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We thought you might like to know more about the problems associated with a cat who stops eating,


What is the Fatty Liver Syndrome, and how does a cat get it? The feline Fatty Liver Syndrome (FLS) is also known as feline hepatic lipidosis. This disease is peculiar to cats and is one of the most common liver diseases seen in cats.

The typical cat with the FLS has recently gone through a period of anorexia (not eating). The chances of the FLS occurring are greater if the cat was obese before the anorexia began. As fat is broken down to supply nutrients for the anorectic cat, the fat is deposited so rapidly in the liver that it cannot be processed. It becomes stored in and around the liver cells, resulting in liver failure. The cat often becomes icteric or jaundiced as evidenced by a yellow color in the whites of the eyes or in the skin. At this point, the disease will be fatal if not treated rapidly and aggressively.

How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosis of the FLS is made from blood tests for liver function and from a liver biopsy or aspirate. The latter involves inserting a very tiny needle through the skin and into the liver, removing a small number of liver cells, and examining those cells under the microscope. The FLS cat will have a large amount of fat in and among the liver cells. Generally, other tests are then performed to determine why the cat quit eating. If the cause for anorexia is treatable or resolved, the prognosis is reasonably good.

Is this a treatable disease?

This disease is very treatable, but treatment of the FLS requires that the cat receive nutritional support until the appetite returns. A consistently high quality diet will allow the liver to resume functioning so it may remove the fat. This does not occur quickly; it takes an average of 6-7 weeks. Therefore, a method of force feeding must be used to allow you to feed your cat at home.

How do I provide the necessary nutritional support?

Several routes are available for feeding the cat. We have chosen to use the esophagostomy tube which is a small rubber tube that enters through the cat’s skin in the neck. It goes into the esophagus so that food can be delivered to the stomach. It does not go into the stomach because of complications that can arise.

A special food mixture, listed below, is syringed through the tube three to five times per day. This food is formulated to meet the cat’s nutritional needs; it should not cause vomiting or diarrhea. To feed your cat, follow these steps: 

  1. Place 1 can of Feline p/d_ + 10 oz of water + 2 oz of Wesson Oil_ + 8 Tumil-K_ tablets in a blender and run it at the liquefy (fastest) speed until the food is uniformly mixed. After mixing, pour the food through a kitchen strainer.
  2. Remove the cap from the feeding tube.
  3. Using the syringe provided, inject _____ ml of the food into your cat’s feeding tube _____ times per day FOR A TOTAL OF ____ ml PER 24 HOURS. It is helpful to inject the food slowly, about 1 mL per second, and to elevate your cat’s front feet so the food goes easily into the stomach.
  4. When the food has been injected, inject 5 mL of tap water through the tube so food does not remain in it; replace the cap in the tube.
  5. Any remaining food should be stored in the refrigerator. Before the next feeding, it should be warmed to body temperature under hot tap water or in a microwave oven. If you heat it in a microwave oven, be sure to thoroughly mix the contents prior to feeding because of uneven heating. Also, always check the temperature prior to feeding to be sure that it is not too hot.

When is the tube removed?

Persistence is essential. The average cat requires 6-7 weeks of feeding before it begins to eat. At least once weekly, offer your cat a small amount of its favorite food so that you will know when its appetite returns. The esophagostomy tube will not hinder chewing or swallowing. After your cat has been eating well for 3-4 days, it should be returned to the hospital for tube removal. Removal of the tube is simple and does not require anesthesia; however, you should not attempt to remove the tube yourself.


Acne is not just a problem reserved for teenagers. It may sound strange, but did you know that your cat can get acne also? — although it may be a greater embarrassment to a teenager than to cat. How do you know if your cat has acne, and what can you do if he does?

Feline acne is common in cats of all ages. The symptoms are similar to human acne. Pores become clogged with an oily substance caused sebum, and inflammation results. But unlike human acne, feline acne can present itself in cats of all ages. The acne generally manifests itself on a cat’s chin. It often begins as tiny “plugs” of dark material — i.e., blackheads — around the hair shafts of the chin and lower lip, which do not bother the cat, although he may also develop little bumps with some swelling and possibly some hair loss. It’s easier to notice acne on cats with short, light-colored coats — the area will take on a darker, dirty appearance.

There is no specific cause for feline acne, and some cats will have the condition for life. One common cause of feline acne is thought to be a hypersensitivity reaction to plastic bowls. If you cat eats out of an old plastic bowls, the bacteria can collect in scratches and grooves, reinfecting your cat with each meal. The bacteria can also be passed to other cats in the house. If you’re using a plastic bowl, replace it with a glass, porcelain or metal bowl. If you’re already using a porcelain bowl, try switching to a metal bowl, or vice-versa. If you still want to use plastic bowls, replace them regularly, and thoroughly wash and disinfect the bowls after each meal.

