, what can I do?" The usual answer will be
TAKE IT TO THE VET! It is an irresponsible owner who does not consult
the vet, even by phone, at the first opportunity. And if you take on
the responsibility of owning a cat, you must budget for the vet visits
to keep it healthy.
On the other hand, if you already have a vet appointment, or have had
the vet look at it and be stumped by the symptoms, rec.pets.cats can be a
valuable resource of tips on what might be wrong, or reassurances that
the cat is not at risk of immediate death, so do not hesitate to ask
the group under these circumstances.
A low-cost method to ease anxieties over non-emergency kitty problems
is to get a home vet book. (See Literature.) These books also help
explain what sort of "deviant" behaviors are actually relatively
normal for cats. However, unless you yourself are a vet, these books
should never substitute for having a vet for your cat.
In the August issue of Cat Fancy, there is an article discussing
health maintenance plans for cats that is set up between your vet
and yourself and then administrated by this HMO company. The
company is called RLI Planned Services in Peoria, Illinois.
The article included a sample plan. For $75 a year, your cat
All other medical, surgical and hospital services (except
prescriptions and diets) are 10% off.
- BASIC HEALTH CARE
- 1 physical exam, no charge
1 FVRCPC booster, no charge
1 Rabies booster, no charge
1 FeLV test, no charge
50% off FeLV series
Fecal analysis, ear flush, worming, no charge
1 Pedicure, no charge
- MAJOR ELECTIVE PROCEDURES:
- Spay or Neuter, 40% off
Declawing, 20% off
Dental Prophylaxis, 50% off
- HEALTH SURVEY:
- Radiographs, 20% off
EKG, 20% off
Chemistry screen profile, 20% off
Complete blood count, 20% off
(All of these things are included in this HMO for $75/year.
OR $125 for two years.)
Here's the company's address:
RLI Planned Services Inc.
The article says to ask your vet about this program. If he/she
isn't familiar with it, they should contact the company and see
about setting up the HMO plan.
9025 N. Lindbergh Drive
Peoria, IL 61615
Vets also may be able to direct you to other pet insurance plans that
they know about. You may want to consider that $100/year over an
expected 15 to 20 year lifetime is $1500 to $2000. Plus whatever you
have to pay for excluded costs, coverage limits, deductibles. Pet
insurance will help with major medical problems such as FUS, cancer,
etc, or emergency care. If your pet is basically healthy, you will
pay about as much either way, for insurance or for preventative care
that keeps it healthy.
Choose a vet who you are comfortable with and who will answer your
questions. Check out the office: do animals seem just frightened or
are they also out of control? Is it bedlam, or reasonable for the
number of different animals there? Do you have local recommendations
from friends? Does the vet specialize in small animals as opposed to,
say, livestock? The best way to find a vet is word of mouth (from
someone who takes good care of their pets, of course). If that doesn't
work, here is a quick and dirty guide (written by Kay Klier,
firstname.lastname@example.org) on some ways to find a vet if you've just moved to
a new town or gotten your first pet:
A good vet will either be associated with a 24 emergency care plan or
be able to give you the number of a good place in your area. Keep this
number on your refrigerator and check with your vet when you visit that
it's still up-to-date.
Any time you bring your cat to the vet, try to bring a fresh fecal
sample. Put a small, fingernail-sized sample into a plastic bag, or
ask your vet for a supply of fecal samplers. The vet cannot always get
a fecal sample from the cat, and this saves you extra trips to return
the sample and then bring the cat in if the tests are positive. If you
are afraid your cat will not cooperate and give you a fresh sample
before you need to go in, within 18-12 hours before a sample can be
placed in the refrigerator. Samples over 18 hours hold, however, will
probably not be of use.
Cats largely dislike being taken to the vet. They hate riding in the
car most of all, and the smell of fear and other animals in the office
often distresses them further. Get a pet carrier. A plain cardboard
one will do for infrequent trips; get a stronger fiberglass one for
more travel or destructive cats. Carriers keep your cat under control
at the vet's and prevent accidents in the car en route. Popular
suggestions to reduce your cat's anxiety during vet visits:
- Ask your trusted former vet if s/he knows someone good in the
new town. Often you'll get an excellent referral that way (I found my
current vets because the senior partner was well known for his
excellence in surgery).
- If there's a local humane society or shelter, see if there are vets who
volunteer their time there. Many vets who care about
animals are often trustees and/or volunteer their services.
- Check with any local breed associations: see who their members go
- Look for memberships in associations like the American
Animal Hospital Association (which has a fairly stiff inspection),
Feline Practitioners Association, American Assoc. of Vet Cardiology,
Animal Behavior Association, etc. These are usually people who have
kept up with new developments.
