Pros At Hiding Pain
When my sweet Maddie was starting to decline due to her cancer, I thought that something was different, but the signs were so subtle I unfortunately did not make a timely vet appointment. She had started to keep to herself more, and hide her head under the blankets or curtains, as if she was hiding from something. Once she started to actively present with symptoms, it was too late and I felt very guilty. I felt like I should have known something was wrong, and taken action earlier. Then my vet explained to me that cats are the worst, or rather, the best, at hiding pain and can tolerate an extreme amount of it before they start to show any symptoms of illness. Dr. H said that no matter how much you love your cat and have an incredible bond with them, when a cat is sick it goes immediately into survival mode. They see any signs of illness or pain as vulnerability, and think they are under threat, so they mask the discomfort. Think: survival of the fittest mindset. Dr. H said that Maddie hid her illness very well, for a very long time.
Sign of Potential Pain
Hiding, loss of appetite, and sleeping more than normal are all signs of potential pain, and Maddie exhibited each of them. But, at 15 years old, you should expect some of these changes, and they can be normal for elderly cats. When these signs appear suddenly is when you need to take note, and take action.
Other signs of pain can be:
You know your cat better than anyone, but being aware of these signs and symptoms can help you notice a change in health that may need immediate veterinary care. Keeping up with routine annual exams and vaccines with your vet can also help catch early signs of pain or illness. Cats cannot talk, so we are their best advocates in all areas of their life.
(Today’s photo features our pal Nubs! Don’t worry, he’s not in pain, he’s just sleepy).
Learn More About Siberians
One of our regular customers is a lovely little Siberian cat name Motley (seen above), and we are so enamored with her that we decided to learn more about her! This breed is relatively new to the US, and we weren’t able to have these kitties until they were discovered during the Cold War, and the cats were brought West. These cats are the national cat of Russia, which explains some of their names.
Where Did Siberians Come From?
Siberian Cats first arrived in the US in 1990 after being in (surprise!) Siberia since about 1000 AD. The proper name for these beauties is Siberian Forest Cat, which sounds even more exotic! Other names they have been known by are the Russian Longhair and the Moscow Semi-Longhair, but we think the first name is the best.
Why they came from Siberia is a mystery, however with other Soviet citizens moving to the cold Siberian tundra, they most likely brought their cats or some ancestor of the current breed. Since we all know that Siberia is extremely cold, the cats adapted to the harsh climate and their coats became triple layered. Good thing, too; we up here in Syracuse know to layer for the snow and cold temperatures!
How Do Siberians Stay Warm?
To explain the coat properly, we start from the outside with the guard hair. Being outside can mean water, so their guard hair has adapted to repel it, which means Siberians aren’t afraid of water! The next layer of fur is a mid-coat called awn hair, and then we reach the final layer: their down hair. As with many cats with a down layer, it tends to mat, so frequent, daily brushing is needed, or you’ll be at the groomer having mats trimmed out constantly. Because of these three layers of fur, these cats love to be outdoors and can withstand very cold temperatures.
So much fur also means Siberians shed, or molt, twice a year, which is triggered by the length of day, and not by the heat or humidity as we might expect. If you have a Siberian, be prepared to sweep and vacuum because they will lose a lot of fur during their shed.
An important tip about the Siberian cat is that they are considered hypoallergenic, which means they produce less of the protein Fel d 1. All cats produce this, and it’s what’s on the fur and dander that causes us humans to have an allergic response. While Siberian cats have less of this protein, don’t buy one thinking that your cat allergy will be avoided 100%! It may be lessened enough to consider them hypoallergenic, but that protein is not gone entirely.
What Do SIberians Look Like?
Siberians have very long beautiful fur, and one distinguishing coat characteristic is the fluffy and full neck collar. It is stunning, as are their big fluffy tails. Siberian cats are available in almost any color you can imagine, but some formal cat breeding associations do not consider Siamese colorings official. It takes around five years for the typical Siberian cat to achieve full growth. They’re a medium size cat that lives 10 to 18 years.
What is the Siberian Personality?
