Cat-Safe Christmas

* Adapted from International Cat Care

Most of us look forward to the festive period; the food, the guests, the tree and decorations. However, for cats, Christmas may be a time of stress and risk of injury. As a species they enjoy routine and are sensitive to changes in their environment, making the celebrations challenging. In addition, the season means certain toxic plants and food may be accessible to curious cats. At International Cat Care we have consulted our veterinary members to ask them what injuries they see at this time of year. Based on this information and with the input of the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) this article offers advice on what to keep out of reach and what to do to minimise the disruption to keep our cats happy this Christmas.

Poisonous pants and food

  • Poinsettia, mistletoe, holly, ivy and Christmas cherry can cause a tummy upset and should be kept away from inquisitive cats.
  • Chocolate is not just toxic to dogs, it is also toxic to cats, although the amount a cat needs to eat to make them ill is a lot higher than for dogs. Signs of chocolate poisoning including being sick and passing diarrhoea, drinking a lot, appearing drunk, trembling or even having a fit.
  • Similarly, grapes and raisins, known for causing kidney damage in dogs, may affect cats but poisoning is much less common.
  • A little left-over turkey will be enjoyed by the majority of cats without harm, excessive treats and human food could make a cat poorly so do try and stick to their normal feeding routine this time of year; they won’t know they are missing out!
  • Another hazard can be cooked poultry bones – they are hard for cats to digest and can get stuck in the digestive system so make sure your cats can’t raid the bin after the Christmas lunch.

Christmas decorations

  • Be careful with candles! As elevated locations are still accessible to most cats, candles should be kept where you can keep an eye on them.
  • Keep your cat away from tinsel, lametta (the long decorative strips of tinsel), ribbons and string (around meat or used to hang decorations).
  • Many cat owners have had the experience of their cat climbing the Christmas tree and it falling over. (My childhood cat did this one year!) Your cat can get injured during the fall, but is more likely to get injured by pieces of glass from broken baubles.
    Dirk loves the shiny baubles so I put matt ones on the lower branches of my tree as he’s less likely to bat those.
  • Chewing lights and wires can be a problem for some cats, especially for nosy kittens.
How to make Christmas less stressful for cats

This time of year means lots of changes to a home, and for cats who often thrive on predictability, routine and the perceived safety of their territory (their home and garden), this can be distressing. The furniture is often moved around to accommodate extra guests, the tree is brought in, lights and decorations are put up, music is played, all making their home look, sound and smell different.  In addition, unfamiliar people, and worse still unfamiliar dogs may visit the house or even stay for several days, again at variable times, interrupting the normal routine. In order to minimise distress during this season consider the following:

  • Ensure your cat has several safe and comfortable places to hide and get away from the noise and hustle and bustle. A cardboard box or igloo bed above the wardrobe or under the bed can provide security. If new beds are added to the home at this time, make them smell familiar by adding bedding already used by your cat.
  • Advise visitors not to approach the cat if it is in its bed, but only to stroke the cat if it initiates contact. Visiting children may be keen to see and cuddle the cat but gentle stroking on the cat’s initiation must be insisted upon.
  • Guests can be given cat treats and toys to help teach the cat positive associations with the new people.
  • Ensure there is always an open door to allow the cat to get away from any noisy parties or dinners to a quieter part of the home.
  • Consider plugging in a ‘Feliway’ diffuser into the room the cats spends most time several days before the festivities begin. This product (available from your vet) contains feline pheromones which can help the cat feel more secure. Ensure it is switched on continually throughout the festive season.
  • If visitors are sleeping in one of the rooms the cat usually uses, for example, for sleeping, eating or toileting, be sure to provide the required resources (beds, food or litter tray) in other quieter parts of the house and ideally, before the visitors arrive so that changes occur gradually and the cat is comfortable with the new location.
  • If the cat’s litter tray is positioned in a place that will mean more people traffic or noise during the Christmas period, it is good practice to provide an additional litter tray in a quieter part of the home.
  • If the cat is particularly sound sensitive, avoid crackers and party poppers.
  • If a dog is visiting it may be helpful to restrict its access to the cats retreat areas using for example baby gates on the stairs.

How to take care of cats with kidney disease

* Originally written by me for citikiti.co.uk

From the ICatCare Conference

Chronic kidney disease is a common disease that affects over 30-40% of cats over 10 years old. This percentage is even higher in cats that are 15 years or older. Although the average lifespan of cats is roughly 12-14 years, more and more cats are now living beyond the age of 15 years (which roughly equates to a human age of 76).

