Do you know the signs of a cat urinary blockage? Do you know about FLUTD? Maybe you’re puzzled why your cat suddenly pees outside the box? Or maybe he strains and strains but can’t eliminate. Is it constipation? Or does he have a cat urinary blockage? How can I stop my cat from peeing on the carpet?
If you’re asking these questions, you’ve come to the right place. Feline lower urinary tract disorders (FLUTD) can cause deadly cat urinary blockage. It frustrates cat owners—and also the cats! A cat urinary blockage can be deadly, so it’s vital to recognize the signs of a feline urinary tract disorder. This post is dedicated to my friend Susan Richardson-Cripps and the memory of Heathcliff, a fun-loving orange boy.
Susan with Heathcliff, the early days…
Cat Urinary Blockage & Disorders
Your cat has always been faithful to the litter box. After all, you trained your kitten to use the litter box from the beginning. But suddenly your adult cat, Tom, leaves damp messages on the carpet, Sheba cries and squats right in front of you, and bloody urine puddles in the bathtub. This is different from urine spraying, and is a cry for help.
My dear friend Susan messaged me on a Friday evening, concerned her cat Heathcliff had constipation. Although he managed to defecate, he still seemed to have a lot of pain. He walked “funny” and meowed a lot. She’d called her vet but couldn’t get an appointment until Monday afternoon. I suggested the local emergency hospital, and the next morning, she took her orange boy there for an exam.
Some litter box problems can be easily solved with these tips. When your well-trained cat suddenly begins missing the mark, that can be a sign of a health problem. Any health issue requires veterinary help.
Cats with urinary tract disorders often spend lots of time just sitting in the box.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorders (FLUTD)
Cats are known to suffer from a group of disorders, including stones, as a part of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease or FLUTD. Male and female cats are affected equally. Urinary bladder stones occur in only about 20 percent of cats suffering from LUTD.
Actual “stones” of pebble-size and larger can develop. More commonly the tiny mineral deposits (called urolithiasis) are microscopic to sand-size. A mucous-crystal matrix can plug the urethra and prevent the bladder from emptying and cause cat urinary blockage. Just think back to your childhood, remember a never-ending car trip with no bathroom access. Multiply that discomfort tenfold to understand how the blocked cat feels.
Signs of Cat Urinary Blockage
Signs of urinary stones may include any one or combination of a break in housetraining, dribbling urine, straining in the litter box or spending lots of time “posing” with little result–this can look like constipation. When urine does pass it may contain blood, and/or have a strong ammonia smell. Affected cats may cry during urination, or excessively licking the genitals.
Diagnosis is based on these symptoms, urinalysis, and/or X-rays to reveal stones in the urinary tract. Without prompt medical attention, the blocked cat will die when toxins build up in the bloodstream, the kidneys stop working, or the bladder ruptures.
I love Heathcliff’s single freckle on his nose! He apparently loved to hunt and fetch snakes into the house, yikes!
Heathcliff’s Sad Experience
The veterinary emergency clinic examined Heathcliff and explained to Susan that his bladder had enlarged to softball size, filled with bloody urine and crystals. They anesthetized him to place a urinary catheter to help him pass the urine, and planned to prescribe pain medication and antibiotics to address possible infection. Tragically, five-year-old Heathcliff’s heart stopped after he came out of anesthesia, and didn’t survive despite attempts to save him.
“Our sweet boy was only five years old. How does this happen so fast to a beautiful and energetic cat? He went downhill so fast.” She hadn’t seen any bloody urine at all until at the clinic, and Heathcliff had acted like his normal, rambunctious self only a few hours earlier. “They did all they could to revive him, but our little guy just didn’t have the fight in him. I do want to say thank you to Christian and the staff at Grayson County Animal Emergency Clinic for the kindness they showed me and the gentleness they showed to Heathcliff.”
FLUTD & Creating Kitty Urinary Crystals
Not all stones are the same. Crystals and/or stones form when specific minerals and organic substances are present in the urine in the right concentrations. In addition, the urine must be the right pH (acid/base balance). It also must stay in the bladder long enough for crystals to form. Consider pancake syrup in a pan–if it sits still long enough, crystals form. Therefore, formation of stones depends on volume of urine, concentration and type of minerals, frequency of urination, and genetics.
Cats evolved as desert creatures, and consequently conserve water extremely well. They may urinate only once every 24 to 48 hours. That means urine sits in the bladder for long periods and becomes more and more concentrated. Cats also drink sparingly, and seem to prefer to get water from their diet rather than lapping from a bowl. These instinctive tendencies predispose felines to develop bladder stones. Some kinds of crystals like struvite can be managed easily with diet. Others like calcium oxalate stones are a challenge–and diets that prevent one actually promote the other kind. Yikes!
The cause of feline crystals often can’t be identified. Diet can play a role in the formation of certain types of feline stones. And because up to 70 percent of cats have repeated episodes of stones, a therapeutic diet has become the standard way to treat and in some cases prevent them.
Cat Urinary Crystals
Twenty-plus years ago, 80 percent of feline bladder stones identified as struvite and developed in part due to alkaline urine. Pet food manufacturers learned to counter this by creating acidic urine (and therefore prevent struvite formation) by adjusting the formulation of cat diets. Bless their furry lil’ hearts! Nearly every commercial cat food on the market today has been designed to reduce the chance of struvite formation, by increasing the acidity of the urine.
When the diet has undergone expensive tests to prove this effect, the label may say, “for urinary tract health.” Honestly, though, all of the major cat food brands do pretty much the same thing. They just haven’t spent extra money on these tests and so legally can’t place a claim on the label.
A percentage of cats still develop struvite stones despite eating good foods. Special therapeutic veterinary diets can dissolve existing stones and/or prevent formation of new ones, and most of the major pet food manufacturers offer therapeutic options. Therefore, if your cat hates the first food offered, ask about another therapeutic alternative. Diets only work if the cat eats them.
Cats that become blocked from urethral plugs–crystals mixed with mucus that get stuck in the urinary track–typically are unblocked with catheters to reestablish flow from the bladder. But repeated catheter use may cause scar tissue in the urethra that makes the problem even worse. Perianal urethrostomy surgery may be an option for these cats. The procedure shortens the male cat’s urethra—removes the penis—which creates a wider conduit for release of urine so the urethra doesn’t block as easily even if crystals continue to form.
More Urinary Crystals & Calcium Oxalate Conundrum
Today calcium oxalate stones are becoming most common. Struvite seems to affect younger cats while calcium oxalate more often impacts aging felines. In fact, some calcium oxalate uroliths, especially those in the kidneys, may not cause obvious health problems for months to years. As the cat ages, the bladder becomes less elastic and may not empty totally each time the cat urinates. Over time, this may lead to increased susceptibility to infections and large bladder or kidney stones.
