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Why Is My Cat So Vocal at Night?

Q: Dear Nora,

My 14 yr old cat has become very vocal in the last few weeks  And it happens at night, when I am trying to sleep!  She will sit in the doorway of the bedroom and meow.  If I close the door she will sit outside the door and meow.  Not sure what she wants. I  get up and check her food….she has lots..  During the day she is not so annoying.  What’s going on?

iamthegreatwent @ Instagram
iamthegreatwent @ Instagram

A: There are lots of reasons a cat can become more vocal during different stages of their lives or at different times during the day or night. When you’re being kept up at night it’s hard to remember that your cat isn’t midnight-meowing with the intentions of driving you crazy. She’s simply trying to communicate something to you. Given her age and the fact that this behavior is new and is only happening at night, I suspect that your cat’s vision is declining. This can make her feel disoriented or confused at night, causing her to call out to you. Try installing a few night lights throughout your home to help her get around. If this doesn’t work, or if her meowing escalates beyond nighttime, it’s worth a vet checkup to see if there is a medical cause for her behavior change.

How Did My Cat Get Worms?

Q: Dear Nora,
My indoor/outdoor cat was losing weight and vomiting a lot. We took him to the vet and discovered that our poor little guy had worms! How did he get them? And how can we keep him worm-free in the future?

iamthegreatwent @ instagram
iamthegreatwent @ instagram

A: Most adult cats get worms by ingesting the poop of another cat, or eating rodents and birds. And, as an avid poop and mouse-eater myself, I must say that it’s totally worth the risk!

Kittens can get worms from the milk of an infected mother, and cats of all ages can get infected with some types of worms (such as hookworms) just by stepping in dirt that has been soiled by an infected cat. Cats who go outdoors are far more likely to be infected by worms than indoor cats.

In addition to the vomiting and weight loss you noticed, other folks should look out for diarrhea, bloody stool, constipation, coughing, or trouble breathing.

You did the right thing by taking your cat to the vet. There are lots of different kinds of worms and all of them are treated differently. Since worm infections are treated with a controlled poison, you should always talk to your vet about treatment plans and never try to self-diagnose/treat. Once your kitty has been de-wormed, discuss an ongoing treatment plan with your vet.

 

Is It Okay For My Cat to Play With Yarn?

Q: Dear Nora,
My cats go crazy over yarn. They love to play with it and get all wrapped up in it. Is it okay to let them play with it? I’m worried they’ll ingest it. 

iamthegreatwent @ instagram
iamthegreatwent @ instagram

A: I love playing with yarn. I love everything about it. I especially love ripping my mom’s knitting projects to shreds when she forgets to put them away.

Despite the fun, playing with yarn can actually be dangerous. It’s impossible for us to keep dangling and squirming things out of our mouths, you see. Before we know it, we’re swallowing it and it’s getting wrapped all around our insides and you are rushing us to the (very expensive, my mama tells me) emergency vet.

Luckily there are alternatives, such as wand toys. My mama spends some time every day playing with me with a wand toy and it’s great! I hunt it and play with it and get (safely) wrapped up in it– and as long as I am playing with my mama, she makes sure I don’t swallow anything bad, like the feathers on the end. So, hide the yarn, add more toys, and your cat will never know the difference.

 

 

 

Can Indoor Cats Get Fleas?

Q: Dear Nora,
My cat never goes outside, but I’m pretty sure I saw a flea jump off his back yesterday. Is that even possible?

iamthegreatwent @ instagram
iamthegreatwent @ instagram

A: Unfortunately, it is possible. I actually have first hand experience with this. My sister and I got fleas last summer, and neither of us had been outside since we were rescued years ago. There had been a stray cat hanging out by our front door and I think a flea jumped off of him and slipped inside through a small gap in our door. It may have also hitchhiked in on my mom’s sock.

If you suspect fleas, ACT FAST! Those little buggers can multiply like crazy and quickly get out of hand.

Sticky: How Do I Keep My Cat Safe on Thanksgiving?

Q: Dear Nora,
I’m thrilled to be hosting my very first Thanksgiving dinner this year. My cat is social and sweet and I think he’ll love having a house full of friends and family who will be eager to pet him. Are there any things I need to keep in mind to keep my cat safe during this celebration?

