Saturday, January 19, 2019
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Symptoms of a Dying Cat-Physical Signs a Cat is Dying

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At a glance:

  • Abnormal breathing
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Drop in body temperature
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping more and ultimately loss of consciousness
  • Odours
  • Urinary and/or fecal incontinence
  • Weakness

 

Dying cat signs and symptoms

The process of dying can take months or days and is divided into two stages.

Early or pre-active dying – The weeks leading up to death, this is associated with a terminal illness such as cancer or kidney disease. 

Active dying – This process lasts from 3 days to a few hours when the cat’s body begins the physical process of shutting down.

Each cat experiences the process of dying in his or her unique way, below is a guideline of common symptoms which develop when a cat is dying, but not all cats will display all symptoms.

Symptoms of early active and late active dying: 

Physical signs a cat is dying

Abnormal breathing:

Early active dying
  • Breathing can become rapid, slow, shallow or noisy.
  • Apnea can occur where breathing stops for several seconds before resuming.
  • Panting can also occur in cats who are experiencing pain.

 

Late active dying
  • Death rattle, which is caused by an increase in respiratory secretions as the respiratory system shuts down.
  • Regular breathing becomes shallow and stops, followed by resumption of normal breathing.

Appearance:

Early active dying
  • The cat is too unwell to groom him or herself well and the coat will take on a messy appearance, long haired cats can develop mats in the coat which are painful.
Late active dying
  • The cat completely stops grooming, the tail end may become soiled with urine and feces if not cleaned by the carer.

Loss of appetite and thirst:

Early active dying
  • The cat’s appetite wanes, it may be stimulated by offering extra tasty food such as warmed up chicken or tuna.
Late active dying
  • The appetite center in the brain is affected during active dying. The cat has stopped eating and drinking completely. The body is shutting down and has no need for calories to maintain normal metabolism. Feeding a cat during the active dying phase can be counter-productive.

Increased sleep and lethargy:

Early active dying
  • Increased sleep which may be restless due to discomfort.
Late active dying
  • The cat sleeps more in the final days but can become restless due to decreased oxygen in the blood.
  • At the very end the cat may slip into a coma.

Change in toilet habits:

Early active dying Decrease in urination and bowel movements.
Late active dying Decreased blood flow through the kidneys leads to reduced urination, any urine produced may be the colour of tea.

Other symptoms of late active dying:

Drop in body temperature:

As circulation decreases, the extremities become cold. This is more difficult to detect in cats due to their fur, but the paws may feel cool to the touch.

Extreme weakness:

The cat is no longer able to stand or move on its own.

Gum colour:

As blood flow decreases, the tissues don’t receive enough oxygen  which in turn causes the colour to change from pink to bluish grey. The cat may try to compensate with open mouthed breathing.

Decreased heart rate:

A normal adult cat’s heart rate is between 130-240 beats per minute. As the body prepares to shut down, the heart slows.

Odours:

Toxins building up in the body can cause the cat to take on an unpleasant odour.

How to care for a dying cat: 

The goal of end of life care (EOL care) is to maximise comfort, minimise pain, manage clinical symptoms and provide emotional support to the cat. It will be necessary to have a close relationship with the cat’s veterinarian at this time. The vet can’t be with the cat at all times,  you are their eyes and ears for any changes that may necessitate a change in the treatment plan.

  • Provide the cat a peaceful environment.
  • Keep the cat’s litter tray and food bowl close to the cat. The litter tray should be accessible, if necessary, carry the cat to the litter tray.
  • Loss of appetite is common in cats who are actively dying. During this time, the goal is to maintain comfort and not nutrition. If the cat is not drinking, offer drops from your finger. Once the cat is in the final active stage of dying, do not force him to eat or drink.
  • Immobile cats can develop pressure sores. Provide a soft and comfortable bed and turn the cat every few hours.
  • Keep the cat clean, especially if it has developed fecal and/or urinary incontinence. Place puppy training pads under the cat and carefully wipe urine or feces off the cat.
  • Keep stress to a minimum. Avoid loud noises, boisterous pets or young children and strangers. Now is not the time to renovate the house or introduce a new pet.
  • Maintain the same routine every day, cats don’t like change, this is especially important in the final days of a cat’s life.

Frequently asked questions:

Do cats know they are dying?

No, cats aren’t aware they are dying.

Why do cats run away to die?

A dying cat does not feel well and cats are hardwired to hide when they are sick to avoid predators.

What is a safe pain relief for a dying cat?

There are no safe over-the-counter medications for cats to take. If necessary, your cat’s veterinarian will be able to provide you with analgesics (pain killers) to ensure the cat remains comfortable.

How do you comfort a dying cat?

  • Follow the cat’s lead. Stay close by and talk in a quiet but soothing voice. Some cats will withdraw and would prefer to be alone, that is okay too. Respect your cat’s wishes. Watch your cat from a distance. Hearing is one of the last senses to go, so keep talking to the cat, he can still hear you.
  • Gently stroke the cat.
  • Try to keep the cat in a quiet area away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
  • If the cat is dying during the day, close the blinds.

A dying cat is unable to effectively regulate its body temperature, so make sure the room temperature is comfortable for your cat.

Do cats close their eyes when they die?

The eyes are open and the pupils remain dilated/large (see image above) and fixed even in response to light.

Do cats purr when they are dying?

Yes, some cats will purr when they are dying.

How do I know that the cat has passed away?

There are several indicators a cat has died which have been covered in this article.

