Cat Veterinary Archive


This is an unindexed assortment of questions that I really didn't have a category for or are about several completely different issues or that didn't quite seem to fit anywhere. Miscellaneous questions.

For an indexed table of contents please see Cat Info

For an alphabetical index see Cat Index

Q: I have a ten-year old, neutered, de-clawed, male cat, who was given to us when he was four. He has traditionally been an indoor-outdoor cat, but lately he just wants roam the neighborhood, getting out of the yard, being gone for hours. Because he cannot fend for himself, we put him on a chain attached to a clothes line so he has some movement, but I continually feel this is cruel. What can I do to help him be more content, and is there any way I can keep him in the fenced yard we have? I know of dog owners who put up an electric fence, but again, I think this to be cruel. Any help you can offer would be appreciated. Thank you. Linda L

A: Linda-

I know of several cat owners in our practice who have built outdoor play areas for their cats using aluminum or fiberglass screening. The cats seem to like the arrangement. I'm sure it is a little expensive and you have to have some ability to build things but my clients seem to think it was worth the effort. Cat Fancy magazine had pictures of some of these types of things in an issue last year, I think.

Most cats are pretty happy staying indoors. That might be the best option if your cat is content. Not all cats are, though.

Other than those two options I don't know of any other way to change things. He is probably able to defend himself better than you think but I really don't think that it is safe to be wandering the neighborhood so it would be good to avoid that option.

Wish I could help more.

Mike Richards, DVM

Neuromuscular Disorder and Excessive Water Consumption

Q: Hi, My cat is about 13 year old. For more than a month now she is obsessed by water and seems to have a urinary problems. On top of that, since yesterday, she is not able to walk ok, like here front legs are not able to carry here front body.

The bad part is that I got also problems with my urinary track. I did have a high fever and was not able to urinate, I did go to an emergency room and got help. I never had a blood test.

Is this related to my cat ? What is happening to my cat ?

What to do about it with very limited finance and no insurance ?

Thank you for replying to me


A: Jean-Pierre

When cats are drinking a lot of water and showing signs of neuromuscular disorders the two most likely problems are diabetes and kidney failure with low potassium levels. There are other possibilities. It is not possible to distinguish between these problems without at least some labwork but a urinalysis is usually pretty inexpensive and can help a great deal in making a diagnosis, especially if the problem is diabetes. It is very unlikely that there is a contagious urinary tract problem, especially one that would be contagious between humans and cats.

It is costly to treat diabetes well. It is a little less costly to treat chronic kidney failure in cats. It would definitely be worth finding out what is happening to cause the symptoms you are seeing because it can help in making decisions about what to do, even if treatment isn't an option.

Good luck with this. If you are upfront with your vet about your budgetary limitations and you are reasonable you will probably be surprised at your vet's willingness to work with you.

Mike Richards, DVM

Eye Problem

Q: Dear Dr. Mike: I have spent over $3,000 trying to find out what is wrong.

History:" Around the end of 9/97, my cat developed an eye infection in his right I took him to the vet and he gave us oral amoxicillin and Gentocin drops The vet prescribed Antirobe. We used Viroptic. The vet then put him on Baytril and Gentocin. It occurred to me that it might have helped to do bloodwork, but this vet never did it. The next vet gave him a shot of steroids and put him on atropine. In 2 weeks, the vet have him another shot of steroids, an injection of Baytril, and put him on Baytril pills as well as Tobramycin drops, and Optimune ointment. The vet gave him Aktrol. The eye was no better in a week, so the vet gave him Panmycin and aktrol. In 2 weeks, we were back, and got an injection of steroids, Terramycin ointment, oral Medrol and Optimune. The vet gave him another steroid injection, Panmycin, metoclopramide, and aktrol. The doctor finally put Precious back on Panmyci.n His eye pressures are high so he is put on Trusopt. He prescribed Clavamox ,clindamycin, bile salts, and enrofloxacin. I know this is a difficult case.


A: Dear Alice,

I found this message today and can not remember whether I replied to it or not. I am sorry for the long delay if I did not respond previously.

I didn't understand the reference to cholangitis in the subject since it wasn't mentioned in the body of the email. If this is considered to be part of the eye problem by your vet, please let me know.

The eye problem sounds difficult. Without seeing the eye it is very hard to give much advice. The two most common disorders affecting the cornea, other than trauma, are probably rhinotracheitis ( a herpes virus ) and eosinophilic granuloma complex. Both of these can be very difficult to treat. The treatment for the conditions is different but it appears that your vet has attempted to treat for both conditions. Viroptic is used for herpes virus infections and cortisone injections may be but are more often used for eosinophilic granulomas. I realize that you have spent a great deal of money already, but if this eye continues to be a problem the best course of action would be to ask for referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist, probably. They see the most difficult cases and usually have more experience in diagnosing and treating them than general practitioners. We have a patient who had a two year long bout with recurrent and painful eosinophilic granuloma lesions affecting one eye, even though her treatment was being supervised by a veterinary ophthalmologist. Finally, the eye cleared up and has been OK for almost three years now. Hang in there -- both disorders tend to wax and wane so time is on your side.

Trusopt seems to work, based on anecdotal reports by veterinary ophthalmologists but I don't know if there are any validated studies showing effectiveness. Glaucoma is somewhat common in Siamese cats so it is likely to be present and would probably aggravate almost any other corneal disease.

Mike Richards, DVM

Mother and kitten conflict

Q: I need some expert advice. We have two cats, a mommy and one of her babies, who is now about six months old. Yesterday afternoon some maintenance workers came into our apartment while we were at work and left a window open. Our kitten fell five floors. Miraculously, we were able to find her and our vet took xrays which did not show any broken bones or damaged organs. The problem we are finding is that the mommy now hisses and moans whenever she comes near her kitten. Why is she doing that and what can we do to get these two back to the chummy pals they were? What can we do to help the kitty heal? How long can we expect our normally fearless, curious kitten to be somewhat hesitant and lethargic? Any information you can pass along would be so helpful.

