The Secret To Happy Cats

Cat

Stress and anxiety related cat behavioural problems and illnesses are occurring more frequently than ever before; this is mainly due to the ever increasing cat population that sees our cats living in multi cat households or being forced to share territories and live in close proximity with strange cats. Behavioural problems and illnesses are not only stressful to the cats, they can be very upsetting for owners and are one of the leading causes for cats being put up for adoption or euthanased.

Stress and anxiety may lead to unwanted behaviours such as urination and spraying in the home or stress-related illnesses such as idiopathic cystitis and over-grooming; some cats may excessively groom, sleep or eat as a means of self-soothing.

Problems usually occur when a cat does not feel secure and relaxed in his or her own home and may be due to many things including

  • Problems with other cats – both within the household or from neighbouring areas
  • Changes to their usual routine
  • Changes to the normal household routine , for example the owner changing working hours, a new baby or new pet, new neighbours and/or their pets, visitors, arguments in the home, decor changes, building work etc. (The list could go on and on!)
  • House move – not only are they in an unfamiliar home, they also have to figure out their territory allowance with the other neighbourhood cats.
  • Illnesses such as urinary problems, skin problems, stomach upsets and over-grooming are all commonly linked to stress and may exacerbate stress, or sometimes stress can exacerbate the illness.
  • Lack of mental stimulation (boredom),
  • Lack of exercise

Multicat Households

Multi-cat households are homes where two or more cats live together. For most cats everything is fine and they get on well, but occasionally something will happen that upsets the balance of the social groups within the home and leads to problems.

It is vitally important as an owner, to know whether or not your cats are bonded and in the same social group. Cat behaviour can be very subtle and just because your cats are not actively fighting or hissing at each other, it does not necessarily mean that they are the best of friends. Sometimes cats living in the same household do not perceive each other to be in the same social group, but they may tolerate the presence of others in order to access a resource such as food or comfy resting areas.

Social groups can be complicated for example in a 3 cat household you may find that you have 1, 2 or no social groups at all!

Bonded cats within the same social group will

  • Sleep curled/piled up together (or in very close proximity)
  • Head bump and body rub each other
  • Make greeting noises at each other
  • Groom each other
  • Play together

Non-bonded cats may

  • Stare at each other from across a room
  • Block passage to other areas e.g. by sitting in the middle of a doorway, sit at the bottom/top of the stairs and may also hiss or swipe at others going past
  • Chase another, sometimes ending with a swipe or bite (which a surprising high number of owners think is playing)
  • May have their ears back and tails tucked under (or swishing) when another of the household cats is nearby
  • May sleep in the same vicinity, but not curled up/touching one another

The body language our cats display can be very subtle and cat’s that don’t like each other will not always demonstrate this easily for owners to see. This Feliway Friends Or Foes link demonstrates the signs very well.

Bonded cats will demonstrate mutual grooming, body rubbing and sleep in very close proximity

Bonded cats will demonstrate mutual grooming, body rubbing and sleep in very close proximity

How you can help your cat(s) feel more secure 

If you can meet the environmental needs of your cats, you can avoid some of the potential causes of stress and anxiety in their lives that may lead to behavioural problems and impact on their physical and mental health. It is always impressive to see how much more relaxed and less anxious cats can become once these needs have been taken into consideration, even little changes can help a great deal.

1. Create Safe Havens 

We often overlook the need for cats to have safe havens or sanctuaries within the home. Your cat can use these places to hide away if frightened by something in the environment or just to relax out of reach of people and other animals in the home. In multi-cat households the availability of hiding places in all the different areas within the home is very important, because while they may often choose to be in there together, your cats may also need their own individual space at some point.

Your cats may already have their favourite go-to places, so you can make these more cosy and add something for them to hide behind, such as a piece of card or a cloth cover. Examples of good safe places include

  • The top of a wardrobe or cupboard
  • A high shelf/perch (putting a small lip on the shelf will make your cat feel more hidden)
  • Space under a bed or in a cupboard
  • A box with a bed in it behind the sofa or chair (you can also use a cat carrier).
  • Secure a box to the top of a cat tower
  • Cat Tunnel or similar
  • A comfy bed/box in the shed or garage

When your cat is in the safe haven, he or she should be left completely undisturbed by everyone; no talking no touching, no enticing. When your cat is out and about you can talk to, stroke and interact with him or her.

Cats can really benefit from having a total sanctuary like this where they can escape from everything (we know many people do too) and it can be especially helpful for nervous or reactive cats. The thing to remember is that even after hundreds of years of domestication, cats are ultimately solitary animals and sometimes desperately need their own space – even from their loving owners.

Sanctuaries

2. Position Resources Carefully

The vital resources your cat needs include

  • Water
  • Food
  • Litter trays
  • Beds / Resting Areas
  • Scratching posts
  • Play Areas and Toys

Make sure that these resources are spread out and that food, water and litter trays are not near each other or near windows, doorways and cat flaps, particularly where another cat may be able to see or sneak up on your cat while he or she is using them. If there is no option but to put resources in these places, try to create a bit of camouflage for your cat in those areas using a curtain or frosted window coverings for example.