Making the decision: 

It is never easy to make that final call. Was it too early or too late? Did you do enough, fight hard enough? Are you letting your cat down? All of these emotions are completely normal. Please remember, grieving starts before your cat has passed away, not after (unless it was a sudden death). Many carers have been responsible for the palliative care of their cat for weeks or months. It is hard and emotional.

We sign a pact when we adopt our pets to stay with them until the end, and where possible, enable them to have a peaceful passing. You are not letting them down by choosing euthanasia, you are giving them a peaceful death. Remember, the word euthanasia comes from the Greek — eu which means goodly or well and thanatos which means death.

Please add your comments below. 

 

Cat-Friendly Cleaning Products-Natural Cleaning Products Safe For Cats

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Natural cleaning products safe to use around cats

We all want the best for our cats and try to keep them safe and well. Many common cleaning products contain chemicals which are potentially harmful to cats (as well as humans), and where possible, limiting exposure is preferred.  Exposure can occur via inhalation, ingestion when the cat grooms or drinks from an open toilet or sink and direct contact with the skin which can potentially cause irritation to the skin.

Many common household products listed in this article are effective to clean with, cheap and best of all, safe to use around cats. It must be said however that not all natural products are safe to use around cats, in-fact many natural products can be just as toxic as man-made chemical cleaning products. One such natural ingredient is the humble essential oil, which are made up of concentrated volatile aroma compounds obtained from plants. Some are safe in very low doses, others can not be used at all.

All purpose spray cleaner: 

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup water
  • A few drops of basil or jasmine essential oil (optional)

Note: Most essential oils are toxic to cats, use with caution (basil and jasmine are safe, in low concentrations) and only in well-ventilated areas and never apply to the skin.

Add ingredients to a spray bottle and shake well.

Kitchen and bathroom benches: 

Plain white vinegar can be used to clean and bring out the shine in kitchen benches and bathroom vanities.

Spray onto the surface and wipe down with a paper towel or microfibre cloth.

Add all ingredients to a plastic spray bottle, shake well. Spray on granite or marble benches and wipe off with paper towel or microfibre cloth.

Caution: Do not use white vinegar on marble or granite benchtops.

Granite and marble benchtop cleaner: 

  • 1/2 cup cheap vodka
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon castile soap (olive based soap)
  • 5 drops basil essential oil

Mix ingredients together in a plastic spray bottle

Toilets: 

Remove stains: 

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup bicarbonate of soda

Add white vinegar to the water, wait for 5 minutes. Add bicarbonate of soda to the bowl, when you do this, it will fizz up. Allow the vinegar, bicarb mix to sit for half an hour.

Scrub with a toilet brush.

Clean outside of bowl, along the rim etc:

Spray with white vinegar, wipe clean with a paper towel or used rag.

Toilet bombs: 

  • 1 1/2 cups bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 cup citric acid
  • 1 tablespoon 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 15 drops peppermint essential oil

Place bicarbonate of soda and citric acid into a bowl. Mix together the hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar and essential oil. Slowly (drop by drop) add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture. Using a teaspoon or a melon ball spoon, make small rounds, place on baking tray covered in baking paper. Spritz with white vinegar to form a crust. Leave to set for 12 hours.

Store in an airtight container in a dry cupboard.

Place one bomb in the toilet to clean.

Mirrors: 

Spray with white vinegar, wipe with paper towel or used newspaper.

Floor cleaner: 

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 bucket hot water
  • Optional, 5-10 drops of essential oil (jasmine, basil or rosemary)

Mix together ingredients, and mop.

Cleaning sinks: 

Spray sink with white vinegar and wipe with a paper towel.

Drain cleaner and freshner: 

  • 2-3 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • Jug of boiling water

Pour bicarbonate of soda down the sink hole, wait for 15 minutes and then pour white vinegar. Wait for 30 minutes and then pour a jug of boiling water down the hole.

Mould removers: 

Vinegar: 

  • 240 ml white vinegar
  • 60 ml water

Place in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray onto affected areas, leave for ten minutes and wipe the area with a damp cloth.

Salt: 

Bring a small pan of water to the boil, add salt until the salt is no longer dissolved.

Allow the mixture to cool and pour into a plastic bottle. Spray on affected areas, leave for 10-15 minutes. Wipe down with a damp cloth.

Hydrogen peroxide: 

Pour 3% hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle. Spray onto affected areas, leave for 10 minutes. Wipe down with a damp cloth.

Always use a mask when removing mould.

Oven cleaner: 

  • 1 cup bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/3 cup water
  • White wine vinegar in a spray bottle

Remove any large unstuck chunks from the oven and take out the racks and soak in warm soapy water.

Place bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and add water, mix into a paste. Apply the paste to the oven (avoid the heating elements) with a sponge, close the door and leave overnight. The following morning, spray with white vinegar, leave for ten minutes and scrub the oven with a green scourer and water. A cook top scraper can also help to remove stubborn stains.

Conclusion: 

I have personally been using white vinegar to clean bathrooms (including tile floor), windows and kitchen benches for several years as it is my preference to avoid the use of commercial cleaning products, especially where food is prepared. It has proven to be cheap and effective.

Today I used the white vinegar/bicarbonate of soda recipe to clean my long overdue oven. The results were encouraging, despite the fact I didn’t leave the mixture to sit as long as recommended. The oven isn’t spotless, but it is 80% cleaner than it was. I always struggle with fumes when cleaning the oven, so this was a pleasant experience (as far as oven cleaning goes). A little elbow grease was necessary, as well as a stove top scraper to remove some more stubborn stains. Going forward, I will stick with bicarb of soda and vinegar to clean the oven just to avoid the fumes.

