Dec 07 2014

Top 10 Cat Mistakes

    Top 10 Cat Mistakes

I have been around in this racket for so long that no one can argue that I have a certain expertise when it comes to felines. Over these years I have accumulated a list of ways that we blow-it with our furry cat friends. Here are a few of them for you to ponder….

kitten fingernibblies

“These taste like chicken”

10. Hand to Hand Combat
Just be honest and admit it…’ve done this. I know because if you have owned a kitten, you’ve done it…..we all have. No one is immune to the cute-factor here. Proof for my thesis……a Bazillion YouTube cat videos with a Gajillion views from fans. Using your hand as a toy for kitten to bat, chase, chew-on and attack is fun when they are small. When “Fluff-Nugget” grows up and is the size of a small cougar with all the hunting and killing instincts to boot (now heavily conditioned to attack human hands) the fun factor goes way down. You need your hands for petting cats so find an acceptable substitute like a laser pointer. Post some videos to YouTube and you might become the next cat-video sensation.

kitten not a kitten

“Claws are part of our ‘Awesome’. So don’t mess with ’em”

9. Declaw?
Call me a nut but I don’t like needlessly inflicting pain on small animals. Where it serves a purpose (setting a broken bone, removing cancer, etc) I am all in. So let me open a can of worms here. When I was small, it seemed to be fashionable to chop the tips of a cats toes off if they were going to live indoors. This was kind of on par with buying a litter box, a cat collar and toys. I still occasionally hear people espouse this nutty point of view. Let me make this crystal clear: cats feel pain when you chop off the tips of their tippy-toes so if you are going to do this it better be for a very, very, very, very good reason. What is a good reason to consider this? Where the cat’s actual life is in danger due to the damage they can cause, and only after you have exhausted every other option available. What is a bad reason? The cat once scratched something you paid good money for. The dilemma should really be distilled down to this; if you were to ask the cat, “its going to be your tippy-toes or your life….you choose” I suspect I know what virtually every cat would choose. Just be honest with yourself before you start walking down that pathway. Have you really tried all the options available? A good place to start is coming to see the vet and asking for clear cut options. And when contemplating these options, try to visualize having the tips or all of your fingers removed.

8. Lilies
Pretty and pretty deadly. That’s it in a nutshell. Cats love chewing on plants and it only takes a nibble on this one to turn their kidneys into a pudding.

7. Tylenol
You think you have a headache now? Wait until you get the vet bill for treating a case of feline acetaminophen toxicity! Tylenol (active ingredient acetaminophen) is deadly, deadly toxic to cats. And if you think that the kids liquid version is less toxic you are dead-wrong. Even a portion of a regular dose is more than enough to cause severe liver failure. A full adult dose is enough to kill the average cat many times over in a very slow and excruciating fashion. Don’t do it. Just don’t!

kittens by the bushel

“Fleas? Who has fleas? Surely not us.”

6. The Flea-Resistant Feline
“If I had a nickel….”. Pretty much every single day of my career I have heard the sweet refrain of “my cat has never had fleas and I have never had to use any flea medication on him”. I don’t know what look I must have on my face when I hear this but I suspect it resembles the one I get when I take the chance and eat the leftovers that have been languishing in the fridge for over a week. Here is the thing; all pets are going to get bitten by fleas. The only way to avoid it is to keep them indoors all of the time (not super hard to do) and never go outside yourself (not so easy to do). Even when “Fluff-Nugget” stays inside your cozy home, you venture daily into the big old world. It is here that you become an unwitting transport vehicle for fleas that are virtually everywhere in this wonderfully temperate locale we live in. When you come home, that hitchhiker will now get to have a free and unfettered go at your kitty. If you have multiple pets and ones that do go in and out (like a little pooch) the problem increases logarithmically (that’s a big word that means “like crazy”). Thankfully this is dead easy to prevent. You just have to phone your vet and ask. And I promise that I will curb my pained facial contortions.

