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Cat Care 101: Q&A with PetSmart Veterinarian Dr. Robyn Jaynes & PetSmart Cat Expert Laurie Taylor

December 1, 2011 -


On June 8, 2011, PetSmart hosted a live Facebook discussion about cats with Laurie Taylor, PetSmart cat expert and Dr. Robyn Jaynes, PetSmart veterinarian. Facebook fans asked some great questions to help them learn more about how to care for their cat and received a few informational tidbits from our experts.
Q: What suggestions do you have for cat toys that are small enough for the cats to enjoy but large enough that they're safe with supervision around dogs?
A: If your dog is interested in toys, we would advise against any cat toys being left near the dog unsupervised. The best solution may be to have your cats’ toys in a segregated room where the dog cannot access them.
Q: My cat keeps getting clogged anal glands. I take her about once every six weeks to the vet to have them extracted. What can I do to help prevent this?
A: Clogged anal glands are generally a dog issue. We would recommend you work with your vet to find a long-term solution for your cat.
Q: Can you retrain a cat to properly use a litter box instead of a bathtub?
A: By using the bathtub, the cat is saying he does not like something about the litter box (ie: he may not like the texture). Make certain the litter box is regularly cleaned and maintained. You also may want to try a different litter.
Q: How do I introduce a new cat or kitten to my 3-year-old cat who has always been the only cat in a household with three dogs?
A: If you are adopting a cat, talk with the shelter or foster Pet Parent about whether the cat has been in a home with other pets. Coming into a new home can be overwhelming. Give the new cat time and space to adjust. Pick a room you can section off for the new cat to make his own. The existing dogs and cats can sniff the new cat under the door for a while. Slowly increase exposure to each other over time, always supervising the interactions.
Q: My daughter brought home a cat from college. She is about 9-months-old. Our resident cat wants to be friends, but she only hisses at him! He is not showing any signs of aggression toward her. He is a mellow fellow. She has adjusted to her new surroundings, but is being a bully to him. Any suggestions?
A: Give each cat their own space — including food, water, litter box, bed & toys — so they each have a place to feel safe and are not competing. We also calming and comfort collars that help reduce anxiety.
Q: My cat is overweight. We have cut back his food, but he hasn’t lost any weight. What can we do?
A: Try a light or low-fat formula cat food. Also, you can put the food into an activity ball so the cat has to roll the ball to get the food out. We recommend the ball be used for no more than 1/4 of their diet. If the cat's weight remains high, you should consult your vet as the cat may have a medical issue.
Q: I know that cats give "love bites" but why do they do this? They clamp down, then they let go and lick. What's up with that?
A: Light biting is an instinctive cat behavior that should be discouraged. You can deter this behavior by ending playtime with the cat when he bites.
Q: I use Blue Buffalo Cat Food for my kitties; it seems to be the only one I have found so far they all can eat without having skin and tummy issues. However with this economy, gas prices, and financial issues, I’m having a hard time buying it. Is there a less expensive way to help my cats eat healthy without developing problems?
A: Anytime you attempt to switch foods, you run the risk of your pet having issues. If you do switch, you should do so slowly by mixing the foods. If you are thinking of exploring other options for financial reasons, you may want to consider Simply Nourish cat food.
Q: What's the best way to keep cats from clawing on furniture? Scratching posts don't work for these two. 
A: Have you put catnip on the scratching post? A couple of other options include, nail caps, scratching mats, application of protection tape to the furniture, or spraying the cat with a water bottle when he scratches the furniture. Each cat is different so you may have to try more than one approach.
Q: How can I get my 6-year-old cat to get along with my two-year-old cat? If they get within an inch of each other the older one hisses and growls.
A: Please look at the answer we provided relative to cats having their own space so they do not have to compete for food, water, etc. Also, if the cats do not enjoy being near each other but do not harm each other, you may just want to let them be.
Q: I took in a declawed stray cat while in college who is very scared of everything. I’ve had her for a little under a year and I think she is around 5-years-old. How do I get her to calm down and stop hissing at the dog?
A: Give the cat areas to feel secure, be it a different room or a piece of tall cat furniture she can climb and perch; it is instinctive for cats to perch and want to be above other animals.
Q: How do I introduce my 6-year-old Labrador to my new 9-week-old Maine Coon Kitten?
A: See prior post relative to introducing new animals to existing pets. Also, you will want to keep your dog on a leash when introducing him to the cat until they get comfortable with each other.
Q: We lost our 18-month-old male cat to FIP a year ago. What are the chances a new cat/kitten brought into our home could contract the same virus?
A: Dr. Robyn recommends you have the home disinfected. You should ask your vet how long the virus lives on items and what specific precautions to take with a new cat.
Q: Will getting a cat fixed stop them from spraying?
A: Depending on the age of the cat, neutering may stop him from spraying. For younger cats, neutering may mitigate the risk of spraying. For older cats, spraying may be a learned response that will not change even if the cat is neutered.
Q: My 8-month-old cat eats everything in sight; we've even found him eating enchiladas that we forgot to cover! I've had him since he was 6-weeks-old but he was a stray before that. Could that be why he eats everything in sight? How harmful is this? Could he be vitamin deficient?
A: Your cat is probably just a healthy eater. You should make sure your cat is eating healthy cat food to ensure he is getting proper nutrition. You should also control access to human food as it may not be helpful to his digestive system.
Q: My two kitties eat Science Diet Optimal Care and our newest addition is on the Science Diet Kitten Formula. I have used Science Diet for quite some time and they all seem to love it. As you may know, it is on the pricey side and I rarely find coupons for it. I have heard such mixed opinions on Science Diet food in general, and with all the craze focused on "going natural" and making sure the foods are free of byproducts, I want to make sure what I pay for is well worth it. What your honest professional opinion on Science Diet?
A: Science Diet is a high quality pet food. If it is working for your cats, you should continue feeding it to them.
Q: Can you teach a cat how to become a lap cat?
A: Some cats really enjoy lap time and others are more independent. Like people, cats have their own individual personalities.
Q: My cat is 19-years-old, has arthritis and is blind and deaf. She is fussy with food and hardly eats. It’s costing me a fortune to get steroid injections from my vet, which only help her eat a little bit and she is always sick after the injections. She is also on heart and thyroid tablets. The worst thing at the moment is she will not use any of the litter boxes and pees and poops everywhere. I love her to bits but the smell is getting so bad and my carpets need chucking. Should I put her down or do I put up with the smell?
A: It is really an individual decision. When the quality of life is not what you want for your cat, you should talk with your vet about humane options.
Q: My cat likes peeing on our carpet but he still uses the litter box. How do I get him to stop? Can a male mark his territory by peeing and not spraying? 
A: You need to find out if the cat is spraying or peeing. Spraying is vertical and is generally a behavioral issue. If the cat is not neutered, you should have him neutered as that will help. Also, be certain to use cat-specific stain & odor removal products. Urinating outside of the litter box can be a form of marking. However, it is more likely a sign of problems with the litter box. 


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