I also used bicarb of soda and vinegar to clean the toilet bowl which had water stains. It was left for 15 minutes, and then I used a toilet brush to remove the stains.

All in all, I am happy with the results and definitely plan to use more recipes when cleaning. I am not against the use of commercial cleaners, but can see the health as well as cost benefits of using many easy to find products in the kitchen.

This will be an ongoing article, I am aware isopropyl alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, have a place household cleaning too, I am unsure about the safety of citric acid, so have omitted this for the time being.

If you have any cleaning tips, please feel free to share in the comments below.

The Dangers of Hair Ties to Cats

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Hair ties are dangerous to cats

A lot of cats love to play with hair ties, batting them around the floor and thowing them into the air. These seemingly benign products pose a serious risk to the gastrointestinal tract of cats when ingested.

What happens when a cat eats a hair tie? 

There are three main risks when a cat ingests hair ties:

Gastrointestinal obstruction

Obstructions can occur anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract from the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines. When this happens, food cannot pass through the GI tract and out out of the body.

For the curious, click here to watch a veterinarian remove a large number of hair ties from the stomach of a cat.

Telescoping of the intestines

When a linear foreign body (foreign body that is long and thin, in this case, a hair tie or a bunch of hair ties) is ingested, one part of it can become lodged, often at the base of the tongue, the esophagus or the opening of the stomach (pylorus), which acts as an anchor. The other part is propelled along the GI tract by peristalsis, which is the wave-like contraction of the GI tract to push food along until it becomes taut. The GI tract below the lodged tinsel will creep up the trailing part of the tinsel and become plicated (folded).

Death to gastrointestinal tissue 

The elongated elastic cut into the bunched up intestines leading to life-threatening peritonitis (Inflammation of the membrane which lines the abdominal wall and covers the abdominal organs) or cutting off blood supply which causes the tissue to die.

Symptoms: 

The most common symptoms of GI obstruction or telescoping of the intestines is vomiting and loss of appetite. Other symptoms can include lethargy, abdominal pain and reduced or absent defecation.

Diagnosis: 

The veterinarian will perform a physical examination on the cat and obtain a medical history from you. During the examination, the veterinarian may be able to feel the accordian-like plicated intestines. Diagnostic tests will be necessary to obtain a definitive diagnosis.

  • Baseline tests: Biochemical profile, complete blood count and urinalysis to evaluate the overall health of the cat and to rule out other causes of vomiting.
  • Xrays: Will reveal the blockage and/or bunching up of the intestines and abnormal gas patterns.
  • Ultrasound: If an xray is inconclusive the veterinarian can perform an ultrasound, which provides a 3 dimensional view of the intestines. This can also provide information on the location and the length of the foreign body as well as evaluate the intestines.
  • Barium contrast: To look for telescoping of the intestines. This involves feeding barium to your cat which coats the lining of the intestines, then performing an x-ray.

Treatment: 

Surgery (enterotomy) to remove the hair ties. This surgery requires anesthesia, followed by one or several incisions in the abdomen to carefully remove the hair tie(s).

Surgical resection to remove any intestinal tissue which has died.

Veterinary staff will monitor the cat post surgery.  Intravenous fluids, antibiotics and painkillers will be administered during this time. Most cats will be well enough to go home 24-72 hours after surgery.

Cost: 

The cost of abdominal surgery to remove foreign objects and/or repair tissue can range from $800 to $4,000

End of Life (Hospice) Care For The Dying Cat- How To Care For A Dying Cat

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Hospice care for catsHospice, or palliative care is a multifaceted approach to care for a cat with a life-limiting illness. The aim is to provide a good-quality of life, by making the cat as comfortable as possible in the last few days, weeks or months of his or her life. At this point in time, the goal of treatment focuses on providing comfort, pain relief and managing clinical signs but not curing the disease.

The American Animal Hospitals Association defines animal hospice care as the following:

A philosophy or program of care that addresses the physical, emotional, and social needs of animals in the advanced stages of a progressive, life-limiting illness or disability. Animal hospice addresses the emotional, social, and spiritual needs of the human caregivers in preparation for the death of the animal and the grief experience.

When is hospice care needed? 

Hospice care

Hospice care is needed when a cure is no longer possible for a disease, or where a choice is made to discontinue treatment, these can include:

  • At the end of a terminal illness such as cancer
  • A decision is made not to proceed with curative treatment for a disease or injury
  • After diagnosis of a chronic disease such as liver or kidney disease
  • A decision is made not to pursue treatment for a life-threatening disease
  • When the cat and/or the caregiver are unable to cope with the management of a disease (for example, a cat strongly  resents receiving medical treatments such as injections or pills)
  • Diseases or conditions which severely impact the quality of life, such as advanced arthritis

What does hospice care involve? 

Five freedoms of animal welfare

The goal of hospice or palliative care is to provide maximise the cat’s comfort and mimimise suffering.

  • Manage pain and symptoms
  • Provide comfort
  • Nutritional and fluid support
  • Meet other needs that are necessary

During this period, it is important to work closely with the veterinarian who can prescribe medications where necessary to relieve discomfort and suffering.

The veterinarian will discuss with you the disease and the expected outcome as well as formulate a treatment plan. The treatment plan will cover all aspects of medical care the cat will require including medications, nutrition and regular veterinary appointments to monitor the cat.

