Category Archives: Health

Scratching Posts and Pedicures

Groovy cat needs a nail trim!

Scratching is a natural behavior in cats. Not only is it a way for your kitty to stretch and keep their claws healthy, but scratching is also a marking behavior that allows a cat to stake a claim on a territory. In today’s post, we will discuss how to redirect your kitty’s natural scratching behavior to appropriate places and how to perform a feline pedicure!

Cats like to stretch out when they scratch, so most prefer tall scratching posts

Scratching posts and pads

If you want to protect your furniture and carpets from kitty nails, you’ll want to give your cat plenty of places she’s allowed to scratch. Most cats enjoy tall scratching surfaces, such as cat trees, because they can stretch out while scratching. Kitties have different substrate preferences, so you might have to do a little experimenting to figure out what your cat’s preferred fabric type is.  The cheap corrugated cardboard scratchers are surprisingly popular with kitties, despite not offering any height for stretching.

In order to direct your cat’s scratching behavior to the proper places, you’ll want to entice her.  If your kitty has begun scratching a specific piece of furniture, you’ll want to start by placing the  scratching post or pad near the spot she’s been scratching. You can also entice her with catnip, which will make the post, tree, or scratch pad more appealing. Once she has decided that her new tree or post is the best place to scratch, you can gradually move it away from the

Sadie is crazy for catnip!

furniture to the place it will stay. Make sure to refresh the catnip scent periodically to keep your kitty interested!

Nail trim time!

Trimming your cat’s nails can seem daunting, but once you get the hang of it (and familiarize your kitty with the routine), it is something that can easily be done at home.  The first step is to familiarize your cat with having her paws handled. Cats generally don’t like having their feet touched, so this could take some time. Make sure to provide some type of positive reinforcement, such as treats, canned food, or petting, and keep the sessions brief at first. As your cat becomes more comfortable with having her paws handled, gently squeeze and manipulate her toes. Once this is tolerated, you can begin learning to trim her nails!

Applying gentle pressure just above the toenail will extend the nail

Sit your kitty on your lap or somewhere else where she’s comfortable. If you think you might require help, don’t be afraid to ask a friend to cuddle your cat while you trim her nails! Gently grasp your cat’s paw in your hand and apply slight pressure to the joint just above her nail–this will extend the nail out so that the entire surface is visible.

Cut the nail slightly below the end of the quick to avoid causing pain or bleeding


Once the nail is visible, look for the quick. This is a pink area that extends from the nail bed downward. You’ll want to trim the nail a few millimeters below the quick to avoid causing your kitty any pain or bleeding.

If your cat gets anxious or restless during the process, stop. You want to make the experience as pleasant as possible for all parties involved. Make sure to include treats and cuddles into the routine to keep the experience as positive as possible. If you can only trim a nail or two a day, that is fine! Most kitties will require nail trims every three to four weeks, though growing kittens usually need them more frequently.

Nail Caps

Sadie showing off her hot pink Soft Paws

Marketed under the names Soft Paws and Soft Claws, nail caps are a great way to prevent your cat from causing damage when she scratches. They come in a variety of colors, and application is simple. To apply a nail cap, simply trim your cat’s nails as usual, then load the cap with a drop of glue and slide it over the nail. They last three to four weeks for most kitties, and they’re fashionable too!

While many cats can learn to tolerate nail trimming, we appreciate that some cats are difficult to handle. Most groomers and veterinary offices will perform a nail trim for a low fee, and will even patiently walk you through the process if you want to learn how.

Diamond Joins the Biggest Loser Club!

The embarrassing "before" photo of Diamond at his highest weight

You might have read our post on feline obesity a few months ago. If you did, you saw our housecat, Diamond, showing off his rather rotund figure. Diamond hit an all-time high weight of nearly 16 pounds and was scored as a seven out of nine on the Body Condition Scale (which made him officially obese!) around Thanksgiving of 2011, so we knew we had to take action.