Cats prefer their water source and food sources to be separate from each other, so bear this is mind while you are planning where to put things.

In a multi-cat household make sure you provide resources for each social group as far away as possible from the other to reduce the risk of conflict and relationship breakdown. If you don’t have much space, think about using shelves, work surfaces or other slightly higher places to create separate feeding stations for your cat.

Use surfaces on different levels to create separate feeding stations in Multicat households

3. Litter Trays

Litter trays can be invaluable resources for anxious and stressed cats as having to go outside to eliminate can add to their problem.

  • For multi cat households it is recommended that you have one tray per cat plus one extra. This is not always possible in smaller spaces, so look at the social groups within the home and try to have at least one per group.
  • Make sure trays are placed in quiet, secluded areas in your home and not in busy places like the kitchen or hallway; if you can’t put the tray in a secluded area, put it behind some sort of screen i.e. a piece of cardboard or a curtain (nobody wants to go to the toilet with an audience!)
  • Trays should be as big as possible, preferably 1.5 times the length of your cat from nose to base of tail. For older, ill, or injured cats that may have trouble squatting, a tray with higher sides, but a lower entrance may be necessary and in these cases converted plastic storage boxes or large seed trays may be helpful.
  • The tray should contain a depth of at least 3cm of cat litter in them. If your cat is having any urinary tract-related problems, then he or she may require deeper litter.
  • Remember that cat litter is marketed at owners rather than cats and your cats may not appreciate strong smelling de-odorizing cat litter!
  • Don’t use tray liners, they can get caught up in your cat’s claws while they are raking the litter.
  • Trays should be scooped out at least once daily (more frequently for cats with urinary problems) and topped up with litter as necessary. Covered trays may also need to be scooped more frequently as they will hold odours inside, which can be quite unpleasant for cats.
  • Litter trays should be thoroughly cleaned every 1-2 weeks using soap and hot water (avoid using strong smelling soaps, strong chemicals or ammonia based products).

Low sided litter trays can be great for older cats.

4. Make Time For Play And Hunting Games

Play and mental stimulation is sometimes overlooked once our cats reach adulthood and boredom can intensify usually normal behaviours that could potentially lead to problems such as obesity, destructiveness and over grooming.

  • Remember that cats prefer short but frequent bursts of activity so keep your play sessions to around 2-5 minutes.
  • Make sure that your cat gets the opportunity to win games by catching the ‘prey’ otherwise you will end up with a very frustrated kitty!
  • Individual play can be with small toys and balls. While interaction with the owner can involve the use of fishing rod type and moveable toys.
  • Using cat food/treat dispenser systems, games or making your own can be a great way of providing mental stimulation – Several toilet roll inners stuck together on a board with dry food placed into the tubes works well in both an upright or flat position.
  • Encourage food foraging by placing food parcels around the house in packages, boxes or on ‘cat shelves’.
  • Cardboard boxes can provide lots of entertainment for cats; try cutting some different sized holes in them, body sized and paw sized for extra entertainment. Scrunched up newspaper in the bottom of a box with a few pieces of dried food or treats can also be fun.
  • High shelves and cat towers are fun to play with and can also give cats a sense of security when they are up high.
  • Scratching posts/places are really important for cats (especially indoor cats and those that don’t go far when outside), they provide a place to mark territory and sharpen claws and give cats an opportunity for a proper stretch of their limbs, muscles and spine. Cats often like a variety of scratching places, so try to include a vertical and horizontal surface. Remember to ensure that upright scratching posts are secure and won’t topple as the cat is using it and that they are tall/long enough to allow the cat to stretch out fully.
  • In multi cat homes, create a play area for your cats that contains things to play in and around, for example fabric or cardboard tubes, boxes, cat towers, bags etc. as this will often prevent quarrels.
  • Cats of different social groups may need an area to be able to play individually and with the owner.
  • Rotate toys regularly to keep interest levels high

When using food and treats with toys, it is important to remember to reduce your cat’s daily food allowance for his or her main meal appropriately to avoid obesity.

cats at play

5. Secure Your Cat Flap

It is really important to ensure that other cats in the neighbourhood are not coming into your home and causing further upset and stress to your cats. Investing in a microchip-reading cat flap is a really sensible idea to prevent this.

cat flap

How relaxed would you be if a stranger kept wandering into your home?

6. Use Feline Pheromones

The use of pheromone diffusers can really help stressed cats.  At Castle Vets we recommend FELIWAY® for cats that are being bothered by Strange cats and are generally unsettled in the home and FELIWAY® FRIENDS for multi cat homes, as it is proven to help reduce tension and conflicts between cats in multi-cat households. Both of these products can be used together, however, it is no good just plugging them in and assuming they will do the job! Unless you make some or all of the recommended environmental changes mentioned above, your cat will very likely still be anxious and stressed.

If you think that your cat is having problems with stress and/or anxiety or you would like any further information please contact Castle Vets for advice and/or to make an appointment to see Clare Espley RVN.

