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!

Help, My Cat Has Chiggers!

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Cats are mammals, just like us, so parasites that attack us will often attack our feline friends as well. Patty N. writes:

I got into chiggers the other day and I think I might have brought them into the house with my two babies. There’s a lot of scratching going on. They are inside only cats and they don’t have fleas. What product will kill chiggers on them? They hate a bath.

Patty, chiggers are actually mites. Their real name is trombiculiasis. Any ear mite medication that can be applied topically will kill them, but with a topical, you risk missing some of the little buggers and starting the cycle all over again.

The best way to get rid of mites is to use a pyrethrin pet dip. Most pet supply stores carry it and it's often labeled as a flea and tick dip. As long as it's only active ingredient is pyrethrin, you're set. Just follow the instructions on the bottle. Most experts recommend dipping them ASAP after mites are found and then dipping them a second time two weeks later.

Always check with your vet prior to administering the dip if your cats have any allergies or health issues. Your vet can also take a skin scraping and verify the presence of these parasites if you don't actually see any with the naked eye. They can be quite small, so they can easily hide in the forest of fur on most cats. You may see red welts where they've injected their saliva into the skin of your pets, though. Contrary to popular belief, they do not burrow into the skin at all.

 

Crime & Punishment & Cats

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When a cat feels threatened, they often urinate outside the litter box and scratch things in order to feel better. Nicole F. writes:

My cat, Ghost, pees on my dog’s bed and in front of his litter box. We have three cats and three litter boxes. He does it sometimes out of spite. He was told “no” the other day and was pushed off something and then he went over to my dog’s bed and peed. He pushes the screens out on the patio and gets out all the time no matter how many times we fix it and I don’t want my cats outside. He shredded the carpet to the point it looked like spaghetti. Aside from Ghost’s disaster qualities, he is actually a pretty cool cat. How can I stop him from peeing everywhere?

It sounds like Ghost is feeling insecure. That can be difficult when a cat is as smart as Ghost is. He's going to find a way to make himself feel better, even if that means getting outside. He will also feel better if he spreads his scent around by urinating and scratching improper areas.

It's important to remember that cats don't act out of spite, ever. They simply don't have the capacity for that. It can be easy to interpret their behaviors that way because we're so used to looking at them as if they were small humans. They aren't, so the first step is to try and imagine the situation from Ghost's point of view.  He's clearly agitated, so what's upsetting him? 

Many times, there's a less visible aggressor in a multi-cat household and Ghost may be getting bullied. He may even feel bullied by you. You should never, ever shout at or push a cat off of anything. That's physical aggression in cat terms and most cats will respond negatively to it, just as Ghost has. When you get physical with him in any way, especially when you're upset, he will see you as a predator. All he will learn from those interactions is to fear you. He will not connect your aggressive responses to his own behavior. Cats do not have a pack mentality. They look upon us as equals, not as masters to be obeyed.

It will help if you offer more positive reinforcement. Instead of chastising him when he does something you don't like, treat him when he's behaving. When he uses the litter box appropriately, offer him a small treat. When he lounges in a spot you like him in, offer him a small treat. If he does something you don't like, overwhelm him with love and gently move him away. He may not enjoy being handled in this way, but he won't see it as aggressive, especially if you do it in a happy way. Be consistent in this behavior and you'll see change.

Think about altering your own behavior toward Ghost. You obviously care about him enough to reach out to us. Just take some time to consider how you might make him feel more secure. It will take time, but he will respond to your efforts.

There are even more good ideas in this previous post about helping a shy cat feel more secure: http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/helping-your-cat-feel-secure

Best wishes to you and Ghost!