A Day in the Life: My Journey to Being the Crazy Cat Lady

young-calico-catMany of you may remember my previous blog about Lusca, the new kitten, we got a couple of months ago. What I did not mentioned in my previous post was that we were also fostering a cat until a friend could find a home for her. Well, she moved in two weeks ago, and for those of you keeping track, our cat population has just about doubled. Initially, we didn’t have any intention of keeping Snowball and in the past, I have had no issues returning fosters to their new families, but she is a bit special.

She was a stray that had been hanging around my friend’s house for a few months, and with winter approaching they didn’t want to leave her outside. She also had developed a skin infection and a lovely case of fleas and ear mites. We quickly determined that she was incredibly sweet, cuddly and, in addition to her skin issues, she had a fairly loud heart murmur. My friends realized that she was going to need a special owner to take care of her, so they began looking for the perfect owner.

In the meantime, Snowball took up temporary residence in my basement, until her skin infection healed and her vaccines were updated. During that time, she quickly won over anyone that came downstairs to watch TV or snuggle. She became quite comfortable and started sitting at the top of the stairs so she could bolt up whenever you opened the door.

During this temporary residency, Lusca developed a love for escaping down the stairs. Sadly, Lusca was STILL in his, “I’ll attack everything that moves” (OK really anything that exists) stage, so I was a bit worried the first time he busted down the stairs. However, when he got down there something amazing happened … instead of immediately pouncing or attacking Snowball … he ran up fairly close and stopped short. I hadn’t seen him respond to anything that way before, so I watched in rapt attention. As he would get closer to her, she would make a “chuffing” noise, which, in cat, I equate to “I dare you!” and he respected it!

When Kyle got home, I was telling him about the interaction, and he thought I was crazy since Lusca has no respect for our other cats. Therefore, I “accidentally” let Lusca downstairs again when he was down there, and the same thing happened. We then decided to start letting them interact on a more regular basis and occasionally be roommates. As Lusca got braver, he managed to get himself swatted a few times, but, in all honestly, it was deserved and hopefully he will eventually learn some manners.

After much conversation and debating, we decided Lusca needed a feline mother-figure in his life and, given my veterinary background, our home seemed perfect for a cat with heart issues. Snowball apparently already liked dogs and was cool with other cats, which amazed me. Currently, she has taken up residence on the one foot rest that has not been claimed by anyone else (as a note- humans never get to have full access to any footrest here) and is loving life.

Nikki Kline, Veterinary Technician
French Creek Veterinary Hospital
www.frenchcreekvet.com

 

5 Ways to Have Fun With Your New Cat!

June is Adopt-a-Shelter Cat Month! If you are planning on bringing home a new furry feline friend, here are some tips courtesy of the CATalyst Council on 5 fun activities to do with a newly adopted cat.

  1. kitten

    June is Adopt-a-Shelter Cat Month!

    Set up your cat’s first veterinary visit. Ensuring your newly found friend lives a long and happy life starts when you establish a relationship with your local veterinarian. While your cat may have received some basic vaccinations prior to its adoption, it is important that you see your veterinarian as soon as possible. At your first visit, discuss preventive healthcare. After your initial visit, make sure your cat sees a veterinarian at least once a year for a routine wellness exam. By starting right after you adopt your cat, you’ll establish a close and helpful relationship with your cat’s health care expert.

  2. Teach your cat a trick. While most cat owners will tell you how smart their cats are, many don’t realize that their feline friends can learn tricks. With a little patience and some rewards—treats or a favorite toy will work—your cat can easily learn to sit, roll over, jump, give five — your imagination is the limit! The activity will also strengthen the bond between you and your cat and exercise your cat’s mind.
  3. Get your cat to love its carrier. If your cat sees its carrier as a great place to hang out, it will make going anywhere—the veterinarian, a friend’s house, the pet store—pleasant for both of you. Follow the tips in this video and your cat will love the carrier.
  4. Take your cat outside (appropriately). While most veterinarians and cat experts recommend that cats live indoors, it can be good for your cat to venture outside as long as it is restrained on a leash with a cat harness or in a cat stroller. The fresh air and sights will invigorate your cat. Training your cat to be comfortable on a leash can take a little patience, but your cat will love these outings once it is used to the sensation of the harness.
  5. Play with your cat. Part of the joy of having a new cat is figuring out what makes it tick. All cats have a prey drive and are natural hunters, but figuring out which type of prey toy it likes best is great fun for both you and your cat. Try different objects—fishing-type toys, fake mice, a ball in a stationary round track, food reward toys — there are an abundance of cat toys on the market and you can even find sites online that can show you how to make your own. But be on the lookout and immediately remove a toy if it is destroyed or broken. Also inspect toys prior to purchasing for choking hazards.

Each of these activities will help to cement the bond between you and your new feline friend. Cats are wonderful companions and, when given proper attention and health care, can live for more than 20 years. From day one, ensure you are doing your part to help your cat live the longest and healthiest life possible.

