Help, My Cat Has Scabies!

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Mild scabies can be difficult to diagnose. In cases of persistent itching, it’s important that your veterinarian delve into the causes and not just treat the itch. Patti M. writes:

When I rescued Bella almost a year ago, she had scabies. She stayed at my vet’s office until she was cured. I have had to take her back several times for cortisone shots because she scratches under her chin until she bleeds. She’s had several rounds of prednisone but the scabies never seems to be gone! She is so sweet and I feel so bad for her. Any Ideas?

Patti, let me begin by saying that we are not veterinarians and that this is something you should continue to address with the vet of your choice. However, you may want to seek out another opinion if your current vet hasn't offered a better solution than cortisone and prednisone. Ongoing use of those could do more harm than good.

Scabies (a type of mange) is caused by microscopic mites that should be easy enough to get rid of. Treatments may include oral drugs, topical solutions, injections, or dips. Treating the itching with cortisone & prednisone only treats the symptom and not the cause. The root cause of the itching, be it mites or something else, needs to be determined before a real treatment can be chosen and applied successfully. Most vets would do that by taking skin scrapings to see if there are mites present but even then they may be difficult to find. Some vets recommend treating for scabies just to see if conditions improve. Many common oral flea and tick treatments are effective at treating mites as well. Your vet will have to be persistent in trying to figure out what is actually making Bella itch. It could be scabies, an allergic reaction, or even feline acne.

I mention acne because it often manifests on the chins of felines. It is treatable but there is no cure. See this article for more on feline acne: http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/help-my-cat-has-acne .

If it is determined that Bella has scabies, you will need to thoroughly clean anything she’s come into contact with. The sarcoptes scabiei mite is highly contagious and can easily spread to humans. It usually doesn’t infest humans in the same way that it does other animals because we’re not the host they evolved to feed off of, but they can still cause considerable itching.

I feel certain that with the right veterinarian, you should be able to help Bella. Unfortunately, most vets don't dig into cases like this the way that they should. You really have to demand (kindly of course) that they do more than treat the itching symptom. I had a cat who developed a bad fish allergy and were it not for an older vet who knew his stuff, she might still be on anti-itch meds. Stick to your guns and keep asking what tests could help determine the actual cause of the itching. And if you think it's feline acne, follow through on the suggestions in the article I linked to above.

All our best to you and Bella!


Help, My Kitten Has Diarrhea!

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Most mammals have loose stool from time to time, but it can be life threatening for a fragile kitten. Their tiny bodies depend on lots of calories and they don’t have the well-developed immune systems that adults have. Hillarie V. writes:

My 9 week old kitten, who is active and otherwise happy and normal, has started to leak mushy poop from her butt. I also have her litter mate, who has no issues.

Hillarie, there are several health issues that can result in diarrhea, but the most common among kittens are food changes and worms. If you've changed Patches’ food recently, switch back and make the change to the new food very gradually over 7-10 days. You may also need to put her on a different food altogether. Kittens do not need special kitten food but they do need to be provided with as much healthy wet food as they can eat, without restriction. You can find our food recommendations here: http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/best-cat-food-and-treats

It's important that plenty of fresh water be made available. A kitten with diarrhea is at risk of dehydration. While Patches may seem happy and energetic, she's not getting her nutritional needs met when she has this condition. It can actually be life threatening of not treated quickly. You can help by giving her unflavored Pedialyte in place of her water.

 
 

A good home remedy for ADULT cats with mild diarrhea or constipation is canned pumpkin. Just mix one teaspoon of canned pumpkin (make sure it’s 100% pumpkin with no added ingredients) to a three ounce can of wet food for each feeding. With kittens, the need for a solution is much more immediate.

If the diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours, you need to collect a sample of Patches’ poop and take both kittens to see a veterinarian ASAP. In cases like this, the problem is often caused by parasites and the only way to know for sure is to do a fecal test. The usual solution is a simple dewormer that's administered orally, but it may take several doses before the parasites are completely eradicated. Beware of over the counter dewormers and depend on your vet for this treatment.

Even if parasites aren’t to blame, your vet can help to determine the cause and prevent both kittens from suffering.from it. All manner of infectious agents are easily transferred from kitten to kitten, especially if they use the same litter box, so it’s best to treat both of them at once in order to avoid a cycle of re-infection.

