Special Needs Cat Questions

How can I help my anxious or fearful cat?


If your pet/foster pet experiences high levels of anxiety there are methods you can use to assist them in reducing their fear. Working together to compassionately reduce your pets fear will benefit both you and your pet. It has been widely documented that pets are sensitive to our energy. For example, if we are having a bad day and we’re upset, they are sensitive to our stress and may exhibit the tension in a variety of ways (i.e. refusing to eat, restless sleeping patterns, etc.). Keeping your energy in check is important and should not be overlooked when assisting your pet in reducing his/her own anxieties. It can also be helpful to visit a feline focused veterinarian; in other words, a veterinarian whose clients are solely of the feline species. You can also look for Fear Free certified professionals to further enhance and benefit your pet’s veterinary experience. Fear Free certified veterinarians work to provide a calm and welcoming environment for your pets while providing top of the line care. They work with anxiety reducing methods that help them to connect with your pet prior to administering treatment. There are several methods you can utilize both pre and post veterinary visit to also assist your pet in having a favorable experience. Pre-veterinary visit Keep your cats pet carrier out and open for him/her to explore for two weeks prior to the veterinary visit. Keep a comfortable blanket or towel inside of the carrier. Be sure the carrier is large enough for your cat to stand and turn without struggle. When traveling to the veterinary visit, keep your pets carrier stable and be sure he/she is comfortable (i.e. has a blanket inside of the carrier, the carrier is not sliding around, windows in the car are up, quiet music is playing, temperature is comfortable and the cats carrier is not directly in front of a vent). You may also wish to place a light blanket over the top/sides of the carrier (leave the front view open so that they can see you). Talk to your cat while traveling to the veterinarian, so that they hear a familiar voice and realize they are safe. When carrying your pet carrier to the car, place your pet inside of the car while still safe and quiet in the garage. If you do not have a garage, carry your pet carrier by holding it both by the handle and with an arm beneath the carrier to keep them stable and feeling safe. Gently place the carrier in the car and vocalize to the cat that they are safe. Place a favorite toy, treat or blanket inside of the carrier with your cat for comfort. When arriving to the veterinarian, ask to be placed in a room right away so that your cat is not exposed to the coming and goings of other people and pets (which may serve to increase their fear and anxiety levels). Post-veterinary visit Utilize the same pet carrier and travel methods as mentioned in the pre-veterinary visit steps (above). When returning home, spend a few minutes petting your cat and assuring them that they are safe. Offer them a favorite treat or a bowl of their favorite food. In addition to enhancing veterinary experiences for your pet, there are countless other anxiety reduction methods you can employ at home including but certainly not limited to: providing hiding (“safe”) areas around your home (i.e. cat hut/tower), playing calming music, leaving a television on low volume, or utilizing a white noise machine while you are away from home or when company is visiting, the use of natural calming aides (i.e. Feliway), providing daily exercise (i.e. food puzzles and toys can be very helpful for cats in this endeavor), and creating a comfortable environment that is built on trust and dependability. Of course it should not be expected that the utilization of any one method will work overnight; the anxiety reducing methods work best when used consistently over a period of time. The emotional health and well-being of our cats is imperative to their health and happiness. It is also beneficial to other pets in the house as well as to you, the caretaker. Just as pets pick up on our energy, we have the ability to pick up on theirs. If a cat is stressed and unhappy, it is likely to create some level of stress also in the caretaker, as we want our pets to enjoy happy, healthy lives in which they are content.




What are the best ways to care for my diabetic cat?


