Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cat Gardening

The Lovely Cat by Sara Yard
The Lovely Cat by Sara Yard
The mild winter and warm spells this spring mean that if you have a garden, it is probably in full bloom! As people spend more time outdoors in the summer, they are tempted to bring their cats outside with them. If you follow our blog, you already know about some of the toxic plants in the garden, and the ASPCA has a fairly comprehensive list of poisonous plants. However, you might want to know about some of the pet-friendly plants that you can add to your garden.

Some of the safest, pet-friendly plants you can choose include:
Astilbe, Bee Balm, Begonia, Catmint/Catnip, Coleus, Columbine, Coneflowers (Echinacea), Coral Bells, Cosmos, Impatiens, Nasturtium, Petunia, Phlox, Primrose, Roses, Snapdragons, and Zinnia - Cat Garden
Enjoying valerian at
Other, non-plant concerns in the garden that you may not be aware of include: fertilizers, pesticides, slug bait, mulch, and garden tools. Read labels carefully and do not allow pets in areas treated with non-pet-safe chemicals until a safe amount of time has passed. If you have your lawn professionally treated, ask your lawn care provider when your pets can safely be on the lawn after treatment. Store lawn and garden supplies safely in sealed containers, cupboards or otherwise out-of-reach.

Natural products such as vinegar to help control weeds, coffee grounds, beer, and salt for slugs, and soap and water as a natural pesticide can be used instead of unsafe chemicals. Avoid cocoa mulch as it comes from chocolate manufacturing and can contain substances that will cause minor chocolate poisoning (vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity) as well as general irritation to the mouth, stomach and intestines.

Catnip! Yum!
Cats, in general, tend to be selective about what the eat. They might sniff, but they're not inclined to eat plants. Kittens, however, love to play with just about anything much more than adult cats and will explore with their mouths! Keep this in mind if it has been a while since you have had a kitten in your yard, and look around with an educated eye.

Grass may be an exception to this rule, and while common grasses are safe you may find that you also want to plant some oat or wheat grass in a patch for your cat to enjoy. Many of the flashier ornamental grasses can be irritating to the mouth, throat, and nose so it would be wise to avoid these plants if your cat enjoys grasses.

Another consideration when letting your cats outside is that they should wear a break-away collar with ID tags, or better yet, have a microchip implanted. The majority of lost cats that become "found cats" are not microchipped, which makes it extremely difficult to locate the owner. If you have ever read any of the happy stories about microchipped pets being reunited with their owners, sometimes the pets are found hundreds of miles from their homes. With a microchip, you have added insurance that if your cat loses its collar and is taken to a veterinary hospital or animal shelter, it will be more likely to be identified. If your pet is microchipped, make sure to keep your address and phone number current in the microchip registry. 

cat in the garden
Another important thing to remember when allowing your pet to enjoy the garden with you is that while outside, your pet is exposed to parasites - fleas, heartworms, and various intestinal parasites. Even if your pet spends only a tiny amount of time outside, or only goes on the patio, there is a risk, so monthly heartworm preventive and diligent checks for fleas or monthly flea preventives are important.It is also important to have a stool sample checked for intestinal parasites on an annual or semi-annual basis, depending on whether your cat is a known hunter or not.

Because of the mild winter, this summer is expected to have larger than usual parasite populations, so if you have not given your pet monthly parasite preventives in the past, you may want to consider starting this year. If you need a refill on heartworm preventive for the summer, please call Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital at 248-666-5287, or place an order online through VetSource and let us know!

More about gardening for cats
Our Happy Cat Garden Tips
Pet friendly gardens
ASPCA Pet Safe Garden tips
Herbs that are Toxic to Cats (Listed by effect) *note - while lavender is not considered to be toxic while growing in the garden, concentrated lavender oil used in herbal remedies, while not deadly, can have toxic side effects.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Saving Smoke

Smoke while urethra is obstructed
Smoke, Day 1
On Thursday, last week, a new client came into our hospital with a very sick little cat. Smoke is a two-year-old male cat that suffering from a urinary obstruction. He was very sick, and his kidneys were in danger of shutting down. Smoke's owner was not able to bear the financial burden of the hospitalization, IV fluid therapy, and the long-term cost of monitoring Smoke and feeding special diets to keep him from having a urinary obstruction in the future. His owner was devastated at the thought of having to euthanize his buddy.

Some of our soft-hearted employees were able to pool their resources and champion Smoke, and his current medical expenses are being met. Smoke’s owner relinquished him to our care because, even if we can fix his problem, he will not be able to care for Smoke’s special needs. We are hoping that, once he is back to 100%, we can find a new home for Smoke with a family that is prepared to manage his special situation with prescription diet and regular checkups.

