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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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Vet Tips for the Best Guinea Pig Care

Guinea pigs make great pets, especially for first time pet owners. They are friendly, hardy, relatively easy to take care for, and have adorable personalities. If you are thinking about getting a guinea pig, what will you need to have? Guinea pigs need: housing, pet supplies, food, toys and of course, lots of love and attention.   Housing First and foremost, your piggy will need a place to call home. When picking a habitat for your pig, the most important consideration is getting the right size for the enclosure. Unlike smaller rodents, guinea pigs need more space. According to the Humane Society, the minimum size for one guinea pig is 7.5 square feet (30” x 36”), but bigger is better. The minimum size for two guinea pigs is also 7.5 square feet, but 10.5 square feet is preferred (30” x 50”).  Guinea pigs should also be housed in a home with a solid bottom. Avoid cages with wire bottoms as these can harm their feet. Ideally choose a habitat made for guinea pigs as these often have ramps and second levels made especially for guinea pigs. The cage needs to be large enough to have a hut for your piggy to hide and sleep in. You can buy plastic guinea pig huts or use a small upside-down cardboard box as well. You also want room for tunnels and other play toys, and of course, your sturdy ceramic food and water bowls. Most cages made for guinea pigs have removable bottom trays that allow for easy cleaning.  Midwest makes a good size guinea pig habitat and you can add on more for additional space.  In addition to the habitat, you will need bedding to cover the floor. You can use recycled paper products, aspen chips, and wood pulp products, such as carefresh®. carefresh® is ideal for guinea pigs because it is twice more absorbent than shavings, can suppress odors for up to 10 days, is 99% dust-free, and is soft and comfortable. Newspaper is not ideal since it is not very absorbent and needs to be changed frequently. Cedar and pine shavings are not recommended because they can cause respiratory problems. Corn cob products are also not recommended as they can be ingested leading to obstructions. No matter which bedding you ultimately chose, the bedding needs to be changed regularly to keep the cage clean and odor-free.  Finally, your guinea pig needs an “igloo” or hut to hide or sleep in. Guinea pigs like to have a hiding place where they can feel secure. Can you blame them for wanting some privacy?    Food Guinea pigs need three food essentials: guinea pig pellets, hay and fresh fruits and veggies. Pick a high-quality guinea pig pellet and make sure it is always accessible to your piggy. While pellets are a major part of their diet, they also need to have fresh hay every day. You can choose from Timothy Hay, alfalfa, or other grass hay varieties made for guinea pigs. Hay is necessary for their intestinal health and to help prevent their teeth from overgrowing. Guinea pigs also need fresh fruit and vegetables every day. Guinea pigs require a dietary source of vitamin C as they lack the enzyme required to synthesize Vitamin C. Without a daily source of vitamin C, they can develop scurvy from vitamin C deficiency. Foods such as parsley, cilantro, kale, spinach, broccoli, and peppers, beet greens and tomatoes contain high levels of vitamin C. While fruits are also a good source of vitamin C, they should be offered only in small quantities as treats due to their high sugar levels. Vitamin C can also be added to your guinea pig’s water. Finally, don’t forget to provide clean water in a either a bowl or water bottle. Water bottles are preferred since they stay cleaner longer and can hold a lot of water.   Toys Like other animals, guinea pigs like to play with toys. Guinea pigs like to play with balls, bells, and stuffed animals, but chew toys are by far their favorite. There are a number of different wooden chew toys you can clip to their cage. Guinea pigs also like cardboard tunnels. Not only are they fun to chew, but they also provide a hiding place and are fun to push around. Consider getting an exercise pen so your guinea pig can get some exercise and safely explore outside of their cage. Make sure to avoid exercise wheels and balls. Guinea pigs’ have different anatomy than smaller rodents and their spines are unable to bend backwards. Exercise wheels and balls can cause severely back injuries. Remember, guinea pigs are social animals and they simply enjoy your company and being petted. You can tell they are happy by the cute sounds they make when they are being loved.  Pet Care Like other rodents, guinea pigs have teeth that grow continuously. In order to prevent their teeth from becoming overgrown, they have to wear down their teeth. This can usually be accomplished by providing them with hay at all times, chew toys, and cardboard tunnels. If their teeth become overgrown, they may be unable to eat and will need to see a veterinarian. In addition to their teeth, guinea pigs need to have their nails trimmed every few weeks. Without regular nail trims, their nails can get overgrown and become painful. If your guinea pig is of the long-haired variety, it will need to be brushed regularly to prevent matting.  Guinea pigs are social animals and generally do well with other guinea pigs. If you decide to get more than one guinea pig, make sure they are of the same sex. Otherwise you will end up with a household full of guinea pigs. Finally, although guinea pigs are relatively hardy, they are curious and can get themselves in trouble. Keep an eye on your guinea pig and make sure that they don’t chew on electrical cords, eat something they shouldn’t, or fall and injury themselves.    Lastly just like cats and dogs, it is ideal for guinea pigs to have annual check-ups. If you don’t already have a veterinarian be sure you choose one that sees guinea pigs and make an appointment to bring your new piggy in for a wellness check right away.   If you’ve decided to get a guinea pig, keep these suggestions in mind and buy the supplies you need to welcome your new guinea pigs home.      
