Keeping cats safe outdoors

Many cats enjoy being outdoors as much as dogs do, but unfortunately it is not safe to allow a cat to roam outdoors. There are many dangers a cat faces while outdoors that do not necessarily threaten a dog. Cats can be prey for large canines, including dogs, coyotes, wolves and even a fox.


They are exposed to parasites of all types, including ticks, fleas, and various worms. This is especially risky if the cat catches small rodents.

Feral cats can also pose a problem by attacking and passing diseases to your cat. So what is a cat owner to do?

One option is to teach your cat to walk on a leash. Some cats enjoy doing this if they are taught properly. The first step is to be sure that your cat has a collar with ID tags or is micro chipped in the event that the cat should get away from you. Since cats do not like having pressure on their necks, you should use a harness for the cat.

The first step is to get the cat used to the harness indoors. You can do this by putting it on while you give the cat a special treat that they love and only get for wearing the harness. Clicker training the cat also works very well.

Once the cat is used to wearing the harness, you can lure the cat around your house with the special treat to get the cat used to walking with the harness on. As soon as the cat is used to that, you can attach a leash to the harness and lure the cat with the treat.

It is important to avoid pulling on the leash to get the cat to follow you, rather lure the cat with the treat.

Once the cat is willing to follow you, try doing it outside near your home or in your backyard. Gradually increase the distance that you walk with your cat. It is OK if you can only walk your cat in the backyard.

Keep in mind that your cat may be frightened by the outdoors and only feel comfortable in your backyard. Cats typically do not like noise and strange people if they are too close.

If your cat does not enjoy being outdoors on a leash you have other options. A nice window or enclosed porch can be enjoyable for a cat, or a cat “pen.” See for some ideas. Keep in mind that if you use a cat pen, you need to protect your cat from hawks as well, especially if the cat is small or a kitten.

Never force a cat to go outdoors if they do not enjoy being there. Some cats never get used to being on a harness. It is important to pay close attention to see if your cat is enjoying the experience. Some cats are very happy being an indoor only cat with a large window to look out of.

If your cat is one of those who do enjoy being outdoors, make sure that you check with your veterinarian to get tick and flea as well as parasite prevention measures to keep your cat safe. All of your cat’s yearly shots must be up-to-date as well.

Happy cat walking!


Excessive licking in dogs and cats

Dogs and cats will groom themselves by licking their fur. This is normal. They will lick their owners as a sign of affection as well. Licking can be a form of play and to let you know they are hungry. If the owner pays attention to their pet when they lick, it can reinforce the behavior, encouraging the pet to do it more often.

However, some pets will engage in excessive licking. Only the owner can determine if the pet is licking more than normal. Excessive licking is a compulsive behavior and the pet may lick everything in sight. This is not good for the pet and the family. Do not try to “correct” this behavior, it will only make it worse.

The first thing a pet owner must do is schedule a visit with your veterinarian. Excessive licking can be due to allergies, including food allergies. Other causes are boredom, stress, pain and diseases.

Try to recall if anything in the pet’s environment brought about the excessive licking. Changes are especially suspect, did you move, change the pet’s food, bed, alter the environment such as adding or taking away furniture, someone in the family moving in or out, a new pet, neighbor or any other change that the pet is aware of. Even a family member changing jobs, or a family crisis can affect a pet.

The easiest way to correct excessive licking is to give the pet an alternative activity. If the pet is a dog, give the dog a chew toy when he starts to lick. Praise the dog for chewing the toy. If the pet is a cat offer a toy for the cat to play with and interact with the cat. Be sure to give the pet a good rubdown or petting when they stop licking. If the pet tries to lick family members gently say “no” and give them something to chew or an activity.

If the excessive licking was due to a change in the home environment it may take a few weeks for the pet to adjust to the change. If the behavior does not stop or if it increases, it is best to consult with a certified canine or feline behavior consultant. You can find one at  With time and patience, excessive licking can often be cured.

Diarrhea and vomiting in dogs and cats

Dogs and cats can develop diarrhea and vomiting for several reasons. One of the most common causes for diarrhea is a sudden change in diet, such as changing the pet’s food. High quality food is always better but if the pet has been eating poor quality food and then is switched to high quality food too quickly, diarrhea may result. If you are going to change your pet’s food it should be done gradually over at least a week. Keep in mind that high quality food is only available in specialty shops. Examples of high quality food are Wysong and Annamaet.


Sometimes a pet will eat garbage or other food that they find and that can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Eating grass often results in vomiting.

