Why do cat’s purr?

Purring is one of the most special elements of a cat, as far as most humans are concerned. Caressing a purring pet has proven to relax the one doing the stroking and lowers the blood pressure too. A purring cat or kitten is sure to bring a smile to the face of any human, young or old, and cats have made a real difference in the lives of those in nursing homes or other institutional settings, just by the simple act of being a cat. But careful observers of the cat know that purring isn't just a sound of contentment. Cats also purr if they're injured, while giving birth - even when dying. British zoologist Desmond Morris has observed that purring is "a sign of friendship - either when the cat is contented with a friend or when it is in need of friendship - as with a cat in trouble. Our friend Dr. Margie Scherk, a board-certified specialist in feline health, likens a purr to the human smile. You smile when you're happy, to be sure, but you can also smile when you're nervous, or even when faced with a threat. In the latter two situations, it's kind of a "Hi, I'm a nice person, don't hurt me" sign. And the same is true with purring. Kittens start purring even before they open their eyes, rumbling while nursing in what must be a reassuring sound to their mother, who is likely purring herself. Our cats have one thing to lord over the "King of Beasts" and other more formidable felines. A cat can purr, but the lion can't, nor can any of the other big felines. The tiger can rumble a friendly greeting but only on the exhale. No big cat can get his motor running the way our household kitties can, purring constantly as effortlessly as breathing, both in and out. To even things out, however, big cats possess the ability to roar. On the whole, the little cat got the better part of that deal, at least where humans are concerned.
Although the experts are pretty clear on why cats purr, they're not yet certain as to how. The most common explanation has the sweet sound originating in the voice box, with what are called the vestibular folds, or false vocal chords. Nervous impulses from the brain are transmitted to the muscles of the larynx (voice box) and the diaphragm causing the rhythmic contraction of these during breathing. The passing of air across these structures is thought to produce the purr all cat lovers adore.

Why should I vaccinate my cat?

The decision to vaccinate your cat or not is a very personal one for most clients. As in Human Medicine vaccines have been shown to be essential tools in the fight against numerous contagious diseases that can harm our pets. By vaccinating your cat, you are assuring that they will have protection against a particular disease which would otherwise make them very sick or could kill them.

My cat never goes outside. Do they still need to be vaccinated?

Yes and no.
It depends on the type of virus or disease we are looking to prevent. Certain diseases such as Rabies, Feline Leukemia Virus or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus require direct contact between an infected animal and your cat and are usually spread by exchange of bodily fluids by fighting, grooming, sexual contact, etc. By keeping your cat indoors and restricting their interaction with other cats (except for house mates) you are already significantly reducing their exposure to harm.
Other diseases such as those caused by respiratory viruses (Herpes or Calici) or Feline Panleukopenia (aka Cat Distemper) can be transmitted via contact or an airborne route just like many Human flu and cold viruses. Your cat does not need to have contact with another animal to contract these diseases.
Thus, we recommend that all cats, even indoor cats are regularly vaccinated against Feline Respiratory Viruses and Feline Panleukopenia.

My friends tell me I’m being mean by not letting my cat outside?

Nothing could be further from the truth. While there may be some who for some reason show more of a desire to venture outside most domestic cats live very full and satisfying lives strictly indoors. The key is to provide enough stimulation in their day through various toys, activities and play to keep them exercised, physically and mentally.
When cats go outside, the risks to their health increase dramatically. They are more apt to suffer from trauma, wounds, parasites, infections, poisoning, etc. In general, an outdoor cat lives half as long and costs their owner twice as much in veterinary care.
If you do wish for your cat to experience outdoor life, this can be done safely by taking them out on a harness with you present or by constructing a cat pen. **Note: Your cat should NEVER be left unattended while restrained.
If your cat does go outside it is very important to make sure it is up to date with its inoculations against Rabies, Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and is regularly dewormed.

I read somewhere that my cat doesn’t need to be vaccinated anymore?

