Handling Community ‍Cats

community catsYou may have never heard of “‍community ‍cats,” but you have probably seen these longtime Orange County residents, either in your own neighborhood or out and about in an alleyway or a city park, providing the county with free rodent control.
Disneyland has over 200 ‍commun‍‍ity ‍cats, which it credits with keeping the park’s rats and mice at bay. Disneyland cares for its feline friends with a spay/neuter program and five fully stocked feeding stations.

According to information published by the Humane Society of the United States, “‍community ‍cats” are typically unowned or semi-owned and include strays and ferals. The former likely are lost and abandoned former pets, the latter ‍cats that are extremely fearful of people.

Some ‍community ‍cats can be considered loosely owned, meaning that concerned residents feed them and may provide some form of shelter but do not always identify the ‍cats as their personal pets.

The issue of managing ‍community ‍cats can create conflict. Dissent can arise among neighbors; between ‍cat advocates and wildlife advocates; and among animal care and control leaders, local government leaders and their constituents.

Anaheim Fix Project, an Orange County-based ‍cat rescue and spay/neuter advocacy organization, says that people often mistakenly consider stray or feral ‍cats to be wild animals who can fend for themselves. But they’re not wild, the group says, and can’t survive without human intervention.

According to the humane society, trap-neuter-return, or TNR, programs are the most effective way to deal with ‍community ‍cats. An integral part of successful TNR programs is feeding the ‍cats. Creating stable feeding stations allows monitoring of the colonies; identification of new ‍cats, which can be trapped and sterilized or placed in homes if they are social; and control of roaming and disease. ‍Cats are healthier when they have a consistent food source; according to the humane society, ‍cats are loathe to leave their “home” areas, and will search for food closer to populated areas if not fed, often leading to more complaints about their presence.

Orange County Animal Services, the Orange County SPCA and other local groups support TNR. Volunteers who participate in these programs provide a public service by ‍handling a problem that is hard to control.

Anaheim on Jan. 1enacted a municipal code that makes it illegal for anyone to intentionally provide food, water or other forms of sustenance to a feral ‍cat or feral ‍cat colony within city boundaries.

Good intentions were likely behind the code’s creation, but local groups such as the OCSPCA and Anaheim Fix Project are concerned about the wording and enforcement.
The Anaheim Fix Project says, “This law is not only inhumane, but it is illegal according to California law, which calls starving a ‍cat ‘animal cruelty.’ Rather than starving ‍cats and turning kind caretakers into criminals, the city should spend their resources on spay neuter programs (TNR) which have been proven to be the most effective way to control feral ‍cat ‍com‍‍munities.”

Numerous good Samaritans in our area trap freeroaming ‍cats, sterilize them, then feed them. If a client tells me they have a ‍cat hanging around that they cannot take in, I suggest this practice. It prevents uncontrolled reproduction, yowling, fighting and roaming into areas where the ‍cats may not be welcome.

The humane society says that TNR is the most effective and humane way to control stray ‍cat populations. According to its reoprt on managing ‍community ‍cat colonies, TNR is a longterm investment in ‍com‍‍munities and less expensive than admitting, holding, euthanizing and disposing of healthy ‍cats.

Let’s hope Anaheim amends or repeals its code and chooses instead to work with groups that are trying to effectively control ‍com‍‍munity ‍cat populations.

Copyright © 2015 The Cat Care Clinic

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The Tale of Angel, A Cat in Need

Yorba Linda Cats in Need, a local rescue group, brought a flame point Siamese mix into our clinic for examination. The 1-year-old kitty, named Angel, had been captured and treated over the previous month for wounds she sustained when her front right leg had been caught in her harness. It was unknown how long her leg had been trapped, but she had been observed hiding for months in an industrial building’s alleyway. During this time she had a kitten and started to limp. Four different rescue groups had tried to capture her. She was very elusive. Although she had been wearing a flea collar and harness, she did not have an identification tag or microchip. Angel had likely been someone’s pet, but there was no way to find her owners, It was unknown whether she had been abandoned.