If you do suspect that your cat has acne, don’t try to treat the area yourself with human over-the-counter products. Your cat’s skin is more sensitive than human skin, and if your cat happens to ingest any of the product, he could become ill. Take your cat to the veterinarian. He will be able to diagnose the situation and suggest a cleansing routine. In some cases, just as with humans, the area can become infected, resulting in swollen pustules that require draining or blisters around the mouth. At this point, your veterinarian will need to prescribe antibiotics. Clavamox, taken orally, is often recommended.

The easiest form of treatment is simply keeping the area clean. Two or three times daily, clean the area with warm water and a pet-safe shampoo (your veterinarian will be able to recommend a good one). If your cat is calm and will let you examine his chin, use a warm compress on the area, and then GENTLY remove the plugs with your fingernails. Some cats will let you do this, while others will flee as soon as you get near them. Once you have washed the area, swab it with a cotton ball or wipe soaked in peroxide. Your veterinarian can also supply you with a benzoyl peroxide gel, which normally will relieve the problem.

While the symptoms of acne can often be controlled with appropriate topical or oral medications, maintenance treatments may be needed to keep the symptoms from recurring. Even though the appearance of acne has disappeared, continue to clean your cat’s chin daily. Don’t worry. In most cases, acne is neither painful nor harmful. It’s a bit unsightly, but that’s it.


Did you know:

  • Each year, millions of unwanted cats are surrendered to shelters
  • across the country. Of those, 20 percent to 80 percent are euthanized.
  • Shelters offer a variety of cats, including purebreds. In fact, depending on the region of the country you live in, purebreds can account for more than 20 percent of cats in shelters.
  • 40.3 percent of cats surrendered to shelters are between 5 months and 3 years of age.
  • 30.2 percent of cats surrendered to shelters have been owned from 7 months to one year.
  • One female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years.
  • While the average outdoor or indoor-outdoor cat lives two to three years, an indoor-only cat’s average life span is 12 to 15 years or more.
  • Only 2 percent of lost cats ever find their way back home. Proper identification can make the difference.
  • Morris, the original spokescat for 9 Lives Cat Food, was adopted from a shelter. In fact, Morrises II, III and IV were also adopted from shelters.

A recent study by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, published in the July issue of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, lists the top 10 reasons why people relinquish cats to shelters:

  1. Moving
  2. Landlord not allowing pet
  3. Too many animals in household
  4. Cost of pet maintenance
  5. Owner having personal problems
  6. Inadequate facilities
  7. No homes available for litter mates
  8. Allergies in family
  9. House soiling
  10. Incompatibility with other pets


The decision to declaw your cat is very controversial. There are those who say that when the surgery is performed properly, the cat is OK once he is through the healing stage. But most animal welfare organizations, and many veterinarians, are speaking out against this surgery. This procedure is even illegal in United Kingdom and many other countries. And with the variety of available alternatives, such as Soft Paws vinyl nail caps or behavior modification classes, declawing should only be considered as a final option to euthanasia.

The claw of a cat is similar to the last phalanx, or bone, or a human finger or toe. Declawing ? onychectomy — is the surgical removal of these bones from the cats’ forepaws (most cases involve declawing only the forepaws, although some people choose to have all four paws declawed). The cat is given a general anesthetic, and the amputation of the nail is accomplished with a guillotine nail cutter, which cuts across the first joint and may also involve the footpad. The feet are then tightly bandaged for two to three days to prevent hemorrhaging. If the bandages are put on too tightly, the foot may become gangrenous, necessitating amputation; often, when the bandages are removed, the cat will begin to hemorrhage, requiring re-bandaging.

A less invasive, and less common, procedure, called tenotomy or deep digital flexor tendonectomy, sometimes is done, where the tendons controlling the claws are severed without removing the claws.

Many cats suffer from complications after surgery. Obviously, for the next few weeks, his paws will be so tender that his ability to walk and jump will be drastically impaired. Some cats have been known to actually walk on their hind legs to avoid using their painful forepaws.

Physical complications include partial regrowth of the nail due to the fact that the entire nail bed was not removed, disfigurement of the feet, lameness and “sequestrum.” If a cat’s nail is brittle or the trimmer is dull, the bone may shatter, creating a sequestrum, which serves as a focus for infection and continuous drainage from the toe. It can only be corrected by a second surgical procedure.

A 1994 study by the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine found that of 163 cats who were declawed, 50 percent had one or more complications immediately after surgery. Of the 121 cats whose progress was followed after surgery, 20 percent had continued complications, such as infection, bone protrusion into the pad of the paw and prolonged intermittent lameness and abnormal stance (standing posture).

One of the most common behavior problems that arise after declawing is the refusal to use the litterbox. The cat may associate the pain in her paws to scratching in the litter box and begin to use the box inconsistently or not at all. Ninety percent of cats with litter box problems-after ruling out medical conditions-are declawed.

Some cats will undergo a profound personality change upon being declawed. Frequently, the cat becomes distrustful of his owner and/or veterinarian. He may become extremely time or unusually aggressive, and a declawed cat is more apt to bite if he feels threatened — his teeth are now his only defense.