From kittenhood, accustom your cat to being handled. Look into its
ears (clean, white and light pink), eyes (clear, no runniness, inner
eyelids may blink but should remain open), nose (clean and pink (or its
normal color) and mouth (clean, light pink gums) regularly. Hold it
still and look at its anus; pick up its paws and look at the pads and
claws. This will have the added benefit that you will notice any
changes from normal quickly and be able to call up your vet if
something is wrong.
- Make sure to drive your cat around (WITHOUT going to the vet) to get
it used to the car.
- Use the relaxant acepromazine.
- Find a "cats only" vet.
- Find a vet who will make housecalls.
- Find a vet who manages the lobby efficiently to reduce waiting time.
- Keep your cat away from dogs in the waiting room.
- Keep your cat in a pillowcase rather than a carrier or box.
Do arrange for the kitten to meet plenty of people; this will socialize
your cat and it will not hide from people when adult.
You should be prepared to handle routine costs from year to year
incurred by yearly physical exams, occassional fecal samples (and
worming medication), plus yearly vaccinations. However, accidents and
major illnesses can happen. Sometimes, pet health care insurance is
one way people use to control these costs. Other times you might try
vet schools which may give you reduced rates for their students to have
the opportunity to work with your cat, especially if the problem is
rare or uncommon.
You might be able to negotiate a monthy payment toward a large bill, or
a slightly reduced one in exchange for a bit of labor or other work
(for example, one accountant prepared his vet's taxes in exchange for
reducing the cost of surgery that his dog had had).
The humane society may know of lower-cost clinics or vets who are
prepared to cut prices for people who are not particularly well off. It
can't hurt to call around and ask.
But as other posters have mentioned, being a vet is a business, too,
and vets tend not to have high incomes. They also have many of the
same expenses as an MD (equipment, office staff) and the additional
expenses of running their own pharmacy (and animal medicine is just as
expensive as people medicine).
Some diseases can be transmitted from cats to people (zoonoses). Most
cannot. For example, you absolutely cannot contract AIDS from a cat
with FIV or FeLV, although the diseases are related (all are
retroviruses). This misconception led to the tragic deaths of
hundreds of cats as panicked owners got rid of them.
Anyone with an impaired immune system is at risk of exposure to germs
and other things from cats that healthy people would not contract;
this is regardless of the health of the cat.
You are more likely to contract diseases from other people than your
pets. Transmission of disease generally requires close contact
between susceptible people and animals or their oral, nasal, ocular or
digestive excretions. Use common sense and practice good hygiene to
reduce your risks.
From the Cornell Book of Cats:
- Viral diseases transmitted by cats are rabies and cowpox, usually
through biting or direct contact.
- Ringworm is a fungus infection affecting the hair, skin, and
nails. Humans contract it either by direct contact with the cat
or by the spores shed from an infected animal.
- Cat bites can cause a variety of diseases and infections,
including pasteurella and tetanus.
- Campylobacter enteritis, a disease of the small intestine, can be
caused by contact with contaminated cat feces.
- Cat scratch fever is an infection caused by a bacterial agent
transmitted to the human via a cat scratch.
- Conjunctivitis in humans can be caused by contact with the nasal
and ocular discharges of cats infected with feline chlamydiosis.
- Humans can become infected by Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain
Spotted Fever when a cat brings home ticks. If the cat becomes
infected with plague, it can also infect humans directly.
- Salmonella organisms, which are shed in discharges from the mouth,
eyes, and in the feces, can cause intestinal disease in humans.
- Toxoplasmosis is transmitted by contact with the feces of an
infected cat. Although it is well-known that cats can transmit
toxoplasmosis, many do not know that humans are more commonly
infected by eating incompletely cooked meat.
- Other parasites which can be acquired by humans are hookworms,
roundworms, and tapeworms: usually by direct or indirect contact
with contaminated feces, or ingestion of contaminated fleas.
If you are not planning to breed your cat or put it to stud service,
you will want to neuter it. Technically, the general term for either
sex is neutering; female cats are spayed and male cats are castrated.
However, general usage is that female cats are spayed or neutered and
male cats are neutered.
Male cats are castrated. A local anesthetic is administered and
several stitches are used to close it up. You will want to neuter the
male cat after its testicles descend but before its urine odor
changes. This is typically around 6 months of age. By neutering
earlier, you prevent spraying (if it has started spraying, it may not
stop after neutering, even though it is no longer hormonally driven).
Neutering later has been thought to help reduce the chances of FUS,
but many studies have shown that there is no difference in urinary
tract development or predisposition to FUS between early-neutered cats
(as early as 7 weeks!) and late-neutered cats. As soon as the
testicles have descended is just fine. As of 1993, this is now the
official position of the AVMA. If surgery must be done on an
undescended testicle (sometimes a testicle will not descend and then
it needs to be removed) then the cost and risk increase.