Pain relief:

Cats are hardwired to hide signs of pain and discomfort and the caregiver must learn to recognise signs of pain.

  • Hunched over appearance
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hiding
  • Aggression when touched
  • Stiffness
  • Withdrawal from family
  • Changes in personality
  • Neglecting to groom

There are a number of options the veterinarian can recommend to relieve pain.

  • Iransdermal patch which provide continual pain relief
  • Injection
  • Oral tablets

Never administer human painkillers such as Ibuprofen, Aspirin or Tylenol/Paracetamol to a cat. Cats lack the necessary liver enzyme to process these drugs and can be fatal if ingested even in small amounts.

Symptom control:

Symptom control

The terminally ill cat can face a range of symptoms such as seizures, nausea, vomiting, pain (listed above). It is up to the caregiver to relay symptoms to the veterinarian who can prescribe the right medication to make the cat more comfortable.

Symptoms of nausea can include lip smacking, loss of appetite and drooling.

Nutritional support:

Nutritional support for cats

The nutritional requirements of a cat who is near the end of life are obviously going to differ from a healthy kitten or adult cat. Loss of appetite are common side-effects of pain and nausea (which we will cover below).

Ensure the cat receives adequate nutrients, and in some cases, prescription diets to help manage or slow down progress of a condition.

Hand or syringe feeding carefully warmed foods such as cooked chicken breast or soft canned food can sometimes help. Your cat’s veterinarian can prescribe a high-nutrition food such as Hills a/d. Or, add tasty treats to the top of the cat’s food  such as a small sample of tuna, or a gourmet cat gravy such as Dine Creamy Treats (available in sachets from your supermarket).

If you are still struggling to get adequate nutrition into your cat, speak to your cat’s veterinarian. They can recommend a high-calorie gel such as Nutrigel and/or appetite stimulants, or insert a feeding tube if all of the above methods fail. More information on feeding tubes can be found here.

At the very end, the cat will stop eating and drinking completely. This is normal as the cat’s body is shutting down. Do not force the cat to eat, as this can cause an already gravely ill cat to choke.

Fluid support:

Cat drinking water

Dehydration is a common side effect of many life-ending diseases as well as a reduction in thirst due to feeling unwell and underlying conditions such as kidney disease which affect  the ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine. Signs of dehydration include poor skin tenting, dull eyes and tacky gums. The veterinarian can teach you how to check for signs of dehydration by lifting the skin at the back of the neck to see how fast it springs back.

If the cat is dehydrated, it will be necessary to administer fluids under the cat’s skin at the back of the neck one to two times a day. This is less daunting than it sounds.

Make adaptations and provide physical comfort:

Cat on bed

Set up an area for the cat, it should be close to human interaction, but not a high-traffic area. A bedroom is the ideal place. Keep the bed, litter trays, food and water bowls in close proximity. If the cat is well enough, regularly put the cat in his or her litter tray and then place back in their bed. I have found all of my own cats have remained mobile right up until the end, but those last few days, they were unable to move more than a few feet. Do not expect a cat in the final stages to have to navigate stairs or travel long distances for food, water or to go to the toilet.

If the cat has stopped grooming, gently brush the coat to prevent mats. This is especially important in longhaired breeds.

Pressure sores can develop in cats with limited mobility, provide a soft bed with plenty of padding.

A gravely ill cat will need to be kept in an environment in which the ambient temperature is easy to regulate (with a heater or air conditioner), as seriously ill cats are not efficient at regulating their body temperature, nor can they move to a warmer or cooler area.

Cleaning up after the cat:

Cleaning up after a sick cat

Fecal and urinary incontinence are common towards the end. Regularly check the cat for signs of wetness and clean immediately to prevent urine or fecal scalding. Nobody wants to lie in their own mess, and that includes a terminally ill cat.

If an accident does occur, clean the area with an unscented baby wipe or a warm, damp cloth to avoid urine or fecal scalding which can lead to serious pain and infection. When cleaning the anal area, wipe away from the genitals to avoid transferring bacteria to the genitals. Watch for signs of urine scalding, with symptoms of redness, raw skin and pain in the area.

Place plastic sheeting between the bed and a blanket, or a puppy training pad on top of the blanket to stop the bed becoming soiled.

Provide emotional comfort:

Comforting a cat

Every cat is different in the level of comfort they want. Some clingy cats seek out solitude towards the end, other cats want and need the comfort of their human companions. Let the cat lead the way. Keep a close eye on cats who want solitude without being intrusive. For the cat who wants to be near people, let them. Spend time with the cat, talking, gently stroking and comforting him or her.

Can the cat be around other household pets?

Calvin and Norman

This depends on how well the cat gets along with other members of the family as well as the cause of the illness and the health status of the visiting cat.

It is nice for bonded cats to remain together, this can provide both cats with companionship and comfort.  Seek veterinary advice if the unwell cat has an infectious disease that could be transferred to the visiting cat. Dying cats already have a compromised immune system, so the visiting cat must be in good health with no parasites or infectious diseases. If either cat shows signs of stress, separate them. If you are at all unsure, speak to your veterinarian.

Keep boisterous pets away, especially towards the end when health mobility seriously declines. Be alert, if either pet seems uncomfortable, separate them.

Signs a cat is in the active phase of dying:

Hospice care can last for months, weeks or just days. But there will come a point where the cat enters the active phase of dying. The body has begun to shut down and death is imminent.

