet needs to do something about it rather quickly, such as place the animal in an oxygen cage.

Another component of safe anesthesia is called intubation. This means placing a tube in the animal’s trachea (windpipe) to deliver oxygen and anesthetic gas. If an animal under anesthesia is not intubated (if the anesthesia is delivered with a mask, or just by injection), there’s not much anyone can do if that animal start to crash or stops breathing. But if the animal is intubated, the vets or technicians can ventilate the animal (breathe for her).For example, if the pulse oximeter shows the animal’s oxygen level is dropping, the folks doing the anesthesia can give the animal a few oxygen-rich breaths by sqeezing on the oxygen bag a few times. Or, as I mentioned above, if the animal stops breathing completely, they can use the tube to breath for the animal. Can’t do that with a mask and certainly not for an animal who just got an injection. Then it’s rush rush rush to try to get a tube in before the pet dies. Not good.

Here’s a kitty who is under anesthesia and intubated.

intubated kitty

See that little black bag on the lower left? If the kitty’s oxygen level drops or she stops breathing, the vets or techs can breathe for her by squeezing the bag.That way they can keep her cute little tongue nice and pink like it is in the picture.

The other thing I want you to notice about the cat above is that she has in IV catheter in her leg. This is also super important for safe anesthesia. If this little cat’s heart slows down, she can be given a drug to speed it back up through the catheter. If her heart stops, she can be given epinephrine to help re-start it. If her blood pressure drops, she can be given a bolus of IV fluids or medications to correct this.

OK, gotta run to work now. Now you know all about safe anesthesia; don’t let your pets receive anything less!

Dr. Louise Murray is an experienced and highly regarded authority in her profession. During her ten-plus years as a practitioner, she has lectured frequently on a wide range of topics, gaining her the respect of her colleagues. She has also been honored with several prestigious awards and has had her research published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

vetconfidential_cover_small

 

Dr. Murray is also the author of Vet Confidential:  An Insider’s Guide to Protecting Your Pet’s HealthFor more information about Dr. Murray, please visit her website.

Stress and Your Pets

catanddog

We live in challenging times and external stressors abound.  The economy, the news, and often just getting through the day all present a source of stress for people.  It’s been long proven that owning a pet has beneficial effects on our health.  Studies have shown that even a few minutes of petting your cat or dog can lower your blood pressure and release endorphins that put you in a better mood.  Pets are the greatest source of stress relief and masters at showing us not only how to relax, but how to live in the moment without worrying about the future. 

So we know that our pets help us be less stressed.  But did you know that your stress can make your pets sick? 

People and pets often mirror each others’ physical and emotional states.  Animals are natural healers and sometimes take on their person’s problems, often in an attempt to heal them.  This happens because of the deep bond shared between a pet and his or her person.  Because of the shared energy in such a close relationship, energetic imbalances are shared as well. 

Unfortunately stress has the same detrimental effect on our pets’ bodies at it does on ours.  Since pets are so sensitive to our emotions, they can become sick as a result of our stress. 

Dr. Fern Crist, of The Cat Hospital of Fairfax, says: “As a veterinarian, I frequently see cats who are urinating outside the litterbox.  While this undesirable behavior may be caused by a variety of medical problems, it can also be caused or exacerbated by stress.  It may be the cat’s stress, such as having a new cat to adjust to in the house; but it can just as easily be the owner’s stress.  The emotional turmoil brought on by such difficulties as household financial problems, frequent job travel, marital differences, new babies, and home remodeling can affect our cats in very tangible ways.  Our stress can induce undesirable behaviors in our cats, such as inappropriate urination. More importantly, our stress can also influence the development of actual physical illness in our cats as well as in ourselves.  As responsible owners, we sometimes need to take a good look at ourselves when we ask why our pets are having problems.  Stress relief for pet owners won’t solve every pet health problem, but can go a long way toward alleviating many of them.” 

All of this shows us that stress relief is not only important for our own health and well-being, it’s also good for our pets.

Weight Management for Senior Cats

Cat on Scale

Keeping kitty at her optimum weight is important at any age, but especially in older cats.  Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, osteoarthritis, respiratory distress, lower urinary tract disease and early mortality.   As our cats age and activity levels decrease, weight gain often becomes a problem.