Some male cats may have undescended testicles. These must
be surgically removed, as they often turn cancerous later. This is
a more serious (and expensive) surgery than the usual castration, as the vet will have
to use a general anesthetic and exploratory surgery to find the undescended
testicle and remove it.
An intact male cat (a "tom") will spray a foul-smelling urine to mark
his territory, he will roam widely, and he will be involved in more
fights. Often, he will be more aggressive. He will be at higher risk
for certain diseases, such as cancer; he will also be more prone to
infection from the injuries in fights. A neutered male cat will lose
the foul-smelling odor in his urine (but may still spray); he will not
roam as widely nor fight as often. You will be able to keep him
indoors if you wish. Contrary to popular opinion, he will not become
more lazy or fat. Laziness and fatness depend on cat temperament and
how much you feed him.
Female cats are spayed; this is an ovario-hysterectomy (uterus and
ovaries are removed). There are two methods: ventral entry which is
through the stomach muscles in the belly (where a large patch of fur
will be shaved to prevent later irritation of the incision), and the
lateral entry which is through a small incision in the cat's side.
Ventral entry is less expensive, lateral entry has a quicker recovery
time. You may have to bring your cat back in after ventral entry to
remove stitches; lateral entry uses internal sutures which dissolve.
Ventral entry is much more commonly employed; lateral entry is
relatively rare, and not all vets may know how to do it.
The cat must be put under general anesthesia. There is always an
element of risk in general anesthesia and while it is rare, a few
rec.pets.cats readers have had their cats die under anesthesia. The
earlier the female cat is spayed, the better. Any time after four
months is good, preferably before the heat cyles start. Heat cycles
may begin as five months.. On occasion, a female cat will not have
all of her ovaries removed. The ovaries produce the hormones that
induce heat: if your cat still goes through heat after being spayed,
you may have to take her in for exploratory surgery to find the missed
ovary, or even piece of ovary.
An intact female cat (a "queen") will go through heat which can be as
frequent as every other week, and may last eight to ten days at a
time. It may even appear as though she remains in heat constantly.
You must keep her confined to prevent breeding, and she will do her
best to escape. During her heat, she may "spray" a strong smelling
urine just as tomcats do. Many cats will meow loudly for long periods
of time. She will twitch her tail to the side and display her vulva.
If she becomes pregnant, she will undergo all the risks and expenses
associated with pregnancy (extra visits to the vet and extra food).
Male cats will try very hard to get at her; there are documented
cases, for example, of male cats entering homes through the chimney.
An unbred, intact queen has a much higher risk of developing cancer of
the reproductive system. Queens also risk pyometra (a life
threatening infection of the uterus). Spayed cats have a much lower
risk of cancer and will not contract pyometra.
Female cats may come into estrus within a few days of giving birth.
If you have a queen that you want to stop from having more litters,
try to get her spayed as soon as possible after the kittens are born.
You will need to watch to make sure your cat does not try to pull out
its stitches. Consult your vet if your cat starts pulling at its
stitches. You might, in persistent cases, need to get an elizabethan
collar to prevent the cat from reaching the stitches. Puffiness,
redness, or oozing around the stiches should be also reported to the
Some stitches "dissolve" on their own; others require a return to the
vet for removal. Some vets, especially with male cats, may use "glue"
instead, which works as well in most cases and does not require later removal.
You should note that male cats will take some time to flush all
testosterone and semen out of their systems. There have been recorded
cases of "neutered" cats impregnating female cats shortly after their
operation. Three to four weeks is sufficient time for neutered toms
to become sterile.
The cost can vary widely, depending on where you get it done. There
are many pet-adoption places that will offer low-cost or even free
neutering services, sometimes as a condition of adoption. Local
animal clinics will often offer low-cost neutering. Be aware that
spaying will always cost more than castrating at any given place since
spaying is a more complex operation. Vets almost always charge more
than clinics, partly because of overhead, but also because they often
keep the animal overnight for observation and will do free followup on
any later complications (a consideration in the case of missed
In the US, there is at least one group, "Friends of Animals"
(1-800-321-7387) that will give you information on low-cost
spay/neutering places, or do it themselves. They often have
price-reduction certificates that your vet may accept.
Quoting actual prices may or may not give you an idea of the cost for
you in your area. Costs can range from US$10 for castration at a
clinic to US$100 for spaying at the vet's. This is money well spent.
