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November 2014

Committing to Living with a Nine-Lived Creature: The LCAH Kitten Behaviour Series (2nd Installment)

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Adopting a new kitten is a big decision, and requires more preparation and responsibility than you may think. Potential owners may find themselves overwhelmed with all kinds of questions: Should my cat live indoors or outdoors? What should their diet consist of? These are both great questions, that can be answered right here, in part two of the kitten behaviour series!

Should my cat live indoors or outdoors?

The debate over what is a better lifestyle for a cat–to live outside, or remain inside–is one with great opposition. Many cat owners firmly believe that cats should remain outside, and forcing them to stay in the house is wrong. Others will point out that living outside unsupervised is a dangerous lifestyle for a domestic pet. Which is the right answer?

Well, there is no real right answer, but it can be said that outdoor cats are far more likely to end up in devastating, painful, or fatal experiences. In fact, statistically, indoor cats are likely to outlive free-roaming cats by about a decade! The life of an indoor cat is relatively risk-free.

That said, having an indoor cat requires a few more challenges, mainly in making sure the cat is mentally and physically sensitized and content. Ensuring that there are plenty of toys and scratching posts is necessary to engage all of your cat’s senses. You can even consider building a kitty door leading to a screened-in porch! This way, the cat has some exposure to the outdoors without having to be put in danger. Above all, whatever works for you, while keeping the cat happy, will always be a worthwhile choice.

What should my kitten’s diet consist of?

Not all kitten’s diets are created equal. Sometimes it will depend on their physical traits and their bodies’ respective needs. Other times, it will be a matter of personal choice or preference of the kitten. Picking the right diet for your kitten can be confusing, especially now with so many different brands and types to choose from! The ultimate recommendation is to ask for advice from your veterinarian at the first check-up. They will know which brands/types of foods have reaped benefits historically with other patients.

More often than not, a new kitten will be finicky (which most cats are). This may make it difficult to change diets in the future. To help avoid this, try feeding your new kitten a variety of foods at a young age so if dietary changes need to be made, the transition will be easier and less stressful for them.

Pet food isn’t always cheap, and during rough financial dry spells, we may be tempted to opt for the no-name cat foods–try to avoid doing this. The bigger brand names tend to be more reliable because there is a good chance they have gone through actual feeding trials.

One cost effective strategy that many people consider is to buy kibble instead of canned food. You may be surprised to know that cats descend from desert animals that depended on their food to provide needed water. Their kidneys are adapted to this desert environment to conserve water and rid the body of wastes. When cats don’t get enough water from food or additional water intake, they spend much of their lives dehydrated, which is not good for those kidneys or the rest of the body.

Dry diets are not that helpful in preventing dental disease as it was believed years ago. Feeding dry diets alone is also a risk factor for developing bladder stones and crystals in the urine which can be life threatening, especially for males. To help with this, try feeding some kibble with a helping of canned food at each meal. Another trick for a healthy appetite is to warm your cat’s canned food to room temperature!

Always provide water for your kitten in a large whisker width shallow bowl, or purchase a cat water fountain. Make sure to change the water often! Cats and kittens will not search out water on their own, so you must make the water attractive to them.

Fun fact: Cats actually SHOULDN’T drink milk beyond their infancy, as most cats are lactose-intolerant!

Resources

Spadafori, G. (2002, June 12). Good nutrition for healthy growth for kittens. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=1138

Spadafori, G. (2004, November 15). Behind closed doors. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=1756

Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury

Threats To Your Pets: Raccoons with Canine Distemper

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It was reported that in the GTA there were hundreds of raccoon deaths that could be attributed to distemper between 2009 and 2010. This disease is still prevalent in raccoons and is not widely understood. There is a huge risk for pets who come in contact with infected raccoons or skunks with the disease–dead or alive. It is important to become educated and take the proper precautions.

What is canine distemper?

Canine distemper is an infectious viral disease which is similar to rabies in its symptoms. The disease is spread through the air, as well as direct and indirect contact. The virus first attacks the tonsils. After a week it will then attack the respiratory, urogenital, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Canine distemper, as titled, affects dogs, but also affects many other carnivores, most commonly raccoons, skunks, and household ferrets.

What are the symptoms of canine distemper?

Among raccoons, the symptoms will begin simply with a runny nose and watery eyes, which makes it difficult to detect in early stages. As time passes, the raccoon may develop pneumonia, becoming extremely thin. Diarrhea is a clear symptom of the disease. In the final stages, the raccoon will become disoriented, walking aimlessly, seemingly dazed and confused. This is what makes people assume rabies is the cause, although the true cause can only be determined through laboratory testing.

Noticing symptoms in your dogs is important, because the disease can become fatal quickly. Your dog will have a high fever, and experience discharge from the nose and experience reddening of the eyes. The dog will become lethargic, and often times become anorexic as well. At this stage, vomiting, diarrhea, and coughing will begin. The final indicator will occur once the disease has reached the central nervous system, and the dog will experience fits, seizures, and bursts of hysteria.

How can I prevent distemper in my pets?

Routine vaccinations and isolation of infected pets is the best way to prevent the disease. As it can be spread through infected wild animals, you should make sure to be monitoring your dog at all times, ensuring that they are not chasing raccoons, or sniffing at dead raccoons who may be victims of the disease. Puppies are especially susceptible, so making sure they are protected is paramount.

Is there a cure for canine distemper?

No. At this stage, no treatment exists for the disease, and infected raccoons are often euthanized if detected. This is what makes prevention and control all the more pertinent.

References

(n.d.). Distemper in dogs. Retrieved from PetMD website: http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/respiratory/c_dg_canine_distemper

Aulakh, R. (2010, February 18). Dogs and cats at risk as epidemic kills raccoons. Retrieved from The Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2010/02/18/dogs_and_cats_at_risk_as_epidemic_kills_raccoons.html

(2010, February 18). Distemper outbreak in toronto. Retrieved from CBC website: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/distemper-outbreak-in-toronto-1.924339

(n.d.). Raccoon diseases. Retrieved from Wildlife Education website: http://www.wildlife-education.com/raccoon-diseases.php

Content contributor: Dr. Sandra Drury