FAQs

Why is my cat urinating outside of the litter box?
Unfortunately, this is a very common problem for cat owners. It is possible that your cat is exhibiting this behavior because of an underlying medical disorder, so the pet should be examined by a veterinarian to rule out disease as a cause of inapporopriate urination. Cats may urinate in inappropriate places because of urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and feline lower urinary tract disease. Tests such as urinalysis, bloodwork, and x-rays of the abdomen may identify the presence of such medical problems.

However, inappropriate urination is often a behavioral problem. One of the most common reasons that cats stop using the litter box is that the box is not kept clean enough for their tastes. Boxes need to be scooped at least daily, and the litter should be changed at leastweekly (it should be changed daily if you use non-clumping litter). Many cats are best accommodated with two separate boxes: one for urination and one for defecation. Both boxes must be kept clean. If you have multiple cats, many veterinarians recommend that you provide at least one litter box per cat plus one extra. You may want to provide litter box access on each floor of the house.

Also consider whether your cat has access to the litter box. Is there a closed door blocking your cat’s path to the litter box? In addition, a dog that stands guard or a dominant cat may not permit the affected cat to use the box. Other causes of aversion to the litter box include proximity to appliances that are noisy, such as televisions and washing machines, and those that turn on or off by use of a timer. Cats that are disturbed in the litter box by another cat, child, or dog may develop a litter box aversion as well.

It is possible that your cat is reacting to a change in the box location or type of litter. Some cats are very particular about where they go, and others are sensitive to the perfumes or dust in the litter. It may be necessary to try different types of litter — for example, a non-scented clumping clay litter versus a sand-like clumping one — until you find one that meets your pet’s needs. In addition, if you provide the cat with a covered litter box, you might try switching to an uncovered box to see if the pet prefers it.

There are other methods for controlling inappropriate urination. You may want to move the litter box to the area where your cat is urinating. Always clean the soiled areas of your home with an enzymatic cleaner. Because cats are drawn to the scent of urine, they may continue to go in the same inappropriate site if they are stimulated by the smell of previous accidents. The best cleaning products contain enzymes that degrade the urine and prevent stains. These products should be available through your veterinarian or local pet store. Because your cat may have a preference for carpet, you can change the way the area feels by using plastic carpet protectors or aluminum foil. This substrate change may make the litter box a preferred spot. In some cases, you may want to move your cat’s food bowl to the area that she had previously soiled. Because cats are fastidious they don’t like to eat and eliminate in the same place.

It is important to talk to your veterinarian about the inappropriate urination. He or she will have some additional suggestions tailored to the specific needs of your cat. In some cases, medication can be helpful in controlling the problem, but it is usually reserved for cases where other possibilities have been exhausted. Veterinary behavioral specialists may offer additional insights.

Do cats get heartworm disease?
Yes. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitos and it is a parasitic worm that resides in the blood vessels of the heart and lungs. Cats typically have fewer than six worms, but these are enough to potentially cause chronic vomiting, weight loss, gagging, chronic respiratory signs that mimic asthma, and even sudden death without any other symptoms. Unlike dogs, there is no proven effective and safe treatment once heartworm infection occurs. At this time, the American Heartworm Society recommends year-round protection against heartworm disease in endemic areas (such as Long Island) and a heartworm test prior to initiating heartworm preventive medication. This is required for the safety and health of your pet.
Can you tell me more about spaying or neutering my pet?
The best age for both cats is between 4-6 months. There are many medical and behavioral reasons why it is healthiest for females to be spayed before her first heat, and males neutered before they reach puberty. Kittens can be neutered even as young as 6 weeks of age, but we prefer to let them get their kitten immunizations, and that they be clear of parasites before a major surgery.

OVARIOHYSTERECTOMY (OVH or Spay)

Ovariohysterectomy is the medical term for spaying a female cat. The procedure consists of surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus. If the ovaries are not removed, heat periods still occur even though pregnancy is impossible. Surgery is usually performed at 4-6 months of age.

Though it is routinely performed, ovariohysterectomy is a major abdominal surgery, requiring general anesthesia and sterile operating technique.

Prevention of pregnancy and heat periods are the main reasons for the surgery, but the procedure is often necessary to treating severe uterine infection, ovarian and/or uterine tumors, and some skin disorders. Early spaying also helps prevent the incidence of mammary tumors later in life.

