PDSA Weekly Cat Q&A
We've signed up to receive copies of the Q&A session of the PDSA vet on a weekly basis now. I'll post cat relevant ones here. 🙂
Dear PDSA Vet, my vet has just told me that my cat has got roundworm eggs in his stools. He always uses his litter tray, but I am still concerned that my two small children might catch them. Can this happen? Shanti
Dear Shanti, Roundworms can be harmful to humans and particularly children, as well as pets. There is also another parasite possible in cat faeces called Toxoplasma, which has the potential to cause problems in humans. The most effective way to prevent roundworm infection is to use a safe and effective preventive worming treatment regularly as recommended by your vet. Aside from regular worming, hygiene is key. Adults who have contact with the cat litter tray should wash their hands afterwards and children should be kept away from litter trays and areas where cats toilet in the garden. As there are additional risks of Toxoplasma during pregnancy, pregnant women are also advised to wear gloves and an apron when dealing with their cat’s litter tray.
PDSA is the UK’s leading vet charity. We’re on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk
Here is the latest cat themed Q&A!
Dear PDSA Vet, My cat, Ryker, came in this morning limping and after checking him I found that the middle pad on his foot has a small scrape on it. It seems a bit swollen and smells a bit. Should I keep him indoors at night, even though he doesn’t like this? Rebecca
Dear Rebecca, You need to take Ryker to be checked by your vet, as the wound will need to be thoroughly cleaned and checked. The smell may also indicate that it is infected, so he may need to be prescribed antibiotics. In some cases, a cat will need to be sedated or anaesthetised for the wound to be properly cleaned. The vet will probably recommend that you keep Ryker indoors until he has healed. If he isn’t neutered already I would strongly recommend you ask your vet about this. This can reduce a male cat’s desire to roam and fight, as well as preventing unwanted litters.
Just adding the latest PDSA Q&A:
Dear PDSA Vet, Socks, our long-haired tabby, has a seriously bad temper. He’s bitten and scratched my two young girls completely unprovoked, and even though they don’t go near him now he will run over to try and bite them. We can’t re-home him as nobody wants him. What should we do? Lauren
Dear Lauren, Illness or pain can be a cause of aggression in cats, so I would recommend you get Socks checked out by your vet, as there could be a long-term issue you are unaware of. If he has no underlying medical problems, then the problem could be due to what behaviourists refer to as ‘petting and biting syndrome’, when cats will initiate contact with people, but then will suddenly bite. Cats displaying this are often described as friendly but unpredictable, and there is a sudden change from accepting attention to reacting in a hostile way once they reach their tolerance threshold. Treatment involves raising this threshold, which your vet or a pet behaviourist will be able to advise how to do safely. Additionally, if your children do get injured by your cat it’s important to take them to see their doctor, as bacteria from cat bites can frequently cause serious infection.
Here is the latest cat column:
Dear PDSA Vet, we just rehomed a very timid rescue cat called Pixie. She is about 18 months old and was found on the streets with two kittens, so we don’t know if she has ever had a proper home. She lets us stroke her but won’t let us lift her up at all; how can we help her get used to this? Parminder
Dear Parminder, the key will be to take things very slowly. Pets are most likely to enjoy handling and human company if they have had gentle and kind contact with people from a young age. It sounds as though this is unlikely in Pixie’s case and this would explain her nervousness and reluctance to be lifted. You should offer her small bits of her favourite food (e.g. lean chicken) and let her approach you to take it. Then start stroking her at the same time. Once she’s happy with this, gently place your hand where you would to lift her (but don’t lift her yet), and let her take the food treat. When she’s relaxed with this, lift her off the ground slightly and put her down. Slowly build up like this, offering the food item and using an encouraging voice at each step. Don’t move on to the next step until she’s relaxed with the one before; this may take weeks or months. With patience, her confidence should grow over time. And remember to cut down her main meal slightly on the days that food treats are given. It is also possible she may never enjoy being picked up but she might enjoy other interactions with you such as playing or being fussed.
Here is the latest entry!
