Cat agility is a feline version of dog agility, in which a cat is taught to pass various obstacles and courses constructed of them. Cat agility is an excellent way to bring content into the life of an indoor cat. It both helps to satisfy the cat's need for exercise and provides an opportunity to joyful insight and new learning as well as enjoyable shared activity with the owner.
Cat agility affects the well-being of a cat in many different ways. It offers an indoor cat important opportunities for exercise, jumping and leaping. In addition, the training aspect inherent in the sport offers the cat important and significant brain exercise. As a cherry on top, cat agility also offers pleasant shared moments between a cat and the owner, allowing the owner to learn to know their cat and its individual qualities even better. A cat with no illnesses inhibiting movement can do cat agility. The breed of the cat does not matter; all cats are in principle suited to be agility cats. For example, the multiple agility cat of the year awarded Miuku was completely blind and still managed to dazzle the audience and co-competitors with its fast agility performance. Many kinds of cats can therefore enjoy agility and the well-being benefits it provides.
All you need to begin cat agility is enthusiasm, motivation, and a hint of imagination. Practicing cat agility doesn't in principle require much space or a great number of fancy obstacles. At its simplest, cat agility is teaching a cat to leap over the legs of a person sitting on the floor. A handy person can build their own agility blocks/obstacles, but ready-made barriers are also available. When constructing barriers yourself, you must make sure they are certainly safe for both the cat and the trainer.
The basis of cat agility is teaching a cat to pass various obstacles and courses constructed of them. The agility training of a cat is done using positive reinforcement, i.e. by rewarding the cat for desired behaviour. Punishments or forcing are not part of cat training; unwanted behaviour is just completely ignored. In order to any cat training to be successful, it is imperative to find out the most delightful reward for your cat specifically, the one for which it would even do somersaults. Rewards such as various food rewards, scratching, or play cannot be put into any generally applicable order of preference, since reward preferences are very individual and depend on the cat's own likings. You can find out the best reward for your own cat by testing: if your cat leaves tossing its head contemptuously, the reward is probably not sufficiently significant.
Additionally, just like in any cat training, also in cat agility it is good to proceed with small baby steps in the training phase and to keep the requirement level moderate. This approach ensures the motivation of the cat and avoids killing its motivation by pressuring it into too difficult tasks. A cat can be taught to pass obstacles for instance by following the trainer's hand or alternatively a target stick. Luring with a toy or treat are also allowed ways of guiding a cat, so it is completely up to the preferences of the trainer and the cat what guiding method works the best.
Cat agility offers a cat versatile stimuli, such as learning new things and exercise. In the picture, landrace cat Hiski's display of skill
With dogs, going regularly to guided training outside of the home has for a long time been a common and completely normal practice. In my own experience, in the case of cats, the help of an animal instructor is sought only when problems arise with the cat. There is however in principle nothing preventing a guided hobby with a cat, as long as the cat is carefully accustomed to travelling and moving in new places, so that these do not cause the cat unnecessary stress. If you have questions about cat training, don't hesitate to contact a professional animal trainer specializing in cats. If travelling outside of the home feels unsurmountable, you can ask the trainer about the possibility of a home visit. A list of professionally qualified animal trainers pledged to train using rewards can be found at elaintenkouluttajat.com
Besides training cat agility at home, you can also compete in it. Agility Cats Finland, SAGIK, organizes a few official cat agility competitions every year, usually alongside cat shows under Kissaliitto or in pet store premises, for instance. Annually, SAGIK awards the agility cat of the year based on competition success during the previous year. Official cat agility competitions are, for safety reasons, held on a long table on which the obstacles are placed one after the other. By becoming a SAGIK member you receive, as a member benefit, the accurate measurements of the official agility obstacles, which allow you to build your own obstacles corresponding to the official agility obstacles for home use. Practicing with the official agility obstacles at home might help in the competition, since the obstacles are already familiar to the cat. Whether your aim with your cat is in competitions or not, cat agility is a remarkably versatile shared hobby for a cat and its owner.
Cat agility as a hobby doesn't require great investments. At its most minimalistic, cat agility can mean for instance teaching a cat to jump over the legs of a person sitting on the floor.
The article was originally published in Siperialainen 02/2020 (magazine for members).
The author is the chairman and communications officer of SAGIK, an Art Director specialized in animal well-being topics, and an expert in communications.
Agility Cats Finland SAGIK registered association www.agilitykissat.com was founded in 2001. The association aims to improve the situation of cats and to increase understanding about their needs. The association distributes information about cat stimulation and its methods, organizes official agility competitions, and communicates about cat stimulation and its methods. The association organizes online courses and is a member organization of Kissaliitto.
A little over two years ago, we moved from a terraced house to a detached house. When we moved into our terraced house, it already had a cat pen, which was one of the main reasons why we chose it as our home. And as we were house-hunting, one important criterion was that the house must have - in addition to the front door - another door around which we can build a cat pen. There some otherwise potential houses that we dumped because constructing a pen as part of the house would have been impossible, or at the very least, extremely difficult.
Sure, the cat pen does not absolutely have to be physically connected with the house, but utilising existing structures, such as house walls, means that there is less construction work and accessing the pen is easier for the cats.
Our own pen is built around the side door coming up from the basement. The door has a cat flap that they can use to freely access the pen. I usually close the flap for the night and when we leave the house. Although in the summer I sometimes let the cats spend their nights in the pen too. The pen hardly has many risky areas compared to the indoors, but at times cats moving around freely can bring about some trouble. On a few occasions, a fox has visited our yard and made all the cats dash madly inside.