With the exception of a cat that has some underlying reason not to be immunized this is false. Unlike many human diseases which only affect us during various stages of life (Measles, Mumps, etc) or during specific situations such as travel, your cat is potentially at risk from all of these disease its entire life. Even the healthiest cat will see some decline in its level of protective antibodies over time. That is why it is very important to revaccinate (booster) our cats regularly to ensure they have adequate protection against many diseases. The exact frequency of boostering will vary depending on the type of vaccine used, your geographic location, your cat’s lifestyle and your cat’s age and health status. These should be discussed with your veterinary health team.

I’ve heard that vaccines can hurt my cat or make them sick?

There is an old saying, “For something to have an action, it must also have a reaction.” Anytime an animal or human is treated with a particular drug, medication or vaccine there is always the risk of an adverse reaction. Usually the side effects or reactions are mild and acceptable when measured against the risk posed by the disease we are vaccinating against. That said, if you have concerns, please discuss them with your veterinary health care team.
There has been much written or vocalized over the past 20 years that vaccines can do harm or permanent damage to our pets immune systems and general health. Often these discussions become very emotional based on an individual’s personal beliefs.
All we can say is that, like the recently discredited link between childhood vaccines and Autism, there has never been any scientific evidence of a link between vaccinating healthy pets and causing damage to that animal’s immune system or other.

My cat seems healthy. Why should I bring them for check up?

Remember the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?”
Just like in Human Medicine, prevention and early detection are essential in Veterinary Medicine. Given the rapid aging of cats compared to humans, diseases and health conditions can develop very quickly and often are unnoticed by the owner until they are in advanced stages. An annual check up is a good ways to ensure your cat is healthy and any problems can be spotted early and dealt with ASAP.
If you think about it, given their rapid aging, your cat going to see the vet annually is roughly the same as you going for a check up every 5 - 6 years.
Hopefully you don’t wait that long.

My cat has bad breath?

Just like you and I, cats have a normal population of bacteria that normally exist in their oral cavity (mouth) that can result in a certain amount of halitosis (bad breath). When it becomes quite noticeable, that is usually an indication that the conditions in your cat’s mouth have changed to allow the bacterial population to overgrow. Halitosis is most commonly associated with dental disease caused by plaque and tartar accumulation as well as gingivitis, peridontitis, or stomatitis.
There may also be other causes of bad breath in your cat such a abscessed teeth, oral tumors or sores, throat infections, kidney disease, liver disease, or diabetes to name a few.
If you think your cat has halitosis it is best to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to determine the cause.

A friend told me her cat has AIDS, is that true?

Yes that is correct. There is a virus in cats called Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) that causes Feline AIDS. This virus is in the same family (Retroviruses) as another very serious and potentially lethal virus called Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). Both of these viruses are transmitted between infected and healthy cats through exchange of infected bodily fluids. Unfortunately many cats with these viruses do not immediately appear sick and can infect many other cats before we even know they are ill. In Manitoba recent studies show that ~6% of the cat population is infected with FeLV and ~3% with FIV (Little et al, CVJ/Vol 50/June 2009/pp. 644-648).
The good news is that there are very accurate, reliable tests to detect their presence and very effective vaccines to prevent these diseases.

Is canned or wet food necessary for cats or is feeding dry food only okay?

Currently most feline veterinarians strongly recommend the use of canned or wet foods as the major or entire part of your cat’s diet. The primary reason is that all domestic cats are descended from desert dwellers (North Africa, Egypt). In the desert, where water is scarce, one depends on their food source for most of their moisture intake. This works fine when you are consuming prey which is 70 – 80 % water. Unfortunately for our house cats, who are very closely linked to their ancestors, feeding dry food does not provide enough moisture and in general, they do not drink enough on their own to compensate. Thus many of our house cats live their lives in a less than optimally hydrated state which can lead to numerous health problems. By feeding an adequate amount of wet food to our cats we can help ensure they are getting enough moisture in their diet and keep them healthier.
There is also a lot of anecdotal evidence that feeding wet food is better with regards to weight control, certain gum conditions, intestinal health, hair ball control and diabetes prevention.
Specifics on how to do this and amounts can be discussed with your veterinary health team.

