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The Cat Doctor

Cat FAQs

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Can I have my six month old, indoor only cat spayed when she is in heat?

Answer: Yes, you can. When your cat experiences estrus, or is in heat, her reproductive organs are slightly larger and the blood flow to them also slightly increases thus making the spay surgery a little more challenging than for a cat who is not in heat. However, our veterinarians are quite experienced in spaying cats that are in heat. Your cat will come in and out of heat every few weeks until she is bred or spayed. We understand your immediate need to get your cat spayed and will schedule your cat for surgery as soon as possible!

I'm having increasing difficulty giving my cat pills by mouth. Are there any options?

Answer: Yes, thank goodness! Any of us who have had to "pill" a cat know it can be difficult, if not impossible, with an uncooperative cat or one with a painful mouth. Fortunately, good options have developed over the past few years. One is called "transdermal gel." With this option, the medication is mixed in a specially formulated, buffered topical gel. A measured amount of the gel is rubbed onto the skin and the medicine itself is then absorbed into the body. The second option is to mix the medication in a specially flavored liquid that both hides the flavor of the medication and is tasty to the cat. The flavors can be quite unique and many of them work well. Both options are usually "special order" prescriptions through your veterinarian and may take a few days to acquire, but well worth it and quite successful. Finally, there are products designed to hold medication within a treat (Pill Pockets or Flavordoh) that we have found to be very successful. They come in a variety of flavors and are available in our office without a prescription.

My longhaired cat sheds terribly. Any suggestions?

Answer: Yes! Have your cat get a "lion-cut". A lion-cut is a haircut where your cat's hair is clipped short on his entire body. We leave the mane around the neck long and the fur on the legs from the knees down as well as the tail. Cats seem to LOVE this freedom from all that hair! Remember that a cat has a tiny, tiny comb (their tongue) to take care of all that hair and a summer haircut can relieve them of this constant task for up to twelve weeks (and relieve you of excess hair on your furniture!). The best time for a lion-cut is during late spring, then again in mid-summer. Because cats don't tolerate the sound of clippers very well, lion-cuts are usually done under anesthesia.

I just adopted a kitten. What do I do during her first year?

Answer: This is a very important question for every pet parent acquiring a new kitten. This first year, the kitten needs to be tested for Feline Leukemia and Feline AIDS, as well as vaccinated against Feline upper respiratory diseases (such as Distemper), Feline Leukemia, and Rabies. These tests and vaccinations should start when your kitten is 8-9 weeks of age. Additionally, your kitten needs to be spayed (or neutered if male) around 6 months of age. Have fun with your new family member! For more information and a schedule of tests and vaccinations, please see our Kitten Information Handout.

Are there any health benefits of pet ownership?

Answer: Yes! Some of the health benefits of the human-animal include:

  • Being more healthy

  • Having fewer minor health problems

  • Better psychological well-being

Additionally, pets give unconditional warmth and affection through touching and being touched. Finally, pets promote playfulness, laughter and social interaction, all of which improve quality of life. A pet can make all the difference in an elderly person's life. It is important to choose a new cat carefully. Consider your personality and lifestyle. Do you want a kitten that goes through the stages of growing and whose personality will develop with time, or do you want an adult cat whose personality is intact and you can tell what you are going to get right away? Some of us love the kitten stage but end up with a "wild and crazy, rambunctious" cat after the kitten stage is done. That's okay if you can handle that kind of personality, but at the end of a long day at work, some of us want a calm, affectionate personality to greet us at the door. Many local rescue groups have both adult cats and kittens looking for homes. They are experts at matching you up with the appropriate cat personality. Give them a call and get the right cat for you!

Conrad Strays, the Idaho Humane Society and Northwest Animal Companions are all good local sources of adult cats and dogs that can make wonderful companions to any adult who may experience loneliness or isolation.

How do I know if my houseplants or outdoor plants are poisonous to my cat?

Answer: Many household plants and even grasses can be a source of irritation to your cat's gastrointestinal system. This may cause nausea and vomiting. Some very common plants, like lilies, can be extremely toxic or even deadly to your cat. Other plants, such as nettle hairs can impart a stinging substance to the hair coat and skin of a cat rubbing up against it. There are "chew guard" type products to discourage cats of all ages from sampling your indoor plants available at most pet stores. Finally, review the plants listed at to see if your house might hold hidden dangerous plants.