The pen’s supporting poles are painted gluelam, 90 x 90 mm, and the netting is small-mesh, solid rodent net that will stop, for instance, birds from entering the pen - at least in principle. The pen roof is also made of netting. The pen area has a ladder that the chimney sweeper needs to access the roof, which is why we have a hatch you can open in the pen’s roof. The sides of the hatch provide a small chink through which an occasional curious great tit may find its way to the pen. Oh, the joy this causes among our felines! So far, we have managed to get every bird out alive, sometimes minus a tail feather or two.
The roof made of netting has its pros and cons. Part of the pen has a soil base, and the net roof allows rain to water the ground for us. If you ask the cats, the rain is totally unnecessary, but then again, they probably do not realise that the grass they love so much needs water to grow. In winter, snow sliding down from the roof onto the pen can sometimes cause problems, but until now we have been spared any major damage.
The other half of the pen was already a terrace, so we left it as it was. The terrace has a cabin made for the cats that we cover with a cushion when the weather is nice, and a chair where I sit when it is free. Well, mostly a cat is found in the chair.
We have used wooden logs and large branches from apple trees to decorate the soil side of the pen. Circling the whole pen, at the height of about one metre, we have a “windowsill” where the cats can sit and walk around the pen above the others. We also plan to create some sort of a climbing block and sitting levels even higher in the pen at some point.
The article was originally published in the magazine for members of Somakiss (somalian and abyssinian cats) in Finland
In principle, a cat does not belong to Finnish nature. A free-moving cat is a danger to the rest of nature, and to itself. However, most cats like to sniff the outdoors. Outdoors exercise can be well organized with a cat with the help of a harness, most cats get used to them well and the person walking at the end of the lead does not restrain the cat’s enthusiasm to explore and sniff their surroundings. It is easier for the servant if it is possible to build an outdoor pen for the cat or to net/glaze the balcony for outdoors use. How can a pen be implemented in the yard? Here are Nina Sillanpää’s implementations.
I originally had two cats for which I built the first pen in the bay window of my house. As the cat herd grew, pen space was increased. The yard can be accessed from the ventilation window. I replaced the outer window with a plexiglass window, to which I managed to attach a hatch for passage. With the inner window, the yard can be completely closed. For the foundations of the pen, I partially dug a brick plinth underground, on top of which I piled the wood that had been used on the railroad tracks I found on the plot. Pressure-impregnated wood of approx. 10x10 cm is also well suited for this. I used angle irons for the corners. For construction, I utilized the wood left over from building the house and, in addition, I bought pressure-impregnated wood for structures coming close to the ground, mainly to cover and secure the bottom of the net. I painted the wooden parts with exterior paint. Pressure-impregnated wood can well be used for the entire yard, saving on painting work.
The size of the construction boards depends a lot on how high the pen becomes and how sturdy it needs to be. I have a new part of the pen the height of the entire house, through which I can then access the netted balcony. The height felt pretty staggering, I made a partition/board floor on the balcony level of the yard, where I left an opening for passage. I used terrace screws for the fastening of the pen and it is also fastened to the outer walls with screws, so it is relatively easy to disassemble. The pen has a subsoil, some of which is crushed stone next to the plinth, and some lawn. You can put a so-called grass mat on top of crushed stone, it feels nicer under the paws. The pens are connected by a lower “siphon tube”, both parts of the pen can also be accessed from the outside and the doors have padlocks. Being in the pen is sometimes, especially on summer nights, so nice that a few times the cat has had to be fetched in from the outside.
For the net I used a rodent net, mesh size 1.5x1.5 centimetres. I wanted a small-mesh net so that there would be no birds or bigger butterflies, etc. in the pen. Unfortunately, wasps sometimes enter the pen, usually not by flying in directly, but if they sit on that net, they may also come inside. And yes, cats are entertained, but not me! A few paws have been swollen because of these visits. Worms, lizards and frog babies and some moths have been carried in from there as a great prey. The pen also has enough diagonal rain for the grass to grow. The net is sold in meter widths and in rolls of at least 10 and 20 meters. It is a good idea to place uprights in this width of the net to suit the fastening. The net was fastened to the wood with a stapler and a vertical rib attached to it with screws.
The roof is light cover. Between the uprights I have placed slightly wider boards for passage and rest. Otherwise, the pen can then be decorated to your liking. During the summer, cats like to sleep outside in the sun or in the shade in the summer heat; nests, baskets and hammocks can be placed in different places. I have a trunk of apple tree felled from the plot for climbing in the pen. Apple tree is nicely curled for that purpose.
The yard is in active use from early spring to late autumn. Especially the warm summer nights are very attractive, although I do not let the cats stay there at night when I sleep. And also not when I am not home myself. Unfortunately, there may be free cats or other animals moving in the yard, which will then cause confusion and quarrel between your own gang. Even when it is cold, they quickly visit the pen to wonder the snow. Pen alone is not always enough, our Kalevi and Siiri definitely want to go out in harnesses daily as well.
A pen has also been set up for the cats to stay at grandma’s. The pen has been made on the end wall of the house, access from the ventilation window of the living room. In it, the outer window has been replaced with a metal mosquito net and a cat hatch. Even in this pen, handsome apple tree trunks were obtained for climbing. The bird feeding point is conveniently located on a pine next to it, you can get close to lurk for prey. For the summer, the terrace still needs to be netted, it also makes it easier to hang out on the terrace.
The article was originally published in the magazine for members of Somakiss (somalian and abyssinian cats) in Finland
As a cat owner living in an apartment building, I often wonder how to best provide a cat with meaningful activities and a good quality of life. Nowadays, there are good books and guides for getting a cat to be active, but taking cats out in a harness in a city seems to be quite rare. You also hear a lot of prejudice against it. The learning can certainly take a lot of time and patience from the owner. In this post, I share my own experiences and tips on this topic.
