Poor litter box maintenance is one of the most common reasons for improper elimination (cats using the bathroom outside of the litter box.) Unfortunately, cat owners not doing their part often contributes to and reinforces the frustrating behavior of litter avoidance and is a major contributing factor to cats being surrendered to shelters. If you hate the smell of the litter box, imagine how your pet feels! Cats’ sense of smell is MUCH more sensitive than us humans (14X as strong!) And as if the odor isn’t enough, we ask these poor kids to move around in their own waste just to relieve themselves. Imagine how horrendous it would be to only have a port-a-potty at your disposal that wasn’t being routinely emptied. You’d probably feel inclined to find a new, cleaner area to take care of your business too! Unfortunately, when felines look for a new, clean place to go, it often ends up being behind the couch, under the bed, hidden in a closet, or smack dab in the center of the living room. Automatic litter boxes that essentially clean themselves are popular & the majority of them have stellar reviews, but they are an expensive investment, and upkeep & refills can get pricey as well. Scooping litter the old fashioned way doesn’t have to feel like a punishment. Establishing a steady routine can help decrease odors, messes & frequency of improper elimination.
The number of cats in the home dictates how many litter boxes should be available. There should always be one box per cat in the home, with one extra available & even more if practical. Imagine living in a house with 4 other people and one teeny tiny bathroom for all of you – not only is it awkward, but it’s not exactly sanitary. Having several boxes in the house doesn’t necessarily mean spreading them out all over the house, either. It’s perfectly acceptable to set up more than one box near each other (plus it makes clean up a bit easier this way!) No matter how many boxes you have around your house, they should always be placed in a quiet, private place. Several types of litter are available. Experiment with different kinds – see what your cat likes & what’s easiest & most cost effective for you. (Note that kittens should be provided with non-clumping litter. Kittens have loose stool more often than not, and even more common is the tendency to walk right through it. Non-clumping litter won’t get cemented to the bottom of their feet or tail should they walk through loose stool & then through the litter.) No matter what type of litter you chose, a general recommendation is to fill the box until it is two to three inches deep. Of course, all cats are different – some prefer a deeper place to dig, and some hardly dig or bury their waste. Start with a little bit and add or subtract according to your cats preference.
As far as emptying the litter box goes – it should be scooped out twice a day at minimum, more if necessary. Add fresh litter to replace what is lost during scooping. Depending on the type of litter you use, how often you scoop, and the number of cats utilizing the boxes, they will need to be completely emptied and washed more or less often. Some people wash the litter box every week, some can go as long as 4 weeks without washing (bear in mind that non-clumping litter will need a full exchange more often than clumping – as often as every other day.) To wash the litter box, use mild detergent and warm water, then spray the box inside and out with a mild bleach solution (1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water is sufficient,) then allow it to air dry before rinsing and drying thoroughly. Disposal of urine, feces, and litter products is fairly simple. The easiest way is to dispose of the waste into a plastic bag, tie it off and toss it into your outdoor garbage can until trash day comes around. Some natural litter products can be flushed down the toilet during your daily scooping, but the entire contents of the litter box should never be put into the toilet. Large, locking bins are available for scooping into until full so you can take out one large bag of waste versus several small bags. Most of these commercial products have great reviews for how well they actually “lock in” odors and some are even quite stylish.
No matter what system you devise for your household, always bear in mind that it should be a compromise between what works best for you and what works best for your cats. Also, bear in mind that improper urination CAN be a sign that medical attention is needed. If your cat is continuing to use the bathroom outside the litter box, even after routine maintenance, a visit to your veterinarian may be warranted.
It’s no secret that cats are fastidious about their looks. Most cats clean themselves several times a day, and many of them do a great job on their own. Sometimes, however, our feline friends need a little help looking & feeling like the cat’s meow. Not only is a well kept coat an important part of your cat’s health & overall quality of life, but it’s a great way to bond with your animal as well. With enough patience & diligence, grooming time can turn into a fun, pleasurable activity for both you and kitty. Grooming is a broad term – hygiene for cats can be broken down into a few sections – hair coat, nails, teeth, eyes, and ears. Here we will discuss bathing and brushing. Ask your regular veterinarian about needs specific to your breed of cat (such as wiping eyes and skin folds.) Grooming needs also vary depending on the length of your cat’s coat. No matter what type of cat you have, or which grooming task you are taking on, make sure grooming time is a happy time for your pet. Aim to start grooming sessions when the cat is already feeling relaxed, maybe after playtime or breakfast. Use treats and praise (during and after) make grooming a time for bonding.
