Vets Can Now Legally Treat FIP In Cats, Thanks To COVID

FIP antiviral treatment

The nightmare is almost over. Until very recently, a diagnosis of Feline Infectious Peritonitis was a death sentence. Either a slow, lingering decline or a decision to euthanase and spare the suffering. This happened to around 1% of cats, most of them still kittens.

Then it was discovered that certain antiviral drugs could not only improve the symptoms, they could actually bring about a cure. But there was still a hitch.

Continue reading “Vets Can Now Legally Treat FIP In Cats, Thanks To COVID”

Why Are Sneezing & Watery Eyes So Common In Kittens?

kitten eye infection

There’s a very good reason why so many kittens come with sneezes, runny eyes or coughs. This is true whether it’s a young kitten with continuous symptoms, or an older cat where the problem seems to get better and then come back.

Once you know it, a lot of other common cat illnesses start to make sense.

To understand what’s special about cat diseases, you need to look at how they began. So stick with me! What I’m about to discuss could be the most important health issue of cats.

Continue reading “Why Are Sneezing & Watery Eyes So Common In Kittens?”

Is It OK To Give A Cat Only Dry Food?

cat eating

Listen to this rubbish.

If your cat only eats dry food, she is likely to be getting less nutrition than a cat eating wet food. Many low-quality dry foods contain a lot of fillers.

https://www.catster.com/cat-food/wet-cat-food-vs-dry-cat-food 13/6/2020

Throwaway lines like these are typical of the overly simplistic advice you find online about feline nutrition. The truth takes a deeper look. To know whether wet, dry or both are best for your cat, we need to talk about:

  • nutritional adequacy & completeness
  • fillers in wet & dry cat food
  • the risk of obesity
  • diseases associated with wet & dry foods
  • other alternative cat diets

Let’s dive in!

Continue reading “Is It OK To Give A Cat Only Dry Food?”

Which Cat Scratcher Do Cats Use Most?

cat on scratcher

We all know that cats like to ‘sharpen their claws’, but it’s amazing how little we actually know about it. Yet scratching in cats is extremely important.

It’s:

  • a genuine need of cats
  • a significant source of concern for cat owners
  • a leading cause of surrender to shelters
  • the excuse used for surgical declawing of cats

What you see here is typical of veterinary science. Pick a rare disease like arterial thromboembolism and you’ll find lots of good science. Pick a common, everyday, practical problem and it just doesn’t get the same attention.

Finally, I have something to tell you. For the first time, two recent studies have looked at scratcher preferences in kittens and adult cats. They offered cats choices and measured which ones they chose to use more often.

Continue reading “Which Cat Scratcher Do Cats Use Most?”

Help! My Cat Has A Bloated Stomach

cat swollen stomach

Essential facts (details below):

Causes Of A Swollen Belly In Cats

There are five likely causes for an enlarged abdomen in a young cat:

  • Intestinal worms, especially in untreated kittens up to three months of age
  • Pregnancy, in undesexed, free-roaming female cats
  • Abdominal fat deposition, which is usually easy to identify
  • Excessively large meals (swelling should come and go)
  • Feline infectious peritonitis or FIP
Continue reading “Help! My Cat Has A Bloated Stomach”

What Is The Best Cat Litter?

cat litter choices

I have no idea how most cat owners end up choosing a cat litter. If my experiences are anything to go by, it’s trial and error. I doubt they try more than a few before settling on a favourite.

This is a vet review of the common and popular types of cat litter in stores. I’ll help you understand:

  • the choices of cat litter
  • the problems with each type
  • and the evidence for which ones cats prefer
Continue reading “What Is The Best Cat Litter?”

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus & Your Cat

cat FIV infection

When I was young, like all kids, I wanted to know why everything happened. Having vets as parents, I can distinctly remember asking why male cats needed to be desexed.

“It’s because otherwise they fight so much that they get run down and die early.”

With the benefit of hindsight, this is pure folk wisdom. People could see that fighting was associated with sickness, but not yet why. Then, in 1986, hot on the heels of the discovery of the human AIDS virus, researchers in the USA put two and two together and found a feline AIDS virus in cats like these. We call it FIV.

