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The Most Common Ailments Affecting Senior Cats (Part 1)

If you take your cat to the veterinarian routinely, why do you need to know about the most common health problems affecting cats? Wouldn’t your veterinarian be able to detect these diseases during their visit? The answer is yes, routine veterinary visits are important to screen for illness. However, even if you take your cat to the veterinarian every 6 to 12 months, a disease can progress to a more advanced stage between visits. As your cat’s pet parent, you see your cat every day and know your cat better than anyone else. Keeping your cat healthy is a team effort. Your veterinarian, and cat, depend on you to be the first line defense against illness.   First, what is a senior cat? Hold old is old? While there is some disagreement regarding the exact age when cats become senior citizens, most veterinarians define geriatric cats as cats over 7 years of age. With advances in medicine, nutrition, and homecare, pets are living longer as supported by the AVMA pet owners survey that found that the number of geriatric animals in the US has been increasing in the last several years. Getting older doesn’t just mean getting gray and slowing down. Senior cats have different metabolic requirements, and the prevalence of certain health issues increases with age. Becoming familiar with the most common ailments affects senior cats will help you stay on top of your cat’s health. The five most common ailments affecting senior cats include: kidney disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, cancer, and dental disease. Becoming familiar with the most common ailments affects senior cats will help you stay on top of your cat’s health. First let’s tackle kidney disease, what causes it, how it’s diagnosed and how it is treated.    Kidney Disease Kidney disease (technically known as renal disease) is one of the most common diseases affecting 1 in 3 older cats. Kidneys are important for balancing water and electrolytes in your blood and filtering out metabolic by-products and toxins to make urine. Kidneys also produce a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production. When kidney function gets impaired, waste products start to build-up and the electrolytes become imbalanced, making the animal feel ill and drinking more water to compensate.  Causes There are two kinds of kidney disease- acute, meaning sudden, and chronic, meaning long lasting, kidney disease. Acute kidney disease is more common in younger cats and is typically caused by injury or toxicity, with lilies, acetaminophen and NSAIDS, like ibuprofen, being the most common culprits. Always be careful with plants or flowers in your house. I have had several clients bring a bouquet home and not realize that the lilies in the arrangement were highly toxic to cats. Likewise, never give your cat NSAIDS, like ibuprofen, or acetaminophen (Tylenol). I have had several patients develop kidney disease and almost die after they were given just one Tylenol! Lastly, unlike acute kidney disease, chronic kidney disease develops slowly and can be caused by diabetes or hypertension.  Risk Factors Age Other medical diseases Breed: Abyssinians, Siamese, Oriental breeds, and Persian cats are at an increased risk for developing kidney disease  Signs and Symptoms Excessive thirst Increased urination Dehydration Weight loss Vomiting Lethargy Abnormal smelling breath Unkept coat, failure to groom themselves  Diagnosis If you see any of these symptoms, bring your cat to your veterinarian. As with most medical conditions, the earlier kidney disease is detected the better the prognosis, so don’t delay seeing your vet. After an examination, your vet will likely suggest doing blood and urine tests. Depending on those results, imaging to look for bladder or kidney stones, or cancer may be suggested.  Treatment Unfortunately, there is no cure for chronic renal failure in cats. The treatment involves hydration and controlling the associated symptoms. Treatment may include the use of fluids to improve hydration, and/or medications that increase blood flow to the kidneys, lower high blood pressure, or correct electrolyte imbalances. Medications used to help stimulate a cat’s appetite and control gastrointestinal upset may also be used if needed. Lastly your veterinarian may recommend switching your cat to a special diet designed to slow the progression of renal disease. However, as all cat owners know, cats can be picky, so the most important thing is to keep your cat eating.  Prevention Sadly, there is not much you can do to prevent your older cat from developing chronic kidney disease. However, you do want to catch the disease early so you can so you can start treatments aimed at slowing the progression of kidney failure. In the case of acute renal disease, you can take steps to prevent it by keeping poisons and toxic plants (like lilies) away from your cats and never give them any medication without first checking with their veterinarian.     Diabetes Diabetes is not just a human disease; cats can also suffer from diabetes. Estimates report that diabetes affects 1:200 cats nationwide and is increasing at an alarming rate. Diabetes mellitus occurs when the body is unable to regulate the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. The hormone insulin is responsible for moving sugar from the bloodstream into cells to be stored or used for energy. Type-1 diabetes occurs when the body fails to produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes, also known as insulin-resistant diabetes, develops when the body becomes less responsive to the effects of insulin. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes result in chronically elevated levels of sugar in the blood that damage capillaries and eventually lead to nerve damage, kidney failure and even death. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes seen in cats.  