However, unresolved diarrhea and vomiting can be a sign of Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in both dogs and cats. It usually occurs in middle age, in older pets and certain breeds of dogs. Those breeds are: Basenjis, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, German Shepherd Dogs, Yorkshire Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Shar-peis, Rottweilers, Weimaraners, Border Collies, and Boxers.

IBD can be managed with daily medications and regular visits to the veterinarian. If your pet has diarrhea or vomiting for 24 hours or more, you must get them to your veterinarian right away. Even if it is not IBD, your pet is at risk of dehydration.

For an excellent article go to:

Whole genome sequencing is helping to identify rare feline genetic disorders


Whole genome sequencing looks at the complete DNA sequence to identify anomalies that cause disease. This process allows veterinarians to provide more effective treatment for the diseases that they identify.

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Scientists at the University of Missouri, using the 99 Lives Cat Genome Sequencing Consortium established at Mizzou by Leslie Lyons, the Gilbreath-McLorn Endowed Professor of Comparative Medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine, have identified genetic variants that cause progressive retinal atrophy and Niemann-Pick type 1 which is a fatal disorder in domestic cats.

These studies will help domestic cats as well as their close relative the African black-footed cat which also suffers from these disorders.

DNA sequencing has helped in previous studies by identifying a genetic link between degenerative myelopathy in dogs and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in people.

It is exciting to read about the progress that is being made by scientists that will eventually help both people and animals live a longer, quality of life.

Cats seem to be able to understand the laws of physics

Researchers from Kyoto University in Japan led by Saho Takagi published their findings in Springer’s journal, Animal Cognition. In previous tests, researchers determined that cats can determine the location of invisible items based on their hearing alone. The latest study showed that cats responded to articles dropped from a container more when the container was shaken and made a rattling sound then they did to containers that had an object in them but did not make a rattling sound.

cat under sheets kitten

“Cats use a causal-logical understanding of noise or sounds to predict the appearance of invisible objects,” say Takagi. Since many cat’s hunt in low-light situations, this is a necessary association for them. This is one step closer to understanding the abilities of cats.

Medicating a cat

Medicating a cat can be one of the most difficult tasks that a cat owner faces. Most cats do not like to take medications. It is difficult to give a cat liquid medications, but they can be squirted into the side of the cat’s mouth, if you can hold the cat while doing it. Some pharmacy’s will compound medications for pets, using a chicken or beef flavor, which can make giving liquid medications easier.

However, giving a cat pills is even more difficult. Most cats are hard to hold and it is almost impossible to drop a pill into the back of the cat’s mouth far enough so that they must swallow it. If you miss, the pill can become wet with saliva and fall apart or be less likely to slide down the cat’s throat on a second try.

Trying to pry a cat’s mouth open when they know a pill is coming can result in being bitten. Janna Hautala, MSc (pharmacy) is addressing this problem by experimenting with flavored and flavor coated minitablets for cats. If she succeeds, cats may enjoy taking their medications, which will be a bonus for both them and the cat’s owner.

In the meantime, a pill popper is a good way to place a pill in the back of a cat’s mouth so that they swallow it. This helps to prevent the owner from being bitten and will help keep the pill dry until it is placed in the cat’s mouth.

There are two basic types, one is the Kruuse Buster Pet Pill/Tablet Syringe with Soft Tip and the other is called a pill gun.


The best way to use them is to tilt the cat’s head back, pry open the cat’s mouth by squeezing the back of the cat’s mouth on both sides to force it open with one hand and then quickly put the pill gun in the back of the mouth and dispense the pill. Quickly close the cat’s mouth and hold it until the cat swallows the pill. If the cat loves a special treat you can give the cat the treat the instant the cats swallows the pill.


Timing and rewarding the cat is essential or the cat will fight when it is time for the next pill. Of course, the best thing a cat owner can do is teach the cat or kitten to allow you to open their mouth and give them a pill. This can be done by going through the motions of giving the cat a pill but instead of a pill, they are given a small, pill sized treat that they love. It also helps if the cat only gets that treat when you practice giving the cat a pill. Make sure that the treat is easy to swallow and does not hurt the cat’s mouth or throat.

 It is essential that the cat owner practice giving the cat treat as a pill at least every other day. Hopefully in the near future, there will be cat pills that cats like to take.

Cats can suffer from high blood pressure


Most people do not realize that cats suffer from high blood pressure the same as humans. High blood pressure or hypertension is more common in older cats and often goes undetected.

Hypertension in cats can cause a multitude of health issues, such as organ damage to the eyes, heart, brain, and kidneys and even blindness.


