Harmful Household Plants To Pets

Our pets sometimes do things that we wish they didn’t like sit on the table, scratch the doors, or chew on electrical cords. They use their sense of smell, touch, and taste to learn about the world around them and it can sometimes get them in trouble, especially when it comes to plants.

Ingesting even small amounts of plans that are considered poisonous to our pets can be extremely harmful.

Symptoms that your pet is ill

  1. Irritation around the mouth and on the skin
  2. Drooling
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Seizures
  5. Lethargy
  6. Unconsciousness
  7. Vomiting

Please be aware: Lilies can be extremely dangerous for curious cats and within 72 hours a cat can experience kidney failure.

Lilies can be extremely poisonous. If you have them in your house, make sure your pets can not get near them. If you’re lucky maybe your pets don’t care. Mine don’t but I am cautious when bringing flowers into my house and watch the cats to see what peaks their interest.

Here is a list of some plants that are harmful to your pets

  1. Aloe Vera
  2. Baby’s Breath
  3. Azalea
  4. Autumn Crocus
  5. Begonias
  6. Bird of Paradise
  7. Christmas Rose
  8. Daffodils
  9. Foxgloves
  10. Geraniums
  11. Holly berries
  12. Ivy
  13. Hydrangea
  14. Laurels
  15. Lilies
  16. Marijuana
  17. Mistletoe
  18. Morning Glories
  19. Nightshade
  20. Tulips
  21. Yews

Image from Cindy Dyer

How to Give a Pill to a Cat

We’ve covered some ways to administer a pill to a dog which entailed wrapping the pill inside of something yummy like cheese or crushing it up in food and if needed, holding your dog and putting the pill in his/her mouth by hand. This half covers what to do with cats. Cats tend to have a slightly more finicky mindset when it comes to taking anything that is not their normal diet or something they do not want to ingest. There are some tricks to getting a cat to take medication without it turning into a comedy sketch or becoming a battle.

Also remember that if you’re finding the pill-giving process is just too difficult, talk to your vet – there may be an alternative form of the medication, in a liquid perhaps, that your cat would accept more readily.

Here are several ways to pill a cat

Crush it up

  1. Offer your cat a tiny bit of wet food or baby food to see if s/he likes it before a regular meal
  2. If there is then placing the pill into food may work
  3. Crush the pill with the back of a spoon on a clean surface and mix it with a small amount wet food or baby food
  4. Mix it well and watch to make sure your cat eats it all
  5. Once it’s all eaten up, you can offer your cat his/her regular meal

Slip and Slide

This method can be a little tricky and hard to explain. I looked up a few tips here and here to help find the right words when it comes to explaining how to hold a cat properly. I give my cat a pill twice a day and it’s not too tough (anymore).

  1. Try to not make a big production of what is about to happen
  2. Coat the pill in a little bit of butter. It will mask some of the taste and slide down your cat’s throat
  3. Hold the pill between your index finger and thumb with your dominant hand
  4. Hold your cat by the scruff with your weaker hand
  5. Tilt the head back gently and with your middle finger of your dominant hand, that has the pill, press down on your cat’s lower front teeth to open the mouth
  6. Once your cat’s mouth is open you may notice a U shape made by the tongue, use that as your target
  7. Drop the pill to the back of the throat straight down the middle of the U shape
  8. Close your cat’s mouth and gently stroke the chin and throat in a downward motion to encourage swallowing
  9. Reward your cat with praise and a treat (this is optional but they do associate treats with this routine and will be more cooperative as time goes on)

Straight Down No Frills

The butter technique can work wonders but some cats may also become great at sliding that pill right out of their mouths a few seconds afterwards. Sometimes the best approach is a no nonsense one that entails many of the same steps without coating the pill.

