Oh, the life of a cat owner! From 2:00 a.m. zoomies, to “I-can-see-the-bottom-of-the-bowl” catastrophes, to not being able to have “nice things” – maybe they all balance out when one is the Honored Chosen Lap. The bond between feline companions and cat owners is special but can also be stressful! As an ER veterinarian (and a fellow cat owner!) there are five things I wish I could tell all cat owners before their kitties meet me in the emergency hospital.
1. Straining in the litter box warrants a vet visit.
If a cat is going in and out of the litter box, seek immediate veterinary care. This behavior coupled with no urine clumps is a sign of a urethral obstruction – a very life-threatening condition. Even if there are clumps, your cat could still have urinary tract disease, diabetes, or constipation. Changes in litter box behavior often hint at a problem that shouldn’t be ignored.
2. Was that toxic or not? Call and double-check!
Unfortunately, our homes contain many potential hazards to our fur babies. Items like chocolate and grapes are more well-known, but others aren’t. For cats, two of the most common toxins are:
- Human Medications
- Medications are another serious danger. Don’t leave them on the counter or even in a bag on the floor. Also, be careful not to drop medications when taking them. A pill may look like a toy or treat to your curious kitty.
- It is also common for a well-meaning owner to dose their cat with human medications. If you are concerned that your cat is painful, DO NOT give them human medications, including Tylenol or aspirin. Instead, consult with your family veterinarian about safe pain control and appropriate dosing.
If you are uncertain if your cat ate something toxic, call your family veterinarian, local animal ER, or animal poison control center. They will help confirm if an item is toxic and recommend what to do next.
3. Chronic intermittent vomiting is NOT normal.
Vomiting is NOT something cats “just do.” If your kitty vomits more than once monthly, schedule an appointment with your family vet. Several diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease or lymphoma, can cause chronic vomiting that may not seem frequent enough to be alarming. Learn more about vomiting in cats here.
4. Cats can get arthritis, too.
Your geriatric cat or overweight kitty may not be “slowing down” due to old age. It’s possible that, like humans and dogs do, your cat may have developed arthritis. Cats are masters of hiding pain so there may be no obvious limp. Instead, your cat may show signs of arthritis via these behavior changes:
- Avoiding jumping on and off furniture, counters or a cat tree
- Having accidents outside of the litter box because entering and exiting are now more difficult
- Being cranky or irritated when touched on the lower back or pelvis
If any of these ring true for your cat, talk to your family veterinarian about medications and modifications to help.
5. We understand that your kitty is usually not this angry, whirling dervish that we see in the clinic!
If your kitty is “a handful” at the veterinary clinic, please don’t let that delay a needed visit. If you’re visiting your family vet, inform the staff beforehand so they can be prepared. Your family veterinarian may also suggest an anxiety-reducing medication such as gabapentin, which can be given prior to a visit. Find more tips for a fear-free vet visit here.
Unfortunately, in emergency situations, medications provided in advance of the visit won’t be an option. Please know, however, that emergency teams are well-trained and comfortable dealing with kitties that turn into lions!
We hope you feel better able to interpret what your cat may be trying to communicate, as well more informed as how to avoid some potential emergencies. In order to make their cat’s visits a more positive experience, we encourage cat owners to build a trusted relationship with their family vet. If you have any questions or concerns about your cat’s health or behavior, consult with your family vet before it becomes an emergency!
Are you also a dog owner? Check out our “Five Things Emergency Vets Want Dog Owners to Know” article, written by Dr. Ally Thell, one of our emergency veterinarians.