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National Cat Week: A time to celebrate a ditch kitten named Autumn and others

Posted on: November 2nd, 2011 by

A kitten in need of pet health insurance is held in the palm of a vets hand.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
Vet at Idaho Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

The first week of Novemeber is National Cat Week! Setting aside a week to recognize the intelligence and personalities our feline friends offer is a small way to give thanks and to raise awareness about the scores of kitties that don’t have people to love. If you happen to already be a kitty owner, it’s a great time to look into cat health insurance for your furry companion. Cat insurance can help you afford the best care for your pet in the event of an illness or unexpected accident. Additionally, National Animal Shelter Appreciation week will be upon us soon– November 5th through the 11th, so after adopting your new best friend, make sure to start looking into the best cat or dog health insurance you can find. Companies like Pets Best Insurance reimburse 80% of the actual vet bill!

Local animal shelters are a haven for thousands of homeless animals and work closely with communities to ensure pet health and well-being. While this particular story is about a stray kitten that was lucky enough to never end up in a shelter, her story can still highlights the effort put forth by humane societies to connect homeless pets with petless homes.

A family recently came to my clinic and their story is perfect for National Cat week, and also resonates with National Shelter Animal Appreciation week. Autumn was a tiny 2 pound Calico bundle of skinny fur and whiskers. A couple found her in a drainage ditch, shivering. Unwilling to leave her there, they scooped her up and took her home. She was bathed and fed and within hours of being warmed and fed she became a playful 8 week old kitten. Before allowing her to interact with the other cats at home, the family recognized the importance of scheduling a visit with their veterinarian to ensure she was healthy.

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From the outside Autumn looked like she was in great pet health although she was slightly skinny. It was recommended that she start receiving kitten vaccines and that she be tested for infectious viral diseases; two such diseases are Feline immunodeficiency virus and Feline Leukemia virus. If Autumn had either of these disease, she could spread it to the healthy cats at home. The couple agreed that she should be tested. Unfortunately, the blood test was positive for Feline Leukemia virus.

Feline leukemia virus is a retrovirus that is spread from cat to cat by saliva of the infected to cat to eyes, mouth or nose of non-infected cats through grooming, biting, during pregnancy or nursing from mom to kitten and rarely from sharing bowls and toys. The virus spreads from the infected tissue to adjacent lymph nodes and eventually invades the bone marrow, causing leukemia, a cancer of lymphocytes. The virus can compromise the immune system, leaving the cat susceptible to a variety of other illnesses, thus clinical signs of the disease can be varied. If the cat’s immune system can’t clear the virus, the disease can be fatal. There is no cure.

There is a vaccine available against FeLV; most experts agree that cats with risk of exposure to other stray cats be vaccinated. Less than 1% of cats as pets are persistently infected with FeLV in the United States, but well over a third have specific antibodies which indicate prior exposure and subsequent development of immunity instead of infection. Experts agree there is strong evidence kittens under 4 months of age, such as Autumn are susceptible to infection, but as their immune system matures, they are able to ‘clear’ the virus from their bodies. There are three outcomes for cats infected with this virus, the cat can fight off the infection and become totally immune, it can become a healthy carrier that never gets sick itself but can infect other cats, or it can develop the disease and become immunocompromised. Pet insurance companies like Pets Best Insurance even offer a limited reimbursement for this vaccine.

The kind-hearted couple were faced with a huge dilemma. Do they open their home to this little kitten, segregating her from the other cats in the house, potentially for months, and retest her, knowing there was a risk she might get sick before then? Or do they give her up now, protecting their other cats at home from infection and hope someone else would give her the chance to clear the disease? Lastly, they considered putting her down now, and sparing her the suffering that would occur should she develop symptoms of leukemia.

The couple decided to sleep on it; they left Autumn at the clinic for a night so that they could go home and discuss the best option. To my delight, they decided to give her a chance! They brought their other cats in immediately to be FeLV vaccinated as an extra precaution, and kept Autumn in a separate part of the house for 8 weeks. Two months seemed to fly by, and soon Autumn was on my schedule to be re-tested. Everybody held their breath and crossed their fingers as we waited the agonizing ten minutes in takes to run the test. And she was negative! She had cleared the disease, just as we had hoped, and therefore was no longer a carrier and could live a normal life with her new family.

