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Hyperthyroidism in cats

Hyperthyroidism is a very common disease in older cats. It usually affects cats who are at least 10 years of age, and the average age of diagnosis is 13 years old. Many pet parents are surprised by the diagnosis, since the symptoms can be subtle and gradual. The good news is that hyperthyroidism in cats a highly treatable and manageable disease.

What is hyperthyroidism?

When the thyroid becomes enlarged, usually due to a benign, non-cancerous tumor, it produces excess hormones that can have an adverse and fatal effect on vital body organs, such as the heart. The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that regulate vital functions, such as body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, bowel function, and metabolism.

What are the symptoms?

Usually a heart murmur or fast heartbeat is the first clue to hyperthyroidism that your vet may notice. Afterward, your vet may order a blood test that checks for increased levels of thyroid hormone. However, at home, the symptoms can be much more subtle. Since the thyroid regulates so many aspects of a cat’s body, you may notice symptoms that include increased irritability, weight loss despite an increase in appetite, increased activity, increased drinking and urination, vomiting, and diarrhea.

How is it treated?

After diagnosis, your vet may recommend that you give your cat a pill, usually methimazole, two or three times a day. Methimazole in pill form is usually inexpensive and fairly safe, but other methods of administration include liquid suspensions and a gel that can be massaged into the back of your cat’s ear. One of the downsides of methimazole is that it has to be administered for life. It takes a few weeks to reach effectiveness, and ceasing the prescription can lead to a dangerous increase of thyroid hormone.

What are other treatment options?

Another treatment option is a radioactive iodine injection. It’s a more pricey treatment, and it involves hospitalization for several days while it runs its course. Since the thyroid uses dietary iodine to create its hormones, the radioactive iodine absorbs into the thyroid, thereby shrinking it permanently.

Building on the same principal, therapeutic veterinary diets have been recently developed that limit the amount of iodine your cat consumes. Lastly, surgery may be performed to remove your cat’s thyroid glands, so it’s always best to follow the advice of your vet when considering your cat’s unique circumstances.

If your cat has been recently diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, talk to your pet sitter about possible ways to pill your cat. Even the sweetest cats can become difficult when it’s time to take their medicine, so it’s best to schedule a meet and greet with your sitter to show how your cat prefers to be dosed.

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 PROMartin Cathrae on flickr

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Common urinary tract diseases in cats

Just like people, cats can develop urinary tract problems that send them on frequent, painful trips to the “bathroom.” Luckily, a vigilant pet parent can catch and treat these problems quickly with the help of a vet. Here’s what you need to know.

What are common urinary tract ailments?

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is one of the most common reasons that pet parents take their cats to the vet. It’s a general term used to describe disorders that occur lower in the urinary tract, such as in the bladder or urethra. Inflammation of the bladder (called interstitial cystitis), bladder stones and crystals, and urinary tract infections are also common problems.

What are the symptoms?

Since cats are masters at disguising their pain, you might not notice a problem immediately. Watch for clues like inappropriate urination around the house that could occur because your cat associates the pain of urinating with the litter box and tries to avoid it. You may also notice your cat attempting to use the litter box more frequently, but only producing a small amount of urine. The urine itself may be bloody, cloudy, or smell very strong. A leaky bladder and “accidents” while sleeping can also be signs of urinary tract distress.

Some cats will howl or meow frantically because the pain can be very intense. A cat that cannot pass urine is having a medical emergency, and needs to go to the vet immediately. If left untreated, a blockage in the urethra can cause a fatal rupture of the bladder.

What are the treatments?

During a physical examination, your vet may feel your cat’s abdomen to determine the state of your kitty’s bladder. A series of tests such as urinalysis, bloodwork, ultrasounds, or x-rays may be ordered based on the patient’s history and any findings from the exam.

Once the cause has been determined, treatments range from fluid therapy and urine acidifiers to surgery. Sometimes, the severity of the treatment depends on how quickly the problem is diagnosed, so it’s extremely important that you take your cat to the vet as soon as possible.

