Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Do indoor cats have stress? You betcha!

I was at a wedding this weekend and in the course of talking to other guests at the wedding, someone asked if I like dogs or cats better. I cannot remember anyone asking me that question before. I've been asked which one I like to work on better, but not just plain and simple which one do I like better. My answer was that it is really like comparing apples and oranges. If you had asked me this 20 years ago I would have said I was a dog person. Sometimes I still say that I am a dog person, but then I think about how I have 7 cats, but only 2 dogs. So how does a dog person end up with 7 cats? Perhaps I am a closet cat person? Hmmmmm?

Well, the closet cat person inside of me would like to dedicate this blog to cats, specifically indoor cats. I've seen a lot of changes over my 20+ years as a veterinarian and one of the biggest is more and more cats are being kept inside 100% of the time. You would think that is a good thing and it is mostly. We see many fewer cats being hit by cars, shot by the neighbors, attacked by dogs, etc. But we have exchanged those problems for a whole new list of problems including obesity (which leads to diabetes, arthritis, skin disease and others) and stress related diseases such as urine marking behaviors (the number one behavior problem that leads to cat death) and bladder disease. Seems as though everything in life has its trade offs doesn't it?

As more and more cats are being kept exclusively indoors, more and more information is coming out about the special needs of indoor cats. And you thought having an indoor cat was as simple as just not letting it go outside? Nothing is ever that simple. *grin* What we professional cat people are finding out is that keeping a cat indoors can be very stressful for the cat. To relieve stress some cats eat. A lot. And get fat. Or they pee outside the litter box like on your shoes, or your dirty laundry, or your favorite throw rug. Or if they are really good at hiding their true stressed out cat feelings, they develop an inflammation of the lining of the bladder called interstitial cystitis and then they pee outside the litter box but their pee has blood in it. Why does this happen to indoor cats? Because staying inside every day, all day long is boring especially if you are an animal that is programmed to roam and climb and hunt. OK, staying inside all day long day after day after day is boring for us people too don't you think? (Remember northeastern Ohioans how you were feeling two months ago when we had snow up to our eyeballs.) Ohio State University has started something called the Indoor Cat Initiative. Follow the link and you will be taken to a wealth of information on keeping your indoor cat healthy and happy.

If you are dog person reading this blog, right now you are scratching your head and thinking wow, I knew there was a reason that I'm not a cat person. But if you are a cat person, or a closet cat person like I am, then you are probably thinking how cool all of this is. Ok, maybe I'm the only one thinking about how cool this all is. So be it. But keeping our animals' mental state happy is as important as keeping their physical being healthy. Ah, the mind - body connection. We've all heard that one before. In a previous blog I talked about giving your dog a job to keep them happy and healthy. Well, our cats deserve no less. They need to be cats and do cat things to stay happy and healthy.

So if you have an indoor cat or two or three or whatever, I invite you to go over and snoop around Ohio State's indoor cat web pages. Find out how many litter boxes you SHOULD have. Find out how to find out what kind of toys (prey) your cat likes best. Read about perches (I LOVE perches), and sleeping/resting areas, scratching areas and why cats like small bits of attention more frequently and people like longer social get togethers, but less often.

Now stay tuned for a politically correct (or maybe politically incorrect?) announcement. I don't want to leave the outdoor cat owners out in the cold. And truth be told, while I have had 100% exclusive indoor cats in the past, my current herd of 7 are all outdoor cats. I live on a farm. I have chickens and these cats work for a living keeping the rodent population under control. Ok about half of them work for a living. The other half sleep on my porch. But they are all spayed or neutered, vaccinated, wormed and treated for fleas and heartworms. Such is the life of a barn (or porch) cat that lives with a veterinarian. As the owner of outdoor cats though, I accept the possibility of all the hazards listed earlier in the blog. Certainly some outdoor environments are more dangerous than others. I am fortunate to not have neighbors who shoot cats. In fact, I don't really have neighbors that are all that close anyway so that really cuts back on the conflicts over cats that roam. I guess when it comes down to the bottom line, indoor cat or outdoor cat, both have their challenges. I am not against either one. All I can say, is love your cat and celebrate them being a cat. They are a truly fascinating creature.

A very special thank you to Vicki who was kind enough to send me pictures of her indoor cats to use for this blog.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Be the change

I know some of you may actually fall out of your chair when you find out that I am blogging TWICE in one week. Heck, even my once weekly blog has been tough to come by lately. But sometimes you come across other individuals who motivate you to take action. There is a colleague of mine, a woman veterinarian from California, that has a very very well-written blog Pawcurious. If you are a fan of veterinary/animal blogs, you should really check this out. You may want to read them in a place where, if you spontaneously start laughing out loud, you won't be given dirty looks (i.e. do not read on the library computer!). Anyway, she is very passionate about helping animals (ok I think that applies to all veterinarians), but has a great way of getting people to listen. So a few days ago, I was reading her blog and she had a great idea for this Friday, today! Calling all bloggers to band together to inspire change. Her cause is to support a Columbus, OH shelter "Pets without Parents" (I LOVE that name!). So if you go over to her blog, feel free to donate to the cause.

