Cat Hairballs

Shedding hair is usually a normal process for cats

Blame it on the sun. Outdoor cats, who are exposed to natural sunlight, are in tune with the seasons and tend to shed more in the spring and fall. On the other hand, indoor cats (I have five) live with artificial light and therefore can shed continuously.

As a rule, feline hair loss should not be patchy, but fairly uniform. Hair loss can be caused by a number of medical conditions. It might be wise to consult with your vet.

Cats groom constantly – driven by instinct – to preserve and care for their fur. Not only is their fur beautiful, it also insulates them and protects their skin from injury.

picture of a cat’s tongue, the center showing barb like hooks Your cat’s tongue plays an important role in the grooming process.

It’s equipped with hundreds of tiny barbs designed to snag the fur,
as your cat licks. Your cat then swallows it all.
Hopefully, most of the swallowed fur will simply pass through your cat’s digestive system
and be eliminated in his feces (poop).

But once in the stomach, those hairs – which are not easily digested – can start sticking to other stomach contents such as saliva, undigested food, and gastric juices … and the dreaded hairball is born.

Like rolling snowballs, cat hairballs grow larger. They then begin to irritate your cat’s stomach – which usually triggers vomiting. When your cat is ridding itself of a hairball he or she will probably have your attention – with coughing, gagging, retching, and other happy sounds associated with throwing up.

Hairball symptoms include a loss of appetite, weight loss and constipation. Cats will often throw up (regurgitate) undigested food as well.

Feline vomiting, can be caused by any number of other medical problems, some serious. If vomiting persists consult your veterinarian.

Cat hairballs do not actually look like balls. They are, in fact, tubular or sausage shaped and can easily be confused with poop. As a rule, the easiest way to find hairballs is to walk around in the dark with bare feet.
How to Control Hairballs

The best solution? Remove some of the hair.

Some cats loved to be brushed … and others don’t. The trick is to convince your feline that brushing her fur is a pleasurable, bonding experience.

Begin with brief sessions and short strokes. Speak softly and alternate your brush strokes with petting. My cats like to sniff the brush first, so they can identify it as non-threatening object.

Some cats have very sensitive skin – often the stomach and lower back areas. For that reason, it is best to start with the neck or upper back. You know your cat and what will work.

snobby cat preening himself, fussing with his fur

After a nice meal my cats usually relax and groom themselves.
The after dinner hour is an opportune time to brush their coats.

Hairball lubricants

There are a variety of hairball preparations available over the counter. They lubricate your cat’s digestive system allowing the hair or hairball to pass through. Give your vet’s office a call and ask which products they recommend. Always follow the package instructions. Never use human medications on your cat.

Some cats like the lubricant and will lick it right off your finger. For those who don’t, smear it on their paw. If you only dab it on chances are your cat will flick it off and splatter it all over your walls.

Hairball formula fat food

Some cat foods have been specifically developed to control hairballs. Usually, they contain more fiber which assists in the passage of hair through the digestive tract. Look for at least eight percent crude fiber.

You can also add fiber to your cat’s diet by providing some organic cat grass.

Hairballs and other ingredientscat playing with string

A cat will swallow string, thread, twist ties and all sorts of things.

If you think your cat has swallowed anything unusual, give your vet a call immediately. Your cat could be in serious – even life threatening – trouble.

If you try to remove the object yourself, by pulling it, you could damage your cat’s organs.

Fur sure, prevention is the best hairball medicine. Groom your cat frequently. Offer a high fiber diet and use lubrication products, as recommended by your vet.

Cat Grass

Cat Grass

Cats are meat eaters, true enough, but there are times when cats seem to crave some greens and extra fiber. For domestic felines, cat grass fits the bill.

It is not entirely clear why cats love to eat some greenery – but they do – and it’s our job as faithful cat keepers to help them meet that need.

Why do cats eat grass? Some paws-abilities …

Help with hairballs

Cat grass can help remove undigested hair from your cat’s digestive tract, either end. When your cat grooms he or she swallows cat hair.

Cat grass promotes digestion and assists with the passage of undigested hair through the intestines and into the litter box.

red cat taking a mouthful of cat grass

Grass or greens can also cause your cat to regurgitate (or throw up) the undigested contents of his stomach, such as cat hair or a full blown hairball. The grass can carry all the undigested cat hair along with it on its non-return trip out of your cat’s body. It very much seems like one of nature’s way of ridding your cat of hairballs.

Your cat may be seeking some extra minerals or B vitamins or the cat grass could be just plain tasty.

Outdoor cats have plenty of opportunity to nibble on grass. On the down side, the velvety green grass in your neighborhood may have been treated with weed killers, pesticides and other poisonous substances.

Perhaps all is quiet in your living space – a little too quiet for anyone with an indoor cat. Suddenly a large fern seems to have a life of its own and when inspected more closely the culprit is a fuzzy body daintily nibbling fern fronds …

Indoor cats or outdoor cats will appreciate an offering of organic cat grass. For your convenience and your cat’s pleasure many pet stores offer affordable containers of growing cat grass.

terra cotta pot with cat grass growing

You can easily grow your own. Common cat grass seeds are wheat, oats and rye. Choose a planter that is heavy and won’t tip when your feline has a snack.