Autumn was lucky to have found a family to care for her; We encourage you to take a moment November 5 through 11 to appreciate the work that your local shelter does to help kittens like Autumn every day and take time this week to give your feline friend an extra kiss to recognize National Cat week!

For more information about pet health or pet insurance, visit Pets Best Insurance.

Kevin and The Cat Doctor Part III

Posted on: November 1st, 2011 by

Hello. I’m Dr. Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. Today I’m going to be answering some questions from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance, and we are continuing the series that we call “Kevin and the Cat Doctor”.

Kevin asks me, “My female cat has suddenly taken to spraying the walls and other items such as clothing. Is she just trying to mark her territory or is there a deeper issue to this?”

First of all, Kevin, I’d ask you if you kitty-cat is spayed. Some females who are not spayed will mark their territory, urinating on articles or spraying walls and such, when they’re in heat. So make sure that she is spayed. If she has already has been spayed, then it’s always best that we rule out a medical problem. Some cats, when they have urinary issues, will spray rather than urinating on items on the floor. It’s best that you take your kitty to your veterinarian, have the doctor run a urinalysis and give the kitty a good physical to rule out any medical problems, rather than just assuming that she’s having behavioral issues and just acting up.

Next, Kevin asks, “I’ve been told cats which have been declawed have peculiar habits atypical of normal cats, such as urinating upon furniture. How true is this?”

It is not true. Declawing can be a very controversial subject but I’m happy to report that there have been no studies that have shown that cats that are declawed have any type of elimination problems or any other behavioral problems. So it is okay to declaw your kitties in certain situations.

And finally, Kevin asks, “I’ve been told kidney failure is the great equalizer among cats, so what should I do to reduce this likelihood?”

Unfortunately, we do see a large amount of chronic kidney disease in our older kitty-cats and we’re not entirely sure why this happens. The best way to try to prevent it is by making sure your cat sees your veterinarian for an annual physical, or perhaps even visiting the veterinarian twice a year. At some point as the kitty gets older, your veterinarian will recommend that some blood work and a urinalysis be done. This is very important because that way you can identify kidney disease as soon as possible and there are steps that can be taken to help your kitty’s kidneys work for as long as possible.

Kevin and The Cat Doctor Part I

Posted on: November 1st, 2011 by

Hi. I’m Dr. Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. I’ll be answering some questions today from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

This particular segment is called “Kevin and the Cat Doctor”. Kevin was a very busy boy and had lots of questions for us, but I do appreciate that, Kevin, because honestly, the more you know about your kitties, the better you’ll be able to keep your kitties healthy and happy for a long time.

Let’s start off on Kevin’s questions. The first one here is, “If I get a kitten, should I teach it to use the toilet or is that a novel behavior best left alone?”

I’m always amazed at those people that can actually teach their kitties to use the toilet. I don’t know how they do it and I don’t know where they get the patience from. But hey, if you want to try that, I’d say go for it. My only concern is that as a kitty gets older, they may have some problems jumping up onto the toilet if they get arthritis and things of that sort. For younger kitties, give it a try. For most cats, though, in general it’s best to use the old natural method and let them do what comes naturally to them by using a litter box.

Second question. “I recently heard feeding only dry food can lead to kidney problems. Is there a good ratio of dry to canned food?”

Feeding dry food only will not cause kidney problems. We do, unfortunately, see a lot of chronic kidney disease, mostly in our older kitty-cats, and we don’t fully understand why this happens. However, once your kitty is diagnosed with kidney problems, it’s really best to get your cat on a canned food diet. The increased moisture content of the canned food will help the kidneys last a little bit longer. There is no specific ratio. I tell my clients to maximize the amount of canned food fed to those kitties with kidney disease.

Next question. “How does the flea and tick medicine that is applied to the back of the cat’s neck work?” There are several products of this sort and they all basically work about the same. The medication is applied topically on the kitty’s skin. It’s absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream of the cat. It then affects the fleas and ticks by interfering with and damaging their nervous system and that’s how they are killed. They’re a great product, very convenient to use, and I do highly recommend them.

