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No Meowing, No Litter Box Use – Help!

Posted on: August 9th, 2011 by

Hello. I’m Dr Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. I’m going to be answering a couple of questions today from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

The first question is from Sharon. She writes, “Why does a cat not meow and it is normal? Do many cats have that problem? I have a one-year-old cat that I adopted that does not meow.”

That definitely is very unusual for kitty-cats. I’m a little bit unclear as to whether he is meowing but nothing is coming out or if he’s just not even bothering to try to meow. If he’s meowing and nothing’s coming out, on rare occasions a cat could be born with an abnormality of his vocal cords or elsewhere in the throat area, so he may not be physically able to meow even though he’s opening his mouth and trying to.

Certainly, on rare occasions there are cats that just don’t meow. Sometimes some of the breeds, like the Persians, tend to be on the quieter side, but even they will make noises now and again. You just might have a very unique cat who doesn’t feel the need to voice his opinion, and it’s nothing that I would worry about

The second question is from Hope. She has a very common question. She writes, “What makes a healthy neutered cat refuse to use a clean litter box? He will go all over the house but not in the box, no matter how clean it is. The vet says he has no health problems.”

This can be a very common problem that we see in kitty-cats and unfortunately also a very common reason why many of the kitties end up in the Humane Societies. The first thing to check out is whether he is truly healthy. It seems like your doctor has ruled out any medical conditions, so then we tend to think it’s a behavioral issue. We want to take a close look at the setup of your litter boxes in the home situation.

The litter boxes that we provide in the homes are not at all like what the kitties would choose if they were outside in the natural environment. The goal is to make sure that his litter box is as attractive as possible so that he doesn’t choose other areas to go. Attractiveness to the cat includes cleanliness, convenience, and safety. There are some general rules that we can apply to try to make sure that the cat is using the box and finding it an attractive place to go.

You definitely want to have a minimum of one litter box per kitty-cat and you also want to have at least one box on each level of the house. You want to places these boxes in different areas around the house so that he has options. You definitely want to pay close attention to the type of litter that you’re using. Most cats like the scoop-able litter because it feels softer to their paws. I would choose one that’s unscented and preferably low in dust.

You want to make sure that you’re not placing the litter boxes near any loud appliances or air ducts because that might frighten the kitties away. Cleanliness is extremely important. It sounds like you are doing a good job already, but there’s usually room for some improvement. You want to scoop the box at least once a day but perhaps even more than that. Occasionally I’ll see a cat that will not use a box even if there’s just one soiled area already in it, so you may need to scoop out the box two or three times a day. You also want to dump out the entire contents of the box at least once a month, sometimes maybe more, and then wash out the box with good old soap and water. Don’t use any disinfectants as they may leave a smell that the kitty doesn’t like.

Covers or hoods on the boxes and plastic liners cause a lot of problems. The kitties don’t necessarily like the feeling of the liners, and hoods can trap in ammonia odors and also make the kitties feel like they’re being trapped. I do not recommend any of those. Make sure you remove them. You also want to offer the largest litter box possible. Oftentimes they don’t even use litter boxes, per se, but I especially like the see-through plastic storage containers. They can work very well for kitty-cats.

What we’re trying to do is set up a situation so the cat can actually try to tell us what his preferences are and what he likes. I will often recommend that we set up kind of a cafeteria style type of littler box situation in the home. Make sure there are a lot of different litter box types, different litters, and different locations, and let him choose which he likes. Once you’ve figured out what his preferences are you’re more likely to be able to provide that for the kitty and then he’ll use those boxes.

Something else you definitely want to do is make sure you are properly cleaning the areas where the kitty soiled. An enzymatic cleaner is going to do the best job of actually breaking down the odor rather than just covering it up with a fragrant scent. If you’re having trouble finding exactly where the kitty eliminated, especially with urine, a black light can make the spot stand out so that you know where to do the proper cleaning.

If you’re still having trouble after trying these tips and advice, definitely talk to your veterinarian. The longer these types of problems go on, the more likely they will actually become more of a habit and more difficult to correct.

Five tips for you and your beach baby

Posted on: August 8th, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance runs on the beach.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

Landlocked in lovely Boise, Idaho, we’re a full day’s drive to the Pacific Ocean and not exactly pros when it comes to beach living. So we asked our more sea-savvy Facebook friends how they keep their pets safe on the beach (aside from having pet insurance of course) and we got some great advice we hope you can use on your next beach getaway.