Whether your cat’s yen for cat grass stems from his craving for a little dietary variation or his need for a little assistance with elimination … it’s a healthy indulgence and we all know the benefits of having a happy healthy cat.

CAT VACCINATIONS

How Do Vaccines Work ?
Vaccines contain harmless strains of the viruses or bacteria that can often affect your cat. After vaccination your cats’ immune system will generate a protection that should prevent illness if the dangerous forms of these infections are encountered. This is especially important as some of these infections are incurable and some maybe fatal.
When Should They Be Vaccinated ?
Kittens are often given their first vaccination at about 8-9 weeks of age and a second vaccination at about 12 weeks of age. An annual booster is then necessary to maintain the cats’ immunity, ensuring the best level of protection.
Which Diseases Can We Vaccinate Against ?
Feline Hepesvirus This virus is one of the main causes of `cat flu’, a highly infectious, multi-factorial respiratory tract syndrome that is extremely common, especially in kittens. The virus can affect the upper respiratory system and may also affect the eyes. Affected cats can suffer longterm illness and sometimes can often become lifelong carriers of the disease, suffering relapses in times of stress.
Feline Calicivirus This is another important viral contributor to `catflu’ and can also affect the oral cavity, causing large ulcers on the surface of the tongue.
Feline Panleucopenia This disease is similar to canine parvovirus and so can cause severe vomiting and diarrhoea especially in young, unvaccinated kittens. Infections are often fatal.
Feline Leukaemia Virus This virus damages the cats’ immune system and canal so cause cancer. It is widespread within the UK and is untreatable.
Chlamydia This organism is common within the UK and can cause chronic conjunctivitis which is often very slow to respond to antibiotic treatment.
Rabies The advent of thePETS(Pet Travel Scheme) has enabled cats that are vaccinated against rabies to travel to and from most European countries, provided they satisfy the other scheme requirements.
Why Are Annual Boosters Needed ?
A single vaccination will not produce lifelong immunity to the diseases and yearly boosters are required to maintain full, continuous protection.
What Will Vaccination Cost ?
The cost will depend on the specific products used and whether feline leukaemia protection is included. An initial course of 2 injection swill range from between £25-£70 and a booster from £15-£50.

Moving with cats a tip or two

If you are moving with cats, a few simple steps can make an enormous difference for your pets – while ensuring they remain physically safe and reducing the likelihood of stress related medical and behavioral problems.
Cats are creatures of habit and strongly attached to their territory. They don’t cope well with change.
Moving is a huge job, you’re stressed, you’re running full tilt but at least … you know what is going on.
For your cat, there is absolutely no rhyme or reason for their home and territorial possessions being packed up into cardboard boxes.
Your kitty could become extremely upset. Be aware that during a move your cat might become stressed to the max and his or her coping mechanisms can break down.a man carrying a rug over his shoulder, holding a huge key with his cat following behind, blanket in its mouth
One of the keys to ensuring a smooth move
is to maintain some sense of every day routine
during the whole process.
Begin by creating a safe room … a secure and safe place to put your cat
… a comfortable spot with familiar possessions (and smells), where your pet will avoid the disturbing confusion of packing and moving day. Safely confined – with windows and doors locked – your cat won’t be able to run away if it gets spooked.
A must do – provide identification for your pet
When moving with cats it’s reeeally important that your pet have at least some type of standard identification … a collar and cat id tag, tattoo, microchip.
Update your emergency contact information on a cat identification tag and with registries, vets … using one or two current working phone numbers – where you can be reached during and after the move – and your new address.
Write this information with a permanent marker on your carrier as well. You can also add feeding instructions and note behavioral or medical problems and your cat’s name, of course.
Carry with you medications, medical records and pictures of your cats.
When to let your cat outside
If yours is an outdoor cat, the time will come when he or she is ready to venture outside.picture of black cat in tall grass looking startled and frightened
For your cat, it really is a scary jungle out there. He must now begin to stake out his own territory and mark it with his own scent.
Your yard could already ‘belong’ to more than one cat.
More importantly – at this stage – your cat can easily become lost. Cats rely on their powerful sense of smell – if he hasn’t thoroughly marked his territory with his own scent – your cat really has no scent marker, or reference point to use when he tries to return. Stray cats are often lost cats.
Your feline’s first few outings should be gradual and supervised. Always stay with your cat. Do consider putting a leash or a harness on your cat to make sure he or she stays close to you.
Remember, not all neighborhoods are cat friendly. Some people can be very unkind to your cat if they find him or her on their property.
(Moving presents an ideal opportunity to change your cat’s lifestyle … from an outdoor to an indoor cat. It’s much safer for them and increases their life span considerably.)
Moving with cats requires planning and preparation but you and your cats will be well rewarded for your efforts … safe and comfortable in your new home – you and your felines can happily ease back into your regular routines.