One pair of cats, allowed to breed, and with 2 litters a year and 2.8
surviving kittens per litter, will account for 80,000 cats in 10
Early neutering is increasingly an option, especually used by
human societies and shelters to ensure that the cats they adopt
out will not produce any more kittens. Studies have shown that
there are no adverse effects to neutering kittens at 7 weeks of
age. See the CFA's
on this issue.
Matted fur is a perfect breeding ground for parasites and encourages
inflammatory skin diseases. If your cat has matted fur, do not try to
cut it off as you may injure the cat. Mats are difficult to comb out
and may be painful. You may have to have the vet sedate and shave the
cat. Do groom it regularly to prevent mats.
Often caused by itching and irritation of some sort. Fleas,
allergies, eczema, and ringworm are all possible culprits. Sometimes
it is simply stress; Vets may prescribe hormone shots or even
tranquilizers to control the scratching.
If ringworm is indicated, you must take care not to get it yourself.
It is a fungus just like athletes foot. Tresaderm and similar
medications are used to treat this. Since ringworm spreads by
spores, you can reduce transmission and spreading by cleaning
everything you can with bleach (save the cat itself), and washing
bedding and clothing in hot water. It may take some time (like
several months) to get ringworm under control.
If the cat is scratching its ears and you can see black grit, that's
probably earmites. Consult your vet for appropriate ear drops. Ear
mites stay in the ears, but can be passed from cat to cat, especially
if they groom each other. The life cycle of an ear mite is entirely
within the ear, so you do not have to worry about ridding your house
of them the way you do fleas. Cats typically shake their heads when
given the medication; unless the medication actually comes back out,
that is OK. An additional step to take is to soak a cotton ball or
pad in mineral oil (baby oil is fine), and clean out the outer ear (do
not poke into the canal). That rids the upper ear of any ear mites
lodged higher up than the canal, and makes it difficult for the ear
mites to reestablish themselves.
Scratching and a discharge from the ears means a bacterial or fungal
infection and the vet should be immediately consulted. Other possible
causes of scratching include fleas, lice, eczema, allergies, or stud
tail (in male cats).
Cats can develop acne just as humans do. Usually it is only on the
chin. It will appear as small black spots. The reasons for feline
acne are as complex as it is for humans. Sometimes a food allergy
(such as chocolate with humans or milk with cats) can cause it or
sometimes the cat does not clean its chin properly.
Tips on caring for feline acne
It is important to keep food dishes clean. Acne has bacteria
associated with it. The cat's chin comes in contact with the edge of
the food/water bowl, leaving bacteria. The next time the cat uses the
bowl, it can come in contact with this bacteria and spread it on the
Visit the vet if you can't get the acne to clear up within a week or
two, or if the acne is severe or infected. The vet may prescribe
antibiotics or other acne treatments for these cats.
- Use glass or metal food/water dishes. It is next to impossible to
remove the bacteria from acne from plastic dishes.
- Wash the food and water dishes daily. This removes the bacteria
from the dishes and helps to keep the problem from getting worse.
Also, in multi-cat households, it will help reduce the chance of
others breaking out with it.
- Bathe the cat's chin daily with a disinfectant soap/solution from
the vet. Nolvasan, Xenodine, Betadine soaps are a few of the ones
to try. More severe cases may need to be washed twice a day. DO
NOT USE HUMAN ACNE SOLUTIONS. These are too strong for cats and
may cause serious problems. Don't try to pick the spots off, just
clean it well.
Once the acne is cleared up, keep an eye out for reoccurrences.
Washing the cat's chin once a week is a good preventative measure.
Cats, like humans, have tartar buildup on their teeth called plaque.
An accumulation of plaque can lead to peridontal (gum) problems, and
the eventual loss of teeth. Plaque is a whitish-yellow deposit. Cats
seem to accumulate plaque primarily on the exterior face of their
upper teeth. Reddened gum lines can indicate irritation from plaque.
Some cats are more prone to plaque buildup than others. Some never
need dental care, others need to have their teeth cleaned at regular
intervals. Many vets encourage you to bring your cat in annually for
teeth cleaning, using a general anesthetic. The cost, which can be
considerable, and the risk of the anesthesia itself are both good
incentives for doing some cat dental care at home.
If you must have the vet clean your cat's teeth, see if your vet is
willing to try a mild sedative (rather than putting the cat under
entirely) first when cleaning the teeth. If your cat is an older cat
(5 years or more) and it must be put under, see if the vet will use a
gas anesthesia rather than an injected form.
What you can do:
Brush your cat's teeth once a week. Use little cat toothbrushes, or
soft child-size toothbrushes, and edible cat toothpaste (available
at most vets or pet stores). Cats often hate to have their teeth
brushed, so you may have to use a bathtowel straightjacket and a
helper. If you are skilled and have a compliant cat, you can clean
its teeth using the same type of tool the human dentist does.