If you absolutely feel as though you would like a declawed cat, adopt one who has already been declawed from your local shelter. There are thousands of declawed cats waiting for loving homes.


Any person who enters my house can automatically tell that I’m a cat owner. No, it’s not the layer of white hair covering all of the furniture and the floors. It’s the fact that all of my houseplants are plastic. Yes, I have a cat who is addicted to plants. He will go to any length to obtain the plants, which he immediately destroys. I once thought that if I got specific types of plants, he would avoid them. I knew that certain plants were cat magnets, such as Spider plants and ferns. So, in my naivete, I brought home a giant Aloe plant — the diameter of the planter was about 18 inches and the plant stood just as tall. Within a week, there was nothing left but dirt. Every day I would come home to find chewed-up bits of aloe all around the house. My cat would literally sit contently in the middle of the planter and chew on the plant, like a cow chewing its cud. 

This same cat also has also scaled 10-foot shelves to reach a hanging philodendron. And once, my husband brought home blue-dyed daisies. Unwittingly, we left the flowers in a vase on top of a bookshelf. When we returned home, there was nothing but sticks in the vase, and a white cat with blue lips in the middle of the foyer. We didn’t catch him in the  act, but the evidence was pretty clear.

Why are some cats addicted to plants, while others seem to have no interest in them? The only plant my second cat is even mildly interested in is catnip. As most cat owners will attest, cats often like to chew and eat plants. Outdoor cats have the luxury of munching on grass and other garden vegetation. Why they do this is not clear — they could be instinctively searching for vitamins and minerals lacking in their diets, or they could be taking advantage of the emetic qualities plants have on the feline digestive tract; they often vomit after eating plants, which may help eliminate substances such as hairballs and worms.  Or, they simply may like the taste, texture and smell.

Whatever reason cats have for wanting to go “vegan,” the behavior can be annoying to owners who want to cultivate beautiful window gardens, or it can even be dangerous — there are a variety of plants, both indoor and outdoor, that can prove fatal to cats. 

How can you protect your plants from your cat and your cat from your plants?

  • Educate yourself about the toxicity of plants. Your local florist or greenhouse should be able to tell you whether the plants you have are poisonous.
  • Keep indoor plants up off the floor. Hanging planters are an ideal deterrent for plant-addicted cats. Or place planters on pedestals or tables no wider than the base of the draining dish — this gives your cat little to no space to stand on while trying to munch a leaf.
  • Cover the soil on each plant with marbles or rocks to prevent your cat from digging in or standing on the soil.
  • Sprinkle the soil with a substance your cat finds repulsive, such as pepper, Tabasco sauce or citrus.
  • Keep your plants in clusters instead of spreading them throughout the house, making them easier to protect. It will also be easier to teach your cat to avoid one or two areas than to teach it to avoid scattered houseplants.
  • If, and only if, you catch your cat in the act, spray it with water from a spritzer bottle. Make sure you are at least six to eight feet away when you do so, so your cat associates the unpleasant experience with approaching the plant and not you.
  • Provide your cat with some vegetation of his own. There are a number of grass and catnip products available that allow you to grow your own cat plants. Place the plants in an accessible area away from your houseplants and encourage your cat to chew on them. Praise him when he chooses his own planter of grass over your favorite ivy. 
  • Keep your cat’s environment stimulating. Cats often chew on houseplants out of boredom, so provide him with lots of toys, a cat condo and scratching posts.
  • Of course, your cat could simply be like my cat — an addict. If this is the case, be prepared to invest in some quality artificial plants!


Now that spring has arrived, more and more cats will be taking to the outdoors. Many of these cats are housecats who, after a day of hunting and relaxing in the sun, will return to a loving home and nutritious food. But for many cats, there is no home. These strays will often form groups, not only for protection, but for breeding and socialization.

Stray cats are those cats who have, at one time, lived in human homes. While surviving on their own has caused their wild instincts to surface, if trapped, they can be re-socialized. It is the next generation of these cats that we must worry about — feral cats.

Feral cats are those cats who have truly become wild, and the older the generation, the more wild they become. According to Alley Cat Allies, a nonprofit organization dedicated to nonlethal management of feral cats, there are more than one hundred million feral cats in the United States alone. And if we don’t help them, they will continue to multiply, as well as suffer. One unspayed female cat and her unspayed female offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years. 

It is very difficult for those of us who love cats to see feral cats and not want to help. The easiest thing for us to do is to leave food and water out in the hopes of helping these animals survive. But are we really helping them if that is all we do? Not really. By feeding these cats without reducing their numbers, you only ensure that the feral cat problem will get worse, not better.

There is also the thought that euthanizing these cats will eliminate the problem. Not only is that an inhumane answer to the problem, it doesn’t work — if the current cat colony is limited, new cats will move in to take their place. The best solution is humane management of a feral cat colony. In addition to providing adequate shelter and food for these animals, proper management includes ensuring that there will not be any new generations of these animals.

Proper management of a feral cat colony is a long-term, year-round responsibility and should not be undertaken lightly. Are you up to the challenge? If so, here are some guidelines to follow. 