  • Noisy or laboured breathing
  • Unkempt coat
  • Loss of appetite and thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Seizures
  • Sleeping more, some cats may have restless sleep patterns due to discomfort
  • Decrease in urination and bowel movements
  • Incontinence
  • Odour
  • Drop in body temperature

For more detailed information, please read our article on dying cats.

Care for the caregiver: 

Take time to look after your physical and emotional well-being.  You will be overwhelmed with appointments, medical terms, medications, and caring for the cat, and it is easy to forget to take care for yourself. But it is vital in order to prevent burnout.

When to euthanise: 

Palliative care is designed to provide physical and emotional comfort to the cat, however there will reach a point where palliative care is no longer effective and euthanasia must be considered. This is a decision which ultimately must come from the cat’s carer, but with the guidelines of a veterinarian. Sometimes our emotions can cloud our judgement, but at this time, we must put the cat’s needs ahead of our own emotions.

Quality of Life assessments are available to help veterinarians and caregivers determine the quality of life of the terminally ill cat. Dr Alice Villalobos, a veterinary oncologist has created the “HHHHHMM” Quality of Life Scale which consists of a number of questions the veterinarian marks from 0-10.

  • HURT-Adequate pain control and breathing ability is the top concern. Is oxygen supplementation necessary? Score 0-10.
  • HUNGER-Is the pet eating enough. Does he/she need a feeding tube? Score 0-10
  • HYDRATION– Is your pet dehydrated? We can teach you to give fluids under your pet’s skin at home 1-2 times daily. Score 0-10
  • HYGIENE– Your pet must be brushed and cleaned especially after eliminations. Avoid Pressure sores with soft bedding. Score 0-10
  • HAPPINESS– Does your pet express joy and interest? Is your pet depressed, anxious or afraid? Try moving the pet bed closer to family activities. Score 0-10
  • MOBILITY– Can your pet get up with assistance? Is the pet having seizures or stumbling? A pet with limited mobility can still be alert, happyand responsive. Score 0-10
  • MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD– When bad days out number good days, a healthy human animal bond may not be possible. If your pet is suffering, a euthanasia decision may be the best decision so the end is peaceful and painless. Score 0-10

Ultimately, it falls on the caregiver to make the final decision. We must always put our own feelings aside, and do what is best for the cat. Questions to ask include:

  • Is the cat still enjoying life?
  • What will the cat miss out on if he or she is not here tomorrow?
  • Is the cat in pain?
  • Is the cat still participating in daily activities he or she used to enjoy?

Having been down this road many times, and having kept one cat alive for too long, I can tell you this, a week too early is better than a day too late.

The grieving process begins before the cat has passed away. No two people are the same, some experience guilt, most experience sadness and loneliness, and it is not uncommon to feel relief once the cat passes. That doesn’t take away from your love of the pet, but caring for a terminally ill family member (and that includes pets) is emotionally and physically draining.

Please feel free to download or share our infographic on hospice care for cats.

End of life care for cats

 

Pyelonephritis in Cats – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Pyelonephritis in cats

Pyelonephritis is an inflammation of the renal pelvis (a hollow area in the centre of the kidney) renal parenchyma (the solid part of the kidneys) due to a bacterial infection (and less often viral or fungal infection).

Pyelonephritis in cats

The urinary tract consists of the upper and lower sections. The upper urinary tract (UUT)  is made up of the kidneys and the ureters, tubes propel urine from the kidneys to the bladder. The lower urinary tract (LUT) includes the bladder, which stores urine and the urethra, which is the thin tube that carries urine from the bladder and out of the body.

Infection typically occurs when bacteria (most commonly Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus spp., less common bacteria include Proteus, Streptococcus, Klebsiella, Enterobacter, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) ascend from the bladder, along the ureters and into the kidney. Less common is hematogenous spread, where an infection elsewhere travels through the bloodstream to the kidneys. It can be acute (sudden onset) or chronic (longstanding).

Normally the upper urinary tract is protected by the cat’s normal defense mechanisms:

  • The one way flow of urine through the ureters from the kidneys to the bladder.
  • Bladder epithelial cells which line the inner surface of the bladder secrete antibacterial peptides to clear the bladder.
  • The acidic pH of urine as well as high osmolality inhibits the growth of bacteria.

Risk factors include, recent lower urinary tract infection, congenital abnormalities or kidney stones which obstruct urinary flow, impaired immune system, diabetes (which can cause glucose in the urine), hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Syndrome), steroid administration, urethral catheterisation, urine retention, urinary tract neoplasia, and chronic renal (kidney) disease which results in dilute and altered urine composition.

Symptoms:

Some cats will be asymptomatic (no symptoms), however when they are present, they can include:

Pyelonephritis can lead to renal cell death and chronic renal insufficiency (CRI). Immediate veterinary attention is necessary to treat the condition. Signs of CRI include vomiting, increased thirst and urination, metabolic acidosis and non-regenerative anemia.

Diagnosis: 

The veterinarian will perform a physical examination of the cat and obtain a medical history from you. During the evaluation, the kidneys may be painful upon palpitation. It will be necessary to perform tests to confirm diagnosis.

Baseline tests: Complete blood count, biochemical profile and urinalysis.

  • Urinalysis may reveal protein, bacteria, blood and pus in the urine. The veterinarian may send the urine sample to a veterinary laboratory for culture and sensitivity.
  • Biochemical profile may be normal or may reveal azotemia (elevation of blood urea nitrogen and serum creatinine levels).
  • Complete blood count may show an elevated white blood cell count (leukocytosis) and anemia.