Cat spraying … why cats do it and how to stop it

Cat spraying is a behavior programmed by Mother Nature. Urine marking is one method cats use to advertise their availability for mating. In most instances, having your cat neutered or spayed usually helps stop the spraying problem.
Felines are territorial animals. Although your cat is well fed and cared for, it will still feel the need to guard its home base.
Marking its territory, including you and members of your household, requires that people or objects must be coated in your cat’s own unique and comforting scent. In other words, you must smell like your cat.
While many cats find rubbing the scent glands that are located on their face and paws, to be efficient for scent marking, others may take more drastic measures … especially during mating season.
In some cases, a neutered male or spayed female will still spray.
Is your cat stressed? Is there a bully cat picking on your cat (which is why my neutered male started spraying). New people, pets, routines or moving to a new home may be really upsetting your cat.
A new home may have new smells – including those of previous pets. These odors may trigger an outburst of urine marking in your confused cat who thinks it must defend its territory against an unseen intruder. A neighborhood cat spraying outdoors may also upset your kitty.
What is the difference between cat spraying and actual urinating?
The amount of urine (pee) is usually a big indicator. The location of the urine mark is another. If you don’t actually catch your cat in the act, you may have to rely on these visual clues:
… if you find a large amount or a puddle of urine, on the floor, or soaking into a carpet, your cat has likely urinated.
This could simply be a lapse in litter box training. On the other hand, this could indicate that your cat has a health problem, perhaps very serious. It might be wise to give your vet a call.
… If the urine is on vertical surfaces, and appears in the same places over and over, then it is likely scent marking. Cats do not spray to empty their bladders, so the urine will appear in tiny amounts.a cheetah is urine marking a tree.
When your cat is spraying, he or she will usually back up to the spot, their tail twitching, back paws marching, and a spray of urine is ejected. Some cats may also squat or semi-squat. Both male and female cats spray.
This cheetah is spraying or urine marking a tree.
How to stop a cat from spraying
First, restrict your cat’s access to the urine marked area or else he or she may go back for another round.
Treating all the urine marked areas involves cleaning with a mild cleanser and rinsing it well.
Although, the cleaned area might smell odor free to you, cats with their super noses, will still detect it. That is why it is necessary to completely soak the area with an enzymatic cleaner which will consume and eliminate the odor causing bacteria.
Cats don’t like heavy perfumes or citrus scents. After the enzymatic cleaner has dried, spray a scented deodorizer at the site. Essential oils such as lemon, orange or other plant scents mixed with distilled water should work well.
Finally, block your cat’s access to the area completely. This can be accomplished by using double-sided sticky tape or moving a large piece of furniture over or in front of the area.
You may also find that tin foil placed over the area or taped over the affected walls may work too. Your cat will not like the sound of the urine hitting the foil. If it’s a large area, try a space blanket.
It’s helpful if you can identify what is creating anxiety in your pet. Herbal therapies such as Bach Flower Rescue Remedy for pets may soothe and calm your anxious cat.
Some of these methods are also effective when dealing with inappropriate elimination areas.
This behavior is not bad according to cats. They are simply defending their own … you, their family, home, and food source.

Why do cats eat grass

Cats need greens too.
Even though cats are meat eaters … there are times when domestic cats crave some greens.
Their cousins in the wild consume greens, when they eat the stomach contents of their prey.
All cats benefit from a snack of untreated cat grass
Outdoor cats have plenty of opportunity to nibble on grass.
On the down side, lush green grass in your neighborhood may have been treated with weed killers, pesticides and other harmful substances.
And cats craving some greens can be attracted to indoor plants, some of which might be poisonous.
Cat grass provides fiber and helps control hairballs
Cat grass can help remove undigested hair from your cat’s digestive system, either end.
I find if my cats gobble it up, they will regurgitate (or throw up) the undigested grass and maybe undigested contents of their stomachs, such as cat hair. As they become less excited about the grass, they remember their manners and nibble instead.
How I care for growing cat grass
My local pet store sells growing cat grass in containers.
When I buy them, the containers are generously filled with seeds and the cat grass is starting to grow – 1/2 an inch to two or three inches high.
I gently water the top, to give the seeds some moisture but not move them around. Then I place the seed container in a shallow pan of water and let the soil and roots have a good drink – about an hour.
When the grass reaches two inches or so, the cats can start munching.
No more water for now. Too much damp will make the cat grass go musty.
Cat grass grows quickly. As it gets a bit yellow, and the soil dries out (you can tell by the weight of the cat grass) re-water the seeds and then the roots.
Give the cat grass a hair cut
With scissors, cut back two inches or so, to leave the shorter, sweeter grass and tender shoots. Because the seeds have been kept damp, new grass is sprouting.
I find I can get two harvests from the grass using this method.
Starting cat grass from seed
Cat grass seed packs and kits, with growing instructions, are easy to find. Common cat grass seeds are wheat, oats and rye. Organic soil is preferable.
Cats like to pull on the grass, as they eat. To avoid tipping, choose a planter that is quite heavy … or put a lighter container of grass inside a heavier container.
Chia Cat Grass Planter
This fun grass kit contains a blend of wheat grass and oat grass seeds, soil and an attractive planter. Within a few days the grass is ready to eat … a healthy snack for “cats, dogs, birds and other pets.”
cat eating grassWhether your cat’s craving for cat grass stems from a genuine need of greens …
or for a little assistance with bathroom duties …
it’s a handy, healthy treat.

