What A Pain! Understanding Pet Pain & What to Do When Pets Hurt

We know pain hurts, but pain in pets and treating pet pain when pets hurt confuses us. They can’t tell us they feel pain, or where it hurts. Not like humans.

Because I get to work at home, there are certain perks I enjoy–such as going barefoot to work. But one afternoon last fall I moved too fast and kicked the whey outta my big toe. This wasn’t just a stubbed toe, either—it lifted and peeled the nail back to the quick, bled everywhere and hurt like the devil! Yes, I said a few choice words as I hobbled down the stairs from my office (trying not to leave a bloody trail) to get bandage material. Ooooooh, that puppy throbbed and made me whimper and howl, let me tell you.

shepherds prone to hot spots

Magic was always ready for a treat!

Pet Pain Matters, Too

I understand how Magical-Dawg felt several years ago. After a run in the field playing fetch, he started shivering when he came inside. The ninety-degree weather argued that he was not chilled. I checked him head-to-tail, and found nothing wrong. But later in the week, he again started shivering, and even growled at me when I asked him to move—very uncharacteristic.

FCC noticeFinally, after several days and two vet visits, we figured out his problem. He’d torn a dewclaw back to the quick. it hadn’t come off, so the injury remained hidden. Seren-kitty had this happen once, too, when her claw caught on bedding as she leaped from the pillow. She hid. But Magic’s short temper, shivers, and hyper-alert behavior resulted from being in pain.

I recently attended an online conference co-sponsored by Fear Free Pets and the San Francisco SPCA (you can still register/view the on-demand sessions). A session led by Dr. Ralph Harvey titled The Behaviors of Pain: Assessment, Scoring, and the Impacts of Animal Pain, offered information important for practitioners and pet parents to know.

Dr. Harvey noted that the gold standard for assessing human pain is self reporting. We’re asked, how bad is your pain on a scale of one-to-ten? Animals can’t do that, so veterinarians need to determine discomfort in other ways.

dog painSIGNS OF PAIN IN DOGS & CATS

The onset of pain can be sudden (acute) or chronic (ongoing). Pet parents may not notice discomfort when it progresses. You might attribute your dogs’ behavior changes to old age. Today, veterinarians consider the presence (or absence) of pain as a vital sign, and keep track of it. Pet parents can (and should!) do the same. Watch for changes in:

  • Temperament
  • Vocalization
  • Posture
  • Locomotion (movement)
  • Severe and dramatic behavior changes

What does that mean? Dogs in pain might whimper, whine, cry, or yelp when touched. They may hold up an injured leg, limp, hunch their backs, and beg for attention. Friendly pets shun attention or hide, while shy animals become more demanding. Feline pain symptoms look like fearful behavior, with the cat staying still and quiet, or trembling. Cats often hide; when you touch them they nail you. In addition, pain increases arterial blood pressure and heart rate, increases stress, and affects neurological activity.

PET PAIN BEHAVIORS

Pets in pain display a suite of signs. Dog pain signs include any one or combination of the following.

  • Hunched or prayer position
  • Glazed facial expression
  • Attention-seeking and whining (the bond with you may influence that)
  • Licking the painful area
  • Usually won’t hide the painful body part
  • Appetite rarely affected

Cats are not small dogs, and display their own pain signs:

  • Poor or lack of grooming
  • Hissing or aggression upon manipulation of painful part
  • Hide the painful part to look “normal”
  • Dissociation from environment
  • Vocalization is RARE as a sign of pain
  • Isolation or hiding
  • Hit or miss litter box issues
  • Pain faces—Feline Grimace Scale

If you love cats but haven’t heard of The Feline Grimace Scale you MUST check it out and become familiar with this. Dogs have very expressive faces–cats not so much. So providing pictures for comparison helps enormously when trying to figure out if (and how much) discomfort cats feel. You can download the fact sheet (below) plus a four-page detailed training help at https://www.felinegrimacescale.com/

cat pain feline grimace scale

Pain Varies from Pet to Pet

Pain tolerances vary from pet to pet just as in people. A one-size-fits-all program won’t work. Experts say there is a five-fold variation in pain tolerance for the same surgical procedure in humans. So if a condition would be painful in a person, assume it’s also painful in your pet.