Imaging: Ultrasound or xrays which may reveal increased kidney size  (renomegaly), a dilated (enlarged) renal pelvis and stones if present.

Pyelocentesis: Ultrasound guided aspiration of fluid from the renal pelvis which will be cultured to identify any bacteria present. 

Histopathology: Evaluation of a biopsy of the kidney.

Treatment: 

The goal of treatment is to address the underlying cause as well as treat the infection. This will include:

  • Antibiotic therapy: Broad-spectrum IV antibiotics followed by oral antibiotics for 4-6 weeks. Antibiotic choice will be based on the results of culture and sensitivity.
  • Stone dissolving diets: Hills c/d may be prescribed for small struvite stones.
  • Surgery: To remove larger stones or stones such as calcium oxalate which can not be dissolved with diet.
  • Symptomatic treatment: Additional therapies to manage symptoms which can include anti-nausea medication, fluids to treat dehydration and correct electrolyte imbalances, and nutritional support.

Warning Signs of Cancer in Cats Infographic

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Cancer can sneak up without pet owners being aware, we have created this infographic to help identify changes that could mean your cat has cancer. If you do notice any of the changes listed in this article, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Please feel to share this infographic.

Warning signs of cancer in cats

Sepsis in Cats – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Sepsis in cats

Sepsis is the systemic inflammatory response to infection and is defined as the presence of SIRS (extreme systemic inflammatory response) in addition to the infection which can cause organ dysfunction. Any organ can be affected which includes the heart, liver, lungs and kidneys. This can affect respiration, blood pressure, kidney function, blood clotting and oxygenation of the tissues.

Sepsis is less common in cats than in dogs. There does not appear to be a breed or sex predilection in cats.

SIRS was first introduced in 1992 by the American College of Chest Physicians.

Definitions relating to sepsis: 

  • MODS, which stands for multi-organ dysfunction system.
  • Severe sepsis, which includes organ dysfunction and low blood pressure.
  • Septic shock, which is severe sepsis plus low blood pressure (hypotension) that is unresponsive to fluid therapy.

Common infections which can trigger sepsis include: 

  • Pyothorax (pus in the pleural space in the chest)
  • Septic peritonitis (infection of the peritoneal cavity)
  • Bacteremia (bacteria in the blood) secondary to gastrointestinal tract disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Pyometra (infection of the uterus)
  • Endocarditis ( infection of the endocardium, the inner lining of the heart chambers and heart valves)
  • Pyelonephritis (kidney infection)
  • Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
  • Bite wounds
  • Salmonellosis 

Symptoms: 

Additional symptoms may be present depending on the underlying cause. For example, a cat with pyometra (infected uterus) may have foul-smelling discharge.

Diagnosis: 

The veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of the cat and obtain a medical history from you.

The following criteria has been proposed for cats with SIRS.

  • Temperature Hypothermia < 100°F or fever > 103.5°F
  • Heart rate  Bradycardia (slower than normal heart rate)  < 140 beats/minute > or Tachycardia (elevated heart rate) >225
  • Tachypnea (elevated respiratory rate) > 40 breaths/minute
  • White blood cell count > 19,500, < 5,000, or > 5% bands

In some cases, the infectious cause will be apparent, such as a bite wound, however in most cases, it will be necessary to determine the source of infection as well as other diagnostics to evaluate electrolytes and organ function.

  • Baseline tests: Complete blood count, biochemical profile and urinalysis to look for  hypobulminemia (low blood albumin levels), anemia (low red blood cells), glucose derangements (hypo or hyperglycemia) and hyperbilirubinemia (elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood) and evaluate liver and kidney function.
  • Xrays and/or ultrasound of the thorax and abdomen to look for abscesses, kidney infection, pyometra, cancer and free fluid.
  • Endotracheal wash and culture.
  • Blood bacterial culture.
  • Echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart).
  • Coagulation profiles are a group of tests to measure the blood’s ability to clot.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tap is a test to look at the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

Treatment: 

The goal of treatment is to address the underlying disease and provide supportive care. Aggressive treatment is required for cats with sepsis. This will include:

  • Intravenous antibiotics to treat the infection. Broad spectrum initially until a a culture and sensitivity is performed to determine the most effective antibiotic.
  • Fluid therapy to maintain hydration, correct electrolyte imbalances and increase blood pressure.
  • Vasopressors such as dopamine to increase the blood pressure.
  • Nutritional support which may include a temporary feeding tube for cats who are not vomiting. Total parenteral nutrition, which is intravenous administration of nutrients, bypassing the usual process of eating and digestion for cats who are vomiting.
  • Blood transfusion to treat anemia (whole blood) and coagulopathy  (plasma).
  • Surgical removal of infected tissue, where indicated.
  • Thoracic drainage tubes to remove fluids from the pleural cavity in cats with pyothorax.
  • Analgesics to manage pain, where necessary.

During treatment, the veterinarian will closely monitor blood for electrolyte imbalances, clotting, red and white blood cell counts and organ function.

Cat Infographics About Cat Health, Cat Care & Cat Information

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Click on the links below to take you to the relevant infographic. Please feel free to share on social media. Right click and select ‘save as’ or ‘copy image address’ or left click to take you to the article.