Causes As in people, diabetes is a multi-factorial disease caused by different risk factors including age, genetic predispositions, diet, and obesity. Unfortunately, obesity in pets, just like people, is increasing. It is estimated that 58% of cats in the US are overweight. That means more than half of the cats in the United States are at risk for developing diabetes.   Signs and Symptoms Increased thirst Sudden increase in appetite Sudden weight loss (despite an increase appetite) Increased urination Increased lethargy  Diagnosis If your veterinarian suspects your cat has diabetes, they will need to do bloodwork to look at blood sugar levels and a urinalysis to look for glucose in your cat’s urine. The urinalysis will also detect bladder infections which are more common in diabetic cats.  Treatment The good news is that diabetes is a manageable condition. The goal of treatment is to provide stable blood sugar levels. With treatment, diet changes and at home monitoring you and your veterinarian can manage your cat’s diabetes. Your veterinarian will work with you to put your cat on a diet (usually high protein, low carb canned food), and will instruct you on giving insulin and then have you do at home monitoring. The good news is that if treatment, weight loss and diet changes are started early, some diabetic cats be controlled without insulin.  Prevention Since obesity is a risk factor for diabetes in cats the best thing you can do is keep your cats trim. If you have a chubby kitty now is the time to get them in shape. Cut back on calories by decreasing quantity or switching foods, and increase exercise. How many of you know how to exercise your cat? Here are some ideas I give my clients. Walks, playtime, put food up so cats have to jump, move around to get it, etc.  Kidney disease and diabetes are not the only diseases to afflict older cats. Part 2 will discuss other common geriatric ailments, like thyroid disease, cancer, and dental disease. READ PART 2
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Essential Tips for Choosing the Right Pet for You and Your Family

Picking the right pet for your family is more important than you may think. It can be the difference between a seamless fit or a mismatch with your lifestyle and expectations. Unfortunately, shelters are full of pets that ended up in there because they were a poor fit for the family or the they underestimated the level of responsibility or financial impact of having a pet.  Dogs The decision to get a dog should not be taken lightly. Though dogs make wonderful companions, they are a significant investment of time, money and emotions. Before you decide to get a dog, you need to ask yourself these questions: Do you have time for a dog? Do you have enough space for a dog? Can you afford to properly care for them? Are you prepared to take on this responsibility for the life of the dog, which could be 10 to 14 years? Do you have someone to watch your pet when you work or travel? If you answered yes to all of these questions, then you meet the bare minimum requirements to be a responsible dog parent, but you still have to decide which type of dog is best for you. To find the right dog for you, you need to consider how their size, coat, grooming needs, level of activity, ease of training, temperament, and breed-specific health issues match your lifestyles. For example, a high-energy Visla would get bored and destructive if they don’t get enough daily exercise, which is a recipe for disaster. However, the same high-energy Visla would be the perfect pet for an avid runner who wants a running buddy to join him on his daily runs. There is no perfect breed of dog or mixed-breed, but if you do your research, you can find the perfect dog for you and your lifestyle.  Cats While cats may be easier to care for than dogs, they still require a sizable commitment. Even though you don’t have to walk your cat, your cat needs a litter box which requires regular maintenance. Are you prepared to scoop poop every day? Another difference between cats and dogs is that cats can get onto just about anything. No counter is safe and they seem to have a knack for finding the most expensive things to knock over! Like dogs and humans, cats also need regular check-ups, immunizations and parasite control. While cats are generally clean and self-groom, long-haired cats, like Perisans and Ragdolls, require daily brushing to avoid mats. If you aren’t willing to brush your cat everyday, consider getting a short-haired cat. It’s not about a beauty preference, it’s about being realistic about the grooming demands of having a long-haired cat. Even short-haried cats have grooming needs. Short-haired cats shed more than you would expect and brushing them on a regular basis keeps the shedding at a manageable level. Since cats can live 20 years if you are lucky, picking the right cat is an important decision with lasting consequences.  Small Animal Pets Not ready to commit to a dog or cat? Guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, rats and mice also make great pets. I know because I have had them all! As a veterinary student, I even had a hedgehog. Though small pets are less demanding for attention and require less maintenance than cats and dogs, they still need proper care. You need to clean their habitats, change their bedding, and give them fresh water and food daily. And though these pets have an independent streak, they still enjoy spending quality time with you. Just remember that their diminutive size makes them vulnerable to falls and injuries. Be extra careful if you have small kids as a fall can be fatal. To avoid falls, have your kids sit on the floor and have them hold their pet on their laps. And always remember to supervise your kids around small pets. If scared, small pets can bite over eager little fingers.    Choosing your next pet is an important decision with lasting implications. Although all pets require care and attention, some pets have greater needs. Ultimately the joy and love they give back makes it all worth it. To avoid disappointment, just remember to do your homework and pick the right pet to match your lifestyle and expectations.  