Dang, I had no idea! My toe-throb injury kept me awake the first night despite multiple doses of Advil, and only subsided to a dull roar three days later. I waited a week before I got up the courage to look under the BandAid…Ew. Not pretty. I retired my sparkly sandals early and hoped socks and bandages would keep the loose nail from tearing away. About six weeks later, the dead nail lifted off. I said “ouch” many-several-times. And increased the dose of Advil.

cat painWhat Is Pain? The Technical Version…

How does pain work? Damaged tissue releases chemicals that sensitize nerve endings. Aggravated nerves send pain signals up the spinal cord to the brain. The brain recognizes the sensation and shouts, “Dang, that smarts!” and triggers a protective reflex. This “learned avoidance” teaches Kitty to pull back her nose from the candle flame, for instance, and urges Poochie to hold up his hurt paw so it heals.

Not all pain is severe or sudden, or requires pain drugs. For instance, antibiotics relieve pain by curing a sore throat. Heat lamps relieve chronic arthritis pain. Water is a natural anesthetic for your pet’s burning skin allergy pain.

Extreme pain, though, causes a more complicated natural response that depresses immune function, interferes with blood clotting and wound healing, and negatively affects the cardiovascular system. Extreme pain can also permanently rewire neural pathways to create a “pain memory” that keeps pets feeling pain long after the injury has healed. It’s as if the normal highway nerve impulse travels must repeatedly “detour” from the safe path and instead leap off the same painful cliff.

How to Treat Dog Pain and Ways to Relieve Cat Pain

But pets require specific dosages and metabolize drugs differently than people—human pain medicines may be dangerous to pets. For example, dogs can develop ulcers from human-type aspirin products. Cats can DIE if given people- or dog-specific pain medicines. Pain control options from your veterinarian are always the best and safest choice for cats and dogs.

Narcotic pain relievers for severe pain, such as morphine, codeine and Demerol, are available only by prescription. Veterinarians can compound some medicines into peanut butter or fish paste so your pet willingly accepts it. After surgery, drains can deliver continued pain relief into the chest and abdominal cavity, the joint, or even into the bloodstream. Chemotherapy and radiation relieves certain kinds of cancer pain. A “pain patch” delivers an opioid drug transdermally (through the skin). After we had to amputate Bravo-Dawg’s leg due to bone cancer, pain medication kept him comfortable. In most cases, your veterinarian prescribes the drugs for your pet. Once approved by the doctor, you can order them at online sources such as Chewy.

There are quite a few products for chronic arthritis pain in dogs. Not so much for cats. However, recently the FDA approved injectable Solensia (frunevetmab) specifically for cat arthritis pain. It’s the first monoclonal antibody drug approved for animals. Hurray for cats! If you have a senior feline friend, chances are the cat could benefit from arthritis pain relief. Ask your vet if this treatment is right for your cat.

Ask For Pain Relief–Advocate for Your Pets!

Depending on the condition being treated, pain medication may—or may not—be included. Ask your veterinarian about pain policies and procedures, and if there might be an extra cost or if it’s part of the fee. Any time your pet has a sudden change in behavior, please have him checked by the doctor. Treating a health issue that prompts behavior change usually solves the problem.

Some animal hospitals cut costs by eliminating pain medicine. Be aware that while anesthetics and tranquilizers keep pets asleep during a treatment, they do not relieve pain once your pet wakes up. If your veterinarian doesn’t mention it, ask about pain relief options for your cat and dog.

Over the Counter Pain Pills for Pets?

Yes, there are OTC pain treatment options for pets. Since every dog and cat needs different things, always run things by your veterinarian first.

CBD products offer a popular and effective way to address chronic pain for such things as arthritis. I recently learned about products from ElleVet, available only from veterinarians or direct from their store (click the link, below). Cornell University has clinically tested these for dose effectiveness. Even better, one product ElleVet’s Feline Complete Paste has been developed specifically for cats, in a chicken liver flavored paste that cats love. It’s suggested for joint discomfort, stress, and neuro support.

What About Magical-Dawg (and my) Toes?

We took Magic to get his boo-boo fixed. The veterinarian sedated him, clipped off the torn nail, bandaged his paw, and prescribed dog-safe pain meds with antibiotics while he healed. And the pain in my big toe also went away, and after six months, a new nail grew to replace the damage (yay!). Whether human or furred, no creature should suffer pain. Providing proper pain medicine helps pets recover more quickly and completely.

Learn about other home remedies that safely help relieve pet pain!

It’s also the right thing to do.

Have your pets ever needed pain medication–after surgery or an injury? How do you know when your pet hurts? And have you ever had an injury similar to your pets, like me?