The easiest way to get a cat used to a harness is to put one on it, pick it up and carry it straight out to a peaceful place. There will then be so many things to investigate that the harness will go unnoticed. It's pointless to have a cat squirm inside with a harness on; often the cat will just freeze or become anxious. Also, don't let a cat walk through the front door on its own, so it doesn't start running off into the stairwell.
Putting the harness on can be difficult at first, but gradually the cat will associate it with nice outdoor activities, and the dressing will get easier. There are a few basic models of harnesses. I myself have favoured a model where there's a strap also under the chest between the front legs (a Y-harness), so that the pressure on the cat's neck is not as strong as in the figure eight shaped harnesses. The harness should be adjusted to be sufficiently tight, so the cat can't easily wriggle out if it's scared. You can also try harnesses made for small dogs (eg. Rukka), which have a wide chest part, but you should make sure the buckles aren't too big so they weigh down on the cat. The fur of a Birman can also easily get caught on the harness if the straps are very narrow. It's worth having a small tag made for the harness with the owner's contact information, just in case. A short leather leash is best at the beginning; with a Flexi you have to stay alert in case the cat decides to climb trees or dash after birds for instance.
Getting used to going out should be started gradually and always on the cat's terms. There are also great differences between individual cats and what kind of outdoor activities they like. Our late Birman, Olli (Zhamanen Ouray SBI b), most enjoyed getting to sit in a safe and warm spot, sniffing the air. Sometimes less than 15 minutes of adventuring was enough, and the cat was very tired after going out. Our current cat Mauno (Pumpulivuori Glorious Snow Lion, SBI c21), on the other hand, is a more animated individual; doesn't really stay still but walks even long distances and happily stays outside for even over an hour. One cat enjoys going round familiar places, another exploring new environments. You should constantly observe how your cat is getting along while outside. A satisfied cat is relaxed, observant, curious, and goes about with its tail up. If for some reason the cat starts to look anxious during a walk, shrinks into a place, shakes, meows or starts to walk at your feet, the outing should be over for that occasion.
A cat in a harness draws attention. Mauno has learned to walk steadily along the side of the pedestrian/bicycle path. When you have a cat at the end of the leash, the dogs you meet show various reactions. Only a few bark, some are openly curious, and some don't know how to take it. Dog owners are sometimes a bit too excited and would like to let their dog have a sniff. A cat might, however, suddenly claw the dog, and their nails can do a lot of damage. You can never be sure of a dog's reaction, either. In the woods you're most likely to run into dogs running loose, which is the greatest cause for worry when going out with a cat. Mauno isn't really interested in dogs, but he also doesn't dodge them. For people, too, a cat on a walk seems to be a rather exotic sight. You certainly see dogs on a daily basis on the city streets, but if there are no cats in your inner circle, you seldom get to meet any, other than in cat cafés for example. You also get to answer many questions about taking your cat out and the breed in general.
Going out makes a cat more active both mentally and physically, and deepens the bond between it and the owner. Mauno seems to greatly enjoy climbing boulders, going through grass and padding along paths. Mauno has developed an understanding of the nearby areas remarkably fast, and can find his way home down to the correct exterior door. While outside, a cat is also exposed to different microbes, which is good for the health of a cat eating sterile, industrial food. If the cat or the owner is not into going out, some hay, branches, leaves, cones etc. can be brought from outside for an indoor cat to sniff and taste. The cat's vaccinations must of course be in order, and the vet should be notified of the outings when the cat is vaccinated. Ticks are a really annoying and nasty nuisance. You can get a solution for cats from pharmacies that's applied onto the skin every few weeks and kills ticks trying to cling onto the cat. It is still worth going over the fur after each visit outside, and the white fur of a Birman is quite convenient in this respect. My cats have let me wash their paws in the sink, which is necessary in the muddy conditions of spring and fall.
Cats differ a lot also in their cold tolerance. Kittens, old cats and cats with weak muscles tolerate cold poorly. A cat that's too cold begins to shiver, shrinks into a spot and lifts its paws. Strong wind can often make cats restless, because observing the environment becomes more difficult. Mauno has gone out through the Southern Finland winter, and doesn't seem bothered by rain, slush or even snow. Mainly he calmly walks across puddles, shaking his paws on the way. Perhaps such weather-resistance stems from the Siberian cat in his ancestry.
Some cats are satisfied with going out just occasionally, while others could go out several times every day. Going out with a cat is nice, but it takes commitment from the owner. If the cat is very active and enjoys being out, it might have a hard time accepting when for some reason it can't get out anymore, and the behaviour indoors may get to be very trying. It's therefore worth carefully considering whether to accustom a cat to going out. For the cat, it is certainly very meaningful, and a peaceful trip outside doesn't hurt a human either; you have much more time to experience the environment and nature when going at a cat's pace.
You can follow Mauno's adventures in the blog: https://daysoffluffiness.wordpress.com/
The articles was originally published in the magazine for members of Saint Birman's Cat in Finland
Author: Veterinarian Mimma Aromaa
I work as a veterinarian at Kaarinan Eläinlääkäriasema Oy (Kaarina, Finland). In particular, I am interested in the internal diseases of cats and dogs, ie. vomiting, diarrhoea, and weight loss - sluggish and tired patients are a daily challenge for me. I specialize in extensive abdominal ultrasound examinations. My two Burmese cats are my daily guide to the interesting soul landscape of cats.