CASTRATION (or Neuter)

Castration is the medical term for neutering a male cat. The procedure consists of surgical removal of the testicles. Such surgery is performed to eliminate sexual activities and render the cat sterile. Castration usually (but not always) reduces a cat’s tendency to roam and fight. Though general level of aggression may also be reduced, castration is not a replacement for obedience training by the owner.

Castration at a young age significantly reduces the risks of prostatic diseases and certain types of cancer. When a cat is castrated just before sexual maturity at 4-6 months of age, the cat’s sexual instincts are reduced, and the cat becomes sterile. Fighting and night-prowling, common in intact male cats, are largely eliminated. However, castrated cats may still want to go outdoors to hunt. The objectionable urine odor of the male cat is also reduced.

My pet is having surgery tomorrow. What do I need to do to prepare?
Feed and water your pet as usual today, but take away any leftovers at midnight. Your pet will need to have an empty stomach for anesthesia; this minimizes the risk of certain complications. We will give them a small amount of water as soon as they are recovered enough to safely do so. If your pet has fleas or ticks, you can take care of that problem today, it would be a good thing. If not, we will treat it while at the office, so that other people’s pets don’t take home your fleas! If you need a pet carrier or leash to bring your pet, we have them at the office and can find what you need. Cats seem less stressed if they feel secure in a taxi.
My pet has fleas. How do I get rid of them?
Fleas continue to be an important problem of animal husbandry despite the advances in flea-control products. Using conventional insecticides, one must address fleas on the pet, in the house, and in the environment, a three-pronged approach.

Dips are not safe when used often enough to be effective. Flea collars are not generally useful, and sprays must be applied regularly to have maximum kill. The yard products, such as organophosphates, should help eliminate environmental fleas. You may wish to treat the shady areas of the yard, under bushes and trees, where ultraviolet light does not penetrate, especially if the pets lie there. All areas that your pet visits must be treated, even your house, car, and garage. The entire environment and the pets must be treated concurrently; the clean, flea-free animals must be housed in a flea-free area while the premises are treated. After vacuuming the area rugs, be sure to throw the vacuum bag away.

Despite the apparent expense of the new products such as Comfortis or Revolution, these products have proved themselves highly effective in such situations. They should be safe for all members of the household. Please discuss their utility with your veterinarian. She will assess your situation and customize a flea-control plan for you as economically as possible.

Why is my pet so itchy?
Persistent itching is a very common, nonspecific sign of an underlying problem in cats. Itching is usually associated with dermatitis, which is inflammation or irritation of the skin. There are many conditions that cause dermatitis and prompt an affected cat to scratch or bite itself frequently. Causes of dermatitis include bacterial, fungal, yeast, or parasitic infection; seborrhea; food, flea bite, or inhalational allergies (atopy); behavioral problems; contact with an irritating substance; cancer; metabolic and endocrine disorders; drug reactions; exposure to toxins; breed specific predisposition, nutritional deficiencies, and even sunburn. Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the signs.

You need to consult with your veterinarian. After giving your cat a physical examination, the doctor may decide that testing for the various causes of dermatitis is warranted. Some of the tests that your doctor may choose to do include scraping the skin to determine if mites (such as scabies) are present; plucking hairs and examining them under a microscope to search for evidence of fungal infection; cytologic examination of crust or exudate to look for any yeast overgrowth; and fungal cultures of the hairs to look for dermatophytosis (ring worm). Your veterinarian may find it necessary to perform a skin biopsy. He or she may also conduct some blood tests and urinalysis to determine thyroid disease or other systemic disorders are present.

The doctor may put your cat on a strict food trial for 12-16 weeks using a completely hypoallergenic diet with ingredients that your cat has never eaten before. This food trial helps determine if your cat has a food allergy or not.

These tests will help narrow the field of possible causes and allow your cat to be treated appropriately. Treatments include, but are not limited to, antibiotics, antifungals, shampoos and dips, dietary supplements and other oral medications, and allergy shots.