Hopefully, with the help of your vet, you can get Patches back to normal in no time.


How Do I Get My Kittens to Use the Litter Box?

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Most kittens immediately take to using a litter box and don’t need any training to do so. But what about those who don’t get it right away?

I have six kittens who are five weeks old. The majority of the kitties have litter box trained, but I still have a couple that will just eliminate in the corner. Do you have any suggestions for training? We have cleaned with lemon scented Pine Sol and are trying double stick tape in the corners, but they still go beside the tape.
— Jan L.

Not to be too alarmist about it, Jan, but you must immediately stop using Pine Sol around the cats. Most people just don't realize how EXTREMELY dangerous it is to them. Lysol is equally dangerous. Both products have names that end in "sol" because they contain phenols that can kill cats. Kittens are especially at risk because of their small size.

The best product to use to clean litter box messes is an enzymatic cleaner. Use anything else and the cats will still be able to smell their pee and poop quite easily. Even through heavily scented cleaners. We’ve used the Simple Solution product pictured below, but most any reputable fragrance free enzymatic cleaner will work.

 
 

That said, there are several ways to help the kittens find their way. First, clean up after them with the enzymatic cleaner I mentioned above. Then place the litter box where they want to go anyway. Make sure it's in a location that doesn't have any surprising sounds (like an air conditioner suddenly turning on) and where there isn't a lot of traffic.

There are several things to try in order to help them want to use the litter box:

  1. There should be several boxes for the little ones to use. Even at their young age, some will not use a box with more than a few "deposits".

  2. The box should have low enough sides to allow them to get in and out easily.

  3. Some high-sided or covered boxes can scare cats and make them feel trapped. Automated and covered boxes are generally not a good idea for any cats, but especially for kittens.

  4. Make sure the litter box is as far as it can be from where the kittens eat.

  5. You may want to try some different types of litter. Litter with larger pieces (we like Purina's Yesterday's News) are great for kittens because the kittens can't eat it, but some kittens don't like the large pieces. Clumping litter can be hazardous to kittens if ingested. Plain clay litter is fine if they won't accept the chunky stuff.

  6. Be positive! Never scold a kitten for making a litter box mistake. Praise them and treat them if they so much as go near the litter box. Help them to see that the litter box is a great place to be! Some kittens we've worked with have learned to love it a bit too much. We have one who still comes running to watch us scoop. :) It can take time for some individuals to learn their way, especially if their mother isn't around. It's up to you to be patient with them and help them learn.

  7. As a last resort, you can use a litter box attractant. These products entice the little ones with scent, but it really should be a last resort. Give them a chance to learn without this crutch first, or they may grow to expect it.

Thank you for looking after these babies! With your help, I'm sure they'll be using the litter box in no time!

Help, My Cat is Pooping on the Floor!

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Luna will be two years old in October and has never had any litter problems. We got a puppy last week. She is obviously upset. I’ve tried to let them interact at her pace. Of course, the puppy is all over her. For the last three days, Luna has been pooping on the dining room floor once a day. I’m sure it’s stress related, but I’m not sure what to do about it. Thanks so much!
— Karen R.

Karen, the issue is one of security. Luna clearly feels threatened by the puppy. To a cat, a new dog in their territory is a bit of a conundrum. Even if the dog isn't physically threatening, he could still be seen as a territorial intruder. The whole house was Luna's domain and now there's this smelly, excited being in her space. Imagine that you went to work one day only to come home to a slob who introduced herself as your new roommate. She hardly ever bathes so she smells bad, eats stinky food, and absolutely wants to spend every waking minute with you, touching you and talking to you nonstop. How would you feel?

When a cat is middening (pooping outside the box to mark territory), she's sending a very serious message about her feelings of distress. Luna's basically trying to make herself feel more secure in her territory. Cats are usually fastidious about covering their poop because they don't want predators to pick up their scent. When a cat poops out in the open on purpose, it's basically a last resort.

There are several things you can do to help Luna.

1. You need to be the police officer who decides how much contact the dog gets to have with Luna. If you see the puppy overstepping boundaries with Luna, you need to step in gently and reassure Luna while placing yourself between her and the puppy. Show her that you're on her side. Training the puppy to sit and wait are good ways to have him stand down when he's becoming too aggressive in his play. To dogs, this is just good fun, but to cats it can be overwhelming. It's especially bad when a dog doesn't pick up on the subtle signals cats send out telling them to stop.