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How To Make Your Home A Stress-Free Environment For Your Cat

Stroking cat

Stress and anxiety related cat behavioural problems and illnesses are occurring more frequently than ever before; this is mainly due to the ever increasing cat population that sees our cats that sees our cats living in multi cat households or being forced to share territories and live in close proximity with strange cats. Behavioural problems and illnesses are not only stressful to the cats, they can be very upsetting for owners and are one of the leading causes for cats being put up for adoption or euthanased.

Stress and anxiety may lead to unwanted behaviours such as urination and spraying in the home or stress-related illnesses such as idiopathic cystitis and over-grooming and some cats may excessively groom, sleep or eat as a means of self-soothing.

This problem usually occurs when a cat does not feel secure and relaxed in his or her own home and may be due to many things including

  • Problems with other cats – both within the household or from neighbouring areas
  • Changes to their usual routine
  • Changes to the normal household routine – owner changed working hours, new baby, new pet, new neighbours, visitors, arguments, decor changes, building work etc.
  • House move
  • Illnesses;  urinary problems, skin problems, stomach upsets and over-grooming are all commonly linked to stress and may exacerbate stress or, sometimes, stress can exacerbate the illness.
  • Lack of mental stimulation (boredom), lack of exercise

If we can meet the environmental needs of our cats we can avoid the potential causes of stress and anxiety in their lives that can cause behavioural problems and impact on their physical and mental health.

Multicat Households

In multi-cat households, where two or more cats live together, it is vitally important to know whether or not your cats are bonded and in the same social group. Cat behaviour can be very subtle and just because your cats are not actively fighting or hissing at each other, it does not necessarily mean that they are good friends. Sometimes cats living in the same household do not perceive each other to be in the same social group, but they may tolerate the presence of others in order to access a resource such as food or comfy resting areas.

Social groups can be complicated for example in a 3 cat household you may find that you have 1, 2 or no social groups at all!

Bonded cats within the same social group will

  • Sleep curled/piled up together (or in very close proximity)
  • Head bump and body rub each other
  • Make greeting noises at each other
  • Groom each other
  • Play together
Bonded cats will demonstrate mutual grooming, body rubbing and sleep in very close proximity

Bonded cats will demonstrate mutual grooming, body rubbing and sleep in very close proximity

How you can help your cat(s) feel more secure 

1. Create Safe Havens  

We often overlook the need for cats to have safe havens or sanctuaries within the home. Your cat can use these places to hide away if frightened by something in the environment or just to relax out of reach of people and other animals in the home. In multi-cat households the availability of hiding places in all the different areas within the home is very important, because while they may often choose to be in there together, your cats may also need their own individual space at some point.

Your cats may already have their favourite go-to places, so you can make these more cosy and add something for them to hide behind, such as a piece of card or a cloth cover. Examples of good safe places include

  • The top of a wardrobe or cupboard
  • A high shelf/perch (putting a small lip on the shelf will make your cat feel more hidden)
  • Space under a bed,
  • A box with a bed in it behind the sofa or chair (you can also use a cat carrier).
  • Secure a box to the top of a cat tower
  • Cat Tunnel or similar
  • A comfy bed/box in the shed or garage

When your cat is in the safe haven, he or she should be left completely undisturbed by everyone; no talking no touching, no enticing. When your cat is out and about you can talk to, stroke and interact with him or her.

Cats can really benefit from having a total sanctuary like this where they can escape from everything (we know many people do too) and it can be especially helpful for nervous or reactive cats. The thing to remember is that even after hundreds of years of domestication, cats are ultimately solitary animals and sometimes desperately need their own space – even from their loving owners.

Sanctuaries

 

2. Position Resources Carefully

The vital resources your cat needs include

  • Water
  • Food
  • Litter trays
  • Beds / Resting Areas
  • Scratching posts
  • Play Areas and Toys

Make sure that these resources are spread out and that food, water and litter trays are not near windows, doorways and cat flaps, particularly where another cat may be able to see or sneak up on your cat while he or she is using them. If there is no option but to put resources in these places, try to create a bit of camouflage for your cat in those areas using a curtain or frosted window coverings for example.

Cats prefer their water source and food sources to be separate from each other, so bear this is mind while you are planning where to put things.

In a multi-cat household make sure you provide resources for each social group as far away as possible from the other to reduce the risk of conflict and relationship breakdown. If you don’t have much space, think about using shelves, work surfaces or other slightly higher places to create separate feeding stations for your cat.

 

3.  Provide Litter Trays

Litter trays can be invaluable resources for anxious and stressed cats as having to go outside to eliminate can add to their problem.

  • For multi cat households it is recommended that you have one tray per cat plus one extra.
  • Make sure trays are placed in quiet, secluded areas in your home and not in busy places like the kitchen or hallway; if you can’t put the tray in a secluded area, put it behind some sort of screen i.e. a piece of cardboard or a curtain (who wants to go to the toilet with an audience?)
  • Trays should be as big as possible, preferably 1.5 times the length of your cat from nose to base of tail. For older, ill, or injured cats that may have trouble squatting, a tray with higher sides, but a lower entrance may be necessary and in these cases converted plastic storage boxes or large seed trays may be helpful.
  • The tray should contain a depth of at least 3cm of cat litter in them. If your cat is having any urinary tract-related problems, then he or she may require deeper litter.
  • Remember that cat litter is marketed at owners rather than cats and your cats may not appreciate strong smelling de-odorizing cat litter!
  • Don’t use tray liners, they can get caught up in your cat’s claws while they are raking the litter.
  • Trays should be scooped out at least once daily (more frequently for cats with urinary problems) and topped up with litter as necessary. Covered trays may also need to be scooped more frequently as they will hold odours inside, which can be quite unpleasant for cats.
  • Litter trays should be thoroughly cleaned every 1-2 weeks using soap and hot water (avoid using strong smelling soaps, strong chemicals or ammonia based products).