We saw Angel for a second opinion on how to treat a wound in her armpit. It had improved and contracted over the previous six weeks, but it would not close. She had not had any surgery. The armpit is a tricky area to work with due to friction and the mobility of the front leg. We recommended some more medical care and observation, but after about six more weeks, we knew the wound would not heal without surgery.

Angel’s first surgery involved creating a pocket around her elbow that would relieve tension in her armpit and allow the wound to heal. Things looked good for several weeks, but even with an Elizabethan collar and restricted activity, the wound would not heal.

A second surgery was scheduled. This time we planned to culture the tissue to see if there were any unusual bacteria that were preventing healing. A more aggressive surgical procedure called a thoraco-dorsal flap was performed. During this surgery, tissue from the side of Angel’s chest was lifted and rotated into her armpit area. The flap relieved tension in her armpit and allowed for full movement of her front leg without damaging tissue.

The culture of her wound grew a MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus). This is a bug that is resistant to many antibiotics. This infection was part of the reason her wound had not healed.

Fortunately the second surgery successfully closed the wound and allowed her full use and motion of her right front leg. The bacterial culture allowed us to change the antibiotic she was taking and clear the underlying infection.

It was six months between Angel’s capture and her complete recovery. Angel didn’t learn to love us at the clinic. Her natural instincts were to resist restraint, and she associated us with her discomfort. She did learn to tolerate her Elizabethan collar and did well with her pain medications.

Luckily for Angel, she had a patient foster caretaker, through Yorba Linda Cats in Need, who loved her and formally adopted her when she was healed and healthy. Angel had been isolated during the treatment period but is now fully integrated into her home and hangs out with the other pets in the household. Angel went from being a freeliving, wildly behaving cat to a great house pet. Our clinic team is thrilled that this helpless cat had a happy ending to her story.

Copyright © 2015 The Cat Care Clinic

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New Year’s Resolutions to Keep Your Cat Healthy and Happy

You may have made a New Year’s resolution for yourself and set some goals to reach over the next 12 months, but it’s unlikely that these plans included your cat. Here are 10 things to consider that will help your pet have a healthy and happy new year.

Weight management and portion control: Most cats are overweight, and it is a myth that all cats are good at self-regulating their food intake. Unlimited access to dry food is the most common predisposing factor to obesity. Assess your cat’s weight and body condition. The portion sizes on most pet food labels are guidelines and don’t take your individual cat’s lifestyle and activity level into account. Ask your vet if you need help determining the proper diet and portion sizes to feed.

Identification: Does your cat wear a collar with an ID tag and/or is he microchipped? Owners of indoor-only cats don’t realize that identification might be the only way to recover their kitty in case of an emergency such as an earthquake or fire. A microchip is like an extra insurance policy – you may never need it, but if you get separated from your cat, you’ll be glad he has one.

Behavior issues: Does your cat eliminate out of the litter box or destructively scratch things? Does he bite or scratch you? Have you discussed these (or other problems) with your vet? The key to solving these problems quickly is seeking intervention right away so that the behavior doesn’t become part of your kitty’s routine. You will enjoy your cat more if he behaves appropriately. Your cat will be happier if you are happier with him. Many cats develop unwanted behaviors because they are stressed with things going on in the household. Get the help you need to find solutions and to identify triggers.

Environmental enrichment: It is easy for indoor cats to become overweight and develop undesirable behaviors when they are bored. Do you play with your cat? Does he have toys he likes and something interesting to watch through a window? http://indoorpet.osu.edu/cats/ is a great site to visit for ideas to keep your kitty stimulated and interactive.

Estate planning for your cat: I wrote a two-part series last year in this column with information about taking care of your cat in the event you are no longer able to. You cannot expect your relatives and friends to do this. You need to have a legal, written plan for handling your kitty’s future if you want to ensure what will happen to him.

Annual examination: Be sure your veterinarian examines your kitty at least once a year. You need an objective evaluation of his condition and health so that you can make good decisions about care. It is very common for owners to miss changes such as subtle, progressive weight loss with their pet. It is easier to deal with health and behavior problems when they are detected at an early stage.