Bring Fresh Water
Gulping salt water can cause diarrhea and vomiting in your dog, so make sure you discourage him from drinking ocean water and provide plenty of fresh water. Keep it covered and in the shade so it’s clean and cool when he needs to rehydrate. Any digestive discomfort caused by sea water should pass within 24 hours. If not, seek veterinary care.

Protect Their Paws and Skin
Hot sand can abrade and crack paw pads, and those cracks can become infected. To keep pads soft and healthy, one friend swears by Musher’s Secret, a natural wax product that you can rub onto your dog’s paw pads before hitting the sand. Other options include a variety of water-proof booties and socks available online and at pet stores – just make sure they fit well and won’t come off when wet.

Dogs with short coats and lighter skin especially need extra protection from the sun. Talk to your vet about a pet-safe sunscreen and be sure to give your dog a good bath when you get home.

Test the Waters with Other Dogs
Especially in off-leash areas, make sure other dogs are friendly before letting yours run free. This is especially true if your dog will be fetching a toy – how will he react if another dog tries to sneak in and grab it? If your dog is possessive of toys, leave them in the car till the other dogs are gone.

Scout the Land
Most dogs love seeing vast expanses of open space – they’ll tear off running as fast as they can. Before you let your pup off leash, check the beach for anything potentially dangerous like broken glass, garbage and jellyfish. Investing in dog insurance can help ensure your pup will be protected if any injuries occur while on the beach.

Take Frequent Breaks
Some dogs will fetch and swim themselves right into exhaustion. Even if your dog wants to keep playing, give him breaks in the shade throughout the day. Some signs that indicate he might be overdoing it include vigorous panting, dark red gums and thick saliva. If you observe any of these signs or your dog seems weak or dizzy, get into a cool place right away and call your veterinarian. Pet insurance can help diminish costs associated with emergency vet visits for heat stroke or exhaustion.

Kitten questions! Are you ready?

Posted on: August 4th, 2011 by

A kitten with pet insurance plays in a cat bed.

By: Dr. Jane Matheys
Associate Veterinarian
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

We’re in the middle of kitten season with the majority of kittens being born between spring and fall. Who can resist these cute little balls of fur? It’s easy to fall in love with these adorable, cuddly creatures, but before you bring a new kitten into your home there are a few things to consider, aside from which food, toys and cat insurance to purchase.

First and foremost is whether you’re ready and able to make the commitment that comes with pet ownership. As a cat owner, you are responsible for providing proper food, shelter and health care for your cat’s entire life, not just when it is small and cute. Cats are not disposable. I hear way too many sad stories about cats being left behind to fend for themselves when the owners move away, cats being dumped out in the countryside when they’re no longer wanted, and cats being surrendered to local shelters as adults because they’ve lost that kitten cuteness factor.

Three to four million cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters every year. Please be a responsible pet owner and be part of the solution to pet overpopulation, not a part of the problem.

Kittens are also an expense, especially during the first year of their lives. Work their general costs into your monthly budget, and be sure that you have a small fund set aside for routine or wellness care, particularly if your kitten will be going outdoors when it’s older. You can also look for a pet insurance company that offers wellness care coverage.

Improvements in both dog and cat insurance over the past ten years have made it more worthwhile than ever. There are more policy options available, and you have a much better chance of finding a policy that covers what’s important to you and your cat at a price you can afford.

It’s also important to consider your current home situation. Do you have a dog? Many dogs and cats that live together learn to be friends, but some breeds are “cat chasers”, and some kittens may be too playful and interactive for some dogs. Your veterinarian can help guide you as to what might be the best fit for your unique situation if you decide to open your heart and home to a kitten.

Do you already have any cats? If so, how many and what are their ages and genders? You would not want to bring a new kitten into a household that has a single geriatric cat. Senior pets do not always appreciate the rambunctious antics of a crazy kitten! In these cases, if possible, it would be better to get two kittens that would be more likely to bond to each other and not bother the older cat.

Cats that have lived alone for a long time are also less likely to accept a new pet quickly. It’s necessary to be able to provide a separate room for each cat with separate food and water dishes and separate litter boxes, especially during the introduction period. Sometimes it’s helpful to add a kitten of a different gender to help maintain peace in the household.

If you’re starting with an empty nest, also consider getting two kittens. If you work long hours or are away from home a lot, the kittens will provide each other with plenty of activity and companionship. Some cat insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance even offer multiple pet discounts!