The change in commercial diets to reduce struvite actually promoted a rise in calcium oxalate stones. These struvite-prevention diets increase blood-acid levels, which also tend to leech calcium from the bones. Calcium spilled into the urine can form calcium oxalate stones. Calcium oxalate stones most typically block the ureters–the conduits leading from the kidneys to the bladder–and if too big to pass, require surgery to remove.
FLUTD & Stopping the Stones
So, what can a cat lover do? Be alert for signs of distress.Consider a blocked cat a life-threatening emergency and see your veterinarian immediately. Do your best to reduce cat stress, since that can predispose kitties to repeated episodes.
If your cat has been diagnosed with FLUTD, your doctor likely will analyze the crystals (if present); determine if an infection is involved and prescribe medication and recommend an appropriate diet. Remember that an old cat with calcium oxalate crystals should NOT eat a food designed to prevent struvite, or vice versa. In addition to diet change, avoid giving any kind of mineral or vitamin C and D supplementation to cats, which can predispose to calcium oxalate formation. The veterinarian has the information to prescribe and recommend the most appropriate treatment for your individual cat.
Heathcliff (in the chair) with best kitty buddy Monty.
Dilute With Water
Increase your cat’s water intake by feeding canned diets, which typically feature 70 percent water. There’s some argument whether or not cats drink more when the water remains fresh or running. It won’t hurt to provide a feline drinking fountain, available from pet products stores. More water helps dilute the urine and encourages the cat to use the litter box more often. That way the bladder doesn’t remain full for long periods of time.
While filtered or bottled water isn’t routinely recommended, it probably won’t hurt and might help especially if it encourages your cats to drink more. Try flavoring the water with liquid drained from water-packed tuna or a bit of no-salt chicken broth. All’s fair in keeping cats healthy–sometimes despite themselves.
Susan gave me permission to share Heathcliff’s story, in the hopes it might warn other cat lovers and save them the pain her family feels. “Monty misses his baby brother, Heathcliff. He has wandered all over the house today looking for him and can’t understand where his wrestling buddy has gone. I’m afraid Monty is going to find this difficult to deal with because they were inseparable.” I’ve written about helping yourself, and pets, through the grieving process.
Karma-Kat has always remarkably healthy and (knock wood!). He never misses the litter box and this tragic story reminds us all how quickly a vibrant, health pet can suffer a life-threatening health crises. We’re fortunate to have a veterinary ER available in our community. What about your cats? Have they had problems missing the box? Crystal issues? What has been your kitty experience with regard to lower urinary tract issues?
Dog crates and cat carriers—love ’em, or hate ’em, they’re a necessity to keep pets safe. With vacation time just around the corner (do you take pets with you to visit family on holidays like Easter?), consider updating your pet-safety accomodations. I recently received a Passenger Travel Carrier from DIGGS, known for their innovative and high-quality dog products—and now the Passenger option for smaller dogs and CATS.
Vet Visits Don’t Have to Be Stressful with DIGGS Passenger Carrier
Mee-wow! So much to love about this carrier, especially the fact it received a five-star crash test rating (highest score possible) from the Center for Pet Safety. In fact, the Passenger Travel Carrier passed on the first try. For cats and small dogs, the best and safest option for car travel means riding inside a carrier that you seat-belt into the back seat–or, if small enough, fits on the floor behind the front seats. The Passenger Travel Carrier fits both requirements.
The Diggs Passenger Travel Pet Carrier comes in three stylish colors: navy, blush, and slate (pictured above). It accommodates small pets up to 18 pounds in weight, but that upper limit may prove crowded for some pets that want to move around. I love the design allows you to attach it securely with your car’s seat belts. You also can slip it over a rolling suitcase for convenient travel to and from the car.
A soft bed on the floor attaches with Velcro, for easy removal for cleaning. We know that cats visiting the veterinarian prefer getting in and out of the carrier on their own. The AAFP recommends carriers with a top, front, and side opening: check, check, and check! The Passenger has a zipper opening on the top, the front, and also the side. It has multiple pockets for all the pet necessities: leash, treats, wipes, and your wallet to purchase more treats. Did I mention TREATS? (Karma-Kat made me write that).
Passenger’s Pet Carrier Pee Pad System
Shadow’s very interested…but he doesn’t fit! This carrier works for your little dogs, though.
For extra long trips with young pets that might have “accidents” in the carrier, the Passenger has you covered. The innovative pee pad system probably applies more to puppies and dogs than to cats.
The bottom of the carrier holds a plastic board in the bed’s base, to which you can attach a Diggs pee pad to help keep your pet clean. You can swap out the soiled one for a fresh pad using the side panel, without disrupting your pet too much. Be sure to clip the inside tether to the pet’s halter to the interior D-ring to prevent an escape, though!
It weights 4.5 pounds, and won’t collapse for storage–but after all, you want to leave this out ALL THE TIME so it doubles as a cat bed. That way, your cat already accepts the carrier as a safe, happy place. I pulled mine out of the box, unzipped the top, and dropped in a couple of treats, and Karma-Kat jumped inside within 10 seconds. Yes, that’s why Shadow wanted inside, too!
This cat carrier has the look and feeling of luxury, and the price reflects that at $186 on Amazon and a bit higher on Walmart and the DIGGS site.
Reducing Cat Carrier Fears
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) provided the nifty infographic, below, as well as a great article YOU CAN SHARE on your blogs, tweets, facebook and anywhere else. Please read and share 5 De-Stressing Tips for Cats.
Now…have you called your vet for an appointment? Ready–set–CALL!
Cold weather pet protection becomes more in winter weather. Here in North Texas we’re bracing for temps to drop. Wind chill makes it even more uncomfortable or even dangerous for our dogs and cats. Refer to these blizzard tips from the ASPCA for additional help.
Outside animals, like feral cats or stray dogs, suffer greatly from hypothermia or frostbite. House pets used to warm indoor temps need extra help, too. It seemed like a good time to remind everyone about cold weather pet protection.
COLD WINTER WEATHER PET PROTECTION
Here in Texas, the weather often stays HOT HOT HOT well into November and December. But not this year–it’s the end of December, and it’s become the coldest part of the year. For cats and dogs that will spend a lot of time outside during the cold winter months, it’s important to get ’em ready now.
It takes time for that winter coat to grow. And it’s not fair to the dog to expect him to “get hairy” overnight when the first frost freezes.
Thickly furred dogs like the Chow have more cold weather protection.
How do you get your dogs ready? Slow, incremental exposure to cold weather. That helps build up the pet’s adaptive ability, including fur growth. And if your pet has little furry protection, provide a warm sweater or coat for insulation.
Magical-Dawg always loved cold weather, and would stay out in the wind and wet if we’d let him. Karma-Kat, on the other paw, has a very good idea about how to stay comfy and already has the warmest spots staked out for snoozing in sunny puddles on the carpet. Or under the stained-glass lampshades.
Shadow-Pup also has some undercoat for insulation. But his short fur risks frostbite or worse, if exposed to wind and cold for more than ten minutes.
