How to help our arthritic cats

I’ve published this before but want to share it with you again to mark World Arthritis Day.

arthritis day 12 October

* Originally written by me for citikiti.co.uk

From the ICatCare Conference

Like people and dogs, aging cats can suffer from arthritis. In itself this doesn’t sound too surprising, but this disease has been under-diagnosed. In part, this is because cats rarely show signs of illness unless and until they are seriously ill; in part this is because symptoms of arthritis can easily be dismissed as signs of ‘old age’. Astonishingly, research has shown that around 90% of cats older than 12 years suffer from joint disease.

Arthritis is very painful, but many cats will try to hide the fact they are suffering. However, there are signs your cat may be suffering from arthritis. One of the things you may notice is that your cat no longer jumps up or down or is quite hesitant to do so. You may notice their legs are stiff, especially after the cat has been resting for a while.

They may sleep more and play less. Your cat may be a bit grumpy when you pick him up or stroke him. And because their joints are painful it may be difficult for them to use the litter tray: you may notice ‘bum sticking out’ types of litter tray accidents or an accident near the tray because the cat couldn’t manage to posture correctly inside the tray.

International Cat Care has created a checklist that you can use if you suspect your cat may be suffering from joint disease: https://icatcare.org/…/kcfin…/images/mobility_check-list.pdf

Obviously, a vet needs to make the diagnosis and will discuss treatment with you.

Besides medical treatment there are many things we can do at home to make our aging cats’ lives a bit easier.
• Make sure the cat’s sleeping & hiding places are easily accessible: either build steps or a ramp so your cat doesn’t have to jump to get to his favourite resting places. And give your cat soft and warm beds.
• Provide a large litter tray that is easy to step in to and out of: either make sure the litter tray has a lowered side so your cat doesn’t have to lift its legs too much or build a ramp for easy access. Use sandy litter, that is nice and soft underneath their feet.
• Food and water should be within easy reach: provide raised bowls so they don’t have to stretch their neck too much to reach it.
• Food, water and litter trays should preferably be available on every level of the house so your cat doesn’t have to go up- or downstairs to use these essential resources. Walking up and down the stairs can be quite painful for the arthritic cat.
• If your cat uses a cat flap: provide steps or a ramp on either side of the cat flap for easy access.
• Maintain a healthy weight: extra weight just put more pressure on those painful joints.

And let’s not forget some TLC: groom and play with your cat. Your cat will have more difficulty grooming himself, but most cats enjoy feeling prim and proper. They will be quite grateful to receive some gentile grooming with a soft brush.

Play with your cats too. Cats are naturally playful and frequent short play sessions will help ease the pain in their joints. Hunting style games are interactive and mimic the cat’s natural behaviour, so he will surely appreciate this. And of course it’s fun for you too

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

ICC-2404

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.

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.

Challenges of keeping indoor cats happy

* Originally written by me for citikiti.co.uk

From the ICatCare Conference

Vicky Halls, the well-known cat behaviour counsellor, was one of the expert speakers at the conference in Birmingham. One of her presentations focussed on keeping cats happy, especially indoors cats. My own cat lives indoors and so do many of our clients’ cats. There are many things we can do to keep our cats happy: activity feeders to prevent boredom and combat overeating, playing games with our cats and providing hiding & resting places for our cats.

The biggest challenge, however, is our relationship with cats and this was the topic of Vicky Halls’s talk.

I will be the first to admit that I talk to my cat and I also talk to your cats when I’m visiting. I say hello to let them know I’m there, they hear my voice and pick up on my energy and decide whether or not they want to coma and say hello to me. I am under no illusion, though: my cat has no idea what I’m talking about. He is, after all, a cat!

Sure, our cats know certain words. ‘Treats’ is one such example. My cat usually comes over when I use his name, but we all know that cats sometimes hear their name being called but choose to ignore it! So cats recognise some words and may respond to them, but this doesn’t mean they always understand what we are saying.

Picture the following ‘ conversation’ with your cat: “Hi sweet pea, I’m home!!! Where are you? Come on out. I’m so sorry I’m late, are you hungry? Did you miss me? Yes, you missed me, I missed you too! I’m sorry I was away all day, you must have been so lonely!”
We may not use those specific words or voice those feelings, but many of us feel guilty for leaving the cat alone all day and feel the need to give the cat quality time when we get home. We tend to think of our cats as family members. While it is great that we care so much about our cats, we should always keep in mind that a cat’s needs are not the same as our own. Or, as Vicky Halls put it, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking: me + love = happy cat.

When you read the ‘conversation’ I wrote above you can well imagine that the amount of love and focus and energy is all a bit too much for your cat. Cats are happiest when they have a sense of control over their environment and their interaction with us. Some cats enjoy a lot of fuss and cuddles, but most cats are quite happy just sitting in the same room with us or on the sofa next to us and just being stroked occasionally. They enjoy playing games with us, mainly games that mimic their natural behaviour such as hunting.

When your cat can go outside, they can ‘escape’ us for as long as they want to and they are quite happy on their own! Indoors cats don’t have the luxury of escape, so we should respect their need to control their environment and the quantity and quality of interaction they want. And who knows, your cat may well give you a slow blink to thank you!

 

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.