They typically have funny personalities, and are “dog cats” because they’re so active. Their strong legs also help them jump very high! Their meows are on the quieter side though, so you won’t jolt out of bed by the loud yowl other breeds have. If you love a good lap cat then you will be happy with your Siberian. They are kind and gentle cats who love to play, so kids do great with this breed. This breed of cats do best with a playmate, so having another Siberian or other cat, should be considered.
Be sure to research a reputable breeder, and enjoy the fun with this social, floofy, snuggle-bug kitty!
What To Expect When You’re Expecting … Kittens
It has been decades since a cat of mine has given birth, but I remember when my old cat, Guenivere gave birth. She had two small litters, which was a blessing because siamese can birth up to 12 kittens in one litter. Guenivere’s litters taught me that one or 12, if your cat is expecting kittens soon, you will need to plan ahead to make the birthing process easier for you both.
Cat Pregnancy Basics
Unlike some animals, cats can breed anytime of the year. They also have a very short gestation period (only two months!). The amount of kittens that a cat can have within a year is unbelievable, and it gets exponentially multiplied once those kittens start having kittens. This is why it’s so important to get your pets spayed as soon as they are able.
However, if you find yourself in a situation with kittens on the way, one needs to prepare for the big day to ensure the kittens will survive and thrive. First, confirm the pregnancy with your veterinarian and ask them for advice to plan and prepare.
Caring For A Pregnant Cat
Once it’s official you need to watch for some possible pregnancy symptoms, including:
To help with morning sickness, change your cat’s food to top shelf quality and look for labels such as “expectant cat” for the mother and “kitten food” for the new arrivals. Cat foods have come a long way and this is the time to spend the extra money to help your cat have some healthy kittens. Your cat food can also be supplemented with some rich meats and some safe ones are canned tuna or chicken. These are easy to add to her daily meals and she can get rich nutrients this way.
Preparing For Birth
I remember us making a bed for Guenivere to birth her kittens in and she decided to go elsewhere in the house – I guess I can’t really blame her for doing her own thing! However, it’s a good idea to prepare a birthing area, even if your cat chooses not to use it.
Choosing a birthing box can be simple and almost no-cost. One can find a cardboard box anywhere and these are easy to cut and adjust to the mother’s needs. Create a low side entry so she has easy access when she needs it, but not so low that newborn kittens can fall out. You can also cover the box with a blanket or another piece of cardboard. Many cats like the privacy and security this “cave” feeling provides. If your cat likes their carrier, you can also use that, as long as it’s roomy enough for her to move around in.
Some more inexpensive options are an underbed storage box, litter pan or even a laundry basket. Line the bottom with puppy pads and change these each day to ensure the area is clean and absorbent. You can also add old towels, a blanket or something soft and comfortable, as she will be resting inside for a while. Changing these daily is important after the birth, but be careful not to overstay your welcome or she will up and relocate in the middle of the night for privacy. Guinevere did this because we were peeking in too much and she wanted solitude and quiet!
The calendar says the day is near, her belly is huge, so how do you know for sure today’s the day? Your queen will start to nest and this is the optimum time to make a final vet visit. Ask questions on what to do in case of complications, what to expect, how to respect her boundaries and other important birth questions the vet can answer.
When the day has arrived, you will notice your cat stop eating 24 hours beforehand and really start to nest. Get that birthing box ready and in a quiet, warm area so she won’t be disturbed. Keep other pets and children away from her birthing area. Make sure you get your sleep as well! In no time, there will be kittens running all over!
What Are The Required Vaccines For a Cat?
Since many cats are completely indoor pets, some owners forget how vaccines can still be essential. Having had indoor cats most of my life, I was definitely one of those people who never thought much about vet visits and basic shots for my cat, Guenivere.
It seemed expensive and unnecessary, so I avoided them. Once Maddie came along, I decided to be a vigilant cat mom as I wanted the best for this little kitten who was dependent on me for a long healthy life.
Even if your cat rarely comes into contact with the outside world, vaccines are still an important part of a feline health regimen. Your cat could develop diseases from foregin bodies you accidentally bring in, at the groomer, at the vet, from a stray or even out in the yard.
These are the basic shots and health care items a cat needs and why.
Annual Vet Visits
Whether you have a new kitten or are adopting a senior cat, an annual visit to the veterinarian is important to keep them healthy. These visits are great times to ask questions, have the vet get to know your cat and establish a relationship. Having an ongoing relationship with your vet is important so in case something does happen, you have that resource there to help.