Cavities in cat teeth often occur just at or under the gum line. If
your cat has an infected tooth, you will have to have root work done
on it. It is typical to do x-rays after such a procedure to ensure
that all of the roots have reabsorbed. If the roots haven't done so,
then the infection can easily continue on up to the sinus and nasal
passages and from there to the lungs. Such infections require
If your cat has smelly breath, there are various possible causes.
- Teething: at about 6 months of age, cats will lose their baby
teeth and get permanent ones. If the gums are red and puffy and
you can see the points of teeth breaking through here and there,
the cat is just teething and the odor will subside as the teeth
- Gingivitus: if the gums appear red and puffy and you've ruled
teething out, your cat may have a gum infection of some sort.
Take the cat to the vet.
- Diet: certain foods, usually canned foods or prescription foods,
can make your cat's breath smell. If possible, try changing your
- Abscessed tooth: may show no symptoms other than smelly breath.
Drooling sometimes occurs in conjunction. The cat must be taken
to the vet to have the abscess drained and possibly the teeth
involved removed. If this is not done, the infection can easily
spread to the sinuses and cause the face to swell, especially just
under the eyes.
Declawing is the surgical removal of the claw and the surrounding
tissue that it retracts into. Usually the claws on the front feet
only are removed, but sometimes the digits are as well. This is
sometimes used as a last resort with inveterate scratchers of
furniture, carpet, etc. However, if trained in kittenhood, most cats
are very good about scratching only allowable items such as scratching
posts (see Scratching). Britain and a few other countries have made
declawing illegal. Show cats may not be shown declawed. Many vets will
refuse to do this procedure.
Declawed cats often compensate with their rear claws; many can still
climb well, although their ability to defend themselves is often
impaired and they should not be allowed outside without supervision.
Many declawed cats become biters when they find that their claws no
longer work; others develop displays of growling. Scratching is one
way of marking territory (there are scent glands among the paw pads),
so declawed cats will still "scratch" things even though there are no
claws to sharpen.
Alternatives are trimming the claws (see section on Trimming Claws) or
"Soft Paws". These are soft plastic covers for the cat's claws.
Generally, the vet will put them on, but cat owners can do so
themselves if shown how. They will last about a month despite efforts
to remove them. Check the July 1992 issue of Animal Sense. There is
an informative article titled "Fake Fingernails for Felines?" by Dr.
Marilyn Hayes at the Rowley Animal Hospital in Rowley, MA. They can
make a useful training tool if used in conjuction with techniques to
redirect clawing and scratching to approved items.
Kneel on floor and put cat between knees (cat facing forwards). Cross
your ankles behind so cat can't escape backwards; press your knees
together so cat can't escape forwards. Make sure your cat's front
legs are tucked in between your knees so it can't claw you. Put the
palm of your hand on top of its head and thumb and index finger on
either side of its mouth; the mouth will fall open as you tilt the
head back. If it doesn't, gently push down on the cat's lower front
teeth eith your middle finger of your other hand (the first two
fingers are to hold the pill). You may wish to stop at this point and
use a flashlight to examine the cat's mouth to see what you are doing.
You want to drop the pill in on *top* of the tongue as far *back* as
you can. Keep the head tilted back and stroke its throat until pill
is swallowed. Then let your cat escape.
Another trick is to buy a bottle of gelatin capsules. Take the
capsule apart, dump the contents, put the pill in the empty capsule
(in pieces if it won't otherwise fit) and reassemble the two capsule
halves. Some places, especially natural food stores, will sell empty
gelatin capsules, try and get size "00". This makes the
administration of small pills much easier, and can also allow you to
give more than one pill at one time, if they're sufficiently small.
The capsule itself just dissolves away harmlessly. Do NOT use
capsules which have been filled with any other substance but plain
gelatin, since the residue may not agree with your pet!
You can try babyfood as a deception: get some pureed baby food meat,
dip your finger in the jar, and sort of nestle the pill in the baby
food. Offer it to your cat and it may lick it up. Be warned, some
cats are very good at licking up everything BUT the pill.
You can get a pill plunger from your vet. This is a syringe-like tool
that takes the pill on one end and lets you "inject" the pill. You
can insert the pill deep down the cat's throat this way.
To administer liquid medication if the cat will not lick it up: use
the same procedure for pilling, but (using a needle-less syringe that
you can obtain from your vet) squirt the medicine down its throat
instead of dropping the pill. Cats do not choke on inhaled liquids
like humans because they rarely breath through their mouths.
Cats can vomit easily, so keep an eye on them for a while after
they've been dosed: it's not impossible that they'll run off to a
corner and upchuck the medicine. Giving them a pet treat after dosage
may help prevent this.
