Feline Friday: All Stressed Up–We Can Fix That!

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My cat Seren(dipity) hates visiting the veterinarian. Nothing against the vet, he’s marvelous and is the first practitioner who has managed to give her any semblance of a thorough exam in years! No, my little 6-pound dynamo simply prefers to stay home and in fact many cats are home-bodies that love the status quo and turn into kitty-maniacs at the first sniff of change.

But of course, all cats need veterinary check ups on a routine basis. And since Seren is now 14+ years YOUNG, it’s even more important that she receive regular health checks.

THUNDERSHIRT

A few weeks ago, I learned that Thundershirt (originally designed for thunder/noise-phobic dogs) was available for cats. In fact, the kind folks at the company offered to send me a sample to review. They asked me about my pets, and imagine my surprise when they sent not one sample but FOUR! Yes, they provided me with a small, medium and large Cat Thundershirt, and a GINORMOUS-SIZE Dog Thundershirt for the Magical-Dog (stay tuned for a review of the doggy version).

Now, Seren could care less about thunder, fireworks or other loud noises. She simply runs to the window, hurls cat curses and demands cooperation from the weather. But she DID have her next veterinary visit due and I figured that would be the purr-fect test to see if the claims for stress reduction actually held merit. I knew that similar products like TTouch wraps used gentle pressure that offered a calming influence, and in fact I’ve been using a harness for several years to mimic this effect. The harness also gives the owner something to grab when the kitty wiggles or otherwise tries to escape.

10 YEARS AGO

A little background–about 10 years ago Seren had a dentistry at the vet’s (a different clinic than the current one). She didn’t really have bad teeth but I wanted a thorough check and some baseline blood work. The tests indicated a problem so the doctor also ran a urinalysis that showed she had diabetes.

Huh? Really? This surprised (and scared me!) because the tests indicated full-blown disease and Seren had none of the signs of increased thirst or urination or weight loss. So I contacted a veterinary internist/specialist Dr. Dottie LaFlamme (awesome vet who answered me immediately!) and ended up running a home urine test that said she was normal. It was the STRESS of the vet visit that created a false positive for diabetes.

SEREN’S VET VISIT

Fast forward a decade, and my petite kitty still stresses during vet visits despite the halter. Also, for the past few months I noticed an increase in water intake and urine output. At first, I attributed it to her awesome new CatIt water fountain that she LOVES, and so she drinks more. But…she’s the right age for all sorts of metabolic or other issues to rear ugly-icity such as hyperthyroid disease, kidney failure and (gulp) diabetes. All can be treated and managed, but they just ain’t conducive to a happy situation.

I scheduled an exam, and a week out began introducing Seren to the Thundershirt (small size). All fasteners are with multiple strips of Velcro so are easy to fit the somewhat stretchy material. She already walks readily with either an H-harness or figure-8 harness so I didn’t expect too much of a learning curve. It’s not unusual for cats first fitted with a halter (or Thundershirt) to fall over and act PARALYZED-I CAIN’T MOVE! from the odd feeling.

Seren didn’t object to being fitted with the Thundershirt. She didn’t fall over, and actually stood still during the fitting, but loudly complained (normal for her!). The strap goes around the neck/chest, and the cape-like “shirt” drapes over the back and is wrapped snug around the tummy. But even the small size was a weeeee bit long in the body for my tiny cat, and she did a lot of plantigrade stance (back feet heel-to-floor) unless I scritched her tail area to create that elevator-butt effect. That seemed to convince her that she COULD move while wearing the thing.

Some cats would take longer to acclimate. Seren wore hers for five and then 10-minute stretches a couple of times a day for three or four days. She continued plantigrade stance up until the last day before her vet visit. And while at the vet this past Monday and wearing the Thundershirt, she was far less vocal and hissy than in the past. She even allowed the vet to look in her mouth and ears, and had the check up only required vaccinations and suchlike, it would have been a wonderful success right there.

