Monday, August 25, 2014

Feline Sense and Scents-ability: Part 1: Hearing

Veiny Cat Ear from | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI
Cat Ear from

Feline Sense and Scents-ability

Even though cats have the same five senses humans do, their perception of the world is much different. Sometimes, trying to understand a cat’s point of view can help shed some light on problems you may be having with your cat.


Feline hearing is functionally the same as human hearing. The pinna, or outer portion of the ear, collects sound waves and translates them down the ear canal. In humans, the ear canal is a straight shot to the ear drum, while cats have a vertical canal connected to a horizontal canal in an “L” shape from the top of the head, straight down and then turning inward. Once the sound waves have rounded the corner of the ear canal, they cause the eardrum to vibrate, stimulating the ossicles of the middle ear (tiny bones called the malleus, incus and stapes - otherwise known as the hammer, anvil and stirrup). These ossicles transmit the sound waves to the cochlea.
Cat Ear Anatomy | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI
Cat ear anatomy

The cochlea is a fluid-filled structure in the middle ear. The sound waves are translated to fluid waves in the cochlea that are then sensed by nerves connected to fine hairs that float in the fluid and is then sent on to the brain for interpretation. This is the area that a human “cochlear implant” stimulates to help correct hearing loss. The feline cochlea has 3 complete turns while the human cochlea only has 2.75 turns. They have 10,000 more auditory nerves than humans. Near the cochlea is another fluid- and carbonate crystal-filled structure called the vestibular apparatus that is in charge of balance.

Cats are exquisitely adept at locating prey. They can distinguish between two different sound sources 8 cm apart (shorter than the length of an iPhone) at 2 yards and 40cm apart (about 1 foot, or a little longer than 3 iPhones) at 20 yards. They can hear a rustling mouse 20-30 yards away. They can hear 10 distinct octaves of notes vs. humans’ 8.5 octaves. They even hear one octave above their canine counterparts.

Chart courtesy of
There are 4 sets of muscles that control the motion of the cat’s external ear flap, or pinna, and allow it to rotate 180 degrees to catch a sound and orient on it. You can use this information to make playtime more interesting for your cat. Make “hide and seek” with toys more challenging by using quieter, less obvious “prey”. Test your cat’s auditory awareness with a tiny crinkle from a crinkle-toy. See if they notice.  

Even though you think they can’t hear you, don’t yell at your cat! He can hear you, he just isn’t listening to you.

When your cat is sleeping it is still attentively listening, scanning for audible information, which is why your “soundly sleeping cat” is standing right at your feet the second you open a can of food. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cats and Vaccinations - Frequently Asked Questions

Black cat licking veterinarian after exam  | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI
"Thank you" kisses for Dr. Demos!
The most important reason that your cat should visit the veterinarian 1-2 times yearly is for the expert physical exam your pet's doctor performs. A proactive approach to your cat's health, focused on wellness and preventive care can be beneficial because illness and disease can be detected earlier, when treatments may be more successful and less costly. In addition to physical examinations and discussing your cat's diet and litterbox habits, when your veterinarian discusses your cat's health with you, he or she will likely recommend updating your cat's vaccinations.

What are vaccinations?

Vaccinations are injections of a substance that stimulates a cat's immune system, preparing the body to fight disease-causing organisms. Most vaccinations are developed for viral infections - diseases that cannot be treated with antibiotics. Some vaccines are developed for severe bacterial diseases, too.

Types of Vaccines -
  • Inactivated vaccines or "killed virus" vaccinations are vaccines that contain viruses that are unable to reproduce in the body. The majority of this type of vaccine contains adjuvants.
  • Modified-live vaccines contain viruses that can replicate, but do not cause clinical disease. While it is unlikely, it is theoretically possible for this type of vaccine to revert to virulence and cause disease.
  • Recombinant vaccines do not contain the whole virus, but specific parts of the virus DNA that the body's immune system recognizes as an invader, but that don't actually cause disease. These strings of proteins are either inserted into a non-disease-causing virus (vectored vaccine) or are inserted into bacterial DNA (called plasmids) so that antigens can be harvested and purified for use in vaccines (subunit vaccine).

Why do cats need vaccinations?