  1. Again, try to not make a big production of what is about to happen
  2. Hold your cat grasp the scruff (some recommend holding the top of the cat’s head) with your weaker hand while holding the pill in your dominant hand between your thumb and index finger
  3. Get cat from under the table and hold onto a little tighter to the scruff
  4. Tilt the head back gently and with your middle finger of your dominant hand, that has the pill, press down on your cat’s lower front teeth to open the mouth
  5. Pick up pill that the cat has kicked out of your hand with her/his front paws and go get cat from under the bed
  6. Pet and soothe your cat
  7. Repeat steps 2 and 4
  8. Once your cat’s mouth is open you may notice the U shape made by the tongue, use that as your target
  9. Drop the pill to the back of the throat straight down the middle of the U shape
  10. Retrieve pill from floor which the cat has spit out at an impressive distance and dust off fuzz make a mental note to vacuum
  11. Get cat out from behind the couch and try again also pull out that missing sock
  12. Once the pill has been dropped into the throat, close the mouth and gently stroke the chin and throat to encourage swallowing
  13. Reward your cat with a treat and get yourself one too

How do you pill your cat? Tell us!
Image from Cats.About.com

Cat Acne 101: Causes and Treatment

Today is National Hug Your Cat Day, so before anything else, go hug your cat. I took a walk with a friend and we stopped and said hello to a few cats we saw along the way. Each one seemed to know it was their day and wanted all the attention we could give them. Ok, have you hugged your cat? Great. Now we can talk about cat acne and how to treat it. 

One of my cats had blackheads on her chin when she was younger. I was told it was not a big deal but it seemed to bug her. She would scratch her chin a lot and sometimes would end up with small cuts from all her scratching. I asked my vet what it was and I was told it was comedones (blackheads) or acne. Who knew that cats could get acne. 

From what is known of cat acne, it is common and can be  attributed to poor grooming, an overactive sabceous gland, or sometimes a side effect from something else. The symptoms of cat acne often don’t progress past seeing blackheads on the chin unless there is something else going on. In many cases, it’s just acne and a response to something in the environment. Similar to how a person’s pores can be clogged from environmental elements and health. 

A vet will be able to determine if your cat has acne or something else going on. If the level of acne seems severe, you may be prescribed a medication to give to your cat. In less severe cases, cleaning the chin with a little guaze that has some hydrogen peroxide is enough to clear up the acne or decrease the amount of it. 

Often times changing a food and water bowl from plastic to glass also helps lessen acne because plastic can trap bacteria. Topical Vitamin A can also be applied to the chin as well. If your cat has medium to long hair, it might be good to clip the fur around the chin to help keep the area cleaner. Cat acne can be easy to treat and many times may go away on its own but always talk to your vet. In some cases it can be a sign of another underlying issue or immune problem. 

Now, before you go examining your cat’s chin for blackheads, hug him again and give him some tasty treat. It is, afterall, his day. Treat him like the king he believes he is! Happy National Hug Your Cat Day. 

5 Myths About Spaying and Neutering

I know some people don’t always think about spaying or neutering their pets. It’s not that they are not caring owners but they aren’t sure if it is necessary for a variety of reasons or they have heard horror stories and don’t want their pet to experience any major problems or tough recoveries. There are so many myths and assumptions out there about why spaying and neutering can be bad for your pet, but they are just myths and the benefits outweigh them by far.

Here are 5 myths about spaying and neutering your pet:

1: Myth: My pet will get fat and lazy.
Fact: Your pet can get fat and lazy no matter what. Exercise, portion control, and a high quality diet will prevent this from happening.

2: Myth: My pet is a purebreed.
Fact: Did you know about 1 in 4 dogs and cats turned into shelters are purebreds? It doesn’t matter if your pet comes from a pedigree line. There are too many animals that do not have homes. If your pet gets out of the house and mates with another, then either you or the owner of the pet will have their hands full with vet visits, caring for a litter, and financial expenses, as well as possible health problems that can arise.

3: Myth: My dog may lose some of his protective instincts.
Fact: A dog’s natural inclination to be in a pack and social is usually enough to make him bark or show some protective instincts towards strangers. A dog’s personality owes much to its genetics and the environment it grows up in and little to do with hormones.

4: Myth: My male dog may feel like he’s less male.
Fact: Animals do not feel “more male” or “less male.” That is a sexual identity that people are placing onto their pets. Their basic personality is there and while a change in hormones might calm them down a little and cut down on trying to mount and hump things and others, your dog will not feel “less male.”