  • Adhere to the Trap, Test, Vaccinate, Alter and Release (TTVAR) method, which provides humane care while gradually reducing the colony’s numbers. Just as we spay and neuter our own cats to ensure better health and to eliminate the risk of reproduction, we should do the same for the feral cats. The organizations listed below can help you find a veterinarian in your area who works with feral cats, either at a reduced price or for free. They can also provide you with information on where to obtain humane traps and how to use them. Basic veterinary care for each cat should include a physical exam, tests for worms, earmites and contagious diseases such as leukemia and Feline AIDS, vaccinations and alteration. For easy identification of altered cats, ask the veterinarian to notch the ear tip of each cat during surgery. Cats who appear to be socialized, or stray, should be placed in permanent homes.
  • Keep a record of each cat. Include: description, gender, age, date when altered, vaccinations and, if possible, a photograph.
  • Create a feeding site and feed and monitor the colony on a daily basis.
  • Leave feral kittens with their mothers until they are weaned at approximately eight weeks, at which time you can capture them and commit yourself to finding homes for them. Before eight weeks of age, feral kittens have not developed feral tendencies and can be socialized and make good companions.
  • Be alert for any new cats who enter the colony. Immediately trap, test, sterilize, inoculate and identify them before returning them to the group.
  • In parts of the country where weather extremes pose a risk, build shelters for sleeping and security. The organizations listed below can offer tips on building feral cat shelters.
  • If you have to go away on a trip, move or leave the colony for a long period of time, arrange for a volunteer to handle these duties. If you need to relocate the colony, consult a feral cat expert. (See the list below. These organizations also provide information for anyone interested in learning more about feral cats.)

Feral Cat Resources

  • Alley Cat Allies serves as a resource center for literature and educational information on all aspects of feral colony management. 
    1801 Belmont Rd. NW, Suite 201,Washington, D.C. 20009-5164
    Tel: 202-667-3630
    Web site: http://www.alleycat.org
  • The Feral Cat Coalition is an all-volunteer group that traps and sterilizes feral cats, then returns them to their caretakers. It offers detailed instructions for operating a large-scale spay/neuter program. 
    9523 Miramar Rd. #160, San Diego, CA 92126 
    Tel: 619-497-1599 
    Web site: http://www.feralcat.com
  • Operation Catnip advocates a no-cost trap-neuter-return (TNR) program.  The non-profit organization offers a guidebook on starting a TNR program and welcome visits from groups that want to start their own.
    P.O. Box 90744  Raleigh, NC 27675
    Web site: http://www.operationcatnip.org
  • The San Francisco SPCA offers free spay/neuter, pre-recorded telephone programs, literature and the Feral Cat Workshop Series. 
    2500 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-6589 
    Tel: 415-554-3000
    Fax: 415-552-7041
    Web site: http://www.sfspca.org
  • The Doris Day Animal League is a national citizens’ lobbying organization. A brochure on feral cat care is also available on their Web site.
    2100 L Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20037
    Tel: 202-452-1100
    Web site: http://www.ddal.org
  • The Neponset Valley Humane Society’s Cat Action Team has become a model for other humane management programs. Copies of “How to Create a Grass Roots Community Program to Help Feral Cats” are available for $15. 
    P O Box 544   Norwood, MA 02062
    Tel: 781-769-1990
    Web site: http://www.neponsethumane.org/


Last week my cat suffered a potentially deadly problem. I had just arrived at work, when my husband called me in a panic. He had to leave for his job (which he was unable to be absent from), and our 3-year-old male cat was urinating blood. Could I please come home right away? 

Luckily, I work for an animal welfare organization and was able to leave immediately.  Chuck was not in any pain, but upon examining him, I could tell that he was uncomfortable. He would lie on his side with his rear legs spread apart, obviously to relieve the pressure on his bladder.

I rushed him to the veterinarian, who, a few hours and hundreds of dollar later, determined that Chuck had was suffering from feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD or FUS). X-rays showed that although his bladder was full, there were no stones or blockage, and simple antibiotics could alleviate the problem. 

We were lucky. If left untreated, FLUTD can lead to dangerous elevations of potassium, which can cause heart problems and death within a short amount of time.

While there are some behavioral symptoms of FLUTD, they vary depending on the cat, and some cats may show no initial symptoms and simply become very ill. Looking back, Chuck did exhibit a few minor signs, but we were not aware of their meaning. For about two days before I took him to the vet, he was lethargic (which I attributed to the extreme heat in our apartment), he was not scratching as much in the litter box (Chuck is one of those cats who tries to dig for China in the litter box-I was just grateful for a few nights of sleep), and he was constantly licking at his genitals (at least, more than he normally does).

These are not obvious signs of FLUTD. He did not cry in pain when I picked him up, and his appetite was still strong. The changes in Chuck were so subtle that if my husband had not noticed the small amount of blood, Chuck could have suffered tremendously. 

Following are some signs of FLUTD to watch for. As always, if your cat exhibits any of these signs, see your veterinarian for an examination.

