Therapy Cats and the Power of Purr

Snuggling next to a purring ball of fur can make the weight of the world a little easier to endure. Bubba has helped me in that department for many years.

However, certified therapy cats are relatively rare. While we have nothing against dogs, we believe in purr power is an underutilized resource.

TheCatSite.com notes that cats are less likely to knock over large medical equipment. However, they require careful training  before starting this new unique career. The CatSite offers some tips for assessing your cat’s potential to be a therapy pet. The Delta Society and Love on a Leash are also valuable resources for aspiring therapy cats.

I would simply like to point out a few stories of people who have been helped by therapy cats. From SnikSnak.com, I learned about Marie, a senior citizen with no friends or family — until Handsome came along. This is how one little Persian cat helped a lonely, depressed old woman:

“She remained curled in a fetal position with no interest in living. She had sores on her legs from constant scratching. After Handsome became Marie’s roommate, whenever she tried to scratch herself, he would play with her hands or otherwise distract her. Within a month the sores had healed. But even more incredible, she was so fascinated with the cat that she asked the staff about his care. Before long, she was inviting other residents to come visit with her pet.”

And , About.com‘s Cat Guide. shared a reader’s story:

“I’ve suffered from clinical depression and ADHD all my life. A year and a half ago I finally sobered up after a battle with drug abuse and stayed sober after intense treatment at hospitals, outpatient work, therapy, and medication. My life was a little more stable without the drugs but I still found it really hard to interact with people and get out of bed each day let alone stay organized and try to be even a little productive. I made the decision to get a cat and 4 months ago I brought home two little two-month old fluffballs: Genghis (an orange tabby) and Fidel (a tuxedo cat). They have been such a blessing. I finally feel like my life is becoming normal and all the bumps are starting to smooth themselves out. It started with knowing that no matter what I had to get up everyday and take care of them. Now I can’t wait to get out of bed. They’ve done what no therapy could ever do. Whenever I feel down they come over looking for pets and to curl up beside me”

Lastly, I want to pay tribute to the many times, Bubba and his late brother, Pudpat, got me through some sad times. Bubba is still a touchstone, doing his best to help me through the past year-and-a-half. I can never repay him — simply cherish him more with each day.

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The Daily Cat: Nutrition Help for Aging Cats

From the Editors of The Daily Cat

As a cat ages, changes occur in the way its body functions, so it makes sense that what it eats might also need to change. The following list of health issues may be more common in aging pets.

  • Decreased immune system function
  • More frequent intestinal problems
  • Decreased mobility
  • Dental issues

For mature cats with health issues, you can help by providing special nutrition for their special needs.  Here’s how.

Decreased Immune System Function
Throughout a cat’s life, a process called peroxidation occurs. Peroxidation is a normal process that the body uses to destroy cells that outlive their usefulness and kill germs, parasites, etc. but also can destroy or damage healthy cells. As a cat ages, the damage caused by peroxidation accumulates which, in turn, increases the risk of certain problems, such as infections.

Antioxidants are naturally occurring nutrients that help maintain overall health by neutralizing the peroxidation process of cellular molecules. Some antioxidants, such as vitamin E, beta-carotene, and lutein, are naturally occurring nutrients.

Recent research has found that dogs and cats fed a diet rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E, lutein, or beta-carotene had improved immune responses and vaccine recognition. This may be especially important for aging cats, because studies have found that as cats age, immune responses can decrease.

More Frequent Intestinal Problems
Older cats may have higher numbers of unfavorable bacteria and lower numbers of beneficial bacteria in their intestines, which can result in clinical signs of gastrointestinal problems (e.g., diarrhea).

Feeding a diet containing fructooligosaccharides (FOS) — a unique fiber source that helps nutritionally maintain healthy intestinal bacterial populations — promotes growth of beneficial bacteria. Beet pulp, a moderately fermentable fiber source, also helps maintain intestinal health by providing energy for the cells lining the intestine and promoting small, firm stools.