SEREN’S TEST RESULTS

It’s amazing the noise level a 6.1-pound cat can produced when picked up and carried into the back room by the vet. Wow–wonder if they make a Thundershirt stress reliever in “owner size” category?! In any event, for the third time in her life (once for spay at 4 months of age, once 10 years ago for dental), Seren went to “kitty jail” at the vet for a full blood panel, urinalysis and thyroid function test.

The doctor told me Seren was actually quite good (huh…degrees of good-icity?) once away from “mom.” She was sedated for the blood draw. With her history of stress-induced sugar-spill I was amazed that the urinalysis came back absolutely normal! To me, that indicated some major stress reduction. Was it the Thundershirt? It’s difficult to point to a direct cause-and-effect but certainly, Seren was more willing to be handled during her time at the vet.

Her CBC and other blood panel values came back normal, too, although kidney function was “borderline” indicating she’s close to falling into very early kidney disease. I had to wait for the thyroid tests to come back from Texas A & M. I got the call this afternoon–NORMAL! Wow, my stress levels dropped accordingly.

The take away message, I think, is to pay attention to your pet’s normal behaviors and get a check on anything that seems outside the norm. As it turns out, maybe I could have waited on Seren. Kidneys are amazing organs, though, and compensate so well that by the time you see obvious signs (more drinking, more urination) up to 70% of kidney function is gone. Learn more about cat kidney disease, feline diabetes, and cat hyperthyroidism (and how to treat) in COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING CAT.

Seren will get a new diet, one that takes a bit of the strain off her kidneys to give this 14-years-YOUNG cat as many more happy, healthy years as possible. Because 14 years are not enough. And if stress reduction helps her keep kitty-calm during vet visits, the Thundershirt is an easy and practical, non-invasive option.

I am a fan. And–check out Seren-the-Model in the video, below. FYI, she always talks (from both ends…tail never stops!).

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Comments

Feline Friday: All Stressed Up–We Can Fix That! — 14 Comments

  1. Great news about Seren! She’s a star in the video and very purr-ty. Amy, you always impress me with the depth of your knowledge about pets and their behaviour, health, etc, and the easy way you communicate it.

  2. Seren is gorgeous! It sounds like the Thundershirt helped, which totally surprises me that a cat would be agreeable to one. That’s really good to know for the future. We haven’t had to use our Thundershirt with the little dog yet, but after reading this post, I’m excited to see how it does with her.

    So glad to hear Seren’s spike in drinking wasn’t anything terrible. Stay healthy, sweet kitty!

    • Muchly appreciated Tameri! Most cats will tolerate such things–even if they throw a fit at first. Something about the “snug hug” effect that really soothes them.

  3. LOL – small Thundershirt wouldn’t cut it for our babies (now that I can see them letting us get one on them either way). Both of ours are around 15lbs.

    • Karyl, I suspect your 15-lb kitties would be a fit for the medium. There’s also a large cat size designed for the jumbo felines (after all the Maine Coons and others can tip the scales at 25-pounds or more!).

  4. Amy, Seren is such a little pistol, so full of herself, I just love the stories about her especially “talking from both ends”. I’m glad she’s well and any symptoms point to “early”. You are certainly the one to know what to do! I am lucky that my vet comes to the house and that reduces a lot of the stress without the scary ride in the box in the box with all the noise and moving.

  5. I’m so glad Seren’s results were not so alarming. Happily Rainbow’s blood results today showed that her kidneys are recovering. However, her visit to the vet was not stress-free. Wish we’d had one of those Thundershirts today! They first tried to get a sample from her in the room but she tried to bite! That’s never happened before. Then they took her to the back room and I could hear her screaming. I almost ran back to tell them to stop but they got just enough blood for the kidney tests.

    I’m so glad that she has recovered from her “crisis” period. Give Seren a hug for me.

    • Oh no, Andrea, so sorry Rainbow (and you) had to go through that. Seren did her scream-bit just when the vet picked her up and carried her out of the room but then calmed down. Hugs given to Seren on your behalf…and we’re sending positive purrs your way, too.

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