If your cat has an affected *area* that you must clean or swab or
otherwise handle, try this strategy, especially if the cat is
Start with lots of handling. At first don't handle the affected area,
at all or for long. Gradually increase the amount of handling of the
affected area. Move closer to it day by day, spend more time near it
or on it. Talk to the cat while you're handling it. At the same time
you're handling the affected area, pet the cat in an area it likes to
be handled. After handling the affected area, praise the cat, pet the
cat, give the cat a food treat, do things the cat likes.
As long as the medical problem you're treating isn't acute, don't
restrain the cat to apply treatment. Gradually working up to a
tolerable if not pleasant approach is much better in the long run.
If you must restrain the cat, grab the fur on the back of the neck
with one hand, holding the head down, and clean/medicate with the
other hand. Have your vet show you how. Sometimes wrapping the
cat in a towel helps too.
This information is condensed from Taylor.
If you suspect worms in your cat, take it (and a fresh fecal sample)
to the vet. Do not try over the counter products: you may not have
diagnosed your cat correctly or correctly identified the worm and
administer the wrong remedy. In addition, your vet can give you
specific advice on how to prevent reinfestation.
- Roundworms: can cause diarrhea, constipation, anemia, potbellies,
general poor condition. They are present in the intestines and
feed on the digesting food.
- Whipworms and threadworms: fairly rare, can cause diarrhea, loss
of weight, or anemia. Whipworms burrow into the large intestine;
threadworms into the small. Both may cause internal bleeding.
- Hookworms: can cause (often bloody) diarrhea, weakness and anemia.
They enter through the mouth or the skin and migrate to the small
- Tapeworms: look for small "rice grains" or irritation around the
anus. They live in the intestines and share the cat's food.
Tapeworms are commonly transmitted through fleas. If you cat has
fleas or hashad fleas, it may have tapeworms.
- Flukes: can cause digestive upsets, jaundice, diarrhea, or anemia.
They are found in the small intestine, pancreas and bile ducts.
General tips on preventing worm infestation: stop your cat from eating
wild life; groom regularly; keep flea-free; keep bedding clean; and
get regular vet examination for worms.
Note that a fecal exam may not be enough to determine if a cat has
worms. In particular, tapeworms are often not visible in a fecal exam.
Actually, you can have fleas and ticks in your home even without pets.
But having pets does increase the odds you will have to deal with
either or both of these pests. There is a
FAQ on fleas and ticks available via ftp to rtfm.mit.edu under
pub/usenet/news.answers/pets/fleas-ticks. If you do not have ftp access,
send email to email@example.com with "send
usenet/news.answers/pets/fleas-ticks" in the body of the message. Leave
the subject line empty, and don't include the quotes in the send request.
The information in this section is mostly condensed from Carlson &
Giffins. The list of poisons is not intended to be conclusive. Nor
are the treatments intended to be sufficient: call your vet in the
event of any internal poisoning.
In particular, notice that the list of problematic plants cannot be
all inclusive. There are many plants with multiple names and even a botanist
can't come up with a conclusive list. This is why you will almost never see
identical lists put out by different organizations. When in doubt, try to
go by the most regional information you can find, which is the most likely
to use names current in your regions.
To induce vomiting in cats:
Do NOT induce vomiting when the cat
- Hydrogen peroxide 3% (most effective): One teaspoon every ten minutes;
repeat three times.
- One-fourth teaspoonful of salt, placed at the back of the tongue.
- Syrup of Ipecac (one teaspoonful per ten pounds of body weight).
You will also want to coat the digestive tract and speed up
elimination to help rid the cat of the substances:
To delay or prevent absorption
- has swallowed an acid, alkali, solvent, heavy duty cleaner,
petroleum product, tranquilizers, or a sharp object (i.e., something
that will cause as much or more damage coming back up)
- is severely depressed or comatose
- swallowed the substance more than two hours ago
If your cat has a poisonous substance on its skin or coat, wash it off
before your cat licks the substance off and poisons itself. Use soap
and water or give it a complete bath in lukewarm (not cold) water.
Plants from commercial greenhouses may be sprayed with systemics to
control pests. Some are fairly nasty and long-lasting. More
enlightened greenhouses use integrated pest management techniques and
vastly reduce the costs of pest control, and costs to the environment.
- Mix activated charcoal with water (5 grams to 20 cc.). Give
one teaspoonful per two pounds body weight.
- Thirty minutes later, give sodium sulphate (glauber's salt),
one teaspoon per ten pounds body weight, or Milk of Magnesia,
one teaspoon per five pounds body weight.