We started IV fluids and then unblocked his bladder. We removed almost ½ cup of urine from his bladder – which would be like removing almost 1 and ½ quarts from a human bladder! His urine was bloody and filled with crystals, which is what had caused the blockage. We flushed as many of the crystals out of his bladder as we could, and then placed a urinary catheter. We gave him pain medication, antibiotics and also treated his fleas.

While he immediately felt better, he still didn’t feel well enough to eat for a while. He gave us quite a scare on Friday, because instead of improving, his kidney values became worse. We were nervous that we might lose him. We continued to give him lots of fluid therapy to help his kidneys, and continued his pain medication and antibiotics.

Blood Clot in Urinary Bladder
Blood clot in Smoke's bladder
On Saturday, his kidney values were better, but now that his bladder was healing, he had developed a large blood clot in his bladder – about the size of a ping pong ball! Since he was feeling better, he did want to eat, but he was not interested in the prescription diets that will help dissolve the crystals. Eventually, we were able to fool him into eating the prescription diets by mixing them with Fancy Feast Fish and Shrimp.

On Sunday, his kidneys were even better – back to normal! By Sunday night, he was eating his prescription food without having to mix it with something else. Today, we stopped his IV fluids and removed his urinary catheter. We checked with the ultrasound and determined that the blood clot is getting smaller. Since he is doing better, we neutered him as well.
Smoke after relieving urinary obstruction
Day 5: Loving on the catnip toy

Smoke feels so much better, he was playing with a catnip toy during his exercise time, today. He was rolling on his back, asking for belly rubs, too! He has licked his catnip toy so much that both he and his toy have turned green! 

Smoke after relieving urinary obstruction
Investigating the fluid pump
Once he is no longer at risk, he will need to eat a special diet and get regular urine rechecks to ensure that he does not block again. Sometimes, even with meticulous care, cats with this problem will suffer another obstruction. We would like to ensure that his new caretaker is willing and able to manage his special circumstances so that he can live a long and happy life. If you are considering adopting this happy little fellow once he is ready for a new home, please contact our office at 248-666-5287 or with any questions or for more information.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Feline Inappropriate Elimination: Breaking the Cycle of Smell

Cats will return to and reuse areas where they have previously urinated. Because of this, cleaning up the areas and items where your cat has urinated or defecated is a crucial step to breaking the cycle, as well as preventing damage to the item. Because it is much easier to eliminate odors in recently-soiled areas, clean them as soon as possible. If you’re not sure of the extent of the soiled spot, a black light will easily illuminate urine and fecal matter on items. The black light will also help identify areas that you may not know were being soiled - check the walls and floor for several feet in every direction from the spot being soiled. It may help to use chalk to outline the urine spots for easy cleaning. Check the underside of chair and couch cushions and pillows to see if the urine has penetrated all the way through - if so, then your enzymatic cleaner will have to penetrate fully, too. Black lights work best in a darkened room. If you have the plug-in variety of black light, use an extension cord so that you have freedom to move around the room without having to constantly move the plug from outlet to outlet. Otherwise, there are a variety of hand-held, flashlight-type options.

Outlined spots for easy treating.
The rule of thumb when treating carpet or other absorbent surfaces for urine spots is to use twice as much cleaner as the size of the spot that you are treating. Urine will disperse down through the carpet and into the padding beneath, and may even absorb into the floorboards below that.
A cat's sense of smell is 200 times stronger than ours; therefore odors must be neutralized, not just deodorized. It is also best to avoid cleaning products containing ammonia or vinegar—they smell like urine and can be irritating. In order to neutralize the odor, use an enzyme-based cleaner such as Urine-Away, Nature’s Miracle, Simple Solution or Nok-Out. These cleaners break down the odor molecules rather than just covering up the smell. Sometimes, if the problem has been going on for a long period of time, it may be necessary to replace urine-saturated flooring.

  •   Sheets of plastic, newspaper, sandpaper, double-sided tape, or a carpet runner with the nubs facing up may all discourage your cat from entering a soil-prone area.
  •  Try changing the significance of a soiled area. Cats prefer to eat and eliminate in separate areas, so try placing food bowls and treats in previously soiled areas. Playing with your cat in that space and leaving toys there may also be helpful. 
  • Spray the area with a pheromone spray or use a diffuser to provide pheromone all day long - the Feliway pheromone is a "happy" smell to a cat and signifies that the area is not for elimination. It also has a calming effect.
  •  Try denying your cat access to a given area by closing doors, or by covering the area with furniture or plants. Baby gates will not keep most cats out of a room.
  • Catch him in the act. A bell on a breakaway collar tells you his whereabouts. If you can catch him within the first seconds of his elimination routine, startle him with a water gun or shake a jar of pennies, so that he associates being startled with those actions. It is important that you startle rather than scare him; fear will only worsen the problem. Moreover, if you catch him after he's eliminated, your window of opportunity is gone—you must catch him just as he's about to eliminate. 