Dear PDSA vet, my daughter recently adopted a cat. He’s a bit nervous but loves being stroked if we allow him to approach us. However he’s recently started fouling beds and chairs, which might be because of stress. Can you help? Kathy
Dear Kathy, there is always a reason for a change in behaviour like this, so the first step is to find out the cause. There could be an underlying medical problem causing this. Your daughter needs to take the cat to her vet to check for any health problems. The vet can also advise on how to retrain him to use a litter tray. Sometimes, going to the toilet in unusual places can be caused by stress. Cats usually enjoy a routine and sometimes even minor changes, such as having guests to stay round, changing where the feeding bowl is or even re-decorating your home, can cause anxiety. If there is another cat in the house this could also be a factor. Cats are solitary animals and don’t always like the company of other felines, particularly if they are unrelated. Each cat in a household will need its own litter tray plus one extra, placed where one cat can’t stop the other cat from using it. They will also need their own beds in separate areas to help them feel more at ease.
Dear PDSA Vet
My cat has always had dry skin and she has a tendency to over-groom. But I’ve recently noticed that her skin has got really bad on her back, it’s sore and red, and she keeps twitching. What could be causing this?
Over-grooming can be caused by a skin problem or allergy so it’s best to visit the vet, who can prescribe something to reduce the itchiness and help the skin to heal. However, skin problems like over-grooming are often made worse by stress. Cats like consistency and any changes such as renovations, a new cat on the block or something as simple as lots of visitors could be stressful. If you have more than one cat, it’s important to make sure that there are enough sleeping areas, litter trays and food bowls (one per cat plus one extra). A key cause of stress is territorial disputes over resources. Your vet can recommend ways to reduce her stress, if this is contributing to her over-grooming. Calming pheromone treatments may help some cats. For more info on stress in cats visit www.pdsa.org.uk/catstress.
Now that we are back from Japan we will continue to post these here:
Dear PDSA Vet, my cat sometimes bites at a specific place on her back and rips her fur out, then licks or bites it until it bleeds. We put a cone on her head and it healed, but now she’s doing it all over again. I de-flea and worm her regularly so I don’t understand it. My vet says she is allergic to fleas. She doesn’t scratch anywhere else and she is an indoor cat too, is there anything else I can try? Tiana
Dear Tiana, it’s good that you visited your vet, as they are best placed to advise on what is best for your cat. A flea allergy is still possible even if your cat doesn’t go outside, as fleas and their eggs can hitch a ride on people too. Regular flea treatments, if used correctly, should kill any adult fleas that are living on your cat. You should also treat any other pets living in your home, so that fleas don’t jump from them back on to your cat. It’s important to know that your home harbours fleas too; eggs and larvae still remain in carpets, blankets and beds and can lay dormant for up to a year. It is important to treat your house as well, otherwise the problem will continue. Your vet can help you by suggesting a suitable house spray and regime of hoovering and washing.
Latest cat entry in the FAQ!
My kitten keeps coughing and hacking, and then brings up what I think is a hairball. She does lick herself a lot, so I guess she’s swallowing a lot of hair when she does this. Is there anything I can do to prevent this? John
It does sound as though your kitten is bringing up hairballs. When she grooms her fur with her tongue, she’s also swallowing loose hairs and, over time, they bind together and ball up in her digestive system. Hairballs are much more common in long-haired kitties, but can still occur if your cat has shorter hair. The best prevention is to groom your kitten with a brush every day, which will help remove her loose hairs. There are also special pastes that can be given to help her pass a hair ball, though these don’t work for every cat. Getting a check-up from your vet would also be a good idea, to make sure she’s on right food to help prevent problems and to make sure there’s not a more sinister reason for her vomiting.
Dear PDSA Vet, my cat Missy always goes into my daughter’s room, either at night or early in the morning, sits on her pillow and eats her hair. Why? How can I get her to stop? Farah
Dear Farah, Missy is grooming with your daughter! Licking your hair means your cat is very bonded with you and wants you to know they’re you best friend. However, it can be annoying first thing in the morning! To stop this, your daughter will have to be very disciplined in not paying Missy any attention when she does this. With consistent ignoring, eventually Missy will learn she won’t get the attention she used to and will start to leave off until a more appropriate hour when she gets a good response. Cats are “crepuscular” – which means most active and ready to play at dusk and dawn – so making sure that Missy is fed and well-entertained before bedtime may help pause the early-morning kitty alarm clock. Cats often start their grooming routine as soon as they wake up, so make sure Missy has somewhere comfortable to sleep at night that is away from your daughter and keep her bedroom door closed overnight.