5: Myth: Spaying and neutering is too pricey.
Fact: The cost is based on age, size, and sex of your pet, and any other variables that arise. It’s a one-time fee. Factor in the benefits in the long run for your wallet and pet when thinking about this procedure. Your pet will have a decreased change of prostate cancer, unwanted litters of kittens or puppies, decreased chance of your pet wandering away following an instinct to mate, and lower chances of other types of cancers associated with in-tact females and males. Many organizations have low-cost options or offer discounts as well free spay and neuter days. Get in touch with your local animal welfare agency if you need financial assistance and see if you are eligible for a discount.

Achoo! Signs That Your Cat Has A Cold

Sneezing, sniffles, and coughing are signs that your cat might have a cold. Yes, cats catch colds too. It’s known in the veterinary world as a feline upper respiratory infection and is quite common among cats that are indoor/outdoor. Most colds will last about 7 to 12 days and are usually not too serious. The cold is spread by wet sneezes similar to how we get a cold.

If your cat is exhibiting any of the following signs, time to call the vet:

1: nasal discharge
2: excessive sneezing
3: ocular discharge
4: fever
5: loss of appetite
6: congestion with open mouth breathing
7: red painful ulcers around the eyes, not, or mouth

Your vet may take your cat’s temperature, take a culture from your cat’s mouth or throat if ulcers are present, and diagnose if it’s a feline upper respiratory infection. If it is you will be given medication to fight off the virus. It is common for viral infections to become complicated by a secondary bacterial infection so it’s important to keep your cat inside, finish all the medication, and follow the instructions you are given.

If your cat is super congested, you can help alleviate it by increasing the humidity of your house or a room where you may want to keep your cat for a few days. Make sure your cat has fresh water, food, and a warm place to sleep as she fights off the cold. If she doesn’t eat, talk to your vet about how to force feed your cat and what foods to offer. Sometimes you may have to get some super smelly foods and canned food for your cat while she’s sick. If she can’t smell food she may not eat and that can make the recovery time tougher and longer.

During these colder months, think about keeping your cat inside to avoid exposure to other sick cats, chemicals that are used to de-ice cars and sidewalks, and other cold weather dangers. Always make sure your cat has proper ID and make sure to get her back in the house by dusk to avoid fighting with wildlife in your area such as raccoons and coyotes.

Why Do Cats Groom?

Anyone who owns a cat knows they spend hours grooming themselves throughout the day. It may be for a few minutes after eating, or right before taking a nap, or after they’ve finished playing with their favorite catnip toy. How and why cats groom impacts their physical, emotional, and social health. As kittens, they learn to lick themselves by about 2 or 3 weeks of age and will copy their mother’s grooming habits.

By the time a kitten is weaned, they will know how to wash themselves and start spending more time fastidiously keeping their fur free of dirt, debris, and tangles. A cat’s regimen may vary but a more often than not, a good bath will happen after a meal, before a nap, and after using the litter box.

Types of Grooming

Cleanliness – Grooming is often to keep themselves clean. Their tongue is used like a comb and removes old fur, loose fur, and dirt. Cats are naturally clean animals and this helps maintain a healthy coat and is sign of health. It’s estimated that a cat will spend about 20% of their day grooming themselves. They won’t always do a complete bath in one sitting. You may catch your cat licking its paws and then taking a nap and later cleaning its tail.

Mutual Grooming – If you have a house with two or more cats they may groom each other from time to time. It’s a way to express friendship and community among cats. It is a social activity more so than a hygienic one. Mutually grooming each other expresses comfort, companionship, and even love among cats. Your cat may even groom you! If your cat licks your arm, leg, or head it’s a sign of affection and trust.

Displacement Grooming – This type of grooming helps a cat feel better emotionally. If your cat was just frightened or feels tense, grooming is a calming mechanism. Displacement grooming helps them deal with stress.

Temperature Control – Cats don’t sweat so grooming themselves is a way to cool themselves down in warm weather and during cold days, it helps keep the fur down closer to their skin and retain heat. When a cat lick and tugs at their fur, it stimulates the follicles to release oils that can also help waterproof your cat. So if your cat is an outdoor kitty, grooming helps create a “raincoat” and keep their skin dry even if their outer coat gets wet.

