Aby-a-Day – 28 May: Nothing butt the truth (Medical Monday)

Today’s post is…I’m not going to lie. Today’s post is kind of nasty.

Today’s post is about cats’ anal glands. Now, 99.9% of cat owners don’t even know their cats have anal glands. But if you completely ignore them, it’s (pardon the expression) a complete pain in the ass.

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It started with Jacoby, who has had a history of soft poops, which means that his anal glands don’t get expressed natually when he poops. When he started smelling “whiffy,” I would have my vet express them…but it was happening too often to make that a regular thing. He was young and trusting, and I used to have to do this with my old Siamese Harri, so I started expressing Jake’s anal glands the same way I used to do Harri’s. He let me…and now it’s routine. But almost every other week, I’m justified.

I know this is a completely disgusting topic. The stuff in your cat’s anal glands is related to the stuff that skunks spray when they feel threatened. There are two methods used to empty the anal gland sacs; I use the “squeezing a zit” method as opposed to the more invasive, “grab the rubber gloves and the lube” method. It works, and I can sleep at night.

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If you haven’t had the pleasure of dealing with cats’ anal glands.…well, it’s about as pleasant as the words “anal” and “glands” in the same sentence might lead you to believe. Tessie had a problem with hers that ultimately required an anaesthetised procedure, and when I helped my vet to hold her while she looked at the problem, Tessie nearly ripped my throat out. So it pays to get your kittens used to having their bums squoze before it becomes a problem.

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Because Jake needed his glands expressed on a regular basis, when we added Alfred and Logan, and later Lorelai, to our family I added “checking the bum” to the bi-weekly grooming routine of weighing, clipping claws, cleaning ears, scraping and brushing teeth (except Angel) and combing and rubbing with Bay Rum and a chamois cloth. I think it helps; at least, it should prevent any horrific issues.

The reason for this post is due to the fact that, this past weekend for the first time ever, I was able to express Angel’s glands. And believe me, she needed it done. It’s a not-so-nice aspect of cat parenting…but it’s an important one. As our friends at Cats Herd You say, why don’t we cat owners talk about these sorts of things more?

Edit: Our friend Summer suggested I post a tutorial on how to do this. Turns out there’s a Japanese YouTube video featuring an Abyssinian that shows pretty much how I do it (but not exactly). For more information on how I express the cats’ glands, read my reply to Summer in comments.

Abys are Everywhere: “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds”

The other day I came across a Facebook post (in a Bengal group, of all places) that caught my eye for a couple of reasons: one, the Somali, of course, and two, it was a warning about Easter lilies.

As I have posted before, lilies kill cats. Easter lilies are among the worst, but it’s safest to avoid any sort of bulb plants (remember, garlic and onions are also bad for cats, and they are also members of the lily family).

Aby-a-Day – April 27: Ears the thing…

Sometime in the past year or so, I’ve noticed Jacoby has these spots on his ears.

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I’m not sure when they first appeared; just one day I noticed they were there. And they’re only on his ears, no where else on his body. Just the ears.

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Jake does have a chronic yeast infection issue inside his ears which crops up every few months and is treated with Tresaderm, but this doesn’t seem to be related to that.

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I thought it might be, at first, though. I thought they were bald spots, so I thought that perhaps they were caused by him scratching or shaking his ears. But the spots aren’t actually hairless.

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If you look very closely, you can see that the spots do have hair on them. Well, as much hair as the parts of his ears without the spots. They seem to be more depigmented than they are hairless, sort of like reverse freckles. Curious, I did a Google search for bald spots on cats’ ears, and I found this article on The Cat Site about a 4 year old Aby boy with the exact same problem!

Look at this photo of his ears! They look just like Jake’s ears!

Unfortunately, this person hasn’t got any more answers than I have. The best advice I’ve had so far about how to take care of these depigmentation spots?

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A brown eyeliner pencil to cover up the pale spots! This won’t cure it, of course…but I’ll try it next weekend at the cat show.

An Easter Reminder: Lilies = DANGER

(Repeat post: this was originally posted on April 20, 2011)

I was just reminded of this today: Easter Lilies are poisonous to all cats. Actually, any member of the Lily family (Liliaceae are dangerous; a good rule of thumb is not to trust any bulb plant around cats. Onions, garlic and asparagus are members of this family, as well as tulips, daffodils and amaryllis. Even just a little bit of pollen on their feet, or drinking the water the lily has been in, can be dangerous.

This hits very close to home for me. Jacoby’s older brother Cypher (same parents, different litter) was staying with his owner’s mother while he and his wife were on their honeymoon, which happened to be at Easter. The mother was given a bouquet of mixed flowers, including one lily. Cy, being a playful young boy Aby, had to investigate the new flowers; no-one is sure exactly what happened, but he either played with and/or bit the lily and, not long after, started showing symptoms of renal failure. He was rushed to the vet, but it was too late. He died two or three days later, before his people were able to return home. He was only 7 months old.

All parts of the plant are dangerous, so it’s best to just not allow lilies inside (and also watch out for giving cats food containing onions or garlic). If you go on outings with your cat, avoid any bulb plants you might encounter in a park or greenway; I have to remember to keep Jake away from the many patches of tulips and daffodils along the Fort Point Channel Harborwalk this time of year.

