Why senior cats need special handling

“A retrospective study revealed that 22 percent of cats over 1 year old and 90 percent of cats over 12 years old had radiographic evidence of degenerative joint disease.”

This is why I use plenty of towels when I groom a senior cat.  They rest on soft surfaces. If they’re not heavy, I even support their body while bathing them. The little things count.

 

Cleaning cat’s messy rear

Common complaint especially among humans who live with long-haired cats.

The rear becomes messy.

Helpful video showing a veterinarian shaving that area.

Other suggestions.

1. If poop is soft, it’s more likely to get caught in fur. Some cat foods result in softer poop.  If that’s the situation, try different brands until you find one that results in reasonably firm poop. That won’t help you right now, but it will help in the future. 
2. Cats benefit from litter boxes in which they can easily turn around.  Double check to make sure your box is very roomy, and is in an area where cat feels comfortable.
3. Different types of litter might help.  I like “World’s Best Cat Litter.”
4. Wipe rear once a day with a large wet wipe made for cats.  Cats get wiggly when you touch their rear, so you can try distracting them with toys and treats, or one of you can hold him while the other wipes.  One way to hold a cat is to wrap them up in a very big towel, like a burrito, and expose the part on which you’re working. Do it fast, ha ha.  Cats generally don’t like to have their bottoms messed with.
5. Small round-tipped scissors can be used to trim dirty bits.  The important factor is that you have to make 100% sure you’re not cutting the skin.  Put a metal grooming comb or your finger between the skin and the part you’re trimming.  Cat skin is easy to cut due to its thin-ness, so do this with good lighting and caution. You can buy round-tipped trimming scissors for pets and a metal grooming comb on Amazon.
6. You can buy the same sort of clipper I use for shaving. It’s very quiet and easy to handle.  You can also use it to trim fur in other areas.  I use Wahl’s Bravura clipper. This is a quiet, strong clipper.
7. If cat has a bunch of poop accumulated on his rear, cat will probably need a partial bath to soak it off. You can buy hypo-allergenic, unscented pet shampoo. Use as directed on label.
I make house calls for sanitary trims, but if your cat is gentle, you can try doing it yourself.
Good luck!

More on how to hold a cat . . .

“How to hold a cat who is wiggly” is a hot topic among readers of my blog.  People come to this site in search of answers.

The image below will help you to understand the logic behind safe and comfortable cat restraint. I often review this book. Since I spend my work hours handling cats, knowing their anatomy definitely helps.

First, notice that cats walk on their fingers and toes, both of which are called phalanges.

Walking on their toes gives cats grace and lightness.

Second, notice that cats crouch when they walk.  The front legs (humerus, radius and ulna) are in a wide V shape, as are the rear legs (femur, tibia and fibula).

The crouching walk is part of what enables cats to perform an explosive jump, propelling them from the floor to the top of a cabinet.  They are perpetually in a pre-jump position.  There is power in those bent legs, particularly the rear legs.  Cats use rabbit-kicks to pummel opponents during battles and play time.

If you look at photos of runners at a starting line, you will notice that they are in a similar position to the cat below.  They are poised for explosive movement forward or upward.

Which explains this.

Keep feline anatomy in mind so that you won’t be surprised if your cat suddenly leaps up and out of your arms.  If they are positioned to be able to successfully kick at you, you’ve probably already lost your chance to restrain them.

CAM04676

Can’t pick up your cat? Think like a rabbit.

A lot of owners don’t feel comfortable picking up their cats, so if you’re one of them, you have plenty of company.  It’s not that the cats are mean. It’s that the cats wiggle away while the owner is trying to get them. Sometimes the owner gets scratched because the cat is so wiggly.  There’s no hope you can trim your cat’s claws if you can’t pick them up. Picking a cat up is step #1.

Rabbits are similar to cats in that 1. their rear legs are powerful. Rabbits and cats both use them to kick.  2. they have claws that can scratch. 3. they can get wiggly when you’re trying to pick them up.

I like MediRabbit.com’s website because they provide clear, attractive drawings demonstrating the way to handle rabbits. You can use the same or similar methods to handle cats!

Trouble holding cat for claw trim?

