Cat Care Newsletter
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Vol. 1, No. 44
Feeding a kitty by syringe and even finger feeding can be such a stressful thing for both you and your cat. If you are just starting out, you probably feel that you don't have a clue on what to do. and your poor kitty is wondering why in the world you are trying to cram food down his or her mouth when he or she isn't hungry! Besides, kitty more than likely does not feel well and may be irritated by your actions and that is always a disheartening thing. Then when kitty gets irritated or frustrated, you might get distraught. after all, you are trying your best and it just isn't working. If you do get irritated or upset, stop the feeding session immediately and take a rest. Your cat, being the amazing creature that cats are, knows that you are being pushed to the edge and will associate the feedings with upset feelings and that will lead to future failures.
Take a break for at least an hour . put everything away. and then try the feeding again when everyone is calm. You may even want to move your feeding station to a different location in case your kitty has already associated the bad feeding experience with the location.
If you have cried or accidentally lost your temper, your cat may be scared about the assisted feeding sessions.
Before you start feeding again, take time to gently explain to kitty exactly WHAT you are going to do and most importantly WHY you are doing this. You may think this as being a bit silly, but I'm absolutely serious.
When you are ready to feed kitty, place him or her at a quite and secluded feeding location.
Set the loaded syringes or the food that you will be finger feeding near your kitty but don't pick the food up yet.
Look your kitty in the eyes and say something like this: "Kitty, I love you soooo very much. you are my snookums. I know that you haven't been feeling very well lately and that is why you haven't been eating. But kitties need to eat really nutritious food so that you can get stronger and get well and even start eating again on your own. Until you start feeling better, I need to help you eat. That's what these sessions are all about. getting enough calories and nutrition in you so that you can feel better!"
Then pick up the syringe or get a finger full of food, hold it slightly away from your cat, look at the syringe or food and say, "This syringe is filled with great calories and nutrition. You probably don't like this assisted feeding stuff, but I just HAVE to help you feel better. and I really need your help, ok? . Ok now, I'm going to start feeding you and just remember that I'm feeding you because I love you. I love you Kitty. Ok. here we go. now open your pretty mouth. open."
Then start feeding your kitty and after a swallow, no matter how much you actually got in, be sure to say "Ah. THAT'S my good kitty.. Good boy/girl"
With practice, you and your kitty with get a feeding rhythm down and with thorough verbal explanations and praises, your kitty will soon realize that you are doing this out of love.
Last week we talked some about making sure that foods have the required energy level to sustain a cat, and we broke this down into calories. I said that it takes about 27.5 calories per pound of cat-weight, per day, to sustain the average cat. A reader pointed out to me that there's probably a lot more to this than a fixed number. The operative phrase "average cat" implies that, but let's take a closer look at some of the variables, with an understanding that the number itself (27.5) is valid, as a reference point.
Metabolism: We'll start with this one. As we know, physical activity burns up calories, so a very active cat would need more energy intake than one who is lethargic. Typically, older or ailing cats will be less active, and therefore we can adjust downward a little on the caloric intake. Conversely, the Tasmanian Devil types will need more. How much do we adjust? That's for your vet to decide, but here's a caution: Ask the vet where and how he/she came up with the new value. Nutrition is critical, and this value must be specific to your cat's age, size and physical condition; not an arbitrary number read from some manual.
Extremes: I used the term "average cat" to set logical, common-sense boundaries, and I did so because the lines are not black and white. Every cat is unique in age, demeanor, and physical condition; so nutritional requirements will be unique. The standard caloric value of 27.5 is a median, which covers left and right of "average" to some degree, but obviously we must adjust for extreme situations. The formula would imply, for example, that an active, 1-year-old cat of 6 pounds would require 165 calories per day, and in reality that's probably inadequate. Again, we're into the extreme, and there simply is no hard, fast number for this. Obese cats are another extreme: The formula would imply that a 24-pound cat needs 660 calories per day, and obviously they do not. Again, the vet must determine the proper diet, and again we ask how they determined the new value: Too much, and the cat won't lose weight; too little and the cat will suffer in more ways than one.
Naturally large cats: Some cats a huge by nature of the breed, and I'll use Maine Coon Cats (males) as an example. Typically, a normal, healthy male will range in weight from 15-18 pounds, and the formula implies a caloric intake of as much as 400-500 calories a day. These cats are not fat; they're just BIG! A medium-age Maine Coon male is generally active and playful, they burn LOTS of calories, and we should stay pretty close to the formula for this type of cat. Sounds like a lot, but if they're burning up 400 calories a day, we need to put 400 calories right back in there.
So there we have it: The daily 27.5 calories per pound of cat-weight is a reference value for most cats of average age, size, physical condition, and lifestyle (activity patterns). But certainly the value doesn't apply to all cats. When dealing with extremes, we must adjust to fit the circumstances.
How many of you have ever used (or still use) the services of a house-call vet? Better question: How many knew that house-call vets even exist? Well, until about a year ago, I thought this was a thing of the past, but they surely do exist, and the concept seems to be growing (or perhaps I should say.coming back). Anyway, being of curious mind, I wondered if this was just some strange anomaly local to my area, and I set about to do some research on it. Let me assure you.it is not specific to my area; house-call vets are popping up virtually everywhere! As I wallowed through site after site from city after city, I discovered that we're being offered a wide range of service by these vets: Some (most, actually) come to your house with nothing more than a black-bag and a TON of precious knowledge; some travel with a mobile mini-clinic, and some are a remote arm of an existing clinic. But you can see that we're being exposed to more options for pet care, and I am truly delighted to see this trend taking root!
