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Newsletter

The veterinarians and staff at Cats & Critters are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

VIDEO - In the Exam Room: Preventive Care Visits

Preventive care visits are an important part of keeping your pet happy and healthy. But what does a veterinarian do during a wellness check-up? Dr. Julia Georgesen takes us into the exam room and shows us what to expect when we take a pet to the veterinarian for a preventive care exam.


Body Language in Cats

Misreading or ignoring body language earns more than a few cat lovers a scratch or bite from time to time - the result of missing a cat's "I've had enough" signs. The classic example is the cat who, while being petted, "suddenly" grabs with teeth and claws, to the shock and sometimes anger of the human doing the petting.

In fact, these "out of the blue" attacks rarely are. Before the bite or clawing, a cat usually gives out subtle (to us, anyway) signs of diminished tolerance. Primary among them is an increase in the stiffness and twitching of the tail. The reasons behind this behavior are not well understood.

If your cat has grown tired of petting, he or she may exhibit some of the following signs:

• Restlessness

• Twitches tail

• Turns ears back or flicks them back and forth

• Turns head toward your hand


Scaredy-Cat

The problem often starts with petting your cat's tummy, a vulnerable area for any animal. Watch your cat's body signs. If the cat shows any of these signals, immediately put the cat down and stop petting him or her. This not only keeps teeth and claws from entering your skin, it also builds up his trust in you and his tolerance for physical attention. Do not impose any sort of physical punishment on the cat - this may prompt him or her to bite, and will make future interactions with your cat more difficult.

Cats may also display similar body language when they are afraid. Though their body posture - crouching low to the floor, ears back, tail tucked, rolling slightly to the side - may be similar to a dog's submissive postures, cats in these positions are fearful and defensive and may attack if touched.

If your cat exhibits fearful behavior, closely observe the cat to determine the trigger for this behavior. It could be anything - a stranger, another animal, loud noises and so on. To help eliminate fearful behavior, try to desensitize your cat to the stimulus. First, introduce the stimulus at a distance while praising the cat and feeding him or her a treat. Slowly move the stimulus closer as you continue to praise and feed the cat. This process takes time; if at any point your cat shows fearful behavior, you have proceeded too quickly and must start again. If your attempts are not successful, you may need to call a animal behavior specialist.


Whether you are relaxing with your cat on the couch or watching your cat interact with friends and family, keep an eye on his or her body language. Your guests - and your cat - will thank you for it.

Attention-Seeking Behavior in Dogs

It is perfectly normal for our dogs to engage in a little attention-getting behavior from time to time. As long as the behavior stays within acceptable limits, there is nothing particularly wrong with it. Many times your dog will communicate with you by barking at you, indicating a reason to take notice of him. Also, if you are engrossed in conversation, for example, and your dog paws at your leg to solicit your attention, it would not be inappropriate. What you must remember is that your dog quickly learns which behaviors work and which ones do not according to how you respond. That being said, it is necessary to set reasonable boundaries from which your dog can learn which behaviors are acceptable to you.

There are a number of ways a dog can look for attention. The most common actions are barking, whining, gagging (or actual vomiting), feigning lameness (limping), jumping, and pawing. Keep in mind that some dogs go above and beyond if they think their behavior will be rewarded with attention, so this list may seem fairly tame. It is important to note what your reaction is to certain behaviors in order to determine which one your dog has employed to get your attention. If you ignore your dog when he barks but yell and/or touch him when he jumps, you are more likely encouraging him to jump whereas his barking is a normal communication.

The main principle involved in treating attention seeking behaviors is to ignore it. It is not a fast-acting solution, but one that generally produces the best results. In fact, the behavior may get worse or even more intense before it eventually fades away. Keep in mind that if you give in intermittently or after a lengthy period of trying to "tough it out" before the behavior has been squelched, you will reinforce the behavior more firmly. Your dog will learn that if he keeps it up, the attention he wants will eventually come his way.




Another way to solve the problem is to use a "bridging stimulus." A bridging stimulus is a neutral sign (or cue) that brings about a particular consequence (i.e. it forms a "bridge" between a behavior and a consequence). It could be a duck call or a tuning fork, or the sound of striking a note on a piano. The noise is sounded at the time the dog is engaging in the unwanted behavior to signal the owner's imminent withdrawal of attention, perhaps even leaving the room. What the bridging stimulus does is to focus the dog's attention on that point in time when attention withdrawal is about to happen. It is not intended to be aversive, but rather a consistent signal. The specific behavior should dissolve more consistently and rapidly if a bridging stimulus is used rather than if attention withdrawal is employed without such a signal.

