Five secrets for a happy cat

Having a happy, un-stressed cat is easy to do.

Below are 5 secrets to help you achieve kitty Zen*.

Cat in a box

1. Provide a safe place

Every cat needs a safe and secure place where (s)he can retreat to and feel protected. It can also be used as a resting area. Kitty should have the ability to exit and enter the space from at least 2 sides if it feels threatened. Most cats prefer a space large enough to fit only themselves, that has sides around it, and that is raised off the ground.
Good examples of safe places are a cardboard box, a cat carrier, and a raised cat perch. There should be at least as many safe places, sized to hold a single cat, as there are cats in a household. Safe places should be located  away from each other, so that cats can choose to be on their own if they feel like it.

2. Provide multiple and separated key environmental resources

What on earth are key environmental resources?
They include include food, water, litter box, scratching posts, play areas, and resting /sleeping areas. These resources should be separated from each other, so that cats have free access without being challenged by other cats or other potential threats (like a dog!).

Separation of these resources reduces the risk of competition, stress and stress-associated diseases (e.g. bladder disease).

3. Provide opportunity for play and predatory behaviors

Play and predatory behaviors allow cats to fulfill their natural instinct to hunt. Play can be stimulated with the use of interactive toys that mimic preys, such as a toy mouse that is pulled across a floor or feathers on a wand that is waved through the air. Allow your cat to capture the “prey” every once in a while to prevent frustration.

Early in a cat’s life, introduce interactive play, so they learn to avoid going after your hands and feet for play. Using food puzzles or food balls can mimic the action of hunting for prey, and provides more natural eating behavior. You can encourage your cat’s interactive play by rotating your cat’s toys, so they don’t get bored.

Use treats to reward and provide positive reinforcement for appropriate play. If you have more than one cat, remember to play with them individually.

And because I am a surgeon, I have to remind you to never leave cat toys unattended, especially anything that looks remotely like a string or a ribbon. They can be swallowed by your cat – or your dog.

4. Provide positive, consistent, and predictable human–cat social interaction

A cat’s individual preferences determine how much they like human interactions such as petting, grooming, being played with, being talked to, being picked up, and sitting or lying on a person’s lap.

To a large extent, this depends on whether, as kittens, they were introduced to and socialized with humans during their period of socialization from 2 weeks to 2 months of age. Remember that every cat interacts differently and respect your cat’s individual preferences.

Remind guests and all household members not to force interaction and instead let the cat initiate, choose, and control the type of human contact.

5. Provide an environment that respects the importance of the cat’s sense of smell

Smell and chemical information is a primary means by which cats assess their surroundings and affirm their sense of security and comfort within their living quarters. It is important for pet owners or other humans to avoid introduction introducing odors or substances (e.g. detergents, medications, foods, laundry or unfamiliar clothing) that compete with or disrupt the cat’s sensory perception of its environment. When a cat encounters an unpleasant or threatening smell, the stress can cause problem behaviors.

Marking is an important form of olfactory communication. A fundamental principle of maintaining a secure in familiar sensory environment is not to punish cats for house soiling.

These are 5 great tips to remember to keep your cat happy and healthy.

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

* The following 5 tips are inspired from a document published by the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

5 New Year resolutions for dogs

Dear Human,

This is your dog writing*.

With the start of the New Year, I thought I would send you a few suggestions to make sure I maintain my place as leader of the pack. I was made to be catered to, and this is how we should keep it this year.

Dog walking

1. Play with me every day

Please don’t just open the door to “let me out.” It’s so boring out there without you. Join me and play with me. Throw me a ball. Run with me. Play hide and seek. There are so many fun things we can do together!

Do this every day, and I promise I will entertain you, make you smile, and lower your blood pressure. Besides, I hear it’s great exercise, and we could all afford to lose an ounce or two after the holidays.