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Why Older Cats Are Awesome

Editor’s Note: The following post first appeared in YourDailyCute.com on Sept. 21, 2010 and appears on OCR with the editor’s permission. (Thanks, Dorian!)

Now that the formalities are out of the way, OCR thinks Pimp is another great cat who proves that older is better. A senior cat brings a life of wisdom, acceptance and love — plus a love of cuddling —  to any home they grace.

So without further ado, here is:

Two Cats Tuesday: 7 Things Pimp Taught Me About Why Older Cats are Awesome

(Courtesy YourDailyCute.com)

Happy Two Cats Tuesday, Cuteheads! Today, Pimp is taking the spotlight because he has taught me some very important things through the years about why older cats are fabulous. (Don’t tell him I called him “old!” He’s not old yet, just a little bit on his way…)

Pimp is 11, and every single year he gets better and better. The longer he’s with me, the more love he shows and the more grateful I am that I have him. He’s taught me a lot in his 11 years — a lot of it recently.

I have always adopted kittens, but I’m starting to see why older cats deserve to be adopted, too, and maybe even more. They have so much love left to give. And so without further ado…

The Top 7 Things Pimp Wants You to Know About Older Cats

1. Old men are not dirty.
You know the stereotype about dirty old men? Doesn’t apply to older cats. He knows where his litter box is, and doesn’t need to be taught. He doesn’t raid the garbage can like rambunctious kittens and doesn’t knock over my red wine glass in a fit of flying kitten fur.

2. A little gray is sexy.
Don’t you dare tell Pimp his gray whiskers aren’t sexy. He’s one good lookin’ older dude! Maybe he’s not quite as shiny as he used to be, but he’s just as soft as ever… and just as cute.

3. Good food is one of the most important things in life.
(And so is good wine, but that’s for me, not Pimp. Ahem.) It’s crucial to feed your older cat good food, because their tummies are more sensitive. But seeing how much different food affects Pimp has taught me that even younger cats need good food. You are what you eat… and you want your cat to be good, right?

4. It’s not picky, it’s “particular.”
You don’t need every toy in the world. Just because some new gadget comes out or there’s some fancy new model, it doesn’t mean that what you have isn’t perfectly fine. Some of Pimp’s favorite toys are older than his brother, Moo, and he’d rather play with them than anything new and flashy I get him. He doesn’t ask for much. 🙂

5. A comfy bed is better than any flashy toy.
Adding to #4, older cats realize that there are more important things than how many toys are in your toy basket. I used to get Pimp mice every year for his birthday, and he loved them, but lately I’ve gotten him things to make him comfy — and he uses them way more than all his toys combined! Soft beds = 20 hours a day. Fun toys = 30 minutes. (Don’t worry, he still gets tons of toys!)

6. Peace and quiet is underrated.
Pimpy says relax. Older cats are content to just lie around, lounge and not create too much ruckus. You don’t have to entertain them (or else lose your nice curtains or favorite vase) and you don’t have to babysit them like kittens. They are easy and content to “just be”… so you can just be, too.

7. Love never stops growing.
Sure, your older cat may be done growing, and may actually be shrinking a little instead, but their heart somehow keeps expanding with more and more love. When Pimp looks at me, it’s with such love and adoration, and such happiness and sweetness. He knows he’s loved and he’ll always be taken good care of. He knows I’ll do whatever I can for him, for as long as he needs it. And he knows how lucky he is.

Older cats are extremely special. They often easily adjust to your home and don’t cause much trouble. If you have the room in your home and your heart, why not take a look at some of the senior pets in your area that need homes and go adopt one today. (Or tomorrow, Cute knows you may need a day to get their comfy bed and good food ready…)

Sure, they may need some extra care as they age (For the record – Pimp is going to live forever. I’ve already informed him of this.), but the love you’ll get in return and the fulfilling, incredible feeling you’ll get from taking care of them will give you a ton of joy.

Think of your grandma or grandpa — you would want them to be happy and comfortable in their sunset years, right? Older pets should have the same luxury!