Never hit, kick, or scream at a cat. Not only does this create more anxiety, which may contribute to house soiling behavior, but also such tactics provide no link between the "crime" and the punishment. Some owners resort to rubbing their cat's face in their excrement to "teach the cat a lesson." This is ineffective, first because cats do not view their urine and feces as distasteful, and second, because even moments later, cats cannot make the connection between the mess on the bed and this kind of punishment.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mr. May’s Musings


 (Interview transcribed by Boomer's personal assistant)
Age: Just turned 1 year old
Weight: Great body condition (although Dr. Bailey calls me “fat cat”) 10.4 lbs.
Gender: neutered male
Demeanor at the vet’s office: Curious, but well behaved.
Feline friends: As of last month, I have a new brother named Bandit – 8 months old

How I found my home:  My family likes to think they chose me…but I chose them.  I was born under the front porch of their home and lived there undetected for about a month.  When my sibling and I became a bit more adventurous, they saw us playing under the watchful eye of our mother on the sidewalk.  At that time, they did not know that they were “closet cat lovers” – so they just watched us through the front window as we played.  We were irresistible!  They watched until our mom got scared and moved us to a new section of the ‘hood.  I didn’t like it there and two weeks later, I found my way back HOME.  I stood on the back of a chair on the front porch and looked in the window until my human dad noticed me.  He called my human mom and the kids.  The rest as they say…is history!  

How I got my name: My human parents decided to let the kids name me. Before they discovered I was a male, they wanted to name me Kitty Perry.  One of the kids thought I should be named Professor Kitty Pants!  While everyone thought those were pretty funny names, thankfully, my human mom refused to introduce me to the vet that way!  After much deliberation, they all landed on the name Boomer – likely from the thunderstorms that made them decide to take me in. 

Favorite food:  I love to eat both wet and dry food…and treats whenever I can get them.  I especially love the dry food – but I’m currently working on portion control at the advice of my doctor and with the unsolicited help of my brother, Bandit.  He is a much faster eater than me.  When he is done with the food in his dish, he pushes me out of the way and dives into my bowl!  I try my best to scoop some food out onto the floor with my paw – but I’m not too successful! 

Standout moment of my first year:  The day after Christmas, I became very sick.  The initial diagnosis was scary for everyone…FIP*.  My family was really sad and brought me to see Dr. Bailey.  He came up with a treatment protocol that had me taking lots of medicine and everyone watched me carefully.  I’m happy to report that I’m 100% again!   After this ‘Cat’astrophe, Dr. Bailey thought I needed a friend and so my parents rescued the newest addition to our family, Bandit! 

My favorite sleeping spots:  I really don’t require a lot of sleep and am always ready for fun! I’ve carved a little spot for myself under a bed in my human brother’s room.  He’s away at medical school and will be married soon – so the spot is available!  It’s pretty nice because he put a warm fleece blanket under there and there is a dust ruffle that keeps me hidden.  My little brother seems to like this spot, too.  My other favorite spot is on my parent’s bed nestled right up against my mom.  She thinks I’m better than an electric blanket! 

My favorite things to do:  Before I had a little brother, my favorite thing to do was follow my humans around the house – especially when they would play hide and seek with me.  I also liked to relax on the top level of my kitty condo and look down at everyone else.  Sitting in a sunny spot near an open door or window is also a favorite way to pass the time.   Since my brother arrived, my new favorite thing to do is to chase him.  When I catch him, we either rough house or groom each other.  It depends on our mood!  No kitten…it’s all true!

* Note from Dr. Bailey: Boomer was initially seen at an Emergency Hospital in December for possible ingestion of a lily. His family did the right thing in rushing him to the ER immediately since lily poisoning is a true emergency. Fortunately, lily ingestion was not the source of his illness. 

It was suspected, due to the "anterior uveitis" (a painful inflammation of the front portion of the eye that makes the eye look red and cloudy) noted in his eyes (see photo below) and the fact that he had a fever, that he may have had FIP, or Toxoplasmosis, but thankfully, further testing and favorable response to treatment suggest that neither of these diseases were the cause. Unfortunately, about 6 out of every 10 cases of uveitis cannot be linked to a specific cause, despite extensive testing. Chronic, untreated uveitis is very painful to the cat and can lead to blindness.  

Fortunately, most cases of uveitis respond very quickly to prompt treatment, as was the case with Boomer. 
Boomer with anterior uveitis (red cloudy areas) in both eyes.