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Image Source: Douglas O’Brien via Flickr.com

A: Celebrations are fun. I personally like to celebrate from under the couch, but it sounds like I’m much more of a loner than your cat. There are a handful of ways your Thanksgiving celebration could be dangerous for your cat, so it’s a good thing you asked! Here are some tips for keeping him safe:

  • Keep him out of the kitchen, if you can. The kitchen can be an extra dangerous place for your kitty during a food-based holiday. Everything from a stovetop full of hot burners to stray knives on the counter to extra feet accidentally stepping on paws– not to mention the possibility of him tripping you while you’re walking with something hot or sharp.
  • Know which foods are toxic. Thanksgiving is full of foods that can be toxic to him. Check out this handy food guide from www.peteducation.com.
  • Dispose of dangers quickly. Dispose of strings and plastic wrappings in a timely manner so your cat can’t ingest them. You probably don’t want to spend your holiday at the Emergency Vet.
  • Careful with candles. Candles are obviously a fire hazard if he tips them over. He can also get burned by brushing up against a flame or hot wax.
  • Don’t let your guest feed him table scraps. Cats always think they want to eat what the humans are eating, but we have very sensitive stomachs and eating scraps can cause tummy issues. Trust me, you don’t want to clean up the aftermath of that.
  • Keep the door closed. Things can get confusing when a lot of people are coming and going. Keep an eye on the door to make sure it stays shut and that your cat isn’t lurking around the door waiting for his chance to make a run for it.
  • Know which potted plants and cut flowers are toxic. Your guests may have good intentions when they bring you a bouquet of flowers or a potted plant, but many of them can be dangerous if your cat gnaws on them. Reference the ASPCA’s toxic plant guide to be sure!
  • Know the Poison Control Hotline number. Always a good thing to have on hand, just in case: (888) 426-4435
  • Create a safe space. Even a social cat may get overstimulated in a home full of guests. Make sure he has a place to escape to if he wants to nap in peace. This can be as simple as moving his favorite bed into your bedroom. You may want to relocate his food and water dish for the day too.

5 Things Your Cat Sitter Should Absolutely Know

Photo from pixabay.com
Photo from pixabay.com

‘Summertime’ means vacations and weekend getaways to many people. Unfortunately, most cats don’t appreciate the newness and unpredictability of travel and would much rather stay home where things are more mundane. Here’s a great article about the information you should relay to your cat sitter to ensure a safe and healthy stay-cation for your cat while you are away.

Click here to read 5 Things Your Cat Sitter Should Absolutely Know

What Foods Are Toxic to My Cat?

Q: Dear Nora,
I’ll be hosting a cookout at my home for the 4th of July. My cat is very clever and sneaky, and I’m worried that she’ll eat some foods she shouldn’t be eating. What average cookout foods are toxic or dangerous to my cat? I can be more proactive about keeping food away from her if I know what to look for.

A: Thanks for reminding our readers that fireworks aren’t the only holiday threats to animals. Many human foods can be dangerous to your cat. Here are some items that make an appearance at your 4th of July party that you should keep away from her:

  • Alcohol – can cause coma or death
  • Bones – choking hazzards
  • Chocolate – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or a heart attack
  • Onions – toxic
  • Garlic – toxic

Find a more comprehensive list here at www.peteducation.com.

As you may know, cats also just have very sensitive digestive systems and are prone to vomiting and diarrhea even with the most simple diet changes. For that reason, it would be smart to keep your cat away from human food always, toxic or not.

If you suspect that your cat has eaten something toxic, call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661.

How Can I Keep My Cat Calm on the 4th of July?

Q: Dear Nora,
I adopted a great new cat a few months ago. His only issue is that he’s a bit skittish around loud noises. How can I keep him from being scared out of his mind on the 4th of July when things are exploding all around us?

A: Fireworks can make even the bravest cats skittish, so I feel for your cat. You can help your cat by creating a safe space for him in your home. Here’s how:

  • Choose a room in your home that doesn’t get much foot traffic, and preferably has a door that can close for your cat’s privacy and security.
  • Make sure the room has all of his basic essentials, including a clean litter box, food, and fresh water.
  • Add some comforts too, like his favorite bed, toys, and a few items of clothing that smell like you.
  • Turn on a television or radio to help drown out the loud bangs.
  • Consider using a Feliway spray or plug-in to help calm his nerves.
  • Keep the party out of your house. If you want to celebrate at home, consider planning a small gathering with family or a small group of close friends.

Finally, be aware that the 4th of July– with all of the fear and disorientation it can cause– is the number one day of the year that pets go missing in the United States. Make sure that the room you create for your cat is secure and that your cat has ways of being identified (tag, microchip, PetHub ID, etc.) before it’s too late.

Feline Diabetes

Our dear friend, Pippi, died one year ago today after a two-year tussle with diabetes. Pip lived to the grand old age of 17 and had a pretty great life right up til the end, when she passed away curled up in her mom’s lap, surrounded by friends and family, thanks to the help of Sarah Nolan at Capital District Mobile Veterinary Services.