Vaccinations are very important to the health of your cat - the diseases we vaccinate for are diseases that do not respond well to treatment, and in most cases are deadly or produce life-long complications. Diseases like distemper are extremely long-lasting in the environment, lasting for years and can be brought into your home on your hands, feet or clothing if you come into contact with the virus particles in the environment. Additionally, the virus that causes distemper is resistant to disinfectants, can be passed to kittens through breast milk from the mother and can be acquired in utero. During the summer, cats that go outdoors are at higher risk because they are more likely to spend a longer or more frequent amount of time outdoors. Other diseases that we vaccinate for can be transmitted through the air. Rabies virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal, and despite common misconception, an infected animal is not always the raging, frothing creature that you see in the movies. Most skunks do not show signs or symptoms of infection, and any skunk that you encounter should be considered to be a carrier of rabies. In  companion animals, signs of infection may not show up for 10 days after the animal begins shedding the virus - so if your cat gets into a fight with a stray cat that seems healthy, that cat could be rabies positive, but may not be recognizably so until it has disappeared into the woods again.

But my cat doesn't go outside he doesn't need vaccinations!

Indoor cats are definitely at lower risk for communicable diseases, however there are many factors that still create risk for these cats. If you bring a new cat into the house from a rescue or shelter, you may be bringing disease into your home. A trip to the pet store to buy cat food may result in virus particles on your clothing that you can bring home to your cat. A friend with a sick pet may bring virus particles into your home while visiting. Airborn viruses can travel into your home through open windows and doors. You may bring virus particles in on your shoes after working in the yard. A stray cat may visit your screen door. Your cat may need to be boarded in an emergency situation, and would require vaccinations to do so.

In the case of rabies, the major carrier of this disease in Michigan is the bat. We very frequently receive phone calls from people telling us that they found a live or dead bat in their home, and most people do not know that a bat has access to their home until it is inside. Most bats are able to squeeze through extremely narrow openings; the little brown bat can enter a space (5/8" by 7/8") and the big brown bat can squeeze through an opening (1-1/4" by 1/2"). Bat bites are almost microscopic, so you would be unable to tell if your cat had been bitten by the bat. If your unvaccinated cat were to escape from your home and get bitten by an unknown animal, vaccination after the fact would not be guaranteed protection, and Michigan Public Health officials must proceed as though the animal that bit your pet was positive, euthanizing and testing your cat. If your unvaccinated cat bites a person, it could result in a 10 day quarantine at an animal shelter at your expense.

Rabies is a life threatening disease and in companion animals, there is no cure. The only definitive test for rabies requires euthanasia of the animal in question and examination of the brain tissue. By the time your pet starts showing signs of disease, you could already have been exposed. While rabies vaccinations are not required by law for cats in the state of Michigan, the safest thing to do for you and your cat is keep your pet's vaccines up to date.

For the health and safety of all of our patients and staff, all cats that come into our hospital for surgical or dental care or boarding must be up to date on vaccinations.

How often do cats need vaccinations?

The number and frequency of vaccines recommended for a cat is often a complex and individualized plan based on each cat's age, lifestyle, risk assessment and health status. However, there are some general guidelines that have been established by scientific study and experts in the field that are upheld by professional groups that specialize in feline medicine, such as the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM).  In some states, certain vaccinations and schedules are required by law.

Kittens are more susceptible to disease because their immune systems are not fully developed. Kittens raised by their mothers receive antibodies from their mothers, but these antibodies can interfere with vaccinations. Since we do not know for certain how long maternal antibodies remain active, or if every mother cat provides antibodies to all the major diseases, kittens need a series of vaccines to provide immunity. This series should continue until the kitten is at least 16 weeks of age. Additionally, any cat receiving a vaccination for the first time, no matter how old they are, will usually need a series of two vaccinations to ensure adequate protection.

It is recommended that even if a cat is not due for vaccination in a given year, they should be evaluated by a veterinarian at least annually, to ensure that health and risk status has not changed.

Cats should be tested for Feline Leukemia before starting the series of Feline Leukemia vaccinations because there is no medical benefit in giving a Leukemia vaccine to an infected cat. There are no negative side effects to vaccinating an infected cat, but this also eliminates the possibility of failing to recognize vaccine failure. If a previously untested cat who has been vaccinated for Feline Leukemia is later tested and is positive for Feline Leukemia, there is no way to tell if the Leukemia virus has been present long term or if the cat was recently exposed and the vaccine did not protect him. 

What are the possible side effects of vaccination?

The currently available feline vaccines do have an excellent safety record, however negative events following vaccination can occur. It is important to report these events to your veterinarian if they do occur, as veterinarians are requested to report adverse events to the manufacturer, as well as the USDA. It is also important to note that not all negative events that may follow vaccination can be directly said to be caused by the vaccine with 100% certainty. 

