Curiosity Saved the Cat: Ask Missy Anything Answers!

Hi Missy,

Our cat is an only pet. She is old, frail and never leaves her home. We hate for her to have to endure the annual visit and inoculations. Are all these shots absolutely essential for her well-being?

Love your glasses,
Pussy Willow's Mom

Dear Pussy Willow's Mom,

Good question, thank you!

While vaccinations are an important part of feline wellness care, the MOST important part of each visit is the doctor's physical exam. During a routine exam, veterinarians palpate (or feel) organs, check for arthritis which is common in senior cats, and listen to the heart and lungs in addition to noting the outward appearance of skin/hair coat, eyes, ears, mouth, etc. We also recommend annual blood, urine, and fecal testing which can help us catch and treat problems that are otherwise undetectable at early onset.

Cats are great at hiding problems until they become critical and the early stages of illness are usually very subtle. In the wild, this natural behavior extends life as an apparently strong, healthy cat is less vulnerable to predators. This instinct often does not dissipate within the protective walls of your home, but your watchful eye could help identify signs of trouble early. These signs could include increased thirst and/or urination, changes in appetite, unusual wandering throughout the house, howling, hiding, or not using the litter box appropriately.

As for the vaccines themselves, we recommend indoor-only cats remain current on their core immunizations: Rabies and FVRCP (aka HCP). The Rabies vaccine is required by state law to protect pets and humans alike. FVRCP is identified by feline veterinary specialists across the nation as a core vaccine group for all cats regardless of lifestyle. While exposure to these viruses is limited for Pussy Willow, their benefits likely far outweigh the risk of vaccination. Our doctors are happy to go through the pros and cons list on an individual basis during your pet's visit to help you make an informed decision as to what's best for you and your cat.

In short, while we do want to make sure our feline patients are current on their recommended vaccinations, we also want to stress the importance of regular exams with a veterinarian. We understand trips to our hospital can be taxing on pets and owners alike - especially for our elderly kitties - and sympathize with you whole-heartedly. Our entire team has been working hard to create a more relaxed environment for cats. A cat-only exam room with diffused pheromones and low-stress handling techniques are two ways in which we are achieving this goal. Ulimately, we truly believe that regular visits - ideally every 6 months, but at least once per year - are essential for a cat's well-being.

Linked below are some more articles that might help answer your questions! Please let me know if you have any follow-up questions I can answer for you.

"Carriers and Car Rides" article link

"Wellness Exams" article link

Thanks for being a great cat mom!

Missy

P.S. I love my glasses too, thank you!

Dear Missy,

One of my kitties, Charlie, likes to wake me up every morning by licking my face and hands and also poking me and meowing at me. I realize I've created a monster by serving her breakfast as soon as I get up so I know she wants to be fed (because she guides me right to her bowl) but why does she lick so much?

Thanks,

Charlie's Mom

Dear Charlie's Mom,

Please take a moment and read this article from the ASPCA, I think you will find the answer you are looking for! In this article, you will find helpful tips on correcting this licking behavior as well.  

You will find often that I quote Jackson Galaxy, the cat behaviorist on Animal Planet. He is an amazing resource. He mentions in one of his many blogs that regulating a cat's digestion will help regulate their energy. I see you feed Charlie twice a day, canned Fancy Feast and 1/8 cup Royal Canin dry. You are already off to a great start! Why don't you try splitting up her portions into three meal times that fit your schedule? Plan the last meal about 1.5 hours before you go to bed. Before feeding, get a "Da Bird" wand (Amazon or PetCo) or something similar and interactively play with her for 10-15 minutes. Wear her out then feed her. Afterwards, she'll start to groom and head to bed with you with a full tummy and hopefully won't be as lovably obnoxious. Ideally, this should be done before breakfast too for best results.

Cats still have their ancestor's instincts even though we have domesticated them:

HUNT-->CATCH-->KILL-->EAT!

I would expect to see an improvement in this behavior within 10-14 days if you can commit. Consistency is key!

Thanks for your question! Keep me posted!

Missy

Dear Missy,

My cat was an abandoned cat in the Park Circle area and she was desperately thin and shy. Her owner had kicked her out since she is untrusting and will not be handled. After over a year living at my house she will let herself be gently petted sometimes but only with one hand, not two that could grab her unexpectedly. She has been living with me for 5 years now, but she is still not affectionate although I can corner her and get her in a crate for her annual visits to DIAH. The price I pay is that it takes about a month for her to let me touch again. So, as you can imagine, I don't crowd her. I have to let her come to me.

She will only sulk in the closet corner or under the guest bathroom sink cabinets (she is good at getting doors open) if I try to keep her indoors only. So, reluctantly, she has access to the doggy door which she uses easily. But, she mostly sits out on the back patio watching birds, chasing lizards.

She has been at DIAH several times with the crystals in the urine business. I have tried to convert her to wet food, but she just starts to not come home for days if she doesn't get her kibble which is the only thing she thinks is cat food, not cheese, yogurt, chicken pieces, etc. The big problem is that she doesn't drink enough on her own. Is there something I could put in her food that looks like kibble that would make her drink more water?

Nala's Mom

Dear Nala's Mom,

Thanks for your questions. I have some thoughts but there are situations where I feel like a home visit may be warranted. This may be one. I'll give you suggestions and we'll see.

Obviously, as you mentioned, she has trust issues. We can work with that. It will take time as there aren't usually any quick fixes.

I see you have two beagles. Just from reading some history she sounds like a big time stress kitty. Make sure she has a place in your living room where the family congregates where she can be with you all. Some place high, not just the back of a couch or top of the refrigerator. She needs to be able to have a quick escape from these high places so should she need to use a litter box, she can do so without feeling threatened.

Get a "Da Bird" wand off Amazon or at PetCo. Play with her for 10-15 minutes before meals...this will instinctively get her hunting behavior out. You may not want pups to be present during play. She needs a lot of environmental enrichment. It's awesome she gets to watch the birds and the lizards...let's get her to find something. Get a food puzzle, like the Pipolino, for cats and make sure you feed her just twice a day. She can roll it around and her food will drop out little by little.

Make sure she has 2 litter boxes in different locations. These boxes ideally need to be much larger than she is...she needs room to fully turn around inside the box. Wal-Mart and many other stores have done cats a disservice by selling the tiniest litter boxes known to man.

I am available for house calls. I would try the things described above (Da Bird wand, food puzzle, and verticle spaces) first to see if it helps with her trust.

Take care,

Missy

>^..^<