It's estimated that 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats are owned in the United States. Approximately 37-47% of all households in the United States have a dog, and 30-37% have a cat.
By Steve Dale
Tribune Content Agency
Nearly everything modern veterinary medicine knows about cat health and welfare has been learned through studies funded by the non-profit Winn Feline Foundation. From the very food most cats eat to the vaccinations they receive to treatments for a wide range of health issues, Winn has been there to help cats. The foundation is now celebrating 46 years and a new website: www.winnfelinefoundation.org.
Q: We took in a very sweet stray cat. We discovered she had tapeworms, for which she was treated. Since then, she gets very car sick. It's gotten so bad now that we can't take her on trips. We've tried various medications, as well as putting a sheet over the carrier, but nothing helps. Do you have any idea why after being treated for tapeworms she began to get car sick? How can we help her? - J.M., via cyberspace
A: Dr. Vicki Thayer, executive director of the Winn Feline Foundation, suggests that treating tapeworms was a good idea, but had nothing to do with your cat being car sick after treatment.
"Your veterinarian can help you; ask about a drug called Cerenia for motion sickness," says Thayer, of Lebanon, WA. "But that's only a start because it's likely that, at this point, your cat sees the carrier and associates it with car travel, which instantly makes her anxious because she knows she's going to get sick."
Begin by decreasing her anxiety. Ask your veterinarian about Anxitane (L-theanine, a nutritional chewable supplement to take the edge off) and a prescription diet from Royal Canin, called CALM. This diet is formulated to help cats maintain emotional balance. Among other ingredients, the recipe includes L-tryoptophan (an amino acid that creates a sense of emotional well-being) and nicotinamide (also called Vitamin B3, which can relax the central nervous system).
Thayer says you also may need to re-adjust your cat's attitude toward her carrier. Make it a positive place. Leave the carrier out all the time. Periodically, wipe and/or spray the inside with Feliway (a copy of feline calming pheromone). Randomly drop treats in the carrier, transforming it into a treat dispenser. Over time, start feeding your cat from the carrier, as well.
Once your cat becomes comfortable in the carrier, shut the door and simply move it to another room, then feed her when you let her out. The idea is to get her accustomed to being moved in the carrier, and also to demonstrate that upon release, really good things happen - like a meal.
Q: I'm taking my 2-year-old cat on a trip from Las Vegas to Detroit, and the vet suggests a tranquilizer. I think that's extreme. The pet store has a product called Relax that contains L-theanine. I gave the cat one of these pills and it had a small affect. Any other suggestions? - N.D., Las Vegas, NV
A: Winn Feline Foundation scientific advisor and board member Dr. Brian Holub, of Hingham, MA, suggests a drug called acepromazine might be your cat's best friend for this one trip. While this drug does nothing to lessen anxiety, it acts as a sedative, and also has an anti-nausea affect which could come in handy.
As for Relax, Holub, also Chief Medical Officer for Vet Corp, a national chain of veterinary clinics, isn't familiar with that specific brand name product. He does know about Anxitane, which also contains L-Theanine. It's sold through veterinarians and has been thoroughly tested.
"Spraying and wiping the cat's carrier with Feliway before travel, and better yet on practice runs, to get the cat acclimated to the carrier is also a good idea," he says.
Q: I recently had to have my 16-year-old cat euthanized. He was my faithful companion for many years and I'm heartbroken. I'm not sure what happened and hope you can shed some light. He was active and healthy up to about a year ago. Suddenly, his appetite decreased and he lost weight. The vet said his kidneys weren't functioning correctly. He put my cat on medication and he seemed to improve for a time. He even gained some weight back. Then he got really sick very fast. The vet said there was a tumor in his abdomen so we put him to sleep. How could all of this happen so fast, and the tumor not be discovered until it was too late? - D.M., Cranston, R. I.
A: "I'm so very sorry for your loss," says Winn Feline Foundation President Dr. Glenn Olah, of Albuquerque, NM. "Of course, I can't be specific without knowing more, but many older cats begin to have kidney failure, and the treatment often improves their condition, at least for a time. It's possible there was no way to detect that this underlying problem was also there. Maybe the tumor was there and not seen, or maybe the tumor grew very quickly. Cats do hide illness the best they can, sometimes until things get very bad."
Olah continues, "This is not your fault; it's likely not anyone's fault, though I certainly understand that it doesn't diminish how you feel."
Perhaps when you're ready, you'll consider getting another cat.
This column was printed in the December 28, 2014 - January 10, 2015 edition.