Continue reading “Feline Immunodeficiency Virus & Your Cat”

Getting Cats To Eat Raw Chicken Necks

cat raw chicken

Let me tell you a story that shows what we’re up against.

I met a very perplexed feral cat researcher recently. In his study area the cats generally hunt and eat one common mammal. However, suddenly the population of that species crashed.

There were lots of other tasty critters still hopping around, some of which look nearly the same. Despite this, the cats began to starve.

Continue reading “Getting Cats To Eat Raw Chicken Necks”

Making A Wild Food For Your Cat

wild cat diet

There are four key differences between most commercial cat foods and the diets that cats have adapted to eat in the wild:

  1. High carbohydrate levels: cats eat almost no carbs in the wild
  2. Low moisture content: wild cats get most of their water from prey
  3. Plant-based proteins: proteins from animal sources have a higher value to the body
  4. Lack of texture: only physical cleaning seems to work on cats’ teeth

Depending on who you believe, you could add a fifth: Safety. That’s what we’re hopefully going to fix with the pet food senate inquiry.

Right now you might be thinking, “if these cat foods are so bad, why does my cat seem healthy?” Our page on What’s wrong with cat diets covers what we know about the link between cat foods and diseases like diabetes and cystitis.

Good Nutrition For Cats

So maybe you want to start a homemade diet for your cat, or maybe you just want to improve what your cat currently eats. Either way, you’ve come to the right place.

Making A Homemade Cat Diet

Getting cat nutrition right is harder than people think. Read here why it’s not just a matter of giving them meat and offal. Cats are highly specialised feeders and that comes with very specific requirements.

If you really want to make a balanced home made diet, you need the help of a genuine animal nutritionist. We can put you in touch with some who will, for a fee, construct a suitable diet based on your needs.

For most cat owners, the diet below should tick all the boxes.

A Practical Compromise Diet

Here’s what I do recommend for normal, healthy cats & kittens. I’m going to take the best ideas, add practicality, and make a good diet that anyone can do.

Step 1: Choose a low carb tinned food

The closest foods you can buy to what a cat needs are inside some, but not all tins. The idea is to find some quality ones with low carbohydrate levels. These are usually loaf-style without gravy or sauces.

Click here for a calculator & table of carbohydrate levels in Australian cat & kitten foods. You’ll see that there’s a tremendous variation between wet foods from very low to very high. There’s also a calculator so you can do it yourself. 

It’s probably more important to be low in total carbohydrate than grain free. With a bit of searching it should be possible to be both.

There is also a dry food option. Ziwi Peak have developed an air-dried complete and balanced food that manages to be both grain free and low carb. It seems a bit pricey to be a cat’s only food, but could be a good add-on.

Step 2: Add texture

Tins alone are bad for the teeth. Plaque removal is needed via either raw bones, dental biscuits or tooth brushing. You can read more about feline dental care here.

The ideal dental cleaning option for a grain free diet is a raw chicken neck every day.

I’ve written a guide to getting cats to eat chicken necks. However, for many adults it’s very hard, and often impossible.

For cats that won’t eat chicken necks, I advise a cat dental biscuit, especially if you can’t feed chicken necks. This is optional, as these diets are neither low carb or grain free. However, without dental foods, your cat will need frequent dental cleans.

Step 3: Add grass

I keep two pots of grass on the go. One in the house and one in ‘grass hospital’ where it recovers from being chewed. Cats have a strong drive to eat grass so it makes sense that we offer it.

That’s the diet! Now, remember those four problems? Let’s tick them off:

  1. Carbohydrate levels are kept low by a carefully selected tinned food and chicken necks
  2. Moisture content is moderate (with dry) or high without
  3. Animal-based proteins come from chicken necks
  4. Texture is in the necks

All while keeping the diet balanced and safe.