  • Straining to urinate. If your cat is eating well and acting normal, but is constantly in and out of the litter box, straining to urinate and producing only a small amount of urine, he probably as a bladder infection. If there is no urine, and he cries when you pick him up, he is most likely suffering from bladder stones or crystals.
  • Frequent licking of the genital region.
  • Urinating outside the litter box.
  • Loss of appetite and lack of thirst.
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting, usually a watery vomit
  • Pain or tenderness in the abdominal region when touched or picked up

Knowing your cat’s litter habits is important. The slightest change could mean serious problems. Sometimes it could be as simple as needing to change the litter, but other times it could be something like FLUTD.

Also, male cats are affected more than females, and due to their genetic weaknesses, white cats are affected even more. Chuck is pure white.

FLUTD does not appear to be caused by an infection and may be related to a dietary mineral imbalance, urine too high in pH or an inherent predisposing factor. Prescription diets can help prevent recurrences, and if the problem becomes severe, a surgical procedure called a perineal urethrostomy, which shortens, straightens and widens the cat’s urethra, may be necessary.

Winter Weather Tips

Although the recent warm weather makes the season feel like spring, winter’s frosty bite, which many people across the nation are already feeling, can have devastating effects on cats. Following is a list of safety tips to help you and your feline companion avoid cold-weather dangers.

  • Don’t let their fur coats fool you. Cats, even feral cats, do not have the natural ability to survive lengthy stays outside when the weather drops. Of course, it is always better to leave your cat indoors no matter what the weather, but if your cat insists on going outside, pay attention to the temperature and limit her time accordingly. In extreme temperatures cats left outside for just a few minutes can suffer hypothermia and even death. Frostbite can also occur, most frequently on extremities, such as paw pads, ears and nose. Signs of distress include shivering, cold extremities or depression. If you think your cat is suffering from frostbite or hypothermia, contact your veterinarian immediately. Keep her warm with blankets, and if frostbite is present, do not massage the area. 
  • A common danger for free-roaming cats in the winter is car engines. Cats often seek shelter from the cold on the warm engines, and each year, numerous cats are injured or killed by fan belts. If you live in an area where cats tend to roam outside, bang on the hood or tap the horn before starting your car to alert any unsuspecting felines and wait a few seconds to give them time to escape. 
  • Leaving cats inside parked cars is also dangerous. Just as you wouldn’t leave your cat in a parked car in the summer for fear of heat stress, don’t leave your cat in the car for even a few minutes in the winter. A car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold, and your cat could freeze to death in a short amount of time.
  • Antifreeze is one of the most overlooked dangers of winter. Its sweet taste is very appealing to animals and children, and even tiny doses of it can be a lethal poison for cats. Unfortunately, by the time your cats begins to show signs of antifreeze poisoning, it is too late to save her. Be sure to clean up any spills, both outside and in your garage. Pay attention to your shoes when using antifreeze, as it may spill and splash on your shoes, which are then brought indoors when your cat can find them, licking the substance from them. Store antifreeze in sealed containers, preferably in locked cabinets. To prevent accidental poisonings, more and more people are using animal-friendly products that contain propylene glycol rather than the traditional products containing the toxic ethylene glycol.
  • Other chemicals are also dangerous to Fluffy. Salt and de-icing chemicals can not only irritate her paws, but can be toxic if she licks her feet. If she does go outside, remember to wipe her paws with a moist cloth afterward. Also, remember to check your shoes each time you come inside for any dangerous substances. 
  • Make sure your cat has a warm place to sleep away from all drafts and off the cold floor. If you do not let her share your bed, make sure she has a comfortable cat bed or basket with a warm blanket or pillow in it. Not only will she be safer and more comfortable, you will feel better knowing that you are providing her with a safe and loving environment.


As you celebrate the holidays, it’s important to keep your cat safe from the many dangers that are specific to this season. Here are some helpful hints:

  1. Giving a cat as a holiday present is not smart shopping. Adopting an animal is a long-term commitment that a potential owner should make by herself. Even if an adult friend or family has expressed interest in a cat for Christmas, it is best not to get a live animal. Most humane organizations offer gift certificates for adoptions, or take your friend to your local shelter and let them pick out the cat or kitten of their choice. Never give a child a gift of a live animal. Every year, hundreds of cats are dropped off at shelters after the holiday excitement wears off and the child becomes bored with the cat or does not want to take on the responsibility of proper care. Instead, give the child a book or video about cats and discuss with them the responsibilities of being a caring pet owner. 
  2. Pets are not garbage disposals for holiday leftovers. Even small changes in your cat’s diet can cause diarrhea, vomiting or illness. And table scraps, in addition to your cat’s regular diet, can contribute to obesity. Be particularly aware of the following foods which can cause problems for your cat: alcoholic beverages, chocolate, coffee, onions and onion powder, salt and yeast dough. To avoid begging to sneaking of table scraps, feed your cat on his regular schedule, and try to keep tempting foods, such as turkey, covered or placed out of kitty’s reach.
  3. While holiday plants may brighten your rooms, they often provide a tempting snack for your cat. Poinsettas are actually over-rated in their toxicity. In ingested, poinsettas can be irritating to your cat’s mouth and stomach, and may cause vomiting or nausea, but they generally are not fatal. Mistletoe has the potential to cause cardiovascular problems, however, ingestion usually only causes gastrointestinal upset. Holly ingestion can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and lethargy. Lilies are especially deadly. Many types of lilies, such as Tiger, Asian, Japanese Snow, Easter, Stargazer and Casa Blanca, can cause kidney failure in cats. Other potential harmful yuletide plants include English ivy, amaryllis bulbs (a common holiday gift) and box and yew trees. To discourage nibbling, spray potentially harmful plants (or if your cat insists on eating anything green, spray all plants) with a hot-pepper-and-water mixture. If your cat has ingested any of these plants,  take him to your veterinarian immediately.
  4. Be careful of holiday decorations. Many decorations are bright and shiny; some dangle and attract your cat’s attention; some are toxic. Tinsel is the worst offender. Icicle tinsel is a no-no in any cat household, and careful decorating with garlands of tinsel is required. Cats are attracted to the sparkle and may become extremely ill if they ingest it. The tinsel can become lodged in the intestines and cause an obstruction. Ribbons can also become lodged in the throat or intestines. The backward-pointing barbs on a cat’s tongue make it difficult for him to remove a piece of ribbon or tinsel from his mouth once he has started swallowing it. If your cat enjoys climbing the Christmas tree, avoid glass ornaments. Broken ornaments can injure your cat, and if the pieces are swallowed, they can cut the  tissues of the gastrointestinal tract.
  5. Candles and potpourri are holiday favorites, and they are fascinating to cats. Burning candles can cause fires if your cat accidentally knocks them over or brushes against them. They can also cause serious and painful burns on your cat. Solid potpourris contain pieces of dried plants, fruits, pine cones and more. Toxicity varies with the types of plants that are used, and they generally cause upset stomachs. Many solid potpourris use essential oils to refresh the scent, and these can cause drooling and vomiting. Simmering and liquid potpourri, however, contains cationic detergents (often also found in household cleaners   and fabric softeners), which can be fatal. Cats can knock the liquid over and walk through it, or it splashes on their coat. They then groom themselves. Cationic detergents cause severe burns and blisters on the tongue, larynx and esophagus. Signs of ingestion include drooling, vomiting, muscle weakness, fever, difficulty in breathing and in high doses, shock, seizures or coma. If you cat is exhibiting any of these signs, get him to a veterinarian immediately. Always keep candles and potpourri out of reach of your furry friends. Liquids, in particular, should be placed in a cupboard or enclosed area.

Planning to avoid hazards should be part of the usual holiday preparation.


It is possible for your cat to ride safely on an airplane if you plan ahead, follow the rules, and are prepared to be a little pushy on your cat’s behalf. In addition to federal regulations, each airline has its own regulations, so check the individual air carrier’s rules before booking a flight for you and your cat. It is ideal if the cat can ride in the cabin of the airplane with you where he will never leave your care during the course of the trip. Not all airlines allow animals to travel in the cabin and others allow no more than two cats in the cabin per flight on a “first come, first served” basis, so it is important to make these arrangements far in advance of your departure date. The cat’s carrier must be able to fit under the seat and the bottom should be lined with an absorbent material in case of accidents. (“Puppy pads” are made of the same material as disposable diapers and are excellent for this purpose.) Be prepared to present a veterinarian-signed health certificate dated no more than ten days before the scheduled flight. If the cat is riding with you, let the person sitting next to you know that you have a cat, just in case they have allergies or phobias.

If your cat cannot travel in the cabin with you, it will ride in the baggage hold. Although this compartment is pressurized and the extremes of temperature are regulated, it is still a good idea to travel during the coolest part of the day in the summer–the early morning or late evening. Choose a non-stop flight and request that your cat be hand-carried to and from the plane. Make sure your USDA-approved shipping crate is marked with contact persons at both the departure and arrival sites and has sturdy handles that won’t come off during handling. Make sure all the bolts securing the halves of the carrier are in place and tightened. Your pet should be wearing an identification tag on an elastic collar. If the trip is longer than six hours, you will want to have dry food and ice cubes in untippable dishes in the carrier.

Be sure to talk directly to the freight handling personnel at the airport. Make the staff check and report back. (Most pet fatalities occur on the ground, when animals are left in their crates on the hot tarmac or in stifling cargo holds.)

Be aware that there are regulations regarding the range of temperatures when a pet may be shipped. If the temperature on the ground in your departing, connecting, or arriving city falls outside these limits, you may run into unexpected delays or cancellations. It is also wise to avoid peak travel times around holidays when air traffic is heaviest.

It is generally better not to have your cat tranquilized before flying. The combination of high altitude and limited oxygen is a challenge your pet’s body is better prepared to meet if he is not sedated.