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Easy Ways to Clean Up After Your Cats

Cats are cute but they can be messy. Whether it’s endless shedding, litter tracked everywhere, or stepping on a hairball, these elegant creatures are not always the tidiest roommates. Thankfully, having a cat doesn’t have to be a chore. Here are some ways to minimize the mess and keep your house neat and clean. Shedding With the exception of a few breeds, like the Sphynx and Devon Rex, all cats shed, some more so than others. One way to decrease shedding is to brush your cat regularly. Brushing your cat on a regular basis removes dead hair, prevents tangles, is enjoyable to your cat, and decreases shedding. Of course, even with brushing, fur may still end up everywhere. If you are tired of vacuuming hair every day, consider getting a robot vacuum. Robot vacuums, can make your life a lot easier. It can be programmed to run several times a day, offers multiple cleaning modes, and will automatically recharge when the battery is low. Robot vacuums do all the work for you so shedding is no longer a chore. Litter Litter can be messy and smelly, but it doesn’t have to be. Choose a high-quality litter, like ökocat, to absorb and neutralize smelly odors. ökocat is made from reclaimed wood and has superior odor control without added chemicals, dyes or fragrances. ökocat comes in different formulations to suit your cat’s tastes. To make kitty clean-up easier, ökocat makes their Less Mess Clumping Low-Tracking, Mini Pellets Wood Cat Litter. This litter is all-natural so it’s a cleaner, healthier litter for your cat and you! The low tracking formula helps keep litter in the box where it belongs. For added mess protection, use a litter mat to trap any loose litter pellets. Hairballs Every cat parent can relate to sleepily walking to the bathroom at night only to suddenly step on a warm, squishy hairball with their barefoot. Unless you have a hairless Sphynx cat, hairballs are the inevitable price we pay to have such clean pets. Cats naturally keep clean by licking and grooming themselves fastidiously. Unfortunately, hairballs result when cats ingest their fur and regurgitate it. You can reduce hairball production by brushing your cat regularly. You can also give them over-the-counter hairball medication which coats the ingested hair, making it easier to pass through their gastrointestinal tract. You can also consider switching your cat to a cat food formulated to help reduce hairballs. Accidents Anyone who has cats can attest that they can be messy roommates. Whether it’s litter box accidents, hairballs, or vomiting, it is inevitable that you will need to clean up after your cat. Besides cleaning up the accident, it is important to use the right product. Choose a cleaning product that is safe to use around your pet and that is formulated to neutralize pet odors. For example, urine smell can remain even if it seems completely cleaned-up. To prevent your cat from having another accident because they can still smell the urine, use a product that neutralizes rather than covers up the smell. House Cleaning Advice Just a word of caution regarding cleaning and pets, you need to be careful with cleaning products around your pets. Always keep them stored safely away from pets and children and remember if you clean the floor or counter, make sure it’s dry before you let your pets walk on it. Remember cats often lick their feet and can ingest any chemicals that get on their paws. Cats can be messy, but they give us so much love and joy…they are worth it. With the right products cleaning up after your cats doesn’t have to be hard.    
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Top tips to keep your cat safe at home!