I enjoy the challenge of claw trims.  Keeping the cat still can be a game of skill and imagination!  It’s hard to be more clever than a cat when it comes to keeping them from getting away during a claw trimming session.

Some gentle restraint techniques I’ve used:

No restraint. Just put the cat on a counter and trim the claws. Yay!

Hold the cat in my lap with their belly facing up, just like you’d hold a baby.

Wrap kitty up like a burrito in a big towel, pulling out the paw that I need.

Put cat on the counter, slide cat’s body up against mine so she is snug, and trim claws.

Any of the above, plus a snap-on E collar.

Sit on the floor on my knees, with kitty between my knees. Face a wall so kitty can’t run off.

Lay kitty on side with my forearm resting gently but firmly on their shoulders.  Trim the claws I can reach. Turn kitty onto other side and repeat.

Cats are flexible. As long as you don’t put them in uncomfortable positions, you can try different ways of holding them until you find the one that works.  Remember that trimming claws only takes a minute or so, so even if kitty isn’t thrilled, they are only one minute away from treats, praise and play time.  Not a bad deal!

Claw trimmer and cat's claw
Cat on my lap.

What is this cat thinking?

Can you tell what your cat is thinking? As a cat groomer, I need to be able to “read” a cat.

This cat is one of my feline friends. I visit her several times a week to cat sit, trim claws, brush her and every so often, bathe her.  I have been her “nanny” for over two years.

I hold her in my lap like this about once a week, so she is used to it.  She doesn’t wiggle or try to get away. She certainly doesn’t hiss, scratch or try to bite.

This is a photo of a cat who is with a trusted caretaker, engaging in a routine activity.  This is not a photo of a cat who is scared, apprehensive, angry, timid or tense.

Photo on 3-3-13 at 10.54 AM #3
Notice that claws are not extended, pupils are not dilated, and the cat looks confidently at the camera instead of looking down.

Holding a cat who’s not into being held

 

Yoga. Jiu Jitsu. Moving 3-dimensionally.

Cats twist their body in ways we can’t even begin to do.

Cats use extreme flexibility to get the upper paw.

If I’m thinking like a human, two-dimensionally, I’m not going to get those claws trimmed.

The cat is not a piece of paper or a brick. The cat is more like air flowing and shifting shape.

May the force be with you, grasshopper!

 

Is house call cat grooming easier for the owner than taking a cat to a salon?

Yes, because . . .

  • you don’t have to bundle up your cat in a carrier and walk or ride to the salon. I come to you, with my equipment.
  • you don’t have to wait several hours to pick up your cat. Grooming usually takes one hour.

No, because . . .

  • grooming entails fur. I do a very quick tidy up, but not a full-scale cleaning. You may need to use a Swiffer mop or vacuum cleaner. You may need to wipe off the counter too. You wouldn’t have to do that if you took your cat to a salon.
  • you need to prepare for the grooming. I ask owners to provide two big towels, clear the kitchen sink and counter, try to keep the cat in an enclosed area before I arrive, and maintain a quiet atmosphere. Children, housekeepers, guests or dogs should not be in the grooming area. If you live in an open space, like a large loft, you may have a hard time creating a quiet atmosphere.

I do house call cat grooming because it’s more relaxing for the cat, not because it’s always easier for the owner. The funny thing is that even if it’s not easier for the owner, it may still feel easier. Why? Owners who choose house call cat grooming don’t feel the stress of wondering if the cat doing well at the grooming salon. Stress is not easy!

Are zoo big cats treated better than house cats?

An array of toys to stimulate and to create opportunities for natural behavior such as stalking moving objects and pouncing.
An array of toys to stimulate and to create opportunities for natural behavior such as stalking moving objects, scratching and pouncing.

Animals who live in zoos can be pitiful shadows. The number of pacing or lethargic or fur-plucking zoo residents are slowly being reduced by enrichment programs, at least in the United States.  Enrichment can be providing new and different food types, hiding the food in balls or puzzle boxes, introducing balls or other toys into the enclosure, introducing new scents into the enclosure, providing different types of bedding (straw, wood chips) and teaching tricks to strengthen the bond between zoo keeper and zoo resident. I interned at a zoo several years ago. As an intern, part of my day was spent carrying out enrichment procedures such as hiding food.