Magic adored snow!
COLD WEATHER PET PROTECTION FOR CATS
Feral cats and community cats (those who roam neighborhoods without one special family) don’t have that luxury. They need extra help. Frostbite can damage ears and toes, and hypothermia can kill. Many of the tips, below, work equally well to create safe outdoor spots for your dogs, too.
I wrote about keeping outdoor cats safe, and received lots of comments here and on Facebook. That discussion had more to do with choosing whether to allow cats outside. But what if you have strays that refuse to come inside, or a feral colony you care for?
My colleague Louise Holton of Alley Cat Rescue shared some PAW-some tips with our Cat Writers Association group and gave me permission to also share it here. What are some other ways to help keep kitty safe? Many of these also apply to keeping outside dogs winterized and safe. Here’s Louise’s suggestions.
Image Copr. Alley Cat Rescue; The lid of the storage bin forms the “ceiling” and the cat’s body warmth fills the small area to keep kitty protected.
OUTDOOR PET SHELTERS
A feeding station will help to keep food and water dry and will help with freezing weather. For Bedding you should use straw or a synthetic fleece material such as that used to make horse saddle covers. Blankets, sheets and towels retain moisture and remain damp and should not be used during winter.
If you cannot build a shelter, you can use any type of strong box or crate, or buy a dog “igloo” from your pet supply company (doors set off to the side protect from the wind). The styrofoam ice chests work great for cat shelters, with thick walls that provide some insulation. The ecoFlex Outdoor Feral Cat House (below) is another option.
Mylar insulation made of polyester and aluminum reflects radiant heat. It is used to keep houses cooler in summer and warmer in winter. it’s used in attics and is a perfect material to insulate outdoor cat shelters. You can also nest a smaller container (as above in the picture) in a larger one, and fill the spaces between with straw or even styrofoam peanuts.
9 TIPS FOR WINTERIZING FERAL CAT COLONIES & COMMUNITY CATS
You should insulate the shelter with thick plastic or other material such as Mylar mentioned above to keep out wind and cold.
You could buy a doghouse and modify it, blocking off part of the larger opening to make it smaller and therefore warmer inside for the cats.
Size should be approximately 3’ x 3 ’ and 2′ high.
Cats will cuddle together inside for warmth.
Build enough shelters so that around 6 cats can stay in each one.
Use straw for the bedding NOT HAY or blankets or towels.
It is safer to have 2 small openings for the cats to enter and be able to get away if danger presents itself. Put the openings on the side of the shelter that is protected from the wind. Two openings will give a chance at escape should a pesky raccoon, for instance, or any other animal try to enter the shelter.
Raise the shelter off the ground by placing it securely on bricks or on a wooden pallet. If left on the ground, it will retain moisture and will rot.
Clean shelters each spring and autumn by replacing the bedding with fresh straw.
FIRST AID FOR FROSTBITE
This is an AUDIO FILE ONLY, an excerpt from my audiobook THE FIRST-AID COMPANION FOR DOGS AND CATS, now available. I figured folks could sure use the tips now–so feel free to share this with anyone who needs the help. The advice comes from veterinary emergency experts.
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? NOTE:Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!
We adore our aging dogs and cats but often lament the fact that dogs and cats don’t live as long as we do. Sometimes, we get a ghostly visit from a dearly departed pet. But what about the reverse—what if your pets live longer than you do? Cats often live into their late teens or early twenties. Are there legal protections you can take in planning for when your cats outlive you? We loved dogs and cats dearly while alive, and must also care for them when we’re gone with proper plans. And yes, it can happen totally out of the blue.
The unthinkable happens, even to animal professionals. Back in 2014, in the same week, our pet community felt rocked by the tragic and sudden deaths of two heroes, animal behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin and Cat Writers Association president Dr. Lorie Huston. Dr. Yin left behind her beloved dog Jonesy, while my friend Lorie left six special needs rescue cats. CWA members networked to re-home Lorie’s cats. More recently, the Cat Writers’ Association again lost a beloved leader when president Paula Gregg passed away suddenly. She had time to make plans for her beloved Persian cats, Truffle and Brulee.
None of these wonderful pet lovers expected to have their pets outlive them. Do you have plans for your special pets? Here are tips for planning for when your pets outlive you.
What to Do If Your Cats or Dogs Outlive You
In the past, elderly readers have contacted me to ask about setting up care options for pets should they die before them. Although healthy and with every intention to stick around for the foreseeable future, people should prepare for the unexpected. But as we’ve seen, even younger people can have the worst happen.
Sadly, orphaned cats and dogs often end up in shelters. Cats get destroyed by the surviving family members, when nobody feels able or willing to care for the left-behind fur-kid. The adult dog or cat hasn’t a clue why she’s suddenly gone from a loving home and lap to a scary metal cage.
How to Prepare For Cats and Dogs After Your Death
What can caring owners do to prepare for the worst, if death, disability or age takes away a pet’s home? Will family and friends rally to find loving homes for all the orphaned animals?
Your family and friends, veterinarian contacts and church relationships may be eager and willing to offer a place for your pet should you die before them. Many of us share our lives (and pillows) with multiple cats or a few dogs. Do you have folks able or willing to take the whole furry crew? Maybe you have brother-dogs that would pine away if separated, or special needs cats that require extra medical care. Often, a simple promise among friends will be sufficient. Ideally, the animals already know and get along with the new owner—because missing you will be as tough for them as for your human family. If they don’t, make arrangements now to introduce them. While dogs may more easily take to strangers, cats typically take time to accept new people into their lives. You wouldn’t want to live with a stranger, and neither would your cats–so make sure they already know your friends or family.
In today’s changing world, though, good intentions and a promise made years before may go out the window should the person’s own situation change. For instance, maybe your friend has a new cat that won’t accept yours, or living arrangements/finances have changed. Maybe they’ve moved into a small apartment and can take one cat but not a large dog. For peace of mind, it’s best to make formal arrangements in your will and try to address every eventuality.
Legal Considerations Planning for When Your Pets Outlive You
Legal restrictions won’t allow a beloved pet to inherit from your estate because cats and dogs are themselves defined as property. But you certainly can set up trusts for the care of the pet, and name a specific person who will receive those funds so that they can take the critter into their care for the rest of its life. Once you find persons willing to take your cats and dogs, consult with an attorney about the proper paperwork necessary to make a legal and binding arrangement.
There also are “pet retirement homes” or “sanctuaries” that might take your pets. Organizations that give pets a home for life, though, have limited openings. A fee pays for the care that you set up in your will or other legal document.
Also ensure your neighbors know how many cats and dogs you have and how to contact emergency care givers. Carry a wallet “alert card” with this information and post “in case of emergency” notices on your doors or windows.