If your cat stops grooming, this can be a sign of illness and may mean a trip to the vet is in order. Also, if you notice your cat excessively grooming and pulling out fur this can be a sign of stress and create inflamed spots.

Cat Health 101: Ear Mites

Ear mites live in the ears of animals, typically cats, ferrets, rabbits, and sometimes dogs. We can’t get ear mites but our pets can be infected with them easily. Brief physical contact with an animal that has them gives some mites enough time to move to the uninfected animal and begin making a home in the ears.

The signs your cat has ear mites are excessive scratching of the ears to the point where tufts of hair are missing or there are red patches. Ear mites tickle as they move around and you’ll see excessive large amounts of black or dark brown material in the ears that is drier and crumbly compared to ear wax.

Ear mites are very common in cats and cause inflammatory conditions similar to bacterial infections, in more severe cases your cat may have skin problems around the neck, tail, and could experience deafness if not detected early on. Initially, ear mites are just uncomfortable to your cat and aren’t life threatening. They just tickle as they move around and are parasites so they feed off your cat’s blood and some of the dark crumbly discharge is blood mixed with wax, dirt, and other materials.

Treating ear mites usually means a trip the vet where they can take a sample of the discharge and look under a microscope to properly diagnose that it is mites and then decide which type of treatment is best. There are numerous products available for getting rid of ear mites that are topical treatments that you put into your cat’s ears. Many are topical treatments that are placed in the ears for a set number of days. There are also treatments that are placed between the shoulder blades of your cat similar to flea and tick medication. Ivermectin is a powerful anti-parasite medication and has proven to be the most effective medication. There are also derivatives of ivermectin, these are selamectin and moxidectin.

After the ear mite infection has been treated, the ears often need a good cleaning and flushing to remove all the debris and dead mites. An over-the-counter ear cleaner for cats or a home remedy of a little vinegar and water will do the trick. The best way to prevent ear mites is to talk to your vet about what products are available that treat mites as well as fleas and ticks. Revolution and Advantage Multi are two products that has shown to take care of mites as well as other parasites.

If your cat is an indoor-outdoor cat, keeping parasites at bay is important for his health and your wallet!

What is FIP?

FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) is a disease that is spread through domestic and wild cats worldwide. It’s a virus that attacks the cells of the intestinal wall and and manifests itself in forms known as “wet” and “dry.” FIP is almost always fatal and is caused by a virus.

How is FIP transmitted?

FIP can be spread from cat to cat by direct exposure to an infected cat’s feces and saliva. Large colonies of cats and places where cats are kept together can increase the chances of an infected cat spreading the virus to others. FIP occurs most often in cats ranging from 3 months to 3 years of age and older cats that are 10+ years old. It is because these age ranges tend to have immune systems that are not as strong as a fully grown, healthy, adult cat. Outdoor cats are at greater risk of meeting and being exposed to another cat that has FIP in their area.

What are the symptoms of FIP?

Signs of both the “wet” and “dry” form of FIP are fever that doesn’t respond to antibiotics, anorexia, lethargy, and weight loss. The wet form of FIP is characterized by a build up of fluid in the abdominal cavity, the chest cavity, or both. The buildup of liquid in the chest creates labored breathing among cats who have contracted the virus and cats with fluid in the abdomen show a distended abdomen which seems painless.

In the dry form of FIP small accumulations of granulomas attach themselves to organs and can damage them. Some cats may experience paralysis if the granulomas attach themselves to the central nervous system. Other symptoms include disorientation, loss of balance, behavior changes, and incontinence. Often the kidney and liver are affected and chemistry tests must be done to evaluate how badly these organs are being affected.

How is FIP diagnosed?

Diagnosing FIP is challenging, the test used cannot completely determine if a cat has the virus. The test looks to see if there are antibodies to FIP in the body. A positive test result could mean the cat has FIP but it could also mean that the cat was exposed to FIP and has somehow eliminated the virus, the cat is a carrier, was vaccinated against FIP, or has developed FIP. A negative test result can mean that the cat was never exposed to the virus, has the virus but it is so early that an antibody is not yet detectable, the cat is infected but either cannot make the antibody or the antibody is wrapped up in FIP complexes so it’s not detectable, or the test was not sensitive enough to detect any antibodies.