Pros & Cons:
A major downside to using a house-call vet is that the services are limited; if Fluffy needs serious work done, you'll have to schedule a trip to the clinic. But the mobile mini-clinics offer many lower-level things, such as taking blood and urine samples, and minor medical procedures (setting splints, shots, spaying & neutering, that sort of thing). I even noted that several had portable x-ray machines in the mobile units! Another downside is that generally they want to schedule your visit, and it isn't always immediate.you may end up waiting a few days.
But the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. For starters, Fluffy is being seen in her own home, or just up the block; a major plus, because we know the stressful surroundings of a busy clinic can (and does) affect test values. You'll also find that house-call vets generally charge considerably less for a visit at home than clinics charge for a scheduled appointment. Further, while clinics limit you to a very tightly controlled few minutes, my experience is that house-call vets do not. Of course, we cannot expect them to sit around and chat all day, but they're not under the same time constrains as a busy clinic with a lobby full of impatient pets and people.
But I think the most intriguing thing about house-call vets is their motivation: bringing pet care to us, as opposed to the convenience-store mentality we see with most clinics. Quite obviously, this is a purely humanitarian effort, not an incessant drive for bottom-line profits.
In summary, I can't say enough good things about using house-call vets. It's win-win for everyone, and especially for the kitty. No, they can't replace Fluffy's Glopiter Valve on your couch, but they'll refer you to a clinic that can do more serious work, if needed. Personally, I love the concept: The good Dr. Dimmick swings in here every so often and gives my guys the once over, and I cannot tell you how comforting it is to have them seen by a pro, without having to cart them off to a clinic!
Feline Obesity is a topic that is very dear to my heart because my cat Phoebe struggles with this disease.
What I want to do with this column now is to take it "Off Line" and start working with people one-on-one so that I can really hear what's going on "out there." I am not a medical expert, but I feel that this topic will be solved at the owner level and I need to get "out in the field" to learn from those that are struggling and also from those that have had success.
If you are struggling with your cat's obesity or if you have been successful with helping your cat lose weight, please email me at Feedback(at)AssistFeed.com because I want to hear from you!
This week we will talk about the purpose of the whiskers that adorn the faces of our feline companions and some of the folklore associated with them. We will then explain the many ways cats make use of them, not only in navigating their environment, but in capturing prey. Contributing to this week's article were my two resident feline experts, Amanda and Melissa, and the CatWatch® newsletter.
In our everyday conversations, when cat's whiskers are mentioned, they generally are used to compare distance, most likely due to the widespread belief that cat's whiskers are used to determine if an opening is large enough to enable passage. However, did you know that their extreme sensitivity to touch also works its way into our vocabulary? One such example goes back to 1920's radio, at which time the prime component of a radio receiver was a crystallinelump of a mineral called galena to which a thin, stiff wire was adjusted to make contact with the mineral in such a manner to produce the best reception. It was such a sensitive and fine adjustment that the wire has always been known as the "cat's whisker" and the term remains in use today by those who experiment with old-time radio receivers.
The whiskers of a cat are found on your cat's chin, cheeks, eyebrows, and behind its forelegs, not far above the paw. They are noticeably thicker than your cat's other hairs and taper to a fine point. The sides of the muzzle contain the most prominent set of whiskers that are aligned in four rows on each side, with the top row capable of moving independently from the bottom row. The roots of each whisker are much deeper than the cat's other hairs and are connected directly to nerve fibers that send signals directly to the cat's brain.
The length of a cat's whiskers are generally proportional to its body size, which apparently gave rise to the widespread belief that cat's use their whiskers to determine the size of openings, and you may be surprised to know that this has never been scientifically proven. However, what has been proven is that their facial whiskers help determine the optimum bite point on the necks of prey and many other uses.
The sensitive nature of the cat's whiskers have many practical uses, other than enhancing the cat's already good looks (anyone detect a touch of bias here?), some of which we will list here. Their whiskers do assist them in navigating their environment, not necessarily for determining the size of openings, but for enhancing their senses under poor lighting conditions. One may also correctly assume that they take on even more importance when a cat is blind or visually impaired. Your cat will also flex its whiskers in order to detect the movement of prey or the location of objects, being that they will respond to vibrations and minute air currents.
Being that cats cannot see objects very near to them very well, the whiskers on their forelegs help them to determine the size and position of captured prey and to aid in preventing escape attempts. These whiskers are not very prominent, as they are behind each foreleg, above the paw, and much shorter than the facial whiskers.
Finally, their facial whiskers are used to convey emotion or mood. When the whiskers are fully fanned out and distinctly bending forward, it indicates that the cat is excited, as when it is hunting prey. When they are closely bunched together and positioned almost against their cheeks, they are afraid or are being cautious. This position may also indicate anger. When they are in the neutral position, that is, bent neither forward nor back, the cat is likely calm and does not have a need to use its sensory abilities, such as when it is curled up in your lap and purring like a jet engine. We hope that for the most part, they remain in "neutral".
Typos? Please email me at Kathy (at) AssistFeed.com
Copyright © 2003-2013 by Kathy Fatheree. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy's assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.