Browsing tag: kitten

Hack, hack, hack – Hairballs! – Invaluable advice for cat owners

There’s nothing quite like being woken up at 2am to the oh-so-unpleasant sound of your cat producing a large hairball at the foot of your bed.  Or perhaps quite so unsettling as stepping in it the following morning.  Hairballs, also known by the fancy and somewhat horrifying name of ‘trichobezoar’, are something that most cat owners will have to deal with at some point.  But how do they form and how can we help prevent them?

What is a hairball anyway?

A hairball is pretty much what it says on the tin – a ball of hair.  Except it isn’t often in the shape of a ball, more cigar-shaped due to its passage through the oesophagus on the way out.  They’re usually quite small, a few cm in length, but can be quite impressive at times.  Cats have tiny barbs on their tongue that are perfect for picking up dead hairs in the coat.  When the cat grooms itself, it swallows a significant amount of hair which usually passes without issue in the stools but sometimes accumulates in the stomach instead.  Hairballs are, as one might expect, more common in long-haired cats and older, more experienced groomers who have more time to spend cleaning themselves each day.  They also tend to occur seasonally, at times of increased shedding.  Sounds like a pretty normal process, and in fact, it’s not uncommon for most cats to have a hairball once or twice a year (a spring clear-out of the stomach if you will…).  But are they really ‘normal’?

Are hairballs a cause for concern?

If they happen infrequently and the cat seems to pass them without issue, then there isn’t much to worry about.  However, there are some medical conditions which can cause more frequent furball production:

  • Pain or stress can cause cats to overgroom, leading to increased hair ingestion
  • Flea infestation can lead to increased grooming as the cat tries to get rid of the little critters and the itch they leave behind
  • Allergic skin disease also causes itchy skin that cats are more likely to lick excessively
  • Gastrointestinal disease can alter the speed at which material moves through the intestinal tract, resulting in less hair making it out in the stool and more getting trapped in the stomach.

But even with the above conditions, the increased hairball production can usually be managed and treated accordingly.  Of much greater concern are the hairballs that DON’T get coughed up and instead stay in the stomach, getting larger and larger until they’re too large to come back out.  In this case, it will either stay in the stomach until it is so big that it causes significant other symptoms, or try to pass into the intestines and cause a life-threatening obstruction.  The only treatment is surgery to remove the blockage, and reports of hairballs the size of a grapefruit are not unheard of!

Is there anything we can do to prevent them?

Cats will always swallow their own fur, but there are some things you can do to minimise the impact:

  • Groom your cat regularly.  By brushing them you remove a lot of the dead hair that they would otherwise be ingesting.
  • Long-haired cats with significant hairball problems can have their coat clipped a few times a year to minimise the fur load.
  • Feed small meals frequently, instead of one or two large meals a day, to help move things through the intestines more quickly
  • You could consider changing the diet, as any diet change can affect gastrointestinal function.  There are special hairball diets out there but in most cases there is little scientific evidence to say that they work.  Speak with your vet before changing your cat’s diet.
  • Your vet may prescribe various medications, which can include oils such as liquid paraffin or other hairball remedies which can help lubricate the hairballs, enabling them to pass through the intestines more easily.

One final word of caution – sometimes people mistake a coughing cat for one that is trying to bring up a hairball as the noise is very similar.  If your cat ‘hacks’ like it’s about to produce a hairball but nothing ever appears, speak with your vet as coughing in a cat can actually be a sign of a serious illness such as asthma or occasionally heart disease.  And like any other medical problem, if your cat does get frequent hairballs, don’t wait for it to get worse, ask your vet for advice and get it sorted before it becomes an even bigger problem.

Amy Bergs DVM MRCVS  - Visit The Cat Doctor website by clicking HERE

If you are worried about any aspect of your cat’s health, please book an appointment with your vet or use our symptom guide.

Ask a vet online-‘How often should an 8 week old kitten be using the litter tray’

Question from Janine Anne-Ruby Law:

How often should an 8 week old kitten be using the litter tray, I got my kitten on Saturday afternoon and she has only pooped twice is this normal? She seems to have settled in really well but I am a bit concerned about this help please?