I’m keeping my fingers (and toes!) crossed that Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat never need pain meds! Or that a heating pad or cold compress does the trick for minor whoopsies (as discussed in the natural healing book).

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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?  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 give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Leaving Pets Behind: Choosing Pet Sitters

When the holidays or business travel rolls around, pet sitters can be a big help when you plan vacations with or without your dog or cat. After delaying plans for over two years due to the virus, many of us now will travel to visit family and friends, have folks visit, or spend vacation time away from home. Time off from work and a change of routine offers humans much-needed stress relief. But the same is not always true for furry family members. That’s where pet sitters come in.

28th annual Professional Pet Sitters Week™ to be celebrated March 6-12

Pet Sitters International is highlighting the resiliency of pet sitters during this annual observance that recognizes the importance of professional pet-care services and the viability of pet sitting as a career.

Lying on red sofa young woman with cat and dalmatian dog

“Professional pet sitters and dog walkers’ businesses were significantly impacted by the pandemic, but they persevered, continuing to tailor their safety measures and their service offerings to meet the needs of their clients,” said PSI President Beth Stultz-Hairston. “We’re thrilled to see business rebounding for so many pet sitters across the globe and are happy to celebrate their dedication and highlight their value this Professional Pet Sitters Week.”

“It is also the perfect time to highlight the viability of professional pet sitting as a career,” said PSI Founder and CEO Patti Moran. “Professional pet sitting has long been a profitable and rewarding career option, and with 70 percent of U.S. households now owning a pet, the need for professional pet sitters will continue to grow.”

VACATIONING WITH & WITHOUT PETS

FCC noticeCats prefer staying in their home amid familiar surroundings. Some do well if left alone for a day or two when provided with adequate food and water, and extra litter boxes. That’s not appropriate for kittens, cats older than 10 years, or any cat with a health issue that needs attention, though.

No pet should be unsupervised for longer than a couple of days. Make arrangements to have a friend, a neighbor, or a professional pet sitter visit at least once a day to clean the toilet facilities, check food and water (and medicate, if needed), and perhaps play or cuddle with the cats.

Leaving dogs at home is also an option. But unless your dog is litter box trained (yes, it can be done!), people visits must be more frequent for potty breaks and meals. Some dogs eat four-days’-worth of food at one time if it’s all left out at once.

Beautiful cat exploring an old open suitcase on hardwood floor.

PICK A PET SITTER

Pet sitters are the ideal choice. You can search via professional organizations such as National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International or even Roverto find members in your area. You can also learn more and perhaps become a TrustedHousesitters Member! Whatever you chose, check out the pet sitter’s credentials, how long they’ve been in business, if they’re bonded/insured, what services they provide, and be specific about fees. Find out how much time the pet sitter spends on each visit—average is 30 minutes but for dog walking (especially multiple pets) or grooming/medicating it may take more time and require a higher cost.

Ask for references (and check them!) before you decide if the service or individual is a match for you and your pets. It’s also important to see if the candidate interacts well with your cats and dogs. Some pet sitters specialize in special needs animals. For instance, they may be able to medicate your diabetic cat or “pill” your reluctant dog.

PROVIDE INFORMATION

Be sure to leave caretakers with detailed information about each pet’s care needs, veterinary contact information, and emergency phone numbers to reach you. Leave your pets’ leash, medications and other “must haves” in an easy access area and show the pet sitter where to find them.

Alert the neighbors about the pet sitter or family friend coming and going from your home so they expect them in the neighborhood, and give the pet sitter your neighbor’s name and phone number. Talk with your veterinarian about signing a “just in case” authorization for medical care (you can designate the dollar amount). That way, emergency care is available and funded even if you are unavailable to give your okay in person.

PREP YOUR PETS!

Of course, you can’t ask your cats and dogs about what THEY want when you’re gone. So do your best to prepare them for the absence. A fractious or fearful pet may not accept even the most dedicated and friendly pet sitter. Gradual introductions are key, and it may be love at first sight (YAY!) or could take some time for especially shy felines to accept that stranger in the home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plan for your vacation or absence at least a couple of weeks in advance, especially for cats. Ask the pet sitter to meet with your pets to see how they get along. A savvy pet sitter knows what pets expect and won’t push the fur-kid past limits. For instance, they won’t force petting or close interaction when the dog or cat prefers distance. Over time, though, when the “stranger” visits several times and perhaps plays a favorite game or drops treats for the pet, a more positive association develops. You can find more detailed tips in my short quick tips guides, MY CAT HATES MY DATE as well as MY DOG HATES MY DATE.