Dear PDSA Vet, we give our cat Fluffball regular worming treatments, we’ve tried several types but nothing seems to work. It’s really embarrassing when friends come over and she wipes her bum on the carpet! What can they do? Marianne
Dear Marianne, It’s good that Fluffball has had regular worming treatment. However, Fluffball might be dragging her bottom along the carpet for a different reason. One condition that causes some animals to rub their bottoms on the floor is because of a problem with their anal glands, which are ‘scent glands’. They have two that are each about the size of a small pea and normally the contents are emptied naturally when a cat goes to the toilet, but sometimes they become blocked. This build-up is uncomfortable and causes itching. If left untreated this could even lead to an infection. As well as scooting, pets with an anal gland problem may also lick excessively around their bottom and dislike it if you touch near their tail. It isn’t quite as common for a cat to have anal gland issues as a dog so I’d suggest you make an appointment for Fluffball to see your vet to check exactly what the problem is. Your vet can help and also give advice about suitable wormers.
Dear PDSA Vet, I’ve bought our cat, Bonny, a scratching post but he is refusing to use it, preferring to continue shredding my sofa instead! How can I get him to use the new scratching post? Bertie
Hi Bertie, two things are important to attract a cat to a post - the right location and right type of scratcher. It needs to be in front of the sofa both to block it and provide an alternative place to get his claws into. He’s using the sofa because it’s his favoured scratching texture. Try a strong and sturdy scratching post or board with a thick fabric layer, or make your own by covering a sturdy shelf in a tight, securely fitted layer of heavy fabric. Also, temporarily cover the sides of your sofa with double-sided sticky tape that your cat won’t like to touch. Lastly, when a cat scratches they leave pheromones to mark their territory. You can buy a mimic of these scratching pheromones and apply it to the new scratcher to encourage your cat to use it. In a short time, your cat leave your couch in peace.
PDSA is the UK’s leading vet charity. We’re on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information.
Dear PDSA Vet, is there anything I can do to stop my dog going in the cat litter tray? Every time my kittens go to the toilet my dog is always there eating it. Is there any kind of spray I could use? Leisa
Dear Leisa, eating other animals’ poo, also known as coprophagia, is common in dogs. Although rare, it can be a sign of a dietary deficiency, so discuss the behaviour with your vet so they can check him over. If your dog is assessed as healthy, the next thing is to move your cat’s tray so your dog can’t easily access it, and always clean the tray promptly. One option would be to use a baby gate which the kittens can get through but your dog cannot. This means your kittens can use it without being disturbed by your dog and he won’t be able to sniff out their poop for a snack. Also teach your dog a “leave” command, so that he can be called away if necessary. Some dogs will grow out of this behaviour, but if you need further advice, ask your vet for referral to an accredited veterinary behaviourist.
Dear PDSA Vet, I have a male and female cat, both neutered, but Haribo (the male) is always following Lily around. The problem is Lily hates it and often hisses at Haribo. Why does Haribo do this? Adam
Dear Adam, Haribo wants to spend time with Lily even though she doesn’t want the same. If Haribo was neutered later in life, it might be because he has formed habits that keep him keen to pursue females despite the necessary apparatus. Or he might just be a particularly friendly cat. Most cats, like Lily, prefer their own company – but many are kept in houses with other cats which can be very stressful if they don’t have their own space. This stress can even lead to or worsen certain diseases. To reduce stress, make sure that both Haribo and Lily have enough key “resources” – things like scratchers, litter trays and beds. They should have one each plus a spare (so three litter trays for two cats), and they should be spaced out around the house so that Lily can avoid Haribo if she wishes. If the problem persists, ask your vet for further advice.
Dear PDSA Vet, my job will take me to Holland for a year, but I don’t want to have to give up my cat Ted. Is it possible to take him with me? If so, how do I arrange this? Ellie
Dear Ellie, it’s usually possible to take your pet overseas. You need to find a vet who is certified to make up a pet passport for travel within the EU – your normal vet might offer this or they will be able to point you in the right direction. As a minimum, your pet will need to be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. There’s usually a three-week gap between getting the vaccine and when they are allowed to be exported so work this into your time-frame for moving. The vet will be able to help you with all the paperwork. Once that’s ticked off, you’ll still need to arrange for Ted to travel over, and find accommodation at your destination that will accept him. There are agencies that can help with some of this. If that isn’t possible, another option would be asking a friend or relative to look after him for a year until you’re back from Holland.