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The Meaning of Meow

Editor’s Note: please welcome Heather Green to OCR. Heather, who has worked as a vet tech and is mom to four cats, will share her thoughts and tips on living the feline life. As we all know, it a cat’s world and they are gracious enough to let us share it.

(courtesy Heather Green)

There is no doubt in my mind that my cats understand every word that comes out of my mouth. I have four of these fuzzy trouble makers and each of them have completely different personalities, some more tolerable than others, but each very unique. I’ve always heard that babies have different cries for when they are hungry, wet, sleepy, etc. and that got me thinking, do cats have different cries for what they want? After much research, I learned that the answer is undoubtedly, yes.

According to any vet, cats are extremely intelligent animals and communicate through cries, actions and even through p-mail (that’s right! if they are peeing outside of the litter box, they are trying to tell you something) So, I did a little experiment of my own and stopped free feeding my kitties for a day. That night, the cries were so loud and distinct, that I HAD to feed them or spend the night in my car. The same went for love. I ignored my persistent fuzzballs for a day or so and by the second night, they were all over me, meowing, short, sporadic meows for attention. It’s truly amazing that as unassuming as the feline is, they are silently demanding and easy to understand.

When my youngest cat was had a urinary tract infection, he started peeing in our hallway, where traffic was high and he knew I’d see it. As frustrating as that was, I got the message and got him help quickly so he wouldn’t do it again! When the litter box is a little too full, I get the message with surprises just outside of it, letting me know it is time to clean! Oh the joy of these particular little beasts!

The cat’s meow is different with each thing they crave. When I talk to my son who is only 4 months old, I have noticed recently that the cats start meowing and loving on me. The reason is, that is THEIR voice that I use to communicate with them, too. For years, I have spoken to them in the same sweet tones and they know that I am directing that loving voice at them.

So the next time you wonder if your cat can understand you or if kitty is meowing just to hear themselves talk, know that the cat’s meow is a message made just for you!

Heather Green is a freelance writer and the resident blogger for
and advice on nursing schools . Heather has worked as a vet tech and as a professional pet sitter for 7 years. She shares her home with four cats.

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The Daily Cat: Host a Playdate

From the Editors of The Daily Cat

When best friends Carolyn Miller and Jennifer Cohen adopted kittens around the same time, they decided it would be fun for their cats to become playmates. The reality of the situation was that one cat spent an hour terrorizing the other cat, causing worry about the cat’s safety. They agreed that would be the first and last playdate.

The right preparation can make cat playdates not only safe, but cat-tastic too. “Cats are social animals and can have one or more select friends,” says Dr. Jane Brunt, a Maryland-based, cat-exclusive veterinarian. “Cats that are properly socialized tend to be happier and enjoy their environment more.” Brunt offers her top five tips for helping your furry friend make friends of its own.

Tip No. 1: Start young.
“Kittens aged 7 to 12 weeks are the most suitable since this is the critical time to shape positive behavior,” says Brunt. “Many veterinarians recommend kitten socialization classes, like Kitten Kindergarten, where kittens are allowed to interact with each other.” During these classes, kittens are also introduced to handling, grooming and transport. Food rewards are given to reinforce positive actions and reactions.

Adult cats can also be socialized — they simply must be introduced to their new cat friends more slowly (see below).

Tip No. 2: Identify your cat’s personality type.
According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, cats may be loosely classified into four categories: bold and active, easy and affable, withdrawn and timid, and assertive. Your cat may be easier or harder to socialize depending on its personality.

“Cats that are fearful and easily aroused will require more patience and time using positive rewards for tiny improvements in calm behavior,” says Brunt. The other three types will have an easier time in general. If possible, try to bring at least one easy and affable cat into each playdate pair. Avoid introducing a timid cat to a bold or assertive one.

Tip No. 3: Find a neutral territory.
“A neutral territory is a place neither cat has been,” explains Brunt. When neither cat has claimed a place as its own, you can expect less territorial and adversarial behaviors.

