Ask Dr. Richards

Ask Elizabeth: January 2014

A major concern for cat lovers Q. I just had to euthanize my 10-year-old kitty, Luna, after she developed a fibrosarcoma following a rabies vaccination. I am terribly upset that, in trying to protect her, I may have contributed to her demise. Do I now have to be concerned about my other cats? …

Ask Elizabeth: November 2013

A Tabby’s Destructive Grooming Leads to Extensive Bald Spots

Ask Elizabeth: September 2013

I understand why you may want to use these devices for cleaning the air with three kitties in the house, and you are certainly not alone in doing this. Although kitties (and their food and waste) smell great to me, households with cats can sometimes generate odors that some people find objectionable, and there are a number of ways that owners choose to deal with this. Ionic air cleaners are one of the newer technologies that have been developed to address air pollutants.

Ask Elizabeth: August 2013

It’s true that moving to a new location can be exciting, but it can be a source of anxiety for people and their four-legged friends, kitties certainly included. While some tension is unavoidable, there are a few things to consider when determining the safest, most comfortable and least traumatic way of getting your kitties to their new environs.

Ask Elizabeth: June 2013

First of all, I want to thank and congratulate you for the obvious care that you have provided and concern you have for your baby. Given his age, you have clearly done something (many things!) right, and today’s question is an extension of the dedication that you have shown.

Ask Elizabeth: July 2013

I completely understand your thoughts on this matter, as recent developments have caused many owners (and cats … believe it or not!) to reconsider their habits and the effects that their lifestyle may have on native populations. The recent study suggesting that domestic cats are contributing to the demise of billions of birds and small mammals points out the fact that the interaction of domestic species with native wildlife is an important issue, one that requires careful thought and action.

Ask Elizabeth: April 2013

First, I think it is great that your friend is taking advantage of the joy that a service dog can bring into people’s lives, and I want to give a shout out to my dedicated canine friends and the wonderful people who work so hard to make their mission possible. These dogs are awesome and are, for the most part, very carefully screened with respect to behavior, so I doubt there will be any problems with the dog having difficulty with the cats. It wouldn’t hurt, however, to speak with the foundation providing the dog to see if it has advice regarding the introduction.

Ask Elizabeth: March 2013

As you know, we cats are very sensitive creatures, but in your case, as with other cats with feline hypersensitivity syndrome (FHS), this sensitivity seems to be ratcheted up. FHS is a recognized syndrome in the feline world, although the definitive cause is not clear. While it is not, in and of itself, believed to seriously affect overall health or longevity, a few important points regarding this unusual behavioral syndrome are worth making, especially for our human friends who are commonly puzzled by its manifestations. FHS, also variably referred to as rolling skin syndrome and atypical neurodermatitis, is characterized by dramatic twitching or rippling of the skin, most commonly on the back between the middle of the spine and the base of the tail or in the flank region, with intermittent jerking of the body and exaggerated tail movements.

Ask Elizabeth: February 2013

As you know, we cats are very sensitive creatures, but in your case, as with other cats with feline hypersensitivity syndrome (FHS), this sensitivity seems to be ratcheted up to varying degrees. FHS is a recognized syndrome in the feline world, although the definitive cause is not clear at this time. While it is not, in and of itself, believed to be serious with respect to its effect on overall health or longevity, a few important points regarding this unusual behavioral syndrome are worth making, especially for our human friends who are commonly puzzled by its manifestations. FHS, also variably referred to as rolling skin syndrome and atypical neurodermatitis, is characterized by dramatic twitching or rippling of the skin, most commonly on the back between the middle of the spine and the base of the tail or in the flank region, with intermittent jerking of the body and exaggerated tail movements.

Ask Elizabeth: January 2013

HCM is diagnosed by echocardiography, and it is important to rule out high blood pressure and hyperthyroidism in cats with thickened heart muscle before arriving at a diagnosis of HCM, as these conditions can also cause thickening of the heart. Although HCM can be a very serious disease that can lead to congestive heart failure or the formation of potentially life-threatening blood clots, cats may live with HCM for prolonged periods of time (months to years) without overt signs of illness.

Ask Elizabeth: December 2012

Our family is excited about adopting a new kitten from the local shelter (they are so cute!), but we are admittedly kitty illiterate! We were wondering if you might be able to provide some sage advice to us feline rookies.

Ask Elizabeth: November 2012

Q: My wonderful rescued cat scratches hot spots occasionally. They look just awful but heal nicely and the hair comes back and fills the spot in. I keep an eye on them for infections, but none has ever become infected. What on earth causes my cat to do this to herself? She’s an only cat and there has not been any change in the food I feed her. Sincerely,Hot Under the Fur …

Ask Elizabeth: October 2012

Toxoplasmosis is caused by the protozoal parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which requires passage through a cat to produce infective oocysts that can subsequently infect other warm-blooded animals. Cats usually acquire toxoplasmosis by eating infected prey, and approximately 20 percent of cats will begin to shed toxoplasma oocysts in their feces after ingesting toxoplasma. Oocysts in cat feces take between 24 and 48 hours to become infective for other animals, so if you are able to remove the feces from your garden within 24 hours (wearing gloves and washing hands thoroughly afterward), you will significantly decrease the likelihood of having your vegetables be a source of toxoplasma infection.

Ask Elizabeth: August 2012

I have been purring nearly my whole life so I should be an expert! However, like many feline characteristics, purring is mysterious — even to me! Let me share what my friends at the Cornell Feline Health Center have to say about purring. At its core, purring is a means of communication — but cats purr in a variety of situations: when they are comfortable and content, of course, but also when they are anxious, injured or ill. What, exactly, a cat is communicating in these various situations is open to interpretation. The most straightforward purring is done by baby kittens. Starting at about two days of age, kittens purr in the presence of their mother, and in response to nursing. This early purring is likely to be an ‘I’m OK’ signal to the queen, and along with kneading movement of the front paws on the mammary gland area, may serve as a stimulus for milk letdown.

Ask Elizabeth: September 2012

I work at a large no-kill animal sanctuary with special-needs cats. Often when one becomes ill and stops eating, we tempt him or her with people food like baby food or boiled chicken. I have heard a lot of conflicting things about feeding cats baby food or straight meat. Someone recently told me that a good all-meat baby food and straight chicken are nutritionally complete, but I have read in a few places that cats need other nutrients like taurine and vitamins A and D or they will get very sick. Does straight meat provide full nutrition for cats? In the wild, how do cats get full nutrition if meat does not provide it all? What is the best kind of food for our dear kitties?