The good news is that your veterinarian can easily check your cat’s blood pressure with a cuff that is put on the cat’s hind leg or tail. It is a painless procedure.

If you have an older cat it may be a good idea to have your cat’s BP checked when you get your cat’s yearly wellness check. High BP can be treated and treatment can prevent serious health issues. Talk to your veterinarian about your cat’s blood pressure.

Chronic colitis in cats

Chronic colitis in cats has been an ongoing problem for cat owners and veterinarians alike. Cats who have it suffer from diarrhea that comes and goes. Often the bowel movements are soft, like a ‘cow pie’ and can have blood and/or mucus in it. The most common cause is a protozoan Tritrichomonas foetus which typically infects the large bowel.

The cats that are most affected are young, about one year of age, come from catteries, shelters or places where there are multiple cats. This infection is transmitted both by feces and orally. What makes this a difficult infection to treat is that it does not respond to most medications. The only medication that seems to work is ronidazole. However, the effectiveness of this drug is in question.


For multiple cat households or multiple cat environments cleanliness is the best preventative measure that a cat owner can take. More research needs to be done and hopefully can resolve this issue in cats.

Brominated flame retardants found in cats

This is a short article but important. A recent study found that indoor cats have a high level of brominated flame retardants in their blood as a result of inhaling the dust in homes. Previous studies found that cats who developed Feline Hyperthyroidism had high levels of flame retardants, but now researchers have found it in healthy cats as well.


As the flame retardant materials age the particles that come from them become part of the dust in a home. What is especially important to be aware of is that other pets, humans, and especially small children also breathe in the dust.

The flame retardants make up part of furniture, electronics, and even various fabrics. So what can we do about it? I have found an air cleaner that can help reduce the dust in a home. I personally have used the Fresh Air Surround air purifier for years and find it helps keep my home allergy free. I picked that model because it kills germs as well, an added benefit, and does a great job of killing household odors, including litter box odor.

I strongly urge everyone to consider this air purifier. You can get more information from David Scharikin, at or call him at 570-325-2433. There are a number of models to choose from. And no, I do not make a commission for passing this information along. As a pet owner, dogs, cats and birds, and allergic to many indoor and outdoor irritants, it has made my life much better.


Cat Aggression Toward Humans

Cats, like humans and other animals have a wide variety of personalities. Some cats are very cuddly with their owners and other people, while some cats are aloof and do not care to be touched.

Often the cats that are aloof were not handled and socialized as kittens which could contribute to this type of behavior. Therefore the best thing a person can do is to handle and socialize their kittens to prevent problems later in life.


The most critical time to handle kittens is between five and twelve weeks of age. This is the age where it is optimal to get your cat used to grooming, nail trimming, teeth cleaning and any other handling needs you have or anticipate. This includes learning to ride quietly in a vehicle and different modes of travel. Walking on a leash and harness and feeling comfortable in a carrier. Since cats do not like change, this type of handling should be done on a regular basis, ideally once a week if not more often for the rest of the cat’s life.

Do not encourage kittens to pounce or claw your hands or any part of your body. Redirect this behavior toward toys that are acceptable. This way your kitten will learn that humans are not playthings to be bitten or scratched.

In the event that a person adopts an older cat, or did not socialize their kitten and the adult cat starts to exhibit aggressive behavior, there is still hope.

If the cat has been adopted it is best to leave the cat alone for a few months. The cat has no idea why he was re-homed and has not had a chance to bond with his new family. Be there for the cat but let the cat make all of the advances. Talk soothingly to the cat but avoid handling, petting, or any other physical contact. Do play with the cat but let the cat set the rules. If you try and force handling at this point you can start a pattern of aggressive or fearful behavior in your cat.

To avoid being bitten or scratched it is important to recognize the warning signs of aggression in cats. If the cat is frightened they will often crouch, ears are back against their head, their tail may be curled inward toward the body and their body tilts away from the object that they are afraid of. Often their eyes will be dilated and they will hiss, show their teeth and raise the hair on their back and tail. If the cat changes his body position to a forward stance, he is likely to move forward to attack.

If the older cat is not socialized, the first thing to do is to establish a play routine so that the cat can learn how to interact with a person in an acceptable fun manner. When you find the toy or object that the cat likes to play with (my cat loves to chase and attack belts that are snaked along the floor) you can do this a few times a day. This will allow your cat to associate having fun during human interaction.