More Resources for Preparing for Your Pets’ Care
David Congalton and Charlotte Alexander wrote the book, “When Your Pet Outlives You.” It contains sample legal forms, names of pet law specialists, addresses of pet retirement homes and sanctuaries throughout the U.S., a report on all relevant state statutes, important court decisions affecting people and their pets, and precise details on how to set up a pet trust.
Once these emergency issues are in place, you’ll have peace of mind. That allows you to relax and enjoy making the most of the time you have with your special animal companions.
May you have many more loving years with your special companions. Meanwhile, I’m making my own emergency arrangements — just in case — for my Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat, while my heart breaks for all the furry wonders left behind.
Every year, I write about our old cat needs. While Karma-Kat has just reached middle age (and still acts like a kitten!), cats age at different rates. When do you consider your cat old? Is your old cat a senior kitty by age 8, or 13, or…when? For cats, what is old? Here are 8 reasons to consider adopting a senior citizen pet.
November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month. I have to admit, there’s something special about old cats. This post first appeared in 2012, and has been updated several times. Now that Seren-Kitty has gone to Rainbow Bridge, this post is in Seren’s honor and for all the golden oldie senior cats that rule our hearts (whether here or waiting for us at the Bridge.)
SEREN & OLD CATS
Seren went to the Bridge in December 2017, and would have celebrated her 22nd birthday on February 1st. I wanted to celebrate old cats and talk a bit about what is old age for cats. Some cats age more gracefully than others, and despite her longtime senior status, Seren continued to act like a youngster and keep Magical-Dawg and Karma-Kat in line, up nearly to the last week of her life. Now Karma-Kat has reached senior kitty status.
Siamese as a breed tend to live longer, and it’s not unusual for healthy cats to live into their late teens or even early twenties. Of course, Seren was a found kitten, and we’re not sure what her heritage was, but she continued to maintain clean teeth, good appetite, normal litter-ary habits, sound heart and no lumps or bumps. After her bout with the schneezles, and losing one canine (fang) tooth, she continued rockin’ and rollin’ like nothing could stop her. I thought she’d live forever. *sigh* If you have a senior kitty, here are some tips for helping to keep old pets comfortable during their golden years.
What is considered old for a cat? The question of what is old is complicated by the impact of genetics, environment, and individual characteristics. Consider human beings: one person may act, look and feel “old” at 65 while another 65-year-old remains an active athlete with a youthful attitude and appearance. The same is true for our cats.
“I think that actually varies a lot, and it’s getting older every year,” says Rhonda Schulman, DVM, an internist at the University of Illinois. “It used to be that eight was the major cutoff for the cat that was geriatric. Now we’re moving to the point that’s a prolonged middle age.” According to Guinness World Records, the oldest cat on record was Creme Puff owned by Jake Perry of Austin, Texas. Cream Puff was born August 3, 1967 and died August 6, 2005 at the age of 38 years and 3 days.
A good definition of old age for an animal is the last 25 percent of their lifespan, says Sarah K. Abood, DVM a clinical nutritionist at Michigan State University. However, since we can’t predict what an individual cat’s lifespan will be, the beginning of old age is a bit arbitrary. Certain families of cats may be longer lived than others, in the same way that some human families enjoy a much greater longevity than others. The lifespan of your cat’s parents and grandparents is a good predictor of how long you can expect your cat to live. People who share their lives with pedigreed cats may be able to access this information through the cat’s breeder.
PREDICTING LONGEVITY IN OLD CATS
Longevity of unknown heritage cats is much more difficult to predict. Even when felines are “part” Siamese or Persian, for example, these felines may inherit the very worst, or the very best, from the parents. The majority of pet cats are domestic shorthair or domestic longhair kitties of mixed ancestry, and the products of unplanned breeding. That by itself points to a poorer-than-average level of health for the parents, which in turn would be passed on to the kittens. Siblings within the same litter may have different fathers, and can vary greatly in looks, behavior, and health. When all is said and done, one should expect the random-bred cat-next-door kitty to be neither more nor less healthy than their pedigreed ancestors—as long as they all receive the same level of care and attention.
“If you get a kitten, it is very likely you will have this cat for the next 15 to 20 years,” says Dr. Abood. That means the last 25 percent would be 12 to 15 years. To simplify matters, most veterinarians consider cats to be “senior citizens” starting at about seven to eight years old, and geriatric at 14 to 15.
Here’s some perspective comparing cat age to human age. “The World Health Organization says that middle-aged folks are 45 to 59 years of age and elderly is 60 to 74. They considered aged as being over 75,” says Debbie Davenport, DVM, an internist with Hill’s Pet Foods. “If you look at cats of seven years of age as being senior, a parallel in human years would be about 51 years,” she says. A geriatric cat at 10 to 12 years of age would be equivalent to a 70-year-old human.
CHERISHING OLD SENIOR CATS
Veterinarians used to concentrate their efforts on caring for young animals. When pets began to develop age-related problems, the tendency among American owners was to just get another pet. That has changed, and today people cherish their aged furry companions and want to help them live as long as possible. Now there are many things you can do for common cat aging conditions.
Modern cats age seven and older can still live full, happy and healthy lives. Age is not a disease. Age is just age, says Sheila McCullough, DVM, an internist at University of Illinois. “There are a lot of things that come with age that can be managed successfully, or the progression delayed. Renal failure cats are classic examples.” It’s not unusual for cats suffering kidney failure to be diagnosed in their late teens or even early twenties.
“I had a woman with a 23-year-old cat who asked should she change the diet. I said, don’t mess with success!” says Dr. McCullough. These days veterinarians often see still-healthy and vital cats of a great age.
“I think if the cat lives to 25 years, I shouldn’t be doing anything but saying hello,” says Steven L. Marks, BVSc, an internist and surgeon at Louisiana State University (now at North Carolina State University). “If you’ve ever had a pet live that long, you want them all to live that long.”
What about your senior cats? Does he or she act like a senior? What age did you notice a change, if any?
Seren’s aging changes meant her dark Siamese mask turned gray, with white hairs surrounding her eyes. Arthritis made it hard for her to leap as before. Her claws thickened so she could no longer retract them, and she “clicked” while she walked on hard surfaces–I kept them trimmed for her. In her last four months, she needed extra potty spots as she couldn’t quite anticipate getting to the right place on time. But I’ll forever be grateful for the nearly 22 years we shared together.
Today is WORLD CAT DAY (aka International Cat Day) and it’s the purr-fect time to celebrate our cat love. Maybe you wonder “why does my cat … ” do all sorts of things, or “how do I make my cat love me?” Here are my top 6 ideas how to love your cat every day of the year, so your cat loves you back–not just on World Cat Day.
WHY CAT LOVE MEANS WORLD CAT DAY
Cats are great actors and try to convince pet parents they’re already purr-fectly healthy and happy. With cats, it’s Valentine’s Day every day and a good time to think “outside the litter box” and find special ways to love your cat.
It’s fun to celebrate World Cat Day with special treats and bonus snuggles. It’s even more important to show cat love every day of the year, and your cat won’t care if it costs fifty million dollars or fifty cents. In fact, fifty minutes spent with Kitty probably makes him think he won the cat lottery!