Thank you. Staci

A: Dear Staci,

It is not unusual for cats to fight or exhibit aggressive postures towards each other when they have been separated. Most of the time they will readjust to each other if they got along previously but it may take several days. If they have not made progress after a week or so, it may be worthwhile to consider using anti-anxiety medications but your vet will need to help you decide which cat would be best to treat or if both need treatment.

Hopefully this problem has resolved itself.

Mike Richards, DVM

Elimination Behavior

Q: Dear Dr. Mike, A lady in my office has a long-haired mixed breed neutered male cat that periodically has eliminated on the floor in the room that its litter box is in. Medical tests have ruled out physical problems. Litter box is kept clean. They have noticed that this only happens after they have had company. Their vet has put their cat on Ovban (sp?) with no results - 1/4 tablet every other day. They are not sure if the cat is spraying or just urinating. They have not been able to catch him doing it. Carpet has been cleaned with enzymatic type cleaner. What would you suggest as the next step to try? Cat has been on hormone therapy for appox. 1 1/2 month. Jill-

A: I would recommend getting this cat a second litterpan if possible and then I'd try diazepam (Valium Rx) or buspirone (Buspar Rx) to aid in the control of the urination. These have been more effective for us than megestrol acetate (Ovaban Rx) and are less likely to produce serious side effects.

Mike Richards DVM

Lesions under tongue

Q: I was just told, from the front desk at the Vet's office, that my 4 1/2 month old kitten had lesions under her tongue. What is that? It isn't apparent to my unproffessional eye. Could lesions appear immediately after being spayed...from licking the suture? I know that I should ask more questions at the Vet's office, but at the time, it was very busy, and they didn't answer my question, when I called them later in the day. Thanks. Robin

A: Robin-

I guess it is possible that the lesions could be from licking the sutures but it would appear to me if that was the case the lesions would be on the top of the tongue, not underneath. Cats do have various types of viral diseases which have oral lesions as a clinical sign (calici virus, herpes virus, fiv) and underlying diseases such as renal disease but most of the time, other clinical signs are associated with the above diseases such as sneezing, ocular or nasal discharge with calici/herpes or decreased appetite and lethargy with the other problems. There is a good chance the lesion isn't anything. Most oral lesions can interfere with eating if severe enough and you may notice drooling, decreased appetite etc. Since are concerned, I think you need talk to your vet directly or schedule an appt to have your kitten rechecked. I am sure your vet would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.

Moe Richards, DVM

Weight loss, older cat

Q: Dr. Mike-

My ten-year old cat has been losing weight for several months. She seems to feel fine except for the weight loss and labwork has all been normal, including a T4 value of 1.7 mcg/dl (normal 0.8 to 4.0 mcg/dl), normal glucose levels and normal kidney values. Is it possible that hyperthryoidism is the problem despite the normal blood values?

A: Linda-

As cats get older their T4 levels drop. Some older cats with T4 levels in the midrange or even in the lower half of the range for T4 are actually hyperthyroid because their individual "normal" value is very low. We have seen this problem mostly in cats that are 15 years or more of age.

Thyroid hormone levels can vary a lot over time in cats and some cats with hyperthyroidism can be detected simply by repeating the total T4 test at a later time. Usually it is best to wait at least a week and some endocrinologists recommend waiting a month.

It is possible to test for hyperthyroidism using more specific testing if it seems warranted. There are two ways to do this. One is to draw blood and test for free T4 levels (the free T4 is the portion of total T4 that is circulating in the blood system without being bound to anything). It is possible for the free T4 to be high while the total T4 is low. This test is also occasionally misleading because some other conditions, most notably kidney failure, can cause rises in the free T4 levels. An alternative test is T3 suppression testing. The test takes three days, on the first day blood is drawn and saved under refrigeration so it can be compared with blood drawn on the last day. Oral T3 (Cytomel Rx) is administered every 8 hours for 2 days and the morning the of the third day. Then blood is drawn again within 8 hours of this pill. The T4 levels in the two samples are compared. In cats with hyperthyroidism, the T4 level in the second sample should be below 20nmol/L.

Of course, there is also a strong possibility that your cat doesn't have hyperthyroidism, so it is important to evaluate the overall situation. If weight loss continues and can not be explained by other lab results or physical exam results then it would be a good idea to test for mild or hidden hyperthyroidism. Other signs that might indicate hyperthyroidism are increases in activity level, increases in vocalization, vomiting or regurgitating frequently, heart rate increases and sometimes other behavioral changes (increased aggression, changes in urinary habits such as an increase in marking behaviors) and sometimes increased drinking and urination.

There is not a great deal of risk in being patient and waiting for further developments if hyperthyroidism is present, so there is no strong need to eliminate the possibility through further testing in the absence of supporting clinical signs. I have been trying to figure out what percentage of older cats that we see with unexplained weight loss may have this problem and do not really have a firm idea at this time.

Dr. Mike


Q: Dear Dr. Mike:

Heard of a cure and preventative of ringworm in cats. With a humane society and am very interested in finding out what the name of this medication is. Our vet has no knowledge of this medication. Can you help me?

A: D-

There is a "vaccination" for ringworm. It is effective at controlling clinical symptoms of ringworm but not at preventing the actual infection. In a humane society situation this may not be a satisfactory solution to ringworm infection since suppressing the symptoms would make it even more difficult to identify carriers. Cleanliness and routine disinfection are still the best options for controlling ringworm in a shelter situation, probably.

Ringworm is not very responsive to topical medications in pets, at least partially due to the presence of haired skin over the entire body. Internal medications are most effective at treating infection. Griseofulvin is an effective medication for ringworm and ketaconazole and itraconazole are also considered to be effective if used properly.

Mike Richards, DVM

Strays and heat cycles

Q: MIKE: My sister-in-law has cats in the house and some strays outside she feeds. How many days after birth does a cat come into heat? Thank you very much. Dennis

A: Dennis - Cats can come into heat within a week of having kittens and many come in heat sometime during the time they are nursing the kittens. Spaying the outside cats will help to reduce the overall population in the future because the spayed females will still maintain a territory. The more territory around your sister's house that is occupied by spayed cats, the fewer kittens will be produced. Since the cats won't be as inclined to allow another adult onto their territory as they are to allow their kittens to stay, the population will stay more stable. If the cats stay outside and are not spayed, she can reasonably expect to have a huge number of cats soon -- as many as she will provide food for.