 

4. Make Time For Play And Hunting Games

Play and mental stimulation is sometimes overlooked once our cats reach adulthood and boredom can intensify usually normal behaviours that could potentially lead to problems such as obesity, destructiveness and over grooming.

  • Remember that cats prefer short but frequent bursts of activity so keep your play sessions to around 3-5 minutes.
  • Make sure that your cat gets the opportunity to win games by catching the ‘prey’ otherwise you will end up with a very frustrated kitty!
  • Individual play can be with small toys and balls. While interaction with the owner can involve the use of fishing rod type and moveable toys.
  • Using cat food dispenser systems, games or making your own can be a great way of providing mental stimulation – Several toilet roll inners stuck together on a board with dry food placed into the tubes works well in both an upright or flat position.
  • Encourage food foraging by placing food parcels around the house in packages, boxes or on ‘cat shelves’.
  • Cardboard boxes can provide lots of entertainment for cats; try cutting some different sized holes in them, body sized and paw sized for extra entertainment. Scrunched up newspaper in the bottom of a box with a few pieces of dried food or treats can also be fun.
  • High shelves and cat towers are fun to play with and can also give cats a sense of security when they are up high.
  • Scratching posts/places are really important for cats (especially indoor cats and those that don’t go far when outside), they provide a place to mark territory and sharpen claws and give cats an opportunity for a proper stretch of their limbs, muscles and spine. Cats often like a variety of scratching places, so try to include a vertical and horizontal surface. Remember to ensure that upright scratching posts are secure and won’t topple as the cat is using it and that they are tall/long enough to allow the cat to stretch out fully.
  • In multi cat homes, create a play area for your cats that contains things to play in and around, for example fabric or cardboard tubes, boxes, cat towers, bags etc. as this will often prevent quarrels.
  • Cats of different social groups may need an area to be able to play individually and with the owner.
  • Rotate toys regularly to keep interest levels high

When using food and treats with toys, it is important to remember to reduce your cat’s daily food allowance for his or her main meal appropriately to avoid obesity.

cats at play

 

5. Secure Your Cat Flap

It is really important to ensure that other cats in the neighbourhood are not coming into your home and causing further upset and stress to your cats. Investing in a microchip-reading cat flap is a really sensible idea to prevent this.

cat flap

How relaxed would you be if a stranger kept wandering into your home?

 

6. Use Feline Pheromones

The use of pheromone diffusers can really help stressed cats.  At Castle Vets we recommend FELIWAY® for cats that are being bothered by Strange cats and are generally unsettled in the home and FELIWAY® FRIENDS for multi cat homes, as it is proven to help reduce tension and conflicts between cats in multi-cat households. Both of these products can be used together, however, it is no good just plugging them in and assuming they will do the job! Unless you make some or all of the recommended environmental changes mentioned above, your cat will very likely still be anxious and stressed.

If you think that your cat is having problems with stress and/or anxiety or you would like any further advice contact your veterinary practice. 

Cystitis and Urinary Problems in Cats

Cystitis

Cystitis (which literally means inflammation of the bladder), Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) and Idiopathic Cystitis are terms that are used by veterinary surgeons to describe the problems associated with the bladder or difficulty urinating. We see urinary problems in many of our feline patients, both males and females, of all ages.

Urinary crystals or stones

These grow in the bladder and can obstruct the urine flow. This is very painful condition and possibly life threatening for the cat as any blockage of the urinary tract by the stones or crystals can lead to a dangerous buildup of toxins within the body, not to mention the severe pain from a full bladder that cannot be emptied.

Urethral plugs

This is usually seen in male cats, when there is a buildup of proteins, cells, crystals and debris in the urine that combines together to form a ‘plug’ that cannot be passed.

Muscle spasm of the urethra

This can occur with severe inflammation or irritation

Bacterial infection

This problem is not often seen in cats but is usually the cause of cystitis in dogs and humans.

Idiopathic cystitis

This is the term for Cystitis that is not linked to bacterial infection or crystals.

Cancer

In older cats with urinary problems, the possibility of a tumour affecting the urinary tract needs to be investigated, although it is not very common.

What Causes Urinary Problems?

The cause of these problems are not always apparent but may be related to  Continue reading

Feline Hyperthyroidism

Feline Hyperthyroidism is one of the most common diseases seen in senior cats at Castle Vets. It can occur in any breed or sex of cat, but usually occurs in cats over the age of 10 years old.

Hyperthyroidism in most cats is caused by a benign (non-cancerous) change in one or both of the cat’s thyroid glands, in rare cases it can also be caused by a malignant (cancerous) growth or change in the thyroid gland. We do not know what causes these changes to occur, but both make the thyroid gland produce excessive amounts of the thyroid hormone Thyroxine.