TOP 6 WAYS HOW TO LOVE YOUR CAT
Give Comfort. Cat comfort is an important issue for you cat love. Every cat is an individual, so while one cat wants to swing from the drapes and meet new people, strangers could be a horror movie for other cats. A lot of that has to do with your cat’s socialization and parentage. Cat love means we accept each cat as an individual and adjust expectations to each special cat. Here are six ways you can share cat love and increase your cat’s purrs.
Schedule Play to Love Your Cat
Not every cat enjoys play and mostly the youngsters under a year go nuts for interactive play. Cat teasers like fishing pole lures offer a great aerobic workout for cats. It gets them off their tubby tails to help slim them down. Play increases the bond you share with your cat and can boost the confidence of shy felines and burn off the energy of bully cats that pick on others. Cats play in short bursts so schedule 10 minutes a couple times a day to play with your cats. Learn more about cat play here.
Your fur kids are more interested in playtime and fun activities, and these do help keep kitties both emotionally healthy and happy. Figure out what makes your cat purr delight. Depending on the cat, the emotional connection with their pet parents is top of the list. That’s not to say that all cats are cuddle-bugs or touchy-feely felines. For some cats, simply spending time in the same room and gazing with adoration is the ultimate in cat love.
Create Cat Love Entertainment
You wouldn’t think cats get bored but they evolved as hunting machines. Sleeping all day stores up enormous energy and indoor cats look for entertainment outlets. Set up bird houses and bird baths near windows for your cat’s viewing pleasure, as a sort of “kitty TV.”
Love Cats with Hiding Ops
Cats love hiding spots. You can offer an empty box or shopping bag to satisfy many cats. Cat tunnels work great in multiple pet households to reduce feline stress, too. Cats don’t like other pets to stare at them, so a cat tunnel lets kitty travel “under the radar” to reach important locations such as the litter box. Cat tunnels can reduce the hissy behavior between cats since they don’t have to face each other.
Cats scratch to exercise, mark territory and relieve stress. Offering your cat legal scratching outlets makes her happy and keeps her physically healthy as well. Some cats won’t want to share their favorite scratch post so be sure you have at least one for each kitty.
Cats Love Cat Naps–Offer A Snuggly Bed
Cozy fuzzy beds make cats purr with delight. Set a bed under a lamp and you’ll be your feline’s favorite buddy ever! Older cats especially appreciate soft spots to lounge, especially since cats spend up to 16 hours a day napping.
Love Kittens with Understanding
I’m sure you’re already a savvy kitty “parent” but purr-haps you know someone who’d like extra help. You can also get COMPLETE KITTEN CARE for free in an Audible trial by clicking this link.
How do you love your cat? Are there special toys or activities that your felines particularly enjoy? Do tell!
In the past I’ve blogged about cold weather dangers for pets and this past week North Texas has enjoyed some sunny, warm days. But in other parts of the country–yet another blizzard threatens.
Bizzard tips for pets help you prepare and keep cats and dogs safe during the worst weather. Thank you to the ASPCA for sending this important and insightful infographic designed to keep your dogs and cats safe!
For the love of doG, bring your outdoor pets INSIDE!
COLD WEATHER ISSUES FOR PETS
When cold weather descends, it impacts more than the shiver reflex. Last week the blog covered what constitutes old age in cats, and in fact our senior citizen dogs are most susceptible to cold temps.
Old dogs get less cold tolerant as they age, because they lose muscle and fat mass that insulates, increases their metabolism, and keeps them warm. Aging skin and fur also tends to get thinner. Little dogs have less body mass to generate natural heat, too, and often benefit from a doggy sweater especially when they must do outdoor bathroom duty.
Warm sweaters help keep lightly-furred dogs warm. You can find an assortment of sweaters at pet products stores (I wouldn’t recommend hats!). This Frisco cable knit sweater (for dogs OR for cats) comes in multiple sizes.
Pets stay warm by burning fuel—the food they eat. They need more calories to generate increased body warmth, too, especially if they’re outside pets and can’t rely on your warm lap. You can feed adult dogs a puppy food which increases the calories—or feed a “performance” diet. Just remember to switch back to a maintenance diet in the spring or you risk adding pounds and can end up with a fat Fido. When the temperature drops overnight, people pull on sweaters. Dogs don’t have the benefit of pulling something out of the closet to wear.
Shadow’s ready for cold weather! The Ruffwear Quinzee Jacket comes in four colors. Easy on with click-release side buckles, an elastic gusset for better sizing, and leash/harness opening in the back.
5 Blizzard Tips from the ASPCA to Save Your Pets Life!
Do your cats sleep under the bed? Cats sleep a lot, often in unusual places. In fact, kitties sleep two-thirds-of their life away, up to 16 hours each day. That’s more than any other mammal, except for the opossum and some bats.
We don’t know why cats sleep so much. We theorize that predators with few natural enemies (like cats) sleep for longer periods of time. Some experts believe a cat’s need for sleep increases in direct proportion to the amount of energy kitty requires for hunting. Cat hunting behavior requires a lot of energy.
“You can’t see me!” Image copr. Amy Shojai, CABC
How Cats Sleep
While humans sleep in marathon eight-hour (or longer) sessions, cat sleep combines short and long naps throughout the day. Habits vary between cats but very old and very young kittens sleep more than robust adults. Sleep time increases on cold, rainy or cloudy days.
Two patterns of brain activity characterized the sleep activity of cats, like that of people and many other mammals. Scientists measured this activity with an electroencephalograph (EEG) that records waves or pulses of activity on a graph.
Kitty brains broadcast little bunched-together irregular peaks while awake. But when dozing, the cat’s brain produces long, irregular waves called slow-wave sleep and lasts fifteen to thirty minutes. He lies with his head raised and paws tucked beneath him as he dozes. Sometimes he actually sleeps sitting up, in which case his muscles stiffen to hold him upright. This way he’s ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.
Karma finds weird positions for his cat sleeping.
Cat Sleep Positions
You’ll know when kitty moves from light into deep sleep: his body relaxes; he stretches out and rolls to one side. His brain patterns change and become smaller and closer together, and are very similar to his waking patterns.
During deep sleep (also called “rapid sleep” because of the quick brain wave movement) cats remain fully relaxed and hard to awaken. This phase only lasts about five minutes, and the cat then returns to slow-wave sleep. Thereafter, rapid- and slow-wave sleep alternates until he finally wakes up.
Interestingly, kittens fall directly into deep rapid sleep without this alternating pattern until they’re about a month old. Cat dreams are born during rapid sleep–twitching whiskers and paws chase dream mice, perhaps.