Mike Richards, DVM

Chewing Cat

Q: Hi Dr. Mike! My cat keeps chewing on all kinds of plastic items such as bags, chair arms, telephone cords, etc. I know that cats that are allowed outdoors often chew on grass as a natural constitutional. My cat is an exclusively indoor cat. Is there some essential vitamin or mineral that cats obtain from green grass and which my cat is lacking? He is not generally a compulsive animal.

I recently adopted him from the Toronto Humane Society ( 2 weeks ago). He is 1.5 years old, neutered and declawed on the front. He has no medical problems which I am aware of ( and none were reported by the humane society ). He has healthy eyes, nose and coat. However, he is a little underweight and is a very fussy eater. I have tried many different types of dry and wet food, none of which seem to meet his satisfaction.

I have started a cat grass kit which should be ready in 3 or 4 days. Will this solve his compulsive chewing problem? Could the chewing be related to his poor appetite?

Thanks in advance for any advice you could suggest. Ruth P.S. His teeth are good.

A: Ruth- Sometimes it does help to have an available source of grass to chew on. In other cases, adding fiber to the diet can help. This can be accomplished by buying a high fiber diet, such as Hill's r/d or by adding a fiber source such as Metamucil (tm) or pumpkin pie filling to the diet. Some of my clients have just added string beans to their cat's food and had success in curbing chewing behavior. Other times, this occurs as a behavioral problem that seems to be unrelated to fiber in the diet or to the availability of green vegetable/grass food items. Some cats will respond to treatment with anti-anxiety medications such as amitriptyline. For others it is possible to work out a behavior modification plan if you have the help of an animal behaviorist. Your vet may be able to refer to you to someone in your area who can help develop a plan.

Good luck with this.

Mike Richards, DVM

Rule out health problems first

Q: Dear Dr. Mike, I hope you can help me. I have a four-year-old female cat that is declawed and neutered. Here is my situation: We (myself, my cat and my dog) have had a lot of changes in our live in the past 10 months, we moved three times, plus I got engaged and moved in my fiancée, so we have an addition to our family. Newton, my cat has always been a bit mischievous (she is a vocal cat and would hit papers or anything off my dresser during the night to wake me up, I learned to try to sleep throught this) but the past 4 months she has been just terrible. Every night she screams and cry's at the door non-stop until one of us wakes up (I don't let her out since I live in city in an apartment and she has always been an indoor cat). When I get up she runs to her food dish and wants food; I try not to give in to her, since I am sure that this is a way she is training me. I cuddle her in bed and sometimes she goes to sleep and sometimes she goes off to terrorize the apartment. I tried feeding her later in the evening, putting her in a create for the night, playing with her a lot before bedtime to tire her out, locking her out of the room and I don't know what else to do, she keeps screaming all night! We have tried squirting water at her, shaking cans with pennies in them at her and tossing socks at her (she must think this is a fun game by now or we are the crazy ones.) I love her very much, she is a smart, affectionate cat and I don't want to get rid of her. I was told that cats take time to adjust to changes but we have been at our new location for 4 months and the problem is getting worse. I was also told that pure white cats, which she is, are crazy or end up going crazy. Is this true? When I spoke to a veterinary, I was told that there was nothing wrong with her and it was the move that is upsetting her. I have to find some way so that we all can get some sleep and I don't know what to do next. Do you have any advice, suggestions, or any help for me? I appreciate any help you can give me! Sincerely, Pat

A: Pat-

The behavior you describe is pretty common with hyperthyroidism but your cat is a little younger than this condition usually occurs. I think I'd want to rule it out as a possibility, though. Diabetes in its early stages can also lead to hunger and behavioral changes associated with it. The best first step is an examination by your vet to rule out these conditions and other physical abnormalities. If things check out normally you may have to deal with this as a behavioral problem. Your vet may be able to help with that as well or may be able to suggest a behaviorist in your area who can.

Good luck with this. Mike Richards, DVM

Spraying behavior in female cats

Q: Hello. I've searched you cat database but I didn't exactly find what I was looking for. Have you ever heard of female cats spraying? My mother has one spayed cat and one that was unspayed. The one that would go into heat would spray on furniture and things and then the other spayed female picked up the habit. Do female cats spay for the same reasons as male cats (territory marking)? My 11 month old female cat just went into heat and I have another female spayed cat as well and I'm worried about the spayed female picking up the habit. She hasn't begun spraying yet tho. Is the only gaurentee getting her fixed? Why do female cats do this? sincerely, susan

A: Susan- I recently read an article, which I wasn't able to find when I went looking for it, that suggested that spraying behaviors are more common in spayed cats than they are in unspayed cats. In any case, spraying does definitely occur in female cats although not as frequently as it does in males. Presumably they spray for the same reasons, which include territorial pressures. Some clients note that their female cats spray when they are in heat, which I suppose may be a form of advertising their readiness to mate. Sometimes the cats are not really spraying, just urinating where they shouldn't. In these cases it may help to add litterpans, provide separate litter pan time or to try other treatments for litterpan problems. Medical therapy seems to work in female cats a little less reliably than in male cats, based on our practice experience. It still works often enough to make it worth trying if the problem really does seem to be behavioral after a thorough exam.

Mike Richards, DVM

Birth control - feral cats

Q: From time to time there will be a feral cat that can not be trapped in order to spay or neuter them no matter what kind of trap or bait is used. Are there any oral contraceptives or sterilization drugs available? Do you have any suggestions on ways to stop the birth of more unwanted animals. Any help would be appreciated.