Cat Litter Reviews

Silica gel cat litter … also known as crystals and pearls
These crystals or pearls are not plant based … but made from a dried silica gel. The main ingredient is sodium silicate, which is an extremely absorbent material. It effectively controls odors and can last a long time.
Sodium silicate has many industrial uses. It is used in the little silica packs that are put into pill bottles and shoe boxes to absorb moisture.
These packs usually come with warnings, such as “do not swallow.”
Concern does exist that ongoing exposure to silica dust is associated with pulmonary (functioning of the lungs) difficulties.
… sodium silicate is in its natural state so it does not decompose. It is a non-renewable but plentiful resource.
Silica gel cat litter review
I tried both the crystal and pearl silica litter some time ago. Both controlled odor well but with five cats I found this litter to be a bit too pricey for me.
When the crystals or pearls cannot absorb any more moisture the next delivery of urine will become a puddle on the bottom of your litter box. Should any pearls escape from the box they roll around all over the place.
Clay based cat litter – available as clumping and non-clumping
The granddaddy of kitty litters is clay litter. This litter has fine sand-like qualities which cats like. Clumping is the most popular … and can be easily scooped along with the poop.
However, there are concerns that the chemical that makes it clump, sodium bentonite, may cause serious health problems for pets and notably very young kittens. That seems pretty logical given sodium bentonite hardens (clumps) and expands up to 15 times when it comes in contact with moisture.
In spite of that, some ‘authorities’ claim clay litters pose no risks to a kitten’s or a cat’s health.
Given the growing concerns about the safety of our food and the alarming discovery that children’s toys contain toxic materials … I would be very inclined to play it safe … and use one of the many alternative litters.
After all, a kitten or a cat must stand in the litter and all cats lick their paws. (Cats and people inhale the dust.)
If the clumping and expanding properties of sodium bentonite are enough to plug up a toilet (been there – done that) can we be sure this litter will simply slip right on through a kitten’s or cat’s digestive system with no adverse affects?
If a curious toddler swallowed this litter, the next stop would be the Emergency ward, at the nearest hospital. And dogs have been known to nose around in a litter box to grab a quick snack.
Some cat owners have marveled when symptoms of poor health disappeared, once the clay litter was replaced with an alternate litter. They are not experts, just ordinary consumers who observe and know their cats.
Clay based clumping litter remains popular and many cat owners are quite happy with it.
… clay is in its natural state and therefore does not decompose. It is a non-renewable resource.
Clay litter review
The only thing I really remember about this clumping litter is my daughter scooped and flushed the litter down the toilet.
At some point, this litter expanded and plugged a pipe.
When I was done with the plumber, I was done with the litter.
Some plant based cat litters
Feline pine litter
This litter uses kiln-dried pine sawdust. The pine oils have been removed and the pellets are sterilized. The manufacturer states one 20 pound bag (9 kg) of Feline Pine will outlast a 60 pound bag (27 kg) of clay litter.
Over time, the pellets will break down into sawdust. At that point, the sawdust leaves the litter box on your cat’s paws and gets messy. It also gets stinky and needs to be replaced. Feline pine is earth friendly and has a pleasant pine scent. There are two kinds, original and clumping.
Some house cats may need to get used to or will simply not like the texture of the pellets. My cats don’t give a hoot.
… a biodegradable and renewable resource
Pine litter review
We did use the original, unclumping litter. We found it to be less work than a clumping litter which needs constant scooping. The fresh pine pellets absorb the urine but also dry out so there is no unpleasant odor for several days (dependant on how many cats you have).
The pellets do eventually break down causing a tracking problem. At that point, the litter also becomes stinky and needs to be replaced.
Cat on a budget tip !
kitten putting money in piggy bank
Look for bulk cat litter
If you live in a rural area, like us, you may be able to buy bulk cat litter.
Look for large bags of pine or other wood pellets that are used for horse stall bedding … and save some kitty cash.
If you know of other materials that can be used as bulk cat litter, please share them here.
World’s Best Cat Litter
Odor is controlled by protein molecules in the corn. The manufacturer states,
… World’s Best contains “no synthetic chemicals, clays or perfumes.”
… the litter outlasts traditional clumping clay litters because of quick clumping properties, keeping the remaining litter dry.
World’s Best comes in three basic formulas: Clumping, Multi-Cat Clumping and Scented Multiple Cat Clumping.
Some manufacturers of self cleaning litter boxes recommend this brand because it does not have a gummy texture and will not clog the machines.
Many cat owners love this brand. It does cost more than most but the manufacturer states you use less.
… a biodegradable and renewable resource
World’s Best Litter review
We had a tracking problem with World’s Best litter. It clumped well but did not offer outstanding odor control. In our minds, it was comparable to Swheat Scoop. Our cats had no problem adjusting to it.
Arm & Hammer Cat Litter
Their Essential Multi-Cat Natural Clumping Litter is also corn based.
Combined with baking soda to control odors, and plant extracts, it is a gentle combination that is earth friendly.
Good for your cat, good for your family.
It has a soft texture which cats like and is descibed as absorbing twice as much moisture as clay litters.
Look for the green top. (Arm & Hammer also produce clay based litter products.)
… corn is biodegradable and a renewable resource.
Swheat Scoop Natural Wheat Cat Litter
Secondary grade wheat is naturally processed into an environmentally friendly litter with clumping properties. When exposed to moisture the natural wheat starches begin the clumping process. Wheat enzymes do their bit and help to neutralize unpleasant odors.
Swheat litter is chemical and fragrance free and described as safe and non-toxic for cats and kittens should they swallow some while grooming.
… a biodegradable and renewable resource
Swheat cat litter review
We found this litter to be a bit messy and somewhat dusty. Unless you use liners, it can get gummy and stick to the litter box. We found SWheat and World’s Best Cat Litter to be somewhat alike. Both litters were made available to our cats at once and they had no preference.
Yesterday’s News Litter
This litter really does embrace the concept of recycling and is made from recycled newspapers. In pellet form, it is an almost completely dust free, tends not to get tracked all through your home, and is three times more absorbent than clay.
It is available in two textures, original and softer. The softer texture tends to resemble sand, which is appealing to cats. Yesterday’s News is also recommended by veterinarians for cats recovering from surgery.
… this biodegradable litter is plant based and trees are a renewable resource.
Yesterday’s News review
We used the pellet type. There was very little tracking.
You definitely need to scoop the soiled pellets at least daily. If you don’t scoop, this litter can develop a powerful ammonia-like smell within a few days.
We found that the soiled pellets can be a bit difficult to see because of their dark color.
If you change your brand of kitty litter, do so gradually
Cats are very much creatures of habit and don’t adjust quickly to any sudden changes.
Over a period of a few weeks, add some of the new to the old type. Start with about one part new on the bottom of the litter box with four parts of the old litter on top. As your cat paws at the litter, to cover its latest deposit, the litters will mix. Continue to increase the new portion when you clean the litter box.