Benefits of Planning Ahead

Preparing for your pets’ comfort during your vacations gives you peace of mind so you can enjoy your time free from worries. After all the joy they bring you throughout the year, don’t your cats and dogs deserve happy howl-adays, too?

So…do you contract with a pet sitter, or perhaps a neighbor or family member to care for pets when you’re gone? Or do you board the dog? How does that work for you? How many readers take the dog along for the trip–or even the kitty? What tips and tricks make the travel problem free? Please share!


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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, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Cat Colds & Curing Kitty Congestion

When cats have the sniffles, you worry about curing kitty congestion. Cat colds are one of the most common health problems of kittens and adult cats. Feline upper respiratory diseases, sometimes called cat flu, often affect shelter and rescue cats. My cat Seren-Kitty also had a couple of severe bouts with kitty snorkles.

For more information about cat colds and dog coughs, see this post.

So far, Karma-Kat has only had sneeze-attacks one time. I’m always alert to any change in behavior, so even a normal amount of A-CHOO makes me pay attention.

I also recorded this post on YouTube if you’d prefer:

While there are preventive vaccinations available to help protect your cats, many kittens and cats become infected very early before they receive vaccines. Once infected, a cat may develop sniffles any time they become stressed. These tips can help relieve the sniffles and cat cold problems.

cat colds

Cat Colds & Curing Kitty Congestion

Has the annual outbreak of flu, sinus infections, and general creeping-crud attacked you this season? Hopefully, you’re safe from the COVID-19 virus that causes similar symptoms in people. Thankfully, the COVID virus and variants don’t routinely cause cat flu symptoms.

I’m washing my hands constantly and staying home with the fur-kids as much as possible. That’s one more positive about working alone at home–less contact with contagious folks. I’ve been told that the flu vaccination (always a good thing!) works well when given in advance, but of course, that depends on the type of flu. The dang bug keeps changing. *sigh*

A stopped-up nose and crusty eyes are not only miserable for humans, these signs in cats also cause a wide range of health problems in cats. Discharge that’s runny and clear usually goes away in a couple of days by itself. But any time it continues longer than that, or the discharge is cloudy or thick and clogs up the eyes or nose, a virus could be the culprit. Upper respiratory infections in cats (URI) also cause mouth and eye sores.

Complications of Cat Colds

Cats have more problems with congestion than dogs. The bugs that cause kitty congestion usually aren’t lethal in adult cats. But cats won’t eat unless they can smell their food, so they starve if they get a stopped-up nose. Home care not only keeps pets more comfortable, it often decides whether they recover or not. Learn how to encourage sick pets to eat in this post.

While we often fall in love with that poor little sick shelter kitten, an upper respiratory infection (cat cold) as a baby could mean relapses for the rest of the cat’s life. Just be sure you’re aware of all the facts when you adopt your kitten. 

Curing Kitty Congestion from Cat Colds

Just like with people, there’s no real “cure” for colds, but supportive treatment can help speed up recovery. It’s important for the comfort of your cat, too.

  1. Use a vaporizer to help unclog the nose. Put your cat in a fairly small room with a cool-mist humidifier and use it just the same as you would for a child a couple of times a day. That not only helps break up the congestion, it moistens inflamed or tender eyes and nostrils and make them feel better.
  2. If you don’t have a vaporizer or humidifier, a hot shower can work. Take the pet into the bathroom with you and run the hot shower so that the air becomes filled with steam. A 10-minute session several times a day works great. Don’t go for longer than that, though, because heated air for too long can be hard for some pets to breathe, especially short-faced Persians.
  3. If the nose is crusting over, or the eyes are sealing shut, use warm wet cloths or cotton balls to soak and soften the secretions and clean them off. Don’t peel dried matter off, because that can hurt or even form scabs.
  4. To soothe sore tissue after you’ve cleaned off the mucus, dab on a bit of plain saline solution, or some baby oil. That can also make it easier to clean away any more crusts that might form. I’ve also used Udderbalm (for cows).
  5. When thick secretions fill up the lungs it can be hard for pets to breathe even when their nostrils are clear. A technique called coupage helps break up the clogged matter so the pet can clear his lungs. It’s a French word meaning “thumping on the chest” and is often used to help children with Cystic Fibrosis breathe more easily. Hold your hand in a cupped position, and gently thump on either side of the cat or dog’s rib cage to break loose the mucus. Use coupage two or three times a day along with humidified air to ease the pet’s congestion.