A cat’s insatiable curiosity is an incredibly endearing feline trait. While it is a sign of their intelligence, their inquisitive nature can also get them into trouble. After all, there is a reason for the saying “curiosity killed the cat.” So what can pet parents do to protect their feline friends? How can they cat-proof their home? To keep their cats safe, pet parents need to recognize and address these common household dangers.   Kitchen and Laundry Room Cats have a knack for getting into things. Unfortunately, the kitchen or laundry room can be a hazardous place for curious kitties. Keep appliance doors closed: If your cat gets into a grocery bag or purse, it’s cute. If your cat gets into the dishwasher, oven, washer, or dryer, it can be lethal. Animals have been hurt or even killed when someone turns on the appliance without realizing their pet is inside. Preventing these tragedies is simple: always keep lids and doors closed and check before turning on the appliance. Don’t leave food unattended: Cats also have an amazing sense of smell and seem to know where to find tasty food. Keep foods that are toxic to cats, such as chocolate and alcohol, out of their reach. Also keep them away from poultry bones that can splinter and get lodged in their gastrointestinal tract. To avoid these problems, keep unattended food off tables and counters and dispose of leftovers in a covered garbage can to prevent garbage surfing. Keep cleaners tucked away: Be sure to store detergents and household cleaners safely out of your feline’s reach.   Living Room At first glance, the living room may seem like a safe haven. Unfortunately, first impressions can be deceiving. Place breakables out of reach: Our carefully placed decorations can also draw the unwanted attention of our curious cats. Bright, shiny, and especially fragile objects seem to beckon our curious feline friends to play with them. If knocked over and shattered, glass and ceramic fragments are razor sharp and can cut unsuspecting paws. Don’t leave lit candles unsupervised: Little paws can do more than break fragile decorations. Lit candles that are knocked over can burn your pet, or even worse, cause a household fire. Know which plants are feline-friendly: Even decorative plants can be deadly. Before you bring any plants or flowers to your home, check to make sure they are not poisonous to your cat. Lilies, for example, are highly toxic to cats and consumption of any part of the plant can lead to kidney failure and death. Keep electrical cords out of reach: They can electrocute your pet if chewed upon or strangle your pet if they get tangled in the cord. Check under your recliners: Finally, before your sit down and relax in your recliner or rocking chair, always make sure your cat hasn’t curled up beneath it.    Bathroom The bathroom ranks as the smallest room in a typical house, but what it lacks in square footage it makes up for in hazards. Toss the floss: What’s good for your teeth may not be good for your cat. Flossing may be what the dentist ordered, but flossing can actually be dangerous to our cats. Cats are often drawn to linear objects like yarn and dental floss. Ingesting a linear object can cause an intestinal obstruction that can be fatal if not treated with emergent surgery. Floss to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Just remember to dispose of your floss in a covered garbage can. Don’t leave the curler on: Lastly, be careful with hot hairdryers and curling irons that can burn an unsuspecting, curious cat’s nose.   Garage The garage is usually the most dangerous place in your home for your cat. Garages are stockpiles of hazardous chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers. Be wary of chemicals: Make sure all chemicals are safely put away. Some chemicals, like antifreeze, have an appealing sweet smell that can entice a curious pet for a taste. Unfortunately even a mere taste can be lethal. Safely store your pesticides: Insecticides, rodenticides, and fertilizers can also be toxic. Pesticides are the most dangerous because they are often sweetened or scented to attract pests and cats can become their unintended victims.   You can never protect your pet from every possible hazard. However, you can take these measures to make your home safer for your pets and protect them from these common household dangers. Following these suggestions can help keep your cats safe and prevent unscheduled emergency visits to the veterinarian. ökocat is not only dedicated to making the best cat litter, but also committed to helping cats live longer, healthier lives by educating pet parents about important cat health topics.
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Cat Not Using the Litter Box? Top Reasons Why and How to Fix Them!