2. Help me love the car

I overheard that not vomiting in the car is my ticket to getting out of the house more frequently. I would love to get out of the house, and be transported by a chauffeur as I deserve. But I hate the car. Help me change that. Help me love car rides, and I promise I won’t hide and fight you every time. Talk to my vet to give me an anti-vomiting medication. I’d rather swallow a pill that than feel nauseous and vomit. And let’s take it slow. Let’s start with short rides, just for fun. Then we can make the car ride longer.

3. Take me on a walk

Let’s walk in the park from now on. The yard is getting so boring… And let’s go to a different park every once in a while. Or a forest. Or the fields or something!

People will fawn all over me because seeing someone like me on a leash will be a treat for humans. Think of all the petting and attention!

4. Teach me a trick

Keep my brain active by teaching me new tricks. I can show your friends how smart I really am and make you proud of being owned by me. You’ve always suspected that I understand every word you are saying, so allow me to prove it by letting me learn new tricks.

5. Take better care of Me

Measure what I eat. Schedule an appointment with my vet if I haven’t been there in the past 6 months. I wouldn’t want to be accused of being chubby or having fleas. Also help me keep my pearly whites in good condition! Preventive health care is the secret to a long and happy life, and only you can help me achieve that.

Help me make 2015 the year I remain the leader of the pack. Help me reclaim my well-deserved place in the world. Help me make this dream a reality. So please do your part and follow these 5 simple steps* to keep me happy, healthy, and deservedly pampered!

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

* These 5 New Year resolution are loosely inspired from similar information provided on cats by the CATalyst Council, an organization dedicated to cat health and welfare. Find more information at catalystcouncil.org.

5 New Year resolutions for cats

Dear Human,

This is your cat writing*.

With the start of the New Year, I thought I would send you a few suggestions to get me closer to the status we felines once held in ancient Egypt. We were worshiped as gods, and this is the status I would like to return to this year.

Cool cat

1. Play with me every day
Some people who are owned by a cat think that we don’t need that much attention. I beg to differ. We need lots of attention. We felines crave attention. And we deserve attention. So play with me – every day. In the process, I will entertain you, make you smile, and lower your blood pressure. Besides, I hear it’s great exercise, and we could all afford to lose an ounce or two after the holidays.

2. Help me love my carrier
I overheard that my carrier is my safe ticket to getting out of the house more frequently. I would love to get out of the house, and be transported by a chauffeur as I deserve. But I hate my crate. Help me change that. Help me love my crate, and I promise I won’t hide and fight you every time. Here is a video you can learn from: http://www.catalystcouncil.org/resources/health_welfare/cat_carrier_video/index.aspx

3. Take me on a walk
Dogs should not be the only ones allowed to be walked outside. As long as you don’t interrupt my nap, teach me to walk on a leash, with a kitty harness. First let’s do that inside so I get used to the idea. Then maybe you can walk me in the yard, and possibly even on a sidewalk if you feel it’s clean and safe enough for someone of my status.
Your friends and neighbors will fawn all over me because seeing a cat on a leash is such a rare treat for humans. Think of all the petting and attention!

4. Teach me a trick
In an effort to elevate my status, I am willing to prove that I am smarter than dogs. Teach me tricks and I will show you how smart I really am. You’ve always suspected that I understand every word you are saying, so allow me to prove it by letting me learn a trick.

5. Take better care of Me
Measure what I eat. Schedule an appointment with my vet if I haven’t been there in the past 6 months. I wouldn’t want to be accused of feline obesity or diabetes. Also help me keep my pearly whites in good condition! Preventive health care is the secret to a long and happy life, and only you can help me achieve that.

Help me make 2015 the year I begin elevating my status in your house. Help me reclaim my well-deserved place in the world. Help me make this dream a reality. So please do your part and follow these 5 simple steps* to keep me happy, healthy, and deservedly revered!

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

* These 5 New Year resolution are loosely inspired from information provided by the CATalyst Council, an organization dedicated to cat health and welfare. Find more information at www.catalystcouncil.org.

What should you do if your pet gets lost?