1 shows normal thyroid gland.  2 & 3 show the parathyroid glands.  4 shows the abnormal thyroid gland

Thyroid hormones regulate many processes within the body including metabolism, temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and bowel function. When too much thyroxine is produced the clinical signs can be quite severe, making the cat seriously ill. It speeds everything in the body up , causing the body’s energy to be used up very quickly.

Clinical Signs Of Hyperthyroidism

The symptoms of hyperthyroidism will vary from cat to cat. Some cats may have one or two of these symptoms while others may show several or all of the clinical signs.

  • Weight losshyperthyroid
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased activity – restlessness and irritability (occasionally aggression)
  • Poor coat condition
  • Goitre – Being able to see or feel the thyroid glands in the cat’s neck
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Heat intolerance
  • Panting
  • Occasionally a cat may have the opposite of the expected symptoms – loss of appetite, depression, weakness and lethargy.

If you notice that you cat is showing any of the above clinical signs then please contact your vet for an appointment as soon as possible. The quicker a health problem is diagnosed, the quicker your cat can get the treatment he or she needs to get back to their usual happy self.

Other Complications Of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism can have serious consequences on the cat’s heart. It causes an increased heart rate and also changes to the walls of the heart, which can lead to heart failure if left untreated.

High blood pressure (hypertension) is sometimes diagnosed at the same time as hyperthyroidism. If left untreated it can cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, heart and brain.

Kidney disease, while not caused by hyperthyroidism, is often seen at the same time because they are both common diseases in older cats.

How The Vet Diagnoses Hyperthyroidism

Your vet may use one or more of the following to diagnose your cat

  • Clinical signs and history
  • Thorough examination
  • Blood tests to check the levels of thyroxine in the blood stream and to see how well the other organs in the body are functioning.
  • Other clinical tests may be performed to help rule out or identify concurrent illnesses such as kidney disease or heart disease, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG), a blood pressure test or an X-ray.

Treatment For Feline Hyperthyroidism

The good news is that there is treatment available for cats with hyperthyroidism and if the treatment is successful the cat will quickly return to his or her normal self.

Medication/Tablets – Tablets that help to prevent the production of the thyroid hormones are usually given once or twice a day. They are simple to give and mean that the disease can be controlled without the need for an anaesthetic and surgery; however, they may suit all cats because a few may suffer side effects from the tablets such as inappetence, vomiting and lethargy. (Not to mention the cats who are very difficult to medicate!)

A blood test every 2-3 months is necessary to monitor the cat’s progress and ensure that the medication is effective and at the right dose.

tableting a cat

Tablets will not suit every cat

Prescription Diet Food – This is an option that has recently become available in the UK. The special diet, Hills y/d, has very strictly controlled levels of iodine in it. Iodine is used by the thyroid gland to make the thyroid hormones so the diet ensures that there is only enough iodine content to maintain normal thyroid hormone production. This works really well for some cats and is a great alternative if the cat cannot have medication or surgery, however, the cat must be fed on this diet exclusively with no other added foods, so it is unlikely to be beneficial in multi-cat households.
A blood test every 2-3 months is necessary to monitor the cat’s progress and ensure that the food is keeping the disease controlled.

YDFood

Surgery – An operation to remove the over-active thyroid gland (or both glands) is a frequently performed in many veterinary practices and the removal of the abnormal thyroid gland should completely cure the disease so there would be no need for further medication. There is always a slight risk with any anaesthetic and surgical procedure and this may be increased for older or unwell animals. The operation needs to be carried out by a skilled veterinary surgeon because if the parathyroid gland (which is very close to the thyroid gland) is damaged, it can upset the calcium levels in the body leading to further complications.
Most cat’s recover quite quickly from thyroidectomy surgery and are home within a few days, but they will need to be closely monitored through examination and blood tests for the following few weeks.

_MG_0998

Radioactive Iodine Therapy – An injection of radioactive iodine is given to the cat, which destroys the abnormal thyroid tissues but does not affect the normal thyroid tissue. No anaesthetic is required and the majority of cats only need one injection in order to cure the disease.
This treatment is, unfortunately, only available at a few veterinary specialist hospitals so there is usually a waiting list and the cost of the treatment can be quite high. Your cat will also have to stay at the practice with minimal handling, for around 4 to 6 weeks (until the radiation levels have dropped).

photo-radioactive-iodine-therapy

Contact Us

If you would like more information about Feline Hyperthyroidism or you are worried that your cat may be showing some of the associated clinical symptoms, you can contact us on 0118 9574488 or via the Castle Vets Website 

Useful Links

International Cat Care Hyperthyroidism 

MSD Hyperthyroidism Website 

Feline Cystitis and Lower Urinary Tract Disorder

Cat

Cystitis (which literally means inflammation of the bladder) is a problem that we see in many of our feline patients and it affects male and female cats of any age and breed. Cystitis and Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorder are general terms that are often used to describe problems associated with the bladder or difficulty urinating. There are several possible causes for cystitis in cats but the actual reason that these happen is unknown.