FOLLOW-UP CARE FOR CAT COLDS

Refusing to eat can make cats sicker or even threaten their life. Wiping away the crusts and mucus to keep the nasal passages open helps, but offering pungent and more tempting foods can cut through congestion and spark the sick cat’s appetite.

Warm the food for five seconds in the microwave to just below cat body temperature—about 95 to 98 degrees. That not only makes the treat more alluring, it also unlocks the aroma so the food smells more pungent and penetrates even a stopped-up kitty nose. Moisture also helps enhance aroma, so try adding a bit of warm water, chicken broth, or tuna juice from the can to the cat’s regular food. Run it through the blender to make a mush, and there’s a good chance that will tempt his appetite.

In the past, many veterinarians recommended supplements with L-Lysine to help reduce the chance of URI flare-ups. More recent studies argue these supplements offer only marginal benefits and may even make symptoms from feline herpesvirus worse.  Ask your veterinarian for the latest recommendations. You can ask your vet about an off-label drug Famciclovir that’s shown promise in treating the condition. Meanwhile, supplementing your cat’s diet with a probiotic like Fortiflora can help by keeping digestion healthy.

Have your cats suffered from upper respiratory issues? How did you manage them? When vaccinated early as a baby, some of these bugs can be prevented but once they’re in the cat’s system, stress can cause an outbreak. Cats also are tough customers when it comes to “pilling” and medicating (although compounded medicine can help with that). What are your tips for nursing a sick cat? Please share!

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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!

Ghost Cats, Ghost Dogs, and Visitations From Beyond

Has a ghost dog or ghost cat visited you? They have blessed me that way more than once, but never when I wish for it and always unexpectedly. Far from scary, the visitation from beyond brought me great comfort. I know my furry wonders live on–somewhere, somehow, and that I’ll see them again.

It wouldn’t be heaven without them. In fact, one of my Pet Peeves radio programs discussed whether pets go to heaven. At my church, Pastor Craig Sturm also shared a message about whether or not pets go to heaven.

ghost dog

Bravo appeared to me after his death.

When Bravo-Dawg died March 2021, our hearts ached. Karma-Kat mourned for a week and slept with his buddy’s collar. And our veterinarian and the staff at the clinic also felt the pain–we hugged and wept together at his passing.

Later at home, we second-guessed every decision made during his cancer journey. This gentle giant who never had a bad day (even in the aftermath of amputation), always made us smile during awful times. Karma and Shadow-Pup searched for their hero, the leader of the three furry stooges. Our three-year-old baby-dog fought and defeated osteosarcoma, so how could another cancer take him from us? Not our Bravo!

The day after his death, when his slurpy-kiss across my face woke me, I reflexively reached out my hand to smooth his sweet face. He leaned against my palm. Warm. Real. Karma-Kat watched on the other side of the pillow as his tail thumped and shook the bed. He had all four legs, and a happy, satisfied grin–and then he disappeared. I like to think he knew I needed his reassurance.

I cherish his effort to once again comfort us. What do you think? Does pet death mean the end, or will they come back to comfort us?

ghost cat

Seren became increasingly frail and confused. I wonder if that’s why she never visited after her passing.

Cats and Ghosts

Cats have long been thought to have a link with the “other world” or even to have feline ESP. In fact, popular urban legends hold that cats see ghosts—and their behavior certainly seems to support that notion. Karma seemed to recognize Bravo’s spiritual visit, although he continued to mourn his lost friend.

We built our house 25 years ago, but maybe the site used to be an ancient burial ground that remains haunted by spirits of the departed. Before her own death just shy of her 22nd birthday, Seren-Kitty often played “track the spook” games, maybe just to mess with my head. You’ll understand more when you read the last paragraph.

It’s not just my own vivid imagination, either. A letter to the “Occult Review” magazine of April 1924 tells of a ghost that appeared in a chair, also apparent to the humans present. A cat in the room seemed to recognize the spirit and immediately leaped into the spirit’s lap—and acted dismayed when the insubstantial lap would not hold Kitty. The popular movie Ghost featured a cat able to see the spirit of the murdered victim, played by actor Patrick Swayze.

ghost

I now believe Karma knew his best friend would die long before we did.

Can Cats Sense Death?

There also are many stories of cats wailing at the exact instant of a beloved owner’s death, even when separated by miles. How do the cats know? Do they “see” the spirit, or feel the psychic change at the sudden absence of their special human?