A: Danesel- I am not aware of an effective oral contraceptive approved for cats. I am aware of veterinarians using megestrol acetate (Ovaban Rx), 1 5mg tablet per week, to control estrus in cats. I have not tried this and have no idea how well it works or even if it works for sure. I am very reluctant to use Ovaban in cats due to the potential for harmful side effects including induction of diabetes and mammary cancers. In some circumstances we do use this product and this may be a situation in which its use is justified. This is a chewable tablet that most cats will eat if mixed with food so that is an advantage in your situation.

There are injectable versions of progesterone which have also been advocated for birth control in cats. They have similar potential for side effects and it would seem impossible to inject these cats if you can't catch them so it probably isn't necessary to go into more detail. Mike Richards, DVM

Adjustment to new home

Q: I recently adopted a 1 year old cat from the pound. She looks like the runt of the litter? She looks very sad and isn't very responsive. I think she has been it a cage for a long time and she only wants to sit. I can't seem to get her attention and see doesn't seem to want to play at all. I think she may have been abused or maybe has a neuralogic problem? She will let you pet her, but she seem to be very scared of people. She looked so sad I just want to help her, but I'm not sure if I can. What advice do you have, I've search the Internet and can't find any info. I appreciate you help.-Chris

A: Chris- It takes a while for cats to adjust to a new home and become bold enough to enjoy their surroundings. For some cats this may only take a few hours and for others it can take a long time. If your cat continues to act as if she is unhappy it would be a very good idea to have your vet examine her to make sure there is not a physical reason for her to feel lethargic such as pain or anemia. If nothing is found on a physical exam you may have to work pretty hard to reassure her that life is OK at your house. Often, it is better to be patient and let a new cat come to you on its terms. If you do not push her limits too much she may find that she can be much more comfortable in your presence than hiding under the couch or avoiding you in other ways. It is reassuring to pets if the big events in their lives, such as feeding times, waking times, bedtimes, etc. occur at a regular time each day. If you can manage that it would help some, too. As a last resort, anti-anxiety medications help some cats adjust to new homes when they are having a difficulty doing so due to nervousness or fear. If necessary, your vet can help you decide what medications would be appropriate for your cat.

I hope that she has already discovered that you care for her and that you two are enjoying each other's company.

Mike Richards, DVM

Cat questions

Q: I have a long-haired male cat, about seven years old. Over the last couple of years he has developed a tendency to get a lot of knots and matting of his fur. I try to trim him with scissors, but he doesn't like it. He also hates being brushed. If I take him somewhere for grooming, should it be a vet or a pet groomer? Is there something I could feed him to improve the quality of his coat and avoid this problem? His diet consists of Purina Cat Chow Special Care dry food and water, and he seems to like it. He is an indoor cat. Also, while I am asking questions, is it necessary to get more shots for him at any time? He received the regular series when he was a kitten. He seems to be generally healthy. I have another behavioral question: I need to move his litter box from its current location, in a closet, because I need to use the closet. How can I do this so that he doesn't get confused or unhappy about it? He consistently urinates in the box, but sometimes defecates outside of it, on the rug in the same room. His box has been in this same place ever since we moved into the house four years ago. Thanks for your help.

A: Harriet- It doesn't matter whether or not you take your cat to a good groomer or a vet for the removal of mats, unless it is necessary to use a sedative or anesthetic in order to get the knots out. In that case it would be best to go to your vet. Most cats do not require sedation to get mats out. I do not know of a dietary supplement that will help decrease the number of mats but bathing and using a conditioner helps in cats that are possible to bathe.

The quickest way to help your cat adjust to a new litterpan location would be to move the original litterpan to the new location you wish to use and put a second litterpan at the site currrently in use. Once your cat has discovered the new location of the old litterpan and started to use it, too, you can remove the new one or put it in another spot in the house. Having two litterpans can help to avoid problems. If your cat won't use the new location or continues to use the spot where the old litterpan was it may be necessary to replace the litterpan at the old spot and then try to move the pan very slowly from the old spot to a better one. It is best to move the litterpan only inches a day, so moving one in this manner can take several weeks.

You should update his rabies vaccination as a minimum since that is required by law in most (all?) states. Updating his other vaccinations every three years or so is probably a good idea even in a totally inside cat.

Mike Richards, DVM

Keeping pets apart

Q: I recently found a kitten , about 3 months old, in the road who had been hit by a car. I took her to my local vet where much to my surprise she recovered. She has a broken leg which was not set, and is being confined for most of the day in a kennel to allow it to heal more or less straight. I have let her out for brief periods while I am cleaning her kennel and in order to meet my yorkie dog. In two weeks her time of recovery confinement will be over, and I'm not sure what to do about the current cold war that exists between her and the dog. Her litter box will be in the basement, which is only accessable through the area the dog considers his own. He and she will both be confined in this area when I am not home. It is a large area, kitten/breakfast room. This is the only place for a litter box as I am living in a parsonage and the other rooms are carpeted and public. My office is in the parsonage and the front rooms double as living rooms for me and meeting areas. The cat is curious about the dog and has approached him to play. He seems to be afraid of her but has been aggressive with wild animals and occasionally with other dogs. I don't want to come home one day to find he has been blinded by her claws. I can't let either of them have the run of the house because he is not trust worthy with his housebreaking and I don't know how she will be. I don't know if I can get cat urine odor out of a carpet. I have had success with getting the dog odor out, but I've been in homes where cats live that smelled terrible. So I'm not taking any chances. I also have about 50 large house plants and don't want her in the rooms with them when I am gone. any suggestions?

A: k- It is unlikely that the kitten would seriously hurt the Yorkie, but it is possible that something like eye damage could occur in an altercation. In the time I have been in practice I have seen three or four scratched corneas on dogs that were inflicted by cats. It is more likely that he could hurt the kitten at this stage in their lives. If you are worried about their behavior when you are away it would be acceptable to confine one or the other of them to a small area of the basement or to keep one or the other in a crate during the day, especially since it seems like you are there most of the time to make sure the confinement isn't too long. Some cats are good about confinement and others don't tolerate it very well. It would protect the houseplants if your kitten continued to tolerate the crate well.