The Air Transport Association has a free booklet, Air Travel for Your Dog or Cat. It is available by sending a self-addressed, stamped, business-sized envelope to: ATA, 1301 Pennsylvania Blvd. N.W., Suite 1100, Washington, D.C. 20004.


These unique ideas on how to keep your cat safe while flying are published in the book, 277 Secrets Your Cat Wants You to Know by Paulette Cooper and Paul Noble. They are recommendations from Bud Brownhill of Anaheim, California, the chairman of DO-IT, a pet travel advisory organization.

Talk to a supervisor when you get to the airport and tell him you have an extremely valuable pet in terms of dollars–even if it’s a mixed breed. Otherwise, some baggage handlers couldn’t care if you were carrying a rock.

Personalize your cat to the handlers. Put signs on the crate saying, “Hi! I am a Persian kitten. This is my first trip. Please handle my crate carefully.”

When you board a plane, tell the pilot that you have a cat in the hold worth a lot of money–even if it isn’t. Also, tell them to make sure to turn on the heat and pressurization in the cargo compartment. This is done from the cockpit and someone may have forgotten to give the pilot that information. Cargo compartments can get as hot as 140 degrees, and intense cold can be just as damaging to your cat.

Put large strips of red or orange fluorescent material all over the crate “so you can spot it halfway across the airport and your cat won’t get mixed up with anything else.” Put arrows or the words “Top” and “Live Animal” on top of the crate so your cat doesn’t fly upside down.

Put your home addresses and phone numbers, plus those of where you’re going, inside and outside the crate, because many people won’t reach into a kennel for fear of being scratched or bitten.

Watch the ticket clerk attach the destination tags at the airport. Make sure it says ‘Detroit’ if you’re going there.

Make certain your pet is loaded last, especially during extreme weather conditions. This may also ensure that he is taken off the plane first.

Make sure the airline is not carrying dry ice, which can be deadly if your cat is crated near it.

Avoid flying at the busiest times, so your cat can get more personal attention.

Ask the airline if you can watch your cat being loaded and unloaded at the cargo hold.

Choosing the Right Cat for Your Family PART 1

“There is no more important a decision than the decision to adopt and assume the responsibility for another life. That decision carries an obligation to nurture that life–to give it love–to care for it.” — Roger Caras, ASPCA

Before adopting a cat, consider carefully the commitment you are making. Indoor cats generally live to be 15-20 years old. Be honest with yourself. Is your living situation stable enough to accommodate a pet for this period of time? Animal shelters are filled with pets that were surrendered because the owners had to move and couldn’t take their pets with them. It is difficult to find good homes for adult cats.

There are also financial considerations… it is estimated that the cost of care for one cat for 1 year is $500+. It is unfair to the cat to take it into the family for awhile, only to give it up when there is not enough money to pay for food, litter, or vet bills.

There is a time commitment. Cats are often portrayed as low-maintenance pets requiring little time and little attention. The truth is that cats are the most intelligent of all our domestic animals and they need a stimulating environment in which to thrive. They also form emotional attachments to their owners and can suffer separation anxiety when the owner is away. Bored and lonely cats manifest their unhappiness and stress in a variety of ways such as over-grooming (licking their fur off), over-eating, destructive scratching problems, house soiling, and depression.

A thoughtfully considered decision to adopt a cat or kitten can result in a long-term, mutually rewarding relationship, but an unwise, spur-of-the-moment decision spells h-e-a-r-t-b-r-e-a-k for family and feline.


Everybody loves kittens! They’re adorable–soft and fluffy, adventuresome and playful, comical and crazy. They are irresistible, but a kitten may not be the right choice for you. Even long-time cat owners sometimes forget that having a kitten in the house is much like inviting a toddler to live with you. Suddenly your home becomes a feline Disneyland.

From the kitten’s point-of-view, everything is created for his enjoyment. Curtains are made for climbing (as are legs–with or without pants), cords and wires are made for batting at and chewing on, everything is meant for tasting, and moving targets (including feet and ankles) are made for pouncing on and biting. Does adopting a kitten still sound like fun?

If the answer is affirmative and you are willing to kitten-proof your house, then a kitten may be a good choice for you. The kitten will be healthier and happier if he has a playmate, so get two! Believe it or not, there will be less wear and tear on your house and on you if your kitten has a friend to chase around. Kittens that enjoy playing with each other quickly learn to control their playful aggression. Bite too hard and you lose your playmate–a valuable lesson and one that you will appreciate when they get their grown-up teeth.

The goofy kitten stage is short-lived, at six months Kitty is looking like, and acting in many ways like, an adult. For some people the best idea is to bypass the kitten stage all together and to adopt an adult.


If there is an elderly person living in your home or a child under the age of five, an adult cat, rather than a kitten, is the better choice for your family. Kittens have a way of getting under foot and their playful attacks can easily pierce the skin of a senior citizen. They learn to retract their claws and to inhibit their biting as they mature, but until that time, Grandma and Junior can sustain considerable damage.