If your dog is still performing the same behaviors after employing the above mentioned strategies, there could be other factors involved. It is possible that your dog is not receiving ANY attention or he is spending too much time alone or in a crate. It may be that he is getting insufficient exercise or mental stimulation. Excess energy could also be an issue. It is extremely important to address these issues as well rather than just trying to stop the dog from bothering you. It could be that YOUR expectations are not conducive to normal dog behavior and care. Some questions you may ask yourself are:

• Does my dog get enough exercise? The minimum is 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily.

• Is my dog eating a sensible diet?

• Is my level of communication with my dog adequate? Have I trained my dog? You should be striving for 85% responsiveness to a one word command such as sit, down, come, watch, etc.

• Is my dog being rewarded with my attention (petting, praise, etc) when he is doing something I like? If not, begin indicating my approval of desired behaviors.

• Does my dog have a "job?" For certain breeds having a job or something to focus attention regularly helps curb unwanted behavior. Retrieving the paper every day or accessing his food is an example.

The bottom line is that dogs need attention. What you give your attention to (whether good or bad) generally teaches the dog how to achieve that attention through certain behaviors. As an owner, it is your responsibility to let your dog know which behaviors are acceptable and which ones are not. Any behavior can be reinforced. It is up to you to decide what kind of relationship you want with your dog.

Feline Facts or Fables?

The following common beliefs have circulated in western culture for years. Are they fact or are they fiction? In this article, VetNetwork takes aim at some of these familiar “truths” and demystifies the mystery in them.


The Eyes Have It: Are Cats Colorblind?

While humans and monkeys possess the necessary cells to see all colors, cats and dogs are not as fortunate. While able to see some colors, cats are missing “cone” cells- the cells required to visualize red, blue and green hues. Unlike humans, however, cats are born with the cells necessary to respond well to dim light, thus making them extraordinarily savvy “seers” in both bright and dusky light.


Do cats’ eyes glow?

No. As much as this myth charms children, cats’ eyes do not glow. However, special cells exist in the back of their retina; these cells (tapetum) act like a mirror and reflect light back- thus creating a glowing-like effect.


Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Live with Cats

Toxoplasmosis is a real infection caused by a parasite that can threaten the health of an unborn child. Humans can contract the infection from handling soil or cat litter that contains cat feces infected with the parasite. Other methods of transmission include eating undercooked meat from infected animals or from consuming uncooked foods that have come in contact with contaminated meat.

Most health professionals agree that although toxoplasmosis is a real risk for fetuses, a woman is more likely to catch it from handling raw meat or digging in the garden than directly from her cats. The best way for a pregnant cat owner to protect herself is to empty the litter box daily, have someone else clean the litter box, or wear rubber gloves and a mask if changing the litter.


Cats Steal the Breath of Babies

While this myth is just that, a myth, the simple fact that cats are attracted to warmth and comfort is true and irrefutable. A sleeping baby offers an easy heat source and his/her rhythmic breathing can seem like the perfect cozy place to curl up for a catnap. There is a potential risk to the baby and, therefore, cats should be kept out of a nursery at nap/bedtime.





Cats Hate Water

As much as your son or granddaughter begs to “bathe the kitty”, it is best to leave this pretend play activity to dolls and action figures. Ordinarily, water can be very displeasing to cats and leads to much scrambling and screeching. To be fair, a great deal of water can weigh down a cat’s fur and impede him/her from floating. This is both uncomfortable and frightening for a feline friend.

This being said, not all cats are averse to water. Oftentimes, a kitten can be found playing with a leaky faucet or lapping up a puddle. It’s best to get to know your own cat’s preference and comfort level when considering water play.


One Cool Cat

Is your cat hot? No sweat! Unlike their canine counterparts, cats have large, thin ears that provide an important mechanism that allows the blood flowing through the ears to cool. In hotter temperatures, cats rely on their expert grooming capability. Their meticulous fur-licking is not just so that Fluffy can look good but also so she can feel good. Saliva evaporates from feline fur and this acts as a cooling mechanism. Lastly, because felines’ sweat glands are located in their paw pads, they secrete sweat through their furry feet. This little known fact often gives owners… pause.