Diamond’s weight loss plan

After Diamond’s shocking weigh-in, a diet plan was made based on a target weight of about 15 pounds. Because he is a master at stealing food from other cats, our technicians had to make sure all cats were fed in the back of their cages, and that Diamond was never around during morning and evening treatment times, when food is often out on counters.

Body Condition Score chart: Diamond is currently a 6.5, down from a 7

Once his diet was restricted, Diamond lost weight very quickly; his first two weekly weigh-ins showed a steep drop in weight–from his initial weight of 16 pounds to 14.94 in a few weeks! This sharp downward curve brought us to the realization that our little guy was far better at stealing food from our patients than we’d realized, as we’d been fairly conservative with his diet. His weight loss leveled off after that–he’s been losing a healthy 0.2 pounds a week since his initial few weigh-ins. To date, Diamond has lost 1.75 pounds!

Obstacles Diamond faces on his journey:

Weight loss is never easy, and Diamond has been very vocal about his struggles! Not only is he a master at stealing food from patients, Diamond has also been known to nab Sadie’s breakfast and coax treats out of employees and clients alike. In order to prevent him from excessive snacking, we have to feed him in an exam room, while Archie eats in his favorite cage and Sadie in an upstairs office.  To prevent him from complaining to the front desk staff constantly, a portion of his allotted food is set aside as “treats” to be doled out throughout the day.

If only Diamond knew we were posting unflattering photos of him on the internet...

Because Diamond is a very skilled food thief, everyone in the office needs to be on their toes! He’s managed to sneak into food supplies a few times, both by stealing from patients and by ripping into bags of food for sale, and Sadie has definitely had her breakfast stolen once or twice, but for the most part, we’ve managed to prevent episodes of thievery.

Diamond’s inactive lifestyle is also a contributing factor. When he first came to us, Diamond was obsessed with playing fetch. He would chase a toy mouse for hours! These days, he’s much less active; he’ll play for a few minutes at a time every once in a while, but his activity level is nowhere near what it used to be. We’ve been making him chase his kibble “treats” by tossing one piece at a time down the hall, and we’ve discovered he loves a particular wand toy, so that is used to engage him in small bursts of exercise. We try to get him to run around for a few minutes at a time several times daily to increase his metabolism.

Diamond dreaming of food

Diamond’s progress

As of today, Diamond weighs 14.3 pounds, which is the lightest he’s been in years. Our hope is to get him down to about 12.5 pounds, though we will re-assess his goal weight at each weigh-in.


Why we’re publicly embarrassing our handsome friend

We see overweight and obese cats on a daily basis. We try our best to stress to owners how important it is to get their kitties to a healthy weight, but we’re often met with resistance due to a variety of circumstances. Some of the reasons people are resistant to dieting their cats include feeding more than one cat, having a cat used to eating all day long, having a very vocal cat who begs for food, changing feeding schedules from once daily or all day to several times daily, and fears that their cat will resent them. Some people even prefer their cats chunky because they feel it’s cute, despite knowing this excess weight is harmful. We hope that sharing Diamond’s story (and demonstrating that he’s adorable at any weight!) will help people who are hesitant about weight control feel confident that they can manage it.

We will be updating everyone on Diamond’s weight loss journey from time to time. We think it’s important for cat owners to realize it can be done, regardless of how many cats are in your household or how much your kitty loves to eat!

Chronic Renal Failure pt. 3: Subcutaneous Fluids

In our last two posts, we discussed Chronic Renal Failure and how it is managed. Today, we’re going to give step-by-step instructions on how to administer subcutaneous fluids, one of the key treatments for animals with renal disease. 

Ali (possibly our all-time favorite CRF kitty!) has been receiving subcutaneous fluids for several years now

Why do we give subcutaneous fluids? 

There are a number of reasons why a cat might require fluid administration under the skin at home. Chronic kidney disease is probably the most common reason because CRF kitties need extra fluids–beyond what they are able to drink–to flush renal toxins out of their systems.  Sometimes a sick patient will not reliably drink enough water and extra fluid administration is required, or perhaps an oral injury may preclude drinking and thus extra fluids are needed.  In any case, if you are reading this, fluids under the skin have probably been recommended for your pet, you have received a demonstration on fluid administration, and this guide is meant as a handy “tip sheet’ for when you are on your own at home with your pet.