The main function of the kidneys is to filter metabolic waste products from the blood. The kidneys also regulate the body’s fluid balance, acid-base balance and electrolyte balance. In addition, the kidneys take part in the regulation of blood pressure and red blood cell synthesis. The capacity of the kidneys to maintain normal functions is very high. This means that signs of renal insufficiency, or poor function of the kidneys, are seen only when over 70 % of kidney function is lost. Feline kidneys are capable of retaining water very efficiently due to the domestic cat’s ancestors having accustomed to very dry desert conditions. Thus, scarce drinking of normal symptomless cats is not alarming and urine produced by cats is very strong.
A cat with renal insufficiency can no longer retain water as efficiently or produce very concentrated urine typical to the species. This results in thirst, which leads to increased drinking and urinating so that the metabolic waste products are eliminated. Dehydration of the body can also cause constipation. However, increased drinking and urinating might not be the most distinct or first sign of renal insufficiency in a cat. Healthy cats that eat mainly dry kibble drink more than those eating wet or raw food. Some cats are prone to playing with water, and drinking from odd places such as the sink is normal. This means that quantifying limits for abnormal drinking is difficult and it’s important to note changes in your cat’s drinking habits. Is the cat seen drinking more than usual? Are the urine clumps in the litter box bigger than before? Is the change momentary or persistent and not explained by eg. a change in the cat’s diet?
Changes in blood values are seen when metabolic waste products accumulate in the body. Kidney values measured from blood are actually waste products of normal metabolism. The most frequently measured kidney value is creatinine, which is a breakdown product of muscle metabolism. Another common kidney value is urea (blood urea nitrogen or BUN), which is a waste product of protein metabolism. A rise in these values is indicative of impaired renal filtration. Especially the accumulation of urea leads to nausea and anorexia (a sustained loss of appetite) in the cat.
Changes in especially calcium, phosphorus and potassium are seen when the ability of the kidneys to control electrolyte balance fails. The changes in the balance between calcium and phosphorus lead to weakening of bones. Low potassium can be the cause of lethargy and weakness.
High blood pressure and anemia are common findings in the cat with chronic kidney disease, as the kidneys participate also in the regulation of blood pressure and red blood cell production. Chronic illness and poor appetite cause cachexia, or wasting syndrome, which is seen as a decline in body weight and a dry and brittle fur coat.
The most common reason for chronic kidney disease is idiopathic degeneration of the kidneys, which means that the reason for the degeneration is unknown. This disease progresses slowly and the changes are irreversible. Signs of idiopathic kidney degeneration are usually seen in aging cats over 7 years of age. It may be hereditary and is more common in certain breeds. There are also reasons that can lead to damage of kidney tissue in a cat of any age and thus lead to chronic kidney disease. For example, infections in the kidneys or elsewhere in the urinary tract, urinary obstructions, toxins (eg. certain drugs and poisonous plants), tumors, viral diseases such as FIV and FIP and disruptions of renal blood flow can have an effect on kidney function. Some of the aforementioned reasons may at first cause an acute renal injury, which might be reversible if treated efficiently and early on. In degenerative chronic kidney disease the progression of the disease is usually more straightforward. Determining prognosis and progression of the disease may be difficult in chronic kidney disease caused by other factors. In addition, the progression of the degenerative process may quicken or renal insufficiency worsen momentarily due to infections, medications or other chronic illnesses.
It is not always clear if the reason for chronic kidney disease is degeneration or another cause of renal insufficiency. Thorough patient history, signs and symptoms, blood and urine values and other examinations such as ultrasound examination of the kidneys and urinary tract and blood pressure measurement are key when assessing the situation. Kidney biopsies could clarify the situation and prognosis. However, the treatment of chronic kidney disease in cats does not differ much depending on the background factors, so renal biopsies are not routinely taken. The progression of the disease is monitored by keeping a close eye on the condition of the cat and taking blood and urine samples. Kidney values might be momentarily high due to eg. infections, obstructions, medications, dehydration and other factors. Continuously high kidney values or continuous indication of kidney disease in the urine are indicative of chronic kidney failure and the diagnosis cannot be definitively made from just one sample. All other possible reasons for renal insufficiency or the worsening of chronic kidney disease have to be ruled out and treated. When the cat’s condition is stable, staging of chronic kidney disease may be done by controlling blood and urine samples and measuring blood pressure.
The overall situation of the cat needs to be taken into account when interpreting kidney values. We cannot be sure two different cats are in the same stage of chronic kidney disease just by comparing their kidney values. The stage of chronic kidney disease is very different in a cachexic cat with moderate signs, a cat with a healthy weight and slight signs and a cat with a healthy weight and severe signs. The kidney values of the thin cat lacking muscle with moderate signs are probably falsely low due to low muscle mass. The prognosis for this cat is worse than for the cat with a healthy weight and slight signs. On the other hand, the acutely symptomatic cat with a healthy weight probably has acute renal failure, which has to be treated intensively in-hospital to support returning to normal kidney function. After this cat’s condition has stabilized, blood values need to be controlled to check for development of chronic kidney disease.
There is no cure for chronic kidney disease in cats. Life expectancy can be increased with proper diet, dietary supplements and supportive treatment. The cat needs enough water, treatment of possible constipation and it needs to be able to urinate often enough. Keeping a healthy weight is attempted with tasty food and treating nausea with medications if needed.
Control visits are planned individually with the cat’s condition, the owner’s options and the progression speed of the disease in mind. The disease is usually controlled every 3-12 months depending on these variables. A thorough physical examination, blood and urine samples, blood pressure and ultrasound examination are controlled on a case-by-case basis. The diet required for the particular stage of the disease is decided based on these results. The need for dietary supplements for balancing potassium and phosphorus, blood pressure medication and anti-nausea medication is assessed. Other co-occurring illnesses and infections need to be treated.