Just like humans, some cats may go their entire lives without major issues, while others are plagued with health concerns from cradle to grave. You just don’t know what will happen over the course of your cat's life so getting that early and regular vet visit started is the best thing you can do for your cat.
Necessary Basic Shots
Shots and vaccines are another basic component to maintaining your cat’s health.
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia (FVRCP)
As with any vaccine, these do not guarantee 100% protection. However, they are highly effective and have been in circulation for quite a whole. Even if you don’t see your cat coming into contact with any outside viruses or bacteria, it’s always better to be safe than sorry! It is also always easier to prevent the virus than to deal with a sick cat later and possibly have to put the cat down due to illness.
Talk to your vet and see what they recommend and what frequency they will administer. After any vaccine, expect some side effects and give your cat time to rest and recover.
If you can’t afford a vet visit, check out national companies such as Tractor Supply, PetSmart, PetCo, and local pet stores for their vaccine clinics and prices. Many customers here at the cat spa use these services and are very pleased with the quick service and menu of options. Some communities offer low cost rabies clinics also.
Remember, you are your cat’s first line of defence against these preventable diseases!
Short In Stature, But Big In Personality: The Munchkin Cat
Happy May everyone! This week we'll be exploring the adorable, controversial and short-in-stature-but-big-in-personality Munchkin cat.
At the cat spa, we have been lucky enough to board some Munchkin cats. In my experience, these critters are typically adorable and friendly. However, munchkin cats actually have quite a bit of controversy surrounding them. Read on to learn where they came from, what they are, and why they’re up for debate.
Where Do Munchkin Cats Come From?
Back in 1983, (the same year Rock the Casbah by The Clash was on the charts!), a music teacher in Louisiana found two pregnant cats, and history was made. Most munchkin cats can trace their lineage back to these two cats. The woman named them Munchkins, after the Wizard of Oz characters.
Today, this breed can cost upwards of $1k. Of course, you may be lucky and find one at a shelter or foster home.
Genetic Mutations Make the Munchkins
Most people think of dachshund dogs when they see short legs and long bodies so to see this on a cat is quite a surprise. However, unlike dachshunds, which were carefully bread over 300 years ago, Munchkin cats are relatively new.
The genetic mutation that causes their short legs is why the munchkin cat has been controversial over the years. It is a newer breed, recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1991. However, many other feline associations will not recognize the breed and deem it wrong to breed them.
What’s the Problem With Munchkins? Due to their selective breeding, Munchkin cats have super small legs. While these legs can be very cute and entertaining for humans, many organizations have worries over the health effects on the cats themselves.
This is because the shortened limbs of the Munchkins make them more prone to joint disease and osteoarthritis. For many people, breeding animals likely to have diseases is a big no-no.
On the other side of the argument, Munchkin cats tend to live a full life averaging 15 years. Besides their osteoarthritis and joint issues, they are a generally healthy breed to consider.
What is it Like to Own a Munchkin Cat?
Munchkin cats can still run super fast but are unable to jump as well as a larger cat so it is best to keep them indoors. Their little legs come in 3 different lengths – standard, super short, and rug hugger. The names are pretty self-explanatory!
Having groomed a couple of these cats at the spa, I know their fur can become tangled very easily. Many have longer coats and may have grooming limitations due to flexibility issues.
Munchkins come in all different colors and short or long hair. The long hair will need to be brushed daily and even completely shaved from time to time to clean up the coat.
If you love a lap cat (who doesn’t?), the Munchkins love to be close and cuddle with you. They love people and are social and crave attention. They can be loud and chatty with the meows so be prepared to give lots of one on one attention!
Another funny thing is that they love to take toys or objects and store them away in a hidden place! It sounds very squirrel-like to hide the nuts away for the winter but Munchkins are known to be little hoarders.
These tiny cats are big on love and attention so talk to your vet and see if this breed is a good fit for you and your family.
Why Do Cats Love the Sun?
In Syracuse, there is virtually no sun in the winter time and a limited summer season. My cats have always known the second the clouds part enough to give them one little ray of sunshine to bask in it. Guenivere used to lay in one spot in the sun for hours, then move a few inches away, only to return to the original spot moments later. It always puzzled me as to why she did this repeatedly throughout the day, but it’s a pretty simple answer.
