This is another topic I am very passionate about! It is estimated that by middle age, 50% of cats will have one or more resorptive lesions. You can see why I find this disease so important as it can be a very common source of pain for many cats!
It saddens me to know that so many cats are suffering from dental pain and disease, yet they barely show us that they are in pain or discomfort. In my opinion, dental and oral pain is one of the worst types of pain!
So what are feline resorptive lesions?
Feline resorptive lesions are a common source of dental pain for cats, and are caused by their own cells (odontoclasts) eating away at the tooth from underneath the enamel. Initially they will start as smaller holes, usually hidden under the gumline, but if left to progress they will become very large and lead to nerve (dental pulp) exposure. If you ask any human that has had dental pulp exposure, they will be able to tell you just how painful it is, especially when eating – ranging from sensitivities to sudden, sharp and intense pains in the mouth. There are different ‘types’ of resorptive lesions (type 1 and type 2) however for the sake of this blog, I won’t be elaborating on the different types of tooth resorption.
Signs of feline resorptive lesions
As cats are well known to be the masters of hiding disease, many owners do not know that their cat has resorptive lesions. In my experiences, upon finding resorptive lesions in a cat in annual health checks (the ones that can be visualized above the gum line that is!), I have had many owners say to me “Well, the cat still eats so it can’t be that painful”. If the cat doesn’t eat, it will starve and die. I don’t know about you, but if I had a sore tooth but no access to dental care, I probably wouldn’t just starve myself and die. An animals natural instincts generally stop them from doing this, so they often just put up with the pain and continue to eat as best as they can.
Some signs that may indicate your cat has a resorptive lesion include:
Reluctance to eat (looking like they WANT to eat by going to the food bowl, but then only eating a small amount or not at all)
A preference to wet/soft food or not eating hard food such as cat biscuits or treats
Reluctance to chew or chewing on one side of the mouth
Pawing at the mouth
If your cat will also let you look in it’s mouth at home, you may not see the lesion itself (see photos below), but instead you may see inflammation or redness of the gums, swelling of the gums, or a build up of tartar over the teeth.
Your veterinarian will likely also recommend dental x-rays at the same time as the dental procedure to detect any resorptive lesions underneath the gum line.
How can resorptive lesions be fixed?
The most common treatment for resorptive lesion is extraction of the affected tooth. Although this may seem like a drastic treatment option to some, removing the source of pain will improve the patients’ quality of life significantly! Fillings are not an adequate treatment option for resorptive lesions, as the lesion will only continue to progress underneath the filling.
If you feel like your cat may have a resorptive lesion, please contact your veterinary clinic to schedule a check up! Picking up resorptive lesions early will save your cat from a lot of pain and discomfort!
This is a topic that we frequently educate new cat owners about when they adopt a cat or kitten. Often they already have another cat at home, and want to give both their cat at home and their new cat the best chance possible for a successful cat friendship!
I may have said this before, or if not, you will probably hear me say it again: cats are control freaks.
It is important when introducing two cats, that they both feel like they are in control of the situation at all times (in other words just letting them loose in the house together straight away is not going to make them feel like they have control over the situation, and may result in an unsuccessful introduction…)
Here are some tips to help ease the stress of introducing a new cat into the home, which hopefully leads to a successful adoption and long-lasting (or at least tolerable) friendship!
Initial arrival at home
Create a safe and separate area for the new cat to settle into
Undoubtedly, your new cat is going to be a little stressed about moving into a new environment and may feel the need to hide for at least a couple of days following arrival.
Set your new cat up in a separate room or bathroom with the door closed at all times so they can’t interact with your resident cat. Ensure the new cat has all of the essentials – litter tray, food bowls, water bowls, comfy bed and lots of hiding spaces!
Feel free to sit in the room quietly as much as you like, so the new cat can get to know you. If they want to hide, do not force them to come out of their hiding place – they will come out to greet you when they are ready.
Allow the new cat to settle into this separate room for approximately a week, before attempting to progress with any of the next steps. It’s important that they feel comfortable in their new space before introducing any new stressors.
