Cat health

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Should I put my cat out at night?

Here in the UK we are having a spell of very hot summer weather and all my cats are enjoying spending the time out of doors. The problem comes at bed-time! They know that I try to get them into the house then, so although at any other time they come running towards me, in the late evening they do the opposite! They deliberately elude me because they want to stay outside.
Cats love being outside on balmy summer evenings. The temperature is just right for them, without the hot sun which many of them find too hot. Not only that, but all the little creatures come out and they can have great fun chasing them - moths, voles, fieldmice and even frogs. Last night one of mine was having huge fun chasing a frog which was hopping about just out of her reach. There was no way she wanted to come indoors.
I often hear people say "Oh we put our cat out at night". These are usually people who otherwise give exemplary care to their cat, but on this I totally disagree with them. The night time is the most dangerous time, when cats run the most risk of being killed or injured on the roads. In a rural area they could be attacked by foxes or other wild animals. It is also the time when they are likely to wander off and get lost, if they are shut out for several hours with nobody to let them in or feed them.
Keep your cat in at night. He will protest and beg to be let out, but indoors is the safest place for him!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Coughing cat

Last time I wrote about my cat Magic who was diagnosed with asthma. His main symptom was a nasty cough, though he also became depressed and lethargic and his eyes and coat became dull.
In this case Magic only gave single coughs every now and again, but sometimes cats can go into a lengthy coughing fit which is very alarming to the owner. It can be a really horrible sound.
Many conditions can lead to a cough. Some of the most common are:
  • Matter caught in the back of the throat. While grooming the cat may get a small hairball caught in the pharynx or behind the soft palate. Other items that might cause this include grass, pieces of dry food, or fishbones.
  • Tonsillitis - an infection of the tonsils leading to swelling and inflammation. Tonsillitis can be part of a more generalized disease such as feline respiratory disease.
  • Lungworm. This is caused by a parasite and occurs when the cat eats prey that is infested with the lungworm larva, such as birds, slugs, mice or other rodents. The cough is very severe in the early stages because the young lungworms are moving around in the lungs, causing a lot of irritation. The cough gradually becomes less frequent, but deeper and more resonant. Other signs can include sneezing, nasal discharge, diarrhea and general loss of condition.
  • Irritating fumes or dust. If the cat sits near a heating vent or a fan heater he can breathe in considerable amounts of dust particles blown up from the floor. These can irritate the throat and lungs.
  • Growths in the mouth. Cysts, polyps or even cancerous growths can form in the mouth. If these encroach towards the back of the cat's mouth or throat, they can cause coughing.

Your vet can diagnose what is causing your cat's cough and provide the right treatment. It is essential that you take him to the vet at the first sign of a cough.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Cats can get asthma too

Last week one of my foster-cats, Magic (4 years old, seen here) was very off-colour. He was lethargic, his eyes were dull and his coat had lost its shine. Every now and again he would give a sort of cough-sneeze-retch, though he didn't vomit. Also he would sometimes give a kind of gulp, as if he had something stuck in his throat.
At first, the vets couldn't decide what was wrong with him. His temperature was slightly raised, though not much. They thought it might be tonsillitis and gave him antibiotic and anti-inflammatory injections, but he didn't get better. Then they found that there was fluid on his chest and gave him a different antibiotic in a high dose, over three days. Now he is almost back to normal - much more energetic and bright-eyed, and has stopped coughing.
The last vet we saw (the senior vet) said he was pretty sure it was asthma, triggered by a specific type of pollen that is around at this time of year. So it could recur in future years, although apparently the pollen count in Britain is exceptionally high this year, so in future years it may not be so severe.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

How often should I feed my cat?

Cats prefer to eat a little at a time. They prefer to eat several small meals rather than one or two larger meals. Ad-lib feeding, or free access to food, seems to suit most cats. When the cat has consumed enough food to supply his energy requirements, he will stop eating. If the food is correctly balanced, he will also by then have consumed the correct amount of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals to meet his daily needs.
Some cats may become obese with this method, but most regulate themselves well. Having plenty of exercise and opportunity for play will prevent most cats from becoming too fat. If your cat is an indoor cat, it is important to provide plenty of stimulus and take time to play with him (see blog for June 13th, 2006).

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Do I need to buy expensive toys for my cat?

When your cat is young he will play with anything! In fact he will go after anything that moves! If you encourage it, this playful behavior will continue well into adulthood. And it is a good idea to encourage it, as it will help him to keep healthy and stimulated.
The cat's natural role is as a rodent-hunter or bird predator, so his natural toys are those with which he can pretend to be chasing something. Home-made toys such as aluminum foil balls, tissue-paper balls, cotton-reels, corks, or even a piece of string, are perfectly adequate and he can have hours of fun with these. Outside he will chase leaves and leap around after flies. He can have as much fun with these as with the most expensive toy.
If there is more than one cat in the house, they will often, though not always, play together and have a great time chasing each other and rolling round together. If you have only one cat, spend time playing with him yourself - he will love this most of all!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Your cat has a special kind of greeting for you to show that you are his favorite person. He will come over and rub his head and body against your legs, or even "head-butt" you. This is a very personal cat ritual and involves the three primary scent glands - on his forehead, at the base of his tail and on his cheek. This way your cat will know that he has left his special scent on you. The scent is too delicate for you to smell but it is there. He will love it and purr away if you stroke him and talk to him while he is doing it.
Of course it could also be his way of reminding you that there is nothing in his food dish! One of my foster-cats, Magic, will head-butt me to let me know that he wants to come on my lap. He won't jump up but this is his way of getting me to pick him up and put him on my lap.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Watch out for your cat!

A cat prefers to stay out of sight as much as possible, especially when there is a lot of stressful stuff going on. He will find a snug spot where he can be more or less unseen such as inside a dark closet. The other day one of mine jumped into a drawer when I opened it and curled up at the back where I could not see her. If I hadn't seen her jump in, I would have closed the drawer without knowing she was there, and she might well have suffocated. Cats have been known to get into washing machines, dishwashers, under cars or even inside car engines, with disastrous results if the owner doesn't notice. So be alert and watch out for them!