I have been told my cat needs to be on a “prescription diet”. Is this true or can I feed them a less expensive store brand, especially when the ingredients look identical?

As in humans, many of our ailments can be controlled and improved upon through proper attention to our diet. Prescription diets are manufactured with that in mind. One must think of these diets as not only providing proper nutrition and calories to your cat but also providing what they need or don’t need based on their health condition. These diets have been clinically proven to improve the health and well being of cats with various ailments. Even if the ingredient list on a store brand looks identical to the prescription diet, there are significant differences in the source and quality of the ingredients as well as the bioavailability (how well is that ingredient used by your cat’s body). For example there are many grades of raw ingredients that a pet food manufacturer can buy. Prescription foods are, in general, manufactured using the top grades.
Because of the specialized manufacturing processes and the higher grade ingredients these diets do tend to cost more that store brands but you must remember you are not only feeding your cat but medicating them as well. Also, what you save (and more) on cheaper food will usually be spent on more frequent vet visits because your cat’s health condition will not be as well controlled on store brand foods.
Also because prescription diets are manufactured using higher quality ingredients, your cat will often need less food daily so while the bag or can may seem more expensive, the cost per day to feed your cat will often be the same.

Can cats get Heartworm disease?

Yes they can. Heartworm disease is caused by a worm type parasite that is spread by infected mosquitoes. While cats do have a natural immunity against this particular parasite (as do humans) we do see cases. Unlike dogs which will develop 10’s to 100’s of worms which cause severe cardio-pulmonary symptoms, cats often only have 1 to 2 or 3 worms present and are often without symptoms. The problem for cats will actually occur months after infection when their body is killing off the parasite. When the worms die, they break up into small bits and shower into the lungs. At this time the cat may experience a life threatening Asthma attack requiring emergency treatment. Other cats may develop chronic lung diseases such as Emphysema or Pulmonary Fibrosis that will seriously affect them much later in life. Unfortunately, Southern Manitoba is a highly endemic region for Heartworm Disease. We strongly recommend all cats, even indoor cats, are put on a Heartworm prevention protocol during the mosquito season.

My cat doesn’t go out. Do they still need to be spayed or neutered?

While keeping your cat inside may prevent successful mating, unfortunately all it takes is one quick escape and they may be adding to the cat overpopulation problem. As well, an intact cat is still at risk of developing many serious health or behavioral problems. Non-spayed females can develop life threatening uterine infections or mammary (breast) tumors not to mention the tremendously irritating wailing they do when in heat. Non-neutered males will usually spray urine to mark territory and their urine contains hormones which make it extremely unpleasant. Males that are not neutered will also usually become very dominant and aggressive towards other pets and humans.

Our cat has started to urinate outside their litter box. Why would they do that?

When cats decide to urinate or defecate (poop) outside their litter box this is referred to as “Inappropriate Elimination.” There are many reasons for such behavior. In general we divide the causes into Medical or Behavioral. Medical are things that cause urgency and loss of bladder or bowel control, such as Urinary Tract Infections, Crystaluria, Cystitis, Colitis, Diarrhea, etc. Behavioral are things such as stress or anxiety that result in abnormal behaviors. In order to determine which of these is causing the problem you must consult with your veterinarian. They will take a thorough history of the problem as well as run various tests to determine the underlying cause. The treatment will of course depend on the cause but may involve anything from antibiotic therapy, a change in diet or behavioral modification and anti-anxiety medications.

I’m taking my cat on trip. Should I give them anything to keep them calm?

The answer to this question varies with each individual at and travel situation.
In general sedatives can be safely administered to healthy cats when traveling. What you must keep in mind is the length of trip and the type of transport. A 4 hour airplane ride would be approached differently than a 3 day car trip. Certain sedatives last longer than others and if the sedative wears off before the trip is over this may cause more problems.
If you plan to travel with your cat please call us to discuss this further.