If your cat has fleas, then allergy to fleabites may be an issue. The saliva of the flea is what causes the allergic skin condition. Fleabite allergy is very common and typically causes hair loss and scabbing on the back, abdomen and rear legs. You may want to talk to your veterinarian about putting your pet on a topical flea preventive that helps eliminate fleas and thus fleabites.

My cat has lost a lot of weight, why?
Unintended weight loss without loss of fluid may accompany serious illness. Veterinarians consider weight loss in animals to potentially signal illness when it exceeds 10 percent of previously stable body weight in normally hydrated animals. Thus weight loss is associated with a reduction in the fat stores and muscle mass of the animal’s body.

Weight loss occurs when the body’s metabolic requirements, measured in calories, exceed the usable calories derived from food. When an animal needs to lose weight, reducing the amount or changing the type of food eaten — so that the number of calories consumed is less than the body needs — will result in weight loss. Such weight-reduction diets are designed to reduce stored body fat only and not other tissues, especially muscle. This is controlled weight loss and is supervised by a clinician.

There are many diseases associated with uncontrolled or unintended weight loss. In some of these diseases starvation actually occurs even if the affected animal is eating normally or excessively. As fat stores are depleted, muscle begins to breakdown to provide protein for energy production and restorative processes.

Additionally, muscle also breaks down when the body’s protein requirements are not being met through the diet or digestive processes. In such situations, a negative nitrogen balance is said to exist, which is a sign of starvation and a very serious underlying disease.

Several physiologic mechanisms exist that produce disease-associated weight loss. Some feline diseases significantly increase energy (calorie) requirements. Without a compensatory increase in food, the affected cat loses weight. Metabolic, malignant (cancerous) and infectious diseases fit this category. Common examples include diabetes mellitus, kidney disease or failure, and hyperthyroidism; lymphoma and other cancers; feline immunodeficiency virus or feline leukemia virus and other infectious diseases. Sustained exposure to a cold environment can also raise energy needs as the body shivers to produce heat. These processes can lead to weight loss in spite of a normal, or even, increased appetite.

Diets with insufficient calories or poor nutrient quality relative to the cat’s normal metabolic requirements will cause weight loss. Consulting with a veterinarian about proper diet and amounts to be fed and then following the doctor’s instructions will eliminate this cause of unintended weight loss in healthy cats.

Insufficient food intake, where the affected cat refuses to eat or cannot eat, has many causes. Anorexia (loss of appetite), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), regurgitation, nausea and vomiting may limit food intake and nutrient availability. Many diseases of cats produce theses nonspecific signs. Cats won’t eat if they cannot smell their food; so problems affecting the sense of smell, including respiratory diseases, infections, and allergies, among others may be associated with weight loss. Dental problems that make chewing difficult may also prevent normal food intake. Food with low “taste appeal”, especially to finicky cats, will contribute to weight loss as well.

Disorders where consumed food is not properly absorbed into the body or is not converted into energy will also cause the affected animal to lose weight. Intestinal parasites, inflammatory disorders of the intestines, and tumors can block the normal absorption of nutrients and fluids from the stomach and intestines. Pancreatic and liver diseases can disrupt production and secretion of enzymes and other substances needed to process nutrients.

Gastrointestinal ailments in which nutrients are eliminated from the body before they can be absorbed and converted into energy can result in profound weight loss. Severe persistent vomiting and diarrhea associated with various diseases can result in loss of nutrients necessary for energy production. Liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal diseases may result in loss of protein. Glucose is lost through urinary excretion in diabetes mellitus; protein is lost with certain diseases of the kidney’s glomerular apparatus.

When a cat or other animal with a history of unexplained weight loss is presented to a veterinarian, the doctor will take a history and perform a physical examination in order to develop a list of possible underlying diseases. Then appropriate laboratory tests and other studies will be undertaken to narrow the field of possible causes.

Tests typically include complete blood count, blood chemistry, and urinalysis. Tests for intestinal and other parasites, as well as for bacterial, viral, and fungal diseases may be needed. Radiographs (x-rays) and ultrasound scans may be helpful in evaluating the status of the heart, liver, and other organs and may help reveal the presence of abnormal growths. In some cases biopsy or fine-needle-aspirate tissue sampling techniques may be needed to obtain tissue samples for microscopic evaluation. Endoscopy might be needed to visualize and sample various parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

Treatment is directed at the underlying cause of the weight loss. If recovery follows, restoration of weight is possible and likely. Debilitated animals may need supportive treatment to restore fluid loss, force feeding, or parenteral nutrition, where nutrients are given intravenously, to help maintain positive nitrogen balance.