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The CATalyst Council is a national organization which includes a wide variety of animal health and welfare organizations as well as corporate members of the animal health industry that are working together to improve the health and welfare of America’s favorite pet. It was founded in response to troubling statistics released by the American Veterinary Medical Association that indicate an increase in our nation’s pet cat population coupled with a decline in veterinary care for those cats. More information about the CATalyst Council is available at http://www.catalystcouncil.org.

In the news …

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Harper and Lola

In the past week, I’ve seen several good animal videos and photo essays covering a range of issues and just plain cuteness. Instead of telling you all about them, I thought I’d share. Enjoy!

Frostie the Snow Goat
Frostie – possibly the cutest goat ever – lost the use of his back legs through disease. See how happy he is to get his very own wheelchair.

Mr. G the Goat
Mr G is a goat that was rescued from a hoarding situation who was then separated from his best friend, a burro. See them reunited!

Harlow And Indiana, Instagram’s Best Friends
A photo essay about two dogs that will melt your heart.

Nothing Comes Between a Kid and Their Dog
’nuff said.

BBFF – Bull Dog Best Friend Forever
Harper has no siblings, so her mom got her a bulldog.

It’s National Pet Week!

11Historically, the first week of May is National Pet Week. This week was designed to create awareness about responsible pet ownership. Having a pet is really like having a furry (or scaly, or whatever) child, and the responsibilities are many. It’s a true commitment and if you’re not sure you’re up to the challenge, you’re probably not. Here are some things to think about. Responsible pet ownership means:

  • providing proper food, water, shelter, and exercise
  • providing adequate veterinary care, including preventive care and regular check-ups
  • not giving an animal as a gift to someone who doesn’t want a longterm pet or who can’t handle the responsibility or afford the costs associated with a pet

Here at PVMA, we run an annual photo contest in the spirit of National Pet Week. Open to all Pennsylvania schoolkids, this year’s theme is “A Moment in Time: Loving and Caring for Our Pets.” The contest is open until May 31, so if you know a kid who love animals, have them take a photo and send it in before May 31 to lraver@pavma.org. You can check out the photos we’ve already received here.

For a heartwarming story of responsible pet ownership, read this photo essay on the rescue of a golden retriever named Bran.

A Day in the Life: Dr. Casey Kurtz – Flea-nial!

itchy_dogFleas, fleas, fleas! (I hope this isn’t like Beetlejuice). I see cases almost everyday, and despite all the chemicals, insect repellents and bug bombs out there, fleas not only persist, but they also flourish. Where do they come from? Are they the spawn of Satan? Are they magical creatures sent from another dimension to mess with our minds? I know ecologically they have a job and a place in the environment. For instance, they do help to enrich and maintain specific soil environments. (Please don’t ask me what those soil characteristics are.) Personally, I wish they would enrich someone else’s soil far away from my patients and me.

It used to be more of a summer issue, but, truthfully, with all the warm winters we’ve had, I see fleas even in the winter. It does not matter if it is a house with only dogs or only cats. It does not matter if your animals never go outside. It does not matter if your dogs are treated and your cats are not. Anyone and everyone’s pets can get fleas if they are not treated with flea preventatives. They commonly come in through the basement or the attic. Fleas are everywhere. They are pervasive!

The two tell tale signs exist (this is the magician’s secret, so hold on for the spoiler alert). The first sign involves hairloss and scabs centered around the back part of the animal just in front of the tail. A second symptom is that your pet will be sleeping and all of a suddenly jump up and start biting at him/herself. The presence of flea dirt, which looks like pepper on your pet’s skin, is also a big hint.

Once your pet is infested, they will rarely go away without using a topical or oral flea preventative. Fleas are like that crazy relative that brings three suitcases for a weekend visit and then stays for months. Given that half of the flea life cycle is spent partying in the environment away the pet, it can take a good three months of continual household and pet treatment to be flea free. They even live in the vacuum cleaner bags (or sweeper bags if you are from Western PA).

What products actually help? I truly think consistency is much more important than the actual product. (I must make the disclaimer that I am not getting kick-backs from any of these companies…if I was, I’d be driving a much faster car!) Also, this is just my opinion, others may disagree with me. For fleas AND ticks, Vectra, Advantix, Advantage and Frontline Plus do the job. Revolution works reasonably well for fleas and also helps with mites. Orally, Sentinel and Comfortis quickly kill adult fleas.

Now for the naughty list; I have seen multiple failures with Pet Armor, which was marketed as the generic Frontline, and it is the ORIGINAL Frontline, NOT Frontline Plus which is what has been used for years. The other products that I STRONGLY avoid are anything made by the Hartz company. Many patients have had severe, life-threatening reactions, and the product often fails to control flea population. Tossing change into a fountain and making a wish may be just as effective. Hartz must have a good marketing department and an even better legal division.

Well, I guess I’ll step off my soap box long enough to wish everyone a healthy, flea-free season. Feel free to ask any questions … that is … if you’re itching for more!

Casey Kurtz, VMD, is a veterinarian at French Creek Veterinary Hospital
www.frenchcreekvet.com

A Day in the Life: Nikki Kline

fun ways my cat likes to wake me upDo any of you have alarm clocks that you can’t “turn off”? If you own a cat, the answer is probably yes. They also don’t believe that weekends are for sleeping in, even if you went to bed at 2am … breakfast should still be at 5:30am.