Can urinary tract problems be prevented?

Unfortunately, some cats, especially males, are predisposed to developing urinary tract diseases. However, the best thing you can do to avoid problems down the line is feed your kitty a high quality wet food diet and provide ample access to fresh drinking water.

Is your kitty on a strict diet due to urinary issues in the past? Don’t forget to tell your pet sitter! Our sitters make every effort to follow your feeding guidelines down to the letter.

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 MarPockStudios on pixabay

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Why don’t some cats cover their poop?

When your kitty enters the litter box, does her business, but doesn’t bury the “evidence,” it can be quite a conundrum. But don’t worry. We have a bit of advice to help you get to the bottom of it.

Why do cats bury poop in the first place?

While many experts disagree, there are several theories as to why cats bury their poop. For one, Dr. Melissa Bain suggests that the behavior has to do with disease and parasite control. Others speculate that, as both predator and prey, cats bury poop to hide their presence. After all, cats who are apex predators such as lions, tigers, and leopards don’t feel the need to bury their poop. Furthermore, Amy Shojai, CABC also alludes to a study that claims to have observed female cats pooping outdoors 58 times, and only covering the poop once!

What are some reasons that a cat would stop burying poop?

First, you should always rule out medical issues. Changes in litter box behavior are often the first sign of a serious health problem. Once your vet rules out any underlying medical issues, he or she can also help you determine if the root of the issue is behavioral in nature. Changes in routine, introducing a new cat to the home, changing food or litter, or not having enough litter boxes can all lead to an unhappy kitty misusing the litter box.

What about cats who have never buried their poop?

Indeed, some behaviors, such as capturing and consuming prey, are passed down from mother cat to her offspring. Kittens will eagerly observe their mother in the litter box as if thinking to themselves, “So that’s how you do it!” If mama didn’t cover her waste, then it’s likely that her kittens won’t do it either. For cats such as these, you may want to find alternative litter boxes and methods of odor management to minimize the impact of a smelly litter box.

Does your cat have any unusual litter box behaviors? Be sure to tell your pet sitter! Our sitters take extra care to ensure that the litter box is clean and smelling fresh at every appointment.

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 Angelo Mazotta on pixabay

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How to keep your cat from chewing on wires

There’s nothing quite like finding out that your mischievous kitten has chewed through your charger wire. What’s worse is that handling the frayed wires can lead to a nasty shock for you and your cat. Here are a few ways you can keep kitty away from your power cords.

Find the root of the issue

Even though it’s perfectly natural for kittens to seek out items to chew on during teething, dangling wires are very tempting and dangerous targets for them. Normally, the teething behavior starts to disappear after two years, when all of the adult teeth have been set.

However, if your adult cat is chewing on wires, he or she may have a health or behavioral problem that need to be addressed. Wire chewing could be a sign of dental problems, PICA, or even boredom. The Spruce offers a comprehensive overview of the HISS (Health, Instinct, Stress, Symptoms) method that can be used to determine the cause of your cat’s behavior. When in doubt, consult your vet.

Apply deterrents

While you’re getting to the bottom of your kitty’s desire to chew, it’s a good idea to start chew-proofing your wires. Josie. F. Turner of AnimalWised suggests rubbing a blend of vaseline, lemon juice, and ground pepper onto the wires as a homemade deterrent. Dr. Dale Rubenstein of A Cat Clinic recommends Irish Spring soap. dish soap, citrus oil, hot sauce, or sports liniment.

Some pet parents have had success with store-bought Bitter Apple spray. If you use the spray method, avoid spraying it on an outlet or power source. You also don’t want your cat to ingest the spray, as it contains potentially harmful herbal extracts. Usually one taste is enough to keep kitty from coming back to it, but if it doesn’t deter your cat after all, wipe off the spray so that kitty doesn’t accidentally consume it.