Start introducing each other’s scents and pheromones to each other
Wipe down the new cat with a towel, and leave the towel around the house for your resident cat to smell in his or her own time. You can also do the same for the new cat, by providing a towel with the resident cats smell on it too.
Once your new cat feels comfortable and relaxed in their separate space, it is time to do a room swap!
Without letting the cats visualize each other, put your resident cat into the new cats room, and allow the new cat to explore the rest of the house. This may need to be done multiple times, until the new cat is comfortable and relaxed about being in the rest of the house. You want the new cat to know where the best places to hide or sit are in the house when you do finally introduce them, in case it becomes overwhelmed!
Feeding outside the door of the new cats room
Place your resident cats food bowl outside of the new cats room, just near the door. By this time, your resident cat will likely know there is another cat in there. The main aim of this exercise is to associate being near the other cat with good things (food!). Ideally when doing this, feed high reward food (i.e. your cats favourite food) such as wet food, meat, treats, etc.
After 1-2 weeks, if both cats are coping well with the prior steps, its time let them see each other!
Temporary fly screens can be purchased for doorways from your local hardware store or online. These screens are ideal for a controlled introduction – it allows the cats to see each other but they still have a physical barrier between each other. Alternatively, pop-up domes can be purchased for Kmart which you can place the new cat in. If you are using the pop-up dome method however, ensure that the dome contains a hiding place (cat carrier, or an upturned box with an opening cut out of it) for the new cat to hide in if they become scared or overwhelmed by the presence of your resident cat. The pop-up dome method can sometimes make worried cats feel trapped!
Over the next few days, continue to bring them closer together through the screen/pop-up dome with the use of rewards (treats, toys, etc.)
Once both cats are comfortable with viewing each other through the screen and/or pet dome, we need to start thinking about resource availability.
Once again, we need to remember that cats are CONTROL FREAKS so they need to feel like they have constant and uninhibited access to all the things they want and need.
The number and locations of litter trays is very important! Not having enough litter trays in appropriate positions can lead to a lot of tension between cats. You must ensure that the number of litter trays equals the number of cats in the household plus one. So for example, if you have 3 cats in your household, you need 4 litter trays in total.
If possible, have litter trays in two separate rooms (e.g. litter trays in the laundry and a bathroom) to allow private access to litter trays if one of the cats is already utilizing one. If you are only able to have litter trays in one room, ensure they are spaced out as much as possible. If litter trays are too close together, often cats will view it as one big litter box.
Food and water stations
As with litter trays, food and water stations do need to be separate from each other. I recommend multiple water bowls throughout the house, and food bowls separated from each other by at least 2 metres.
Multiple safe places to sleep and hide
Cats love to view their world from above, so ensure access to at least two cat scratching towers. You can also create sleeping places within cupboards or free-standing shelves, or if you are in a position that you’re able to within your home, you can install cat shelving.
Spending quality time with each cat
Whilst it is important to create a bond with your new cat, it is also important to make an effort to maintain a close bond with your resident cat. Spending quality time with your resident cat can be done by ensuring the two cats are separated into rooms, and feeding your original cat treats, playing with a cat wand, etc.
Supplements and pheromones
Feliway – A synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone. This is the pheromone that cats leave naturally when they feel safe and secure in their environment (this is what they are leaving behind when they rub their face on furniture, your hands, etc.)
This may help ease the anxiety of a new cat in the household
Feliway have also released a “feliway friends” pheromone, which is targeted at reducing conflict in multi-cat households, however it is yet to be released in Australia.
Zylkene– a supplement (contained in a capsule) for cats that contains a natural product derived from casein, a protein in milk. It is a molecule well known to promote the relaxation of newborns after breastfeeding.
It helps pets cope when facing unusual and unpredictable situations and can be used before, during and after occasions such as a change in their normal environment (i.e. a new cat moving into a new household, or the resident cat experiencing a new cat in the household).
The best way to administer to cats is by opening the capsule and sprinkling onto their wet food. It is well known to be very palatable!
What to expect
Don’t expect them to be friends immediately – the process takes time and patience! On average, cats will take 6-8 months to form a ‘friendship’ of sorts.