Small children can pose a substantial threat to the health and well being of the kitten as well. Naturally children want to pick up and hold the only living creature that they’ve met that is smaller than they are. When the kitten squirms to get away, they squeeze harder to keep the kitten in their arms. The kitten may sustain internal injuries and the child may be bitten or scratched. Constant supervision is necessary to prevent such tragedies.

Families with small children would be better off selecting an adult, neutered male with a laid-back personality for their family pet. Males generally tolerate handling better than females and if the cat is over 18 months old, the personality and temperament are already well established-“what you see is what you get”. Often pet owners adopt a friendly, cuddly, kitten only to discover that as the youngster matures, the personality may also change (due to the influence of the father’s genes).

In a survey conducted by the Massachusetts SPCA, 40% of the respondents chose not to adopt an older pet because they felt that it couldn’t be trained. This is an unfortunate misconception because many older pets are already well socialized and have had some good training. Even those who haven’t can be very responsive to behavior modification techniques.


If you already have a resident cat it is important to take this cat’s personality and activity level into consideration before selecting a feline companion. If you are too casual about this important decision, your house may become a war zone. Keep the following guidelines in mind when selecting your next family member. Remember that they are only guidelines and that there are occasional exceptions to the rule.

  • If you have an adult female who has been an “only” cat  for some time, it is best to get a younger female. Males, even friendly ones, can overpower and frighten females.   Male kittens, while more easily dominated by the female, still grow up to be rambunctious teenagers that engage in a style of play that involves pounce and wrestle (not a female’s idea of fun).
  • If a young active male is your family pet, he would  really enjoy having a male buddy who shares his enthusiasm for vigorous play.
  • A laid-back, older (neutered) male cat may enjoy “mothering” a kitten–male or female. They usually make better mother substitutes than spayed females. Females, in general, are less accepting of newcomers.
  • Males tend to bond with each other unless both have dominant personalities. (A dominant cat engages in a lot of rubbing–scent marking–behavior, likes to rest in high places (for surveillance purposes) and in doorways (to control the entrance to certain rooms), and shows little or no fear. Never try to combine two dominant personalities –they will be in constant competition.

Whatever the combination, a slow, systematic introduction process will help to ensure that the resident cat and the newcomer will eventually share the house amicably.


First of all, playful attacks are not accompanied by vocalizations-hissing and growling. A natural reaction to being grabbed or bitten, even playfully, is to swat at the cat. Don’t do this!

Physical punishment may cause your cat either to fear you or to engage in even rougher play. If your cat becomes afraid of you, you may face a bigger problem–that of defensive aggression. If the attack can be anticipated, a blast of air from a compressed air can (obtained from a photography store), a squirt from a water gun, or the noise of an audible alarm or a shaker can (an empty soda can with pennies in it) may discourage the behavior if produced at the moment of the attack. Timing is everything. If “fired” a second or two after the incident, the deterrent will not be connected with the attack in the cat’s mind and no training will take place, although the cat may be frightened and confused. Perhaps the best deterrent is the one that is always at hand–one’s voice. A loud and shrill “Eek”, followed by a sharp “No!” can be very effective with some cats.

The next step is to shun the cat for the next ten minutes. This means paying absolutely no attention to the cat. Don’t lecture or scold the cat and don’t pick it up to put it in a separate room. Any attention at this point can be reinforcing, so totally ignore the cat. This is precisely the way a kitten learns to inhibit his biting when playing with another kitten. If one becomes a little too rough, the victim will squeal and run away. The aggressor will watch his playmate run away and wonder what happened. Eventually he learns that if he wants to extend the play session (which he always wants to do), then he will have to be more gentle.

This training method works well–if you are patient and consistent.

Book Reviews

We thought readers of FELINE FACTS might enjoy knowing about some of our favorite books.

Cats for Dummies by Gina Spadafori and Paul D. Pion, DVM, DACVIM.

Don’t let the title put you off. This book is a great resource for those who have extensive experience with cats as well as for the first-time cat owner. Its detailed index makes it a handy reference book for those who are frequently asked cat-related questions. This fun-to-read book seems to cover every imaginable topic associated with cat ownership. Even those who pride themselves on knowing a lot about cats will learn something from this well-written and informative book.

For those who have an interest in solving feline-posed behavior problems we recommend: The Cat Who Cried for Help by Nicholas Dodman, DVM; Is Your Cat Crazy? by John C. Wright, Ph.D.; and Hiss and Tell by Pam Johnson. All three authors come from very different backgrounds but all describe interesting, and some very unusual, cases they have handled. Nicholas Dodman is a professor of pharmacology at TuftsUniversity School of Veterinary Medicine and director of the Behavior Clinic. Most of his cases are those that come to the clinic. John Wright is also a certified applied animal behaviorist and he mainly makes house calls. Pam Johnson does not have any impressive academic credentials, but her creative and effective solutions to feline behavior problems makes her book worthwhile and very entertaining. All three books provide valuable insights into how to deal with even the most intractable disorders.

© Pat Brody Shelter for Cats. All rights reserved.

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