But let me say this in conclusion. There is clearly no feeding mistake as great as allowing obesity. If you can be strong enough to keep your cat at an ideal weight, you’re heading for an above-average lifespan. That’s almost regardless of the diet you choose.

Even though current diets aren’t ideal, it isn’t a disaster. Kittens and cats are far better off than before balanced diets were introduced and living longer than they ever did. Just talk to any retired vets, like my parents.

What would be a disaster is if cat owners are made to feel like they have to make their cats’ food instead of buying it. As I hope you can now see, it’s quite possible to feed your cat a biologically appropriate diet without reinventing the wheel.

Related: the unbalanced cat foods you’re not being warned about.

By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!
Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.

Help! My Kitten Has Cat Flu

feline calicivirus symptoms

‘At A Glance (Details Below)’

What Is Cat Flu?

  1. Cat flu isn’t influenza or a cold, it’s either a herpesvirus or calicivirus
  2. Symptoms include fever, not eating, and eye or respiratory infection
  3. Many infected cats become virus carriers or have lifelong problems
  4. Rarer conditions caused by cat flu include arthritis, gingivitis, eye damage, stillbirths & abortion

Now dive deeper.

A stray kitten was found in a backyard a few weeks ago. Like most people do, her finders never hesitated to give her a home. Straight away, however, they knew something was wrong.

That’s her pictured above and below. She’s obviously miserable, but it’s the second photo that shows what’s really going on. This is ‘cat flu’.

You probably diligently vaccinate your cat against flu but do you know what it is? Cat flu is nothing like what most people think. For a start, it’s not flu!

Common Symptoms Of Cat Flu

Cat flu just looks like a severe cold until you take a closer look. It causes:

cat flu symptoms
Mouth ulcers, conjunctivitis and nasal discharge in a poor kitty with cat flu
  • Fever, lethargy and not eating or drinking
  • Clear or yellow-green discharge from the eyes and nose
  • Sneezing, coughing and difficulty breathing (read the other causes of sneezing in cats here)
  • Ulcers on the mouth, tongue and occasionally the eyes

But that’s not all. These nasty viruses sometimes do a lot more damage. Other important effects can be:

  • Arthritis
  • Viral pneumonia
  • Stillbirth, abortion or birth defects

And yet, there’s still even more. Most of the time it doesn’t go away…

How Long Does Cat Flu Last?

For a simple, uncomplicated case of flu, a cat might be back to normal in seven days. However, in most cases, secondary bacterial infection of the eyes, nose, sinuses or chest increases both the severity and duration of the illness.

Cat flu is treated by:

  • TLC, fluid and nutrition support
  • Antibiotics and eye ointments for secondary infection
  • Bathing and steaming to reduce buildup of secretions
  • More TLC

Most of these cats will still make a full recovery, although they suffer quite a bit in the process. For many, though, and especially the young or neglected, long-term problems persist.

Long-Term Effects of Cat Flu

  • Chronic rhinitis is a nasal infection that persists for life
  • Stunted growth is common in infected kittens
  • Stomatitis-gingivitis complex is a severe mouth infection
  • Most cats who get infected will carry the virus for life

If there’s just one thing I want all cat owners to understand about flu, it’s this last point about carriers.

How Cats Catch Flu

Cat flu is spread in the saliva of apparently healthy carrier cats. Nearly every cat who got cat flu once will carry and spread the virus for life. Carriers are estimated to represent around 30% of all cats.

It’s not their fault. It’s up to all of us to know where the real risk is and stop it. Here’s what I do…

How I Prevent Cat Flu

The viruses spread both directly from cat to cat and indirectly via objects, people and the environment.

  • I assume that every cat I see could be a carrier
  • I wash my hands between each cat and change my coat regularly
  • I use an isolation room for known infected cats
  • I clean and disinfect all equipment after every cat I see
  • I change my clothes when I get home
  • I ask breeders to test their breeding stock for carriers
  • I get my kittens from trusted sources like good breeders or the Animal Welfare League

I hope now you understand why a good cattery never mixes cats or uses anything that can’t be disinfected.

