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Welcome to the Feline Specialties reference section. The reference section is dedicated to providing you with helpful information and links that will help you understand, appreciate and care for your feline friends. Feel free to browse our Frequently Asked Qustions below. If you are looking for more information select a reference category from the list below to view additional information.

How can I prevent my cat from vomiting hairballs?
Hairballs are a common problem in cats that groom themselves frequently, as well as in those that have long hair. When a cat grooms itself, it swallows hair, and over time the hair can accumulate within the stomach. Eventually, the hair causes enough irritation to the stomach that the cat will vomit it up.

Owners may opt to use hairball remedies such as Laxatone, which contain ingredients such as petroleum jelly that help bind the hair in the stomach and move it into the intestines and passed in the feces. A cat treated with such a remedy will defecate the hairball instead of vomiting it.

Laxatone treatment initially is given daily for about a week, and then every couple of days thereafter for maintenance. Some cats need treatment only every few weeks to keep hair from accumulating. For those cats that reject Laxatone, there are now hairball diets and treats available that claim to decrease problems with hairballs. If a cat continues to vomit, have it examined by a veterinarian to be sure that the vomiting truly is caused by hairballs and not by an underlying disease. Cats that swallow string or toys may also vomit, but the ingesting of foreign objects is a more serious condition that requires veterinary attention.
I think my pet may have fleas. How can I check?
A flea is a tiny, laterally flat and wingless insect that subsists on the blood of its host. Fleas have long legs that enable them to jump tremendous distances and they can quickly crawl through your animal's fur. Check your cat or dog frequently for fleas by brushing them over while they are standing over a white sheet or towel; flea feces-small, black flecks of digested blood-will fall off easily, indicating the presence of fleas. A flea comb with very fine teeth is helpful for removing flea debris and may remove some adult fleas if enough are present.

Most fleas congregate over the rump and tail area of the pet. If evidence of fleas is noted, the animal should also be checked for tapeworm segments, which appear as cream-colored, rice-like segments stuck in the fur around the anus or in the feces. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations concerning flea control and prevention.
What normal maintenance care does my cat need?
All kittens should go through examinations, deworming, multiple vaccinations, and neutering. After these are completed, your trips to the veterinarian will be much less frequent. Most healthy adult cats need to visit the veterinarian only once a year.

Vaccinations are continued throughout a cat's life. Most vaccinations are given once a year, although a rabies shot may be given as little as every three years based on the laws in your region. Outdoor cats are at a higher risk of contracting a fatal feline virus, and so require more vaccinations than those that stay indoors. We recommend that you keep your cat inside.

It is a good idea to have a sample of your cat's feces evaluated for parasites at least every one to two years. Outdoor cats are at increased risk of being exposed to parasites and should probably have this test done twice a year.

Heartworm medication is recommended to prevent heartworm infections in indoor and outdoor cats. Since mosquitoes can get inside the house, indoor cats are at risk of heartworm infection. This flavored medication is given once a month and is available from your veterinarian.

Monitor your cat's skin and haircoat for any signs of parasites or hair loss. Fleas and ticks not only are nuisances for cats that go outside, but also may cause diseases in your pet. Contact your veterinarian for safe and effective treatment and prevention products.

Routine brushing significantly reduces the incidence of hairballs and provides bonding time between you and your cat. This is especially important for heavy shedders, longhaired cats, and geriatric animals that may have trouble grooming themselves. A hairball remedy or treat may be used to help ingested fur move through the digestive tract and reduce the number of hairballs your cat vomits.

Maintain that perfect pedicure. Cats should have their toenails trimmed periodically to keep them from damaging your house, furniture, and skin. If this practice is started at a young age, the cat will tolerate it more easily throughout its life. Have an experienced person help you the first few times that you attempt to trim your cat's toenails.

Feel like brushing your cat's teeth? Some cats will tolerate brushing if it is started gradually and made a pleasant experience. Veterinary toothpaste must be used to prevent stomach upset. Most of these toothpastes are available in a chicken or tuna flavor that cats find appealing. Consult your veterinarian about brushing techniques and supplies.

Feed your cat a good quality adult maintenance cat food. It is not necessary to feed canned or semi-soft food or to provide a variety of food types, as feeding variation can lead to the creation of a finicky eater, not to mention stomach upset or diarrhea from abrupt changes in the diet. Dry kibble may help keep your cat's teeth and gums in better condition.

Be sure to provide plenty of fresh water daily. Some cats do not like to drink standing water. Drinking fountains, which have become widely available, may be a better idea for these felines.