I’m Awake! Sorta-Kinda-In-A-Way…
The cat’s senses continue to record sounds and scents during up to 70 percent of sleep. That means cats awaken quickly at the squeak of a mouse or smell of a rat. A predictable pattern of blinking, yawning and stretching characterizes slower awakening. First the forelegs, then back, and finally rear legs flex and stretch in turn. Most cats also groom themselves briefly upon first awakening.
Cats are crepuscular creatures, and most active at daybreak and sundown. But they typically adapt to the humans they love, sleeping on the owner’s schedule. So they sleep when you are gone and spend more awake time when you are home.
Why Cats Sleep On You
…Because they can! For many of us, cats that sleep ON the bed with us…and on the pillow, on your head, on your chest, and pretty much in any position they want. Sleeping with us shows incredible trust and love. But today’s Ask Amy addresses those felines that prefer the company of dust bunnies to humans. What’s up with that?
Do your cats have weird sleeping spots? What’s the oddest place your cat likes to nap? Seren-Kitty used to cuddled up in her blue bed on the table beneath the stained glass lampshade. In her youth Seren hung out on damp towels on the tile tub surround in the bathroom. Karma-Kat stretches out on the carpet in the middle of the room and sleeps on his back. At night, he sleeps in the crook behind my knees. Oh, and do your kitties argue over prime sleep spots? And what about pet insomnia? Oy, it never ends!
Kitten litter box training tops the list for frequently asked questions from new kitten owners. Planning ahead can save cat lovers lots of heartache by preventing litter box problems before they happen with kitten potty training..
Whenever new kittens come to your home, it’s important to figure out what they know, plus help them learn the new rules of the house. When you have other cats (after proper cat introductions, of course!) the older felines can help teach the youngsters the rules. How to train cats to the litter box usually comes naturally, but these tips can help with potty training your cat.
How to Potty Train Cats with Kitten Litter Box Training
Congratulations on your new kitten adoption! Most cats come pre-programmed to use the potty but you’ll need help if the baby is very young. Felines are great imitators and simply “copy cat” their mother’s behavior when they watch and follow her to the litter box. Most kittens and cats will already know what a litter box is for and how to use it by the time you adopt them.
But if you hand-raise an orphan or adopt a kitten younger than 8 to 10 weeks, you’ll need to do the job of the mother cat. Transitioning outdoor cats to an indoor lifestyle also may mean re-training bathroom etiquette from “going” among the flowers to aiming for the litter box. Check out the Ask Amy video below, and you’ll find more of the basics here.
Kitten Litter Box Training Preparation
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! Felines are naturally clean creatures and dislike eliminating where they sleep or eat. They also appreciate privacy when (ahem) doing their duty. Build allegiance to the litter box by positioning it correctly, in a low-traffic area away from the cat’s bed and food bowls. Also remember that kittens may not have the physical capacity to “hold it” long enough to run clear across the house or down the stairs. Provide a box on each end of the house, or one per floor.
SIZE MATTERS. A regular size box may be too large for new kittens to climb in and out. A disposable cookie sheet works until he’s bigger. Average size adult cats do well with standard commercial litter pans, but jumbo-size cats (Maine Coon kitties come to mind!) may need larger toilets or risk hanging over the sides when they pose. Translucent plastic storage bins with a cat-size hole cut in one side may be ideal.
FILLER ‘ER UP WITH…WHAT? A variety of cat box fillers are available, from plain clay to pine pellets and recycled wheat or corn crumbles. The ideal material absorbs moisture, contains waste and odor, and most important of all, suits the cat. Fine textures such as the “clumping” clay litters seem to be the feline favorite. Fill the box an inch or so deep with the filler. Learn about the history of litter here.
If you’re transitioning an outdoor cat to an indoor box, do a bit of research and follow him to find out his preferred substrate. Changing litter too fast can prompt hit or miss potty behavior. Dusting a bit of plain garden dirt, or a layer of grass or leaves over top of the commercial litter may help give him the idea of what you have in mind. Give your cat what he wants and kitten litter box training will be a breeze! And if you already have other pets, you may want to invest in a pet gate or pet door to control the space in your house.
Kitten Litter Box Training: How to Potty Train Cats
Get all the MUST KNOWS for your new kitten in the book!
Kittens and cats new to your home won’t know where the box is, even if they know what it’s for. Place the kitty on top of the clean litter and scratch around with your fingers to prompt imitation. Even if the cat doesn’t need to “go,” a pristine box often tempts them to dig a bit, which may lead to the first deposit.
When he’s creative in the box, reward your cat with verbal praise, a toy, or even a tasty treat reserved only for training. Don’t pick your new kitty up out of the box. Let him make his own way out of the box and the room, so he’ll better remember how to get back there the next time nature calls.
For tiny kittens, leave one recent deposit in the box after he’s been productive. The scent is a reminder of where the box is, and what he’s supposed to do once he’s there. But remember to keep the box clean or the cat will avoid the dirty toilet and find a better spot—such as under your bed.
Until you’re sure the kitty consistently uses the box, make a point of scheduling potty times. Kittens need to eliminate more frequently than adults do. Take the baby for a pit stop after each nap, meal, and play period. Playtime is fun for kittens–and you! Learn more about how pets play here.
Teaching basic bathroom allegiance from the beginning ensures your kitten gets off on the right paw—and saves your carpet. You’ll find even more of kitten “must knows” in the book Complete Kitten Care. Have you ever had problems training kittens to “go” in the right spot? How did you manage?
Are your pets safe from appliances? Stoves and ovens, dishwashers, clothes dryers, garbage disposals and other appliances are convenient for us but can prove deadly to cats and dogs. While the photos in today’s blog make us smile, the “what if” makes me shiver, because I know they represent tragedy waiting to happen.
Bravo-Dawg does his best to “pre-wash” the dishes, like the puppy in the picture, below. But any small pet could potentially climb inside when you’re distracted. And that could be lethal.
FOOD & SMELL. Do you give your pets the chance at a “first rinse” before putting dirty dishes in the washer? (raising hand…GUILTY). Just licking off or pawing food-smeared utensils can cut tongues or paws. A tiny pup or kitty could crawl inside after yummies, and be seriously injured or die when the machine turns on.
HEIGHT. Do your cats countertop cruise? A couple of things draw the kitty to scale the heights. Available food, yummy smells, and a GREAT perch lookout.
WARMTH. Stoves, ovens, and clothes dryers draw cats, especially to the warmth. Yep, it can make for some LOL Funny Cat moments, but not if the cat or dog ends up with burned feet or worse.
HIDEY-HOLES. Pets seem drawn to small enclosed spaces for naps or ambushes. Paw-poking into holes is a cat rule, while dogs enjoy nosing into tight spots as well.
Sprout apparently hasn’t had enough coffee! Image Copr Kim Smith/Flickr Commons
Funny–NOT Funny! Keep Pets Safe From Appliances
When I edited one of the stories in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul, it made me turn green–and we had to preface the story with the note that “it’s a happy ending!” or folks likely wouldn’t have wanted to read it. The cat in that story went head-first into the garbage disposal after fishy leavings and got his head stuck. They had to remove the entire sink and take it to the vet clinic for the cat to be sedated, oiled up, and extricated. Funny story when it’s a happy ending. I’ve caught Karma-Kat sticking his paw down into the garbage disposal, too, yikes!
