Category Archives: Health

Q&A What’s Wrong With My Cat?

Q: I have been a cat owner a long time. They are extremely curious and stick their nose in every drawer or hole. But this one sits still and has no interest in his surroundings. He is 2 years old now. He is also anxious and does not like us petting him. The vet examined him and run some blood tests when he fell down from 7th floor. All was good. He survived from this incident with little scratches. The vet said he is a very strong cat. This happened 4 months ago. So we took him to vet after he fell down from the balcony. We adopted him from street when he was 1 month or so. He was almost dying but still very playful.

My mum actually is authoritarian and she tries to educate him by yelling. So let’s say he poured a bottle of milk, he would be scolded. She loves him but that’s her way. I believe he thinks he will be punished if he accidentally breaks something. If he hears a noise above certain level (door bangs or closing a cupboard) he startles and hides under the bed. He is also defensive. He does not let us pet him a lot. For your comfort, I show him sooo much affection and actually my mum does as well. But still.

A:  Where to begin? I have a few questions and observations.

  • When he fell from the 7th story, did the vet take X-rays and do neurological tests, or just a physical exam and blood work? This is important. It’s okay if you aren’t sure.
  • How much and how often do you play with him?

I’m concerned that your cat is in pain. A young cat that doesn’t move much, and does not want to be touched, is either in pain or depressed, or possibly both. This is serious. This is not normal behavior for a young cat at all, even a skittish one. If it’s just depression, then play is the best way to boost a cat’s confidence and mood. No matter what it is, you need to get your cat back to the vet ASAP. The question above about what the vet did or did not do will determine whether going back to the same vet is a good idea or not.

You mention that he’s skittish already and that your mother yells at him. Yelling at a cat does nothing to correct behavior, it only makes them afraid of you. Your mother needs to know this. If you can’t tell her this, then when you schedule his next check-up (again, ASAP), you be the one to call, make sure your mother is there when you take him, and ask during the call if they can tell the vet that he’s skittish, and your mother yells at him when he does something that she doesn’t like. The vet, if s/he is competent, should be able to work that into the conversation.

You should use positive reinforcement to teach a cat what it should be doing. Every time you say “no” to a cat, you should provide a “yes” solution. Yelling will only make the problem worse. For example, if a cat likes to climb, and does so on the kitchen counters, simply pick the cat up and take it to a place where it is allowed to climb (like a cat tree). Then praise the cat like it was his idea. You have to do this every time. And every time the cat does use the tree instead of the counter, you should reward it with praise and a toy, or perhaps a treat (if weight is not an issue. If it is, you can use some kibble as treats). Again, you have to do this every time until the cat is no longer doing the unwanted behavior.

Let me know if you have more questions. Good luck!

Cat Safety Tips

We here at Little Cat Diaries want you and your pets to have a great holiday season. There are special hazards that the holidays bring, and some that are always present. It’s important to know them all. This video from Cole & Marmalade’s human, Chris, is a great one that touches most of the bases.

Remember that some darn fools insist on shooting off fireworks on New Year’s, and just the sound of fireworks poses a risk to cats, particularly older kitties (though Kagetora was only 6 when he had his first seizure due to fireworks).

And make sure to check out the ASPCA’s list of plants, foods, and household products that are toxic to your furry family members. They even have a mobile app that you can download and take with you when you’re out shopping! And if your cat ever consumes something that you aren’t sure about, you can call the ASPCA’s Poison Control line at (888) 426-4435.

Q&A: Crazy Cat Lady?

Q: Why are single women with cats stigmatized while single women with dogs aren’t?

A: I could talk about how cats and women have been tied together throughout history through myths like those of Bastet and Freyja.  I could talk about how those associations led to literal witch hunts and mass slaughters of cats, but I don’t believe that has a lot to do with the idea of the Crazy Cat Lady myth.

I believe this happens because of several stereotypes and misconceptions. Any one of these things might be responsible for saying a single woman is a crazy cat lady, but when you start combining them, that’s when an idea pervades our discourse and rhetoric. It becomes this iconic phrase that most everyone in places where there are cats and single women can look at and identify someone they know, even when the criteria they use to label her as a crazy cat lady may be completely different from someone else’s.

