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Hypertension in cats

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can occur in cats just as it does in people. If you’ve ever had a bout of high blood pressure yourself, then you know that the symptoms can be subtle but significant. Here’s what you need to know about hypertension in cats.

What causes hypertension?

Most commonly, hypertension in cats is seen as a secondary system dysfunction as a result of hyperthyroidism and chronic renal failure (CRF). According to PetMD, 65 percent of cats with CRF and 87 percent of cats with hyperthyroidism develop high blood pressure.

Senior cats are more likely to experience hypertension, as they are more likely to have CRF and hyperthyroidism, but high blood pressure has been observed in cats as young as four years old. If left untreated, the high blood pressure can damage delicate blood vessels and organs that receive a significant blood supply, such as the brain, heart, kidneys, and eyes.

What are the symptoms?

Unfortunately, sudden blindness may be the first and most severe symptom of hypertension that pet parents notice. Over time, high blood pressure can cause the retinas to detach from the eyes.

Other symptoms include lethargy and keeping a distance, circling, seizures, and weakness. Since hypertension often occurs secondary to hyperthyroidism and CRF, some of the symptoms of these diseases are actually symptoms of high blood pressure, too.

How is it diagnosed?

If your vet suspects hypertension may be present, first they will examine the pupils for an appropriate response to light and for any bleeding, which can be seen without special equipment. Next, your vet will measure blood pressure in the same way that it would be measured in humans, with a machine that uses an inflatable cuff.

The measurement can be taken at the base of the tail or on the paw, but about 5-7 measurements will be taken. The first measurement is usually inaccurate due to the stress of the visit, colloquially known as “white coat syndrome.” The remaining measurements will be used to discard any other outliers and determine an average.

How is it treated?

Amlodipine is the most common prescription for lowering blood pressure in cats. Over time, the symptoms should subside, and you should notice your cat returning to their baseline behaviors.

Are you worried about your kitty with a special medical condition while you’re out of town? Hiring an experienced pet sitter can help put your mind at ease while you’re away. Our sitters are extra vigilant, providing updates to keep you apprised of your kitty’s health and happiness every day.

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

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How many litter boxes are best?

Having the correct number of litter boxes for your home with cats is as important as deciding on what kind of litter to use or selecting the right kind of litter box. Too few litter boxes can lead to anxiety and behavior problems, while too many can make it feel like you’ll be scooping poop for all of eternity.

The rule of thumb for litter boxes

The rule of thumb (or “formula,” if you will) for determining how many litter boxes to supply, is one litter box per cat, plus one extra, and an additional box per level. So, a one cat household would ideally have two boxes. If you have a two cat household, you would need three boxes.

If you have a three cat household and two floors, you would need five, as evenly divided between floors as possible. This is a special consideration for juniors and seniors who have trouble with stairs.

Litter box placement

Aim to have the litter boxes evenly distributed throughout your house. Place the boxes in a low-traffic area where your cats can feel privacy, ideally where another kitty can’t sneak up on them while they are doing their business.

Since cats are territorial creatures, ensuring that each room in your house has the proper resources is the best way to reduce conflict between cats. You’ll also want to keep the litter box far away from other resources, like food, water, and toys.


Once you’re sure that you have the correct number of litter boxes, but your cats still don’t seem happy with the arrangement, watch their behavior closely and make adjustments. If your cats are urinating on your furniture, first clean the area, treat it with a deterrent, and protect it with a waterproof cover. Then, place a litter box closer to where the accident has occurred.

Do your cats seem to be endlessly scratching outside of the tray? They probably need a larger litter box. Are they scratching at the hood? You might want to try a high-sided pan that stops litter scatter and odor, but gives them more overhead space. Are they soiling in front of the box? Try to clean it more often, or add another litter box to provide more access to fresher litter.

Not sure if you have the right number of litter boxes in your home? Ask your pet sitter’s opinion. Our sitters pay special attention to the litter box on each visit, so we can definitely let you know how the litter box usage is going!

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

photo by Roang_zero1 on flickr

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How often should your pet sitter visit each day?