Sadly, not all funny stories end so well.
As far as I know, Audley’s adventure in the tumble dryer turned out fine. Image Copr. RaGeBe/Flickr
Cats And Dryers
My friend Mary McCauley sent me a message last week that broke my heart. This post is for Mary and her kitty friend, Boo:
“Amy, a few weeks ago our beautiful young cat had climbed into the dryer. My son turned it on. I heard a loud thumping and thought the washing machine was out of balance. I found Boo in the dryer. Blood was coming out of her mouth. She was convulsing. I ran up the stairs to get my keys, but she died in my arm. I tried rescue breathing and cardiac resuscitation with two fingers, but she was gone. I cried for two days. Please warn your readers about this danger. My son felt so guilty for a few weeks.”
Accidents happen, and our pets can get into trouble in the flick of a whisker. Cats are furry heat-seeking missiles and I have no doubt that Karma-Kat would do the same thing, given the opportunity. Even Bravo loves to dive into the pile of fresh-from-the-dryer clean clothes dumped onto my bed for folding. A ride inside the dryer could cause not only head and body injuries but also heatstroke.
Pets In Freezers? Oh no!
A day after I got Mary’s message, my husband called me into the kitchen to shoot this photo (below) of Karma-Kat. He’s a door dasher and often sprints into the pantry to gnaw through the dog food container–but the frig fail was new.
Karma is big enough, the chance of shutting him inside the frig is small–but it could happen. Left overnight in the refrigerator–or worse, inside the freezer!–could quickly result in hypothermia and death. I’m just hoping he doesn’t learn to open the frig himself. I know of one owner who resorted to a bungee cord around the frig to keep her cats out of the goodies.
Pet Proofing Appliances
So what’s a responsible pet parent to do? Pet proofing your home is job one, especially when you have a clueless puppy or kitten. But it doesn’t stop when the cat or dog grows up. Pets are endlessly curious and always find new ways to get into trouble and push our buttons. Here are a few suggestions for keeping your pets safe around modern conveniences.
Baby gates keep pets away from danger zones. I lock the fur-kids out of the kitchen when cooking and clearing up, to prevent paw burns on stovetops or me spilling something hot on them when they wind around my feet.
Double-check washing machines and clothes dryers before hitting the “start” button. If your pet is inside, don’t pull them out immediately. Instead, BANG-BANG-BANG on the top to make a horrendous scary racket and watch them rocket out. Most pets won’t get near that scary thing ever again.
If you have hard-case pets, make a sign to stick on doors of appliances to remind kids, spouses, and guests to CHECK FOR CAT. That’ll be a fun conversation starter, too. 🙂
Invest in stovetop covers to protect kitty feet. One of the best ways to keep pets from cruising counters and stoves is to give them a cat tree that’s higher than the counters. Make the stovetop uncomfortable by spreading aluminum foil across the top, for instance.
Have you ever caught your dog or cat up close and personal with one of your appliances? How did you handle the situation, and prevent future problems? Do tell!
And please–if you love your cats and dogs as much as Mary loved Boo–share this warning far and wide and tell folks it’s in memory of a special Boo-kitty.
Pomeranians may develop hairballs, too. Image Copr. RickieB20/Flickr
Dog Hairball Prevention, Not Just For Cats!
Hairballs are the bane of cat owners but hairballs can also affect dogs. Yes, dogs can get hairballs, too! How many of y’all have discovered Fluffy’s “gift” by walking barefoot late at night? That cigar-shaped slick nasty “squish” disgusts pet owners, and though it’s quite common for cats to urk up the occasional hairball–it is NOT normal. Dog hairballs happen, too.
This Friday is National Hairball Awareness Day, and Dr. Jane Brunt of the Catalyst Council offers some good advice. “The cat has developed a digestive tract that, when it is healthy and working correctly, can handle normal amounts of fur without problem. Even long haired cats should not develop more than one or two hairballs a year,” says Dr. Brunt. “There have been a lot of recent scientific studies about vomiting in cats and that it may be an indication of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which can progress to cancer.”
Persians potentially have more coat to choke on…but even the shorthair beauties can develop hairballs. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC
Why Pets Get Hairballs
Cats groom themselves, of course, by lick-lick-licking and subsequently swallowing some of the fur. When shedding takes place, there’s more fur to swallow. When it doesn’t make its way out the normal method and end up in the litter box, fur collects inside the cat and causes irritation and sometimes constipation and blockage. The lucky cats get rid of the mass (technically called a bezoar). It’s more than a nasty nuisance, so as Dr. Jane Brunt says, get your cat checked if your kitty’s “urking” more than normal.
This time of year, dogs also “blow coat” and end up shedding great wads of fuzz. Learn more about shedding here. With heavy coated dogs like German Shepherds, Pomeranians, Chows and others, you’ll likely notice drifts of fur or hunks tugged out by nibbling teeth, and sometimes hotspots develop. It must be itchy, too, because dogs amp up the self-grooming through scratching and nibbling. While big dogs don’t typically hark up hairballs, smaller pooches with thick coats—like Pomeranians—can develop hairballs. Your dog may sound like he has a hairball when he chokes and hacks. He may vomit them up or become constipated or even blocked.
So what can you do? With either dogs or cats, good grooming strips away the loose fur as it’s shed. That prevents it being swallowed, developing into painful mats, and helps keep your carpet (relatively) fur free. My fav grooming tool for both cats and dogs is the Furminator. Karma-Kat loves getting combed with this, and Shadow-Pup with his thicker coat can lose half his body mass with one session! (Not really, but it does look like that…)
It’s here! My dog viewpoint thriller HIDE AND SEEK “officially” releases–and those who subscribe to my PET PEEVES newsletter got this info last week (yes, there’s perks to subscribing *s*) but I couldn’t hold in the SNOOPY-DANCE-‘O-JOY! any longer. This is the SEQUEL to my first thriller, and brings back the characters you love plus some new ones.
There’s still dog-viewpoint (yay, Shadow!) and now more cat-centric stuff too (go, Macy!). I hope you’ll enjoy the book, post reviews, and recommend to your pet-loving, thrill-seeking friends.
My deepest gratitude to those who reviewed ARCs for advance looks and reviews. Y’all make my virtual tail wag and purrs a-rumble. And without further delay, behold the latest thriller.
A mysterious contagion will shatter countless lives unless a service dog and his trainer find a missing cat . . . in 24 hours.
A STALKER hides in plain sight. A VICTIM faces her worst fear. AND A DOG seeks the missing—and finds hope.
Eight years ago, animal behaviorist September Day escaped a sadistic captor who left her ashamed, terrified, and struggling with PTSD. She trusts no one—except her cat Macy and service dog Shadow.