At regular intervals, we get customers at the upholsterer who hope to have cat-resistant fabric to their chair. I have also had a couple of cats as a customer too!
This may come as a surprise to everyone, but there is no cat-resistant fabric. There just is not. However, there are some points that can be taken into account when upholstering furniture for a cat (because everyone knows that every single chair is the cat’s own, whether the owner likes it or not).
First, I would consider whether the fabric is densely woven or not. Loosely woven fabrics with longer thread runs are outright screaming to claw them. If, on the other hand, the fabric is very dense, it cannot be gripped so comfortably with claws.
Another point to keep in mind is that cats shed hair. We have had two cats for over ten years, so one might think that this too would have been a clear thing for this upholsterer as well. But what happened? Last winter, an on-the-job learner at the upholsterer was honoured to re-upholster our own K-chair. The fabric was truly loved and carefully chosen, but two cats and two small children had done their job over the years. I had been dreaming of a felt-like woollen fabric for a long time, but I could not decide on the colour. Of the two options, I chose dark lilac, a truly beautiful shade, on the recommendation of many different people. It has turned out to be a mistake! Because that of our cats who sleeps in the chair is grey! And a fabric like that will catch every little hair. Basically, I am not that bothered about cat hair, because they just have to be accepted. If there are cats, there is hair. But at times it stings a little, as the second colour option was a wonderfully beautiful calm grey. So it is worth thinking about the materials of the fabric and the surface structure, as well as to consider how well they capture dust and cat hair. Anyway, it would be good to vacuum the furniture with a textile nozzle at regular intervals too.
My third piece of advice is not really about choosing the fabric, but I think it is perhaps the most important. Namely, the placement of chairs. Having known quite a few cats, I can say that the chairs in the living room, or some other central location, are most at risk of being clawed. So for those pieces of furniture, it is really worth considering the choice of fabric perhaps a little more precisely.
Of course, you should also make sure that the cats have enough other places to climb on and sharpen their claws. It might even work! In addition to all these tips (dense fabric, one that does not easily catch visible hair), you can only cross your fingers and hope that the cat does not get excited over the recently upholstered furniture.
PS. I am truly a cat person, the same tips certainly also apply to dogs.
Alina makes Kissapuu's sleeping pads, both of fabric and goat fur, and all fabric parts for hammock & crip platforms.
DVM Iida Niinikoski
Diabetes mellitus is a fairly common disease in the modern day domestic cat. Out of 200 cats, approximately 1-2 develop diabetes during their lifetime. In diabetes mellitus the blood glucose level of the cat is constantly too high. Feline diabetes is similar to type II diabetes mellitus in humans. The corner stones of treatment of diabetes are effective insulin treatment early on in the disease, diet and avoidance of obesity. With aggressive treatment early on combined with efficient monitoring, some cats go into remission and can be managed without insulin later on.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas. It increases the movement of glucose in the blood into cells of the body, which in turn decreases the amount of glucose in the blood. Insulin resistance occurs often early on in the disease: insulin is secreted by the pancreas, but it does not function properly in the body. This means that blood glucose levels remain high. Obesity, certain diseases (e.g. acromegaly and inflammatory conditions) as well as some medications (e.g. cortisone) are known to cause insulin resistance.
Due to insulin resistance blood glucose level is high, which leads the pancreatic beta cells to secrete even more insulin. If insulin resistance continues, the beta cells tire, and the production of insulin decreases or completely stops. Insulin production might normalize early on in the disease process if the factors causing insulin resistance are gotten under control. Lifelong treatment with insulin is needed if the destruction of pancreatic beta cells is complete. The avoidance of obesity is key to preventing diabetes. A diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates improves glucose balance and reduces insulin resistance.
Multiple risk factors besides obesity have been identified. These include increasing age, male gender and physical inactivity. Some breeds such as the Burmese cat are more at risk for development of diabetes. The typical diabetic patient is an overweight 11-13-year-old male cat who lives indoors.
Typical signs of diabetes are excessive drinking and urinating. The cat loses weight despite having a good appetite. The signs progress slowly, and it is often difficult to say exactly when they started. If left untreated, the disease leads to diabetic ketoacidosis, in which vomiting and extreme fatigue occur. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition.
If diabetes is suspected a blood and urine sample are taken at the vet. The diagnosis is based on clinical signs combined with the laboratory results. Blood glucose in cats is affected by stress (caused by a visit to the vet for example), so just a slightly high blood glucose value does not necessarily mean the cat is diabetic. A high fructosamine value supports the diagnosis of diabetes, as it describes blood glucose levels from the past few weeks.
The goal of treatment is to keep blood glucose at a level where the signs of diabetes are nonexistent and the quality of life of the cat is good. Drinking and urinating are not excessive, and the cat is bright and alert. Too high and too low blood glucose levels are avoided. The primary goal in recently diagnosed diabetic cats should be remission, in which insulin is no longer needed after the initial treatment period. This often requires tight monitoring of blood glucose levels.
The management of diabetes requires a lot of commitment from the owner. Diabetes is treated by subcutaneous injections of insulin. Usually the cats tolerate the injections well, but repetitive injections combined with tight monitoring might cause stress. The type and dosage of insulin is determined by the treating veterinarian. Oral diabetes medications are often ineffective and are not considered a first-line treatment.