*Disclaimer: Subcutaneous fluids should not be administered without the direction and supervision of a veterinarian. *

What you will need:

  • needles: Needles come in various sizes. The rule of thumb is the lower the number, the faster the flow (but this also means the needle is bigger). Find the lowest gauge your cat will tolerate.

Needles by size. The lower the gauge number, the larger the needle and the faster the fluids will flow.

Continue reading

Chronic Renal Failure Pt. 2

In part two of our series on Chronic Renal Failure, we’re discussing some of the treatments used to manage the symptoms associated with CRF. 

Ali is an adorable 21 year old kitty who has been living with CRF for several years

Your cat has just been diagnosed with kidney disease, and you’re worried and a little overwhelmed by the changes your veterinarian has suggested. Perhaps you’ve been told your cat needs a special diet. Maybe she needs medications, or even fluids. Today, we’re going to list some of the more commonly prescribed treatments associated with kidney disease and explain why they’re used.

  • Diet: There are several prescription diets on the market today that area tailored to cats with CRF. Kidney-friendly diets will have lower levels of protein to ease the workload of the kidneys, as well as decreased levels of phosphorus and sodium. They will also often contain increased levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, amino acids, and B vitamins to make up for vitamins and minerals lost from excessive urination.
  • Phosphorus binders: As the kidneys lose their ability to excrete phosphorus, it becomes important to limit the levels your cat takes in through his diet. In addition to dietary measures, oral medications might be used to bind to extra phosphorus in the kidney to aid in secretion. Phosphorus binders must be given immediately before, after, or with food so they can help the kidney excrete excess phosphorus in food. Common drug names are Sucralfate, Carafate, and Amphogel.
  • Nausea medications: Cats with renal disease can experience

    Appetite stimulants can cause increased activity and vocalization

    nausea as a results of the buildup of toxins in their systems. Anti-nausea medications such as Pepcid (Famotidine), Zantac (Ranitidine), Cerenia, and Anzemet (Dolasetron) can help reduce nausea and therefore increase appetite and provide a better quality of life.

  • Appetite stimulants: Because of the nausea associated with renal disease, some cats will refuse food.  Appetite stimulants such as Cyproheptadine and Mirtazipine can make anorexic cats feel hungry. Mirtazipine also has the added benefit of reducing nausea. Both Cyproheptadine and Mirtazipine can cause some behavioral changes in kitties such as increased activity and vocalization.
  • Amlodipine: As we mentioned in the first installment of this series, cats with kidney disease often become hypertensive because they kidneys play a key role in regulating blood pressure. Amlodipine (a generic of Norvasc) is a blood pressure medication that is commonly prescribed to cats with renal insufficiency. Amlodipine is not metabolized through the kidneys, making it safe for cats with compromised kidney function.
  • Epogen: As kidney function decreases, the kidneys lose their ability to create erithropoiten, the hormone that controls the production of red blood cells. Epogen is a hormone injection given to severely anemic cats to stimulate the manufacturing of red blood cells.
  • Potassium: Cats with renal disease will often experience some weakness when their potassium levels become low. Potassium supplements can improve their mobility and quality of life significantly. These can come in pill form, powder form (both pill and powder form are marketed under the name Tumil-K), or even be added to a fluid bag.
  • Fluids: Subcutaneous (given under the skin) fluids can be given to help the kidneys filter out toxins and keep the cat hydrated. In acute renal failure cats, intravenous (commonly called “IV”) fluids are often given during hospitalization to stabilize their condition, followed by regular subcutaneous fluids at home to maintain their kidney function. While injecting your cat with fluids at home might seem daunting, it is fairly easy to do once a comfort level is achieved. Most cats tolerate the administration of fluids well, especially if given positive reinforcement during the treatment.