How is FIP treated and prevented?

FIP is fatal in more than 95% of cases. Cats can be given care by a vet and made comfortable and extend the life for a short amount of time. Prednisone is used to slow down the progression of the disease. There is research to find a way to slow down the course of the disease and kill the virus.

In large cat communities under care of a shelter, cattery, or humane society, the spread of FIP can be prevented by thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting areas where the cats are and limiting the amount of cats to an area that share items such as dishes, toys, bedding, and litter boxes. Isolating the infected cats to an area or room where they can live together also keeps the unaffected cats safe.

If a cat is indoor/outdoor regular vet visits, good nutrition, and not allowing the cat out if there seems to be a colony nearby that could have the virus can cut down on transmission.

Cat Hot Spots

If you notice your cat overgrooming a part of her back or belly and notice hair loss and redness, a lot more scratching, and lesions that may ooze, your cat might have hot spots.  These are aggravated sores that come from something that is irritating your cat’s skin such as flea eggs laid on area of the skin or some sort of an allergic reaction to something your cat has been exposed to.

Possible causes of hot spots:

1: parasites such as mites, fleas, or other bug bites

2: allergic reaction to something that is eaten or inhaled

3: poor grooming

4: stress

5: internal infections such as a gland near the tail or infection in the ear

Symptoms of hot spots can be:

1: hair loss in small areas around the neck, head, and lower back by the tail

2: compulsive scratching, licking, chewing, and increased irritation of the area

3: redness of the skin and appearance of sores

4: oozing

When you see these spots appear, act quickly and be gentle. They can become infected quickly and your kitty might be in misery and she tries to cope.

Treatment of cat hot spots:

1: give her a trim and clip the fur around the area to help it dry out and prevent hair, dirt, and other things from aggravating the area

2: if parasites are the culprit, visit your vet and get flea and tick preventative and do what you can to eliminate your cat’s exposure to bugs

3: clean the spot with hydrogen peroxide and a gauze. After the spot has dried, you can spray the area with cortisone spray. Try doing this twice a day until a scab begins to

4: if the area is swollen, use a cool compress to reduce swelling

5: be prepared for your cat to get mad if you touch the sensitive spot. She may try to bite you, hiss, and get away. If your cat keeps trying to lick the area you might have to use an E-collar for a few days.

6: make sure your cat has enough water to drink because dehydration can cause stress-related hot spots

7: talk to your vet about vitamin E and zinc supplements

Negative Experiences And Litter Box Problems

Cats sometimes stop using the litter box and there can be a number of reasons why. Maybe you moved to a new place and your cat isn’t adjusting well to the new digs. Maybe you recently painted or remodeled and the smells, noise, and layout scare your cat. Or maybe your cat has a health issue going on and is trying to communicate that something is wrong. Or perhaps you introduced a second cat to the house and your first cat is, well, kinda mad.

Many cats easily learn to use a litter box and want to hide and bury their mess. Some cats are extremely finicky and want a pristine litter box that is clean and scooped on a daily basis while others are ok with it being a little messy for a day or two.

Aside from environmental changes or health changes, some cats may stop using the littler box due to a negative experience. Many litter boxes are designed to keep litter in the box when your cat kicks and some are covered to be discreet and hide the mess and odor. The design can make your cat feel cornered and vulnerable. If a loud noise or the family dog interrupts your cat while she’s using the box and scares her, it can make her associate the litter box with a scary experience.

If any event in the cat’s environment causes her to freak while using the box, she may develop a fear of the box itself and find another place to urinate or defecate. You need to convince your cat that there is nothing scary when using the litter box and this can mean moving it to a new place, finding a way to keep the dog away from it, or buying a new one or changing litter.

Try moving the box to a quieter place, like a bathroom or room where not many people are such as your computer/office space. If you have kids or a dog, place a baby gate up to keep them away from the litter box. If you have two or more cats you should invest in having more than one box and place one on each level of your house. Cats sometimes want to use only one box and claim it as their own. If this is the case, then having enough for each cat can cut down on problems. A reward based system can also help such as offering treat when your cat has used the litter box and making other surfaces unattractive to your cat.