These cat questions were answered by three board members for the non-profit Winn Feline Foundation for a meeting and the Winn Feline Foundation Annual Symposium. Chiming in: Dr. Drew Weigner, of Atlanta, GA; Dr. Brian Holub, Boston, MA Chief Medical Officer of VetCor veterinary clinics; and Winn board president Dr. Glenn Olah, of Albuquerque, NM.
The Winn Feline Foundation is a non-profit that supports cat health studies. Much of what’s now known about cat health, from how to treat most illnesses to vaccines they may receive, was once funded by Winn.
Q: Every winter, I head to Florida, and my daughter takes my two cats to live with her three cats. The males get along well, and her female stays to herself but isn’t a problem. The problem involves my female, Callie.
Dickens, my daughter’s male cat, frequently attacks Callie and prevents her from using the litter box. As a result, Callie has started peeing in the bathtub. I’ve suggested shutting my cats in a spare room with a litter box while my daughter is at work, but she thinks they’d be lonely. Can you help? — J.R., Shrewsbury, MA
A: You didn’t mention how long your daughter cares for your cats each year. If we’re talking months or weeks, Olah suggests all the cats might be happier if your two were separated in an extra bedroom, the den, or the basement. Of course, it’s best to pick a room your daughter spends time in, so she can play with the cats. The room should have a litter box (two is best for two cats), food, water with toys. Providing places for the cats to climb and hide is equally important.
In your home, these two cats live together without other cats, so Olah isn’t sure what your daughter means by saying they might be “lonely” in a separate room. This set up will make life less stressful for your daughter, her cats and your cats.
Still, Olah suggests plugging a Feliway diffuser into the special room for your cats, as well as in the room on the other side of that closed door, just to ease anxiety further, as even behind closed doors, your two will smell the other cats. Feliway is a copy of a naturally occurring calming pheromone.
Q: I’m at a loss about what to do for my 11-year-old Siamese mix, who has acne on his chin, and sometimes around his mouth. I use ceramic or steel bowls and wash them daily. I’ve read that wiping cider vinegar on the affected area helps. I also gently rub the area with warm water and soap. This acne has been a problem for years. Any advice? — M.S., Henderson, NV
A: Olah, Weigner and Holub all agree that the cider vinegar “cure” is misinformation apparently spreading online, and is not likely to help. Even water is unlikely to do anything (except possibly make matters worse).
First, your veterinarian should rule out pemphigus (an auto-immune skin condition), mites and ringworm, and check to see if the cat might also have a bacterial infection. If any of the above is discovered, treat appropriately.
Regardless, change to glass bowls for the cat’s food and water. Ceramic and stainless steel dishes have been associated with a condition known as feline acne.
Depending on the nature of the problem (deduced by a fungal culture, skin scraping and bacterial culture), and your veterinarian’s preferences, Weigner says over-the-counter benzyl peroxide, or veterinary products such as Protopic or Douxo might help.
“A veterinarian should be able to figure this one out,” adds Holub. “Having said that, some cats just live fine with mild acne for a lifetime. In dark-colored cats, owners aren’t even aware of the problem, which shows up (mostly) on white or light-colored cats.”
Q: My 10-year-old Maine Coon sneezes when he’s excited. Staff at the veterinary specialty hospital said the cat makes a heavy breathing noise, but it’s in his nose, not his chest, so he doesn’t have heart disease. He’s on an antihistamine and had a Convenia (antibiotic) shot. This improved his condition, but the problem persists. The next step, I’m told, is a rhinoscopy to determine if there are any polyps up the cat’s nose. Any advice? — B.F., via cyberspace.
A: All three veterinarians agree that in a 10-year-old cat polyps are very unlikely. And Convenia, they say, isn’t likely the right choice to treat the problem.
For starters, if the sneezing is a fairly new behavior, Weigner suggests talking with your veterinarian to rule out a variety of problems, including nasal mites and lymphoma. In this case, rhinoscopy makes sense, and perhaps an MRI or CT scan to learn more.
“If you simply have always had a chronic sneezer, you want an antimicrobial that kills bacteria and an antibiotic (of which there are several) which is appropriate for that (problem),” Holub adds. “No matter, the root of the problem is likely primarily viral.”
The antihistamine could help control symptoms, as could a supplement called L-Lysine. There may be no “magic bullet” to zap the problem, however, which is why the Winn Feline Foundation continues to fund feline health studies.