Scoop the cat litter daily. Most cats are very picky about bathroom facilities, including the brand of litter that you use. Once you find a brand that you both find acceptable, stick with it for the long haul. This will cut down on the possibility of "mistakes" that you could find around the house.

Finally, be sure to give your cat plenty of tender loving attention and play time. Playing games will help keep that indoor cat from becoming overweight. Plus, those fun times together are what build a strong bond between pet and owner.
What is feline acne and how is it treated?
Feline acne is an idiopathic (cause not known) disorder of the hair follicles that is rarely curable. Poor grooming, a tendency for excessive oil production, stress and other factors have all been suggested as playing a role in its development; however, the cause is not clearly established. The main, full-blown lesion is a plugged hair follicle that becomes infected with bacteria and may drain serous fluid or pus. The condition may be so severe that the lips become swollen and the chin scarred.

Other conditions may mimic feline acne in the early, follicular-plugging stage. These include ringworm, mange mites or a superficial yeast infection, which can be verified or ruled out by culture, skin scraping, and cytology.

A few simple blackheads, or comedones, may be unsightly, but not a problem for the cat.

Treatment is generally reserved for patients with clinical signs of infection, drainage or swelling.

Topical therapy is indicated in all treatment regimens, with an effort to gently dislodge or dissolve the material plugging the follicles. Warm water soaks and antiseborrheic shampoos are frequently recommended for daily or twice weekly use.

There are topical agents available through veterinarians, such as benzoyl peroxide and Retin-A that may be indicated in some cases, but they may be too irritating for some cats. Antibiotics and fatty acid supplements may also be required. Other systemic medications, beyond antibiotics and fatty acid supplements, are reserved for severe, refractory cases. Consultation with a veterinary dermatologist is advisable in such cases.

Your veterinarian should have the opportunity to re-examine your cat if the condition is not resolved. He or she can assess whether more aggressive treatment is indicated or if more antibiotics are required.
My cat has lost a lot of weight. What could cause this?
Unintended weight loss without loss of fluid may accompany serious illness. Veterinarians consider weight loss in animals to potentially signal illness when it exceeds 10 percent of previously stable body weight in normally hydrated animals. Thus weight loss is associated with a reduction in the fat stores and muscle mass of the animal's body.

Weight loss occurs when the body's metabolic requirements, measured in calories (technically kilocalories), exceed the usable calories derived from food. When an animal (or a human, for that matter) needs to lose weight, reducing the amount or changing the type of food eaten--so that the number of calories consumed is less than the body needs-- will result in weight loss. Such weight-reduction diets are designed to reduce stored body fat only and not other tissues (especially muscle). This is controlled weight loss and is supervised by a clinician.

There are many diseases associated with uncontrolled or unintended weight loss. In some of these diseases starvation actually occurs even if the affected animal is eating normally or excessively. As fat stores are depleted, muscle begins to breakdown to provide protein for energy production and restorative processes. Additionally, muscle also breaks down when the body's protein requirements are not being met through the diet or digestive processes. In such situations, a negative nitrogen balance is said to exist, which is a sign of starvation and a very serious underlying disease.

Several physiologic mechanisms exist that produce disease-associated weight loss. Some feline diseases significantly increase energy (calorie) requirements. Without a compensatory increase in food, the affected cat loses weight. Metabolic, malignant (cancerous) and infectious diseases fit this category. Common examples include diabetes mellitus, kidney disease or failure, and hyperthyroidism; lymphoma and other cancers; feline immunodeficiency virus or feline leukemia virus and other infectious diseases. Sustained exposure to a cold environment can also raise energy needs as the body shivers to produce heat. These processes can lead to weight loss in spite of a normal or, even, increased appetite.

Diets with insufficient calories or poor nutrient quality relative to the cat's normal metabolic requirements will cause weight loss. Consulting with a veterinarian about proper diet and amounts to be fed and then following the doctor's instructions will eliminate this cause of unintended weight loss in healthy cats.

Insufficient food intake, where the affected cat refuses to eat or cannot eat, has many causes. Anorexia (loss of appetite), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), regurgitation, nausea and vomiting may limit food intake and nutrient availability. Many diseases of cats produce these nonspecific signs. Cats won't eat if they cannot smell their food; so problems affecting the sense of smell, including respiratory diseases, infections, and allergies, among others may be associated with weight loss. Dental problems that make chewing difficult may also prevent normal food intake. Food with low "taste appeal," especially to finicky cats, will contribute to weight loss as well.