Answer from Shanika Winters:

Hi Janine and thank you for your question regarding your kitten and toilet training.  From what you are describing about how well your kitten is settling in to her new home and the fact that she is using her litter tray you probably have very little to worry about.

Cats and kittens will pass faeces (poo) when they receive a signal from their bowel (large intestines) that faeces are present and ready to be passed. The exact frequency with which faeces are passed will depend on each individual, their diet, and if they are stressed or have any underlying problems such as bacterial, viral or parasitic infection.

It is normal for kittens to pass faeces as often as they are fed a meal, so at eight weeks old your kitten is probably being fed 3-4 times a day and could therefore be expected to pass faeces up to four time a day, however as your kittens digestive system becomes more efficient and dealing with food and waste products this may well decrease down to once or twice a day.  An adult cat would usually pass faeces once or twice a day.

More important than how many times a day your kitten is passing faeces is whether the faeces looks normal, are passed easily and without any pain or distress.

What might cause my kitten problem passing faeces?

If your pet has a change of diet her digestive system might take some time to adjust to this change, the result may be an increase or decrease in the amount of times they pass faeces and changes to the consistency( harder or softer).

If your kitten is not drinking enough water or getting enough moisture from its diet then the faeces may become dry and more difficult to pass, leading to less frequent passing of faeces, straining and discomfort passing faeces and possibly the passing of some blood with the faeces.

Infection of bacterial and viral causes can lead to soft faeces with or without blood/mucous being passed more often than normal.

Parasites such as round worms are a common finding in the digestive tract of kittens; this can cause constipation, diarrhoea with or without vomiting.  Most kittens are wormed( treated for worms) before you collect them and further worm treatment will be advised by your vet either in the form of paste, liquid, granules, tablets or spot on treatments.

Lack of an opening at the anus, is a very rare condition which can prevent a kitten form being able to pass faeces or a lack of the development of part of the intestine which means the faeces cannot get to the anus.  This is usually detected in very young kittens prior to weaning and can sometimes be treated surgically by your vet.

Blockages of the digestive system such as a foreign body, hair balls and even tubes of gut stuck into it (intussusception) can all lead to abnormalities in faeces production.

In conclusion it sounds as though you have a healthy kitten that is using her litter tray well and regularly, so long as this continues then you should not need to worry.  I hope that what I have discussed in my answer gives you an idea of how many different factors can affect how often your kitten will pass faeces.  The most important thing is to look at how your kitten is in themselves, if they appear bright, are eating, drinking, and toileting normally then do not worry. If there are any changes which worry you, then ask your vet for advice.

Shanika Winters MRCVS Online vet

How to get your kids involved in your cat’s care

Everybody loves a kitten.  They’re cute, they’re cuddly and they do lots of funny things which make great YouTube videos.  Your kids may have been pestering you for years to get a kitten and at first, all eyes are on the new little ball of fluff.  Over time, however, the children’s interest in the little critter often fades along with their promises to help with their daily care.  Sure, you could easily care for the cat on your own, but don’t give in that easily – learning to care for another living creature is a lesson that not only your kids will benefit from, but your cat as well.  Here are a few ways to get your children more involved in the care of your cat.

1.      Have your child take responsibility for feeding the cat every day

Most children can learn to feed a cat, and many get great joy out of watching them eat their meals.  Wet food can be fed in a different place every day – your cat will start to follow your child around the house as they choose the next spot, providing exercise and entertainment for everybody involved.  Dry food can be scattered on the kitchen floor, to be chased and caught by the cat, or placed in a treat ball so they have to work at getting it out.  This may sound a bit mean at first, but is actually closer to their natural feeding behaviours.  Of course, you could just ask your child to put the food in the bowl every day, but that can get a bit dull after a while.  No matter what you or they choose, just make sure you manage the portion size as children have a tendency to overfeed.  Use a measuring cup or draw a line on the bowl and educate them as to what can happen if they feed too much.  Don’t forget to put fresh water out every day too!