Cats are Nocturnal

Actually, cats are crepuscular, which is a fancy word meaning that they are most active during twilight hours. Dusk and dawn are when they are “full on” and, of course, for outside cats this provides them with a smorgasbord of nighttime prey and excellent hunting. Because cats can see well in dim light (as noted earlier), they have a distinct advantage over mice and other nightly appetizers.


Cats Always Land on their Feet

Interestingly, cats almost always do. Padded landings are nothing new to felines due to their flexible spines, vestibular system (which contributes to balance and spatial orientation), and acute vision, cats have a unique ability to right themselves when falling. When given enough time, a cat will arch her back, position her legs under herself, and relax and spread her body (like a parachute) in preparation for an abrupt landing. In fact, the higher the fall, the better. Greater height (i.e., a greater distance to fall) affords Kitty more time to re-right herself.

Although cats have this innate and admirable gift, it does not mean they are immune from harm. While they can most often right themselves before impact, cats are still subject to common injuries from falling, such as trauma to their limbs, jaws and thoracic region.


Cats Have Nine Lives

A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays. - English Proverb

Ever wonder where this legend came from? It is likely to have originated from ancient Egyptian times when people devoutly worshipped cats. Cats’ ability to resist even the highest of falls or the riskiest of situations perpetuates this magical myth. In reality, cats are no more able to avoid death than other pets- but they do have a distinct advantage when it comes to resisting harm from falls that would otherwise hurt household pets. As mentioned above, their uncanny ability to right themselves during a fall and land on their feet reduces the risk of neck and back injuries. Additionally, their small size and low body weight softens the impact when they make contact with the ground. Lastly and again, their developed inner ears provide them with a keen sense of balance, which is critical to their landing on their feet.


Forging through Feline Fiction

So the next time the dinner party conversation turns toward feline companionship, you will be well-prepared to contribute and participate. Cats possess interesting and peculiar traits. You can rest knowing that those listed here have merit and are rooted in truth.

Lyme Disease Is the New (Bad) Summer Trend

Along with the heat, it looks like Lyme Disease is also expected to be on the rise this summer. A disease once attributed to deer is now shifting its blame to the decline of foxes, who lunch on mice, which in turn lunch on ticks before they’re able to lunch on us and our pets.

Studies reveal that young dogs appear to be more susceptible to the disease than older ones. The infection typically develops after the deer tick has been attached to the dog for 18 hours or more.

Here are a few signs that your dog may be infected:

  • Stiff and inflamed joints (producing lameness)
  • Sensitive to the touch
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depressed behavior
  • Kidney damage (producing vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination)

If you see signs of Lyme Disease, bring your dog to a veterinarian for an examination. Treatment typically consists of an antibiotic that can be taken from home. Your veterinarian can also recommend different collars and sprays that work to repel ticks in the first place.

Surf’s Up for One Special Cat

Kuli was rescued from the streets of Nanakuli, Hawaii when he was only a few weeks old. With his name loosely meaning “to look blind,” the cat’s first few months of life were far from easy. A tiny one-pound kitten, Kuli was malnourished and had a severely infected left eye.

“He was this small, little cat that couldn’t keep down his food, so he was pretty messy all the time,” his owner told KITV. “We ended up having to give lots of baths and that helped to build up his tolerance to water in the beginning."

Once he was strong enough, Kuli began tagging along on trips to the beach. His owners would open his cat carrier door, giving him the option to stay dry in the sand or take to the open ocean. Within a month, Kuli was choosing to go in the water on his own.




“His first time in the water, we just let him float on the board by himself near the shoreline and I would paddle around with him,” his owner told the Daily Mail. “Before we knew it we were looking for waves to surf.”

Kuli has a special surf board with grip pads at the edges so he can hang ten with his people. Video shows him paddling in the clear tropical waters, doing his version of a kitty paddle or sitting atop a human friend’s shoulder as she paddles their board toward a wave. When the water gets rough Kuli sports a yellow and black life jacket, but his owners insist they are “careful not to take him out if it is too windy or… too rough.”

Search for “one-eyed cat loves to surf” on YouTube to see Kuli in action.