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6 Ways to Keep Your Cats Healthy

Don’t Skip Check-ups Annual examinations are the best way to detect medical problems early and to ensure your cat is protected against preventable diseases. We take our kids to the pediatrician for wellness visits, so why should our cats be any different? Cats get sick too. They suffer from many of the same illnesses we do, like obesity, diabetes, thyroid disease, and kidney disease. And cats can’t talk and tell us when they are sick. To make matters worse, they are masters at hiding illnesses. You may not notice any signs or symptoms until the disease is very advanced. That’s why routine physical examinations are so important. They allow your veterinarian to check your cat from head to tail for subtle signs of illness. Your vet can also utilize screening tests to detect diseases early and to start treatment promptly. The fact is bringing your cat to the vet at least once a year for a check-up is the best way to be ensure your cat lives the healthiest, happiest life possible.    Keep Vaccines Up to Date Cats can be exposed to a number of different infectious diseases, even if they live indoors. Upper respiratory infections can be carried on your clothes or shoes or can spread through an open window or screen door. Not to mention that even indoor cats can sneak out. Although strictly indoor only cats may require less vaccines than outdoor cats, the fact remains that indoor cats may benefit from vaccines that protect against the upper respiratory viruses: feline rhinotracheitits, feline calicivirus, and feline panleukopenia. In addition, some states require cats to be vaccinated against rabies. Speak with your veterinarian to find out what vaccines are appropriate for your particular cat based on their age, lifestyle and risks.     Don’t Forget About Parasite Control Unfortunately, even indoor cats aren’t immune to parasites. Pesky bugs like fleas can be brought into your home by your dog or rodents. You can even move into a house with an existing flea problem. Fleas in the pupa stage can remain dormant for months. In addition, mosquitos transmit heartworm disease and we all know how easy it is for them to get inside. Just because your cat doesn’t go outside don’t assume they are safe from parasites. Be on the look out for parasites and speak your veterinarian about parasitic screening tests and preventative medications that might be appropriate for your cat.   Microchips Are a Must All pets, even strictly indoor cats, should have microchips and ideally collars and ID tags. What happens when your cat sneaks out an open door or window, or worse yet, gets lost during an earthquake, hurricane or tornado? They become an outdoor cat with no identification! Collars and tags allow a neighbor to return your cat directly to you, but unfortunately, collars can break or fall off.  Microchips provide a more reliable means of identification. Of course, for them to work, make sure you register and keep your contact information up-to-date. The fact is accidents happen and it is always better to be safe than sorry. Being sure your pet has proper identification (collar, tag and microchips) is the best way to improve the odds that your pet will be returned home if they ever get lost.    Get Your Cats Moving All animals, even cats, benefit from exercise. Exercise is the best way to keep your cat trim and healthy. Like us, cats can suffer from obesity and the problems associated with being overweight such as arthritis and diabetes. You can keep your cat active by playing with a laser pointer. Most cats love to chase a laser pointer (and most humans find this entertaining too). Some cats can also learn to play fetch. The goal is to find the toy or activity that gets your pet moving. Don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian for ideas and help getting your lazy cat off the couch.   Keep Cats Indoors The decision to keep your cat indoors is probably the single most important action you can take to promote the health and longevity of your feline friend. The average lifespan for an outdoor cat is just 3 to 5 years, while indoor cats average 12. This huge difference in life expectancy should be a compelling enough reason for all cat parents to keep their feline friends indoors. Outdoor cats are at risk for getting hit by a car; being attacked by a dog or coyote, getting into a fight with another cat; ingesting poisonous chemicals such as rodenticides, insecticides, snail bait, or antifreeze, and are more likely to get parasites and infectious diseases like feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). The fact is once your cat is outdoors, there is no way to protect them from all of these dangers. See also >>> Clean & healthy litter that stops odor   As pet parents, besides loving our pets, our responsibility is to care for them and protect them from harm. What can you do to insure your cat lives out his nine lives? Make sure your cat has regular veterinary check-ups, stays up-to-date on their immunizations and parasite control, gets regular exercise and stays safely indoors.                