One of the most traumatic events a pet owner can go through is having a pet on the run.

Lucky sign

Think it could never happen to your pet? Many smart and loving pet owners did before…

Yet many un-sterilized pets run away, (mis)guided by hormones. And as many as 20% of pets, end up MIA after being scared by loud noises such as thunderstorms or fireworks.

Here are 10 tips to help you find your pet ASAP:

  1. File a “lost pet” report with every rescue organization, every shelter and every animal control office within a 60-mile radius of your home. Also make a point of visiting all nearby shelters every day.
  2. Alert all veterinary clinics, both day practices and emergency clinics, in your area. Prepare a flier to be posted at the front desk. It’s not uncommon that people bring a stray dog or cat to their family vet, no matter how far from where the animal was found.
  3. Several times per day, walk around and/or drive around your neighborhood. Ask friends and family members to help out.
  4. Alert everybody you meet. Pet owners especially will be sensitive to your situation.
  5. Give anybody who is willing to help a recent picture of your pet and your contact information.
  6. Post flyers everywhere: all over the neighborhood (telephone poles etc), as well as in private and public locations (businesses, stores, post office…).
  7. Slick trick: to avoid scams, leave out one characteristic when you describe your pet. If someone calls and claims to have seen your pet, ask them to describe the missing item.
  8. Use the Internet. There are several pet recovery websites such as FidoFinder.com, TheCenterForLostPets.com and Craigslist.org.
  9. If you don’t have the time to do all of the above, or can’t take off work easily, consider using a lost pet recovery service. They will contact neighbors, vets, shelters and other organizations – for a fee.
  10. Just in case your pet comes back home when (s)he is hungry or thirsty, you could place food and water around your home. You could even place the bowls in a (humane) pet trap to catch them.
  11. Bonus tip: use social media. Facebook, Twitter and texting can be good ways to spread the word quickly.

Bottom line: The first few hours are critical. You need to put in place all of these strategies. But you just can’t do it all by yourself, so enroll help. Get the word out quickly. Never give up. It’s a cruel world out there… and your mission is to save your pet.

The information above is loosely borrowed (with permission) from our colleagues at DVM360, a professional magazine.

I would like to add a few important points: what should you do to prevent your pet from getting lost?

• Take pet identification seriously. A name tag on a collar is a minimum. It should have your pet’s info, your vet’s info, and yours. Of course this doesn’t do any good if the collar is not around your pet’s neck.

A tattoo can be done by your vet (under anesthesia). The best solution is a microchip. This is a tiny electronic device, about the size of a grain of rice, that is implanted under the skin. It can be done awake – anytime.

When a lost pet is found at a shelter or a vet clinic, the first thing people do is “scan” the pet to see if there is a microchip. As long as the microchip is linked to a CURRENT address and phone number (hint, hint), you should get a call with the good news. PLEASE microchip your pets.

• If you allow your pet to be unsupervised in the yard, make sure the fence is 100% secure.

• Don’t trust electric fences 100%. An excited dog can run right through them. However, once on the other side, they may not want to be “shocked” again, so they may remain outside the perimeter. Oh, which reminds me: several of my clients dearly regretted not having the special collar around their dog’s neck the day they were hit by a car. If you go through the expense of installing an electric fence, then please always put the collar on your dog’s neck every time (s)he goes outside. One exception is all it takes…

• ALWAYS walk your dog on a leash. If you are a long-time reader, you surely have read countless stories of pets who have been hit (or worse) by a car. This is a DAILY occurrence in my practice.

• In my opinion as a surgeon who has seen countless horrifying injuries, I would never, ever let a cat outside. My cats are banned from the outside world, and they are perfectly happy indoors.

• Freedom is a wonderful concept… until somebody gets hurt, or until the teary owner realizes that they just can’t afford a 2-3-4-5 thousand dollar bill at the vet.

• Be especially careful and secure the house (doors, gates, windows) when there are fireworks (July 4th, New Year’s Eve etc), around Halloween (especially if you have a black cat) and when you hear thunder.