Urinary crystals or stones – these grow in the bladder and can obstruct the urine flow. This is very painful and possibly life threatening for the cat.

Bacterial infection – This problem is not often seen in cats but is usually the cause of cystitis in dogs and humans.

Idiopathic cystitis – Cystitis not linked to bacterial infection or crystals. We don’t know exactly what causes it but it is thought to be triggered by several possible factors including

  • Stress – this could be caused by a new cat in the neighbourhood, disputes with the other household cats or changes to home life i.e. a new baby, moving house, building work.
  • Obesity – many of the cats we see suffering from cystitis are also overweight
  • Holding on to urine for long periods – there are many reasons for this including no access to the outdoors or the litter tray, arthritis or old injuries causing pain when the cat squats.
  • No access to a litter tray – closed door, inappropriately placed tray or another cat in the household preventing access (resource blocking!)
  • Inappropriate diet – some diets may change the urinary pH causing the urine to become more alkaline or acidic than normal, which can lead to crystal and stone formation or infection.
  • Illness – this can be a cause of stress to the cat or the pain from the illness may make them reluctant to pass urine.
  • Not drinking enough – cats become dehydrated and urinate less often.
Signs to look out for

The symptoms of cystitis vary depending on the severity of the problem but some of the more common ones are listed below;

  • Frequent trips to the litter tray
  • Straining to pass urine (this is often mistaken for constipation because the cat will squat for long periods of time in the litter tray)
  • Urinating onto walls because it is a more comfortable position for a cat in pain (this can be mistaken for territorial spraying)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Excessive genital licking
  • Crying when urinating
  • Crying when near the litter tray
  • Urinating indoors when they normally go outdoors
  • Urinating in unusual places around the house – behind or on the furniture or even on top of kitchen counters or cookers. This may be because they are associating the litter tray with the painful process of urination or it may just be because they are getting ‘caught short’ and needing to urinate more often and more urgently.
  • Irritability or behavioural changes due to the pain of the condition
  • Strong smelling urine

If you notice any of these symptoms it is very important that your cat sees the vet; a cat that cannot urinate properly can become seriously ill very quickly and may even go into kidney failure because the body is unable to remove waste in the urine and the toxins build up in the blood stream. This is often seen in cats that have bladder blockages caused by urinary crystals or stones. 

If you think that your cat is not able to pass any urine at all it is an emergency and your cat needs to be seen by a vet immediately.
Normal and abnormal urination (pictures courtesy of Hills Pet Nutrition)

Normal and abnormal urination
(pictures ourtesy of Hills Pet Nutrition)

Diagnosis of Cystitis

Your vet may want to do a few or all of the following examinations and tests depending on the severity of your cat’s problem

  • Perform an abdominal examination and try to feel your cat’s bladder.
  • Test your cat’s urine – To look for bacteria, blood, pH levels and urinary crystals
  • Blood test – To check for infection and kidney function
  • Ultrasound or X-ray – to check for inflammation, bladder stones or other possible causes of cystitis

cat stethescope crop

Treatment of Cystitis

This will depend on the severity and the cause of the problem for each individual cat.

  • If your cat has become completely blocked and cannot pass urine at all, he or she may need to have a urinary catheter placed temporarily and/or surgery to remove the blockage.
  • Your cat may require hospitalisation for a few days to be closely monitored.
  • Medications such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and anti-anxiety drugs may be prescribed.
  • Dietary changes or a special prescription diet may be advised so that any crystals can be dissolved in the bladder and prevented from re forming.
What you can do to help prevent Cystitis 

Try to  increase your cat’s water consumption by making a few changes to water provision

  • Have more water bowls and put them in various places around the house
  • Place water bowls well away from food bowls and litter trays (most cats prefer this)
  • Change the water twice daily
  • Consider using a cat water fountain because some cats prefer to drink moving water

Consider your cats food and feeding habits

  • The vet may have recommended a special diet, this should gradually be introduced over a week by mixing it with your cats current food until he or she is completely onto the new food.
  • Increasing the amount of wet food will increase your cat’s water consumption as tinned foods and pouches often contain a lot of water.
  • Place food bowls away from water bowls and litter trays.
  • If your cat is overweight he or she may be more likely to suffer from cystitis, so consider reducing calories by cutting down on treats or feeding a low calorie diet.

Lower stress levels by improving your cat’s core territory

  • Make sure there are lots of hiding places that your cat can retreat to if he or she is frightened.
  • Add extra feeding stations (there should be at least one per cat in a multi cat household) and place them well away from each other.
  • Add another litter tray to the house (perhaps upstairs) so the cat has a choice about where to go to the toilet depending on how busy the household is. This is especially important in a multi cat household.
  • Consider using a covered litter tray to give your cat more privacy.
  • Feliway diffusers can be great for helping to lower anxiety levels
  • Cats feel secure in high places so consider adding some perches or shelves for them (cat towers work well too) or make a space on top of a wardrobe for them.
  • Make sure that your cat is getting exercise, even if he or she lives indoors.
  • If your cat is spending large amounts of time indoors for any reason ( he or she may not want to go outside because of poor weather or perhaps you need to confine them for another reason) make sure that you provide a litter tray.
  • If you have 2 or more cats, spend some time watching their behaviour towards each other. Cats have very subtle body language and bullying or resource blocking could be going on without you even being aware of it. A cat can prevent access to a resource with just a warning stare! Examples include sitting between the other cat and it’s food/litter trays, staring at the other cat or hissing and swiping at the passing cat. More information can be found on the International Cat Care website.