Why does my declawed cat still try to scratch my furniture?

Answer: She is marking her territory! When a clawed cat sharpens their nails, they also rub the scent glands they have on the pads of their feet on the surface they are using which leaves their scent behind. Although your cat has had her claws removed, she will continue to mark by simulating the sharpening exercise on both vertical and horizontal surfaces. Additionally, when she rubs up against you or rubs her face against the corner of the wall or a piece of furniture, she is releasing her scent from special scent glands located on her face and head which mark her territory.

Can you give me a Litter Box 101 for my former outdoor cat?

Answer: Purchase a litter box big enough for him to turn around and stand up in. Next, use a good quality, dust-free, unscented clumping litter. Place the box in a quiet, private, convenient (for your cat!) area of the house. Provide at least 2" of litter in the box and clean (scoop) the clumps of urine and stool from the box DAILY. Replace the litter after cleaning the box every month. Cats are fastidious. A clean, fresh smelling "bathroom" is very important to them – just like it is to us. Keep the box clean and private and you and your cat will to be quite happy with the new arrangement. If you are having a problem with your cat not using the litter box, see our article on Inappropriate Urination

My cat drools when she is being petted. Should I be worried?

Answer: Your cat is sooo happy! No one knows for sure why some cats display this behavior, but it appears that they get so wrapped up in the euphoria of being gently stroked that they forget to swallow. Other signs of happiness a cat may show when they are being petted is loud purring, eyes half closed, and "kneading" the surface they are standing on. Some will even seemingly fall over on their sides, close their eyes and knead the air, drool and purr all at the same time. We had one client who told us that when her cat gets like this, he would "quick as lightning" reach out and grab her if she tries to stop petting him, so she has to very carefully disengage from her cat when he gets really happy from her petting.

What is Catnip?

Answer: Catnip is an herb, a member of the mint family to be exact. About 2/3 of all cats have receptors for this plant and will therefore react to it as if it is a very "happy" drug. Initially, they will sniff it, then lick, bite, chew and rub up against it. Once the introductions are over, an effected cat will lose all dignity and roll all over the catnip as well as sometimes purr or growl! Many cats, even quiet ones, will vocalize and say things you have never heard you cat say before. Catnip is entertaining for all of us as we find ourselves watching in amazement at our cats' comic reaction to his herb. Fortunately, this herb is completely safe and has no harmful side effects to your cat, even to kittens. So, you and your cat can enjoy the effects of catnip anytime you like!

What can I do for my cat that loses every collar I put on him?

Answer: Did you say his name was Houdini? Have him permanently identified using a microchip. A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice. Inside it is a unique, unalterable number associated with it. The chip is "injected" under the skin between the shoulder blades of your cat. Paperwork identifying your cat is kept by you, your veterinarian, and is stored in the microchip manufacturers database. If "Houdini" is picked up as a stray and taken to a shelter, personnel at the shelter use a scanner to read the number off his chip. The microchip manufacturer is contacted and all the necessary information to reunite you and your cat is given to the shelter personnel who, in turn, contact you. For more information on the microchip itself, you can visit

My cat is eating more and losing weight. What is wrong?

Answer: your cat is showing the classic signs of a common endocrine disease of older cats called Hyperthyroidism. It is caused by a tumor (usually benign) to the bi-lobed thyroid gland located in the neck region. Excess thyroid hormone produced by the enlarged gland will increase your cat's metabolism, blood pressure, and heart rate. Most cats with this disease eat more lose weight and have increased activity. Please take you cat to his/her veterinarian for blood and urine tests. If diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism, there are two options for cure and one option to control the disease. Good luck!

My cat drinks a lot of water and urinates large amounts.

Answer: The two common causes for increased water intake and urine output in a cat are diabetes and a decline in renal (kidney) function. Both diseases more often affect older cats. Diabetes occurs when the cat's body either does not make or does not recognize insulin. As a result, glucose (sugar) is not used by the body to make energy. Renal decline occurs when the kidneys in an older cat start to wear out and do not function as efficiently as before. Both diseases are controllable and control can make your cat much more comfortable. For more information regarding these diseases, see Diabetes or Renal Disease.

My cat keeps scratching my sofa, but I don't want to declaw him. Anything I can do?