Pain relief: Studies show that 60 percent to 90 percent of senior cats have arthritis or other painful conditions. Arthritis can be found in younger cats, too. Pain relief can improve your cat’s quality of life and could involve a combination of supplements, medications, modifications to the environment, and other modalities like laser therapy and acupuncture. It is very uncommon for a cat to let you know he is in pain. If you are noticing pain, it is likely quite severe. Pain is assessed through examination and X-rays. Lab work lets your vet know which medications are safe to use.

Grooming: Most cats do a decent job of keeping themselves clean, but some cats – due to their size, coat type, dental disease or lifestyle – are unable to do so. A cat’s innate nature is to be clean, and when he is not, you have to help him out. Grooming might be as simple as combing out his coat or bathing him. Some cats need body shaving or at least an under-the-tail hygiene clip.

Dental health: Cats don’t brush, and most cats develop some level of dental disease by the time they are 3 years old. Home dental care can be challenging for owners. The healthiest cats have good teeth and gums. Most cats with significant dental disease don’t complain. Most owners report that their cat is more social, active and energetic after dentistry, and that they hadn’t realized what a problem the teeth had been beforehand.

Flea and parasite control: Many great products are available for flea control, so fleas should not be pestering your kitty. Use a flea comb to monitor your cat for these annoying pests. Be sure you read labels and avoid products designed for dogs since they can contain permethrins, which are dangerous to cats. If you have a cat that gets fleas and/or hunts, you should be sure he is dewormed at least once a year since he is at a high risk of picking up internal parasites.

I hope that both you and your kitty have a great 2015!

Copyright © 2015 The Cat Care Clinic

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Don’t Let The Holidays Be Stressful ‍For Your ‍Cat

December is a busy time ‍for many of us with holidays, family time, and other events affecting our schedules and the home atmosphere . We hope that all of this is happy time, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Any changes in our households, good or bad, have the potential ‍for affecting our pets. Right after Thanksgiving I saw my first “holiday related” behavior case. Smokey was unhappy after family visited his owners. He had witnessed some human emotional outbursts, and his litter box cleaning hadn’t been consistent. Within the past five days, he had urinated one time each on the husband’s clothing and on the throw rug in the guest bathroom.

During his behavioral consult, we checked Smokey’s urine ‍for infection and performed a brief bladder ultrasound to look ‍for any stones or debris that could trigger him to urinate out of the box. Both tests were normal, as was Smokey’s physical exam. His owner filled out our behavior questionnaire, and we discussed what was going on around the house and how that could be affecting Smokey.

Smokey’s owner admitted that the litter box wasn’t getting cleaned daily and that she had been fighting with her husband during their company’s stay. She said that she and Smokey had a very strong bond. I was not surprised to hear this since ‍cats often exhibit undesirable behaviors when they sense tension and become secondarily anxious themselves. Also, while a few ‍cats may tolerate a dirty box under normal circumstances, they are less understanding when they are upset.

Since we had been able to identify a couple of triggers ‍for Smokey’s behavior, I felt optimistic that we could resolve his inappropriate urination issue. While patience and understanding between the owners might not be easy to control, making them aware that this was having an effect on their ‍cat was important. Improving litter box hygiene would hopefully be an easy task. No one likes scooping the box, but scooping a minimum of once daily surely beats washing clothing and rugs and then worrying about what spots could be next.

A phone check-in two days later was positive. Smokey had not urinated out of the litter box again. I planned to follow up again in a week. If Smokey’s behavior recurred, we would need to work on some other ways to reduce his anxiety and modify his behavior.

We utilize a variety of techniques to decrease ‍stress with our patients. There are calming treats, supplements and collars and pheromone diffusers. Creating vertical space with a high ‍cat tree or window shelf can give ‍your ‍cat someplace safe to escape to. Establishing an interactive play routine so you can enjoy ‍your ‍cat and he can get some exercise is a good idea. Keeping a routine schedule ‍for feeding and cleaning the litter box is helpful and what ‍your ‍cat prefers. We can resort to anti-anxiety medications if things are not improving, but they need to be used in conjunction with behavior modification.