Here on the blog, we’ve discussed whether in-home pet sitting or medical boarding is right for your cat, and if your pet sitter should visit every other day. Once you’ve decided on daily pet sitting visits, the next step is to determine how many times a day you’d like someone to come check on your kitty.

Once a day

Many cat experts agree that giving your cat half an hour of undivided attention will make for a happy, well adjusted kitty. Having your pet sitter come once a day for half an hour is usually enough time to have them clean up and play with your cat.

On the one hand, if your cat is very playful and would benefit from extra attention, you can ask your sitter to stay for an hour. On the other hand, if your cat is very shy and you’re convinced that he or she will hide for the entire visit, you may want to inquire about fifteen-minute pet sitting visits instead. Keep in mind, though, that with a longer visit, your cat may eventually come out of hiding once he or she realizes that the pet sitter is friendly.

Twice a day or more

Twice-daily visits are ideal for cats who eat two separate meals in the morning and evening, cats who take medication, and for kittens and seniors who would benefit from being checked on more often. Again, they can be shorter or longer visits depending on your cat’s needs. If your kitty needs medicine three times a day, you could arrange for two half-hour visits in the morning and early evening, and one fifteen-minute visit late at night.


Overnight pet sitting visits are ideal for the nighttime mischief makers out there. Since cats are more active at night, your cat sitter can respond quickly if your cat gets into trouble.

Cats who have separation anxiety will also appreciate the extra time and companionship that an overnight pet sitter can provide. Kittens in particular really appreciate the having someone there to snuggle up to at night so they feel less lonely. Overnight visits are also a good option for cats who need medicine very early and very late at night in addition to a lot of love and attention.

Still undecided about what type of visit is right for you? Contact us to be matched with one of our friendly pet sitters. We would be happy to advise you on the perfect visitation combination for your situation.

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

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Why isn’t there mouse-flavored cat food?

Have you ever wondered why you don’t see a mouse-flavored cat food sitting on the shelf in a pet store? Pet parents who want a diet that is as close as possible to what their cat would eat in the wild may may find the omission to be baffling. Let’s dig a little deeper to find out what’s going on here.

Pet food has to be appetizing, but to whom?

One common explanation as to why you don’t see mouse meat on the menu has to do with who buys it. Pet food labels and ingredient lists are meant to be attractive to the consumer, which why you may see ingredients that cats wouldn’t eat in the wild but sound tasty to us, such as kale and cranberries. It is believed that human consumers would find the idea of feeding their cat dead mice unappetizing, so it’s not an avenue that’s often explored in product development.

Where do pet food ingredients come from?

For commercial pet food manufacturers, the cost of the ingredients in their cat food formulas is a major consideration. While poultry, beef, fish, and even venison are raised and processed for human consumption, mice are not. Some premium pet food manufacturers may use rabbits, but they are also a food source for humans, and therefore are more readily available to manufacturers. Mouse meat may be such a rare protein that it simply isn’t worth making cat food recipes that revolve around it.

How do regulations factor into the equation?

Mice as a food source aren’t approved by the Department of Agriculture, either. Shaun Belongie, the national brand manager for Friskies, explained to Mental Floss that the FDA “holds pet food to the same sanitation and safety standards as it does human food, approving ingredients it deems appropriate, and necessary, for an animal’s diet.”

Moreover, most of the cat food that you would find on the shelves of the pet store are formulated to meet the standards of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The AAFCO is a non-governmental organization made up of state and federal officials that set the guidelines for the nutritional value of pet food. While AAFCO itself does not enforce any regulations, many states require that commercial pet foods pass their standards.

But if you search hard enough…

If you’re really determined to find mouse meat for your cat, you may have considered that mice are raised for use in labs and as food for pet snakes. They have to come from somewhere, right? It turns out that mice are actually in very high demand. When it is in stock, you can buy ground and whole-prey mouse meat from specialty farms such as Hare Today, along with over novel proteins such as bison, alpaca, and guinea pigs!

It does come with a warning that the freezing and grinding process removes some of the nutrients, and it does not meet AAFCO standards. Another word of caution for vegetarians and the squeamish: it can be a little unsettling to see what your cat’s food looks like before it’s been processed. I’ll leave it at that.

