Category Archives: feline health

Why Do Cats Sneeze?

By Langley Cornwell

This is probably wrong of me, but I think it’s cute when our cat sneezes. After the initial ah-choo, he always looks startled, as if to say “where did that come from?”

Of course, humans are not the only ones with allergies. Dogs and cats can have them too. In fact, when a cat sneezes, it’s often a sign that he is allergic to something. Excess sneezing may be one of the first signs that something is amiss with your feline friend. In general, cats sneeze for the same reason that people do; it may be something as simple as a tickling in their nose, or they might have a more serious issue that is causing them to sneeze.

As responsible pet owners, we coddle our cats and feed them nutritious, high quality food like Canidae, but we don’t want to run off to the vet every time they sneeze. So how do we know when kitty is just sneezing “regularly” or if he needs a visit to the veterinarian?

Time to see the vet

An occasional sneeze is nothing to worry about most of the time. Kittens and cats will sneeze whenever they get something in their nasal passage that doesn’t belong there. If your cat is particularly curious, this may occur fairly often. Our cat puts his nose into everything! Perhaps he learned it from our dogs or maybe it’s a common behavior, but he is a sniffer and a sneezer.

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What is Feline High-Rise Syndrome?

By Langley Cornwell

Cat people listen up! You might think feline high-rise syndrome is something silly, but it’s a real and serious problem. For those of us who love cats and want to keep them safe, high-rise syndrome is no joke. This syndrome is when a cat falls from an improperly screened or unscreened window. You may be surprised by how often this happens – it’s quite common and can be fatal. According to the ASPCA, city veterinarians see three to five cases of feline high-rise syndrome every week. That’s a scary number when you think about it. Feline high-rise syndrome has become so common that they named it, which should tell you something about how regularly it occurs.

How do cats fall from windows?

Imagine a cat staying in a high-rise apartment several stories up. That is not a natural environment for cats in the wild, so they love to sit in the windows and observe what is going on outside. If you open up a window for fresh air and the window screen is not in place or is improperly fitted, then your cat is in danger of falling out.

Although cats are very agile, they are also very focused. If a cat is watching a bird while sitting in the window, she may get the urge to lunge at it, and lose her balance. If the screen is loose or not there at all, your cat could be in for a very long and dangerous fall.

Feline high-rise syndrome can also occur when a cat falls asleep while leaning against a loose screen. Most of us have seen funny videos depicting cats falling off the television set or off of a table. But falling from a high-rise window is no laughing matter.

Would a cat survive such a fall?

Cats are remarkably resilient, but they can certainly harm themselves by falling long distances. They are not afraid of heights at all, so they are quick to take up a seemingly perilous perch. And when cat do happen to fall, they are adept at minimizing injury due to their awesome survival instincts, incredible agility and body control. Even so, a fall from extreme heights can be devastating. There are many variables that can’t be controlled, so it’s impossible to predict whether a cat could survive that type of fall.

If your cat does take a lengthy fall, remember that many cats do survive feline high-rise syndrome if they get care right away.

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What is Vestibular Disease?

By Linda Cole

Vestibular disease can strike dogs and cats suddenly. Your pet is fine one minute and the next, he’s struggling to stand and walk. One of my older cats developed vestibular disease years ago. At the time, I had no idea what it was. Understanding vestibular disease is important because the symptoms mirror those of a stroke as well as other medical conditions, and it can be misdiagnosed.

My cat, Patches, was sitting upright when she suddenly fell over on her side and couldn’t get up. Her eyes were moving rapidly back and forth and her head was shaking. It was a scary moment and I was convinced she’d just had a stroke. I called my vet and he decided she could wait until the office was open the next morning. By then she seemed better and had regained her balance. Come to find out, it was idiopathic vestibular disease and not a stroke as I had feared.

The vestibular system is how animals, including us, know which way is up or down, if we’re spinning around, standing, moving, sitting or lying down. In general, it’s responsible for maintaining our sense of balance and controls head and eye movements. Without getting too technical, the vestibular system is made up of nerves in the brain that continue into the inner ear. The vestibular apparatus is located next to the cochlea that’s found deep in the inner ear, and another one is located in the medulla (the lower area of the brain) which is found at the top of the spinal cord.

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Do You Live in a Cat-Friendly City?

By Langley Cornwell

I know, I know. Not many of us actually travel with our cats. Still, we read so much about dog-friendly cities, restaurants and parks, etc., that I thought it was time to study up on cat-friendly cities. And besides, I’m not really writing about cat-friendly cities to visit with your feline friend; I’m writing about cities that have a high-quality level of veterinary care and have strong local, cat-friendly laws and regulations.