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Roses are safe, though, and they have claws so they can defend themselves in a way cats can appreciate (Carnations are okay, too)!

Aby-a-Day – November 15: You can lead a cat to water…

Ever since Jacoby had his second Urinary Crystal Incident, I have wanted to get a cat water fountain for the cats.

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The last time we went to Petco, the very fountain I wanted, the Pioneer Pet Stainless Steel Fountain, just happened to be on sale!

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I set it up just outside the kitchen, where we currently have one of their two watering stations set up. Then, I waited to see what would happen.

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In a completely shocking turn of events, Jacoby was the first to investigate (What a surprise, I know).

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Jake’s a huge fan of drinking out of the bathroom faucet, so I was very interested to see what he would do with the fountain. At first, he examined it thoroughly, but didn’t drink.

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He was very interested in the little waterfall section.

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Or, he was interested in his reflection on the shiny stainless steel. It was kind of hard to tell.

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I was surprised he didn’t stick his hands in the water. He didn’t actually drink out of it during his preliminary reconnaissance mission; I think in part he wasn’t quite sure which side he was meant to drink from!

Aby-a-Day – May 3: Today was brought to you by the letter “P”

When I woke up this morning, it seemed like a perfectly ordinary Tuesday.

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Then Jacoby went to the bathroom and nothing happened.

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(I took these photos to show the vet, not to post, but since I have them…) Poor Jake went from box to box, trying to pee in each one as though a change of venue might be more productive. Every time, only a few drops came out. He must have tried at least 10 times in less than an hour.

Being fairly well-read on the subject of feline healthcare (and having on hand both the most recent edition of the Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook and the Cornell Book of Cats as well as The Veterinarian’s Guide to Your Cat’s Symptoms because, for some reason, looking things up in books is so much more satisfying than Googling them at times like these), I knew that a cat trying to pee and not being able to – especially a boycat – is an emergency. It could be a blockage of the urethra (which is narrow in male cats), or Cystitis, or crystals or stones in the bladder, but whatever it is, it’s definitely not a “wait-and-see” situation. So, I bundled Jake up in his carrier and we went to see the vet.

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We saw Dr. KC (who we saw when he had his escalator accident back in October), and she agreed that there was something going on, probably Cystitis since he was otherwise perky and eating well. She prescribed Clavamox (antibiotic), Tramadol (pain reliever) and Phenoxybenzamine (which reduces urethral spasms and increases urine outflow). However, I wasn’t to give him the Clavamox until I’d gotten his urine sample.

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I’m sure you’re wondering (as was I), “how in the heck do you get a urine sample from a cat?” Why, with PlastiLitter, of course! You put the PlastiLitter into a small, empty litterbox and wait til the cat pees in there, then pour out the urine (which the plastic pebbles don’t absorb) and take it back to the vet. Easy peasy! Except, not really.

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“Seriously? Seriously!?

Jake went pee surprisingly quickly, almost as soon as I’d set up the little litterbox, and I got as much of it as I could and ran back to the vet…but it wasn’t enough. I had a doctor appointment of my own during lunch (ironically, involving a urine test), and then I had to get back to work, so I had to leave Jake alone in the bedroom with his little red cat show pan and his PlastiLitter and hope for the best.

You know you’re a cat mom when…all the time you’re at work you can’t wait to get home and see if your kitty has peed. It was the first thing I checked when I walked in the door, before even taking off my shoes or jacket. And…he had not. Not at all. I stirred up the PlastiLitter and showed it to him again, and pretty much begged him to “please go peepee.”

Finally, he went in and gave me a good-sized sample! Hurrah! I think he was as relieved as I was; I know he was thrilled to see the little show box go away and the regular big box returned to the litter cabinet.

So now he’s had his Clavamox, and tomorrow I’ll take his sample back to the vet to see what’s actually going on in there.

An Easter Reminder: Lilies = DANGER

I was just reminded of this today: Easter Lilies are poisonous to all cats. Actually, any member of the Lily family (Liliaceae are dangerous; a good rule of thumb is not to trust any bulb plant around cats. Onions, garlic and asparagus are members of this family, as well as tulips, daffodils and amaryllis. Even just a little bit of pollen on their feet, or drinking the water the lily has been in, can be dangerous.

This hits very close to home for me. Jacoby’s older brother Cypher (same parents, different litter) was staying with his owner’s mother while he and his wife were on their honeymoon, which happened to be at Easter. The mother was given a bouquet of mixed flowers, including one lily. Cy, being a playful young boy Aby, had to investigate the new flowers; no-one is sure exactly what happened, but he either played with and/or bit the lily and, not long after, started showing symptoms of renal failure. He was rushed to the vet, but it was too late. He died two or three days later, before his people were able to return home. He was only 7 months old.

All parts of the plant are dangerous, so it’s best to just not allow lilies inside (and also watch out for giving cats food containing onions or garlic). If you go on outings with your cat, avoid any bulb plants you might encounter in a park or greenway; I have to remember to keep Jake away from the many patches of tulips and daffodils along the Fort Point Channel Harborwalk this time of year.

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Roses are safe, though, and they have claws so they can defend themselves in a way cats can appreciate (Carnations are okay, too)!