Generally speaking, baths are only necessary when kitty is especially dirty. However, getting your animal used to the sounds & sensations of running water & a soapy lather early in life will make everything go smoother for everyone involved during future baths. One way you can make your cat more comfortable is by placing a mat or towel in the sink/tub to provide some steadier footing. Always be sure to thoroughly rinse all the soap off your cat (he may lick it off & ingest it – something sure to cause stomach upset,) and ensure he is completely dry before exposing him to cool air (especially outside!) An alternative to submerging your cat in the bath are waterless shampoo & scented grooming wipes.
Brushing is necessary not only for eliminating dead hair & dirt, but also helps distribute the skin’s natural oils (responsible for that beautiful silky sheen.) For any hair length, always brush from the head to the tail in the direction that the hair grows, and be extra gentle around the face, chest & belly. Short hair cats should be brushed once a week – use your fingers or a wide tooth comb to loosen any dirt/debris from the hair, and finish with a soft bristly brush by smoothing the hair down. If your cat has medium-long hair, you will probably need to brush her every day to every few days. These hairs can reach 5 inches in length, an open invitation for mats & debris. Start with a wide tooth comb to loosen debris & tangles. Next, use a bristle or rubber brush to comb the hair upward, removing as much dead hair & dirt from the undercoat as possible. For the tail, make a part down the center and brush the fur out on either side. Finish with a pin or wire-bristled brush to smooth the hair. If your cat happens to have tight, dense mats in his fur, consult a professional groomer or veterinarian about removing them. Some mats get tangled way down next to the skin (this is very uncomfortable) and trying to cut them out with scissors can damage the cat’s skin. Some owners of long haired cats choose to have the fur clipped in order to avoid mats & loose hairs around the house – the lion cut is a popular choice (the cat is shaved except for the face, mane, tip of the tail, and the bottom of the legs & feet.)
This March we are raising awareness to make regular vet visits with your cat. They are often so self sufficient we forget that our cats need regular check ups too.
To reduce those emergency situations we have put together our list of Cautionary Cat Tales. These are items you need to be aware of and keep your cat away from.
• Potentially Toxic Plants
• People Food No Nos
• Common Household items
55% of cats in the US are an unhealthy weight – that’s 1 in 2. Think of it this way; 3 extra pounds on a 10 pound cat is the equivalent of 45 extra pounds for a 150 pound person. Still not convinced? A 15 pound cat is equal to a 218 pound 5’ 4” female or 254 pound 5’ 9” male. Now that’s heavy! Obesity can impact your cat’s quality of life in several ways.
Here are just a few:
- Diabetes (4 times as likely)
- Joint pain (7 times as likely) or lameness
- Liver disease
- Increased anesthetic & surgical risks
-Skin problems (inability to properly groom the hair coat)
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CAT IS TOO FAT?
Feel their ribs – start at the shoulders & work your way back, you should be able to feel & count all 13 ribs without extra pressure, but they also shouldn’t stick out. A defined waist should be identified behind the ribs when looking at your cat from above instead of looking flat and broad. The stomach should tuck up behind the ribs, not hang down to the floor when your cat is viewed from the side. Of course, nothing is substitute for an evaluation by your cat’s regular veterinarian. Next time you take your furry feline in, ask them about your cat’s body condition score (BCS). The BCS system is a way for veterinarians to gauge the overall healthy appearance of your pet & is rated on a scale of 1-9, with 1 being dangerously underweight or emaciated, and 9 being severely obese. Ideally, your pet should score a 5 – right in the middle.
HOW CAN I KEEP WEIGHT OFF MY CAT?