There are pretty good odor removers for cat urine. Feline Odor Neutralizer, X-O, Equalizer and Nature's Miracle are some of the brands that clients seem to think work well. If there are accidents these would be good to have on hand.

Mike Richards, DVM

A: Kronborg- I'm not sure I can be much help with your problem. From the history you have provided, I would be concerned with allowing the dog and kitten to occupy the same area without any supervision since you have stated your Yorkie is aggressive with other animals and is unsure of the kitten. I would advise taking the time to introduce the kitten and your Yorkie to each other often under controlled situations to see what type of behavior results. Many times kittens and cats will hiss at dogs and then end up running away and hiding. Most kittens or cats will not outright attack a dog unless they are threatened. You may have to keep separate areas in the basement if the dog and kitten do not learn to get along or there appears to be aggression problems between the two. If separating the basement is not feasible and there isn't anyone to supervise the two especially if they don't get along, you may want to consider finding a home for the kitten. Your situation may make it impossible to keep both animals based on their personalities and the living arrangements. Good luck.

Moe Richards, DVM

Oral Lesions

Q: I was just told, from the front desk at the Vet's office, that my 4 1/2 month old kitten had lesions under her tongue. What is that? It isn't apparent to my unproffessional eye. Could lesions appear immedietly after being spayed...from licking the suture? I know that I should ask more questions at the Vet's office, but at the time, it was very busy, and they didn't answer my question, when I called them later in the day. Thanks. Robin

A: Robin- I guess it is possible that the lesions could be from licking the sutures but it would appear to me if that was the case the lesions would be on the top of the tongue, not underneath. Cats do have various types of viral diseases which have oral lesions as a clinical sign (calici virus, herpes virus, fiv) and underlying diseases such as renal disease but most of the time, other clinical signs are associated with the above diseases such as sneezing, ocular or nasal discharge with calici/herpes or decreased appetite and lethargy with the other problems. There is a good chance the lesion isn't anything. Most oral lesions can interfere with eating if severe enough and you may notice drooling, decreased appetite etc. Since you are concerned, I think you need talk to your vet directly or schedule an appt to have your kitten rechecked. I am sure your vet would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Moe Richards, DVM

Black area at scratch site

Q: Hi, I couldn't access your email from the web site so I hope this is ok. a friend of mine has a cat who got a scratch and she cleaned it out and thought she was ok. now, there seems to be a black spot growing there on the right cheek where the scratch was, and now on the other cheek and even on the nose. this black spot grows. please help us. sincerely, deborah

A: Deborah: It is hard to say exactly what the black area is but it very well could be associated with infection and tissue necrosis (dying tissue). Most cat scratches and bites have a lot of organisms which like to produce abscesses which in turn cause the overlying skin to die. The best thing is for your friend to do (if it hasn't been done already) is to take the cat to her regular veterinarian for a complete exam and possible antibiotics. Your vet should be able to help with this problem.

Moe Richards DVM

Choking Cat

Q: Hi, my sister took her cat to the vet after a choking incident. The vet could find nothing in the throat. But I think he gave it a steroid shot. Anyway, the cat had had a bandaid on a wound, and after the choking incident the bandaid was not found and the cat had been biting at the bandaid. The cat now has intermittent spells of shallow or wheezy breathing, but then it clears up the same day. Could this be a foreign body in the esophagus, and can the vet see it with a endoscope type utinsel, Should she return the cat to the same vet or try an animal hospital. She has 8 cats. Thanks, Paula,

A: Paula- Hopefully your sister's cat is OK now. Inhaling a bandaid could lead to the signs seen. It may show up on an X-ray in this case (but it might not) and an endoscopic exam of the trachea would probably be a good way to find it, too. It would be less likely for something to obstruct the esophagus more than a few hours but that is also a possible. I think it is usually just as good to go back to your usual vet for a second opinion -- lots and lots of times I discover things when clients come back that I didn't see or that hopefully weren't there on the first visit! If for some reason you do not trust your sister's vet, or she doesn't, then it may be best to find a new vet. Communication and trust between a vet and client are both important in order for the best pet care.

Mike Richards, DVM

Blood in stool and weight loss

Q: I have three cats. One male and two female, a family for 6 years. Recently, my oldest cat (10-year old male) has abandoned the litterbox. The only other incidents in the past have been when dirty (like when using paper due to declawing of other cats). It seems that now he doesn't even head to the box, opting instead for my living room carpet. Now I have noticed some blood in his stool. Do you think he is trying to tell me something? The other two cats don't seem to have this problem. I will also mention that I think he's lost some weight recently and that I am battling a flea infestation. Could these things be related? My animals have had tapeworm in the past; I see no signs of it now. How shall I treat my precious companion? Thank you for any assistance you can provide.

A: k- The best first step is a trip to your vet to make sure that there is not a physical problem leading to these behaviors. In older cats problems like inflammatory bowel disease and hyperthyroidism can lead to changes in litterpan behaviors and cystitis or other conditions can affect cats of all ages. We have information on behavioral problems relating to litterpans in our catinfo section -- the index should lead you to them.

Mike Richards, DVM

Swollen lip - cat

Q: Dear Dr. Mike, I have a 3 year old cat with a swollen bottom lip. I don't notice any abrasions or anything embedded inside which might be causing this. I noticed it about a week ago and it is getting worse. So far, it has not effected her eating habits. Is this something you have heard of before? Is there any medication available over the counter that I might be able to try before bringing her to the vet?

A: Michele- Swollen lower lips are commonly associated with acne in cats but can occur for several other reasons, including low blood protein levels, parasitism, eosinophilic granuloma complex and contact allergies.

Your vet is the best person to help sort these out and to provide treatment for whichever problem seems to be occurring.