How Does the Sun Help Cats?
Cats may seem to be the laziest creatures around. However, they don’t really have a choice in the matter. They require on average 15 hours of sleep per day, so they deserve a break on the lazy remark.
With a body temperature around 101 degrees (compared to our 98.6), cats tend to need more warmth to keep going. Being the smart animals they are, many cats will use solar power to store up energy by staying warmer while sleeping. This prevents their bodies from using unnecessary energy to keep their internal temperatures high.
Body temperatures drop during slumbertime and solar energy helps maintain that higher inner temperature. Saving up energy from basking in the sun can also contribute to a little less eating as they won’t need energy from food to fuel them.
Guinevere used to nap on a bed and move across it all day long chasing the direct sun rays.
Why Do Cats Get Greasy In the Sun?
If you have a sun puddle chasing cat, you’ll notice their fur gets greasy after prolonged sunbathing. Cats get vitamin D from their food. The warmth from the sun activates oil in the fur. Cats then lick off the oil to digest vitamin D!
Early cat ancestors from hot desert areas are wired to both love the heat and to tolerate it easier. However, not every breed can tolerate higher temperatures.
For example, the Maine Coon comes to mind. Maine Coon is our most popular breed to groom and the undercoat is incredible. I can see how they can easily overheat and love cooler temperatures. Knowing your breed type and their tolerances can save them and you from a potential medical veterinary emergency.
How Can I Help My Cat Get Light When I Live in a Cloudy Area?
If you live in a cloudy climate such as Upstate NY, how can your cat get more sun and warmth when we can go a month with no blue sky?
There are ways to keep a kitty warm and content even without direct sunlight. Here are some ideas to help:
Also, if you live in a cold climate and have outdoor cats in your neighborhood, please be aware of cats using your car engine as warmth. Tapping on the hood before you start the car to wake them up can avoid a horrible accident altogether.
Next time you see your cat all cozied up in the sun’s rays, smile and know they are happy, cozy and warm, which is what all kitties deserve.
Cat Got Your Tongue?
If you have a cat, you’re likely very familiar with their sandpapery tongues. Though they don’t feel great on human skin, these rough little appendages are an evolutionary marvel. Cat tongues perform several tasks, including helping digest food and feline hygiene.
What Can Cat Tongues Do?
A cat’s tongue has many purposes. Often while grooming cats at the spa, I will get little licks on my arms and hands. The sandpaper sensation always makes me laugh as it is so rough to be in a sweet little mouth.
A cat licking you shows a level of trust and comfort, so let them do their thing as it’s a sure sign of approval! As with humans, tongues do help cats taste food. However, they also help cats with many daily tasks that mere humans need separate tools for. So, what does a cat’s tongue help them do?
Cat Tongues Help With Grooming
My sweet Guenivere used to bathe herself much more than most cats usually do. She was meticulous and her shiny coat showed it! Guenivere was a siamese/himalyan mix with medium to long fur and yet never had a mat tangled up. Part of the reason was that her tongue is also a fancy grooming brush! The little teeth help arrange a cat’s fur, remove dirt and grime, and pull out dead hair.
The rough sandpaper texture of a cat’s tongue is due to scoop-like little keratin spikes called papillae. The papillae are all the same size and shape and angle backwards towards the back of the mouth. These little spikes can handle many different tasks.
For grooming, the cat’s saliva fills the gaps in between papillae, allowing them to deposit enough liquid to wash themselves of grime. The papillae also help push the fur down to allow the saliva to coat the skin and fur and condition it.
The helps more the oils in the fur around to coat the fur and help clean it and make it all nice and shiny. Having bathed and groomed many cats, I can tell you that once the cat is out of the bath and dried off, they immediately start licking themselves. They can go from a tangled mess to suddenly nice, dry and smooth as glass. The tongue also acts as a hair dryer or towel by absorbing the extra moisture.
To remove any mats, cats will nibble with their front teeth to break it up so the papillae are able to adjust and detangle the knots.