Remove temptation

Consider making a stop at the home improvement store to pick up cord management covers, zip ties to bundle wires, and/or tape to secure the wires to the floor or wall. You should also hide cords behind furniture whenever possible, and wrap the excess length tightly around a table leg to keep them from dangling. You can place your video game console and charger wires in a drawer or cabinet when not in use, too.

Last, but not least, treat your kitty to some more appropriate chew toys, such as these crocheted cuties from For Paws and Home, or a more chew-resistant string toy, such as the Cat Charmer. Like with all toys, though, be sure to put them out of kitty’s reach when they are unsupervised.

Are you worried about your kitty having too much unsupervised time while you’re away? Hire one of our pet sitters to come check on kitty, once, twice, or even three times a day. We offer boarding, too, so call today!

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 J Dimas on flickr

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How to have Thanksgiving with your cat

On Thursday, you might be tempted to spoil your cat with turkey instead of regular cat food. There’s nothing wrong with preparing them a special feast of their own. However, the wrong foods could mean a trip to the vet, or worse! Here’s how to let your cat in on the Thanksgiving fun without compromising their health.

Which foods to avoid

While some human foods are safe, there are certain foods which are guaranteed to make your cat sick. Onions, garlic, green tomatoes, avocados, and chocolate are definite no-no’s, as are sweeteners and cranberries. Even certain “safe foods” should be treated with caution. Your cat might enjoy small pieces of plain cooked chicken. However, bones, fat trimmings, and gravy should be avoided. In regards to the gravy, there could be traces of garlic or spices that aren’t safe. As a rule of thumb, don’t share it with the cat if you’re unsure.

Which foods are okay

The safest way to let your cat enjoy Thanksgiving is to give them an extra special can of cat food. However, if you want to add a few extra fixings, very small quantities of certain meats or veggies are okay. Proteins like skinless, boneless chicken, lean beef, or eggs make for quite the treat! (Remember, always cooked, never raw, and no bones!) Your cat might also enjoy a little bit of cooked sweet potato, plain pumpkin, carrots, or broccoli.

Where to put your cat when company arrives

Even the most social cats might want to eat their Thanksgiving dinner alone. Lots of company could make your cat stressed or scared. Guests could also mishandle the cats or accidentally feed them foods they shouldn’t eat. During dinner prep and festivities, offer the bedroom as a sanctuary so your cat can enjoy the holiday in peace. If they get curious and wish to step out, make sure guests know the protocol for socializing with your cat.

Did your Thanksgiving plans change and now you’re scrambling, trying to find a pet sitter? There’s still time to book with us! Our attentive pet sitters will make sure your cat is happy and well-fed 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 Gellinger on pixabay

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How to stop your cat from peeing on the bed in 4 steps

Did your cat pee on the bed…again? Regular accidents on the bed are a stressful and smelly problem. But it’s not hopeless! Learn to tackle those soggy sheets and get the cat back to using her box.

Step 1: Completely clean the urine

First thing’s first. Strip soiled sheets off the bed and do a check to find any and all stains. Use a blacklight to track down spots. To break down the urine, pretreat linens with an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle. You can also use the cleaner to blot or soak stains on the mattress.

Step 2: Take preventive measures

You won’t stop the messes overnight but you can start by taking precautions. To save your sheets, cover your bed with an old or waterproof blanket until the habit has stopped. Next, break the habit with the power of scent. Special sprays that mimic cat pheromones can be applied to the bed to keep kitty away. Similarly, you can encourage your cat to use their box with litters containing herbs that attract cats.

Step 3: Double check the litter boxes

The wrong litter box situation can discourage cats from peeing where they’re supposed to. Is their box too dirty? Are there enough litter boxes? Change the litter regularly, and if you’re unsure of how many boxes to use, a good rule is to have one box for each cat, plus one additional box. Also check to make sure the litter box is in a good spot. Cats prefer areas that are safe, clean, quiet, and open (i.e. not a closet or rooms with lots of foot traffic).

