Do Cats Have Baby Teeth?

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Biologically, cats are very different from humans, but they’re also very similar in a number of ways. Nicole L. writes:

I have two little five month old boys named Boba and Lando, and I found a little bloody baby tooth in Boba’s fur that I *think* came from Lando while playing but it is hard to check his mouth and know for sure. I think this is an age-appropriate milestone, my question is do they need any aftercare when losing teeth? Anything I should look for? Neither boy shows any discomfort.

Thank you for your question! Cats develop their first set of teeth when they’re around four weeks old. These teeth are relatively fragile, being smaller and less dense than adult teeth. They help to promote weaning since they irritate the mother during feeding. Then, around four to seven months of age, kittens begin losing their baby teeth as their adult teeth develop. The roots are often absorbed while the crowns fall out , but they can be so small that humans don’t even see them. It sounds like Boba and Lando are right on schedule. 

There isn't much you need to do. If you notice either of them rubbing their faces with a paw, you may want to put some crushed ice in a washcloth for them to chew on. It'll be a bit messy, but the cold will soothe their gums if they're bothering them. You should also make sure you're feeding them a pate-style wet food. All cats should be on wet-food diets, but it's especially important during teething. If they feel pain when they eat, they may connect the pain with the food and avoid eating altogether.

 
 

This is also a good time to get the kittens used to having their teeth brushed. A small, soft-bristle brush designed for cats along with a high-quality toothpaste or gel will help them to get many years of use out of their new adult teeth. We especially like Oxy-Fresh gel. Check with your vet for their recommendations.

It goes without saying, but Boba and Lando shouldn't be allowed to make any deals with Darth Vader for the time being. :)

Help, My Cat's Licking Grout!

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Cats can become obsessed with some odd things. You’ve probably heard of pica, but when a cat is ingesting cat litter or licking grout, something else could be going on. Nick T. writes:

My 15 year old cat Peyton licks the fireplace grout. The grout between the bricks. Why does he do that? The vet doesn’t seem to have a clue.

Nick, you should take a look at Peyton’s gums. If they’re pale and Peyton is acting lethargic, he may be anemic. Cats often ingest cat litter and lick grout when they are anemic. You’ll need to have your vet do a complete blood count to find out for sure. This very specific form of pica has been linked to anemia. Treatments vary depending on the cause which we can't know without consulting a veterinarian.

Anemia is a symptom of a deeper problem, so it may take some veterinary detective work to root out the cause if that’s the case. This will include various blood tests and possibly bone marrow tests. There are two classes of anemia, regenerative and non-regenerative.

Regenerative anemia occurs when there is acute blood loss, not only to injury but also potentially from a parasite or an illness. Non-regenerative anemia is usually tied to a chronic condition, which in cats is often kidney failure. Both types of anemia are treatable, but they can have very different treatments. These should always be advised and administered by a qualified veterinarian.

If it isn't anemia, it could be stress related. Have there been significant changes in your household of late? If so, those could be driving Peyton to develop some unusual behaviors. We have a previous post on pica here. Though it doesn't cover the grout-licking variety, it may give you some insight into other possible causes.

We wish you and Peyton all the best!

Help, My Cat Has Feline Acne!

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Just like us humans, cats can have a wide variety of maladies. Even acne. With felines, this most often manifests in the chin area. Deborah writes:

Lucy is about 10 months old. We adopted her from a local animal shelter. She was a rescue from Hurricane Harvey. She has been a joy for my husband and myself. She has feline acne. I have had several cats throughout my life and have never heard of this. We of course took her to the vet. She was given an antibiotic and cortisone shots. We were also told to clean twice daily with an antiseptic and then to wipe the area with Stridex medicated pads. She is eating Simply Nourish for kittens dry food. I have stopped giving her commercial canned wet pet food. The affected area does seem much better. Would baby food be better? Any suggestions
would be appreciated.

Feline acne can be a difficult problem, and one best left to a good, feline-friendly veterinarian. In our experience, most vets are canine-centric and often treat cats as a sort of side line. They do their best but they often miss things that a cats-only vet would not. 

Acne is an alarm that lets us know that there are too many waste products building up in the body. We are not vets and are not qualified to dispense medical advice, but our go-to resource for such information, Anitra Frazier's book The Natural Cat, has some good advice. Ms. Frazier recommends a switch to a raw food diet. If this is too difficult, she recommends double-checking ingredients on wet cat food to eliminate all choices with meat by-products, preservatives, sugar, or artificial colors.

Lucy should not be on a dry diet as kibble does not provide adequate cellular nutrition and moisture. Baby food is not a good choice, but there are some very good wet canned diets out there. We have a cat who has significant food allergies and she's done quite well on Instinct canned foods. Never give up on reading labels as the manufacturers often change their ingredients and even what they call things.

We have our food recommendations here: http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/best-cat-food-and-treats . These are good for most cats, regardless of their health issues. You just need to watch out for particular ingredients if Lucy has any allergies.

 
 

You should begin feeding Lucy a daily feline multivitamin. Nu-Cat from Vetri Science Laboratories (vetriscience.com) is a good choice and it's readily available from Amazon and other retailers. Most cats will enjoy eating Nu-Cat as a treat, but if you have difficulty getting Lucy to accept them, you can always crumble them and add them to her food.

You can keep the area of acne infection clean by using a hot compress and then gently removing any loose debris from the skin and fur. Follow this up with a bit of peroxide on a cotton ball. After it's done foaming, wash it clean and apply a solution of 1/2 cup water and 1/8 teaspoon white vinegar. Human health care products like Stridex are generally not a good idea for use on cats.