Home monitoring of blood glucose levels is an important part of the treatment, especially if aiming for remission. Portable blood glucose meters are easy to use. Blood glucose curves can be done to see how low the blood glucose level drops after injection of insulin and how long the effect of the injection lasts. In some cases urine dipstick tests can be used for detection of glucose in the urine, but this is not a reliable method of monitoring blood glucose levels on its own.
A diet with high protein and low carbohydrate helps keep blood glucose levels stable. Commercial diets for diabetic cats are available. Feeding of canned food instead of dry food is recommended because of the lower caloric density and ease of portion control.
The weight of the cat is monitored at home: obesity is avoided but fast weight loss might be indicative of poor control of the disease. Intentional weight loss needs to be slow and gradual. Moderate exercise is beneficial and improves weight control and general well-being. Playing and climbing should be encouraged. Changes in appetite, drinking and urinating need to be noted. When blood glucose levels are too high, the excess glucose is excreted in urine. Glucose pulls out a lot of water with it, which increases the amount of urine and thus the amount of water the cat needs to drink.
Visits to the veterinarian are frequent especially in the beginning of management of the diabetic cat. Blood glucose and fructosamine levels are monitored. Diabetes predisposes the cat to developing urinary tract infections and urine samples are controlled. Blood tests are checked for signs of other issues, because blood glucose balance is strongly affected by different inflammatory conditions as well as other diseases. Dental care is very important. If the disease is gotten well under control the frequency of veterinary visits can be decreased.
Hypoglycemia, low blood glucose, may occur rapidly and be life-threatening. Hypoglycemia may be due to an overdose of insulin due to insulin administration issues or if the pancreas has started secreting insulin and the cat is going into remission. Administration of insulin if the cat is not eating or is vomiting may also lead to hypoglycemia. Chronic hypoglycemia occurs when insulin is administered subcutaneously even though the pancreas has recovered and the production of insulin has begun. Hypoglycemia does not provoke hunger in cats, so the situation is not corrected by the cat eating on its own. The importance of blood glucose monitoring cannot be stressed enough.
Signs of hypoglycemia in cats may be very vague and variable and range from lethargy, ataxia and tremors to coma. Rapid treatment is required. If the clinical signs are mild, feeding a meal or sugar water/honey is suggested. In more severe cases, honey can be applied to mucous membranes of the cat before transportation to the veterinarian. Severe hypoglycemia requires treatment in-hospital with parenteral glucose.
Complications from hyperglycemia, high blood glucose, develop slower than those associated with hypoglycemia. Hyperglycemia occurs when there is a problem with the injection of insulin, the insulin does not function properly, the insulin dosage is not sufficient or something interferes with insulin function in the body. Diabetic ketoacidosis develops when blood glucose levels have been high for some time and the body starts to use free fatty acids for energy. This results in ketones accumulating in the body. Signs of diabetic ketoacidosis include vomiting, anorexia, excessive drinking and urinating, fatigue and sweet-smelling breath. The condition requires aggressive treatment in-hospital.
Neurological deficits may also be seen with chronic hyperglycemia. The most typical is plantigrade stance, in which the cat walks on the sole of the hindfeet and its heels touch the ground. Muscle atrophy in the hind limbs and difficulty jumping/climbing may be seen before plantigrade stance occurs.
The prognosis of diabetes is better if treatment is started early on. Cats are masters of hiding their illness, and routine veterinary visits and blood samples help with early detection of diabetes and other diseases. Prevention of obesity is essential in the prevention of diabetes and musculoskeletal diseases among others.
Diabetes is a severe disease and its treatment requires a lot of commitment from the owner. With proper management, diabetic cats can live many years of high quality cat life.
A while ago Kissapuu.com online shop made an inquiry for Finnish newsletter subscribers and FB followers asking their opinion “What features are essential in cat climbing and scratching tree?” Participants were asked to choose from 3 to 5 features that are essential when buying a cat tree. The options were following:
a) Looks & how well a cat tree fits to own interior decoration
b) Possibility to select materials of cat tree (wood, rope & felt)
c) Possibility to choose number of platforms and their place in the tree
d) Separate & maschine-washable sleeping pads of platforms
e) Durability, eco-friendliness & possibility to replace materials of worn parts (felt, rope)
g) Firmness of cat tree for cat climbing
h) Easiness of assembly
i) Possibility to change place of a cat tree (no permanent fastening)
j) Size of cat tree (how much floor space a tree occupies)
k) Multiple payment options in online shop (bank transfer, credit card, invoice or account)
l) Fast delivery
m) Anything else, what?
101 answers were received. When purchasing a cat climbing and scratching tree the most important features were considered to be the following (ranking from 1 to 5):
This feature was considered preeminent, 70 respondents mentioned this. 19 respondents of them ranked this characteristic as most important giving it position number 1. Overall, the firmness of a cat tree was considered very important, it received most nominations also on rankings 2 to 4.
This feature was considered the second most important (in total 44 answers). This characteristic was given first prize nominations as much as “possibility to choose materials of cat tree (wood, rope & felt).
28 respondents ranked this feature as number 1. However, the outlook criteria was considered less important than firmness and durability.
Price was the fourth most important feature = 33 respondents. This criterion got only one nomination for the 1. prize, but became third in ranking for positions 2. and 3. Equally important feature was considered “Separate & maschine-washable sleeping pads of platforms”.
This was the most important feature for altogether 10 respondents, but 30 mentioned it in general.
Subsequently important elements were: “possibility to change place of a cat tree (no permanent fastening) and “possibility to choose number of platforms and their place in the tree”. The least important was “fast delivery” meaning that cat homes can plan well in advance their purchases.