The major contributing factors are:

First, people wrongly assume that cats are not as loving and affectionate as dogs are. This then contributes to one of the most idiotic, misogynistic concepts ever: that these single women must therefore be frigid (ugh I hate that word), just as incapable as those cats to show affection. So, on the flip side of that, where people see dogs as openly loving everyone, dog owners get a pass on the frigidity debate (at least for choice of pet).

The second factor is that single women over a certain age are either seen as pathetic (because she hasn’t managed to bag a spouse, as if a woman cannot possibly be content without a mate) or as bitchy, frigid, cold, or any other such qualities that would explain her being single. Evidence of this tendency to cast unmarried women as failures to marry can be seen in the way the terms spinster and bachelor are interpreted and used.

A third factor is that there’s also a long history of using cat-like words as pejoratives to describe women. Words like catty, kitten, cougar, and catfight are just a few examples. Both cats and women are often characterized as being sneaky, manipulative, and difficult to please. All of which is your average stereotypical nonsense.

Fourth, many women also regularly talk to the cat(s), and pour a great deal of time, money, and affection into taking care of their feline friends. And when you add these things up, it may look to an outsider as if this woman is a bonkers crazy cat lady, who presumably thinks her cats understand what she’s saying (not true, many people—including myself—just enjoy having a chat with the cat). Cats can be ASTONISHINGLY empathetic, and they are often great listeners.

In some cases, there may be actual mental health, dementia, and declining cognition issues, just like their married counterparts, but they may not realize just how bad things are on their own (or they may fear seeking help, thinking they will lose their freedom).  Those are the cases where the term Crazy Cat Lady is truly offensive. We should be working to help those women get the care they need while maintaining their freedom for as long as possible, which should include help with caring for pets. Those pets may be the only thing keeping a woman who simply needs some help from turning into a woman in crisis.

There are some great organizations out there helping seniors and pets stay together. Look for one in your area to volunteer. If there isn’t one in your area, you could consider starting one. This is an issue we should all think more about.

Special Edition: What Every Cat Owner Needs to Know

If you have a cat, you absolutely must read this because the chances are high that it will affect your cat(s) at some point in their lifetime. If I had to choose one post for everyone to spread far and wide of all the posts and articles I’ve done about cats, this is the one.

Being the cat lover that I am, I try to make sure that all the kitties have good dental hygiene. If they happen to eat something off my plate while I’m not looking that contains sugar, I’m making sure those teeth are clean afterward. No sugars, no injuries, no cavities, right? Yes and no.

If you are a stickler about dental hygiene, your cat will not get cavities like we humans do. But what happens in 30 – 70% of all adult cats (and that risk increases to 75% in all cats over 5 years of age) is something called Feline Tooth Resorption. It is also known as FORL or feline odontoclastic resorption lesions.

It is an excruciatingly painful condition, and can have severe consequences if it is left untreated. And since cats hide even severe pain very well, we can’t rely on outward signs of issues. A visual inspection is not always adequate to diagnose this issue either, since it can begin above the gumline. This is why yearly checkups are crucial to your cat’s health.

For many years, these little holes that would appear at or near the gumline were just thought to be cavities, and veterinary orthodontists even filled them like your dentist would do for you. But these aren’t cavities. They are the result of a process that we don’t yet fully understand. There is some evidence that sometimes it’s tied to too much Vitamin D in their diet (there is also evidence that this is not the answer, or that it is only one part of the answer), it may have something to do with autoimmune issues, maybe it’s tied to a viral infection, or something else that we just don’t know.

What we do know is that something triggers cells called odontoclasts, which begin to destroy the tooth root surfaces, which causes the enamel to be resorbed. As the disease progresses, the different layers of the tooth are resorbed and the pulp cavity becomes exposed, causing horrible pain and sensitivity. This can happen in one tooth (most common), several, or all of a cat’s teeth.

There are two types, and without going into a lot of veterinary jargon, Type 1 requires the removal of the entire tooth structure. Type 2 does not. It generally requires just removal of the tooth, some stitches, and that’s all.

I was sadly underinformed about this topic until recently. I didn’t realize that it can be a serious issue that affects most or even all teeth in some cats, and it can cause complications including bone loss (in severe cases, the entire jaw) and even death.