‍Stressed ‍cats can exhibit a variety of behaviors in addition to house soiling, including hiding, biting and being destructive. During hectic times or if you know that you are not doing well emotionally yourself, be sure that you pay attention to any changes in ‍your ‍cat‍’‍s behavior. ‍Cats often mirror their environment and act out in response. Holiday decorations, visitors in the home and inconsistent schedules can affect ‍your kitty, so help make this time of year as easy as possible ‍for him, too.

Copyright © 2014 The Cat Care Clinic
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Cat Grooming Tips and Tricks

There are lots of things to love about cat ownership; one is that the majority of cats need little help to stay clean and looking good. Self-grooming is a natural, instinctive behavior. Shorthaired, indoor cats typically do a good job of taking care of themselves. They lick and clean themselves for short periods several times a day and eventually work over every inch they can reach. If they have a feline housemate they get along with, they may also get some assistance in the grooming department. If a shorthaired cat doesn’t have fleas, then a simple combing every week or two might be all an owner needs to do to keep their kitty looking good.

I always recommend that owners get their cat used to being combed at a young age, before any problems with the coat develop. Getting a kitten to tolerate being held and combed is part of his training process. The kitten needs to learn that the comb is not a toy, and that staying still for a few minutes is not the end of the world. Use treats and praise to reward good behavior. Shorthaired cats may not get matted, but they can definitely shed a lot, and combing is an excellent way to help control where the hair goes. I think a flea comb is a very good tool for grooming a shorthaired cat that is not having any problems with its coat or skin.

Cats come in a variety of sizes with different types of coats. If you have an overweight cat or senior cat that cannot groom itself, you will need to take a more active role in keeping him clean. These cats may need combing daily or at least several times a week. They might need what we call at our clinic a “sani shave,” where we shave the hair in the perineal region to keep it from trapping urine, feces and dirt. If you have a long-haired cat that is unable to keep the area under its tail clean, we recommend a “baboon butt” where we shave a larger area under the tail and around the upper back legs. Then you can use baby wipes daily to help keep a cat’s rear end clean if needed.

A flea comb is typically too fine to use on a medium- to long-haired cat; a medium- to wide-toothed metal comb would be the best tool to use. If your cat is matted, work on a small area at a time. Never cut out a mat unless you work a comb between the skin and mat and cut to the outside of the comb. Unfortunately we frequently have to stitch and surgically glue wounds accidentally caused by owners when they attempted to cut out mats at home and weren’t using a safe technique.

Does a cat ever need a bath? That all depends on the oiliness of the coat, flakiness of the skin, matting and dirtiness. Some owners are able to bathe their cats, but this can be a challenge. If you need help with bathing, combing or shaving of your cat, you will need to find a groomer or vet clinic that can do this for you.

Some cats want no part in being groomed or bathed. When their coats become a mess, and grooming is needed to keep them clean and looking good, sedation is needed to safely perform the process. At our clinic, if we suspect a cat might not tolerate grooming, we start with having his owner give an oral sedative prior to dropoff and the excitation and stress of being away from home. If this does not provide adequate relaxation, we will use injectable sedation. Injectable sedation is the healthiest way for all involved to be safe and protected. It is not good for a cat to get scared, freak out and possibly hurt himself during grooming. Upset cats can easily tear toenails when struggling, hyperventilate and even pass out. It is not safe for the people handling the cat when he becomes aggressive. This can slow down the grooming process, creating more stress for the cat. It is very difficult to do a good job of bathing, combing,and clipping if a cat won’t stay still. We use an injectable protocol that allows us to reverse some of the medications when we are done. If you have a kitty that is uncooperative, talk to your vet about recommendations for safe grooming.

Nail trimming is a part of routine cat grooming, and it’s great to get a kitten used to nail trimming at an early age. Many owners get on a schedule to trim nails every two to four weeks. How quickly nails grow and how sharp they are depends on the cat’s activity level, lifestyle and scratching post habits. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for senior cats to develop ingrown toe nails if their owners do not trim their nails at least every two to three months. If you have a senior cat, be sure you monitor his nails and get them trimmed so that painful infections don’t occur. If you cannot trim your cat’s nails, your vet or groomer can help.

Cats like to be clean, and you will enjoy your cat more if you are able to help control shedding and matting and keep his nails from being a problem.

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