It's our NON-veterinary opinion that antibiotics and cortisone will do more harm than good in the long run. Many vets apply cortisone to every animal with any itch whatsoever. This essentially serves to mask symptoms without treating their root causes. Antibiotics can also do the same while adding new symptoms.

 
 

It's important that you put Lucy on a course of probiotics to restock her intestinal flora after the course of antibiotics has killed them. For a cat with feline acne, you want to avoid mixtures like Purina's Forti-Flora which have additives. Instead, look for Jarrow Formulas Pet Dophilus powder. Despite the odd name, this is readily available at Amazon and other pet supply retailers. Just add 1/8 teaspoon to one meal per day. You may also want to add a teaspoon of raw, canned pumpkin so the new good flora have something to eat too.

We know this is a lot of information. Just take your time and consider your choices. Remember that you are the ultimate arbiter of Lucy’s health care. If you feel your veterinarian isn’t administering the best care, there are always other vets out there.

All our best wishes for you and Lucy!

Help, My Cat is Itching All the Time!

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Sometimes our feline friends can scratch themselves silly with no apparent cause. Lois C. writes:

My 14 year old cat, Bogart, has started scratching almost constantly when he’s awake. He’s an inside cat, has no fleas, nor do I see flaking on his skin. All the licking causes him to throw up fur balls. We have relocated to three different homes in the last year. He seems well-adjusted. He has the run of the house, but something is going on. If you have any ideas I’d appreciate any help. I can’t afford a vet visit right now. Thank you!

Lois, there are many potential causes for what you describe. we'll go through the most likely ones and hopefully you'll be able to help Bogart.

You mentioned that he doesn't have fleas. Just be aware that cats who develop flea allergy dermatitis can itch for days from a single bite. Their allergic reaction can be severe, and severely uncomfortable for them. Don't assume there are no fleas just because you haven't seen any. Get a flea comb (we like the double-row combs) and carefully comb around Bogart's head and neck to see if you can find any fleas. Have a large cup of water with a drop or two of dish detergent in it and dip the comb in that to dispense with the fleas if you find any.

 
 

If you do find fleas, we have a post on getting rid of them here: http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/flea-control-for-cats . Just be aware that the effectiveness of these methods depend a lot on the environment you live in. We've heard of people ridding their home with fleas using nothing but a flea comb and a vacuum cleaner daily, but it takes diligence. If you want to purchase a flea control product, the only one we recommend is lufenuron.

Thanks to the fine folks at LittleCityDogs.com, lufenuron flea treatments are readily available and inexpensive. You simply add it to your cat's food once a month. Lufenuron is unique in that it acts as birth control for fleas, so it doesn't kill the adults. For that, we recommend the flea comb method. You can also administer Capstar (nitenpyram) as needed along with the lufenuron.

If Bogart is scratching around his face and brows a lot, he could have a food allergy. Cats are especially prone to allergies to fish protein, so eliminate fish from his diet first. Your first line of defense has to be choosing the best food you can afford to offer Bogart. We have a post on our food recommendations here: http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/best-cat-food-and-treats . Especially note the links presented in the post that will take you to rankings and info about many commercially available foods.

The third most likely culprit is stress. Cats hide stress very well, but it eventually manifests as overgrooming or scratching. Moving so often has certainly taken a toll on Bogart. To reduce his stress, try to stick to a daily schedule with him and give him places in your home that he can retreat to without being bothered. Feliway makes products intended to reduce stress in cats but we've only had limited success with them. We think the best solution to stress is a solid schedule, plenty of quiet time, and gentle attention. 

When you can afford it, Bogart should see a veterinarian just to make sure he doesn't have mites or some other parasite. We wish you and Bogart all the best!

How Do I Get My Cat to Play?

Cat personalities differ considerably, but most felines enjoy a good play session on a regular basis. So what do you do if your cat won't play with you? Gloria A. writes:

Muffy is ten years old and my only cat. She hardly ever plays. I have tried all kinds of toys. She just stares at then 90% of the time. I do play with her some. But she likes to sleep most of day. I am a senior. She is in excellent health. She follows me around when she is awake. When l first got her she was the third cat. My vet said all she needs is me. I do not know what to get her to play by herself.

Gloria, at the age of ten, Muffy is now considered to be a senior kitty. As such, she'll have a little less energy to devote to playtime, so it's not uncommon to see a general slowdown.

As to how to play with her, most cats do not respond to toys, but to human interaction USING toys. Very few adult cats will play on their own. Yes, kittens will play with virtually anything on their own, but once they reach adulthood, their energy is devoted to hunting, not playing. Playtime for adults has to emulate the process they'd experience hunting prey in the wild.

In order to coax a cat to play, even a senior cat, you have to do a little trial and error to see what she responds to. Check out our toy recommendations here:

http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/cat-toy-recommendations . 

Most cats love wand toys like the one we show on our list, so that's where we usually start. You want to tease her with it, dragging it around corners so she has to get up and move to see where it went. Cats are very curious, so moving a toy in such a way almost always piques their interest.

The key really is your own attention and interaction. A toy is only fun when it's powered by a human to emulate how a cat's prey might move. We want to lure them into the hunt. Once you see playing as hunting, it can help you to understand how to play.

This still doesn't guarantee that Muffy will engage in play. You have to be patient and offer it before mealtimes. If she turns away, don't give up. Just offer it regularly and see if she'll come around. You may find that you actually have to teach her to play more. Of course, she should always have the choice to refuse. You don't want to force it on her or she'll associate negative feelings with her toys. Just patiently and kindly offer to play with her at about the same time each day.

Wishing both of you all the best!