protects your pet … when you’re on the move

Whether you are taking your pet cat for a short trip across town or planning a major move, owning a suitable cat carrier is a must do, because:]
A pet on the loose in a car can become a projectile should you be in an accident. If you are rear ended your pet will go flying – even if he is being held. Your pet can distract the driver, or jump out a window. Pets are quite capable of accidentally activating power windows. Being trapped in a rising window could cause serious injury or worse
Emergencies can occur at any time – an injury, a sudden illness, and hopefully not, an evacuation. Don’t assume disaster reception centers will have large supplies of carriers and other types of pet containment readily available for your pet
Cats often take right off, in a flash, if startled or frightened. Cats feel safer in an enclosed area. For their security and your peace of mind, they need to be safely confined. Lost cats are not always easily found.
If your cat is very nervous or scared, cover the carrier with a small blanket, he should calm down. Just make sure there is still some ventilation. Extremely frightened cats (and ferals) can actually hurt themselves if they are thrashing around in a carrier.
Which type of carrier should you choose?
Will you be making a short trip or travelling for many hours or days? Will you be transporting your pet on an airline or other type of public transportation?
What is the personality of your pet? Cats who tend to be skittish or easily frightened can and have ripped holes in soft sided carriers. On the other hand, some cats with calmer dispositions just love them.
Whichever type you choose the two important safety considerations are sturdy construction and ventilation. Travelling can be very stressful for your cat … stressed out felines tend to breathe more quickly. Your cat carrier should provide good ventilation on at least three sides of the carrier.
Some carriers are airline approved, for cargo or cabin use. If traveling internationally, look for carriers that are compliant with IATA (International Air Transport Association) Live Animals Regulations, which is a good measure of overall quality.
The three most common types of carriers for travelling with your pet are:
Hard sided carriersthree cute kittens looking out from the inside of a hard cat carrier
Hard carriers are a popular choice for travelling with your cat and
considered to be the safest type of carrier overall. Hard carriers are
fully enclosed and many, but not all, are constructed with durable,
sturdy plastics.
Hard sided carriers are widely accepted on airlines for travelling in the
cargo hold. Your pet’s carrier will be his fortress …
make sure it’s tough. Test it yourself for strength. Fill it with something
heavy, like a large bag of food and make sure it doesn’t droop or warp.
One carrier I owned (and it wasn’t cheap) was made of somewhat thinner plastic than most. It was so pliable, I could open the door without undoing the latches, just by lifting on the plastic. How safe would your pet be in a cargo hold? Check it out – you shouldn’t be able to bend the plastic at all.
Steel mesh doors are, of course, stronger and safer than plastic. The door should be properly hinged, attached to the bottom and top of the carrier with four metal rods. Some rods penetrate more deeply into the shell of the carrier and are considerably more secure.
Look for a strong handle that will support your pet’s weight. Larger carriers, intended for a larger or more than one pet, have no handles. In that case, removable wheels and a pulling strap can be purchased as accessories.
Locking mechanisms and plastic clips should be in working order. Nuts, bolts and screws can become loose over time. Make sure they’re tight.
A protruding rim on the outside of a hard carrier will help ensure ventilation is not accidentally blocked.
Soft cat carriers
Some soft carriers are designed for traveling. If traveling by air be sure to check with your airline carrier and get specific instructions well in advance of your trip. Only some airlines will allow you to bring a soft sided cat carrier in the cabin with you. These carriers are designed to fit under your seat. There are no hard and fast rules – every airline has their own regulations and requirements. Ensure the measurements they give you are for soft cat carriers, not hard, as there is often some confusion.
All latches and zippers should be working properly – the more locking devices, the sturdier the pinch latches – the safer your pet will be. Soft sided carriers should not collapse in the middle under the weight of your pet. Some are framed and have supportive rods running from top to bottom and corner to corner.
For short every day trips soft carrier totes and bags are quite popular and fashionable. However, small dogs are generally much better suited for this type of carrier than cats. A dog’s everyday lifestyle usually already includes exposure to public places such as parks and sidewalks and most dogs are used to car travel. Do consider your cat’s safety, disposition and comfort level. Cats and dogs are really two different creatures (but both lovable).
Cardboard cat carriers
Cardboard cat carriers are not recommended. A vet or animal shelter might provide you with one, as a temporary means of transporting your pet, if you have no cat carrier with you.
Frightened felines can panic and claw their way out. My neighbor’s no-nonsense Siamese cat had his cardboard carrier shredded to bits within minutes. Your pet might urinate. If you are travelling in wet weather, soggy cardboard will not protect your pet.
If you’re on a budget, look for hard carriers at thrift stores and garage sales. Give them a good clean, disinfect them and check them for sturdiness.