Kagetora-sick_8-22-2016

We recently took Kagetora to the vet because he had a runny nose, a goopy eye, and he was scratching his ears like crazy. I thought it was just allergies, but he stopped eating and started hiding. There are 3 things Kagetora lives for: food, cuddles, and sleep. When he started rejecting 2 of those, I knew it was something more serious than allergies.

So we took him to the vet, and we found out that he does have allergies, but he also has extensive tooth resorption (Type 1). He lost several teeth that night when he fought off a coyote to save those kittens, and now it looks like he will lose most of his remaining teeth, which is not the norm. His case is severe.

Please share this post. There are other cats out there that are suffering, and even the most attentive pet caretaker can miss the signs of this insidious disease. Let’s do everything we can to raise awareness so that more cats get the help they need.

Keep those fur babies close. We are their voice.

UPDATE: Kagetora had his surgery, and is doing really well now. He’s used to wet food already, so it’s easy for him to eat. Thanks so much to everyone who wished him well. He sends kitty cuddles to you all!

What do cats think about?

Q: What do cats think about? They don’t have to hunt for food, and humans take care of all of their needs, so what’s left?

A: Just because there is no need to hunt doesn’t mean that the drive to hunt is gone. Cats retain their drive to hunt, which is why it’s not necessary to starve a cat for it to be a good mouser. In fact, cats hunt better when well fed.

Cats sleep (usually a light doze) most of the day, and are active at dusk and dawn, which makes them crepuscular (not nocturnal as some believe). Most people who have a very adorable kitty alarm clock are being awoken by their kitty because it craves stimulation. Sure, the cat will eat if you want to feed it and go back to bed, but what it really needs is play.

Even if it’s an indoor kitty, it will dream of the birds and squirrels it watches from the window. If there is more than 1 cat, kitty will probably spend quite a bit of time thinking about the other kitty (or kitties). It also thinks about its human friends, as well as any other animal friends. Cats have best friends, and that can be another cat, a human, a dog, or any other creature it has strongly bonded with.

If it’s a very lucky kitty, who has a thoughtful owner who takes it on daily walks, it has a whole lot more to dream of. So many scents with so many meanings. So much flora and fauna to ponder.

Cats are very intelligent, and have much longer memories than dogs do, so there is a great deal going on in kitty’s head.

Caturday Cat Tips: Removing Pet Hair

The battle over cat fur is a constant one in our 4 kitty household, and it isn’t often that we buy black clothing. However, there are ways to keep the levels manageable.

Let’s start with grooming. Daily brushing will help keep the shedding down all over the house, and it is absolutely necessary as your cat gets older. Start early. Kittens don’t generally shed much, but you should start brushing them daily so that they get used to it (also start nail clipping, even if you just barely take off a sliver of each nail, so they get comfortable with the process).

Kagome, our 18-year-old Norwegian Forest Cat, is unable to groom herself anymore. So if we skip a brushing session, or if we simply aren’t thorough enough, her long fur will stick to anything (since the oils from her skin aren’t being distributed), and she gets mats incredibly easily, so it’s a constant battle. Thankfully, she doesn’t mind us using the clippers when needed. I think the soft buzz may sort of mimic purring for her.

There are many ways to remove fur from your carpets, furniture, bedding, and clothes. This video from Clean My Space covers most of the bases:

 

How Are Domestic Cats Different From & the Same As Big Cats

Cats of all sizes are remarkably similar. They are all obligate carnivores, they like cardboard boxes, enjoy chasing the evil little red dot, enjoy catnip, and all sorts of other things.

The main thing that makes them different is that domestic cats like hanging out with people. Big cats don’t. But in almost all other ways, cats of all sizes are extremely similar. They like catnip, they like boxes, they sleep a lot, they like unrolling toilet paper, they are obligate carnivores, they have better sight than other carnivores, a great sense of smell, and some big cats even knead (making biscuits), etc.

Domestic cats are social, and (females especially) live in colonies when they are feral. But lions are also very social, and live in groups.

The biggest differences are that domestic cats have more mutations on genes involved in mediating aggressive behavior, forming memories, and controlling the ability to learn from either fear or reward-based stimuli. This means they have longer memories, more capacity to learn, and are far less aggressive than their wild relatives.