Diet is crucial when dealing with diabetes in cats Ensuring that your cat is on the right diet is crucial to managing diabetes in cats. Diabetic cats shouldn’t eat dry food. Most vets recommend a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet for diabetic cats, and no dry food is low in carbohydrates. Even grain-free dry foods contain a lot of substitute carbohydrates such as potatoes, peas or tapioca. Carbohydrates tend to make blood sugar levels fluctuate quite a bit. There are low-carbohydrate foods available at every price point, so you don’t have to buy super-expensive food to feed your diabetic cat properly. Home testing isn’t as hard as it seems Like diabetic humans, cats with feline diabetes need to have their blood glucose tested regularly. You can do this at home with a standard glucometer and testing strips that you can buy in a drugstore. Record your cat’s blood glucose level, along with the date and time, after each test. The small vein running around the edge of the ear is the easiest location to get a blood sample for the test. Your vet can tell you how often you should test your cat. You can find step-by-step home-testing instructions and videos HERE to see how it’s done. Giving insulin isn’t as hard as it seems If your diabetic cat needs insulin, you will need to give it by injection. The good news is that cats have a lot of loose skin between and around their shoulders, and this is the ideal location for giving shots. Your vet will show you how to do this, and videos of this procedure can be found HERE. You’ll need to work closely with your vet Your cat will probably need more frequent examinations, particularly as her insulin dosage is being stabilized, and you’ll want to send records of your cat’s home-test blood glucose levels to your vet so they can become part of your kitty’s records. You’ll also need prescriptions from your vet to buy your cat’s insulin and syringes. There are ongoing expenses associated with diabetes in cats Caring for a cat with feline diabetes means you’ll need supplies: syringes, test strips and batteries for your glucometer, insulin, and so on. Pet health insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, so if your cat is diabetic when you adopt her, you’ll need to be ready financially if she has a health crisis. A diabetic cat needs to be fed regularly — even if you’re going away for just an overnight trip, you need to make arrangements for your cat to be fed and monitored. For most people, that means hiring a cat sitter. Make sure that sitter is comfortable with managing diabetes in cats and knows how to home test and administer insulin, too. Diabetes in cats really isn’t scary. You need to be educated about feline diebetes, you need to have a vet you trust and with whom you can communicate well, and you need to be ready for the fact that your lifestyle will change when you bring one of these special cats into your home.




Are there any websites that specifically talk about Feline Diabetes?


Our favorite website for Feline Diabetes cvan be found HERE.




What are the best ways to care for my blind cat?


CLICK HERE for information regarding caring for blind cats.




What are the best ways to care for my FeLV / FIV Positive cat?


CLICK HERE for information regarding the care of FeLV / FIV Positive cats.




There are mutiple feral cats in my neighborhood. What can I do to help?


CLICK HERE for information regarding the care and management of Feral Cat colonies.




My cat is 15 years old. What are the best ways to care for a senior cat?