- In the absence of any of these agents, coat the bowel with milk,
egg whites, vegetable oil and give a warm water enema.
You'll need to ask about what the sprays are, how often, etc. They
should have MSDS (material safety data sheets) on hand for everything
they use. Many greenhouses also buy foliage plants (esp.) from
commercial growers in southern states, rather than raising their own
plants, so you need to ask about that too.
- Gives a rash after contact: chrysanthemum; creeping fig; weeping
fig; pot mum; spider mum.
- Irritating; the mouth gets swollen; tongue pain; sore lips --
potentially fatal, these plants have large calcium oxalate
crystals and when chewed, esophageal swelling may result,
resulting in death unless an immediate tracheotomy is done:
Arrowhead vine; Boston ivy; caladium; dumbcane (highly fatal); Emerald Duke;
heart leaf (philodendrum); Marble Queen; majesty; neththyis;
parlor ivy; pathos; red princess; saddle leaf (philodendron);
split leaf (philodendron).
- Generally toxic; wide variety of poisons; usually cause vomiting,
abdominal pain, cramps; some cause tremors, heart and respiratory
and/or kidney problems (difficult for you to interpret):
Amaryllis; azalea; bird of paradise; crown of thorns; elephant
ears; glocal ivy; heart ivy; ivy; Jerusalem cherry; needlepoint
ivy; pot mum; ripple ivy; spider mum; umbrella plant.
So what plants can cats nibble on with abandon?
- Vomiting and diarrhea in some cases: Delphinium; daffodil; castor
bean; Indian turnip; skunk cabbage; poke weed; bittersweet; ground
cherry; foxglove; larkspur; Indian tobacco; wisteria; soap berry.
- Poisonous and may produce vomiting, abdominal pain, sometimes
diarrhea: horse chestnut/buckeye; rain tree/monkey pod; American
yew; English yew; Western yew; English holly; privet; mock orange;
bird of paradise bush; apricot & almond; peach & cherry; wild
cherry; Japanese plum; balsam pear; black locust.
- Various toxic effects: rhubarb; spinach; sunburned potatoes; loco
weed; lupine; Halogeton; buttercup; nightshade; poison hemlock;
pig weed; water hemlock; mushrooms; moonseed; May apple;
Dutchman's breeches; Angel's trumpet; jasmine; matrimony vine.
- Hallucinogens: marijuana; morning glory; nutmeg; periwinkle;
peyote; loco weed.
- Convulsions: china berry; coriaria; moonweed; nux vomica; water
To start with, you can assume anything with square stems (in
cross-section) and opposite leaves is OK. That's the hallmark of the
mint family, which includes catnip, _Nepeta_ and _Coleus_. Catnip
can be grown in a bright window in the winter, but the cats may knock
it off the sill. Coleus is easy, and kind of bright and cheerful with
its colored leaves. Swedish Ivy, _Plectranthus_, is also in this
family and incredibly easy to grow. Good hanging basket plant.
Tolerates kitty-nibbles well.
- Tulips are OK, daffodils and lily of the valley are not.
- Miniature roses.
- Cyclamens, the genus _Cyclamen_, seem to be OK.
- African violet, Saintpaulia; Hanging African Violet (=Flame
Violet), Episcia; gloxinia, Sinningia; goldfish plant,
Hypoestes; and lipstick vine, Aeschynanthus are all members
of the african violet family, the Gesneriaceae.
- All the cacti are fine -- but not all succulents are cactus.
Make sure it has spines like a prickly pear or an old-man cactus.
There are some look-alike foolers that are not good to eat! (But they
don't have spines). (One cactus, Lophophora (peyote) will get you
- Airplane plant, also called spider plant, Chlorophytum, is
pretty commonly available and easy to grow. They come in solid
green or green and white striped leaves, usually grown in hanging
- Wax begonias, Begonia semperflorens are easy and non-toxic.
These are the little begonias you see in shady areas outside
now in the north; in the southern states, they're often grown
as winter outdoor plants. The other begonia species are OK too, but
tougher to grow.
- Sweet potatoes, Ipomoea, if you can find some that haven't
been treated to prevent sprouting! Looks like common philodendron at
- Shrimp plant, Beleperone guttata.
- Prayer plant, Maranta (needs humidity).
- Burn plant, Aloe vera.
- Grape ivy, Cissus (several different leaf shapes).
- Asparagus fern, Asparagus (several species).
- If you've got the humidity, any of the true ferns are OK,
including maidenhair, Adaiantum, Boston fern (lots of variants!)
Nephrolepis, Victorian Table Fern, Pteris...
- Wandering jew, Zebrina, and its close relatives that are
often called "Moses in the boat" -- the flowers are in a pair of
- Impatiens, or patience plant, Impatiens.