I'm going to tell you what is going on locally in little ol' Ashtabula County because let me say, we have some GREAT people that do GREAT things for animals here and probably don't get enough pats on the back. These people work hard in a very hard environment. They get to see animal abuse up front and personal. There is a lot of burnout and emotional toll, but God bless them all because it is a job that needs done and they do it well. But there is always room for more help so if you love animals, here's your chance to BE THE CHANGE.

And as my
Pawcurious colleague Dr. V. has said so eloquently in her blog, you don't have to drop everything you are doing in your life. If everyone gives just a little chunk of their time or their money, it will all turn into something great. Don't shy away from a big problem because it seems to big. We just need to all take a small little chunk. (For some reason I feel like bursting into song ala Mary Poppins "In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and snap! The job's a game") OK, sorry back on track. The point is that Nike was right when they said "Just do it".

So do you need some suggestions. Well the
Ashtabula County Animal Protective League has a bunch of great events coming up. This coming Monday April 19th, they are having one of my FAVORITE events (because it involves food!) the Spayghetti dinner at the Wagon Wheel restaurant in Madison. Tickets are only $8! And you won't have to cook dinner that night! Next week you can also recycle all that old scrap metal you have laying around to benefit the APL. Clean up your yard, celebrate Earth Day AND help the APL all at the same time. Now really, it can't get much better than that! Go and visit the APL web site for all the details and see what else is in the works for fundraisers. The Ashtabula County Humane Society is holding a Rabies Clinic on Saturday May 1st. Cost is $10 per pet. Hey, and I'll be there too! Visit the AC Humane Society web site for location, time and other details.

So you can't show up at a specific event. No worries. Think of getting a new furry family member. Adopt from a shelter. Both organizations are always in need of donations. Money of course, but dog and cat food, paper towels, blankets, towels are always appreciated. If you visit each organization's web site, you can find out more.

No money? How about going out to the APL and walking/exercising dogs. Do you know how much it helps those dogs to get out for a walk once in awhile? Such a small gesture that means so much. Or volunteer to help at one of the many events that are coming up.

Kudos to Dr. V. over at Pawcurious for coming up with this fantastic idea. Now time to think of how you can help. And remember every little bit helps. And I mean every LITTLE bit helps.

Note: Only shelter adopted animals were used in the making of this blog.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

You cannot succeed if you do not try.

Wish I could accurately depict sitting down and taking a deep breath in a blog, but that's what I am doing right now. Was last week crazy or what? Most of you around these parts were off on spring break or your kids were off on spring break. Was it crazy for you too? I spent the week holding down the fort, so to speak, as Dr. C. was on vacation. Lots of sick animals all week, an emergency c-section Tuesday morning, a midnight emergency at the clinic on Friday night, Saturday office hours, a quick day off on Sunday and then spay/neuter at the shelter on Monday. Whew! You know how it goes. We all have those crazy weeks.

So here is a case from a couple weeks ago. Every once in awhile, I get to see something other than a dog or a cat and in this case it was Geri the guinea pig. Geri was just the sweetest little g.pig ever. Her owner brought her in because she hadn't been feeling well for a day or two and also Geri's belly was getting bigger. Not a good thing for any critter but especially one in her geriatric years like Miss Geri was. After examining Geri, I could definitely tell she had something large inside her abdomen. Pyometra (uterine infection) was one of the top possibilities. A tumor was also possible, but guinea pigs don't get tumors as often as little critters like rats do. We decided to give Geri a chance and did exploratory surgery that evening. Unfortunately it was a large tumor, but it was on the right ovary/uterus so I did go ahead and remove the tumor and the entire uterus and both ovaries. Geri actually made it through surgery fine, but died the next morning. I was really hoping it would have been an infected uterus because I think she would have had a better chance of making it overall. I'm including some pictures taken during surgery. This tumor was VERY impressive. It totally filled her abdomen and when we weighed it afterwards, the tumor was 1/3rd of Geri's before surgery body weight. That would be like an 150 pound woman having a 50 pound tumor removed and then the woman weighing 100 pounds after tumor removal.

Tumor picture taken during surgery.
Geri and her tumor laying side by side on the surgery table right before going to recovery.

I am so grateful to Geri's owner for giving me the chance to try and save Geri's life. It didn't work in the end, but as with so many other things in life, you cannot succeed if you don't try first.