It can be very upsetting when your cat urinates outside their litter box. Feline inappropriate elimination (FIE), or house soiling, can be a challenging problem to solve, leaving many feeling overwhelmed. In fact, FIE is one the main behavioral reasons why people relinquish their cats to shelters. By becoming familiar with FIE, you can hopefully prevent it from developing or know how to curtail it.  Before treating FIE as a behavioral problem, medical causes need to be excluded. Inappropriate urination can be due to kidney or bladder infections, diabetes, kidney failure, bladder or kidney stones, or even cancer of the genitourinary system. FIE may be the presenting symptom for a disease in an otherwise healthy cat. Make sure your veterinarian excludes medical causes before you accuse your cat of bad behavior!  Marking their territory Many cats urinate outside the litter box because of their instincts. In the wild, cats mark the boundaries of their territory to keep others away. Not surprisingly, domestic cats have kept this behavior. In particular, unneutered male cats are more likely to mark or “spray” outside of the litter box. Often neutering can prevent or correct this behavior, especially when done at 6 months of age or younger. Sometimes, even neutered male cats or female cats can become territorial. If multiple cats are sharing one litter box, cats will often “claim” the litter box by marking it. Make sure you have multiple litter boxes in different locations to help prevent this behavior and consider using feline pheromones to “calm” territorial disputes.  Location Like in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. Cats, like us, need privacy when using the bathroom. Placing the litter box in a high traffic or noisy location will deter many cats from using it. Be sure to place the litter box in a quiet location where your cat will not be disturbed, otherwise it may fear the litter box. Also, make sure the litter box is easily accessible. Older cats with arthritis may have trouble climbing stairs so place the litter box close to where they spend most of their time.  Preferences Most people know cats can be picky: they are picky eaters, they are picky about whom they like and they are picky about when they want to be loved. It should not be surprising that they can also be picky about litter or their litter box. Fortunately, ökocat makes different formulations to suit your cat’s fancy. “Original premium” has a natural texture and scent, “super soft” has a soft texture similar to clay, “less mess” has small pellets that are less likely to stick to your cats’ fur, “featherweight” has a soft texture and is their lightest litter, and “dust free” is a non-clumping paper pellet that is ideal for cats with respiratory issues or after surgery. If you change litters, make sure you change the litter gradually. Some cats may be picky about their litter box; some prefer open litter boxes, while others like the privacy of a covered litter box. Watch for these preferences and remove or add a cover based on your cat’s desires.  Accessibility As cats get older, arthritis becomes more common. Arthritis is a progressive, painful joint disease that limits mobility. Arthritic cats may have trouble getting in and out of traditional litter boxes and end-up going outside of the litter box. This problem can be resolved by using “low profile” litter boxes or boxes with a ramp. Likewise, soft litter, like ökocat “super soft” and ökocat “featherweight” are easier on an arthritic cat’s joints.   Dirty litter boxes Cats are very clean animals. They meticulously groom themselves. It should be no surprise that they prefer clean litter boxes. The presence of waste and the smell of ammonia in a dirty litter box can deter a cat from using it and force them to go elsewhere. Keeping the litter box clean is a chore that is often neglected. However, keeping the litter box clean is often the only way to cure inappropriate urination. If you can’t scoop daily, consider an automatic self-cleaning litter box or try teaching your kitty to use the toilet (yes, it is possible with training and patience, but don’t expect them to flush).   Solving FIE By knowing the causes of FIE, you can hopefully prevent it from developing. Since bad habits are hard to break, it is easier to prevent a behavioral problem than to treat one. But what do you do if your cat already house soils?    First, rule out medical causes. Once they have been excluded, the approach to correcting FIE can be divided into 3 steps: cleaning up the accident, preventing future accidents, and making the litter box more inviting.  All accidents must be cleaned up completely. Use cleaning products that completely remove or neutralize the urine smell. Cat’s sense of smell is 14x more sensitive than ours. If a cat can still smell the scent of urine, they will be drawn there and will continue to soil in that location.  In order to prevent future accidents, make the location less attractive. Use products to deter cats from house soiling such as scat mats, double-sided sticky tape, crinkly runners, aluminum foil, and noise canisters. By making the site of the crime unappealing, it will encourage your cat to choose a more appropriate location (i.e. the litter box).  Finally, make the litter box more inviting. The most important step is to keep it clean. Also choose litter and a litter box that caters to your cat’s preferences. Make sure you provide enough litter boxes for everyone (the rule of thumb is one litter box for cat plus one). Finally, feline pheromones can help with territorial issues.  FIE can be a frustrating problem. By knowing the most common behavioral causes of this problem, you can help prevent it from developing or treat a pre-existing problem. If these problems persist, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist.
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