Your top 6 kitty questions answered

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A cat with cat insurance snuggles in a blanket.

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

Pet insurance company Pets Best Insurance asked Facebook friends what kitty questions they have! Dr. Jane Matheys, a practicing vet at The Cat Doctor in Boise, Idaho weighs in!

Q: Can hairballs actually be a dangerous thing for cats? Should I give my cat hairball treatment on a regular basis?

A: On rare occasions, hairballs can create a potentially life-threatening blockage in the intestines which may require surgery to remove. If your cat is vomiting up hairballs more than once or twice a month, it’s time to take preventative action. Start with a trip to your veterinarian. This is just one of the many instances where pet health insurance can come in handy. The doctor can help determine if your cat truly has hairballs or if the vomiting is caused by something more serious. Besides regular grooming, the easiest option to help prevent hairballs is to feed your cat a commercial high fiber hairball diet. The fiber helps to move the hair out of the stomach and into the intestines to be eliminated in the feces. If hairball diets are not effective, you may need to use one of the commercial hairball remedies. The most common one is flavored petroleum jelly in a tube which can help lubricate or coat the hairball to encourage passage through the digestive tract. Check with your veterinarian for proper dosage and administration instructions.

Q: Is it possible for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) to be transferred by touching objects such as door handles at the veterinary clinic that an owner of a FeLV positive cat touched immediately before you and then you touch your cat?

A: Transmission of FeLV requires intimate contact with an infected cat’s secretions (saliva, urine, and feces). In addition, FeLV is a fragile virus that does not survive very long in the environment. Ordinary household detergents and bleach effectively kill the virus. Therefore, there is no danger that cats can be exposed to FeLV in veterinary clinic waiting rooms or exam rooms unless direct contact is made with a positive cat that is shedding the virus.

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Q: My indoor cat has become an outdoor cat. How do I get him to become an indoor cat again without stressing him?

A: It is essential that you make his indoor environment as physically and mentally stimulating as his outdoor one. Think about what he does outside, and then try to simulate that in your home. This is called environmental enrichment. Make sure he has plenty of high perches and vertical spaces to jump up to and climb on, including sunny windowsills. Provide entertainment around your window areas-bird/squirrel feeders, bird baths, plants to attract butterflies, etc. Hide his food around the house so he has to “hunt” for it. Give him inexpensive toys to play in like paper grocery bags or boxes. Rotate them weekly, so he doesn’t get bored. Keep greens around for him to munch on. Organic wheatgrass is available at many local stores. Play a cat video on the TV or keep soft music on. And give him plenty of interactive playtime when you’re home. You can even try taking him outside on a harness and leash or build an outdoor enclosure. Check out this Ohio State website for more information on indoor cat environmental enrichment:

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Another thing you can do is use Feliway diffusers around the house. This is a synthetic pheromone that can help calm cats down in many stressful situations. There are also herbal/nutraceutical supplements available to aid in calming your cat. Sometimes an antianxiety medication needs to be used short term. Your veterinarian can recommend one that might be best for your cat and cat insurance can help defray the expense.

Q: My cat has a really sensitive stomach and will often vomit after eating treats (dry and even “moist” jerky) and even after eating dry food if she hasn’t eaten canned food right before. What can I give her as a treat that is good for cats with sensitive stomachs?

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A: Vomiting in cats is not normal other than an occasional hairball. It sounds like your cat is able to digest canned food better than dry food. The question is “Why?” Forget about giving any treats, and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a thorough physical examination. The doctor can help determine if anything serious is causing the vomiting.

Q: I got married and combined my two 4-year-old Devon Rex cats with my husband’s two 4-year-old domestic long-haired cats. Now his female cat constantly bullies and attacks my sweet male cat. We separate them as much as possible and use Feliway. The female visits her veterinarian minimally since she turns into a cougar when we take her there. What do we do about this mean cat?

A: It’s always uncertain what will happen when you introduce older cats to each other. There are three possible outcomes. They will bond with each other, they will tolerate each other, or the hostilities will continue. Introduction must take place very slowly for it to be successful. I recommend that you start back at square one and totally separate the two cats involved. The resident cat gets to stay in the main part of the house, while the newcomer should be put in a spare room that has litterboxes, food and water bowls, blankets and toys. Let the cats get reacquainted again by smell only. Switch blankets and toys between the two cats and even switch rooms- resident cat goes in the spare room and newcomer gets the run of the house. Feliway diffusers should help decrease stress during this process so continue to use them. It may take several weeks or more until the cats settle down. Then it’s best if you can devise some sort of screen in the door so that the cats can see each other but not contact each other. This phase may take several more weeks. Then you can slowly start letting the newcomer out under supervision. Use positive reinforcement techniques. When the newcomer is around, everyone gets yummy food or treats or other favorite things. You may need to give one or both cats short term antianxiety medications during this process to make them more amenable to the changes in the household. Seek advice from your veterinarian. There are also board certified veterinary behaviorists that may be able to provide a consultation. Many pet health insurance companies will also cover a portion of behavioral issues and medication.

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Q: Does renal disease cause my kitty’s fur to mat so much? She is nearly 18 years old and was diagnosed almost 2 years ago. Since she was diagnosed, she has a tendency to mat so badly where she never did before. She still grooms herself, and I brush her daily, but it doesn’t seem to help. What is causing this?

A: It’s common for older cats to have duller, drier hair coats that are prone to matting. Most often matting occurs because the cats do not groom themselves as well as in their younger years. hronic illness can decrease their desire to groom. Arthritis along the spine can decrease flexibility and can make it harder for older cats to twist around to reach those body parts on the hind end. They usually concentrate on cleaning their faces and front legs. If your cat is still grooming her entire body, she’s just not effective at it anymore and you need to help her. Daily brushing should prevent matting, so make sure you are using the proper grooming tools. Ask your veterinarian for advice on which ones will work best on your cat’s coat type.

For more information about cat health and behavioral issues and cat insurance visit Pets Best Insurance.

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