Featured Care Guides

Avoiding Injury: Tips for Interpreting Signs of Aggression in Cats

Despite centuries of sharing our lives and homes with cats, many pet owners know very little about interpreting signs of anger, fear, or aggression in these creatures.  The typical “Halloween cat” posture (arched back, raised fur, ears back, hissing) clearly indicates fear and/or aggression, but cats also use other postures and behaviors that are more subtle and easily missed. It may be impossible to avoid ever creating a hostile situation with a cat, but a few tips can help you (hopefully) avoid injury if you find yourself in such a situation.

Bringing a New Kitten Home

Bringing a new kitten home is exciting. These guidelines will help you and your kitten adjust to this big change in your lives.

Brushing Your Cat's Teeth

Periodontal (gum) disease can lead to tooth loss and affects most cats before they are 3 years old. Bacteria from periodontal disease can spread to affect other organs and cause illness. One of the best ways to help prevent periodontal disease is to brush your cat’s teeth on a regular basis—daily, if he or she will allow it.

Caring for Chinchillas

A chinchilla can be a delightful pet for the right owner. Chinchillas have delicate skeletons and love to chew on things like electrical cords, so a safe environment is essential. Keep your chinchilla’s health on the right track with a healthy diet, lots of safe exercise, and regular veterinary care.

Caring for Ferrets

Ferrets are quiet, friendly, curious, and playful. They can be trained to come to an owner’s call or a specific sound, such as the squeak of a toy.

Caring for Guinea Pigs

Mild-mannered and cute, guinea pigs can be great pets. They're fairly easy to care for, but they do require some special care as well as regular veterinary checkups, comfortable housing, and attention from their owners.

Caring for Hamsters

Hamsters are the most common pet rodent for several reasons. These curious, attractive, and clean little companions are interesting to observe. Hamsters can be a good first pet for children, are easy to care for, and are usually friendly. However, hamsters are nocturnal (most active at night) and have delicate bones that can break easily due to mishandling or falls.

Caring for Rabbits

A clean, roomy cage and a nutritious diet are important to keeping your rabbit healthy and happy. Also important is the time you spend interacting with your rabbit: a bored and lonely rabbit can become destructive and even aggressive. Providing the interesting surroundings and companionship that your rabbit needs can help him or her be well adjusted and affectionate.

Caring for Your New Kitten

During the first 8 to 10 weeks of life, kittens have specific needs for nourishment, warmth, socialization, and excretion. If you find orphaned kittens younger than 8 to 10 weeks of age, take them to a veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian can give you advice on caring for them and might be able to give you contact information for animal rescue groups. For more information, see the Care Guide titled “Caring for Orphaned Kittens.”

Dental Exam

The term dental disease in dogs and cats is very broadly used to describe gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (inflammation of the bone and other support structures around the tooth). Another term commonly used to collectively describe these two conditions is periodontal disease.

Dog Supplies

Every well-kept dog needs some basic supplies. Many kinds of supplies are available, so your choices will depend on your and your dog’s needs and preferences. Here are some basic guidelines regarding dog supplies.

Fecal Analysis

A fecal analysis is a test that examines your pet’s stool to detect intestinal parasites, including worms (hookworms, roundworms, whipworms) and other organisms (coccidia, Giardia). It can also detect other abnormalities, such as increased numbers of bacteria in the stool. If your pet develops diarrhea, vomiting, or weight loss (clinical signs frequently associated with parasites), your veterinarian may want to perform a fecal analysis to help determine if parasites are part of the problem. However, some pets have intestinal parasites without any obvious clinical signs, so your veterinarian may recommend performing a fecal analysis during your pet’s regular wellness examination visits.

Feline Arthritis

Arthritis is a joint problem that can reduce mobility and cause pain. Arthritis can be caused by injury, infection, the body’s own immune system, or developmental problems. The most common form of arthritis is called osteoarthritis (osteo = bone; arthr = joint; itis = inflammation) or degenerative joint disease. Normally, joints form smooth connections between bones. Osteoarthritis involves thinning of joint cartilage (a protective cushioning between bones), buildup of fluid within the joint, and the formation of bony growths within the joint. Over time, this can lead to reduced joint mobility as well as pain.

Feline Leukemia Virus

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is contagious among cats.  Unlike many other viruses that enter specific cells in the body and destroy them, FeLV enters certain cells in a cat’s body and changes the cells’ genetic characteristics. This permits FeLV to continue reproducing within the cat each time infected cells divide. This allows FeLV to become dormant (inactive) in some cats, making disease transmission and prognosis (outlook) difficult to predict.

Feline Nutrition

Proper nutrition can help ensure that your cat has optimal health, resistance to disease, a healthy haircoat, and energy. These factors can result in fewer behavioral problems, a good quality of life, and a long life span.

Feline Obesity

Obesity (the storage of excess fat) is usually caused by excessive food intake and insufficient exercise. One of the biggest problems in cats is overfeeding, which can lead to serious problems, including obesity, heart disease, and arthritis, resulting in a shortened life span. Your veterinarian can recommend a proper type and amount of food to maintain your cat’s ideal weight.

Hookworms

Hookworms are internal parasites that generally live in the small intestines of puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats. These worms attach to the intestinal tissue and suck blood and other nutrients from their hosts.