Step 4: Take a trip to the vet

When cats pee in noticeable places, they’re usually trying to tell you something. They might be hinting at a disease or even stress. Cats suffering from bladder problems, for example, will feel too anxious to go in their box and find relief elsewhere. Urine on the bed can also point to tensions with one of your other cats, or even you! Your vet will be able to determine if their distress is medical or psychological.

Concerned about your cat’s recent messes? If you’re thinking the box might be too dirty, our cat sitters are available to regularly clean, no matter how many litter boxes you have. And of course, we always check in to report any of your cat’s accidents.

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 Tina Lawson on flickr

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What is whisker fatigue?

In our recent conversations on the blog, you may have seen references to whisker fatigue. Today, let’s take a moment to explore and unpack what whisker fatigue really is.

Why are a cat’s whiskers important?

While many mammals have whiskers (also known as tactile hairs or vibrissae), cats’ whiskers are highly specialized sense organs. At the base of each whisker, a proprioceptor is can detect the slightest movements in air currents to help a cat catch prey. Proprioceptors also help cats determine if they can squeeze through tiny passageways. They even help cats judge shorter distances that they cannot see well because of their farsighted eyes and the blind spot beneath their muzzles.

What causes whisker fatigue?

Whisker fatigue occurs when the proprioceptors are over stimulated, usually due to constantly brushing against the sides of a water dish or food bowl. Think of it like a barrage of sensory information, much like watching a movie with too many loud noises and excessively vibrant colors. Some vets, such as Dr. Neil Marrinan of the Old Lyme Veterinary Hospital in Connecticut, prefer to think of it as more of whisker “stress” than “fatigue.”

What are the symptoms?

A cat experiencing whisker fatigue may pace around the bowl, remove all of the food before eating it, or refuse to eat at all even if they appear to be hungry. In an article with PetMD, Dr. Marrinan also warns that these could be the symptoms of serious tumors or gastrointestinal problems. When in doubt, you’ll rarely regret taking your cat to the vet!

How can whisker fatigue be prevented?

The simplest solution is to replace your cat’s food dish with a flat, wide plate without a lip on the rim. You should also change out your cat’s standing water bowl for a fountain or another free flowing water source with a wide basin. Most importantly, you should never trim your cat’s whiskers because it would negatively impact your cat’s balance and perception.

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 dano272 on flickr

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Could your cat be jealous?

Have you recently added a new cat to your family? Have you noticed a change in the behavior of your first kitty? If so, your cat may be dealing with a bit of that green eyed monster called envy.

What are the signs?

Hissing, spraying, growling, and fighting are indicators that your cat feels that his or her territory has been trespassed. It’s not just the household, but you come with the territory as well. All those times your cat rubbed against you, he or she was marking you with various scent glands. So when you’re giving another cat attention, don’t be surprised if your kitty starts to exhibit these signs of jealousy.

If you acquiesce to your jealous cat, you wind up confirming that this behavior works.
Instead, find a healthy balance when giving your cats attention, and don’t play favorites.

Careful introductions

Adding another cat to your household requires careful steps to ensure that balance is maintained. A slow, calm introduction should begin by sharing scents. Let your cats sniff each other’s beds and toys before they meet. You can also purchase natural spray that can encourage stress reduction and even produce “feel good” hormones in cats.

Sharing is not caring

A good rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat in your household, and the same goes for their feeding and watering bowls. Cats don’t want to compete for resources, and if they aren’t given enough resource availability and security, tensions may rise into an all out war. Provide your cat with their own personal space, and that includes vertical territory.

What if it’s something else?

Perhaps your new addition to the family coincided with a new health issue for your cat. For example, you might mistake peeing outside of the box is a territorial behavior, but it could be a symptom of a urinary tract infection. It doesn’t hurt to seek veterinary attention just to be sure there aren’t any underlying health problems causing the new behaviour.

Are you going out of town, and want to be sure your cats get the equal attention they need? Give us a call to meet one of our pet sitters!

Andrea Gores is an actor, playwright, and pet sitter for Katie’s Kitty.

Photo by cäleidosc on Flickr

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Should you toilet-train your cat?