Cats Use Baths To Help Cool Off
Cat tongues can also keep cats cooler in the warmer months. My cat Daphne loves to lay outside in the warm weather and take a nice long bath. What she is doing is actually keeping cool by coating herself with saliva which coats the fur and evaporates off.
Cats sweat through their paws (they don’t pant like dogs, any panting is usually a sign of distress in cats), so the excess moisture and evaporation helps cool their bodies.
Rough Tongues Help With Dining
Cats don’t use silverware or glassware to eat or drink but once again, the magnificent tongue turns into dinnerware. The papillae can help pull meat from prey and shred it off into easy to digest pieces.
The scoop shape of the papillae also helps with drinking. The tongue becomes a scoop which pulls the water into the mouth and throat. After 3 or 4 good licks, the cat will swallow and gulp down all the water stored in the mouth and all at once, down the water goes!
A cat’s tongue is an amazing little adaptation. So, go ahead and try to enjoy those sandpaper licks! They’re a sign of approval for humans but also a great use for this incredible multi-use tool.
Learn More About Abyssinians
Abyssinians are one of the most popular cat breeds. In fact, they are actually in the top 5! This breed is one that has always caught my eye with their sleek faces and bodies. Their reddish color is also quite unique and stunning up close. So, where did this breed come from and how what kind of pets are they? Let’s find out about this beautiful domestic shorthair breed!
Where Did Abyssinians Come From?
In the mid 1800s, British soldiers returned from Africa with cats from the Abyssinia region, now known as Ethiopia. They are one of the oldest breeds of cats. Some even believe them to be the mummified cats found in the tombs of Egyptian mummies.
The breed was officially recognized at a cat show in the UK. Genetic testing shows that the breed most likely originated in part of Asia or India. With their striking similarities to my favorite cats (siamese!), this doesn’t surprise me at all!
What Do Abyssinians Look Like?
What has always caught my eye about Abys are their traditional ruddy or reddish brown coloring. Their coats are accented with black marks, similar to some tabbies. They even have the classic M on the forehead.
Possibly abyssinian colors include cinnamon/red, blue, a peachy color, white with black ticking and even a tortoiseshell color. Their short to medium coats are low-shed and super easy to keep clean.
You can use a chamois to wipe them down, the very same one you’d use on a car. Their eyes can range from green and gold to an exotic copper color.
Abyssinians have similar body shapes and size to siames – small to medium frames with long bodies. Their long legs and tails are combined with a wedge-shaped face and large ears. Unlike the siamese, Abyssinians have a sweet little chirp for a meow and not a loud howl that jolts you out of bed.
What is Abyssinian Behavior Like?
For people who say they love dog-like cats, then the Abyssinian is the perfect breed. Active, friendly and curious, these cats are on the go and love to roam and wander.
They may not be the best lap cat as they prefer to be near you but not on you. They are very social cats and love to have companions, so they’re great for multiple cat homes. If you only plan on having one cat, make sure your Abyssinian still receives daily interaction and stimulation. If you travel or are not home a lot, this breed may not be the best choice.
Also, they are prone to some health issues and this should be discussed with your veterinarian beforehand. You should always consider breed health as it could be a lifelong issue and higher cost over the cat's lifetime.
If you think the Abyssinian is the breed for you, check into local breeders and expect to pay $500 and upward.
These sleek, lovely cats will provide years of fun activity and playtime. You’ll be sure to make a lot of sweet memories with your Abyssinian!
Why Do Cats Have Whiskers And What Do They Do?
As a child, my parents were always very clear that I had to leave the cat’s whiskers alone. Of course, for a kid it’s difficult to understand why such a small part on a cat’s body is so important. Many adults don’t even know! So why do cats have whiskers? And what purpose do they serve? These amazing little facial hairs are really quite fascinating for numerous reasons.
Have you ever wondered how your cat can wander around at night and not bump into things? How about why they stick their head into something then pull back and walk away? Or why the whiskers seem fuller when happy and relaxed?
Whiskers are behind all these questions and more!
How Do Whiskers Work?
To be very technical, whiskers are called “vibrissae.” This word is derived from the Latin term “vibrio,” meaning to vibrate. Whisker hair follicles have a touch sensor at each end, which sends messages back to the cat’s nervous and muscular systems. These messages help cats decipher their environments.