Mike Richards, DVM

Eosinophilic granuloma complex

Q: Greetings, My cat Trixie has had a non-healing scabbed sore on the corner of her nose that my local vet has called eosinophilic granuloma complex. She had it this time last year, for which we gave her 2 steroid shots, and it went away. It came back this spring, and before I had decided to take her back for another shot, it began to clear up on its own. It is on a part of her nose that previously had had dark pigment, but now it does not. Does this sound like EGC? I have read some other web pages about this complex, and none of the symptoms sound quite right. Can EGC manifest like I have described? Is there something else this problem might be? I would love to hear from you. Thanks, Liz

A: I think that the lesion you describe could be from eosinophilic granuloma complex. I would also worry about squamous cell carcinoma, a skin cancer, contact allergies (such as to plastic food bowls) and other immune mediated diseases. A biopsy may help differentiate between the possible causes if the lesion continues to occur. I can not explain why squamous cell carcinoma lesions sometimes seem to respond to corticosteroids but have seen this in our practice.

Mike Richards, DVM

Spay and neuter - plus chronic diarrhea

Q: Dr. Mike, Can you tell me at what age I should have my female kitten spayed? She is approx. 3 1/2 months old. I have five other cats, one of whom is an 18 month old unneutered male (under threat of neutering for some time now, but I haven't got round to it). With a family of 6 cats and 1 dog, kittens would be a major problem.. (they are indoor/outdoor cats) Also, the kitten has been suffering for several weeks from diarrhea. She has seen two different vets (because I commute weekly between 2 homes, along with the menagerie), been de-wormed, de-flead, put on a course of antibiotics, put on a 48 hour diet of rice and yoghurt, put on a special diet of "special formula" baby feed with rice, chicken and cottage cheese (not all together), given three different types of anti diarrhea tablets (active levure capsules for one, I can't remember what the others were). Nothing seems to have any effect, except perhaps to change the consistency and colour of the diarrhea... I, and both vets, are at our wits' end...

DO you have any suggestions? If I ignore it, is it likely to eventually go away, or could it be dangerous to her health? (she seems to be perfectly fit, healthy and active in all other respects). I would also like to know if this problem would be at all likely to complicate matters if and when I have her spayed. (I have already lost one kitten, who died the day after being spayed - I would hate it to happen again.)

I would also appreciate it if you could give me or point me towards any information on possible DISADVANTAGES of having the male (16 month old) dog neutered - all I can find is a lot of information on the ADVANTAGES - I'm sure there must be a down-side to it as well... Many thanks for your help, Wendy

A: Wendy- The only disadvantages I know of to neutering a male cat or dog are the cost and the risk of anesthesia. Overall, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Diarrhea in kittens can be incredibly difficult to control once it becomes chronic. Almost all kittens will eventually outgrow diarrhea but it can be a long frustrating wait. It is a good idea to rule out intestinal parasites by giving appropriate medications for giardia (hard to diagnose sometimes) and considering deworming even if stool checks are negative. We have the best luck controlling diarrhea with diphenoxylate (Lomotil Rx) but it may not be a good choice for long term use.

We have spayed several kittens when we were not controlling their diarrhea well. It worries me but it doesn't seem like they'd do better if they were pregnant, either. Judging from the results of recent studies on the effects of early spaying and neutering it seems safe to spay early - certainly by 4 months of age.

Mike Richards, DVM

Breaking old habits

Q: Dear Dr. Mike, I have a 7 year old female cat whom I have had since she was two months along with her brother. The female cat has the bad habit of scatching on my bedroom door and crying every night to get in my room. I have never let the cats sleep in my room at night. I cannot seem to break her of this habit. I live in a one bedroom apt. and have to now lock her in her cat cage all night long so that I can get a peaceful nights sleep. I feel guilty about doing this however this behavior has been going on for 7 years now. There is no trouble from the male cat. Any suggestions? Karen

A: Karen- This is a situation in which some sort of remote punishment or deterrent might work. You could put a cookie pan with water in it in front of the door for a few weeks to see if it would break your cat of the habit by making it unpleasant to get to the door. Of course, if you're like me you'll forget and step in the water yourself. A plastic runner or plastic drop cloth placed in front of the door might help, too. Putting a small speaker there and blasting your cat with a sudden loud noise might help. You just want something that you can consistently make happen when you cat scratches the door that isn't too harmful but that is unpleasant to your cat.

Mike Richards, DVM

Environmental control - Diabetes

Q: Hi, I thought that you might find it interesting to know about my experience with feline diabetes.... My kitty, after being diagnosed with a flea allergy was, in fact, given a cortisone shot as treatment which somehow triggered diabetes. Fortunately I had student loan money and a good vet (Dr. Ashley)at the University of Georgia. His insulin dosage was hard for them to regulate, but he did improve. I was giving him 2 shots a day (fortunately I had 2 great roomates both experienced at giving shots)and we had moved and alleviated the flea problem (which was hard because my roomate had a cat as well). Then one evening my kitty threw up and started having seizures. We rushed him to university clinic(who fortunately had students there late.) After a couple of days in ICU and no insulin he was fine . The diabetes I had been treating for 6 months had disappeared. Strange, indeed but a relief as well. All of his hair had grown back-he was a normal cat again. I moved three times after that and still he was fine . However I have been living with my brother for the past 5 months. There are 2 other cats and a ferret as well. I can control my cats fleas and my space --but The rest even when they are all on Top Spot still do not seem to help collectively. My cat is once again losing hair and forming scabs-worse than before. It is very sad to see all the improvement that he had made reverse itself. I'm moving to San Francisco soon and I hope the cooler climate there combined with being in the city will be a better environment for him. I no longer have the student loan money to help me get him quality and consistent treatment . So meanwhile I am doing what i can with Top Spot(I know when it wears off because he starts throwing up) and an oatmeal cream. Just hearing him scratch and sneeze makes me feel helpless. Sorry for such a long story and I found you site very imformative. Thanks for yor time. Julie

A: Julie - Thanks for the review of your cat's experience with diabetes. Sometimes it will return when this sort of thing happens but using a diet with a moderately increased fiber content and controlling the weight and skin disease (so no corticosteroids need to be given) can help. Antihistamines help some cats with skin allergies and do not seem to have the affect of promoting diabetes, so it might be worth tring them, too. Ask your vet about this.

We have had very good luck with TopSpot eliminating fleas in our practice but some people do seem to have situations in which it won't totally control fleas by itself. Hopefully, when you move things will improve since one pet in a houseold is always easier to treat successfully than several pets in a household.