As in many endeavors, prevention is easier than the “treatment.” You now have a script to prevent your pet from running away. And if you are if this unfortunate situation, or know somebody who is, you have some tips to get your pet back home.

Good luck.

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

Halloween special: 10 grossest things at the vet’s

This is a Halloween special, so this is not for the faint of heart. You have been warned…

READER’S DISCRETION IS ADVISED!!!
E collar
Some people think that vets and techs are so lucky because they get to cuddle with cute puppies and kittens all day. While this is sometimes true, there is also the less glamorous part of our job: dealing with smells and sights that can make the toughest of the toughest sick to their stomach…

Is your stomach ready to take a tour of the 10 grossest things we see or smell at vet hospitals?  Then read on…

1. Maggots

Maggots are certainly one thing that can make my very toughest nurses physically sick. Some of them can’t even look at them.

The little squirmy, flesh-eating fly babies hatch out of eggs laid by flies in open wounds or near body orifices. They show up quickly and can smell terrible because the flesh they live off is usually dead or dying…

2. Proptosed eye

A proptosed eye is when an eye literally pops out of its socket. It is usually still connected by the strong optic nerve, but it is quite a horrifying scene. The most commonly affected breeds are those with bulgy eyes.

3. Cuterebra

Cuterebra is a type of bot fly which can travel through an animal’s body, then burrow just under the skin until it  is ready to turn into its adult form. It then comes out of the skin and flies away. And the wonderful circle of life continues… Cuterebra requires a quick surgery to be removed.

4. Open wounds

Open wounds and broken legs can be really nasty after a pet gets hit by a car. One of the worst wounds is called a “degloving injury,” because the skin is literally peeled back or off of the underlying muscle.

Broken legs are very common in our surgery world, however the really disturbing ones are ones that are literally twisted or rotated completely or that is hanging and flopping around.

5. Dehiscence

You know how most vets recommend confinement and a plastic cone (aka E collar – see picture above) after surgery? Well it’s not to torture your pet! It is to prevent them from licking and chewing at the incision and to prevent failure of the surgery. One of the grossest complications after belly surgery is called dehiscence, which at worst could cause the intestines to end up on your favorite carpet…

6. Anal glands

Anal gland fluid is an incredibly foul smelling liquid which vets and technicians empty multiple times a day. We are probably all familiar with the smell, but it never fails to shock you with it’s intensity and foulness when you walk into a room after a dog had their anal glands expressed, and even worse, some patients will release them on their own when they are excited or worked up and it shoots, sometimes onto someone’s skin or clothes!

7. Parasites

Pets can have multiple “external” parasites on their skin and in their ears. Ear mites, fleas and ticks sound gross enough as it is… but it’s even worse when you look at them under the microscope!

When blown up by the magnification of the microscope, these nasty multi-legged parasites look like mini-monsters!

8. HGE

HE or Hemorrhagic Gastro-Enteritis causes an impressive amount of stinky, bloody, jelly-like diarrhea. And it’s even nastier to clean! We’re not quite sure what causes it, and with proper care, it is typically self-limiting. This means that we typically achieve a happy outcome in the end.

9. Coprophagia

Yes… some of our beloved dogs have this nasty habit of eating poop. Dog poop, deer poop, rabbit poop, horse poop, cat poop, some are not even very discriminating…

And then some insist on giving us doggy kisses!  Let’s be serious!

10. Rotten mouth

Some pets have a mouth that is so rotten that you can smell them from the next room. Under a large build-up of tarter, bacteria, pus, infected bone and gingivitis are teeth that are sometimes so loose that we can pull them with our bare hands! Please believe your vets when they recommend a dental cleaning. Some dogs need one every few years, but some need a cleaning once a year, or sometimes even every 6 months.

This list is hardly exhaustive, but it gives you a brief overview of what sometimes happens behind the scene at your favorite veterinary clinic…

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