When I visit New York’s luxury apartments to care for well-loved cats, I’m saddened by the lack of enrichment. Some owners do go out of their way to provide an array of toys, vary the food, spend time playing with their cat, create bird-watching opportunities, and so on.  I love visiting these homes. Other homes are barren, if seen from a cat’s point of view.

One goal of enrichment is to allow the cat to engage in natural behaviors. Scratching is natural.  Pouncing is natural. Jumping up to the highest level in the room is natural. In some homes, all of these natural behaviors are grounds for punishment. The cat will be yelled at or sprayed with a water bottle or banished to another room. The inescapable fact is that a cat is a cat. Wanting to have a cat who looks like a cat but doesn’t do what cats do is self-defeating behavior, and accounts for the high frustration levels of some cat owners.

From The Association of Zoos & Aquariums

Types of Enrichment

It is important to have knowledge of a species’ natural behaviors and physiology when developing enrichment program. Several categories of enrichment are then used to enhance that species’ behavioral, physical, social, cognitive, and psychological well being. These categories are not mutually exclusive and often overlap, however each, if relevant to the species, should be incorporated into an animal’s enrichment plan.

Environmental Enrichment Devices
Environmental enrichment devices (EEDs) are objects that can be manipulated by the animal. These objects may be novel or pre-existing. Natural EEDs may include browse, large and small branches, wood wool, hay, and flowers however these items should be kept clean to prevent bacterial growth. Man-made EEDs may include premade items such as car wash roller brushes or strips, Boomer balls, tires, and Kong toys, or constructed items such as puzzle boxes, piñatas, and various PVC contraptions.

Habitat Enrichment
Habitat design is an important consideration for providing enrichment. Habitats should provide a variety of substrates, levels, and complexities. Considerations should be given to useable space versus total space, and ease of reaching or changing platforms, tiers, ropes, nesting/denning areas, feed/water dispensers, and crevices/crannies for EED/enrichment food hiding.

Sensory Enrichment
Animal sensory systems are typically specialized by species and play crucial roles in their survival. Sensory enrichment is designed to address the animal’s sense of smell, touch, hearing, vision, and taste and elicit species-specific response, territorial, reproductive or hunting behaviors. Olfactory stimuli may include natural predator, pheromone, or prey scents or novel scents such as spices or perfumes. Tactile stimuli may include a variety of EEDs that can be manipulated including materials of different textures such as straw, soft blankets, paper, burlap, cardboard, or wood. Auditory stimuli may include the presentation of natural sounds or animal vocalizations recordings. Visual stimuli may include EEDs of different colors, those that move by wind or water current, animals in the line of sight from other habitats, video presentations, or mirrors. Gustatory stimuli include food enrichment items, flavored sprays, or beverages.

Food Enrichment
Food can be presented in a variety of ways elicit feeding, hunting, foraging behaviors, problem-solving strategies, and to facilitate behavioral conditioning. Food may be fresh, frozen, soft, hard, smooth, rough, heavy, light, cold, or and may be incorporated into puzzle boxes, hidden in or scattered about the habitat, or buried in the substrate.

Social Groupings
Social groupings should resemble those observed in the wild to facilitate feeding, grooming, social, territorial, and courtship behaviors. Mixed species exhibits may also provide symbiotic or complementary activities between the species.

Behavioral Conditioning
Behavioral conditioning for animal husbandry and research behaviors provides cognitive stimulation that increases the intellectual focus of an animal. Animals voluntarily participate in these training sessions to maintain established or learn new behaviors.

Blood glucose readings higher in clinic than home. Familiarity decreases stress.

House call veterinary service or veterinary clinic? Small study supports house call veterinary services as better choice, even when veterinary clinic offers low-stress handling and cat-friendly practice.

Comparison of stress exhibited by cats examined in a clinic versus a home setting

Published in Applied Animal Behavior Science (Journal) 2014

Take home message of the study:

“In the context of this study, where low stress handling techniques were employed throughout both environments, familiarity with the veterinary examiner and procedure were associated with decreased stress experienced by the cat. Higher blood glucose and more hiding behavior in the clinic support the hypothesis that the clinic is more stressful than the home.”

Click to read full study.