Is declawing my cat a good idea?
Cats by nature absolutely love to stretch and scratch certain surfaces. Scratching allows the cat not only to stretch, but to sharpen their claws and mark their territory. This is a very normal behavior for all cats, but sometimes the cat chooses scratching sites that are not particularly ideal – the new couch that was just delivered, you with your new pants on, or the expensive sheers hanging in the window. Obviously these are not ideal surfaces and the cat’s behavior must be curbed.

Most cats can be trained to use a scratching post instead of the alternatives. This is done by first purchasing a scratching post that has a wide base, is secure, at least two to three feet tall, and has a rough surface on it that is attractive to the cat – such as burlap or wound rope. It must have these features because the cat has to be able to stand up and pull down on the post to scratch and stretch, yet not pull it over. These posts can be made or purchased from many different stores.

Training begins with placing the scratching post where the cat sleeps or somewhere that it enjoys hanging out. Then, carry your cat to the scratching post, gently take its front feet, and rub them up and down on the post. If the cat struggles or is scared, don’t restrain it or continue to frighten it – remember this must be fun! The key is repetition, and gradually your cat will learn that the scratching post is an approved surface to destroy at any time.

It is also important that you realize cats can be trained, and you must teach the cat that scratching the curtains, couch, your new pants, or any place besides the scratching post is unacceptable. This may involve using a squirt gun, loud noise, or something else that alerts the cat while it’s scratching off-limit places. Never strike or hit the cat as this will cause more harm than good. Sometimes applying double sided tape on the area being scratched is helpful. Be patient and don’t give up. Repetition is important!

If you have tried unsuccessfully to train your cat and are considering giving it up, declawing is another option. This is only to be done on cats that are strictly indoors. Only the front feet should be declawed. The back feet are usually not a problem and are left alone so that if the cat were ever to get outside, it could still climb up a tree or partly defend itself.

Owners should be aware that several prominent animal welfare organizations are opposed to declawing cats. For example, the Humane Society will not adopt out a cat if an owner plans to declaw it.

Declawing is best done at the time of spaying or neutering – approximately five to six months of age. This procedure can be done very humanely with the use of pain medications. Pain management has the best results if it is started approximately 15 to 20 minutes before the surgery and continued for the next 72 to 96 hours. There are many different pain medications that can be used safely by veterinarians in cats, and they are relatively inexpensive and very effective allowing the cat to rest comfortably. This also helps the cat to not associate the veterinarian with a negative experience.

Is it okay to give my pet aspirin?
As a general rule of thumb, no! Aspirin in animals, as well as humans, can cause bleeding problems, as well as stomach ulcers and kidney failure. Pets’ medications are not dosed in the same manner as humans. If you feel your pet is in pain, ask your veterinarian to prescribe a safe alternative to aspirin.
How can I stop the shedding?
Shedding is a natural occurence in cats, but excessive shedding can be prevented through products, veterinary care, and proper grooming. Sometimes physical problems such as ringworm, skin infections, stress, or other more serious health problems may cause excessive shedding. Routine veterinary care and careful watch for things like bald spots will rule out abnormal shedding. So what can you do to reduce excessive shedding in a healthy cat? Grooming and brushing cats regularly will greatly reduce unwanted hair around the house, on clothes, carpet, and furniture. Shedding blades, molting combs, brushes, and shedding stones are available at most local pet supply retailers. There are also supplements available that you can add to your pets’ food or water to reduce shedding. These product solutions are a blend of minerals, oils, herbs, antioxidants, and vitamins that reduce shedding, promote a beautiful coat, healthy skin, and reduce itching.
Can I get worms from my pet, and if so, how?
Anybody can get worms from their pets. Children and sick or elderly people are at a higher risk, but anybody in general can be susceptible. Internal parasites are transmitted to humans from pets when the eggs are ingested. Children that play with the cat or in the yard where the cat defecates may then place their hands in their mouths. For this reason, it is imperative that your cat have routine testing of stool samples and deworming when appropriate.

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