The results of this small survey confirmed our opinion of a good cat climbing and scratching tree. Kissapuu Cat Tree was born by our own need. We did not find a cat tree in the market we would have wanted to have in our living room. It is important for cat’s well-being that it is able to carry out species-specific activities, i.e. climb and manicure its nails. It is also of primary importance that the tree is firm and withstands bigger cats. At the same time a cat climbing and scratching tree can be a stylish interior decoration element and eye-catcher in your living room. Also a cat tree can be design, your cat’s elegant favourite place that withstands looks and time. Nowadays eco-friendliness is self-evident. Even a cat becomes fond of long-lasting furnitures. Cat is by nature wise friend of nature and environment.
Author: Veterinarian Mimma Aromaa
I work as a veterinarian at Kaarinan Eläinlääkäriasema Oy (Kaarina, Finland). In particular, I am interested in the internal diseases of cats and dogs, ie. vomiting, diarrhoea, and weight loss - sluggish and tired patients are a daily challenge for me. I specialize in extensive abdominal ultrasound examinations. My two Burmese cats are my daily guide to the interesting soul landscape of cats.
Vomiting is one of the most common symptoms in cats. A common symptom means that vomiting is a symptom of the entire body, and therefore there may be a number of different causes in the background. Sometimes it can be difficult for the owner to distinguish between coughing and vomiting. Indeed, coughing suggestive of respiratory disease can be misinterpreted as, for example, vomiting or trying to clear the throat from hair. Vomiting is defined as a reflex series in which the pumping motion of the abdominal muscles and diaphragm causes the contents of the stomach to be emptied by pressure. During coughing, on the other hand, the cat often stretches its neck long and "pushes" air or mucus out of the airways without pumping movement from the stomach or emptying the stomach contents into the mouth. It is also normal for cats to empty their stomach by vomiting due to undigested material such as feathers and bones of prey animals. In this case, the cat may aid in the vomiting reflex by eating grass, for example. But how do you know when vomiting is worrying?
All cat owners are familiar with the fact that cats groom their fur daily by licking and plucking it. In this case, it is normal that small amounts of hair end up in the stomach and intestines. In a balanced situation, the hair passes through with the stool, and only rarely does a cat have to vomit and empty the stomach of hairballs or suffer from constipation due to hair. The balance may be shaken if abnormal amounts of hair start to move into the intestine or because of a problem with the digestive tract and the hair does not pass through the intestine normally. Especially in long-haired cats, the amount of hair entering the intestine at the time of hair loss can increase significantly. Also certain hair types may result in continuously increasing amounts of hair entering the intestine. Skin problems or excessive grooming due to pain or behavioral disorders, may also increase the amount of hair entering the gut. It is therefore always important to consider whether there is a predisposing cause for hair vomiting that could be addressed and treated, rather than just treating the hairball vomiting symptomatically. However, if persistent episodes of excessive hair loss, vomiting, or constipation have not been shown to have a clear predisposing cause, or if the cause cannot be remedied, measures preventing the hair from accumulating in the cat's stomach and intestines should be taken. Increased drinking can promote normal hair passage through the digestive tract; for example, the cat may be offered tuna or honey flavored water, or the number of water bowls can be increased by placing them around the apartment if the cat likes to drink in unusual places. To improve bowel function, a high fibre diet is recommended. Choose high fibre food or introduce fibre supplements. Cat malt, paraffin oil or lactulose can be used for short periods or as a treatment when needed, as in continuous use they may interfere with normal gut function and food absorption. Regular grooming and finishing by wiping with eg. a damp cloth is recommended to remove small loose hairs from the fur, otherwise they may end up in the cat’s mouth.
Nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting can be caused by a variety of reasons that may not involve hairballs at all. Food allergy, inappropriate food or contaminated food can trigger symptoms. Many medicines, unsuitable plants or intake of other substances known to be toxic or harmful can also cause symptoms. The digestive tract may also have an internal parasitic infection, chronic inflammation, foreign objects or a tumor. Foreign objects, such as pieces of a plastic bag or soft parts from a toy, are likely to cause only temporary vomiting, but eating a cord or eating an ear plug can cause intestinal obstruction, which can have very serious consequences. Also many visceral diseases such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, kidney, liver, biliary or pancreatic problems commonly lead to nausea, fasting and vomiting. Only on rare occasions do dental diseases cause vomiting or loss of appetite in cats, even though a food dropping, drooling cat that has abandoned kibbles and switched to wet food alone, may seem to have something wrong in the mouth. In such cases the behaviour is commonly due to nausea, and the fact that wet food does not cause uncomfort and nausea in the same extent as dry food.
The age, lifestyle and history of your cat will help determine what causes may be more likely than others. For example internal infections, inappropriate food, foreign objects, and consumption of inappropriate matters are likely causes of symptoms in young cats. A young cat from a large cattery may have symptoms due to a parasitic infection, or may carry asymptomatic giardia, which may infect older cats in the family. An outdoor cat, and especially a predatory cat, is also more susceptible to internal infections or intoxication. An indoor cat that has lived alone or in the same herd for a long time without newcomers is highly unlikely to have an internal parasitic infection. In older cats, symptoms caused by endocrine disorders and tumors are much more common.
Symptoms can be acute, ie. lasting less than a week, or chronic with symptoms for weeks, months, or even years. The severity of the symptoms can range from a mild to a very serious collapse in the general condition, where the cat does not eat, is dehydrated, in pain and even feverish. Acute and rapidly transient symptoms of vomiting in an alert and pain free cat does not require immediate examination or treatment, but if eating does not return to normal within a few days, the vomiting is abrupt and the cat cannot hold his food, is in pain or very weak, it is good to seek medical advice immediately. Most commonly, chronic wavy symptoms such as gradually creeping vomiting, on / off loss of appetite, and weight loss occur in chronic endocrine disorder, where examination and treatment is not acute. However, even in these cases, it is a good idea to consult a veterinarian in a timely manner, which often makes it much easier to treat the underlying cause or get it under control. Acute syndromes causing acute symptoms, on the other hand, are often severe and require immediate medical attention and treatment.