Shadow also struggles with trust. A German Shepherd autism service dog who rescued his child partner only to lose his-boy forever, Shadow’s crippling fear of abandonment shakes his faith in humans.
They are each others’ only chance to survive the stalker’s vicious payback, but have only 24 hours to uncover the truth about Macy’s mysterious illness or pay the deadly consequences. When September learns to trust again, and a good-dog takes a chance on love, together they find hope in the midst of despair–and discover what family really means.
“HIDE AND SEEK proves Shojai’s masterful skill at blending ripped-from-the-headlines urgency with an emotional story of real characters in escalating dangers. Add in revelatory dose of animal psychology and behavior, and you have a thriller that had me turning pages deep into the night. Here is a novel written with authority and with a deft brilliance that any lover of animals or nerve-jangling thrillers will cherish.” —James Rollins, New York Times bestseller of “The Eye of God”
“Recommended for anyone who likes a ‘bite-your-nails hold-your-breath’ kind of thriller.” —Dr. Lorie Huston, Cat Writers’ Association President
“Featuring a young animal behaviorist struggling to regain her bearings after a shocking betrayal, a reality TV show gone horribly wrong, and a series of murders and disappearances seemingly related to an unthinkable cause, HIDE AND SEEK is a mystery/thriller you won’t be able to put down!”
—Alan Leverone, best-selling thriller author of “Mr. Midnight” and “The Lonely Mile”
An autism cure will kill millions unless a service dog and his trainer
find a missing child . . . in 24 hours.
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. 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, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my THRILLERS WITH BITE!
We love it when our happy dogs wag-wag-wag with joy. Dogs talk with their tails, but too much wagging can result in dog tail injury. Tail talk expresses emotion and communicates so much, but what do you do when wags hurt? Labradors are notorious for dog tail injury. Here’s how to deal with tail wag trauma.
Dog Tail Injury: Why Tail Trauma Happens
That tail is one of the most expressive parts of the dog–or cat–body. It’s not unusual for a friendly flail to clear tabletops. But what can you do when the wagging wacks walls, and there’s trauma to twining tail tips? (say THAT fast five times!)
Big dogs like Labradors are so happy—and so large—that happy wagging bangs the tail tip bloody. Pet tails can also be shut in doors, stepped on, or otherwise hurt. Once dog tail injury happens, tails are very prone to re-injury and can stay sore and battered.
The condition isn’t a medical emergency but is painful for the dog or cat. It can also be messy when the injured tail splatters blood around the room. With chronic tail wag trauma, medical attention is needed to speed the healing, but home care also works well.
HOME FIRST AID FOR DOG TAIL INJURY
Benadryl has a sedative effect and is very safe. You can give one milligram for every pound the pet weighs to temporarily slow the wagging. That can help keep your dog tail injury from becoming worse, and give it a chance to heal.
Hair not only hides the wound, it also collects bacteria and holds blood like a paintbrush. When the tail is very furry, carefully clip away the hair with blunt scissors. Electric clippers are a safer choice for fur removal.
Usually infection isn’t a problem, but it’s still best to quickly clean up the tail. The simplest and most effective technique is to dip the tail in a pan of cold water for several minutes. That rinses off the wound, helps stop the bleeding and reduces inflammation. Then gently pat the tail dry with a clean cloth.
If the dog or cat won’t allow tail dipping, apply an ice cube to the area to numb the pain and reduce swelling. The damage prompts the body to release chemicals called histamines that cause swelling and inflammation. Inflammation can break down the cells and cause permanent damage. Ice stops the process. Once the injury is clean and dry, apply a thin film of antibacterial ointment like Neosporin to help prevent infection.
HOW TO BANDAGE A DOG TAIL INJURY
Bandage the tail to contain the bleeding (and protect your furniture), and pad the injury to keep your pet from re-injuring the sore spot. Learn more about pet first aid in the book, The First Aid Companion for Dogs Cats.
Cat’s tails are particularly difficult to bandage, but for dogs, pull a clean cotton tube sock over the end of the tail. It should be long enough to cover two-thirds of the length of the tail itself. Then wrap tape over the sock, beginning at the tip of the tail and working toward the body, in a diagonal crisscross pattern. Be sure to run the tape two inches beyond the cuff of the sock and directly onto the fur. Finally, run the tape back down from the body to the tail tip, again in a diagonal pattern, which makes it difficult for the dog to pull off. This bandage technique (and others) are illustrated and described in pet first aid books.
Change bandages at least every three days, or oftener if it gets wet or dirty. Apply Neosporin to the area with each bandage change. If the veterinarian recommends you leave the tail uncovered, apply the ointment two to four times a day since dogs and cats tend to lick it off. Some pets may need a prescription tranquilizer to calm tail movement until it can heal. Antibiotics may also be needed. Check with your vet to be sure any medication doesn’t cause diarrhea or other issues.
A collar restraint also can keep him from chewing, licking or pulling at the bandage or tail injury. Or smear Vicks Vapor Rub on the bandage—the menthol odor repels most pets and keeps tongue and teeth at bay.
Some injuries require that the damaged tail tip amputated. If that happens, fur tends to grow over the end and hides the loss. Your pet will never miss the, er, missing link.
Make some changes in the pet’s environment to avoid a repeat of the tail trauma. Bigger dogs need larger areas where they can swing their tails without banging walls, or clearing off the coffee table.
Has your dog (or cat) ever suffered a tail injury? How did it happen? What treatment was required? Do tell!
Yes, the day has come. I am delighted at the outpouring of interest in naming cats who appear in my forthcoming thriller LOST AND FOUND. There were 39 total suggestions for feline character names, me-WOW! I ended up choosing four or five of my favorites from your suggestions and then drawing the remainder out of a fish bowl. Two feline characters will be named based on your votes. (Check out the Woof Wednesday for the doggy poll picks!).
The winner’s names and why they chose their selection will also be included in the book, and winners will receive an advance copy of the book.
Just who ARE these kitty characters?
A sable and white Maine Coon “clicker trained” kitty is devoted to the main character, September. He is instrumental in saving September’s life and capturing the bad guy at the climax of the book.
A senior citizen domestic (no particular breed) kitty who comforts a family when his/her human becomes a victim of the bad guys–now that’s heroic, right?
Does your cat’s name embody the essence of these kitty characters? Love, devotion, fearlessness, smart as only a cat can be? Looks don’t matter, neither does breed or age or even sex–everyone knows that all cats are heroes at heart when they snuggle with us or bring smiles to our faces when we are at our lowest, so make your choice and follow your heart!
The poll below allows you to choose THREE (3) of your favorites. You can come back and vote again as many times as you’d like–and I hope you’ll encourage family and friends to champion your kitty cause and also vote.
DEADLINE MONDAY AUGUST 30TH!
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 PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Don’t forget to vote for your NAME THAT DOG/CAT character choice in the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!