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THE PET CONNECTION
By Gina Spadafori
Pet Columnist

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Fountains and Wet Food Help Prevent Feline Urinary Problems

For a healthier cat, add water. No, not to the outside -- your cat will happily bathe himself -- but to the inside. Encouraging increased fluid intake is one of the best things you can do to keep your cat healthy, along with keeping him at the proper weight.
 
Combined, these two preventive-care strategies cost little and can save lots, by helping to prevent a common malady that can be a serious problem for cats and their owners -- feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD.
 
FLUTD often causes cats to urinate outside the litter box, a classic warning sign of illness that you can see -- and smell. Other symptoms include straining to urinate, crying out in the box or going more frequently.
 
While FLUTD may strike any age or gender of cats, it is more frequently seen in middle-aged and overweight cats. Factors that increase the risk include lack of exercise, stress and chronic dehydration.
 
Tips for avoiding FLUTD include: 

  • Hydration. Some cats will drink more if the water seems fresh, such as with fountains that keep the water filtered and circulating. You can find these at any good pet-supply store, or search for "cat drinking fountain" online. 

  • Chill your cat out. Decrease stress in the environment by providing your cat with scratching posts, window perches or kitty condos, and by playing active games with him. Pheromones such as Feliway also help keep cats calm. 

  • Keep home sweet home. Be more aware of changes in your cat when there are changes in your life such as new pets, a home remodel or a move. Provide your cat with a quiet room with all the amenities during a transition.  

  • Switch to "wet food." Canned diets have higher water content than dry ones, and their palatability ensures that cats will take in more water with their meals. If you can't completely switch, cut back on kibble and offer canned as a complement. 

  • Breaking up meals. Feed your cat several small meals during the day instead of one or two larger meals. Even better: Help keep your cat active by hiding food, either placing the bowls around the house or tucking food into special toys called "food puzzles." 

  • Feed for health. Ask your veterinarian if therapeutic diets for urinary tract health are appropriate for your cat. These foods contain clinically proven antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and controlled levels of minerals and vitamins to maintain a precise urine pH, and work to help treat or prevent FLUTD.

Above all, make sure your cat stays at a healthy weight. Fat cats are a good thing only if they're cartoon cats. For real-life ones, obesity leads to FLUTD and other serious health problems, such as diabetes. If you're not sure if your cat is at proper weight, ask your veterinarian at your cat's wellness exam.
 
Once you know the weight your cat should be, you can then weigh him weekly by holding him, weighing the both of you, then weighing yourself without him.
 
Keep a simple log of your pet's weight and any changes so you stay ahead of any potential problems. And keep that fountain clean, so your cat will keep drinking! By Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
   
Q&A
Put string away if cats at play
 
Q: Our cat had to have surgery after she ate a ribbon after a birthday party. I had no idea! Would you please tell people to be careful? She could have died. -- via Facebook
 
A: One thing I love about pet lovers is their willingness to help others keep their pets safe. So, thank you for helping!
 
Kittens and cats love playing with yarn, as well as string, ribbon and anything that twists and dances. They like to stalk, to pounce, to flip their slender prey in the air, and to start stalking again. That's all good clean fun, but there's always a chance that your cat won't stop with play and will decide to eat his plaything. And that's where the fun stops, because any sort of yarn, ribbon, Christmas tinsel or string can cause havoc in your cat's intestines, causing a problem that may need to be surgically treated.
 
If you knit or sew, put your supplies securely away when you're done with them, and if you're opening or wrapping packages, clean up after you're finished. Packing material such as foam peanuts also can be a health hazard for your pet.
 
Chewing on electrical cords is more of a risk for inquisitive kittens, but protecting your grown-up cat against them wouldn't hurt, either. Tuck all cords out of the way. And if you notice some that you can't hide are attracting kitty teeth, coat them in something nasty, such as Bitter Apple (available at pet-supply stores), to convince your cat or kitten to chomp elsewhere.
 
Even if your pet's not really the playful type, she may find one kind of string irresistible: juice-soaked string from a roast or turkey. Dispose of these tempting dangers carefully, putting them in a container that your cat can't get into.
 
For the cat who loves to chase things, get a "cat fishing pole" and play with her. It's good bonding for you both, and good exercise for your cat. When you're done playing, though, put the toy where she can't get it. -- Dr. Marty Becker
 
THE BUZZ
Bunnies hop to it in latest pet sport

  • The sport of dog agility began 25 years ago as an exhibition at Crufts, the English dog show that is the world's largest. Based on the equine sport of show jumping, canine agility has grown to be extremely popular worldwide, and has itself inspired some spin-off sports. One of the newest is aimed at pet rabbits, who are trained to hop a series of jumps while on leash. The first championship event was held in Switzerland in 2011, with more than 50 rabbits competing. The sport has since started attracting participants in the United Kingdom and the United States. 

  • Banfield Pet Hospital, best known for operating within Petsmart stores, is experimenting with stand-alone practices, opening a handful of them in the Portland, Ore., area with plans for more. VIN News reports that the move isn't any indication that the alliance is changing between the two powerful pet-industry players. Banfield told VIN News that it is placing hospitals where it thinks they will do well, but where there aren't currently Petsmart locations. 

  • According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, people struggling to quit smoking can find extra motivation from their pets. The AVMA says owners who smoke are more likely to have dogs with lung and nasal sinus cancer, and cats who have lymphoma. When smokers are told that secondhand smoke can hurt their pets, almost a quarter say that they would think about quitting for the good of their pets. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori

Date Published: 4/15/2013 9:37:00 AM
Date Reviewed/Revised: 04/15/2013

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Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of Dogs for Dummies, Cats for Dummies and Birds for Dummies. She is also affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her at petconnection@gmail.com.

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