ASK DR. CHIP - SEPTEMBER EDITION

Want to be featured in next month’s newsletter? Email our very own Dr. Chip at info@petsplusus.com and make sure you reference ‘Ask Dr. Chip’ in the subject line.

About Dr. Chip

Dr. Chip Coombs is Pets Plus Us’ Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), and has practiced veterinary medicine since 1976, initially in the United Kingdom, then in Western Canada and, finally, in Toronto, where he owned a multi-veterinarian practice for 33 years.

Question:

Hi Dr. Chip! 

Hi, we have 4 female cats. My partner has 2 sisters and I have 2 as well (7 yrs old and 2 yrs old)...we moved in together. My 7 yr old started spraying in places where one of his likes to hang out. What can we do to improve this? We have 5 litter boxes, one of them separate from the others. Is there a behavioural expert you can recommend?

Thanks a lot,

Anca

Answer:

Hi Anca,

Unfortunately, your situation is a common consequence of cats moving in together. The individual pecking order that each pair had previously worked out has now been put into total disarray by having two new cats enter their respective world. The spraying is most likely a manifestation of territorial behaviour. This often happens in multi-cat households, regardless of whether you moved into your partner's space, he into yours, or you both have moved into a new place (neutral territory). Cats don't like change and this move is a big change. They presumably felt safe and content before and now there is a huge readjustment.

In such situations there is not often a quick fix, but your idea of having 5 litters is a good start. I would even suggest adding a couple more. I would also add more water bowls and possible feeding stations if all 4 cats free feed.  In order to offer you proper advice I would need to know much more information about your 4 cats. I'll assume they are all neutered and indoors. Whether you live in a house vs a small flat will have a significant impact. Environmental enrichment is a key to success, i.e. offering multiple places for the cats to climb and roost and to avoid being trapped or bullied. It is important that individual cat feels secure and safe. I wouldn't reprimand the culprit, as that will achieve nothing. It is important to ensure that you play and interact with all 4 cats, regardless of how busy your day is. I would also suggest asking your veterinarian for a pheromone spray diffuser to use in your new space; the number needed would vary with how big the flat/ house is. These pheromones are designed to help alleviate stress between the cats and to bring a feeling of calm and relaxation. They can be very affective, and your veterinarian can elaborate on how to use them.

Your veterinarian can best advise you of a local behaviourist, but if there isn't one local, there are behaviourists around the country that will do telephone consults and, in this situation, a face-to-face visit should not be necessary. Most of them can be found online. I don't know how long you have been living together, but working towards a solution must begin immediately, as the longer the spraying goes on, the more difficult it is to resolve. That will only create additional stress in your home, as there is the risk that the tension will start between you and your partner. No doubt your veterinarian can offer you further advice knowing the details of your situation and can offer you a referral to a qualified behaviourist. Because this is a relatively common problem in multi-cat households, you will also find a number of good articles online. Time is of the essence and hopefully you're able to resolve the challenge quickly.

Cheers,

Dr. Chip

Question:

Dr. Chip,

I am struggling to get my 1.5yr old male cat to eat wet canned food ... he loves dry food, but I am aware of the dangers of a dry food only diet for male cats.  I have tried all the tricks, from sprinkling dry food or treats on top of wet food but he still only consumes about 1 tablespoon wet food a day ... he eats approx. 3/4 cup dry food a day.  I have tried every type and flavour and even resorted to “kitty crack” food which is the cheap commercial brands .... I was advised not to try the raw food due to the lack of regulations in place... any tips or tricks you could advise are appreciated.

Thanks,

Jean

Answer:

Hi Jean,

You have heard the old saying about leading a horse to water, but... Some cats simply have their preferences for food texture - either canned or dry and good luck trying to change them. They are creatures of habit and if your cat is used to having dry food since being a kitten, then it's not surprising he is refusing to switch. If it helps you in solving the problem, I would suggest that you simply stop trying to get him to switch over to canned.

The debate of canned vs dry has been going on forever and no doubt will continue. However, as with many debates, a lot is based on personal opinion and less so on hard scientific evidence. There are certain medical conditions (i.e. kidney disease and diabetes) that are better treated with a canned food, but we'll assume your cat has no such issues and that you're simply wanting to prevent problems down the road. Cats are essential carnivores and as long as the dry food is very good quality, then it will offer the essential amino acids that your cat needs to remain healthy. Canned food is mostly water (about 75-78%) and so is relatively more expensive and tends to be less desirable, if not eaten all at once. Although there is not a big difference, tooth plaque build-up is slightly higher with canned food than dry food. Because dry food is only about 10%, it is very important that your cat have access to water at all times during the day. Largely due to cost and owner convenience, more dry food gets consumed by cats than wet.

If you feed a dry food that is properly formulated, and your veterinarian can make some good suggestions, then the risk of your male cat developing urinary problems are very small. That said, if the formulation of the dry or semi-dry food is not ideal, then the risk of crystals goes up significantly. The biggest issue with cats and food is that we owners feed them far more than they need. 40-45% of cats are overweight or obese and the subsequent health problems that can arise are very significant - regardless of whether they are being fed dry or wet. It will vary with the caloric density of the food you are presently feeding, but most cats being fed a very good quality food would keep slim and trim on 1/4 cup of dry food twice a day. Your cat's body condition score ( BCS ) is very important to prevent health problems. When you call your veterinarian to enquire about recommended dry foods, ask them to look at your cat's medical records and make sure that he weight is ideal. That will be a very important factor to prevent health problems in the future.

Cheers,

Dr. Chip

Question:

Hello!

I have a 9-week-old puppy who weighs 2lbs wet and I’m wondering if it Is odd that I can feel her microchip in her right shoulder? I read quite a few articles about what happens when it migrates to other parts of the body but not too much on if it’s okay to feel the chip where it was inserted.Thanks!

Mareena

Answer:

Hi Mareena,

With your puppy being such a wee tad and I am guessing with a short hair coat, it is quite normal to be able to feel the microchip. The location where you can feel it is exactly where it should be. Although microchips have been designed NOT to migrate, very infrequently they will. Usually this is only a few inches and in small dogs such as yours, the scanner would have no problem detecting its alpha-numeric number.

Enjoy your new family member!

Cheers,

Dr. Chip