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

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How to find hidden cat pee

At some point or another, every cat parent will experience the unique frustration of smelling cat urine in the area but being unable to determine its exact location. It can be downright vexing to try to figure out where on earth your cat peed. Here are a few handy life hacks that can help you solve the mystery.

Wash all of the linens

When trouble shooting, you should always eliminate the most common scenarios first. Cats who are experiencing improper elimination or litter box avoidance are usually uncomfortable for some reason. The root of the problem may be behavioral or medical, but in both cases, your cat will look for a more comfortable place to do his or her business.

Usually, the most comfortable surfaces in your home are blankets, pillows, and clothing with a familiar scent. So, strip your bed, wash any dirty clothes in the hamper, clean the rug or carpet, and even wash the cat beds. Don’t forget throw your shoes in the wash, too! More often than not, you will have found and eliminated the odor.

Check underneath of everything

Still smell cat pee? You may have to get down on your hands and knees for this one. You would be surprised how often cat pee can trickle behind hard to see places, such as beneath the washer and dryer or under baseboard heaters. Don’t forget to also look beneath of piles of clothing, inside of bags, and in your cat’s favorite hiding places. Turn over objects that could have fallen throughout the day, because your cat may have kicked something on top of their urine to cover it.

Go high tech

When all else fails, take technology into your own hands. You can buy a blacklight flashlight from internet retailers such as Amazon and Ebay. The there is a compound in dried cat pee that will glow a green color under a blacklight. Shine it everywhere, including on walls where cat pee may be sprayed or splattered so thin that you wouldn’t have otherwise noticed it. Keep in mind that it only works on dried cat pee, though. If the stain is fresh, you can probably find it by feeling around for wet or sticky surfaces. You can use a glove if you’d rather not touch the urine directly.

Is your cat experiencing litter box aversion? Be sure to let your pet sitter know. Our pet sitters are extra vigilant when it comes to keeping your home as clean as the day you left.

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

photo by Jessica Fiess-Hill on flickr

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Should you give your cat filtered water?

Ample, free access to fresh, clean water is vital for your cat’s health. Water is the foundation of every essential system in your cat’s body, and therefore determines your cat’s quality of life. Have you ever stopped to think about the quality of your cat’s drinking water?

Is tap water safe for cats?

The answer to whether tap water in your area is safe for your cat depends on a number of factors. For one, every municipality is different. Some town water supplies have intentional and unintentional additives that can harm your cat’s health, such as chlorine, fluoride, bacteria, sediment, heavy metals, and pesticide residue. These may be especially troublesome for a cat with an immune deficiency or urinary tract disease.

The pipes in your building, recent water main repairs, and fluctuations in concentration of added chemicals can also impact the quality of water coming from your faucet. As a general rule of thumb, if you would filter your own water before you drink it, you should also filter the water for your cat.

What about bottled water?

It is estimated that 25 percent of bottled water actually comes from a municipal water supply. While bottled water has to meet certain standards set by the EPA and may go through more rigorous filtration processes, you have to read the label closely to see if you can get the same quality of water for your cat with a home filtration system rather than purchasing it bottled or having it delivered.

Spring water can be beneficial because it contains natural vitamins and minerals from bubbling up through aquifers, but be wary of mineral and distilled waters. The mineral levels in both of these cases are not appropriate for cats. You should also be mindful of water that is stored in plastic that contains bisphenol A (BPA). Often added to plastics to help with rigidity, BPA is chemically similar to thyroid hormones that can cause imbalances and disruptions in your cat’s health.

What about the filters in pet fountains?

Most pet fountains have two- or three-stage filtration. The most common pet fountain filters will have filter floss and and charcoal. The filter floss catches larger debris, such as hair and pet food crumbs, while the charcoal removes some chemical and particulate impurities.

Since every pet fountain is different, it’s best to compare which impurities you’d like to remove from your water supply against the specific fountain’s filtration system. You can write to the manufacturer if you’re unsure if the fountain that you’re interested in will be appropriate for your water supply.

What about filters for human use?

As an added precaution, you can always pour pre-filtered water into your cat’s fountain. Water filters for human use have gone through extensive testing, and information is more readily available about what each model is capable of removing.