Primordial pouch   Cat age calculator   Common cat toxins   All about catnip   Lily toxicity in cats     Playful breeds of cat    Calico cats   End of life hospice care for cats    Cat feeding guidelines  Warning signs of cancer   Feline acne symptoms   How to determine the age of a kitten   Causes of sneezing in cats   Cats and disinfectants  Signs a cat is dying   Easter dangers to cats

Primordial pouch

Primordial pouch

Easter dangers to cats

Easter safety for cats

All about catnip Catnip for cats

Cat age calculator Cat age chart

Lily toxicity in cats Lily toxicity in cats

Common cat toxins

Common cat poisons

Playful breeds of cat

Playful cat breeds

Cat feeding guidelines

Cat feeding guidelines

Warning signs of cancer

Warning signs of cancer in cats

End of life hospice care for cats

End of life hospice care for cats

Calico cats

Calico cat infographic

Cats and disinfectants

Causes of sneezing in cats

Causes of sneezing in cats

How to determine the age of a kitten

How to tell the age of a kitten

Feline acne symptoms

Feline acne symptoms

Signs a cat is dying

Physical signs a cat is dying

 

Playful Breeds of Cat – Top 10 Most Playful Cat Breeds

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Playful Cat Breeds at a Glance

  • Burmese
  • Abyssinian
  • Tonkinese
  • Singapura
  • Ragdoll
  • Egyptian Mau
  • Bengal
  • Devon Rex
  • Cornish Rex
  • Domestic shorthair or longhair

Devon Rex

Devon RexImage courtesy Nickolas Titkov, Flickr

Probably my top pick for playful cat breeds, the Devon Rex is friendly, outgoing, energetic and remains playful well into adulthood. This is a breed who loves to be on the go. Devon Rexes get along with everyone, people, pets and other cats. They are great with children.

Care: Easy

Cost: $800 – $1,200

Abyssinian

Abyssinian cat

One of the oldest cat breeds, the Abyssinian is an intelligent, extrovert and energetic cat who thrives on human companionship. Dog-like in nature, they love to be a part of their human family. Affectionately called Aby’s, the Abyssinian loves to be up high and is always on the go.

Care: Easy

Cost: $800 – $1,600

Singapura

Singapura cat

The smallest cat breed in the world, Singapuras are affectionate and playful cats well into adulthood. They get along well with other animals as well as children. The words sweet-natured fit the Singapura perfectly, they don’t have a mean bone in their body.

Singapuras are playful, loving and affectionate who love to be near their human family or even strangers who visit the home.

Care: Easy

Cost: $1,000 +

Burmese

Burmese cat

Image courtesy Tjarko Bisink, Flickr

My favourite breed, the Burmese truly is a great all-rounder who suits most households. Loving, playful, and very easy-going, Burmese cats make exceptional family pets. Some of the breeds in this article are very active, the Burmese is playful, without being over the top.

Care: Easy

Cost: $700 – $1200

Cornish Rex

Cornish Rex

Image courtesy Anna-Stina Takala, Flickr

The Cornish Rex is a curly coated domestic breed of cat who came about as a spontaneous mutation in Cornwall, England. The short, curly coat is similar to that of the Devon Rex, however the gene responsible for the unusual coat is different in each breed.

Cornish Rex cats are quiet but friendly, outgoing, and very active, they love to be up high. They get along well with children and other pets. Cornish Rex cats love attention and companionship.

Care: Easy

Cost: $1,000 plus

Sphynx

Sphynx cat

Image courtesy amht, Flickr

The Sphynx is an extremely outgoing, friendly and loving breed of cat. They love to climb and be up high and are always on the go. Part cat, part dog, part monkey is used to describe the Sphynx.

Sphynx cats appear to be totally bald, apart from the whiskers, but the skin has a fine peach-fuzz.

Care: Sphynx cats produce more ear wax than other cats due to the lack of hair which requires regular cleaning. They can be prone to oiliness need a regular bath.

Cost: $1,000 to $2,000

Egyptian Mau

Egyptian Mau

Image courtesy Josh More, Flickr

The Egyptian Mau is believed to have descended from the African Wildcat who were originally trained to hunt prey, such as birds and fish, and return the bounty to their humans.

They are intelligent, playful, lively, active and outgoing, thriving on attention. They are extremely athletic and love to climb. Egyptian Maus bond deeply with their human family, and get along well with other pets and children.

Egyptian Maus are a talkative cat, and one unusual trait is they are fond of wagging their tail when happy.

Care: Easy

Price: $1,000 +

Ragdoll

Ragdoll cat

The Ragdoll is one of the largest domestic cat breed, with males weighing in between 6-7 kg. The breed was founded by Jan Baker of the United States in the 1960’s and remains one of the most popular breeds today.

Ragdolls are a laid back breed of cat, but don’t let that fool you, they are also playful although not quite as turbo-charged as some of the other breeds on this list. They will greet you at the door and follow you around the house. Once you settle down for the night, they love to sit on your lap with you.

Ragdolls make an exceptional family pet, getting along well with children and other household pets.

Bengal

Bengal cat

The Bengal is a wild-looking cat with the sweet nature of a domestic cat. Bengals were created by crossing the Asian Leopard cat with domestic cats to create a wild looking cat with the sweet nature of a domestic.

Bengals are intelligent, active, inquisitive and energetic cats. Due to their Asian Leopard Cat ancestry, many Bengals have a love of water and will drink from and play with the water from a dripping tap.

They cats love to play, well into adulthood. Fetch, stalking and pouncing on a wand toy, chasing toy mice are some of their favourite games. Their intelligence means they pick up new tricks quickly.