2.     Teach your child how to groom the cat

Many cats enjoy being brushed, so this can be a good way for your child to bond with them and vice versa.  Teach them to always brush in the same direction, WITH the fur and not against it, and to avoid any areas that the cat may find sensitive (try it yourself first so you can learn where that may be).  Either a brush or a comb will do though it’s harder to do it wrong with a brush.  They can check for fleas, examine the claws and get a good general idea of their overall health during these regular grooming sessions.  Some cats just don’t like to be brushed, and in this case I wouldn’t recommend having your child do it.  If they used to enjoy being brushed and then suddenly don’t be sure to let your vet know as it could be a sign of pain.

3.     Play with the cat

Kittens aren’t the only ones who like to play, adult cats enjoy a good play session too!  Your child can choose their favourite toy at the pet shop, or even make their own out of cardboard rolls, pipe cleaners or feathers.  Adding catnip will encourage your cat to play with them even more.  Older children could even sew a catnip mouse.  If you use string, be sure that it is securely attached to a wand or larger toy so the cat can’t swallow it and stay away from smaller items that could potentially be eaten.  Playing together creates a good bond between pet and child, and is good exercise for both.  Laser pointers are particularly fun, just be sure to provide your cat with something they can actually catch after playing with the laser or they may become frustrated at the game.

4.     Keep a scrapbook

Artistic kids may enjoy keeping a record of their cat’s life, much like new parents keep a baby book.  Photographs and stories, even videos if the record is kept in digital form.  It makes a nice keepsake and keeps kids on the lookout for interesting cat moments worth recording.  Older kids (and let’s face it, adults too) can even give their cat its own social media account.

5.     Get the whole family involved in your cat’s veterinary care

Whenever possible, schedule vet appointments for a time when the children are around so they can see what’s involved.  Or, if the thought of taking your very active kids to the veterinary clinic sends a shiver down your spine, see if your vet can arrange a home visit.  Encourage your children to ask questions and ask the vet to explain what they’re doing throughout the exam.  If any treatment is needed, be sure the kids understand what is wrong with the cat and how you are going to try to fix it.  It’s a great way of exposing them to healthcare concepts and medical techniques such as injections that’s often less scary than going to the doctor themselves.  You may also find that your kids are better at remembering treatment advice than you are!

The more involved your kids (though the same principles also apply to partners…) are in your cat’s health and daily care, the better.  Not only is it a good learning experience for the child, but it means the cat is likely to be treated with kindness and respect as well – less tail pulling and chasing wildly around the house!  And of course you will benefit too by spreading the responsibility and time required to care for them.  So don’t just give in when your kids start to lose interest, get creative and find ways to keep everybody involved.

Amy Bergs DVM MRCVS

If you are worried about any aspect of your cats health, please book an appointment with your vet or use our symptom guide.

Give a dog a home?

by Cat the Petstreet vet.

Rescue centres are over-flowing with ready trained and healthy adult animals

Rescue centres are over-flowing with ready trained and healthy adult animals

When most people consider getting a new pet, their thoughts turn to a cute bundle of fluff; a baby to join the family and grow up as part of it.  Certainly a puppy or kitten will provide hours of entertainment but they can also be a lot of hard work.  Just like a human baby they don’t come fully house trained and many won’t sleep through the night for some time!  Many people underestimate the amount of attention and time a young animal needs and so they are not ideal for everyone.  However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a pet, with rescue centres over-flowing with ready trained and healthy adult animals, you could just find your perfect companion!

The first problem when you want a new, young animal is where to get one from.  There are loads of ways people advertise new litters; from the websites of the Kennel Club and GCCF (General Council of Cat Fancy) to the local bargain pages.  It can be difficult, especially if this is a first pet, to know how to find a reputable breeder who will have produced the pups or kittens responsibly, ensured they are as healthy as possible and looked after both their physical and mental well-being.  Sadly, many young animals are bred by those in it only for the money, the worst examples being the puppy farms, who make big efforts to hide themselves and who can catch even knowledgeable pet owners out.  This is an advantage of the rescue centres, many of whom will have litters of pups as well as adult animals, you know by homing an animal from them you are not supporting poor breeding practices and that they will have properly cared for in their early life.