    Subcutaneous fluid set-up: Fluid bag, line, and needle

This week was an overview of some of the common treatments for cats with kidney disease. Next week, we will post step-by-step instructions on administering injections and subcutaneous fluids! 

Chronic Renal Failure Pt. 1

Because of the large amount of information out there about kidney disease, we are dividing this post into a few installments. This week, we’re discussing what Chronic Renal Failure is, what the symptoms are, and how it is diagnosed. We will discuss treatment and progression in further blog posts.

Chronic renal failure, or kidney disease, is one of the most common diseases affecting older cats. In most cases, renal disease progresses slowly over time, resulting in a gradual onset of symptoms over months or even years. Regular exams and labwork can help diagnose renal disease in the early stages.

Cats with renal disease will drink and urinate more than usual

What do the kidneys do?

The kidneys have several important functions: They act as filters, ridding the body of toxins (primarily urea and creatinine) and maintaining electrolyte balance. They produce erythropoietin, which helps the body create red blood cells, and renin, which regulates blood pressure. Lastly, the kidneys produce and concentrate urine, which flushes the filtered toxins out of the body. When a cat’s kidney function is compromised, waste products build up in the bloodstream, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and sodium levels become imbalanced, and the ability to produce red blood cells and regulate blood pressure is affected. Compromised kidneys will have to work harder to rid the body of toxins, producing more urine and causing dehydration when the cat cannot drink enough water to make up for the amount she is losing.

What are the signs of CRF?

A cat with renal disease might exhibit any of the following symptoms:

Stevie (R) stopped grooming himself when his kidney disease advanced.

  • increased drinking and urination
  • weight loss
  • vomiting (food or clear liquid/foam)
  • nausea/lip smacking
  • drooling
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle wasting
  • constipation
  • decreased grooming/poor hair coat
  • bad breath
  • weakness
  • dehydration
  • hovering over water dish
If you notice your kitty experiencing any of these symptoms, you should have an exam and basic labwork done to rule out kidney disease and other health issues. 

What are the causes of CRF?

Persian cats are genetically predisposed to PKD

Chronic renal failure is typically a disease of older cats, though genetics, diet, and other disease processes can play a role in declining kidney function. In many cases, the kidneys simply “wear out” when the nephrons that eliminate waste products and keep electrolytes in balance begin to die off, decreasing the kidneys’ ability to filter out toxins. CRF can also be the result of genetic issues such as Polycystic Kidney Disease, which is most common in Persian-type cats. With PKD, cysts develop in the kidneys and normal function is lost. Cats can also be born with abnormalities to one or both kidneys, or with only one kidney. In these cases, the functioning kidney is under more stress than it would be in a cat with two normal kidneys.

Dental disease can contribute to CRF if left untreated; bacteria from the oral cavity get into the bloodstream and force the kidneys to work harder. It is important to your cat’s kidney health to address dental heath issues as they occur. High blood pressure can be a product of kidney disease, but it can also cause damage to the kidneys by increasing their workload. Urinary tract infections, if left untreated, can lead to kidney disease and kidney infections, and stones can cause both chronic and acute kidney disease. Regular health screening can catch theses issues before they cause too much damage.

Acute Renal Failure

Chronic renal failure is a progressive deterioration of the kidneys, but cats can also experience acute renal failure when their kidneys abruptly cease functioning. This can be caused by urinary obstructions, infection, trauma, and the ingestion of toxins. Cats in acute renal failure experience an abrupt shutdown of kidney function and need immediate medical intervention  if they are to survive.

Keeping your cat's pearly whites free of plaque can prevent kidney damage.

How is CRF diagnosed?

There are several conditions with symptoms similar to those seen in cats with CRF. The only way to know for sure is to have your veterinarian run laboratory tests checking your cat’s blood chemistries and ability to concentrate urine. It is also recommended to screen for high blood pressure, especially in geriatric cats and those who are suspect for kidney disease.


Check back next week for more information about CRF!