During the years 2002 - 2005, more than 1.25 million vaccines were given to cats at Banfield Hospitals across the US. In that time period, 51.6/10,000 cats had reactions within 30 days of vaccination (0.52%). Of these reactions, 54% experienced lethargy (weakness/tiredness) with or without fever, 25% experienced pain at the injection site, 10% experienced vomiting, 6% experienced facial swelling, 2% experienced generalized itching. Death occurred in 4 cats (0.04%) - two of these deaths were related to anaphylaxis (allergic reaction). Vaccines containing a Chlamydophila component were more likely to cause lethargy and fever than those without. Several other vaccine reaction studies report a rate of adverse reaction between 0.23% and 3% depending on the type of vaccination, the number of vaccinations given at one time, and the type of reaction being monitored.

Anaphylaxis or "allergic reaction" occurs rarely (about 1-5/10,000 cats).  It can be identified as vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory distress, facial itching or swelling, and collapse. Often, this type of reaction can be adequately controlled with the use of antihistimines or steroid medications or a different vaccine formulation.

Vaccine-associated sarcomas are a known problem, but the exact reasons that they form is not yet understood. Many suggest that the development of these tumors may result from inflammation or trauma at the injection site. Feline injection-site sarcomas (FISS) are rare, occurring in fewer than one out of every 10,000-30,000 cats, but the severity of this side effect is frightening to many people. In recent years, many precautions have been taken to minimize the trauma and inflammation caused by vaccination, and the frequency of this problem has significantly decreased. At Exclusively Cats, we give vaccinations in insulin syringes, to decrease the needle trauma associated with vaccination. We allow the vaccines to warm to room temperature before giving them, and we choose to use primarily non-adjuvanted vaccines. In addition, we vaccinate cats only as frequently as medically necessary to provide immunity, and we avoid vaccinating cats that have other compromising health issues (which is why we do not administer vaccinations without a physical exam). In addition, we use recommended vaccination sites low on the leg so that, in the eventuality that a sarcoma does develop, the limb can be amputated if necessary, to prevent the spread of the tumor to the rest of the body and prolong the life of your cat.

More about the diseases that we vaccinate for:
Feline Panleukopenia (also known as Feline Distemper, Feline Parvo, or Infectious Enteritis)
Feline Leukemia
(more to come...)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Pet Safety Month: Animals in Disaster: Part 4: Preparing a Disaster Kit and a First Aid Kit for your Pet

Planning a disaster preparedness kit for your pet
  • One to two-week supply of food. Store it in a water-tight, rodent-proof container and rotate it every three months to keep it fresh. If you use canned food, include a spare can opener and a spoon.
  • One to two-week supply of fresh water. If officials declare your household water unfit to drink, it’s also unsafe for your pets. Follow American Red Cross guidelines for storing emergency water for your family and your pets.
  • Medication. If your animal takes medication, a replacement supply may not be easily available following a disaster. Make sure to include dosing instructions and refill information for your pharmacy or veterinary hospital
  • Copies of vaccination records and/or medical records in a waterproof sleeve (a rabies certificate is extremely important), and information about any special needs for your pet
  • Photographs of you with your pets to prove ownership
  • Photographs of your pets in case you need to make "lost pet" fliers
  • Emergency Contact list  (Veternarian, Emergency Vet, local pet-friendly hotels, and a poison-control center or hotline such as the ASPCA poison-control center, which can be reached at 1-800-426-4435). It is a good idea to include directions to these places as well.
  • Pet first aid kit and book
  • Temporary ID tags. If you've evacuated, use this to record your temporary contact information and/or the phone number of an unaffected friend or relative.
  • One secure carrier for each pet. Carriers should be large enough to allow your pet to stand comfortably, turn around, and lie down. Your pet may need to remain in the carrier for several hours at a time. If you have multiple animals to transport, you can use an EvacSak, which is
    easy to store and use for transport, but if your pet needs to be contained for several hours, a carrier is a better choice. In an emergency where time is of the essence, a pillowcase will do for short periods of management, if nothing else will suffice.
  • Favorite toy, treats, beds, blankets - small creature comforts to help de-stress your pet
  • Small litterbox, litter scoop and litter
  • Paper towels, pee pads, pet cleaner
  • Garbage bags
  • Roll of tape and permanent marker
  • Flashlight with spare batteries
  • Radio and spare batteries

What should be in your pet's First Aid Kit? Most of the items in a pet first aid kit can also be found in First Aid kits geared towards humans. It is a good idea to bring along a First Aid kit if you are traveling with your pet. Assemble the following in a zippered tote bag or plastic box. A fishing tackle box might do nicely!