Answer: To avoid destructive scratching, purchase your cat(s) a heavy carpet and rope covered cat "tree". When a cat scratches, he/she is marking the pole with scent glands, flexing shoulder and arm muscles as well as grooming his/her nails. Therefore, get something at least four feet high that is heavy and sturdy and will not tip or sway when your cat hangs from it. Place the tree in front of a window and sprinkle some catnip on it. There is also a product called Soft Paws, which are small vinyl coverings for the cat's nails. Yes, fake nails for cats! They prevent the nail from puncturing anything and do not harm the cat at all. They do come off as the cat naturally sheds the outer layer of the nail, but can be replaced as often as needed.

My 4 year old cat has bad breath. What should I do?

Answer: Dental disease is the most common cause of halitosis and is also the MOST common health problem in all cats. Just think if you didn't brush your teeth for 4 years! Most cats need their teeth professionally cleaned by a veterinarian every one to two years throughout their life. We now have the technology of dental radiographs to be able to see potential problems below the gumline – just like at your own dentist!

Do cats get colds?

Answer: Cats commonly get colds, just like we do. Herpes is the virus that most commonly causes cold symptoms like severe sneezing and nasal congestion. It can even cause ulcers in your cat's eyes. These colds are highly contagious and can spread though a cat household quite rapidly. The upper respiratory vaccine given to kittens and adult cats helps decrease the severity of these colds, therefore, keeping up with inoculations is most important throughout life. Your cat's veterinarian can prescribe medications to make your cat more comfortable while he/she fights off the virus.

What do I look for in antifreeze toxicity in a cat?

Answer: All a cat has to do is walk through a small puddle of antifreeze and lick the excess off his or her paw to die from the toxic effects. We almost never see a cat drinking ethylene glycol, but the signs of antifreeze toxicity are evident within a few hours, but can take days to show up. Usually a cat will become very lethargic, won't eat or drink, will vomit intermittently, and their third eyelids will be raised. A physical exam, blood test and urine analysis will reveal greatly impaired kidneys. Even with aggressive therapy, the prognosis or outcome for a cat with this toxicity is very poor. Often, by the time we see the symptoms, the effects are already too advanced to save the cat.t

Is cow's milk bad for cats?

Answer: Sometimes. Believe it or not, about 30% of cats are lactose intolerant! Even though a cat may love the taste of cow's milk or ice cream, he or she may get terrible diarrhea and/or vomiting from ingesting it. Some substitutes that most cats like and won't cause intestinal upset may be yogurt, soy milk or even milk replacement products sold in pet stores.

What would be the perfect gift for the cat lover on my Christmas list?

Answer: What could be more purr-fect than a gift certificate? Our clients really like the ones we have because they can be for any amount and there is no restriction and no expiration date! It can be applied to boarding, retail and medical services – it's your cat lover's choice. We also have a selection of unique cat-safe (and approved!) toys available.

Why do cats spray?

Answer: To spray is for a cat to back up to a vertical surface such as a fence post or a door, lift their tail and produce a small squirt of urine on that target. Each cat produces a specific urine scent and although cat urine may smell the same to us, a cat can detect the difference. It is normal for intact cats to spray to mark their territory and let other cats know the boundaries of their domain. Neutering or spaying a cat before they start spraying significantly decreases the chances of spraying later in life. If you have a cat that is spraying, please see our handout on Inappropriate Urination.

What should I feed my cat?

Answer: The more moisture your cat receives, the better. If your cat loves canned food and you don't mind feeding it exclusively, it is currently thought to be the best option as it mimics their moisture requirement. Grain-free canned food is the lowest in carbohydrates. If your cat refuses to eat canned food, the grain free dry foods are still the best option nutritionally. Many cats will accept the dry food with some water added. It is imperative to have fresh water available at all times.

How old does my cat have to be for spaying and neutering?

Answer: Spaying or neutering is surgically altering a cat so she or he will be unable to sexually reproduce. Although cats are spayed or neutered as young as eight weeks of age, there is no medical need to surgically alter them this young. Most cats reach sexual maturity and therefore are able to breed at 5-7 months of age. An easy way to tell if your cat is indeed reaching sexual maturity is to check his/her teeth. When the adult K9 teeth come in, it's time to get your cat spayed or neutered. For more information on raising a kitten, see our handout.