Cats (and dogs) have the physical ability to see certain wavelengths and color spectrums that people cannot. Perhaps this “remnant” of the dearly departed remains behind—or in fact, the spirit portion remains visible for felines as well as ultrasonic sound communication.

Oscar the cat, a resident of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in Providence, Rhode Island, had an uncanny ability to predict which patient will soon die. Adopted as a kitten, he remained standoffish as an adult cat—until an individual neared the end of life. Then he’d scratch at the door and demand to be in the room, hop up on the bed beside the patient to sit vigil with them until they die.

Oscar’s prediction rate has been better than the nurses or physicians who care for the residents, who suffer from severe dementia. Experts speculate the dying simply smells different, and that alerts Oscar. Yet he is the only one of several resident cats that seems to care. Relatives have said they feel comforted Oscar spends time with their loved ones when they can’t be there.

ghost cats ghost dogs

Several years ago, Magical-Dawg died in September, and Seren-Kitty died in December. I don’t recall any visitation from either of them. Perhaps they were too busy continuing to pester each other.

Do Cats Haunt Us? Will Pets Visit Us After Death?

When cats die, owners recount experiences of the kitty returning to comfort remaining pet friends and people that they’re okay. Sometimes the delicate paw-print tracks of never seen mourning “ghost cats” appear where the owner can find them. Very often, one can feel the jarring “thump” of the furry ghost leaping onto the bed at night, snuggling across your ankles, or being seen out of the corner of your eyes.

When my first dog died, a day later I felt him jump up on the bed. He suffered from hip dysplasia and couldn’t jump while alive. I knew he’d become whole and returned briefly to let me know.

These invisible visitors may still cheek rub and head butt ankles, so that people can feel the brush of fur against their skin. Wishful thinking? Perhaps the mourning human so desperately wants one last contact that imagination takes over.

What About Ghost Pets Proof?

But what of the other pets who also detect the invisible cat’s or chase a transparent cat as she runs through a room only to disappear into a wall? Sometimes there’s also photographic proof that points to a kitty haunting a residence or person.

One early famous example is a 1925 family portrait taken by Major Allistone in Clarens, Switzerland that documented a woman restraining an infant from climbing out of a baby carriage, with an older boy standing in front holding a stuffed bunny in his left hand. But in the boy’s right hand appears the face of a white kitten—except that white kitten had died several weeks earlier.

More recent examples abound and include pictures and videos posted on the Internet. For example, one family admired and took pictures of a neighbor’s flowers and captured the image of a cat in the window—only the family doesn’t have a cat, so just who was the ghostly feline and (perhaps more importantly) why did the cat allow him/herself to be photographed?

Do Spirit Cats Return?

On October 29, 1993 at 8:30 p.m. my first beloved dog passed away at age 12 years 5 months. We lived in a tiny apartment and had to place his body outside in the entryway, to await burial the next morning. Shortly thereafter, we heard a strangely haunting sound at the door.

I found a cat crouching over my poor dog’s body, muttering and crying. The cat was a stranger, one I’d never seen before or since. I like to think that this eerie cat visitor arrived to pay feline respects at his passing. He’d always loved cats. It certainly couldn’t be my beloved dog’s spirit being hosted within this feline visitor. Or could it?

I never saw the cat again, although I heard the yowls each year on October 29th at about 8:30 p.m. Maybe I imagined it? All I know is the spectral cat cries stopped after my Seren-kitty adopted us.

Have you ever had a “visit” from a dearly departed pet? Have your cats (or dogs) “detected” an otherworldly presence? What did they do? If you had the chance to see a pet ghost, would you want to? Have you ever visited certain locations (or even people) that you’re sure had an animal ghost in residence? Please share!

Read these tips to prepare for your pet in case you pass away before they do.

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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 do not recommend anything 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 give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Celebrating Old Cats: What Is Old?

Every year, I write about our old cat needs. While Karma-Kat has just reached middle age, 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.)

SerenChair

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.

Siamese as a breed tend to be longer lived, 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.

Anyway, I thought this was a good time to share a bit from the book COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING CAT.

old cats

WHAT IS OLD FOR SENIOR CATS?

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.

SerenBed

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.”

 Excerpt from COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING CAT, revised and updated Kindle Edition by Amy D. Shojai, CABC. 

seren-karma

DO YOU HAVE OLD CATS?

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.

What about your furry wonders? Please share!

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