Good luck with all of this.

Mike Richards, DVM

Sunblock - actinic keratitis

Q: I have a white short-hair cat with pink nose and ears. the cat's ears are getting sunburned, causing tips of ears to curl back. There is some scabbing on outer ear and inner ear is fine. What brand of suntan lotion should I use or is there another way to protect ears from sun? Thanks..Marie

A: Marie- You can use any sunblock you want on your cat's ears. The higher the SPF, the better. Also, the waterproof ones are better, as well.

I hate to be pessimistic, but there is a pretty good chance your cat already has actinic keratitis (precursor to cancer) or squamous cell carcinoma (the cancer that affects white cat's ear tips and noses from sun exposure).

Please have your vet examine your cat for these problems. When caught early it is easier to treat these problems.

Mike Richards, DVM

New kitten - older cat not herself

Q: Dr. Mike - Before I begin, I would like to say thank you. Your web site is a wealth of information for pet lovers throughout the world! I'm new to the pet care world, so please bear with me as I ask a question that may seem like common knowledge... We have three cats, two brother and sister, both 1 1/2 years old, spayed/neutered and shots given, and the newest addition is a 6 1/2 week old female kitten. We have had the older cats for about four months and recently received the kitten about 3 weeks ago. The older cats have gotten adjusted to their new home and are still adjusting to their new sister. However, "Belle" the older female, has become somewhat reclusive. She won't eat much, her energy level has dropped dramatically, she's become reclusive and sleeps a majority of the time. Her brother, "Tippy", on the other hand, has not changed at all. His behavior is the same has it has been since we received him. "Belle" was initially frightened when we first received her, but overcame that after a week or so. "Peeper", our new arrival, was extremely frightened, but is breaking out of her shell. She has seemed to taken a liking to Belle, with her responding as a mother figure. Tippy has been somewhat territorial with Peeper. He'll swing at her, hiss, and hit her, but she still tries to play with him. I realize most of this is probably normal behavior during an adjustment period, which will pass as the Peeper gets older. But my concern is with Belle. Is her behavior normal or could she be sick and if she is sick, what do the symptoms (not eating, hides, sleeps alot, very low energy level) suggest?

A: Martin- If Belle still seems reclusive and tired, please have your vet examine her. There are a several illnesses which could cause this sort of behavior. Hopefully she won't be sick but it is best to have her examined.

Mike Richards, DVM

Cardiomyopathy and weight loss

Q: Dear Dr. Mike, My 15-yr old female cat was diagnosed with the beginning stages of cardiomyopathy a little over 1 year ago. She has been treated with Diltiazem. During her last visit to her vet (who is wonderful), evidence of her heart murmer was gone. Results of her blood and stool tests were excellent. However, she continues to lose weight (even though she continues to eat heartily (no pun intended). Is it possible that the medication could be causing the weight loss? Do you have recommendations as to diet or further testing? Thank you.

A: Tcejq-In any older cat with weight loss and an increase in appetite I think it is important to rule out diabetes and hyperthyroidism. These are both eliminated through blood testing. Hyperthyroidism can be a little tricky to diagnose in cats over 15 since normal blood levels are often low -- so when the cat gets hyperthyroid (too much thyroid hormone for it to handle) the blood levels may still be in the lab's "normal" range. Specialized testing may be necessary to sort this problem out if it occurs.

Mike Richards, DVM

Rectal blood

Q: Dear Dr. Mike, My female siamese mix kitten has been treated for roundworms, but continues to get thin, and frequently has blood coming from her anus. Do you know of anything else we may have missed, perhaps something in the house causing her problem? She's an indoor cat. Regards, Kevin

A: Kevin- There are a number of possible causes of blood in the stool in kittens. If the blood is coming directly from the anal area it may also be a problem with anal sacs or even an asbcess in the perineal region.

Intestinal parasites other than worms (giardia, coccidia) can occasionally cause blood in the stool. Colitis for any reason can do this. It is best to have your kitten rechecked by your vet.

Mike Richards, DVM

Loss of function in rear legs, incontinence

Q: Hello. I've just located your website and hope you can help our family with a really tough problem. We have 2 DSH tabbies, both neutered males, 13 years old. Nicholas weighs about 18 lbs. -- not small! They stay indoors, as we're in a coyote habitat neighborhood. Over the past 13 years, both cats have had occasional periods of several weeks to several months of using places other than the catbox to urinate. However, for the past four years, this has not been a problem. Over the past year or so, Nicholas has gotten increasingly weak in the hindquarters, falling often, having trouble getting up stairs, or jumping up or down from his favorite chairs. The vet has been monitoring him, and he (the cat, not the vet!) has been on medication (Pred 5mg - once a day) for the past year+. We've tried getting him to lose some weight -- he eats NutroMax feline "Lite" dry food, + a half can of natural choice daily, which he must share with Thomas (whose health is fine, by the way). He doesn't seem to lose weight unless we virtually starve him by cutting way back on feeding, but then when we do feed him he eats so fast he throws it all up again. Anyway, now he can't use his back legs at all, but drags them behind him. Seems to have good front leg strength -- has no trouble going wherever he wants to get, except up the stairs. He doesn't seem to be in any pain at all, so it's not like arthritis -- doesn't meow or whine, eats fine, is always purring and friendly, just like he's been for all his life. In fact I don't think he has much feeling in his lower half at all... you can pinch or step on his tail and he doesn't respond. This lack of feeling I believe has led us to what is the real problem for us... he can't tell when he needs to urinate or defecate any more, so he just goes wherever he is. His stools aren't that much of a problem--they are fairly dry and hard and can just be picked up. However, his urine isn't. It seems normal, no crystals, no blood. In fact, it's fairly dilute (pale rather than deeper yellow). But there's a lot of it -- big puddles a couple of times a day. Needless to say, he now lives in a confined space on a vinyl floor -- the master bathroom, to be specific-- and I clean up after him all the time. The vet says there's not much we can do.My latest idea is to keep him in diapers--but he slides out of them when he scoots across the floor. I've now got him rigged into a combination of diaper, held in place by one of those sanitary napkin belts for dogs, held in place by hooking it to a leash harness contraption with a strap across his chest. It seems to hold OK, and he doesn't seem to mind it at all. Continues to purr while I hold him on his back to change him. Most tolerant cat... I have a strong aversion to euthanasia, and especially as he's not apparently in pain, I couldn't justify it on the grounds of personal inconvenience to me. My children also are adamantly opposed. However, we really can't live like this for very long. Our carpets smell, our bathroom is not available, and the time I spend on cat cleaning up really should be spent in other ways. DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER IDEAS FOR US? ANY FELINE INCONTINENCE PRODUCTS ("DEPENDS" for cats?) that you know of? Any ideas for building a cart for his back legs to ride on? I've seen dogs on them, but don't know how to access information about making one... I tried a skateboard but he kept tipping it over. Or any other resources I might find? We love our Nicholas and we all need help! Thanks so much.