There will be hissing, stand-offs, tail swishing and the occasional bops over the head – this is fine! Just as long as it does not progress to biting, scratching and kicking.
Not all cats will progress to a friendship in which they groom each other and cuddle in the same bed. Even if they just go about their daily lives tolerating each other without any signs of aggression or resource guarding, it’s a win!
Not all cats will tolerate another cat in the house. If you have tried all the options above, and your cat still isn’t coping with having another cat in the house, it may be time to re-consider your options. This is particularly necessary if either cat is having medical problems as a result of the stress (see my previous blog post on idiopathic cystitis).
Thank you for taking the time to read, and hopefully these steps help your new feline friend transition seamlessly into your household!
This blog post comes following some sad news this week. One of our cats that had been adopted a couple of months ago, passed away under general anaesthetic during a routine desexing operation.
We were absolutely devastated to hear this news, and extend our deepest sympathies to her beautiful foster family.
The veterinarians that were performing her procedure suspect she may have been suffering from feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).
Whilst FIP is relatively rare, it is a very serious disease with a 100% mortality rate, no effective treatment or cure, and is extremely difficult to definitively diagnose.
FIP is commonly referred to as the silent killer because cats often don’t show any clinical signs until very late in the course of the disease, as was the case for the beautiful kitten we lost recently.
So what causes FIP?
The virus that causes FIP is actually CORONAVIRUS!
While coronavirus is a ‘new’ virus to many, we have been dealing with it for years and years in the veterinary industry! Please do not get confused though – the coronavirus that causes FIP in cats, is very different to the current pandemic-causing coronavirus (COVID-19).
The thought of people in this world not understanding the extent of how serious the coronavirus pandemic is OR that the pandemic isn’t even real, is very frustrating for me when we see coronavirus infections so often in veterinary medicine, not to mention how scary it can be if these viruses mutate. I’ll explain more about the mutation of the virus below!
It is not uncommon for young kittens to become infected with coronavirus. The coronavirus that infects kittens is called an enteric coronavirus, meaning that the virus focuses on the gastrointestinal tract,and most kittens only experience symptoms such as fever, lethargy and diarrhea. Occasionally they can also experience sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal discharge. It is transmitted by close contact with other infected cats faeces (sharing litter trays, cats housed in groups, etc.)
Once infected, symptoms and shedding of the virus (i.e. when they are contagious to other cats) can last for several weeks! Because this virus loves to circulate between cats living in households together, some cats in households with more than 5 cats may see frequent re-infections.
So why don’t more cats become infected with FIP, if coronavirus is not an uncommon virus in cats?
Many cats infected with coronavirus won’t progress to FIP. In rare cases however (i.e. those that progress to having FIP), the virus will mutate at just the right time. While the immune system is frantically trying to remove coronavirus from the infected individuals gastrointestinal tract via specialized cells called macrophages that eat up all infected material within the body, the virus undergoes a mutation within the cell.
The mutation allows the virus to survive within the macrophage cells, and essentially hijacks these cells. The virus is then able to spread to other areas of the body. As the body tries to kill the infected macrophages, a major immunologic dysfunction occurs, which then leads to organ dysfunction, and in some forms of the disease, fluid build up in the chest or abdomen.
What are the symptoms of FIP?
Following infection with coronavirus, it can take weeks, months or even years for FIP signs to develop.
Initially most cats show non-specific signs such as lethargy, decreased appetite, weight loss and fever. Most of these initial signs are very subtle, and often owners don’t even see these signs, due to cats being very good at disguising signs of illness. They are well known to be the masters of disguise!
In the later stages of the disease, FIP can take on two forms, wet (effusive) and dry (non-effusive).
The wet form often presents in the later stage with fluid accumulation in the abdomen and/or chest.
The dry form tends to progress more slowly, and signs are subtler due to deep inflammation within the nervous system and eyes. The dry form tends to cause more neurological signs in the end stages, such as seizures.
As I mentioned earlier, cats are remarkably good at hiding signs of disease. In my experience, owners sometimes blame themselves for not seeing signs earlier when we find they have a large accumulation of fluid in their chest or abdomen. Or in the case of one of our adopted cats recently, they seem perfectly fine right up until they undergo a stressful event, such as a routine desexing.