Because as omnipresent as dogs may be, my cat never misses an opportunity to remind me that cats rule the world. If sheer numbers were the deciding factor, then my cat would be right: in America, cats outnumber dogs by over 10 million. That’s nearly 89 million cats sharing our homes and hearts in the United States.

The CATalyst Council is a newly-formed coalition that is singly focused on feline issues. In fact, their vision and mission, as stated on their website, is to ensure all cats are valued and cared for as pets. They go on to say: This will be accomplished by raising the level of care and welfare of cats, supported by the highest quality veterinary care, preventative medicine and cat specific products. That’s a noble and cat-approved undertaking.

This council is made up of academics, nonprofits, doctors from the veterinary community, and industry and animal welfare organizations. In an effort to shine a light on cat healthcare and establish a higher level of standardized feline care nationwide, the CATalyst Council assembled a list of cat-friendly cities.

Dan Kramer, senior marketing manager of industry relations for Pfizer Animal Health and chair of the CATalyst Council says “Cats really are America’s number one companion. Our goal is to recognize and celebrate why cats are such popular companions. We applaud the efforts of these major metropolitan areas for providing a wealth of resources for cats and their owners along with their earned accolade of being one of America’s Top Cat-Friendly Cities.”

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Can Animals Be Mentally Ill?

By Langley Cornwell

We enrolled our new dog in a group training class and the experience has been eye-opening. The class is filled with all kinds of dogs and all kinds of people. Some dogs catch on to the commands immediately, while others take a long time to learn what’s expected of them. One gal is having a hard time with her dog. She told the trainer that her dog acts crazy at home too, and she’s sure her dog is mentally ill. The comment stimulated a class discussion about whether animals can actually be mentally ill.

According to the University of Melbourne’s research department, the answer is yes. Dr. Gabrielle Carter, a faculty member of the University’s Veterinary Science department, specializes in animal behavior. Not only is Dr. Carter an expert in her field but, because this is a relatively new area of study, she is an advocate and is working hard to increase awareness of mental illness in pets.

Dr. Carter explains that even though there are tremendous dissimilarities in different mammals, their biological systems, brains and nervous systems share similarities. She reasons that if humans are known to have mental illness based in altered brain function, then it is sensible to expect the same holds true for other animals.

Mental illness in different animals manifests in different ways. For example, dogs may suffer from noise phobias, separation anxiety and aggression. Cats may compulsively over-groom themselves and spray inappropriately.

Through behavioral therapies and in this case, medication, Dr. Carter recently helped a dog that had inexplicably developed a fear of her own backyard. The dog wouldn’t go into the yard she had once loved. If she was forced into the yard, she would desperately try to escape. The dog’s mental issues got worse; she became acutely fearful of anything unfamiliar, developed generalized anxiety issues and extreme noise phobias. It got to the point where the dog spent most of her time cowering in her owner’s bedroom.

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Can You Give Your Pet the Flu?

By Linda Cole

No one looks forward to the flu. The chills, aches and pains can send even the hardiest person to bed for a few days. We try to do what we can to avoid the flu, but when symptoms appear, we know people around us are at risk of catching what we have. It was thought at one time that pets in the home couldn’t be infected, but new research is raising a red flag that says it is possible to pass the flu bug to our pets.

So how do you know if you’re dealing with a cold or the flu? After all, they have common symptoms. Colds enter the body via the nose and primarily affect us above the neck with runny nose, sneezing, congestion and sore throat. Some people might have an achy feeling, with a low grade temperature. You know you’re coming down with a cold because symptoms develop over a period of a couple of days. The flu hits you like a brick. One minute you’re fine and the next you’re wrestling with muscle aches, chills, fever, fatigue and tightness in your chest, all of which are likely to send you to bed. Other symptoms can include a running nose or cough, but not as severe as with a cold.

The common belief for years was that our pets couldn’t catch the flu from their owner, but new research has challenged this with studies that show it is possible. When an infectious disease moves from animals to humans, it’s called zoonosis. Reverse zoonosis happens when humans infect animals. In 2009, the H1N1 flu virus, also known as the swine flu, had the first ever recorded case of a human transmitting the flu to her two cats. The woman recovered, but her cats died. Since then, 11 cats, one dog and a handful of ferrets have been infected with the flu after having contact with a sick human.

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