My own cat is approximately 14 years old now – he is a rescue cat so we don’t know his exact age. As our cats enter into the senior stage of their life they are more prone to many diseases, chronic kidney disease being one of the most prevalent examples.

There is no cure for chronic kidney disease, but we can slow down the progression of the disease and cats with chronic kidney disease can still have a good quality of life.

Before discussing how we can help cats with kidney disease, let’s first briefly look at the most common symptoms of kidney disease: increased drinking and urination, reduced appetite, weight loss and lethargy. You may also notice vomiting or a bad breath.
Chronic kidney disease is diagnosed through an analysis of blood and urine samples. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the prospects are of preventing further kidney injury, managing the complications and slowing the progression of the disease.

If your cat has kidney disease then your vet will discuss a plan of action with you. This will depend on the stage of progression of the disease and your cat’s specific complications. Treatment of chronic kidney disease will mainly focus on feeding your cat a specific type of diet as this is the only type of treatment we currently have that prolongs life in cats with chronic kidney disease.
What else can we do at home to make sure our cats are comfortable?

Make sure your cat is drinking plenty of water. Find out what your cat prefers. This could be drinking from a running tap or the shower, a water fountain or providing a different type of water bowl (most cats like drinking from a wide brimmed ceramic bowl. If your cat goes outside, put a ceramic bowl in the garden: quite a few cats prefer rainwater over tap water.

As cats with chronic kidney disease tend to urinate more often it is good to make sure you have multiple litter trays in various quiet places around the house. Some cats refuse to use a litter tray that isn’t clean. If you have multiple trays then your cat has multiple appropriate options when you’re at work.

And last, but not least: make sure their lives are as happy & stress-free as possible. Give your cat warm, comfortable places to hide & rest and engage with them: play with them, groom them, stroke them, etc. Remember though, you ill cat is still a cat and wants to be in charge of his life as much as possible: let him initiate the quantity and quality of your interaction and don’t overwhelm them with love

For more information about kidney disease in cats see International Cat Care’s website.

Will my current cat(s) accept a new cat?

*Adapted from International Cat Care

It is very difficult to predict whether a cat will accept another cat into its household.
Cats, as a species, have become more socially flexible during the process of domestication, but individuals still vary hugely in how accepting they are of other cats. Furthermore, their ability to change their sociability is limited once they reach adulthood.

Sociability refers to how comfortable a cat feels around both people and other animals, including cats. This shouldn’t be confused with a cat’s general confidence towards all aspects of the cat’s environment, both physical and social. If a confident cat is not sociable to other cats then it will not necessarily accept a new cat. A cat that loves spending time with people is sociable with people but may not enjoy the company of other cats.

There are a number of areas that should be given careful thought before making the final decision as to whether to get another cat or not. These factors are all likely to interact rather than act in isolation, and therefore the more that are answered in favour of another cat, the greater the chances of a new cat being accepted. Click here for the questionnaire if you are thinking of getting another cat.

If you do get another cat or already have more than one cat and are experiencing problems, contact me.

How to take care of cats with kidney disease

* Originally written by me for citikiti.co.uk and posted again to mark World Kidney Day

From the ICatCare Conference

Chronic kidney disease is a common disease that affects over 30-40% of cats over 10 years old. This percentage is even higher in cats that are 15 years or older. Although the average lifespan of cats is roughly 12-14 years, more and more cats are now living beyond the age of 15 years (which roughly equates to a human age of 76).

My own cat is somewhere between 9-11 years old now – he is a rescue cat so we don’t know his exact age and I know a lot of your cats are over 10 years old. As our cats enter into the senior stage of their life they are more prone to many diseases, chronic kidney disease being one of the most prevalent examples.

There is no cure for chronic kidney disease, but we can slow down the progression of the disease and cats with chronic kidney disease can still have a good quality of life.

Before discussing how we can help cats with kidney disease, let’s first briefly look at the most common symptoms of kidney disease: increased drinking and urination, reduced appetite, weight loss and lethargy. You may also notice vomiting or a bad breath.
Chronic kidney disease is diagnosed through an analysis of blood and urine samples. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the prospects are of preventing further kidney injury, managing the complications and slowing the progression of the disease.