What kind of water do you give your cat? Your sitter wants to know! Also be sure to clean and replace any fountain filters before you go out of town so that your kitty has an uninterrupted supply of fresh water while you’re away.

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

photo by frankieleon on flickr

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Are essential oils safe to use around cats?

Essential oils have received a big boost in popularity lately as people seek out more natural and sustainable health alternatives. Yet, as is often the case, some things that are safe for you are not always safe for your cat. Consider the following before using essential oils in your home.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are derived by distilling or pressing plants until they can be separated out into an aromatic oil and water. They are often used in aromatherapy, and are thought to have therapeutic value for human beings in very low concentrations. Since too much exposure to essential oils can be toxic, it’s best to only use essential oils under the advice of an experienced aromatherapist.

Since cats are unable to metabolize essential oils, they are highly susceptible to toxic accumulation of essential oils in their bodies. Lea Jacobson, a certified clinical aromatherapist, writes, “Although it is recommended that all essential oils be avoided with cats, there are some that are especially problematic due to high levels of 1,8-cineole, camphor, limonene, methyl salicylate, pinene, as well as essential oils with significant ketones and phenols.” Essential oils should never be applied directly to your cat’s skin or fur.

Can essential oils be added to food or water?

You may see essential oils advertised on products that are labeled as “safe” or “natural.” Just because a product is available from a reputable website or pet store, that doesn’t mean that they are truly safe or appropriate for your cat. Some holistic pet remedies contain extracts that are known to be toxic to cats, such as valerian root, albeit in a highly diluted concentration. Your cat could also be at higher risk if he or she has kidney or liver disease.

Before you giving your cat any holistic treatment, it’s best to discuss the ingredient list and possible alternatives directly with your vet. Never use more than the recommended dosage.

Can cold air diffusers be used around cats?

After learning about the benefits of essential oils, it may be tempting to use a cold air diffuser in your home as a natural air freshener. Cold air diffusers are a lot like vaporizers or humidifiers. However, they do not introduce the heat that would break down essential oils. Although the original concentration may be diluted, they begin to build up in the air. You should never close your cat into a room with a diffuser running.

Even in a well ventilated room, essential oils in the air can have a negative impact on your cat’s health. According to the ASPCA, “effects such as gastrointestinal upset, central nervous system depression and even liver damage could occur if ingested in significant quantities. Inhalation of the oils could lead to aspiration pneumonia.”

The ASPCA goes on to note that since different oils have different levels of toxicity, it’s best not to take any chances by using essential oils near your pet.

Are you still wondering about safe ways to keep your home with cats smelling fresh? We have a treasure trove of articles on our blog, such as how to deal with a smelly litter box and how to spot hard to see cat pee.

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

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How to keep cat fur off of your bed linens

There’s nothing quite like the warm, peaceful presence of a cat snuggling up to you at night. Alas, nothing can really compare to the distinct pleasure of waking up with eyes full of cat fur, either! You don’t have to shut your cat out of your bedroom at night to avoid an allergy attack in the morning. Try one of these quick fixes to keep the cat fur off of your bed linens.

Plug in an air purifier

Some of the cat fur that settles on your bed throughout the day doesn’t come directly from your kitty at all. It’s floating through the air! You can capture the fur before it gets into your eyes by using an air purifier with a HEPA filter.

Brush your cat routinely

If your cat is an excessive shedder, you can nip the problem in the bud by getting into a grooming routine with your kitty. Not only will removing the fur ahead of time prevent it from building up on your bed, but you’ll also create a bonding experience between you and your cat that can reduce stress and help lower your blood pressure.

Choose easy to clean fabrics

Some fabrics are more likely to attract and hold onto cat hair than others. Microfiber is a great choice because the small, tightly woven threads don’t leave very much space for cat hairs to latch onto the fabric. Likewise, avoid comforters with large, chunky weaves that leave a lot of space for cat hair to get tangled.

Provide access to more desirable areas

If your bed is the only plush surface in your home, you can bet that your kitty is going to spend a lot of time there. Give your cat more options for places to sleep by furnishing your home with cat trees, pet beds, or even just a very plush area rug nearby.