If a neutral territory is not a possibility, Brunt suggests choosing one room in your home. “Any room can serve as a playground, as long as you’re there.”

Tip No. 4: Make slow introductions.
“Always go slow!” emphasizes Brunt. Relaxed owners should introduce cats gradually — over a period of days or weeks. Begin with complete separation, which means the cats are occupying different rooms in the same house. Then allow the cats to make visual contact.

From there you can move to free exploration of the same room, but only when the cats are supervised. “All cats should be ‘chaperoned,’ preferably by at least two different people,” says Brunt.

Tip No. 5: Know your cat’s signals.
Your cat’s body language speaks loudly. “A ‘Halloween cat,’ standing with its back arched and tail up, is exhibiting an aggressive stance and should not be further aroused, as it may exhibit extreme aggression,” says Brunt.

Owners who are familiar with their cat’s communication can watch for signs that the animal is uncomfortable or unhappy, and can extricate the pet from the situation. Recognizing signs of contentment and positive energy is important as well. Brunt encourages rewarding an animal with treats for “speaking” appropriate body language.


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Teaching an Old Cat to Accept a Newborn

Editor’s Note: Today guest post is from Heather Green, who shares some practical tips for helping cats adjust to a baby.

(courtesy Heather Green)

When I found out that I was pregnant, one of the first things that came to my mind were my four older cats and how they would react to our new addition. After researching how to teach my four-legged babies to love the new life they were about to meet, I learned that it was easier than I thought and that cats are generally accepting of babies without too many obstacles.

How to Begin the Transition

1)    Buy a baby doll. I wanted my fuzzy kids to get used to baby without risking harm to my actual baby, so we brought home the “test” baby before our little guy was born. Loving on our cats while I was holding the baby doll and letting them sniff and get used to the fake baby, helped them to transition and accept a baby in the house.

2)    Give them a little extra attention. While I was holding the baby doll, I would give my kitties extra attention to let them know that just because there was a new member of the family around, didn’t mean that they would be pushed aside. Extra love around baby made them a big fan of this new guy!

3)    Treats, treats and more treats! The same premise as extra love, getting treats around the baby made our cats gladly accept our newborn. Anytime they would sniff or investigate the baby doll, I would give them a treat. This was the best form of love around baby, and everyone knows that the way to a cats heart is undoubtedly through their stomach!

4)    Let them explore. Don’t shoo kitty when they get interested around baby, all of the new toys and furniture! Let them explore, smell and check out this new addition. The more you try to keep a cat away from something, the more determined they are to get their way, so let ’em be nosy!

5)    Expose them to the new smells and sounds of baby ahead of time. Get a tape of baby sounds and play it a few times a day so kitty knows that this is the new norm. Put baby lotion and powder on the doll — and even yourself around kitty — so they know that this new baby is part of you and that they will get just as much love, if not more from you than ever!

Heather Green is former veterinarian tech, pet lover and the resident blogger for OnlineNursingDegrees.org, a free informational website offering tips and advice on online nursing colleges

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The Daily Cat: How Minor Cat Health Issues Become Major

From the Editors of The Daily Cat

It might sound like a page out of a spy novel, but your cat is a master of disguise. Unfortunately, this skill isn’t always in your cat’s best interest. That’s because felines are adept at hiding health issues until illnesses can escalate into serious problems.

“It’s the nature of cats,” explains Dr. Eileen R. Adamo, DVM, who runs a felines-only practice in Penfield, N.Y. “They kind of put on a good face, show they’re fine. They are masters of hiding illness and pain.”

Your cat disguises its aches and pains because showing weakness would have made its feline ancestors more vulnerable in the wild, Dr. Adamo says. Your kitty will be vulnerable, as well, if you don’t pay attention to health warning signs. It’s important to recognize when outwardly minor symptoms could indicate a more significant, underlying problem.