This is a high-energy breed who is constantly on the go. They can also be very vocal, and have a distinctive meow.

Care: Easy

Cost: $1,000 – $2,000

Tonkinese

Tonkinese cat

The Tonkinese is a hybrid between the Siamese and Burmese and have the best of both breeds. Confident, playful and very very curious best describe the Tonkinese. We adopted two last year and they slotted straight into our busy household of 2 dogs and two cats. They will talk to their human family, but not as much as the Siamese, they have the laid back, but playful personality of the Burmese.

Care: Easy

Cost: $800 $1,200

Domestic Shorthair or Longhair

Domestic shorthair

Not a pure breed but one to consider is the domestic or mixed breed. Pros are they are easy to find, cost much less and you are giving a shelter cat a home. Domestic cats can have long or shorthair, and no two are the same. If you are looking for a playful and friendly cat, consider a domestic. Shelter workers and volunteers spend a lot of time around cats in their care and get to know their personality. So whatever you are looking for in a cat, let them know, and they will be able to show you the most suitable cats.

Care: Cats with long coats will need to be brushed for 5 minutes a day to avoid the coat matting

Cost: $200+

Choosing a playful cat breed: 

If you are looking to adopt a cat and want one that is playful, I recommend you research the cat breeds before you make a decision. The best way is to visit cat shows, meet the cats and talk to the breeders. Most are more than happy to show off their cats and give you advice.

Don’t rush into a decision, take your time, and meet as many cats as possible. Some breeds are more work than others. Many of the active, playful breeds don’t do well on their own, so if you are out for long periods of time during the day, we recommend two cats, so they have company.

Plenty of interactive toys as well as scheduled play sessions are a must. These breeds thrive on interaction and love to play.

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Playful cat breeds

Kitten Smells Like Poop – Why Do Some Kittens Smell?

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Why does my kittens poop smell so bad?

Many pet owners who have a newly adopted kitten will discover that for something so little and cute, they can produce some rather smelly feces which goes beyond the usual odour one would expect from cat feces.

What causes a kitten to smell like poop?

Basically, kittens are still learning, they are not as efficient at grooming themselves or burying their feces. In addition, kittens can be prone to diarrhea, which makes the situation worse.

Making a mess in the litter tray:

When I have had kittens (not for a long time now) I have noticed that they are not efficient in the litter tray as an adult cat. Most will attempt to bury their feces and sometimes end up with feces on their own paw. This, like grooming (see below) will improve as the kitten grows up.

Improper grooming:

The kitten’s mother teaches her kittens all things cat, and that includes grooming, but as with any young, it can sometimes take a little while to get the hang of things. Some kittens just aren’t as efficient at grooming yet, but this will come, in time.

Sudden change in diet:

Kittens can be sensitive to dietary changes. It is always recommended that you find out what food the kitten has been eating before adoption, and stick with that brand in the early days. If you do want to change the type or brand of food, do so over a few days. Add a small amount of the new food to the usual diet, so say 80% regular food, 20% new food, and increase the quantity of the new food while decreasing the quantity of the old food.

Cow’s milk:

When a kitten weans, most most of them become intolerant to lactose, which are the natural sugars in the milk. Kittens produce an enzyme in their small intestine called lactase which breaks down lactose in the milk and converts it into glucose and galactose, to produce energy. As kittens wean, the body greatly decreases or completely shuts down lactase production, after all, most mammals stop drinking milk once they have weaned, so it is no longer necessary for the body to produce lactase.

If the kitten drinks milk after lactase production stops, the lactose passes into the colon where bacteria ferment, producing gas which leads to flatulence, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Dietery indiscretion:

Kittens are curious and sometimes eat things that they shouldn’t. Kitchen scraps, plants and other random objects. These can cause gastrointestinal disturbances such as flatulence, smelly feces and diarrhea.

Giardia:

An parasitic protozoa which infects the small intestine affecting many mammals. Infection occurs via the fecall-oral route, contaminated water, food, environment, fomites (inanimate objects) and direct contact with an infected animal or person. The incubation period is anywhere from 1 to 14 days.

Giardia symptoms include foul smelling feces, greasy feces, abdominal pain and flatulence.

There are a number of medications which may be used to treat clinically affected cats, however, no drugs been approved for treatment of giardia in cats in the USA.

Roundworm:

A common parasitic worm which can be transmitted to kittens via the mother’s milk. Other modes of infection include exposure to eggs in the environment or infected hosts (rats, mice etc).

Roundworm symptoms include stunted growth, pot bellied appearance, diarrhea, and roundworms in the vomit.

Treatment is a suitable anti-parasitic medication to kill the worms.

Worm kittens as follows:

  • Every 2 weeks from 2 weeks of age until 12 weeks of age.
  • Every month from 12 weeks of age until 6 months.
  • Every three months from 6 months.

What can I do about a kitten who smells like poop? 

Check his anal area and if it is dirty, gently wipe it with damp cotton buds. Most kittens are adopted between 10 – 12 weeks, and while they are ready for their new home, they still more to learn about how to use the litter tray and groom themselves. The good news is cats are fastidiously clean and this is only a short-term issue.

You can give the kitten a bathe in lukewarm water and an appropriate pet shampoo that is suitable for kittens. As most cats don’t like water be warned the kitten may struggle.

If the kitten is displaying additional symptoms such as diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, pot bellied appearance, failure to grow and an unkempt coat, seek veterinary advice. Kittens are quite fragile and can dehydrate quickly.