Before she was diagnosed, we didn’t know anything about feline diabetes. But, it’s amazing how fast you learn things when someone you love is counting on you to make the best decisions for them. Here’s what we learned through Pippi’s experience:

The Symptoms

  • Frequent urination. When Pippi became ill, she started peeing a lot. When I say “a lot”, I mean we had to completely change the litter every single day because she had soaked it straight through. Because of her need to pee more frequently, she also started occasionally peeing in other rooms when she couldn’t make it to the box. My mom learned pretty quick to add more boxes in more rooms to make it easier for Pip to find one.
  • Always thirsty. The amount of water she was consuming was one of the biggest tip-offs that something wasn’t right. Her water bowl, which would normally only be 1/4 empty by the time it was freshened each morning was suddenly bone dry within just a couple hours.
  • Big appetite with weight loss. Pippi was hungry for the entirety of the two years she was diabetic. But no matter how much she ate, she lost weight.
  • Lethargy. Granted, Pip was 15 years old when she was diagnosed, so she wasn’t the most active and spry cat around. Still, there was a distinct change in her behavior that let us know she wasn’t feeling so hot.

The Veterinarian Visits and Lab Results

I have to admit, we Googled Pippi’s symptoms before our vet appointment. It’s hard not to, when information is just a few clicks away. As you probably know, this almost always goes badly. When we showed up at the vet, we were convinced that one or more of her vital organs were failing her. So, when our vet suggested that she may be diabetic and explained how treatable feline diabetes is, we rejoiced!

He weighed her and took samples of her urine and blood to send to the lab. The lab results confirmed his suspicion of diabetes and we met with him a few days later to discuss our options. At that meeting, we learned how to successfully administer an insulin injection and asked all of the questions we could think of.

Never hesitate to ask your vet to explain anything you don’t understand. Sometimes medical professionals get into a habit of speaking in ways that are too wordy or complicated for the average person to understand. Don’t feel bad about asking them to back up and make it simpler. They want you to understand because they know it’s the best way to keep your animals healthy. Let them know if you need more info! Remember: they work for you!

The Treatment

Each cat is different and the treatment plan will be tailored to the cat’s particular situation. When Pippi first got diagnosed, she was a Type II diabetic. That meant that her body was still producing insulin, just not very efficiently. Our veterinarian prescribed a twice-daily insulin regimen and a diet change. He suspected that a high-protein, low-carb diet (which he called the Catkins Diet) could eventually stabilize her blood sugar and wean her off of the insulin altogether. He was right! Within a couple of months we were able to taper her insulin doses until she didn’t require insulin anymore. A year later, however, she switched to a Type I diabetic. Her body stopped producing its own insulin and she became insulin-dependent for the rest of her life.

As I said, each diabetic cat will have a different plan that will work best for them. Some will require insulin injections, some may be able to take an oral hypoglycemic medication, and some will simply need a change in diet. Your vet can help you choose the right plan.

We spent a lot of time at the vet during the last two years of her life. Her condition required regular checkups to make sure her sugar levels were stable and to keep an eye on her weight. It wasn’t easy (or cheap!), but I really do believe that our persistence, our great relationship with our veterinarian, and our confidence to ask for answers and clarity helped Pippi live a happy, comfortable, and relatively healthy life after her diagnosis.

Additional Resources:
The Pet Fund – A non-profit that provides financial assistance for veterinary care.
FelineDiabetes.com – A comprehensive website about feline diabetes.

Why Is My Cat Eating My Plants?

Q: Dear Nora,
I keep finding my cat munching on my houseplants. I make sure not to bring poisonous ones into my home, but it’s still aggravating. Why does she love eating my plants so much? And how can I make her stop?

A: It’s great that you’re careful to not bring plants into your home that may be toxic to your cat. Other readers who aren’t already so conscious can find a list of common toxic plants on our Resources page.

It’s very common for cats to eat plants and there are a few reasons she may be doing this.

  • Cats like things that dangle and flutter in the wind. If you have viney plants or plants that wiggle when the wind blows through the window, the plant may simply be poking at your cat’s natural instinct to hunt.
  • If you cause a big fuss every time you catch your cat nibbling, she may have learned that this is a great way to get your attention.
  • Eating plants can help with digestion, cause vomiting, and even act as a laxative. Eating your plants may be your cat’s way of trying to solve belly discomfort.

My first suggestion would be to make your plants inaccessible to you cat. Put them up on high shelves that she can’t access by jumping, hang dangling plants from the ceiling, or put them in a room she doesn’t have access to. Second, add a pot or two of cat grass to your home so she has a more appropriate way to fill her need to chomp on greens. You can buy pre-grown grasses or start them yourself from seed. You may even be able to find locally grown cat grass at your local health food store or farmer’s market. If you have a Bergan Turbo Scratcher (my favorite), you can even get an insert that will grow grass in the middle of it! Make sure to place the grass in areas that are easy for her to reach and close to parts of your home where she already spends a lot of time (for instance, near her favorite perch).

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