Healthy Weights and Recurring Eye Infections in Cats

Posted on: August 4th, 2011 by

Hello. I’m Dr. Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. I’m going to be answering a couple questions today from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

Our first question is from Kitty, wouldn’t you know, and she says, “How do I get my overweight cat to lose weight? I’ve already stopped feeding her wet food and feed her about a cup of dry food a day but she hasn’t lost any weight. She is a moderately active spayed indoor kitty. I can’t afford pricey diet cat food. Is there something else I can do to help her slim down?”

Actually, I recommend totally the opposite of what you’ve just done for your kitty cat. It’s best to use canned food to help cats lose weight. It’s usually not making them gain weight. Dry foods are actually higher in calories because of the higher carbohydrate content, and a lot of owners let the kitties eat as much dry food as they want to. That is where I tend to see the most problem with kitties becoming overweight and obese.

Canned food is more like what cats would eat in nature. It’s higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates, and it’s also a good source of moisture. Because of the high protein/low carbohydrate content it does help promote weight loss in cats, just like it does in people.

The second thing you want to do is work with your veterinarian. He or she can help determine about how many kcals of energy a day your kitty needs to help promote weight loss. You then divide that amount of food between two or three meals throughout the day to help keep the kitty satisfied.

I recommend that you weigh the cat monthly and then adjust the amount of food fed, depending upon whether the kitty is gaining or losing weight. That part is not rocket science. It’s pretty easy. It’s based on the whole ‘calories in, calories out’ type of technique. The hard part comes in when you have to sit at home and listen to your cat beg for food and plead with you with those big eyes. That’s the most difficult part, so you’ll want to be very committed to getting the weight off your kitty cat. Stick with the program and you can be very successful in getting the weight off and helping to keep your cat healthier.

The second question is from Chrissa. She writes, “Every few weeks my cat’s right upper eyelid will swell and her eye will water like crazy. It goes away after a few days. It’s done this on and off her entire life and she’s almost eight years old. Any idea what’s causing it or if there’s anything I can do for it?”

The first thing I think about is whether this could possibly be a flare-up of a chronic herpes virus infection in the eye. This is one of the upper respiratory infections that can stay quiet in the body and then resurface, especially after any periods of stress. It will often give an eye infection where the eye swells and sometimes they’ll squint. Oftentimes, they’ll get the watery type of discharge.

It’s best to have this checked out by your veterinarian who can tell whether this is what’s going on. If so, there is a supplement that can be given to help prevent the recurrence of the infection.

Australian Cattle Dog – Blue Heeler

Posted on: August 2nd, 2011 by

An Australian Cattle dog smiles for the camera.

If you look in the dictionary under “hardest working dog,” you might see a picture of an Australian Cattle Dog (ACD), also called a Blue Heeler. Many dog lovers and pet insurance enthusiasts alike have a fondness for this particular breed.

This breed is a member of the herding group and his skills in this area are quite impressive. One of the most intelligent breeds, this loyal, protective dog does best when he has a job to do.

Breed Description
The ACD is muscular with a compact body. He has straight front legs with round feet and short toes. His head is broad and curved between the ears, which are wide-set. He has dark brown, oval eyes. The ACD has a smooth double coat with a dense undercoat. The coat colors range from red speckled, blue, blue-mottled and can either have markings or not. The puppies are born white due to a gene passed down from past crosses with Dalmatians.

Because this breed is a herding dog, he needs an active life, preferably with a job to do. Without sufficient exercise and activity, he is easily prone to boredom, which can lead to destructive behaviors. A short daily walk is not enough for this dog to be healthy and happy. Because they are so intelligent, they respond to a high level of obedience training. But if you don’t have the time to invest in both good training and a high level of exercise, the Australian Cattle Dog is not likely for you. You may want to factor hiring a trainer and looking into dog insurance, when considering the cost of dog ownership for this specific breed.

It is imperative that owners establish dominance at an early age or this breed can become aggressive to other dogs and can be difficult to control. The owner needs to be alpha in the ACD’s “pack” and to enforce that fighting will not be tolerated. But with adequate training, this dog can be a very grounded, trustworthy and happy pet. Nipping at people’s heels is sometimes seen as the dog trying to herd them. This behavior needs to be addressed as unacceptable.

Because the ACDs are such strong, muscular dogs, they would appear to be heavier, but males weigh between 32 and 35 pounds; females are 30 to 35 pounds. They are 17 to 20 inches in height; females are 17 to 19 inches.

Health Issues
This breed is prone to hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), which can lead to blindness. A dog insurance policy is always a good idea to help with the cost of veterinary care.