Amber has been on a diet for the past several years – I’ve previously written about this here.  I’m happy to report that our efforts are working, and she has been losing some weight.

There are several factors that contribute to weight gain in our cats:

  • Free choice feeding.  This has been the single biggest factor in causing obesity in cats.  Free choice feeding means that food is left out for the cat at all times, which goes completely against the cat’s natural habit of being a hunter who may only eat one, maybe two meals a day.
  • Carbohydrates.  Unlike other mammals, cats have no carbohydrate-digesting enzyme called Amylase in their saliva.  Nature did not intend our cats to consume carbs.  They metabolize carbs into stored fat.  Unfortunately, most commercially available dry cat food is very high in carbohydrates, contributing to this problem.
  • Lack of exercise.  As we all know, our cats spend most of their day sleeping.
  • Treats.  For most of us, giving treats is one way we show our cats that we love them.  I’m definitely guilty of this – especially since Amber is the master manipulator when it comes to getting her treats!

How can we counteract these factors and help our cats maintain a healthy weight?

  • Stop leaving food out for your cat at all times.  Feeding two small meals a day, and feeding “normal” portions can go a long way toward helping your kitty loose and maintain her weight.   A normal size portion for a cat is about equal to the size of a mouse.  Don’t follow manufacturer directions when it comes to portion size – they’re all much higher than what your cat really needs.  When in doubt, consult with your cat’s vetnerinarian.
  • Feed a meat based diet.  This is consistent with the needs of a carnivore.  There are many quality commercial raw and canned diets available that are high in protein (meat) and free of grains (carbs).  Two brands I like (and they are also Amber-approved!) are the Wellness Core and the Innova EVO lines.
  • Play with your cat.  This is a great way for the two of you to spend quality time together and to get your cat some exercise.  For the times you when you can’t play with your cat, get him some interactive toys.  Check out the toy department of the Conscious Cat Store for some suggestions.
  • Limit or, ideally, eliminate treats.  If you absolutely must feed treats, look for grain-free treats that are high in protein and give only a few.  Amber has, reluctantly, learned that one Greenie treat (not grain-free, but only two calories a treat) is all she’ll get at any one time.  She still longs for the days when getting treats meant having a handful shaken into her bowl….

How do you help your kitty maintain or loose weight?

Is There a Connection Between Cat Color and Temperament?

multiple cats

My recent article on “Tortitude – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats” led me to wonder whether there’s a link between other cats’ coloring and their temperaments.  After all, both color and temperament can be inherited and genetically controlled, so it doesn’t seem to be too much of a leap to think that a cat’s coloring may be an indication of his or her personality.  It seems that there are, indeed, some commonalities between cat color and personality.  This is what I found:

Tabby Cats

Tabbies have a reputation for being laid back, calm and more sociable.  They’re also said to be very affectionate, and relaxed to the point of being lazy. 

Black Cats

Black cats can be stubborn and friendly at the same time.   They are said to be good hunters, but they can have a tendency to roam.  They’re good natured and sociable.

Ginger, Orange and Red Cats

Orange cats are usually males (only one out of five orange cats is female).  Cats with this coloring can be laid back and affectionate, but can also have a bit of a temper.  Females tend to be more laid back than males.

Black and White Cats

Black and white cats (some are known as tuxedo cats when their coat pattern resembles a tuxedo jacket) are said to be even tempered and placid, but they can also be wanderers.  They can be very loyal to their family, often to one person in particular, and can be real lap cats.

Blue, Cream, Gray and Lilac Cats

Cats that have lighter coat colors all carry the same gene, called the dilution gene.  I found conflicting information on this particular coloring – some say cats with this coloring can be mischievous and a bit frantic, while others say they are laid back and mellow.

I believe that each cat has a unique and special personality, and color is only one aspect of what may play into making kitty who she is.  Other factors, such as breed and environment also come into play.  And of course, our cats are also spiritual beings, and perhaps spirit plays the biggest part in determining personality.

Does your cat’s personality fit into one of these classifications based on coat color?