Reviewing the cat's history with the owner, reviewing the severity and duration of the symptoms, and a thorough veterinary examination are the most important steps for choosing the correct follow-up exam. Unnecessary tests are also avoided. In acute cases with mild symptoms, dietary changes or symptomatic treatment may be recommended without an examination, as the underlying cause for symptoms is likely to be self-healing. Acute severe and chronic symptoms often require blood tests. Occasionally, urine and/or fecal samples are also advisable. For example, X-rays can assess the size and shape of organs and the possibility of a foreign object. Often a well-performed ultrasound examination is more informative for a vomiting cat than an X-ray. This enables an examination of the structure and shape of the internal organs, indicates the possibility of a tumor or degeneration in tissues, and show the thickness, structure and contents of the mucous membrane of the stomach and intestines, as well as possible obstructions and inflammation in the pancreas and bile ducts, bladder contents, or whether there may be free fluid in the abdomen or reactive lymph nodes. The aim is to combine the various exam results to find the cause of the symptoms and then discuss treatment options and prognosis with the owner.
The article was originally published in Finnish Siberian Cats Association, issue 1/2019.
Andrea Harvey & Séverine Tasker. BSAVA Manual of Feline Practice A Foundation Manual. BSAVA 2014.
Jacquie Rand. Problem-based Feline Medicine. 1.p. Saunders, Toronto 2006.
Susan E. Little. August’s Consultations in Feline Internal Medicine vol 7. Elsevier 2016.
Etienne Côté. Clinical Veterinary Advisor Dogs and Cats. 3 ed. Elsevier, Missouri 2015
A pet going missing, running away or being stolen are a pet owner’s worst nightmares. A registered microchip is a vital tool in the case of missing pets. When found, the pet is scanned using a reader. If a microchip is detected, the furry friend can be returned home soon. Pets must always have a microchip when they are entered into a show or taken abroad.
An ID chip, or microchip, is a capsule roughly the size of a grain of rice (measuring approx. Ø1.4*8.5 mm), containing electronic parts. A layer covering the capsule/ampule enables the chip to attach itself to tissue, forming a connective tissue capsule. The chip is inserted in place using a needle-like, sterile tool designed specifically for this purpose. Microchips come in a variety of sizes. The same chips work with different animals, such as cats, dogs or rabbits. A kitten can be chipped young, at 8–12 weeks, for instance alongside vaccination. The procedure itself is similar to vaccination; the chip is inserted under the skin on the back of the animal’s neck. The chip stays under the skin as long as the veterinarian ensures the chip does not come out with the needle, or that the chip is not placed on the cat’s fur (as can happen with long-haired cats).
Inserting the chip might be slightly painful and the insertion point might bleed a little. On the other hand, some pets might not notice anything. However, microchipping an aggressive cat may be difficult, or downright impossible, meaning that it is safer to perform chipping during e.g. castration. In x-rays, the chip will be visible as a capsule the size of a grain of rice. Sometimes the chip can be felt through the cat's skin. When performed by an experienced, trained expert, microchipping should be harmless for a pet.
The chip’s functionality is confirmed by checking that it works by responding with a number sequence. The 15-digit sequence is a sort of identification code for the pet. However, it is not the same as the pet’s registration number, but rather a number sequence coded by the chip’s manufacturer, compliant with international standards. The sequence can only be read with a specifically designed reader, which transmits a low radio frequency that activates the chip, which itself has no energy source.
Since the chip can move under the pet’s skin, it is recommended to scan from head to tail, in case the chip is not found at the back of the neck. The ID chip should last for the animal’s entire lifetime, although they can break due to injuries to the chip location or surgical procedures. A veterinarian should check the microchip at every visit to confirm the chip’s and the owner’s information, including right of ownership.
A chip is useless without registration, since the chip itself only contains a number sequence. After ID-marking an animal, it must be immediately registered in a database. This prevents possible misuse in cases such as disappearances. During registration, the chip number is given and the owner's contact information is attached to it. It is recommended to register a pet in several databases, improving the chance and speed of finding the owner. Animal shelters etc. can access certain databases at any time of day, whereas others are only accessible during business hours.
Paperwork filled out during registration should be stored with your health card or registration book together with one chip number sticker. Other stickers should be stored in case you need to apply for a passport for your pet. Information about which register the chip is entered should also be stored in the same place. This information is important, since correctness of the register information is always the pet owner's responsibility.
There are four registers in use in Finland, which anyone can check to see if an animal’s chip has been registered. Information in the register about pet owners can only be accessed by register administrators, who decide to whom and under what terms should information about owners be disclosed. The chip number must be treated like one’s own personal ID, since the number can verify that the pet in question is yours when picking it up from the person who found it.
There is also an ongoing project in Finland called Miljoona Mikrosirua (A Million Microchips), whose goal is to provide affordable microchipping and registration with the help of business partners. The chips have been donated by municipalities, companies and organizations, among others. Microchipping events are organized in Finland at least bi-monthly. No reservations are needed and payments are done in cash. Microchipping specialists trained by veterinarians perform the insertion and the information is saved into a register.
Text by Julianna Hautoniemi
Originally published in Sacred Birmans in Finland association’s member magazine, issue 1/2019.