A: Bev and Dave-Please check to see whether or not your vet has tested for low blood potassium and for hyperthyroidism. These would be treatable conditions that could cause many of the symptoms you are seeing.

If these diseases are not the problem and treating the urinary incontinence is necessary it may help to learn to express Nicholas' bladder on a regular basis (if the problem seems to be neurologic) or to use medications for incontinence if neurologic problems does not seem to be the problem. One of my clients says that if you reverse the pattern for baby diapers you can make a pretty good set of diapers for pets. I don't sew (at least not fabrics) and didn't really understand what she meant by that, but you might.

Mike Richards, DVM

Selective litterbox habits

Q: Dear Dr. Mike, I have a question that I did not see covered in your index. My 5 year old female Persian has decided not to use her litter box for defecation although she will urinate in the litter box. This problem appeared to start sometime after we acquired a new dog. The dog was with us for close to a year and then the cat started demonstrating this problem. The dog is not indoors at all times as are the cats (we do have a male tonkinese too) . I have not changed the brand of her litter nor the location of the litter box. She will defecate right outside the litter box on the carpet. At times, she have even covered her mess with a piece of carpet that is immediately outside the box. I have used a deorderizer but have not had success in correcting this behavior. She is very willful. Please help because my Fiance is threatening to evict her. Thank you for your help/insight. Gloria

A: Gloria- The first step in treating litterbox problems is to get a second litterbox and place it somewhere else in the house, if possible. If it is impossible to do this, put it close to the current box. Putting a different litter in this box can be helpful - if you currently use clay litter consider changing to clumping litter, for instance. Make sure that the dog and the other cat are not harrassing this one when it is in or near the litterpan. If this is occurrring it would be helpful to figure out a way for this cat to have "private time" with the litterbox. Your vet may be able to evaluate the situation and give you more specific advice, too. Mike Richards, DVM

Bladder infection in male cat

Q: Dear Dr. Mike: My two year old neutored male cat, Tigger, has been having much trouble urinating the last couple of days and now can hardly walk. For the past three weeks I have found cat urine in many different places-- but passed it off as the new kitten we bought last month. This morning our vet examined him and did a urinalysis and determined Tigger had a bladder infection. He prescribed 20mg of Baytril a day. It is now almost 5:00pm and Tigger has not eaten or drank today. He just lays down in the shower (his favorite spot now). When should I contact our vet again? He did say to come again if Tigger got worse or stopped eating and drinking. Is it an emergancy or should we just wait and see for a few days (let the medicine work)? Also, is there anything I could do to make Tigger more comfortable? He is usually very social and even now seems to enjoy our company when we check on him. I would also like to prevent this from happening in the future. Could the kitten's food caused this? Thank you ! Lori

A: Lori- There are times when I wish that this was my sole job and that I could give immediate responses to inquiries. I hope that Tigger is OK and that you did contact your vet. Anytime that a male cat is having urinary difficulties it is potentially an emergency. If there are signs like lethargy, not eating, depression or coma, it is necessary to consider the situation an emergency and to contact your vet or an emergency veterinary clinic. It is always better to make an unnecessary trip to the vet then to risk death from urinary blockage.

Again, I hope Tigger is OK. Mike Richards, DVM

Litterbox abandonment

Q: We share a large house with our daughter and 8 cats. My husband and I started with 4 cats (all nutered) which we've had for over 4 years. No real problems with their litterbox behavior. Then my daughter moved in with her 2 cats, one of which we thought had worms. She took the cat to the vet for worming and was told of kittens instead. So now, there are eight cats here. The two large litterboxes are totally changed daily. They are on a patio with access through a cat door. But in the last few weeks, the cats (all of them) seem to ignore the litterbox. My house has become a large litterbox instead. I'm at the point where all eight may end up as outside cats. I really don't want this to happen, as we live in a wooded area with some wild animals (foxes, etc) about. But we also have a brand new baby in the house and helping to care for him as well as working and daily chores along with cleaning up after cats is getting to be too much. I have tried a number of OTC sprays and liquids that are supposed to take the odor out so that the cats will not return to that spot. But it's an entire hallway and nothing has worked so far. HELP please. Sue

A: Sue- It is hard to be sure what will work in a situation like this but the first step I'd advise would be to add several more litterpans, preferably located where the problem is occurring. This may give you a temporary reprieve from the problem. Then you would have time to sort out the rest of the problem.

With eight cats someone is going to urine mark in the house. It would take extraordinary luck to avoid this problem with that many cats in a household (or maybe a very big house). If the offending cat can be identified anti-anxiety medications may help to control the problem. If several cats are involved this will get to be a lot of work to administer, too, though. While it isn't always an acceptable option, the best way to deal with this problem is to decrease the population of cats in the household. Just moving some of the cats outside may not work, since an inside cat can be stimulated to urine mark by the scent or sight of an outside cat. This is particularly true if the cats who are allowed access to the house have to contend with the outside cats to use the litterpans. You may very well have to resort to the "everyone out" plan if you intend to keep all the cats. Mike Richards, DVM


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...