“You have to be super sensitive to any change,” Dr. Adamo advises. Here are warning signs Dr. Adamo and other experts say you should never ignore:

  • Increased vocalization If you’re suddenly holding a pillow over your ears at night because your furry friend is yowling, your cat is actually trying to tell you something. The howling or yowling could be a sign of several health issues, say the experts. For example, a cat that howls at night could have thyroid problems, says Dr. Jessica Stern, DVM, who runs a feline veterinary practice in Columbus, Ohio. Left untreated, hyperthyroidism can affect almost every aspect of a cat’s health and even cause heart problems. If hyperthyroidism is suspected, your veterinarian will likely order blood work and a test to check thyroid-related hormone levels. Among treatment options are medications and surgical removal of the thyroid. Yowling could also be a sign of high blood pressure or even cognitive changes in an older cat, says Dr. Adamo.
  • Changes in litter box behavior If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box to urinate, it could indicate a urinary tract infection or urinary tract disease, says Dr. Stern. Left untreated, some urinary problems can lead to life-threatening obstructions. If you notice that your cat is producing more urine than usual, it could signal the onset of diabetes, hyperthyroidism or chronic progressive kidney disease, says Dr. Adamo. Diabetes can be managed with early detection, and your veterinarian might prescribe oral medications or insulin injections. Progressive kidney disease is a common and serious condition affecting older cats, but treatment plans could slow down the disease’s progression.
  • Bad breath If you catch an unpleasant whiff every time your cat opens its mouth, it’s time for a checkup. Bad breath isn’t the norm for cats. It can be a sign of dental disease, even if your cat is still eating regularly, says Dr. Adamo. “People tend to think, ‘If I had a sore tooth, I wouldn’t want to eat,’” she says. “Cats will find a way to eat even with a sore mouth.” Dental disease can lead to abscesses, bone loss, loose teeth and even infection that can spread to other parts of your cat’s body. Bad breath could also be a warning sign of an oral mass or kidney disease, cautions Dr. Stern. Your veterinarian will likely place your cat under general anesthesia to clean its teeth or perform needed extractions. You can help maintain your cat’s dental health by brushing its teeth with products designed for felines.
  • Vomiting It’s not a pleasant task, but you need to know whether your cat is coughing up hairballs or vomiting. “People are very quick to write off vomiting in cats,” Dr. Adamo says. An occasional hairball with its distinctive tubular shape isn’t usually cause for concern. However, if your cat throws up more than once a month, it’s time to visit your veterinarian, says Dr. Adamo. Increased vomiting can be related to pancreatitis and/or inflammatory bowel disease. Acute pancreatitis may be life threatening, and inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic condition that can require dietary management and anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Dinnertime pickiness Your cat suddenly turns its nose up at its favorite food. Is your friend becoming a demanding gourmand? If your cat walks up to its food dish and then walks away without eating, it could be feeling nauseous, say the experts. Nausea can have many underlying causes, such as liver disease, kidney disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Your veterinarian will evaluate the cause of the nausea and may prescribe medication to relieve the symptoms.
  • Changes in grooming If your kitty isn’t grooming as thoroughly as usual, it could have an endocrine disease, such as feline diabetes or kidney disease, says Dr. Stern. Your cat’s endocrine system includes glands and organs that produce regulating hormones. Problems with the system can affect your kitty’s grooming habits. An unkempt cat might also be suffering from oral discomfort or arthritis, both of which can be eased with proper veterinary care.
  • Social interaction Too often, feline owners attribute their pet’s sudden aloofness to the nature of cats, says Dr. Adamo. “If your cat is dragging itself under the bed, going off into its own area when it normally would be socializing, that’s a big clue,” she says. Your cat might be anxious, stressed or in pain. A visit to your veterinarian can help to determine the cause of your cat’s behavior.

If you notice any of these symptoms or other changes in your cat’s behavior, don’t hesitate, says Dr. Adamo. Either call your veterinarian to ask if a symptom is worth further evaluation or schedule a visit. And don’t feel like you have to diagnose the problem right then and there. “Don’t wait and don’t feel like you’ve got to figure it out,” says Dr. Adamo. “You don’t need to worry about that. We’ll sort that out. That’s what you’re paying me for.”

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