Play! The family dog isn’t the only one who needs exercise. While you may not readily strap your cat to a halter and leash to hit the streets (although some cat owners do!) there are ways to stimulate activity for your feline companion right at home. Laser pointers, dangling feathers, and shiny ball-type toys (perhaps with a small bell or some crinkly paper inside) are great ways to entice your fat cat out of his seat. Try playing a game of paper hockey with your cat by folding a piece of paper into a small triangle and sliding it across the floor to each other. Fishing for balls of wadded up newspaper in a laundry basket can also be great fun! If you only have one cat, consider adopting a younger companion. Kittens are a great way to keep older cats active! Another way to trick your kitty into moving around is by moving the food and water dishes. Tracking the food down through the house will provide kitty with some extra exercise. Try using treat balls with dry kibble or tasty treats – make your cat work for his reward! Place an extra cat tree in the home or clear off high shelves or the top of the refrigerator. Climbing and jumping helps burn calories and tone muscle. ALWAYS MEASURE. ¼ cup of dry food isn’t the same as “a small scoop.” Use an actual measuring cup, either from the grocery store, or ask your regular veterinarian or local pet supply store if they have any food measuring cups you can purchase. Make sure you are checking your cat’s weight regularly & follow feeding guidelines (which can be found on the outside of the food bag.) Even just a little extra food adds up to a lot of extra pounds. Pick the right food for your pet. Many formulas are available to suit the needs of almost every cat there is. If you’re unsure which food type is best, consult your veterinarian’s office for more information. Cut back. If it’s time for a diet, cut out the treats. Offer your cat smaller, more frequent meals to help him feel full throughout the day without grazing. Never starve your cat by skipping meals completely without being instructed to do so by a veterinarian (this can have serious side effects on your cat’s liver.) Track your pet’s weight gain and loss by keeping up with regular visits to your veterinarian, or buy a scale for your home (if the cat wont sit on your scale, hold the cat while weighing yourself, then subtract your own weight to find out how heavy the cat is.) Remember, rapid weight loss is never health, and may indicate serious health problems.
With winter in full swing, plenty of furry critters are looking for somewhere warm to cozy up. I’m not just talking about our beloved feline friends, either. I am referring to mice. A welcome addition to some families, most of us are overcome with a shrill “eek!!” when we see one of these animals making themselves comfortable around or in our homes. Rodent control is a serious concern, not only to the health of us humans, but to our feline companions as well. A popular product used to control rodent population is poison. Most of us are familiar with the little green pellets laid out in a small yellow box readily available at most any store, but did you know this poison can harm our feline friends, even if they haven’t directly ingested the pellets themselves? Cats who hunt mice are at a risk for toxicity, simply from consuming the body of a poisoned rodent.
d-CON, one of the popular baits used, is a vicious form of poison, called an anticoagulant rodenticide.
So how does rat poison work? Rat poison antagonizes (or works against) vitamin K, in turn disrupting the normal process of the blood’s ability to coagulate, or clot. After consumption, there is a latent or “waiting” period in which the animal’s body uses up all the available clotting factors before symptoms may be displayed.
What are the symptoms? Clinical signs generally include some form of hemorrhage, or bleeding. Some things you might observe can include depression or lethargy (tiredness,) loss of appetite (anorexia,) pale or bleeding gums, black, tarry, or “coffee grounds” appearance to the stool, blood in the front of the eyes, blood coming from the nostrils, coughing up blood, bloody vomit, urine, or feces, or bruising.
Is there treatment for rat poison toxicity? Vitamin K1 is antidotal for anticoagulant rodenticides. The vitamin is an injectable liquid, given subcutaneously (under the skin,) in several locations (to speed absorption) & with the smallest possible needle (to minimize additional bleeding.) After the first day of treatment, an oral form of Vitamin K can be used, usually twice a day for about a month, in any case of suspected toxicity.
If you suspect your cat has consumed rat poison: Contact your regular veterinarian, local veterinary emergency hospital, or the Animal Poison Control Center hotline
How can you protect your cat? Try making your property less attractive to rodents by locating and sealing small holes that might offer access. Look under walls, between roofing tiles, water pipes, and ceiling eaves. Remember – any hole larger than the diameter of a pencil can provide entrance for a mouse. Don’t leave dirty cat (or dog) food bowls out. Place all animal foods in sealed containers. If you should find rodents near or in your home, consider non-toxic repellants or traps (everything from sticky glue traps to ultrasonic rodent deterrents are commercially available.) Any rodent carcasses you find (whether it is outdoors or a “gift” from one of your pet) should be disposed of well out of reach of your animals.
Tips for a Cat-Safe Christmas
December brings all sorts of new sights and smells into our houses, which can be potentially dangerous for our pets. Here are a few tips to ensure a safe and happy holiday season:
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!
Copyright 2013. TLC Pet Hospital. All rights reserved.