When the cat is calm and contented, start scratching gently around the ears and under the chin. Do this for very short periods at first. If the cat does not like your hand going near his face, try using a soft bristle brush and gently rub under the cat’s chin. As the cat becomes used to being touched and enjoys it, you can slowly rub/scratch other areas of the body, such as the top of the head, the cheeks and behind the ears with your hand. The key word here is slowly, over a period of time. Finish each petting session with a treat.

If the cat exhibits any type of aggression toward humans, the first thing to do is to determine what causes the cat to become aggressive, what is the trigger? Even the most social cat may become aggressive if they are frightened. If this is the case then the owner should pay close attention to what frightens the cat and try to avoid those circumstances. If the fear is a visit to the veterinarian, ask the veterinarian if there are calming medications that might help the cat relax before he is taken to the veterinarian.

If there are objects or circumstances that frighten a cat it is possible to desensitize the cat to the troublesome object. In these cases the best thing to do is consult with a certified feline behavior consultant for a specific plan for your cat’s needs. You can find a certified feline behavior consultant at

Cats can also exhibit redirected aggression. For example if a cat sees another cat outside of a window and the owner tries to pick the cat up, the cat might bite or scratch the owner. If this is the case, do not try to handle the cat until he has calmed down. When cats redirect their aggression, it is a reaction and not a premeditated act to be taken personally. If possible, remove or chase away the object that has upset the cat.

If your cat sees the object through a window, try lowering the shade/blinds or otherwise blocking the cat’s view. Holding a towel over the window until the cat calms down can also work. Once the cat has calmed down, try to gently interact with the cat by offering a special treat or toy. It is important to reestablish your relationship with the cat if the cat attacked you in a redirected situation.

Sometimes a cat will solicit petting and scratching but after a period of time, will bite the person petting him. This is because the cat has had enough. The person should watch for any signs that the cat is becoming annoyed and stop while the cat still enjoys the attention. Some of the signs are a twitching tail, flattened ears, twitching ears and they may even move their head toward your hand. One of the things that makes it difficult for cat owners to spot the point where the cat has had enough is that the cat may purr up until it bites. The signs can be very subtle and easy to miss.

Some cats do not like to be touched on certain parts of their body, such as their tummies. Once you understand where you cat likes to be petting and where the cat does not like to be touched, respect your cat’s wishes.

If the cat is not neutered or spayed, too much tactile stimulation can arouse the cat sexually and they will sometimes drool and then bite because the mating ritual between cats involves biting.

Some cats can be territorial and will attack someone who comes to visit that does not come to the house often. In many cases the solution is to make the entrance of the non-resident person a special treat for the cat. If the person who comes to the door offers a treat to the cat, the cat will soon realize the special treats are rewards for letting someone enter the home. This is best done in a controlled, planned manner. To start, the owner can direct the cat’s attention to the treat just before the visitor comes to the door. Just as the visitor opens the door the owner will give the cat the treat. As the cat comes to expect the treat, the visitor can offer the treat to the cat. The owner can also use a calming pheromone such as Feliway before a visitor comes to the door. Your veterinarian can recommend products to use.

Some cats can display dominance aggression toward humans. This is when a person will try to move a cat out of a chair or bed and the cat will attack the person for trying to move him or share space with him. Sometimes the cat will block a doorway showing signs of aggression.

The best way to handle bossy cats is to withhold all affection, treats and play until the cat is calm and pleasant. By doing this you are rewarding good behavior and the cat will learn to associate the good behavior with the things he likes. Products like Feliway that are used around the house may help the cat stay calm.

If your normally passive, pleasant cat becomes aggressive or aloof for no apparent reason, it is time to take your cat to the veterinarian. In almost every situation like this, there is a medical reason for the change in your cat’s behavior. Cats will often hide their illnesses until they become critical. For this reason, even if your cat is not old, a yearly check with the veterinarian is essential. As your cat ages, six month checkups and tests are the best preventative thing you can do.

Feeding your cat a good diet is also essential. Cats can feel poorly when they are fed low quality food which over time can cause aggressive or aloof behavior in a cat. In my experience discount stores and super markets do not carry the high quality food that a cat needs.

The three most important things to remember when dealing with any type of aggression in cats is to 1) never yell, punish or treat the cat harshly. The only thing this will accomplish is to make the aggression problem worse and destroy any positive relationship you have with your cat. Remember, aggression + aggression always = aggression! 2) Never give up. Changing an aggressive cat can take a long time, but persistence almost always improves the situation. 3) All cats need exercise. Do your best through play or controlled outdoor activity, to have your cat exercise daily. There are special cat containment systems that can allow a cat to exercise outdoors safely. Exercise can help reduce frustration and pent up energy that can contribute to a cat’s aggressiveness.