I have to give my cats credit, they have developed some unique techniques over the years. They started with the traditional jumping on the bed and meowing. When we became immune to this, they started jumping up on the headboard (that has a shelf on it) and just staring down at you. One may think this isn’t effective, but have you ever had anyone or anything stare at you intently while sleeping, eventually it wears on you!

I, at one point, decided we were locking the cats out of the bed room, and they learned how to scratch at the door (I will assume taking turns) until I finally couldn’t handle the noise anymore. They also are great at acupressure (in case the Jedi mind trick doesn’t work). The cats seem to be very aware that I usually need to pee in the morning, and stepping right on my bladder gets me out of the bed faster. They also (I’m pretty sure) check over my body for any bruises or sore spots when I’m sleeping. In case stepping on the bladder doesn’t work, they try to land on the most painful points. Norbert also has some of the most forceful head butts I’ve ever encountered, and has come close to giving a bloody nose with his good morning head butts.

As time went on, I had what I thought was the harmless habit of setting a cup of water on the shelf above the bed.  This had never been an issue, until one morning I was refusing to give into the begging. Suddenly, I was awoken by cold water being splashed all over my head!  I’m not 100% sure it was intentional, but being that it happened three times before I stopped putting water up there, I think they discovered it worked pretty well.

After I stopped making helping the cats with their “morning showers”, they had to devise other plans.  Suddenly 5:30 in the morning was the perfect time for a “rumble”, aka they pretend to fight and make noises like someone is being eaten.  This worked in multiple ways.  One, I get up to see if they were really fighting. Two, Freya, our dog, (also the cat referee) promptly started crying from her crate when she heard the cats.

As much as the cats insist that feed them breakfast at crazy early hours in the morning, the most frustrating part is that when I do feed them, they take like four bites and go lay down to take a nap.  Meanwhile, I am now wide awake!  I always hated the beeping of alarm clocks so I guess the cats have saved me the annoyance of dealing with that, and they are a lot more fun to snuggle with … if only they had a snooze button, it would  be perfect.

Nikki Kline is a veterinary technician  at French Creek Veterinary Hospital in Pottstown, PA
www.frenchcreekvet.com

March 16-22 is National Poison Prevention Week

PoisonDogThink of this post as the Mr. Yuck for pets. March 16-22 is National Poison Prevention Week and the majority of resources available are aimed at protecting your children, so we at PVMA thought we’d give you a little help with protecting your pets! Take our poll at the end of this post to see which preparations you’re making.

First and foremost, be cognizant of the fact that your home is full of hazards, both inside and out. No, this doesn’t mean you’re a bad pet parent. Pets – especially dogs – are curious creatures and often investigate new things by tasting and eating them. Many plants in your yard or potted plants in the house can be poisonous, as can cut flowers like lilies. Like you would do with small kids, keep household cleaners, toiletries, and medicines out of reach. You know they aren’t food but your pet doesn’t. Also take special care in the kitchen. Everyone knows chocolate is poisonous, but so are many other foods and even chewing gum. Things like onions, chocolate, coffee, avocado, grapes and raisins, salt and yeast dough all can have bad consequences if ingested. I know if can seem like a treat to feed your pet people food, but stick to the pet food and treats that are designed for them. PVMA has a number of fact sheets which might be helpful on these topics – be sure to check them out and download for free.

Having a pet first aid kit stocked and at the ready can also be beneficial if you suspect your pet has been poisoned or is injured. Pet Poison Helpline, a fantastic web resource for pet safety, also has a number you can call -1.800.213.6680 – if you suspect that your pet has been poisoned. Keep it on your refrigerator and in any first aid kit that you create. Below is a list of items you might want to include in your first aid kit but remember, it’s very important to call Pet Poison Helpline or your veterinarian before giving any of these remedies yourself at home. The treatment will depend on the type of animal, the size, what was ingested, and what symptoms are being displayed.

  • Hydrogen peroxide 3 percent used to induce vomiting in dogs– make sure it’s not expired
  • Oral dosing syringe or turkey baster – for administering hydrogen peroxide
  • Teaspoon/tablespoon set – for measuring appropriate amount of hydrogen peroxide
  • Liquid hand dish washing detergent, such as Dawn or Palmolive
  • Rubber or latex gloves
  • Triple antibiotic ointment, like Neosporin™
  • Vitamin E (a small container of oil or several gel caps)
  • Diphenhydramine tablets 25mg – with NO other combination ingredients
  • Ophthalmic saline solution or artificial tears
  • Can of tuna packed in water or tasty canned pet food
  • Sweet electrolyte-containing beverage
  • Corn syrup (1/4 cup)
  • Vegetable oil (1/2 cup)

You can visit the Pet Poison Helpline website to learn much more about pet safety as well as facts, products, tips and recalls. They also have a mobile app for your iPhone so you can have information on the go.

Pets are part of our families and we want them to stay safe. With a few small steps to prepare, you can rest a little easier in case something happens.