Use a throw blanket

If you still can’t keep your cat off of your bed, find a nice warm throw blanket that you can drape over your comforter and pillows during the day. When it’s time for bed, you can remove the blanket to reveal the minimally-furred bed sheets beneath it.

Does your cat have a favorite place to nap in your home? Be sure to tell your pet sitter! Our sitters make every effort to ensure that your kitty stays cozy and comfortable while you’re away.

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

photo by Celeste Lindell on flickr

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Is a self-cleaning litter box right for your home?

Cats love a fresh, clean litter box. Sometimes, they can’t contain their excitement and use the box right after you’ve scooped it! If you’re looking to maintain that freshly-scooped appeal throughout the day, you may want to consider buying a self-cleaning litter box. Before you buy one, consider the following pros and cons.

What self-cleaning litter boxes do well

Self-cleaning litter boxes can either be powered by electricity, or by you. Examples of popular electric models are the LitterMaid and ScoopFree automatic litterboxes, which both use a comb or rake mechanism that sweeps the litter box free of waste.

One of the benefits of the these devices is that they will remove the waste mere minutes after it’s created, thereby minimizing the odor that escapes into the air. They are ideal for using with corn-based and crystal litters respectively. They also solve the common complaint of these types of litter becoming malodorous too quickly.

Other self-cleaning litter boxes, like the OmegaPaw Roll n’ Clean and various sifting tray litter boxes do not use electricity, but they are scoopfree in that you do not have to physically “dig for buried treasure” yourself. They can also be used with corn and crystal litters respectively.

Where self-cleaning litter boxes fall short

Even though self-cleaning litter boxes advertise that they work well with clumping clay litters, in reality clay litters can easy clog the gears. Clumping litter also tends to form a paste on the bottom of the trays, just out of reach of the comb. So, you’ll still have to get the scoop and scrape the bottom from time to time.

The ugly truth about most electric automatic litter boxes is that they don’t work well when there’s loose stool. The LitterMaid system, for instance, relies on clumping litter. If kitty didn’t cover poop, then when that rake goes by, it’ll just all get smeared in the mechanism. The ScoopFree, while designed to remove uncovered poop, doesn’t fair much better when the waste isn’t very firm. This is a problem that can be avoided by using a non-electric model, though.

Keep in mind virtually no litter box is maintenance-free, and receptacles do need to be changed on most electric models. If you do not change the receptacle in time, the lid will come open and fill the air with the smell of about 20 uncleaned litter boxes! Not to mention, buying new receptacles can often be an added expense that can build up over time. Luckily, eco-friendly solutions can be found in a few moments by searching the web.

Do you have an automatic litterbox that needs a little maintenance while you’re out of town? Hire a pet sitter! Our pet sitters are happy to make sure that everything is functioning properly for your kitty while you’re away.

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

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Why do cats prefer high places?

Have you ever noticed that your kitty loves to jump on top of the refrigerator? Or perhaps you’ve spent a good 20 minutes looking for your cat, only to see him or her peeking at you from atop your door? You’re not the only one, and it’s a quite natural behavior that your cat is exhibiting.

How are cats able to jump so high?

Cats are able to jump an astounding 6 times their length, which is more than enough for kitty to reach the top of your door in a single bound. Cats use a combination of their extremely flexible spinal column, powerful hind legs, low body weight, laser precise vision, and careful calculation that all contribute to one of the most graceful leaps in nature.

Why don’t cats like to be on the ground?

As both predator and prey, cats are instinctively aware that they are more vulnerable on the ground. The open ground makes them easy targets for larger land-based carnivores as well as birds of prey. When they aren’t on the hunt (or sunning themselves with their colony), cats will find hiding places in hard to access trees and enclosed spaces where they can easy ward off attacks.

How can you help your cat satisfy this natural instinct?

You can “catify” your home by providing access to more vertical territory. Providing tall cat trees with hiding boxes is a great way to start. You can also install cat shelves, which are essentially display shelves that you reserve for your feline friend only. If you really want to go the extra mile, you can custom order cat bridges and wall mounted play areas to give your kitty an endless amount of climbing space. The sky’s the limit!

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

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