If your cat has kidney disease then your vet will discuss a plan of action with you. This will depend on the stage of progression of the disease and your cat’s specific complications. Treatment of chronic kidney disease will mainly focus on feeding your cat a specific type of diet as this is the only type of treatment we currently have that prolongs life in cats with chronic kidney disease.
What else can we do at home to make sure our cats are comfortable?

Make sure your cat is drinking plenty of water. Find out what your cat prefers. This could be drinking from a running tap or the shower, a water fountain or providing a different type of water bowl (most cats like drinking from a wide brimmed ceramic bowl. If your cat goes outside, put a ceramic bowl in the garden: quite a few cats prefer rainwater over tap water.

As cats with chronic kidney disease tend to urinate more often it is good to make sure you have multiple litter trays in various quiet places around the house. Some cats refuse to use a litter tray that isn’t clean. If you have multiple trays then your cat has multiple appropriate options when you’re at work.

And last, but not least: make sure their lives are as happy & stress-free as possible. Give your cat warm, comfortable places to hide & rest and engage with them: play with them, groom them, stroke them, etc. Remember though, you ill cat is still a cat and wants to be in charge of his life as much as possible: let him initiate the quantity and quality of your interaction and don’t overwhelm them with love

For more information about kidney disease in cats see International Cat Care’s website.

Brushing your cat’s teeth

To mark Pet Dental Awareness Month I am re-posting this blog about brushing your cat’s teeth

Dental hygiene is as important for cats as people.
It helps keep your cat in great condition and prevents diseases (and a bad breath).

Still, you may feel a little unsure about brushing your cat’s teeth. I know I was a little taken aback when my vet first suggested brushing Dirk’s teeth.
He showed me ho
cat brushing teethw to do it and – surprisingly – Dirk seemed fine with it.
However, trying it at home was a different story…   


If only it was this easy!

When I first started I was a bit too optimistic. Having seen the vet do it made me think it wouldn’t be so difficult. Dirk was not happy about it though. I tried every other day at first but I have to admit this soon became less frequent. Until Dirk was diagnosed with a dental disease called feline resorptive lesions.

After he had two teeth removed my mind set changed. I went from ‘I’ll try’ to ‘OK, I have to do this’.

Around this time I also started with my advanced feline behaviour course and was learning about learning theory and training cats. This was the perfect opportunity to put what I’d learnt into practice!

I took small steps to get Dirk used to having his teeth brushed. Admittedly, he still doesn’t like it. He tolerates it now although we have to odd day where he doesn’t. Those days are less frequent now, I brush his teeth most days. And afterwards he gets a special reward: his favourite treat which he goes nuts for.

The basics:

20190417_175628

  • First of all, buy toothpaste for cats. Toothpaste for people is toxic for cats, so never use this. Toothpaste for cats comes in tasty flavours such as chicken. Rest assured, even though it is tasty it also contains all the enzymes needed to clean your cat’s teeth.
  • Introduce your cat to the toothpaste. Let your cat lick the toothpaste off your finger (my cat loved it!). This allows the cat to get used to the flavour and texture and they will have a positive association with the toothpaste.
  • Once your cat is used to the toothpaste you can introduce a toothbrush, for example by letting your cat lick the toothpaste off the brush. There are several types of brushes designed for cats. Buy the one you feel most confident using.

Getting the job done:20190417_180510

  • Both you and your cat should be calm and comfortable before you start brushing your cat’s teeth.
  • Either sit behind your cat so they cannot escape or ask someone else to hold and soothe your cat.
  • Start by stroking and reassuring your cat. If you notice your cat becoming stressed, then don’t start brushing. Try again another day. If you turn this into a routine then your cat will become more relaxed over time and will allow you to brush their teeth.
  • Gently pull back your cat’s lips as shown in the picture.

What it looks like at the vet’s…        What it looks like at home
(Dirk prefers to lie down on his side)

  • Brush the teeth in slow circular motions and keep the bristles at a 45-degree angle. Brush the teeth and just beneath the gum margin, don’t brush the gums directly.
  • Brush as many teeth as the cat allows and praise your cat while doing so. Initially you may only be able to brush for about 10-15 seconds, but that’s a good start! When you’re more experienced and the cat has become more tolerant of having their teeth brushed you’ll be able to brush their teeth in about 1-2 minutes.

For more information please ask you vet or veterinary nurse.
For a video instruction, as well as additional information, please consult International Cat Care’s website.