Disorders where consumed food is not properly absorbed into the body or is not converted into energy will also cause the affected animal to lose weight. Intestinal parasites, inflammatory disorders of the intestines, and tumors can block the normal absorption of nutrients and fluids from the stomach and intestines. Pancreatic and liver diseases can disrupt production and secretion of enzymes and other substances needed to process nutrients.

Gastrointestinal ailments in which nutrients are eliminated from the body before they can be absorbed and converted into energy can result in profound weight loss. Severe persistent vomiting and diarrhea associated with various diseases can result in loss of nutrients necessary for energy production. Liver, kidney and gastrointestinal diseases may result in loss of protein. Glucose is lost through urinary excretion in diabetes mellitus; protein is lost with certain diseases of the kidney's glomerular apparatus.

When a cat or other animal with a history of unexplained weight loss is presented to a veterinarian, the doctor will take a history and perform a physical examination in order to develop a list of possible underlying diseases. Then appropriate laboratory tests and other studies will be undertaken to narrow the field of possible causes. Tests typically include complete blood count, blood chemistry, and urinalysis. Tests for intestinal and other parasites, as well as for bacterial, viral, and fungal diseases may be needed. Radiographs (x-rays) and ultrasound scans may be helpful in evaluating the status of the heart, liver, and other organs and may help reveal the presence of abnormal growths. In some cases biopsy or fine-needle-aspirate tissue sampling techniques may be needed to obtain tissue samples for microscopic evaluation. Endoscopy might be needed to visualize and sample various parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

Treatment is directed at the underlying cause of the weight loss. If recovery follows, restoration of weight is possible and likely. Debilitated animals may need supportive treatment to restore fluid loss, force feeding, or hyperalimentation therapy, where nutrients are given parenterally (intravenously), to help maintain positive nitrogen balance.
What is Revolution?
You should take your pets to your veterinarian for evaluation of their flea infestations and of their general health as well.

Revolution is Pfizer, Inc.'s brand formulation of selamectin. This is a topically applied anti-parasite solution for use in dogs and cats six weeks old and older. It is available only by veterinary prescription.

Selamectin is used to kill adult fleas and ear mites in dogs and cats. It also kills Sarcoptes scabiei, a mite that causes sarcoptic mange (scabies), and certain ticks in dogs, and hookworms and roundworms in cats. Selamectin is also used to prevent heartworm disease and flea infestation in dogs and cats. It is not effective in treating an existing heartworm disease, however.

Side effects of Selamectin are infrequent. In clinical trials, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue, rapid breathing, salivation, and tremors occurred in less than one-half percent of treated dogs and cats. Hair loss at the treatment site occurred in about one out of 100 treated cats.

Talk to your veterinarian about specific dosages and the recommended frequency of application for your pets. Your veterinarian will also tell you how and where to apply the selamectin solution. Dogs and some cats should be tested for heartworm infection before commencing selamectin in heartworm prevention programs. Generally, one or two applications 30 days apart will kill most of the fleas, ticks, and mites mentioned above. Prevention of these parasites and of heartworms generally requires monthly applications throughout the infective season, with treatment usually beginning one month before the season starts.
What medications are available to treat cats with arthritis?
Arthritis, which means inflammation of one or more joints, is grouped into two categories: inflammatory and non-inflammatory. The inflammatory forms of arthritis characteristically have immune system cells and biomolecules in the affected joints. Many of these forms are referred to as "polyarthritis" since several or many joints, symmetrically distributed, are affected. These include joint disease associated with systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other collagen-vascular diseases, and chronic infections and other disorders; these diseases are immune-mediated. Polyarthritis may or may not cause joint cartilage erosion. Chronic bacterial viral, Erhlichial, and Mycoplasma infections of one or more joints provokes a defensive inflammatory response and may result in cartilage erosion.

The non-inflammatory form of arthritis is called degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis-the familiar "wear and tear arthritis" of people. Cartilage erosion and a limited, injury and reparative inflammatory response characterize DJD. "Bone spurs" are often seen about the joints on x-rays. Unlike cases of inflammatory arthritis, in which the inflammatory response is directed against an antigen, in DJD the inflammatory response is stimulated to attempt to repair damage caused by some type of injury, including trauma, inappropriate biomechanical stress, and congenital or acquired deformity. However, this response to injury also causes the loss of key building block molecules normally involved in maintaining joint cartilage integrity.

There are two different types of medications used in veterinary medicine for cats with arthritis. Nutraceuticals, like Cosequin® and Glycoflex®, constitute the first type of anti-arthritis medication. Nutraceuticals are used in cases of DJD. Chondroprotective (or joint cartilage protective) supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin may help cartilage heal and repair itself. They act to lubricate the joint and minimize the bone-to-bone contact of affected joints, thus minimizing the arthritic pain. The use of these products is based on anecdotal reports since the safety and efficacy of oral absorption have not been thoroughly researched. These medications are not an instant "fix" for arthritis, but are often used long-term to manage the problem. This is because the medications often take a month or two to begin to work because it is necessary to get sufficient blood levels into the body.