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Important Tips for Fostering Pets

Now more than ever, animal shelters and rescues around the country need your support. Shelters are reporting staffing shortages, decreased adoptions, and sadly, an increase in owner surrendered pets. Many shelters are trying to reduce their in-shelter pet population in order to make it easier for their limited staff. However, you can make a difference. Besides donating money, you can volunteer to foster animals. Foster pet parents have always played an important role with shelters and rescues. The impact of fostering is even greater during these challenging times.Under normal circumstances, shelters often need assistance caring for animals that require additional attention, such as young animals that need frequent feedings, or sick and injured animals that need additional medical care. This problem becomes magnified as shelters operate with reduced staff during the COVID crisis. Shelters still need fosters to care animals that need more care, but they also need fosters to decrease the number of animals their limited staff can care for during this pandemic. Fostering a pet can have a positive impact on the whole family Fostering animals doesn’t just help shelters, the benefits are reciprocal, and this is especially true now. With most of the country following social isolation and working from home, many people are experiencing increased stress, anxiety and loneliness. Having a foster pet to care for during these difficult times can give you a sense of purpose, can help reduce stress, and can provide much needed companionship. And if you have kids, fostering a pet can have a positive impact on the whole family. Having fostered many animals over the years, my own children have seen how our love and care helped these animals grow and get healthy for their adoptive families. Fostering has taught them to be gentle and to develop a respect for life. It has also showed them the importance of hard work and dedication. There is a great sense of gratification knowing that your efforts saved a life and helped a deserving animal find its family. Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash   Fostering is a great way to try out being a pet parent There are other benefits to fostering. Being a foster parent is also a great way to try out being a pet parent without the long-term commitment. If you aren’t sure if you and your family are ready to take on a pet for life, fostering may be the answer. You can have a pet in your home for a few weeks to months and determine if your family is ready to make a long-term commitment. It also allows you to determine if a particular pet is a good fit for your family or not. While you might be interested in a puppy, after fostering you may decide an older more settled dog may be better for your home or you may decide you want a cat instead of a dog. After all, becoming a pet parent is a major commitment and you want to be as sure as possible that you are making the right choice. There is one other benefit to fostering shelter animals. Sometimes, when you open your home to a foster animal, you open your heart, and you realize that you are their forever home. This is how two of my cats, Starlite and Mr. Smee joined our family. It’s an unintended consequence, but under the right circumstances, fostering the right animal at the right time will serendipitously lead to the realization that your foster animal is a perfect addition to your family.   Foster pet parents play a vital role in helping shelter animals that need extra care and can mitigate the current challenges facing shelters operating with reduced staff. Fostering during these challenging COVID times is a win-win for you, the shelter, and the animal you foster. If you are interested in becoming a foster pet parent, contact your local animal shelter or rescue today. Article by Dr. Ruth MacPete, D.V.M., well-known veterinarian and author. 
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