Kitten Socialization

Socialization is the learning process through which a kitten becomes accustomed to being near various people, animals, and environments. By exposing kittens to different stimuli in a positive or neutral way, before they can develop a fear of these things, owners can reduce the likelihood of behavior problems in the future and help build a stronger bond between pets and the rest of the family. The critical time to socialize a kitten is during the first 3 to 4 months of its life.

Litterbox Training Your Cat

Cats are usually easy to litterbox train because they are naturally clean and prefer to bury their waste. First, make sure that your cat knows where the litterbox is. Confine your cat to a small area or room with clean water, fresh food, and a clean litterbox until he or she is successfully using the litterbox and seems comfortable. Do not use a covered litterbox during the training period because it might complicate the process. If your cat urinates or defecates outside the litterbox, place the waste in the litterbox; the smell should help your cat find and use the litterbox in the future. If your cat isn’t using the litterbox after a day or two, do the following: After your cat eats, place him or her in the litterbox, and briefly scratch the litter with your finger. However, don’t force your cat to stay in the litterbox; you don’t want your cat to have a negative experience in the litterbox.

Roundworms

Roundworms are extremely common parasites that spend their adult lives in the intestines of puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats. There are several species of roundworms. Some can grow to about seven inches in length and cause severe illness, especially in younger pets.

Summer Hazards and Your Cat

Cats that don’t go outside are protected from many warm weather hazards, but only if the temperature inside the home remains within a healthy range. In an effort to reduce energy usage and costs, some pet owners shut off fans and air conditioning when they leave the house in the morning and turn them on when they return later in the day. However, when temperatures outside reach dangerous levels, temperatures inside the house can, too. Being shut inside a hot house can be dangerous for your cat. Like dogs, cats can rely on panting to cool themselves off. When the temperature in the environment increases, panting becomes less effective. This means that your cat could be locked inside with minimal options for cooling down. 

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are long, flat, parasitic worms that live in the intestines of dogs and cats. Several species of tapeworms can infect pets. Most have a head that attaches to the intestinal wall and a series of segments, called proglottids, that make up the worm’s body. An adult tapeworm can reach 6 inches or more in length and has the appearance of a white piece of tape or ribbon.

Ticks and Your Cat

Ticks are small, eight-legged parasites that must drink blood in order to survive and reproduce. Ticks don’t fly, and they can’t jump (unlike fleas). In fact, ticks are more closely related to spiders and mites than to “insects” like fleas. Of the hundreds of tick species, approximately 80 are found in the United States. Ticks can feed on a variety of hosts, including cats, birds, dogs, and people.

Ticks and Your Dog

Ticks are small, eight-legged parasites that must drink blood in order to survive and reproduce. Ticks don’t fly, and they can’t jump (unlike fleas). In fact, ticks are more closely related to spiders and mites than to “insects” like fleas. Of the hundreds of tick species, approximately 80 are found in the United States. Ticks can feed on a variety of hosts including birds, dogs, cats, and people.

Trimming Your Cat's Nails

Nail trimming should be calm and stress-free for you and your cat. Teaching your cat to accept having his or her feet touched can help make nail trimming easier. Ideally, cats should be introduced to nail trimming when they are kittens. Most cats require nail trimming every 10 days to 2 weeks. Contact your veterinarian if you are unsure of how to cut your cat’s nails or if you experience difficulties. 

Winter Hazards and Your Cat

Cats that spend time outdoors are exposed to various environmental and physical dangers. In the winter, cats are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia (low body temperature), just like humans. Cats should not be left outside for long periods of time in the winter and should always have the option of coming inside. It’s important to be aware of these risks, so you can keep your cat safe and healthy.

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10 Household Plants That Are Dangerous to Dogs and Cats

Asparagus fern (also called emerald feather, emerald fern, sprengeri fern, plumosa fern, and lace fern) is toxic to dogs and cats. The toxic agent in this plant is sapogenin—a steroid found in a variety of plants. If a dog or cat ingests the berries of this plant, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain can occur. Allergic dermatitis (skin inflammation) can occur if an animal is repeatedly exposed to this plant.

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10 Ways to Help an Arthritic Dog

Here are tips to manage this condition and minimize your dog’s discomfort.

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A Pet Owner's Guide to Flea Control

Fleas are blood-feeding parasites that can infest many species of birds and mammals. Although fleas on dogs and cats don’t infest people, fleas may bite people if an area is heavily infested. Flea infestation is one of the most common medical problems veterinarians see, and pets suffer greatly from this condition. Flea bites can trigger severe allergic reactions in some pets. The intense itching caused by flea infestation causes pets to scratch and bite themselves. This can lead to skin wounds, skin infections, and general misery for your pet. Even if your pet is not allergic to flea bites, fleas can transmit serious diseases, such as bartonellosis (the bacteria that causes “cat scratch disease” in people), and other parasites, like tapeworms.

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ACTH Stimulation Test

Glucocorticoids (primarily cortisol) and mineralocorticoids are two important types of hormones produced by the body’s adrenal glands. Glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids help regulate numerous complex processes in the body and participate in critically important functions.

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Abdominal Radiography

A radiograph (sometimes called an x-ray) is a type of photograph that reveals the body’s internal organs. The procedure for obtaining a radiograph is called radiography. Radiography is a very useful diagnostic tool for veterinarians because it can help obtain information about almost any organ in the body, including the heart, lungs, and abdominal organs, as well as the bones.

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