Recognizing cat illness symptoms

… because cats are masters at hiding the fact that they are not well. Your pet cat still acts like a cat in the wild and will hide any sign of weakness … to avoid attracting the attention of predators.
As tough as we like to think cats are – some health problems can become life threatening within only a day or two. Early detection increases the likelihood that treatment will be successful … and it can also cut down on your trips to the vet.
It helps to be observant and know what is normal for your cat so you can recognize the first symptoms of illness. Below are some common symptoms, some are obvious and others easy to miss.
… have behavior or habits changed … even slightly
… are there any changes in physical appearance or the ability to move about easily
… changes in eating or drinking patterns … weight … litter box contents or behavior
… discharge from any body opening, an unusual lump, sometimes hidden beneath the fur
picture of a cat hidden, under a bed
Sick cats or cats in pain will often find a quiet, dark place to hide – crouching in a corner, under the bed, in a closet … in an effort to conserve energy or avoid painful movement.
Don’t let a sick cat outdoors, it could find another hiding spot.
One symptom can be common to many diseases and health problems.
Only your veterinarian is able to properly diagnose your cat.
Some cat illness symptoms include:
Lethargy
… which is a general decline in activity or a lack of interest in anything that goes on. Your feline may slow down, move very little, appear to be in a daze, show no interest in family and sleep more than usual. Illness often causes depression in cats, which doesn’t help matters.
Is your cat talking to you?
Is your cat unusually quiet or loud? Yowling and other odd sounds emanating from your cat deserve your attention.
Monitor your cat’s food and water intake carefully
… Increased thirst can be a symptom of diabetes or other illness. You can’t always monitor your cat’s drinking habits but may be able to keep an eye on the litter box activity
… Advise your vet if you notice an unexplained increase or loss of appetite
… Contact your veterinarian immediately if your feline is not drinking, having trouble with urinating (peeing) or not urinating at all.
Weight
Loosing a pound or so might be a triumph for some of us but for the average pet cat, even half a pound (227 grams) can be a significant weight loss. Sick cats often loose their appetite. Unexplained changes in weight, up or down, sudden or gradual should be reported to your veterinarian.
Feline Fatty Liver Disease
If your overweight cat stops eating for a few days, he or she could develop “fatty liver disease” (hepatic lipidosis or HL). To compensate for lack of food the bloodstream delivers fat to the liver; the liver then converts the fat to protein, a source of energy for the body. The liver basically becomes overwhelmed and felines then become seriously ill.
Feline symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, dehydration and jaundice (yellowing of the skin). Fatty liver disease can be fatal and requires immediate medical treatment. If you plan to put your overweight cat on a diet, discuss it with your vet first.
(Unfortunately, fat cats have become commonplace
… especially on Wall Street.)
picture of a fat cat (a lioness) smiling
a smiling, fat cat
Changes in litter box contents
If your kitty is going to drop a few hints that it is not well, it will probably be in the litter box. Watch for changes in:
… the color and consistency of feces (poop)
… increased urination (caused by excessive thirst) – resulting in larger litter clumps
or wet spots
… dribbles of urine that could signal a blockage of the urinary tract
… the presence of blood or mucus in urine or stools
FULTD – Feline Urinary Lower Tract Disease or FUS
FULTD is a common and serious disease and deserves immediate attention. In some cases, it can be fatal if not treated.
Symptoms of urinary tract disease include:
… frequent trips to the litter box
… squatting and straining to urinate with little or no results
… crying or howling because urinating is painful
… dribbling urine or unable to urinate at all
… excessive urinating
… incontinence – inability to control urinating of defecating
(often confused with a behavioral problem)
… blood or mucus in the urine
… excessive licking of the genitals
A blockage of the urinary tract (the urethra or bladder) can cause kidney failure. A blocked urethra tends to occur in males more frequently because their urethra is shorter. It is a life threatening condition and must be treated immediately.
(Straining to urinate is easily confused with straining to poop.)
Some veterinarians believe that the increase in urinary tract problems and problems involving the bowels are directly related to the introduction of dry cat food (kibble) … which is a creation of the pet food industry. Dry cat food does not resemble a cat’s natural diet, which is meat (protein based) and moist.
Were a cat’s organs designed to process and eliminate dehydrated kibble? That’s food for thought.
Vomiting
Cats often vomit hairballs and grass because they irritate the stomach, which is normal. When your kitty eats too quickly or too much he might vomit the food up shortly after. If your cat vomits once or twice but appears normal after, the problem usually is not serious.
On the other hand, vomiting is symptom common to many diseases, infection or intestinal parasites. Cats will vomit if they have eaten anything poisonous. Prolonged vomiting can cause dehydration. If your cat or kitten vomits repeatedly, or you see blood or anything unusual in the vomit, get in touch with your veterinarian right away.
Diarrhea