If you have any questions about cystitis or would like more information, please contact Castle Vets and we will be happy to help you.

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Feline Hyperthyroidism

cat medical

Feline Hyperthyroidism is one of the most common diseases seen in senior cats at Castle Vets. It can occur in any breed or sex of cat, but usually occurs in cats over the age of 10 years old.

Hyperthyroidism in most cats is caused by a benign (non-cancerous) change in one or both of the cat’s thyroid glands, in rare cases it can also be caused by a malignant (cancerous) growth or change in the thyroid gland. We do not know what causes these changes to occur, but both make the thyroid gland produce excessive amounts of the thyroid hormone Thyroxine.

1 shows normal thyroid gland.  2 & 3 show the parathyroid glands.  4 shows the abnormal thyroid gland

Thyroid hormones regulate many processes within the body including metabolism, temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and bowel function. When too much thyroxine is produced the clinical signs can be quite severe, making the cat seriously ill. It speeds everything in the body up , causing the body’s energy to be used up very quickly.

Clinical signs of Hyperthyroidism

The symptoms of hyperthyroidism will vary from cat to cat. Some cats may have one or two of these symptoms while others may show several or all of the clinical signs.

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Weight loss and a poor coat

  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased activity – restlessness and irritability (occasionally aggression)
  • Poor coat condition
  • Goitre – Being able to see or feel the thyroid glands in the cat’s neck
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Heat intolerance
  • Panting
  • Occasionally a cat may have the opposite of the expected symptoms – loss of appetite, depression, weakness and lethargy.
Complications of Feline Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism can have serious consequences on the cat’s heart. It causes an increased heart rate and also changes to the walls of the heart, which can lead to heart failure if left untreated.

High blood pressure (hypertension) is sometimes diagnosed at the same time as hyperthyroidism. If left untreated it can cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, heart and brain.

Kidney disease, while not caused by hyperthyroidism, is often seen at the same time because they are both common diseases in older cats.

How Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed
  • Clinical signs and history
  • Thorough examination
  • Blood tests to check the levels of thyroxine in the blood stream and to see how well the other organs in the body are functioning.
  • Other clinical tests may be performed to help rule out or identify concurrent illnesses such as kidney disease or heart disease, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG), a blood pressure test or an X-ray.
Treatment of Hyperthyroidism

The good news is that there is treatment available for cats with hyperthyroidism and if the treatment is successful the cat will quickly return to his or her normal self.

Medication – anti-thyroid drugs

These tablets help to prevent the production of the thyroid hormones and are usually given once or twice a day. They are simple to give and mean that the disease can be controlled without the need for an anaesthetic and surgery; however, they may suit all cats because a few may suffer side effects from the tablets such as inappetence, vomiting and lethargy. (Not to mention the cats who are very difficult to medicate!)

A blood test every 2-3 months is necessary to monitor the cat’s progress and ensure that the medication is effective and at the right dose.

tableting a cat

Tablets will not suit every cat

Veterinary Prescription Food – Hills y/d

This is an option that has recently become available in the UK. The special diet has very strictly controlled levels of iodine in it. Iodine is used by the thyroid gland to make the thyroid hormones so the diet ensures that there is only enough iodine content to maintain normal thyroid hormone production. This works really well for some cats and is a great alternative if the cat cannot have medication or surgery, however, the cat must be fed on this diet exclusively with no other added foods.
A blood test every 2-3 months is necessary to monitor the cat’s progress and ensure that the food is keeping the disease controlled.

YDFood

Surgery to remove the abnormal thyroid gland(s) – Thyroidectomy

This is a frequently performed operation in many veterinary practices and the removal of the abnormal thyroid gland should completely cure the disease so there would be no need for further medication. There is a slight risk with any anaesthetic and surgical procedure and this may be increased for older or unwell animals. The operation needs to be carried out by a skilled veterinary surgeon because if the parathyroid gland (which is very close to the thyroid gland) is damaged, it can upset the calcium levels in the body leading to further complications.
Most cat’s recover quite quickly from thyroidectomy surgery and are home within a few days, but they will need to be closely monitored through examination and blood tests for the following few weeks.

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Radioactive Iodine Therapy

An injection of radioactive iodine is given to the cat, which destroys the abnormal thyroid tissues but does not affect the normal thyroid tissue. No anaesthetic is required and the majority of cats only need one injection in order to cure the disease.
This treatment is, unfortunately, only available at a few veterinary specialist hospitals so there is usually a waiting list and the cost of the treatment can be quite high. Your cat will also have to stay at the practice with minimal handling, for around 4 to 6 weeks (until the radiation levels have dropped).

photo-radioactive-iodine-therapy

If you notice that you cat is showing any of the above clinical signs then please contact your vet for an appointment as soon as possible. The quicker a health problem is diagnosed, the quicker your cat can get the treatment he or she needs to get back to their usual happy self.