Activated charcoal
Adhesive tape - do not use Band-Aids on pets! 1/2 - 1" tape is a good size for cats
Anti-diarrheal medication
Antibiotic ointment for wounds (neomycin, polymixin B, bacitracin)
Antibiotic ointment for eyes
Baby Wipes
Bandage scissors
Bandage tape
Betadine (povidone-iodine)
Blanket - foil emergency blanket
Chlorhexidine scrub and solution
Clippers for grooming - battery operated
Corn syrup (Karo) for hypoglycemia
Cotton balls and/or swabs
Cotton bandage rolls
Dawn dish soap
Ear cleaning solution
Elastic bandage rolls (such as VetWrap or Coflex) For cats, we are fond of 1.5". Do not wrap this too tight; preferably, loosen it from the roll, then wrap with it, just tight enough to stay on.
Eye rinse - sterile (not contact lens solution)
Flea and tick prevention medication
Gauze pads and rolls (2")
Hydrogen peroxide 3%
Ice pack
Large tongue depressors or ice cream sticks (can be used as splints)
Isopropyl Alcohol or alcohol wipes
Latex or nitrile gloves
Measuring spoons
Muzzle - this may be necessary if your pet becomes injured and is in extreme pain, but do not use it if your pet is vomiting, choking, coughing or otherwise having difficulty breathing
Medication - 2 week supply
Nail clippers
Needle-nosed pliers
Non-absorbent wound pads, Telfa or other
Saline solution for rinsing wounds
Sterile lubricant/petroleum jelly
Styptic powder
Small syringes and eye-droppers
Thermometer (digital) - your cat's rectal temperature should be between 99.9-102.5
Towel and washcloth

You can also purchase pre-assembled Pet First Aid Kits at many Pet Stores and online retailers.

Always remember that any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care. First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet's life until it receives veterinary treatment. Please consult with a medical professional before using any home remedies, or in any case where poisoning is suspected. Do not induce vomiting in a suspected poisoning case unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline - in some cases, vomiting can cause additional trauma and complications.

There are many pet first aid books that you can purchase for reference, as well. This one is produced by the Red Cross.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Pet Safety Month: Animals in Disasters: Part 3: After the Emergency

photo by Stan Carroll
In honor of Pet Safety Month, here are some suggestions to help you weather an emergency with your pet.


A snake takes refuge during a flood
Depending on the level of damage to your area, your home may be a very different place after the emergency is over, and it may be hard for your pets to adjust.

  •  Keep your pets confined indoors or out with leashes only. Depending on the type of emergency, familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet could be disoriented. If pets are allowed to roam loose during this period, they could easily get lost.
  • Keep cats in carriers inside the house, until you have finished assessing the damage. If there are broken windows or loose doors, your pet could escape your home.
  • Be patient with your pets after a disaster. Most pets thrive on routine, so try to return to a normal daily schedule as soon as possible. High levels of stress can cause behavior problems. Do your cats tend to fight after one cat visits the veterinarian? Cats especially depend on scent to identify familiar people and animals as well as places. Your cats may not get along after the disaster for the period of time that it takes to re-establish the "family scent". In some cases, a traumatic event can cause two cats that get along very well to completely disassociate with each other. Prepare for the fact that your terrified cats may be too stressed to be re-introduced right away, and let them re-acclimate to each other gradually. If these problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian. 
  • If there has been a flood, make sure to check your house and yard for wild animals that may have taken refuge there. Stressed, displaced and injured wildlife can pose a threat to you and your pet.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Meet Mr. August!

Orange and black tabby toyger | | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI


Age: 3 years
Sammy the toyger at meal time with his toy | | Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MIGender: Neutered Male
Weight: 10.7 pounds - Great body condition!
Demeanor at the vet: Very sweet boy!

Here are some fun facts about Mr August:  
--Sammy is our 1st purebred cat and he is a Toyger. 
--He LOVES to play, play, play. His favorite toy is “Da Bird”. He likes to catch his “prey” and puts the feather toy or mouse in his food dish before he starts eating.
Sammy the toyger playing || Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI--The picture in the calendar is one of the few times he accepted having the harness and leash on him. The 1st time we put it on him he fell over like it weighed 500 lbs - He is so dramatic!  I thought it was safe to go in the house for a few seconds and I came back outside and he was in the tree!  
Sammy the toyger and his best buddy Roo || Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, Waterford, MI 
--He also loves to supervise when we are taking a shower…he talks and talks and paws and paws on the door. As soon as the door is opened he prances in and continues to chat away - he is quite vocal.
--He HATES the car! He cried the entire 6 hours it took for us to drive him home from the breeder when he was only 3 lbs and 12 weeks old. He still cries loudly when he has to go to the vet. 
--He absolutely loves his brother Roo and wants to sleep with him wherever that might be; if Roo moves, Sammy moves. He is a great addition to our home and we love him to pieces.