Diarrhea is a cat illness symptom that’s hard to miss. Contact your veterinarian if it lasts more than a day or contains blood, mucus, or dark stools. Diarrhea is a symptom shared by many diseases and health disorders. It can cause dehydration in your pet. Take a sample of the diarrhea with you if you’re taking your cat to the vet.
Constipation
a common health problem – in its mild form, feces remain in the colon for two to three days and later appear in the litter box as small, hard and dry stools or softer stools, somewhat like diarrhea. Symptom – straining to poop, possibly painful. With chronic constipation or megacolon, hard stool matter fills the large intestine, resulting in a bloated appearance, loss of appetite and lethargy.
Dehydration
Dehydration is an excessive loss of body fluids (and electrolytes), often resulting from prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, fever or overheating. For some cats, there is simply no water available to drink.
In a dehydrated cat, skin will loose its elasticity. To check for dehydration, gently pull a clump of skin on the back of the cat’s neck up, into a fold and let go. Normally, the skin will immediately snap back into place. If the skin remains in a ridge and does not return to its normal position instantly, your cat is likely dehydrated.
Another symptom is dryness of the mouth. Gums, which should be wet, are dry and tacky to the touch. For overweight and older cats, whose skin is tight or already has lost its elasticity, use this test to check for dehydration.
Dehydration can be life threatening – contact your vet for advice.
Coughing
Cats do cough up or vomit hairballs, which usually takes less than a minute. Persistent coughing is not normal and may be a symptom of asthma, an upper respiratory infection, parasites or other disease.
Sneezing can be a reaction to irritants or pollen in the air or a symptom of a flu virus.
Upper Respiratory Infections
These viruses produce some cat illness symptoms that are similar to our colds or flu – sneezing, coughing, runny nose and eyes but are far more serious. Cats might run a fever and loose interest in eating or drinking. Secondary bacterial infections can also develop.
URI is highly contagious. In some cases, a shelter with an infected cat will close its doors to all incoming felines until the virus is under control. Some felines recover fully and some do not survive. Give your vet a call to be on the safe side.
Eyes
Eyes are considered to be windows to the soul but they can also provide some clues to your cat’s overall health. When your feline is well eyes are bright and clear; the pupils are centered and of equal size and the eyes are moist.
Discharge from one or both eyes can be a symptom of infection or disease. Pupils that are not equal in size can be a symptom of head injury. Eyes should not be dry or hazy … swollen, bulging or sunken.
The third eyelid (nictitating membrane) is a somewhat transparent white fold of skin which appears from the inner corner of a cat’s eye. Normally not visible when a cat is awake, its appearance can signal that your cat is sick and possibly in pain.
Cat ears should be clean, free of any odor, discharge … swelling, scabbing and injury
Symptoms of ear irritation or infection are discharge, scratching, fussing with the ear and head shaking. Ear infections are serious and can be complex. Hearing and balance can be affected by infections of the middle and inner ear. If the infections are allowed to progress your cat’s face may become partially paralyzed on the infected side and the head will be held at a tilted angle. Eyes may dart about in a jerking manner. As with other health problems, the third eyelid may appear and partially cover the eye.
Ear mites are common health problem in cats and kittens and look like tiny white specks, sometimes moving. Look for a dark waxy discharge from the ears resembling coffee grounds that may have a foul odor. Cats typically shake their heads and scratch at their ears – which can create areas of rawness, scabbing, loss of hair … and possibly a secondary bacterial infection. Ear mites can easily infect other cats and dogs. Your vet can recommend treatment.
Do contact your vet for a professional diagnosis.
Mouth and Teeth
It’s fair to say that some of the same symptoms that send us running to the dentist are affecting your cat’s dental health as well. Teeth should be clear of excessive tartar, especially at the gum line and the gums should be pink and moist. Loosening teeth, bleeding gums or swelling are not good.
If your cat is having difficulty eating or is eating less, drooling or dropping food it may be suffering because of a painful abscess in the root of a tooth or other dental disease.
The mouth, tongue and lips should be clear of any sores, lacerations … or anything that looks unusual. Bad breath may be caused by bacteria or infections in the mouth but can also be a symptom of diabetes and other serious diseases.
Lumps or bumps
Don’t ignore wounds, sores, blemishes, lumps or bumps that do not heal in a few days. Periodically run your hands over your cat’s body (which you can do while brushing your cat) so you can identify anything new or unusual.
Is your cat continuing to groom itself?
Cats that are healthy and content spend about ten percent of their waking hours grooming. Felines don’t groom because they want to look good; a well maintained coat actually enhances good health. Fur protects their skin from injury, sunburn and warms them when it’s cold. Their saliva cools them when it’s warm and also has antiseptic properties. If this critical part of their daily routine is faltering, chances are all is not well.
Cats are totally dependant on us to provide them with the health care they need … do fine tune your antennae so you can easily recognize symptoms of illness in your cat.

