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.

Top Tips for Keeping Your Pet’s Heart Healthy

* From my partners at katzenworld.co.uk

The heart is one of the most important organs in the body, not only for humans, but for our furry family members too. It’s therefore crucial to keep it strong and healthy – anything that stops the heart from functioning as normal, such as changes in size, shape or rhythm, can cause problems.

PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, said “Heart problems can be fairly common and cause a wide range of symptoms – some animals can live with a heart condition for years with minimal impact on their life, while others may have severe, life-threatening symptoms. There are several things you can do to support the heart health of your four-legged friend.

Watching out for symptoms 

“There are important signs of heart disease to look out for in pets which, sadly, may worsen over time. While heart disease can’t be cured, there are treatments which can help to manage your furry family member’s symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Things to look out for include your pet stopping or slowing down while exercising, breathing faster than normal when they are sleeping, taking a while to catch their breath after exercise, low energy, panting for longer or more often, coughing or, for cats in particular, breathing with an open mouth.  Pets struggling with a heart condition may also collapse.

Maintaining a healthy weight 

“If your furry family member is carrying extra weight, their heart has to work harder, which adds a lot of strain. Making small changes, such as weighing out their food, cutting back on unhealthy treats, and not giving in to puppy dog eyes at the table, are small changes you can make to help them maintain a healthy weight. Talk through any concerns about your pet’s weight with your vet – they may suggest a weight clinic to help support you.

Getting enough exercise 

“Exercise is a key part in keeping your pet’s heart healthy. Making sure your pooch is going for daily walks, suitable for their size, weight, and fitness ability, is really important. In between walks, have fun and play games together to help keep dogs moving.

“Cats enjoy playtime too – even if your cat is active and enjoys roaming outdoors, they will still enjoy special time with you, which will motivate them to exercise, and it’s great for bonding. If they are slightly overweight or more reluctant to move around, short play sessions are a great way to introduce a new exercise regime. You can increase the length of activities, as your cat gets fitter and more enthusiastic.

“Engaging your cat with toys, such as balls, teaser toys, wind-up chase toys, will also encourage their natural hunting instincts.

Regular vet checks  

“Catching heart problems early can make a big difference to your furry family member’s long-term health. Regular check-ups with the vet, where they can listen to your pet’s heart, can help pick up a problem before it develops.

“If you are concerned about your pet’s health, or they display any worrying symptoms between check-ups, always book an appointment so your vet can offer advice and treatment to keep your pet happy and healthy.”

Benefits of raised water and food bowls

* Adapted from katzenworld.co.uk

It is becoming increasingly popular to elevate cat bowls. But is there any real benefit to doing so? Does elevating a cat‘s water bowl or food bowl make sense? The answer is yes!

Of course, some cat owners choose elevated bowls just for aesthetics, but vets now recommend them to help prevent indigestion, vomiting, and strain on your cat’s back and neck.

Raised bowls are especially beneficial for cats with swallowing issues, older cats or cats with arthritis. They find it much more difficult to bend down to the food or water bowl.

Check out some great ones in the Katzenworld shop!

Giving your cat pills

As a cat sitter I regularly need to give pills to my clients’ cats. Some cats have a reputation for spitting out the pills even when they have seemingly swallowed it. They walk away and when you walk over to see them a few minutes later there’s a pill on the floor. Other cats are very relaxed about it: they just eat a pill when it’s mixed in with their food (dry or wet) or hidden inside a treat.

And then there’s my own cat…. He’s generally placid, as those of you who regularly read about Dirk will know, but try giving him worm treatment…. You can hide it in his wet food (which he only gets as a treat) and he won’t touch it. He won’t even eat it if I crush the pill into a very fine powder and then mix it into his food – which works fine with his fibre supplement. I brush his teeth so he is quite used to me restraining him, opening his jaw and putting a toothbrush in his mouth so that can’t really be it either.

In fairness to Dirk – or perhaps just to make myself feel better – I blame the size of the pills. He needs XL sized worm tablets as he is over 4kg. Or perhaps it is the smell and/or taste because breaking the pills into two doesn’t help much either. Maybe this is his one act of defiance, his one thing to show me he’s still a wild cat at heart 🙂

Because Dirk is such a tricky customer when it comes to worm treatment I have tried a lot of things! Everything works once; second time I try it Dirk is having none of it. However, these might work for you so here’s what I’ve tried so far.

My husband restrained Dirk anrestraind I tilted his head back just as is shown in the video on International Cat Care’s website. I put the pill inside and then released my grip on his head but kept his mouth closed. What happened next? Foaming at the mouth, angry growling noises, he was doing everything he could to escape. I was afraid that I’d hurt him because I saw blood in his mouth only to discover that is was MY blood because he’d bitten my fingers! It started with all of us being calm and I was gently reassuring Dirk that everything was going to be all right but it ended with everyone being upset and the pill on the floor.

popperThe pill popper was a promising idea. My fingers wouldn’t need to go inside Dirk’s mouth and you can put the popper in the back of the throat so the cat is more likely to swallow it whole. The vet showed me how to do it and it worked. However, the warning signs were there as Dirk had the most angry look on his face afterwards. Needless to say it didn’t work when we tried it at home a few months later.

pocket

Next we tried the pill pocket. I’ve been using this quite a lot with clients’ cats so I was optimistic. I broke the pill into two halves and put each half inside a pocket. I first gave Dirk an empty pocket so he could taste it and see it as a treat. He loved it! I was a bit worried he’d smell the pill inside, but he ate the first pocket with half a pill inside without problems. Great! Except he then refused to eat the second half.
Back to the vet for more ideas.

paste
The vet nurse recommended a sort of paste. She said it had made her life so much easier as she sometimes was the only one on shift and needed to administer pills by herself. Just warm the paste in your hand and them wrap it around the pill and the cat will happily eat it. Well true enough, Dirk happily ate it…. Just the once. Now he won’t even eat the paste itself.

 

As Dirk is an indoor only cat we’ve resorted to the vet giving him his worm treatment during his check-ups. Dirk goes every 6 months because he’s getting a bit older so now he gets worm treatment twice a year. Not ideal, but we keep his flea treatment up to date so the vet is OK with this worm treatment regime.

Take Your Cat To The Vet Day

It is ‘Take Your Cat To The Vet Day’ today. This doesn’t mean we should all be taking our cats to the vet today, but it is important to take your cat to the vet for regular health checks. ‘Take Your Cat To The Vet Day’ wants to raise awareness about the importance of preventive health care.

Royal Canin and International Cat Care are advocating the importance of feline health care. How often your cat should see the vet depends on their age and health, but as a rule healthy adult cats should see the vet once a year. They can get their vaccinations and you can stock up on flea and worm treatment. Your vet will also want to keep an eye on their general health and check your cat’s teeth, weight and body condition.

Older cats should see the vet twice a year, just because they are more prone to serious health problems such as kidney disease. Cats are very good at hiding signs of illness and early detection is crucial in order to prevent the illness getting worse. This will help improve your cat’s life and may make managing an illness a lot easier for both you and your cat.

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