5. No Money; No Problem
Once the stuff of jokes, pet insurance is now the real deal. It is becoming more and more available, and can take the sting out of potentially ever-growing vet bills. I regularly have to euthanize cats that could be fixed if only the owners could afford the therapy, and insurance helps to make sure this doesn’t happen. There are headaches that arise from time to time with insurance, and you usually have to pay the vet and get reimbursed, but many lives have been saved when pet owners had their pets insured. Vet bills run into the thousands for serious illnesses, and many folks don’t have the savings to cover the unexpected. Insurance softens the blow of the unexpected. I have no clients that are sorry they purchased pet insurance and many who are sorry they didn’t.

kitten outdoor

“It is. It is full of wonder and magic just like Dr. Mark said.”

4. Outdoors
I love the outdoors. Its where I see stuff and do things. Likewise for our kitties, the outdoors is full of wonder, magic and danger. Unfortunately, there is often more danger than wonder and magic. Real danger like, dogs, other nasty cats without awesome names like “Fluff-Nugget”, cars, infectious diseases like Feline Leukemia, more fleas, antifreeze, and did I mention dogs. I’m not suggesting that every cat live a life of quiet indoor introspection (some cats seem to get born into the country or farm life just like some of us humans get born into living in Portland (no disrespect to Portland…Ive been there….its lovely). The average lifespan for an outside cat is about 1/4 the average of an indoor cat. That should suggest a thing or two to y’all.

3. Silly names
Studies have shown that people shy away from naming their children things like Mr. Wuffy Little Furry Bottom Pooper Pants but for a cat, sadly the same standards do not apply. I have to admit that my own cats have silly names that tend toward underused human monikers (Debbie, Golda, Malibu Barbie) but I digress. In general, avoid Lucky or Fluffy not because they are silly but will stand as an accusation against you and your ability to try harder (this goes the same for naming your dog “Brown Dog”). Just don’t use “Fluff-Nugget”. It isn’t copyrighted but I will know where you got it from.

2. Halloween costumes
Cats are prone to having their self esteem seriously violated by placing them in ballerina and pirate costumes, regardless of gender (unless done at the hands of a 4 year old girl armed with doll-buggy transport…..then its adorable). . I treated a cat for clinical depression once, and it was only after months of intense therapy that we have discovered that it was due to the fat Elvis costume that “Mrs. My Cousin Ferdi-Winkles” was forced to wear last Halloween.

Cute Pets 004

“Sometimes I would prefer it if this one would ignore me just a little.”

1. Ignoring them
This one is legit. Cats, by their nature are self-sufficient and have an independent streak a mile wide. They don’t typically come up to you like dogs do and say “Hey bozo I’m not feeling so keen today. Why don’t you take me to the vet for a looksee?” Cats love to hide when they are not well, and illnesses and injuries can go undetected for days. Add to this that cats are masters at hiding under a disguise of ‘I am doing perfectly fine, thanks very much’ and looking totally normal while bad things brew under the surface and you can see how problems can develop and get worse before anyone notices. I constantly hear “But he was fine yesterday” from pet owners, when we know we’re dealing with diseases that take weeks, if not months, to develop. This comes from being an Alpha-predator. This means that if you were once the thing that preyed upon and ate the weaklings of the world you live in, then when you become the weakling, you are at risk of being someone’s lunch. So you respond by hiding and masking your weakness. Touch, stroke and feel your cat every day (at least once a week) and make sure they are active, bright eyed and not losing weight. Monitor water intake and litterbox output. If you notice anything amiss, have your vet do a good physical and run lab tests (like blood tests, X-rays and urinalysis, among others) to get to the root of the problem early. Hopefully insurance will foot the bill!

So there it is. Virtually every little nugget of truth I have divined after 20 years of “vetting”. So perhaps the next time I see you and “Fluff-Nugget” the visit will find you in full possession of all your digits, with a truly flea-free feline without the encumbrances of depleted self-esteem. And when I see you, I promise to lay off the tortured expressions.

Submitted by: Dr. Mark A. Steinebach

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