Anti-inflammatory agents make up the other type of medication used in managing arthritis. They are employed in both inflammatory and non-inflammatory types of arthritis. However, one of the dilemmas facing veterinarians is finding a safe and effective oral anti-inflammatory medication for our feline patients. Cats are very sensitive to many different drugs, especially many of the anti-inflammatory agents used in veterinary medicine. In fact, acetaminophen, the pain reliever in Tylenol® and many other over-the-counter medications, is deadly to cats. Cats metabolize aspirin and other similar drugs very slowly; this can lead to a build-up of any of these medications within the bloodstream that can result in toxicity. Thus, these drugs are given in small doses every two to three days. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone or dexamethasone, can cause side effects such as diabetes, gastrointestinal upset, and others, but most cats are very tolerant of the potential side effects of these medications. Because of the risks associated with the use of the various anti-inflammatory drugs, it is always important to consult with your veterinarian before giving ANY medication to your cat.

Overweight animals can also benefit from weight loss, since this will reduce the amount of stress on the affected joint or joints. Consistent, controlled exercise such as walking (in the cat this may be just playing) will maintain muscle tone and flexibility.

I would recommend that you discuss your concern about your cat's arthritis with your veterinarian and consider making an appointment for a re-examination. Your veterinarian will then be able to monitor your cat's progress and recommend further testing or treatments as needed.
How can I stop my cat from urinating outside the litter box?
Unfortunately, this is a very common problem for cat owners. It is possible that your cat is exhibiting this behavior because of an underlying medical disorder, so the pet should be examined by a veterinarian to rule out disease as a cause of inappropriate urination. Cats may urinate in inappropriate places because of urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and feline lower urinary tract disease. Tests such as urinalysis, bloodwork, and x-rays of the abdomen may identify the presence of such medical problems.

However, inappropriate urination is most often a behavioral problem. One of the most common reasons that cats stop using the litter box is that the box is not kept clean enough for their tastes. Boxes need to be scooped at least daily, and the litter should be changed frequently. Many cats are best accommodated with two separate boxes: one for urination and one for defecation. Both boxes must be kept clean. If you have multiple cats, many veterinarians recommend that you provide at least one litter box per cat. You may want to provide litter box access on each floor of the house.

Also consider whether your cat has access to the litter box. Is there a closed door blocking your cat's path to the litter box? In addition, a dog that stands guard or a dominant cat may not permit the affected cat to use the box. Other causes of aversion to the litter box include proximity to appliances that are noisy, such as televisions and washing machines, and those that turn on or off by use of a timer. Cats that are disturbed in the litter box by another cat, child, or dog may develop a litter box aversion as well.

It is possible that your cat is reacting to a change in the box location or type of litter. Some cats are very particular about where they go, and others are sensitive to the perfumes or dust in the litter. It may be necessary to try different types of litter-for example, a non-clumping clay litter versus a sand-like clumping one-until you find one that meets your pet's needs. In addition, if you provide the cat with a covered litter box, you might try switching to an uncovered box to see if the pet prefers it.

There are other methods for controlling inappropriate urination. You may want to move the litter box to the area where your cat is urinating. Always clean the soiled areas of your home with a non-ammonia cleaner. Because cats are drawn to the scent of urine, they may continue to go in the same inappropriate site if they are stimulated by the smell of previous accidents. The best cleaning products contain enzymes that degrade the urine and prevent stains. These products should be available through your veterinarian or local pet store. Because your cat may have a preference for carpet, you can change the way the area feels by using plastic carpet protectors or aluminum foil. This substrate change may make the litter box a preferred spot. In some cases, you may want to move your cat's food bowl to the area that she had previously soiled. Because cats are fastidious they don't like to eat and eliminate in the same place.

It is important to talk to your veterinarian about the inappropriate urination. He or she will have some additional suggestions tailored to the specific needs of your cat. In some cases, medication can be helpful in controlling the problem, but it is usually reserved for cases where other possibilities have been exhausted. Veterinary behavioral specialists may offer additional insights.
What's in the MIX?
Over the years our clients have been asking, "What's in that food mix?" Feline Specialties food mix is an assortment of nutritious premium cat foods. Whether she is in for an hour visit, or a weeklong bed and breakfast, your cat will always enjoy the mix.