I always remind owners that unfortunately cats are masters at hiding signs of illness, and will continue to hide them from their family right up until the end.
Why isn’t there a test available for definitive diagnosis of FIP?
While there is a test for coronavirus, there isn’t a test available to diagnose FIP. This is due to the mutation that occurs to the virus, leading to FIP in some individuals. The mutations are random, and there are too many different mutations that occur to be able to diagnose them all on one test.
If your veterinarian suspects your cat may have FIP, a number of preliminary tests can be performed. These are not definitive tests, however the veterinarian may be able to make assumptions based off a number of findings.
These tests may involve:
Blood tests to check protein levels
Tests to check if the cat has previously been infected with coronavirus
Testing fluid that has been drawn off the chest and/or abdomen if present
Surgical biopsy (however most kittens are too unwell for surgery by this stage)
So if there is no treatment, can we do anything for palliation?
Unfortunately there is currently no cure for FIP.
There are palliation drugs available, such as medications that suppress the immune system, however nothing has proven to be very effective so far.
What increases the risk of coronavirus mutation within a cat?
Risk factors that have been associated with increased chances of mutation within a cat infected with coronavirus include:
Overcrowding conditions (i.e. more than 5 cats in a household) and in breeding catteries
Shared litter trays
Early weaning from the mother cat
Should I be concerned if one of my cats is diagnosed with FIP – will any of my other pets catch the disease?
It is likely that the other cat has been infected with coronavirus, as coronavirus is contagious. The mutated form (FIP) is not contagious. Littermates may have an increased risk of developing FIP due to genetics, however it cannot be passed on to other cats.
It is also species specific, so cannot be passed onto humans, dogs, etc.
April 2020 – October 2020
Please feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments.
In my time as a veterinarian in Darwin, and especially since we founded the rescue A Safe Place for Meow, I have diagnosed and treated A LOT of ringworm!
This fungal skin disease has had me fascinated from the very beginning.
When we were in our very early days of the rescue, we didn’t realize just how common ringworm infections in the stray population of Darwin truly was. Until we had a pretty major outbreak within our foster network!
We then had a very steep and fast learning curve when it came to ringworm. I am still constantly working to expand my knowledge on this pesky fungal disease, however my knowledge levels on ringworm (compared to just over a year ago) is pretty substantial!
As a rescue, we are very passionate about treating stray cats and kittens that have been diagnosed with ringworm. We always struggle to find foster carers who will foster cats with ringworm and cat flu (so if you’re reading this and considering fostering for a rescue, please consider offering to foster cats with ringworm! I can assure you they will be over the moon to find a ringworm carer!). I think it may be because the foster carers are worried they will catch ringworm, however as I explain the disease below, you will find it is relatively easy to treat in humans and it’s actually not as scary as everyone thinks!
So, pleas enjoy the information about ringworm below. I have also included some pictures I have taken during the diagnosis of ringworm (the ringworm glows a spectacular apple green colour!) and some amazing ‘before and after’ shots of one of my very special foster cats called Ash. Ash had the worst ringworm I have ever seen, however after 8 weeks of treatment, we successfully cleared it and he went on to find the purrfect forever home.
What is ringworm?
Despite its name, ringworm is not caused by a worm!
Also known as dermatophytosis, ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin.
What does ringworm look like?
In humans, ringworm lesions are often red, circular and itchy. In animals (and in particular cats), lesions can vary in appearance. Some lesions will appear red and hairless, whilst other lesions can be grey and scabby, or more rarely can present as small lumps under the skin. They very rarely present as the typical ‘ring’ appearance that occurs on humans.
How is ringworm transmitted?
Ringworm is transmitted by arthrospores. These spores are created by the fungi splitting up into small microscopic fragments, and are very infective.
The most common way for these spores to spread to other hosts is by direct contact with an infected cat, however they can also be transmitted by contaminated bedding, brushes, and exposure to a contaminated environment.
Can ringworm be transmitted to humans?