Young animals, although lots of fun, can be very hard work to look after, particularly puppies.  In the early stages they can’t be left alone for long periods, which can be challenging for those who work.  Few also sleep through the night straight away, which can be tiring to say the least!  It can also take some time for them to establish good toilet training habits and this means not only do you have to be vigilant and consistent for the training itself, you also have to be prepared to clean up the regular messes which will be left behind!  You can’t be too houseproud at all with a young animal, not only do you get ‘presents’ on the carpet, some are prolific chewers and, particularly with the kittens, very adventurous in where they will explore.  Mantlepieces, curtains and even wall paper hold no barriers for the sharp claws and climbing skills of a young cat.  Also, don’t forget the garden, most pups have a natural instinct to dig, so often you have to wave goodbye to the years new seedlings and cope with various holes in the flowerbeds for some time!

Young pups also need training in general, ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ do not always come naturally (!) and, given the boundless levels of energy most young dogs have, they also need plenty of exercise, at least an hour a day, every day.  Most adult dogs will come with all this training already in place and, especially if you chose an older one, don’t need nearly as much exercise as younger dogs to keep them happy.  The best rescue centres will work with their residents to find out how much they know, they will also assess them for their suitability in different homes, for example how well they get on with children or other pets, and ensure they don’t have any significant behavioural issues.  Some also have a support team for once you have re-homed the dog, who will help with any problems that may arise.  They also tend to be careful about which dogs go with which people, meaning they will help you find a pet who will be best suited to your home and lifestyle.  Adult, rescue pets are particularly great for older people, who benefit greatly from the companionship an animal brings but who may not be able to cope with one requiring lots of exercise or care.

If you do want a kitten, talk to your local rescue centres , they will always have unwanted litters

If you do want a kitten, talk to your local rescue centres , they will always have unwanted litters

Kittens are usually less intensive as new pets than puppies.  Cats tend to be easily litter trained, most kittens having been taught good habits by their mother well before they leave her.  They can provide hours of entertainment as they zoom around the house, provided you don’t mind the odd ornament being knocked off the side.  They do, however, have very sharp baby claws and teeth, not a problem for young people and adults but they can cause a lot of damage to the delicate skin of older people, the same applies to puppies.  If you do want a kitten, you should be talking to your local rescue centres anyway, they will always have unwanted litters, especially in the Spring time and will be able to give great advice on the care of a young cat.

And what about rabbits?  They are now the third most popular pet in the UK but they are also one of the most likely to be dumped, a fact few people are aware of.  There aren’t many rescue centres for rabbits and those that do exist are always bursting at the seams.  Rabbits can make great pets but they do need to be well socialised and handled, and if they are neutered they tend to be much calmer.  The best rabbit rescues will make sure this is done and many will work with the rabbits to ensure they are happy with human contact.  Also, all rabbits are cute, so you won’t be missing out on the ‘arrr’ factor even if you get a grown up one!

Another advantage of choosing an adult animal from a rescue centre is that, from the best ones, they tend to come to your neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, de-flead, de-wormed and with any health problems having been assessed and treated.  They are not an unknown quantity like a younger pet.  Although most centres will charge for their animals, these actions can represent a significant saving.  Some, if you take on a cat or dog with an on-going health issue, will continue to pay for their care.

Deciding to get a new pet is an exciting time and most people want a young animal, which is perfectly understandable.   Although they do require a lot of input, puppies and kittens are fabulous to have around and, if brought up well, can be proper members of the family for many years.  However, do consider a rescue pet before you start phoning local breeders.  Adult animals can make loyal, faithful companions, come to you with someone else having done all the hard work in training them and you have the knowledge that you have done something to reduce the huge population of unwanted pets in the UK.  And, even if you do have your heart set on a young animal, do think of rescue centres first, they will often have litters needing new homes.  So, want to feel good about yourself and get a great new pet into the bargain? Go on, give a dog a home!

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