These work similarly to a lane departure system in a car and can message the cat to adjust to its surroundings. They are highly sensitive, and can even sense changes in airflow and vibrations. This helps cats navigate in the dark, sense when predators are coming, and find small hidey holes.
Whiskers are cleverly placed on the cat’s face and even on the backs of the front legs. Around the face, the eyebrows, cheek whiskers and chin whiskers all have these sensory abilities.
One place that is not as noticeable is around the ankle or back calf on the front legs. These are known as “carpal whiskers” and help the cat as it is climbing around or up and down. This is also one reason cats like to reach for everything. I am always careful with these during grooming as you never want to cut a whisker! This can have horrible effects on a cat and can make the dizzy, unable to walk or disoriented. In some places, this is even noted as animal cruelty (as it should be!).
Do All Cats Have Whiskers?
The simple answer is yes! Provided your cat is healthy and hasn’t undergone abuse, fights, or hardship, all cats should have whiskers. Whiskers first appear on kittens around one month old. As the cat ages, they will change color and usually become darker and longer.
Whiskers do fall out, just as our hair and eyelashes do, and they grow back. Don’t worry if you see a stray whisker on your floor! They will grow back into a perfect symmetrical balance. Some have said that whiskers grow longer as a cat grows wider, but that may not be accurate. However, this would make sense as the whiskers are the width of the cat’s body! This is an adaptation to gauge where a cat can fit without having to test it with its entire body.
What Else Do Whiskers Do?
Whiskers are also a gauge for a cat’s emotions. Flat back against the face means anger, popped out and relaxed means happy, and popped out and stiff means focused. You’ll notice a cat’s whiskers are particularly at attention when they’re hunting!
Given how precious a cat’s whiskers are, it’s important to take care of them. There is a condition called whisker fatigue or whisker stress, which can happen with overstimulation. One way I have heard to help your cat avoid this is to feed in a wide-open bowl or flat plate and make sure their favorite haunts are wide enough for them to easily enter and exit. Water should be in a wide bowl or fountain so as not let the whiskers touch the side of a bowl. At the cat spa, we do follow this recommendation as being away from home is enough stress on the cats there!
Next time you watch your cat hunt or strut through the living room, take note of the whisker placement and you might be surprised at how unique their facial hair is!
Cat Kneading Explained
We’ve all experienced it. You wake up in the middle of the night, tiny little pinpricks digging into your skin, then retractracting, then skewering you again. It can happen at all hours of the day or night but it always wakes us up when the claws get involved.
It’s funny, and often meant as a feline compliment. But, when it’s not relaxng it can be a legitimate pain. There are many names for this odd behavior: kneading, making biscuits, baking bread, and it’s something nearly all cats do. So, why do they do it?
Why Do Cats Knead?
The cat kneading a human is actually a very basic feline communication attempt. This is yet another shared trait with their big wild cat relatives, as cats of all sizes knead.
Starting at birth, kittens knead while nursing to help push the milk out and to stimulate more production. Paws alternate from left to right in a rhythmic pattern. Animals other than cats also do this, but tend to grow out of the behavior.
Kneading can include all four paws or only the front paws. Claw usage also varies across cats. One customer mentioned his cat will suckle on his blanket and drool when he kneads. This is also perfectly normal behavior!
This ingrained kitten behavior stays with cats as they grow. It’s an indication the cat is comfortable or planning to get comfortable. There are other factors for the kneading but the most important one is that they will only do this around people they feel safe with.
Should I Continue To Let My Cat Knead Me?
While it may hurt us as those little needle claws dig in, it is the ultimate compliment that they really do care about us. It’s tough not to want to reprimand them or stop them, but I would suggest resisting this urge. Kneading can be a big anxiety/stress buster for cats. It takes them back to a simpler time when they were younger, and can also help them stretch their paws and release tension.
Kneading can also help your cat bond with you. There are little glands in cat paws that release marking scents, indicating that your cat claims you as theirs. They’re marking you their property as they knead!
Lastly, female cats in heat will use kneading as a sign to males that they are the ones chosen to breed with. Kneading is really a way of saying you’re approved by me.
So, while this behavior can be a little disruptive or may ruin a delicate blanket, it’s really quite sweet.