Have you been wondering if toilet training is right for your kitty household? Although a cat using a toilet can be quite the spectacle, there are several things to consider before “taking the plunge.”

What are the advantages?

The biggest advantage of toilet-training your cat is eliminating the need for kitty litter. The cost-conscious pet parent could save $70-$150 a year in cat litter, which can add up quite a bit over a lifetime.

Not to mention, teaching your cat to use the toilet means that you will no longer have to tolerate litter box odor or deal with unsanitary litter flecks scattered around your home or floating through the air.

As an added bonus, pet parents who are concerned with space issues appreciate not having a litter box to take up room, which is a concern for many New Yorkers.

What are the disadvantages?

One of the biggest disadvantages has to do with health monitoring. The volume, consistency, and frequency of urine and feces in the litter box are indicators of your cat’s health. When your kitty uses the toilet, you won’t be able to keep an eye on these factors. A clean bill of health for your kitty is also required to avoid the transmission of toxoplasmosis.

Older cats, cats who would have difficulty balancing on or gripping the slick seat, or cats who don’t like to share could also find the toilet to be troublesome. Additionally, some kitties may develop anxiety from falling in or not being able to satisfy the instinct to dig and cover their waste.

One final consideration is that toilet training requires a lot of patience, and accidents are bound to happen. House guests can also accidentally close the lid, leaving your kitty no choice but to eliminate on the floor.

Other things to try

Are you frustrated with your litter box, but still unsure if toilet training is right for your kitty? Consider trying automatic litter boxes and alternatives to clay cat litter until you strike a balance in the human-convenience-to-feline-happiness ratio.

Whatever method you choose, our pet sitters take extra care in ensuring a clean and happy home while you’re away. Give us a call to meet with one of our friendly pet sitters!

This post is a collaboration between Andrea Gores and Candace Elise Hoes.

Andrea Gores is an actor, playwright, and pet sitter for Katie’s Kitty.

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 minorleo on flickr

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Thanksgiving Safety Tips

13348088923_e3fbb02983_zThanksgiving is a festive opportunity to gather with cherished friends, beloved family members, and plentiful food. One thing to be thankful for this year is the company of your cat companions and their good health. Here are a few ways to help you keep your kitties healthy and happy during Thanksgiving celebrations.

Take care in the kitchen

Many cat parents have stories about the times their kitties rubbed against their legs and sent them stumbling. Now, imagine that happening while you’re holding a hot tray from the oven, a kettle of boiling water, a sharp knife, or even a frozen turkey.

Each year, 86,629 Americans visit the emergency room due to trip over a pet or pet related items. Not to mention, burns, fractures, lacerations, or worse could result from dropping objects on your cat in the kitchen. Therefore, it’s safer to keep kitty in the bedroom while you’re cooking.

Be mindful of your guests

Likewise, if you’re going to be having a lot of company over, you may want to designate the bedroom as a safe space for your cat. Some cats can become fearful and stressed in the company of loud strangers, so it’s important for kitty to have a retreat when he or she is feeling overstimulated.

You’ll also want to make sure your guests know the protocol around your cat to avoid being bitten or scratched. Discourage your guests from giving your cat table food and have cat-specific treats from the pet store handy instead.

Know which foods are harmful

Some human foods are safe for cats to eat in small quantities, such as cooked skinless chicken breast, eggs, broccoli, corn, and pumpkin. Other foods should be avoided, like cooked bones, fat trimmings, onions, garlic, sweeteners, and cranberries. Keep in mind that while the base food could be safe, the herbs and seasonings it was prepared with could be inappropriate. So you might want to think twice about giving kitty a piece of turkey or pumpkin pie.

When in doubt, treat your cat with a special can of pet food instead. Always keep the phone number to poison control handy and the emergency vet handy.

Last but not least, are you going out of town? It’s not too late to book a pet sitter! Give us a call and we’ll make sure that your kitty has company for the holidays.

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 Jenny Downing on flickr

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