Pay Extra Attention to Your Senior Cat’s Diet Senior cats have unique dietary and behavioral needs. It is more important than ever for your cat to be a healthy weight to maintain optimum health. Talk to your veterinarian about how and when to transition your cat to a senior food. Your veterinarian will help you asses your cat’s optimum weight and can recommend a senior food to help maintain, lose or gain weight. A cat’s digestion is also improved by feeding them small, frequent meals throughout the day and night. Measure your cat’s daily food and distribute it in small portions. You can use tools like hunting feeders, like Doc & Phoebe’s Cat Co. Indoor Cat Feeder Kit, and puzzle toys that promote physical and mental engagement at mealtime. Increase Your Cat’s Access to Water As cats age, they are prone to constipation and kidney disease, especially if they are not staying hydrated enough.Increase your senior cat’s water intake by providing canned food and more options for drinking water. As your cat gets older, they might not be able to jump up on to counters or access the usual water dish. Add more water stations around the house with plenty of bowls and/or pet water fountains to entice your senior cat to drink more. Know and Keep an Eye Out for the Subtle Signs of Pain in Cats Cats are masters at hiding their pain. As many as nine out of 10 senior cats show evidence of arthritis when X-rayed, yet most of us with senior cats have no idea. The most important thing you can do to prevent the pain from arthritis is to keep your cat at healthy weight. As little as a pound or two of excess weight can significantly increase the pain of sore joints. Your veterinarian can help you with a long-term plan to help control your cat’s pain with medicine, supplements and alternative treatments, like acupuncture, physical therapy and laser treatments. Don’t Neglect Your Cat’s Dental Health Dental disease is very common in aging cats. Cats can get painful holes in their teeth, broken teeth, gum disease and oral tumors that significantly affect their quality of life. Infections in the mouth enter the bloodstream and can slowly affect the liver, kidneys and heart. So paying attention to your cat’s dental health is essential to caring for them during their senior years. Often, there is no clear sign of dental disease. Cat parents see weight loss and a poor hair coat as the vague signs of aging, not an indication of a potential problem. A thorough veterinary exam and routine dental care can drastically improve your cat’s quality of life, and can even extend their lifespan. Give Senior Cats Daily Exercise and Mental Stimulation Environmental enrichment is an essential part of your cat’s quality of life. All cats need places to climb, places to hide, things to scratch, and ways to hunt and play. All of these things will help your cat stay physically and mentally stimulated as well as healthy. However, as your cat ages, providing these things may require some extra thought. Your cat’s mobility may become more limited, so you will need to make your home more accessible so that it’s easier on their older joints. For example, a carpeted cat ramp can act as a scratching post as well as a climbing aid for cats with arthritis. A covered cat bed can give aging cats a cozy, warm place to hide that also helps to soothe sore joints and muscles. You can move their food and water bowls to more accessible locations on the ground instead of on tables or counters. Don’t Skimp on Biannual Vet Visits Finally, and most importantly, maintaining a good relationship with your veterinarian is critical when discussing care and quality of life for your cat in their senior years. Ideally, cats over 11 years of age should see the veterinarian every six months. Blood work done during these visits can detect the onset of health issues—like kidney disease—while there’s still time to make medical changes that will improve and extend your cat’s life. Weighing your cat twice a year will also show trends in weight loss or gain that can be valuable clues to overall health changes. And oral exams will detect dental disease before it negatively impacts your cat’s health.




Help! I found an orphaned kitten. What do I do?