Helping a Cat Lose Weight and Calming a Storm-Scared Dog

Posted on: October 31st, 2011 by

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. Today I’m answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

The first question comes from Kate. She writes, “Any suggestions on helping our kitty lose weight? She’s about 13 pounds.” She goes on to talk about some things that she’s done already to try to get her to lose some weight, such as interactive toys and encouraging her to exercise. She’s on a weight loss prescription diet. Kate has worked with her veterinarian and ruled out underlying diseases and that type of thing. The kitty has stopped gaining weight but isn’t really budging down

I definitely want to applaud you for your weight loss efforts for your cat. Cats can be really tricky to get to lose weight and recognizing that they’ll be healthier at a lower weight is fantastic.

Feeding the prescription reduced-calorie diet is a great place to start. What you’re probably going to need to do is use a simple formula of ‘calories in, calories out’. She’s just going to need less calories.

One thing you might do is actually measure how much she’s eating in 24 hours. Take more than you’ll think she’ll eat, measure it out and put it in the bowl. At the end of 24 hours, put what’s left in there and you can see how much she eats in 24 hours. Then reduce that by 20%. Sometimes that will help kind of jump start that weight loss and get her to lose some weight.

The next one comes from Joanna, who says, “My female Shepherd mix is terrified of storms and reverts back to pottying in the house for a week after the storm has passed. Anything I can do to change this behavior?”

This sounds like pretty classic storm phobia, which unfortunately can be common in dogs. It is not only debilitating for them, but also sort of annoying for you, having to clean up that mess and also deal with her fear at that time.

What I would recommend you do is try working with a behaviorist or consult a veterinarian. There are great anti-anxiety medications that can be used during the time of the storm and in the days that follow to try and keep her from having the anxiety that’s causing the accidents in the house.

An alternative to medication that you might try is called the Thunder Shirt. This is a product that just kind of applies pressure to their body and makes them feel a little bit more secure. Some dogs do really well with it and it helps to lessen their anxiety. What you would do is put the shirt on before the storm, leave it on for as long as you think her anxiety will last, and then take it off.

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Celebrate your kitty!

Posted on: October 31st, 2011 by

A newly adopted kitten with cat insurance sits in a bed.
By: Dr. Jane Matheys
Associate Veterinarian
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Estimates show that approximately 4 million cats enter shelters every year, and 1 to 2 million of them are euthanized. This got me thinking about my own current four cats who were adopted from local animal shelters or rescued as strays. I had to euthanize my oldest one named Glory B. just this past weekend.

I got her from a shelter when she was 2 years old, and she shared her life with me for over 12 years. I spoiled her rotten, of course, and in her mind every day was a celebration! In return, though, she brought me much love and laughter. Like all of you, I could write a book on all the funny things that she did and experiences that we went through together. he was a wonderful companion, and I miss her terribly.

Cats enrich our lives in so many ways, and there’s so much to love about them– the soft, silky fur, the gentle purrs, the kneading paws, the quiet meows and little chirps. The list goes on and on! But did you know that there are also important health benefits to owning a cat?

Owning a cat can reduce your risk of heart disease. A recent study by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that people who did not own a cat were 30-40% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease, even if they owned dogs. Stroking a cat has been proven to lower blood pressure, and cat owners tend to have lower triglycerides, which reduces the risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease.

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Cat ownership has also been shown to boost the levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. As such, cats can reduce feelings of stress, loneliness, anxiety, depression, and other negative states.

Elderly people are particularly likely to benefit from the health-protective effects of cat ownership. Those with cats are less inclined to suffer heart attacks, their blood pressure is lower on average, they report less tension and stress, and they live longer overall. With all the health benefits cats provide, it’s important that we give them something back. This is where pet health insurance comes in. Companies like Pets Best Insurance offer cat insurance plans that reimburse 80% of your kitty’s vet bill after a deductible.

Cats offer protection against a number of health problems. If adopted before or shortly after a child is born, they reduce the risk of developing animal allergies, asthma, and possibly other illnesses as well. Children who are in a home with cats tend to miss an average of 9 days less of school a year than children who do not live with cats. Children who own cats learn responsibility and show more empathy towards others and are more willing to help others. Cats teach children about body language and other non-verbal cues as well. Cats provide unconditional love and acceptance, which can help children through difficult times. Additionally, cats can provide therapeutic benefits for children with conditions such as autism.

If you have room in your heart and your home for a forever friend, consider adopting a cat. Please visit your local shelter to find a whole lot of love waiting for you inside! For more information about cat health care and cat insurance, visit www.petsbest.com.