2. You need to provide Luna with a safe zone that she can access but the puppy cannot. A tall cat tree can serve this purpose well, especially if it has enclosures where Luna can hide if she wants to. You want to think about the vertical space in your home and see if you can arrange things so that Luna can access tops of bookcases and other furniture that the puppy can't get to. This is all to provide Luna with an escape route and a vantage point if the puppy gets too physical for her comfort.

3. Never scold Luna for middening. Cats react poorly to negative reinforcement across the board. Praise her when you see her using her litter box.

4. Make sure the puppy isn't intruding on Luna when she's using her litter box. Sometimes dogs like to eat cat poop and will eagerly intrude on a cat doing her business. This would be enough to drive any cat mad. If possible, put the litter box in an area that the puppy can't access. A toddler security gate can help if Luna will jump over it and the dog can't.

5. Make special time to spend just with Luna each day to reinforce her place in the household. Make sure she gets her fair share of lap time and play time exclusively with you.

6. Be sure to clean the area where she poops with a good enzymatic cleaner. With regular household cleaners, she will still be able to smell her poop on the floor after you've cleaned it. That will reinforce her desire to continue to mark that same area.

Cats and dogs can co-habitate fairly well but sometimes they never overcome bad introductions. It isn't a relationship where you can just put them together and hope for the best. Worst case scenario would be to separate them completely and reintroduce them more slowly. Good luck!

Help, My Cat Has Mouth Ulcers!

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Lip ulcers are a common malady among humans that also occur in cats. But how do you treat them safely?

Miss Kitty has lip ulcers that usually occur in the summer months. They go away after I apply a steroid cream on her ear flap and give her Orbax, an antibiotic. Is there anything natural I could use? Maybe a cream for her lip?
— Kathy C.

Kathy, mouth ulcers are relatively rare in cats, so there hasn't been a lot of attention paid to the problem by veterinary researchers. Treatment usually depends on the causes, which can range from viruses to dental disease.

The first thing you can do is to keep Miss Kitty's teeth clean. Regular brushing with a feline toothpaste and cleanings by your veterinarian can help. If the condition becomes extreme, some vets even go so far as to recommend removing the teeth in order to get this problem under control. Thankfully, it doesn't sound like Miss Kitty is at that point just yet.

The steroid that you're using now basically suppresses the body's immune response in order to minimize the ulceration. We’re not fans of long term steroid use. Take a look at cleaning up Miss Kitty's diet. You need to make sure she's eating whole foods with few additives. Ingredients like fish, meat by-products, wheat gluten, and corn starch are all no-nos that can contribute to the presence of ulcerations as the body is trying to get rid of toxins. Take a look at our food recommendations here.

You can also help Miss Kitty by reducing stress in her environment. That includes making sure she has safe places to retreat to where she won’t be bothered (not even by you) as well as cleaning spots ourside where “intruder” cats have marked Miss Kitty’s territory. She can smell it even if you don’t and those scent markers can certainly stress her out. A good enzymatic cleaner will help. If you’re not sure whether or not a neighboring cat has been scent marking your home, you can check at night with a black light flashlight. The spray shows up as a bright neon in the black light.

One other thing you can do to help de-stress Miss Kitty is to remove potential irritants like fleas and other parasites. You can see our flea control recommendations here.

 
 

There are a couple of supplements you can add to Miss Kitty's diet which may help. Of course, you'll want to discuss these with your vet. We recommend the addition of an omega-3 fatty acid to Miss Kitty’s diet in the form of fish oil. The best product is a krill oil spray from Mercola Pets. It can be purchased from the Amazon link above but it may be available at a lower price directly from Mercola Pets.

 
 

If the Mercola product is a little too expensive, a good alternative is fish oil from Deley Naturals.

 
 

We've also seen great results from adding an edible clay to the diet. To use this, simply add 1/8 teaspoon of Terramin edible clay to Miss Kitty’s diet daily. It's available at health food stores and also at Amazon.

Good luck, Kathy, and thank you for taking the time to look for alternatives to steroids. If you can manage Miss Kitty's symptoms without them, she'll live a longer and happier life!