Further Reading:

Cat Genome Reveals Genetic Signatures Underlying Feline Biology and Domestication

Q&A Why Does My Cat’s Breath Stink?

Q: My cat has stinky breath. What could I do to make it less stinky?

A: You need to figure out what is causing it. If this is an occasional problem, I wouldn’t be too concerned. Just make note of what the cat ate before getting bad breath, and see if there’s a pattern.

If this is a chronic problem, you need to take your cat to the vet ASAP. Cats are particularly susceptible to abscesses, which are bacterial infections. Unfortunately, cats are also experts at masking pain, so sometimes bad breath is going to be the only symptom you notice.

Causes of bad breath (halitosis) in cats include:

Dental and Periodontal issues As I mentioned above, if you aren’t taking care of your cat’s dental hygiene, issues with teeth and gums will develop. Dental issues are the leading cause of bad breath in cats.

Diabetes Cats with untreated diabetes can have a fruity or sweet smelling breath.

Kidney problems Cats with kidney issues can often have breath that smells like ammonia/urine.

Liver problems If your cat is vomiting, shows little interest in food, or has a yellowish tinge to the eyes or gums, it indicates that their liver is not functioning properly.

Sinusitis Just like humans, cats can have issues with inflammation and foul smelling discharge due to sinusitis.

Gastrointestinal issues Cats can sometimes have issues, such as enlargement of the esophageal tube, that lead to bad breath.

Further reading:

Bad Breath

Understanding the common causes of halitosis (bad breath) in cats

Here’s What May Be Causing Bad Breath in Your Cat – Petful

Why Cats Love Catnip

Whether or not your cat goes crazy for catnip depends on if the cat has the gene that makes them react to it. Anywhere from 50 to 75% of cats (including big cats!) react to catnip.

Catnip plants (Nepeta cataria and other Nepeta species) are members of the mint family. Originally from Europe, Asia, and Africa, it spread across the globe as early as the 1600s. It is used as a medicinal herb (made into a tea, catnip has calming properties similar to chamomile) as well as a treat for cats. Catnip can be found in many an herb garden, and also grows in a lot of places as a weed.

Catnip is nonaddictive and completely safe in small amounts for cats. In larger amounts, it can cause stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting, which will pass without lasting effects in most cases.

The way we think it works is basically as an artificial pheromone. When a cat smells catnip, nepetalactone binds to protein receptors that stimulate sensory neurons. This creates a response in neurons in the olfactory bulb. The amygdala integrates the information flow from the olfactory bulb cells and projects to areas governing behavior responses.

The most intense catnip experience is an olfactory one—your cat smells the catnip and the response is immediate. When they just smell it (including rolling in it), it acts as a stimulant. It can cause hyper fits, and even aggression. When ingested, it causes a calming effect.

The effect only lasts 10-15 minutes, and it takes about an hour before it will work again. But don’t give it to them very often because they can lose their ability to feel its effects. The general recommendation is once every 2 weeks.

We have 4 cats. The oldest, 18, does not have the gene, so she has no interest. The other 3 do. Our 15-month-old always wants to lick it, so he gets very mellow and chill. Our other 2 usually sniff it and roll around in it, and they both get bitey and slightly aggressive, so we can’t give it to all of them at the same time because the little guy gets so chill that he won’t even bap at the older cats when they bite him.

Of our 4 cats, 3 of them love catnip. But our oldest, Kagome, doesn’t seem to have the gene.

Further reading:

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) – Everything You Need to Know About Catnip!

How does catnip work its magic on cats?

Why These Cat Videos Are Animal Cruelty

If you’ve been on the internet recently, you may have seen a video or two of a cat partaking of a tasty cold treat and then freezing, mouth agape, eyes starting to roll as the cat gets an ice cream headache. On the surface, the faces they make might look funny, but they are actually the horrifying expression of a cat’s agony. It is no more funny than whatever expression your cat would make if someone hit it with a baseball bat, kicked it, or threw it against a brick wall.

The cat has no idea what is happening. It has no way to know that it isn’t dying, that the pain is transient, that it will be okay.  Inflicting all of that on an animal that depends on you is absolutely cruel.

It isn’t funny, it isn’t a joke, and it most certainly isn’t ethical.