I’m sorry if this all sounds a bit like a scare story. It’s all gospel truth but we’re in danger of forgetting how things once were. If you want to read more, visit an old page where I featured three cats with rare consequences of cat flu or here for other causes of mouth ulcers.

Related: Why Kittens Often Have Runny Eyes

Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

Help! Dogs With Cuts & Cats With Wounds

‘At A Glance (Details Below)’ What to do

When A Dog Or Cat Gets A Cut

  1. Don’t handle the wound if it looks clean, just keep your pet out of the dirt
  2. To remove dirt, rinse cuts in a solution of ½tsp salt to 1 cup water
  3. If there is serious bleeding, apply a tight bandage using clean cloth
  4. As long as you see a vet immediately, a tight dressing should do minimal harm and may be lifesaving

Now dive deeper…

Continue reading “Help! Dogs With Cuts & Cats With Wounds”

Help! My Cat Is Peeing Inside

Cat urinating in house

‘At A Glance (Details Below)’ What To Do

Why Cats Urinate In The House

  1. The cause is usually anxiety, territorial stress, urinary tract disease or litter box problems
  2. It’s not bad behaviour; most cats will stop peeing inside if you treat the cause and don’t punish
  3. Clean up areas with cat urine using enzymatic cleaners to reduce odour and prevent recurrence

Now dive deeper.

Continue reading “Help! My Cat Is Peeing Inside”

Allergy To Dogs And Cats

Devon Rex bed

I love Devon Rex cats (that’s mine above) but they aren’t good for allergies. To cats, that is. (for allergies of cats & dogs, follow this link)

My previous Devon Rex was dumped at a shelter after 18 months being locked in a room. She’d been bought on the misguided belief that she wouldn’t cause cat allergy. It took me years to get her settled after that rough start, and it could have been worse.

I’ve seen plenty of animal lovers who are allergic to their pets. It’s heartbreaking to watch. The good news is there are things you can do to help.

Continue reading “Allergy To Dogs And Cats”

The New Laws For Dogs & Cats

UPDATE 2018

In July, 2018 the new laws for dogs and cats came into force. You can read the details by following the link.

Although it will not be universally popular, the move towards universal desexing and microchipping of dogs and cats should produce a clear net benefit to pets and the community.

Regarding the concerns I raised below back in 2016, most have been addressed satisfactorily:

  • Vets can only give temporary exemptions
  • Guard dogs and remote communities are not specifically exempted
  • Breeding standards are already law and now breeders must also be registered, making the removal of rogue operators easier

However:

  • I’m yet to be convinced of the benefit of cat owners being asked to register their cats. Most owned cats have no harmful effect on communities or councils. There are existing laws on the removal of unidentified stray cats that function perfectly well.
  • Compulsory microchipping and desexing are an excellent idea for all cats, but the existing databases you already pay for are still necessary, and in my opinion, all that is needed.
  • You can still buy puppies at Adelaide pet shops from interstate puppy farms.
Continue reading “The New Laws For Dogs & Cats”

Can A Pet Be For Christmas AND For Life?

snowman christmas cat

So, you asked your kids or partner what they want for Christmas and they said: “a puppy”.  That’s awkward.

You want them to be happy but you know you shouldn’t give pets for Christmas. Maybe you even want a pet yourself. What do you do?

The answer to this moral choice is: “it’s complicated”. I’m not going to say it’s always a bad idea (later I’ll discuss how you can give pets ethically). First, though, there are some important issues with the giving of pets.

Continue reading “Can A Pet Be For Christmas AND For Life?”

How Vets Use Vaccines To Protect Your Pet

vet giving vaccine
  1. Two weeks ago I told you about the diseases of dogs and diseases of cats that we use vaccines to prevent.
  2. Last week I covered vaccine reactions, vaccinating safely and alternatives to vaccination like titre testing.
  3. In this third week I’ll tell you about the changes to vaccination schedules for your pet.
  4. In the final post I’ll you which vaccinations pets need every year
    vaccine puppy
Continue reading “How Vets Use Vaccines To Protect Your Pet”