- Common geranium, Pelargonium, in any of the many leaf forms
- AVOID anything with a milky juice or colored sap. Almost guaranteed
toxic (wild lettuce and dandelion are the two major exceptions).
- Poinsettas: Many books continue to indicate that poinsettias
are poisonous to animals and children. The Ohio State University
conducted some tests and confirms that they are NOT poisonous
to children or animals. The furor was because of a story about
a child who ate a bunch of poinsettia leaves and died. According to
Norsworthy's 1993 Feline Practice (thanks to Kay Klier), eating
leaves will give a cat an upset stomach and maybe some diarrhea
that can be cured with Kaopectate.
Chocolate: theobromine, which is found in chocolate is toxic to cats.
The darker and more bitter the chocolate is, the more theobromine it
has. More information can be found in the Summer 1992 edition of Cat
- Strychnine, Sodium fluoroacetate, Phosphorus, Zinc Phosphide:
rat/mouse/mole/roach poisons, rodents killed by same. Phosphorus
is also found in fireworks, matches, matchboxes, and fertilizer.
- Arsenic, Metaldehyde, Lead: slug/snail bait; some ant poisons,
weed killers and insecticides; arsenic is a common impurity found
in many chemicals. Commercial paints, linoleum, batteries are
sources of lead.
- Warfarin (Decon; Pindone): grain feeds used as rat/mouse poison,
Also used as a prescription anti-coagulant for humans, various
brand names, such as coumadin. The animal bleeds to death.
Vitamin-K is antidote: look for purplish spots on white of
eyes and gums (at this point animal is VERY sick).
- Antifreeze (ethylene glycol): from cars. Wash down any from your
driveway as this is "good tasting" but highly toxic to most animals.
- Organophosphates and Carbamates (Dichlorvos, Ectoral, Malathion,
Sevin (in high percentages) etc), Chlorinated Hydrocarbons
(Chloradane, Toxaphene, Lindane, Methoxychlor: flea/parasite
- Petroleum products: gasoline, kerosene, turpentine.
- Corrosives (acid and alkali): household cleaners; drain
decloggers; commercial solvents.
- Many household cleaning products. Pine-oil products are very
toxic and should be avoided or
rinsed thoroughly (bleach is a better alternative). In
particular, avoid items containing Phenol.
- Garbage (food poisoning): carrion; decomposing foods; animal
- People Medicines: antihistamines, pain relievers (esp. aspirin),
sleeping pills, diet pills, heart preparations and vitamins.
Anything smelling of wintergreen or having methyl salicylate
as an ingredient. Tylenol (acetominophen) will kill cats.
Caffeine: can cause problems for your cat. Do not feed it coffee,
Coco Cola, or other foods containing caffeine.
(From Norsworthy, 1993:)
Medications that cats should NEVER be given:
Medications that can be used in certain cats with restrictions, and
ONLY on the advice of a vet
- Acetominophen (=tylenol, paracetamol) (1 tablet can be fatal to an adult cat)
- Benzocaine (the topical anaesthetic) (available in spray and cream forms---
Lanacaine and several hemhherrhoid preparations have lots of benzocaine)
- Benzyl alcohol
- Chlorinated hydrocarbons (like lindane, chlordane, etc.)
- Hexachlorophene (found in pHiso-Hex soap, among others)
- Methylene Blue (used to be used for urinary infections, many cats cannot
- Phenazopyridine (used in combination with sulfa as AzoGantrisin: fine for
humans, deadly for cats)
- Phenytoin (=Dilantin) often used for seizures in other species
- Phosphate enemas (including Fleet (tm) enemas): may be fatal
- Aspirin: but not more than 1 baby aspirin (1/4 regular tablet) in 3 days!
- Chloramphenicol: generally safe at doses of less than 50-100 mg 2x/day
- Griseofulvin (=fulvicin)
- Lidocaine: another topical anaesthetic
- Megestrol acetate (Ovaban, Megace) may cause behavioral changes, breast
cancer, diabetes. Extremely useful for some conditions, so use needs
to be monitored.
- Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Agents (things like ibuprofen)-- tend to
cause perforated ulcers. Banamine and aspirin are the best tolerated
of this class of drugs
- Pepto-bismol: too high in salicylates
- Smooth muscle relaxants (like Lomotil): strange behavior
- Tetracycline: may cause fever, diarrhea, depression; better antibiotics
- Thiacetarsamide (Caparsolate) used to treat heartworm in dogs
- Thiamylal sodium (Biotal) used for brief surgeries. Animals become
sensitized after repeat exposures. If you change vets, be SURE to
get your records so that the new vet can tell if this drug has been
- Urinary acidifiers; be careful of dosage.
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