Please be sure there is no mother cat that is caring for the kitten. A mother cat will venture from the newborn kittens occasionally for food, etc. If you notice a kitten has been left alone for more than 4 hours, you can assume the mother is not coming back and it is time to take action. We first need to determine how old they are before we try to start feeding them. Kittens’ eyes generally open between days 7 through 14. If the eyes are still closed, the kittens are quite young and you have a lot of work ahead of you. Fortunately, it is very rewarding work to see these little kitties grow and thrive. Home Care If you are committed to helping the newborn kittens and become their surrogate mother, then you will need to provide a safe, warm home for them. You can use a box or small crate with plenty of dry, clean bedding. Make sure you change the bedding frequently so it doesn’t get too soiled. Place the new "den" in a warm, quiet place free from drafts, but be careful not to overheat them either. Don’t put them next to a heating or air conditioning vent. Heating pads under a box can be helpful. The kittens should be in an environment that approaches 92 degrees; monitor the air temperature around the kittens frequently. Once they become 2 weeks old, they will be better equipped to generate their own body heat and their surrounding air temperature becomes less critical. Feeding For very young kittens, you will need to acquire kitten milk replacer and some feeding devices. Many veterinarians will use an ordinary eye dropper or a small syringe as a means of dispensing the milk replacer to the kitten. Most pet stores or veterinary clinics have nursing bottles, too, but be alert to the fact that some kittens cannot suck the contents through the small nipple. You may need to actually squeeze the milk out for the kitten while having the nipple in the kitty's mouth. Warm it up a little, too, under the hot water faucet. If it is after hours at your local animal hospital, your short-term solution will be to mix an egg yolk with a can of evaporated milk (make sure it is not the sweetened condensed milk). This is only a temporary "solution" and should only be used for a couple of feedings. At the first few feedings, the kittens will probably only consume a few cc’s worth of milk. (There are 5 cc's in a teaspoon.) You will need to feed every couple of hours at first and gradually build up time between feedings as they begin to eat more at each meal. Start by offering a small amount. If the kitten won’t eat readily from the nipple and bottle, try an eyedropper or syringe and drip a little in the mouth, adding more at the kitten's pace. Make sure that the milk is just above room temperature; try not to microwave it since you can cause hot spots in the milk. Follow instructions on the milk replacer for mixing and storage. Contact your veterinarian if the kitten does not eat for more than six hours, as hypoglycemia can occur quickly in young kittens who are not getting nutrition. Once they get the hang of it, the kittens should consume the milk replacer greedily. You can stop the feeding when the kitten begins to slow down the consumption or becomes disinterested. When the orphaned kittens reach about 3 weeks of age, you can start providing watered-down meat-based kitten food for them to nibble on. Mix the wet food with water until it achieves a soupy consistency, and consider warming the mixture before serving. Make sure you keep a fresh supply and not too much at one time. It’s also important to monitor the kittens while they are eating, as they are unsteady and can fall head first into the food. Once they start eating food as it comes from the can, you can leave out dry kibble for them to munch on, too. A kibble with good protein and fat levels is recommended. Hygiene One other thing you will need to do, since mom isn’t there to clean up after the kittens, is to stimulate the kittens to eliminate waste during or after each feeding. You can accomplish this by using a warm, wet paper towel to gently massage the anal and urinary openings. Your kitten should immediately urinate and/or defecate. Afterward, gently pat the area dry to avoid irritation and infection. As the kittens get older and more mobile and exploratory, you can provide a low-sided cardboard box with a small amount of litter for the kittens to get used to. It is generally instinct for them to scratch in something for their elimination habits. Once they start urinating and passing stool on their own (generally by 3 weeks of age), you will be able to give up that particular job of assisting them. Health Care Some things to monitor over the course of the next few weeks are appetite, activity level, and growth. You will need to call the veterinarian if a kitten won’t eat or stops eating. Bathroom habits should be predictable, and you should talk to your veterinarian if urinating or defecating changes, or if the kitten’s attitude or activity level also changes. Other health concerns include upper respiratory infections that create sneezing and eye and nose discharge. Many times the eyes will get so much discharge, the eyelids will gum up and stick together. Wet a cotton ball with warm water and hold it on the eyes for a few seconds to moisten the discharge. Then, very gently wipe one to two times to remove the softened crust and open up the eyes until you can contact your veterinarian. A number of different parasites are a concern and can weaken a young kitten. Your veterinarian should treat fleas, mites, lice, and intestinal parasites. Don’t use over-the-counter medications without consulting your veterinarian since very young kittens may not be able to tolerate some of these products. Many types of problems can be determined at the time of the first visit. Your veterinarian may suggest that you drop off a stool sample at 4 weeks of age to check for intestinal parasites.




I found a cat that is extremely emotionally traumatized and very scared. How can I help him recover?


CLICK HERE for information for helping to heal an emotionally traumatized cat.




Is there anything special I need to do to care for a two or three legged cat?


Whether you have adopted a two legged cat or a tripod cat, there are a few ways in which you can make their life easier. Most cats will adjust to their new reality, whether it is through amputation or a birth defect. It is amazing to watch how mobile and agile a cat with two or three legs can be. Here are a few things you can do to help your pet navigate on two or three legs:

  • Make sure they are able to access the litterbox. You may want to purchase a low sided litterbox or one that is rounded in the front to make entrance and exit to the litterbox easy.
  • Although most cats will still be able to climb, always keep a blanket or cat bed on the floor.
  • Make sure they are able to access the food and water where it is located.
  • Provide stimulation and playtime to your tripod or two legged cat.





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Advocates 4 Animals, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization serving Greene County, Ohio. Our mission is to reduce feline homelessness by providing low cost spay/neuter options and by offering long-term care to special needs felines through our Sponsor-a-Rescue-Pet program. 

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