Cats and Petting Aggression

having a warm and fuzzy petting session is one of the perks of owning a cat.
When your contented, pampered cat suddenly turns and delivers a bite or scratch to your unsuspecting hand, he or she is exhibiting a cat behaviour known as petting aggression.
Felines, by nature, do not allow us to pet them. This is a learned behavior.
Some domestic cats have a built in tolerance level for being pet or handled. When your cat has had enough, for whatever reason, a reflex reaction kicks in and your cat will ‘attack’ …
nip, bite or scratch at the source of its discomfort, in this case your hand, in order to stop the petting session.
Why a cat is bothered by too much petting is not fully understood.
Some possibilities:
… a cat’s skin is very sensitive. It is thinner than ours and easily irritated. Too much petting (or brushing) can cause the receptors in the skin to be over stimulated.
What sensation a cat is feeling isn’t clear (irritation, pain) – what is clear is that your cat can suddenly start feeling very uncomfortable.
… some cats simply don’t want certain parts of their body touched – hips, paws, lower back, usually the stomach …
… is there a medical problem? Your cat might be telling you something is very wrong and something really hurts.
… static electricity is zapping your cat.
… has the cat been socialized – is it used to human interaction and trusting of people? Is your cat comfortable with the person who is handling it?
… in some ways, petting your cat is similar to a mother grooming her kitten. Like a kitten your cat relaxes, while you, mother cat, protect and ‘groom’ it.
Perhaps your cat suddenly ‘wakes up,’ realizes you don’t look like its mother, feels vulnerable in this relaxed state and reacts defensively by biting your hand.
… your feline feels confined – don’t hold a cat against its will.
dividing line
Cats do communicate with us and do provide us with warning
It is most helpful if you and your family learn and understand cat behaviours and body language. Your cat is ‘talking’ to you when:
… the purring slowly stops
… her tail begins to twitch, or even lash from side to side
… ears are no longer erect, but flattened
… she becomes tense and stiffens her body
… claws start to appear
… the skin ripples
… she turns her body and moves her head toward your hand (good clue)
… it gives a low growl.
If your cat is displaying any of the above warnings, or you have already received a bite or scratch, stop, and put your hands to your sides. Gently blow in its face.
You can stand slowly, so your cat easily slides off, and then walk away. He or she might sit quietly, or simply jump off your lap and leave.cat running away
In a situation where your cat is acting aggressively, always allow your cat to ‘escape’ and leave the scene … which is in everyone’s best interest.
Let your cat calm down.
If you punish or scare your cat he or she will be even less relaxed around you and more likely to repeat aggressive behavior in the future.
An ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.
To avoid petting aggresson, watch for the warning signals. Know your cat’s tolerance levels for petting, handling and its sensitive body parts.
Take note of how long your cat actually enjoys the petting session.
My maine coon, Ruttu, (bless his soul) was quite aloof. He was also sensitive to petting and did not like his lower back being touched … at all. Petting sessions were brief. I didn’t push him (he was pretty big) and he never bit me.
Over time, he began to welcome petting sessions (they were still brief) and followed me around looking for attention. I guess he knew a good thing when he saw it and made up for lost time.