You can contact Castle Vets on 0118 9574488 or visit the Castle Vets website.

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Ticks

ixodesricinus

Ticks are small parasites that are related to spiders and mites, they survive by feeding on the blood of different animal hosts including humans if they get the opportunity. There are many tick species in the UK but the ones that commonly cause problems by feeding off our pets are the sheep tick (Ixodes ricinus) and the hedgehog tick (Ixodes hexagonus).

Ticks are mostly found in areas with long grasses, in woodlands or in heathland but they can be found in gardens if they have been transported by wild animals during their larval or nymph stages. They can attach anywhere on the animal’s body but are usually found around the head, neck and ears. Owners often mistake ticks for wart-like growths on their pets because of their size and colour.

Ticks locations

Tick facts

  • Ticks transfer saliva into their host and remove blood as they feed.
  • The tick body swells up as it becomes engorged with blood.
  • Ticks are usually active in the spring, summer and autumn months.
  • Larval ticks have 6 legs and are so small they look like specks of dirt.
  • Nymph ticks have 8 legs and are about the size of a poppy seed, and are the most likely stage to bite humans.
  • Adult ticks also have 8 legs. The female is much larger than the male and grows to about pea-size when fully engorged with blood.
  • Ticks will happily feed off humans if there are no other convenient food sources available.
  • Never be tempted just to brush or pull off the tick – any mouth parts left in your pet’s skin may become infected, resulting in an abscess.
  • Ticks can transmit many diseases through their saliva including Lyme Disease in the UK and Erlichiosis and Babesiosis in other countries.
  • Ticks can carry several different infections at the same time.
  • Localised infection may occur at the site of attachment without causing other symptoms in the animal’s body
  • If an animal has a really heavy tick infestation it could become anaemic

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Tick Life Cycle

  1. Larval ticks hatch from the eggs and the following spring or autumn they crawl onto grass stems and seek out small rodent hosts using the sensory organs on their front legs. The larvae feed for several days before dropping off into the environment to moult into nymphs (In the UK this stage usually takes a year to complete)
  2. Nymph ticks seek out slightly larger hosts this time – usually rabbits, and feed for several days before dropping off into the environment to moult into adult ticks (Again, taking about a year)
  3. Adult ticks climb up onto taller vegetation to seek out a host. They usually feed off larger animals such as sheep, deer, dogs and cats. The adult female feeds for up to two weeks and then drops off into the environment and can lay several thousand eggs before dying.
  4. The whole life cycle can take up to 3 years to complete in the UK.

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Common Ticks found on dogs and cats in the UK

Ixodes Ricinus

  • Also known as the sheep tick, castor bean tick or deer tick. Despite its name it will feed on any mammals or birds and lizards.
  • Its preferred hosts for the larval and nymph stages are small animals (rodents then rabbits and birds) and for the adults, large animals such as sheep and deer on which it has the greatest reproductive success.
  • It is the most common tick to be found feeding on dogs and humans in it’s nymph and adult stages. This is likely due to the fact that it searches for a host by climbing up to the top of tall vegetation, so passing pets are easy targets.
  • It only feeds once at each developmental stage.

Ixodes Hexagonus

  • Known as the hedgehog tick.
  • It is often the most common tick found on cats and the second most common tick on dogs.
  • The larvae are mainly found on hedgehogs (hence the name) and also other smallish mammals that have nests/dens such as stoats, weasels, foxes and badgers.
  • Pets are accidental hosts because hedgehogs commonly live in parks and gardens

How to remove a tick from your pet

We recommend that this is done using a specially designed ‘tick hook’ (pictured), these are readily available from veterinary practices, pet shops and on-line. If you are unsure how to use one, bring your pet to the practice and one of our nurses can show you how it’s done.

tick_hook

 

How NOT to remove Ticks

If any part of the tick is left in your pet’s skin it may cause infection, abscess or the transmission of disease. In order to avoid this

  • DO NOT pull the tick off your pet, using fingers or tweezers
  • DO NOT burn the tick off your pet;  you could seriously injure your pet.
  • DO NOT use alcohol  on the tick; It wont make the tick drop off and we feel that alcohol has better uses!
  • DO NOT use Vaseline; whilst it  will eventually smother the tick, it will take 24-48 hours to work.

Tick Prevention

Fortunately there are now several really great products that repel ticks (and fleas) available for your dog and cat. These products are only available from your veterinary practice or can be obtained from a pharmacy if you have a prescription from your vet.

Castle Vets only recommend tick products that actually repel the ticks and prevent them from attaching to your pet for a meal. It is really important that you check any products and read the labelling carefully before you buy them. Most products that state they are for treating ticks, only kill the tick AFTER it has attached to your pet and drank blood.

WARNING – Never use dog flea or tick products on cats. The active ingredient used in some dog products is highly toxic to cats and can cause seizures and death

Please contact us at the practice if you would like any advice on parasite prevention or to make an appointment with one of our veterinary nurses

Castle Vets 0118 9574488

Tick Advice Video

For more information on ticks and parasites you can visit http://www.itsajungle.co.uk/

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