Yes, ringworm can be transmitted to humans however usually only to those that have an impaired immune system (e.g. HIV positive, undergoing chemotherapy, on immunosuppressive medications) and young children
If you do become infected with ringworm, it is easy to treat – usually involving treatment with topical creams only
If you have a cat in your home that has been diagnosed with ringworm, it is unlikely you will catch it if you maintain good hygiene (hand washing, regular cleaning of environment, frequently removing dust, etc.)’
How does the veterinarian diagnose ringworm?
It is relatively easy to diagnose ringworm, as in most cases, when the lesions are inspected under a UV light, the spores fluoresce a bright green apple color!
This is my favorite part about ringworm. I have seen some pretty spectacular glowing cats! Although from a rescue perspective, it always makes your heart sink a little when you are checking out a suspect lesion and you see those characteristic apple-green spores.
Other ways to confirm the diagnosis that the veterinarian may opt to perform is skin cytology (taking samples from the lesion and looking for spores under the microscope) and fungal cultures (sending samples to the external laboratory for analysis).
How do you treat ringworm?
Treatment of ringworm generally involves a combination of whole body washes, topical creams and oral medications depending on how severe the infection is.
If there is only one single lesion, your veterinarian may only prescribe a cream and a wash, however if there are multiple lesions, your veterinarian will probably recommend a combination of medications.
The oral medication most commonly used is called itraconazole due to being the most effective and safe oral treatment available for dermatophytosis.
Here are some photos below of just a few of the many cats I have bathed for ringworm! The wash I have used is a miconazole/chlorhexidine wash (the brand we currently use is Malaseb). It is important to leave this wash on for ten minutes, and then rinse it off thoroughly. Do not allow them to lick the wash before it is rinsed off!
In addition to medications, it is important to reduce contamination of the environment by the spores created from the fungal lesions. This includes regularly cleaning surfaces, floors and bedding. Previous studies recommend a general clean of the environment should be performed twice weekly for the duration of treatment.
One of the most effective and easily accessible antifungal cleaning products is household bleach (diluted with water at a dilution rate of 1:100) or any over the counter bathroom or general disinfectants with a label claiming to be effective against Trichophyton mentagrophytes (Athlete’s foot).
As always, consult your veterinarian if you suspect your cat may have ringworm. In addition to having your veterinarian create a personalised treatment plan for your cat, it is also important they are seen for regular check ups throughout the course of treatment to ensure the ringworm is clearing!
Ash – ‘Before and After’ photos:
Ash with ringworm as a newcomer to the rescue – he was missing clumps of hair everywhere, and his skin was so scabby and sore that it hurt him to walk! He was basically a walking ringworm lesion!
Ash after 8 weeks of treatment! Ringworm free and ready for his forever home.
Please feel free to leave comments below if you would like me to create a more detailed post about anything I have mentioned above, or if you have any questions or feedback!
This is my favourite disease of all time to educate clients about!
Whilst it can be a very frustrating disease, with some patients experiencing recurrent bouts of FIC throughout their lifetime, there are many different options for management and treatment.
Environmental modification and enrichment has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of clinical signs by 70-80%, which in my opinion is pretty outstanding! Just by improving your cats home environment, it is likely you can effectively manage this disease for the rest of their lives with very minimal long term costs.
This post is just an overview of the fascinating topic of feline idiopathic cystitis, and treatment options will be elaborated on in future posts – so stay tuned!
Feline idiopathic cystitis is a chronic sterile inflammation of the bladder. Although they may show symptoms of having a urinary tract infection, there is no infectious component (i.e. bacteria) contributing to the bladder inflammation.
Studies have shown that in young cats showing urinary tract symptoms, less than 2% will actually have a true urinary tract infection.
It is likely that there are multiple factors that lead to sterile inflammation of the bladder including interactions between the bladder wall, the nervous system, the adrenal glands and the environment.
Symptoms may include:
Increased frequency and/or urgency of urination
Straining to urinate
Urinating in unusual places (towels, sheets, sinks, showers)
Blood in the urine
Behavior changes (aggression, hiding)
Distressed crying (while urinating or near the litter tray)
FIC can be classified into ‘obstructive’ or ‘non-obstructive’
Non-obstructive FIC occurs in approximately 80-95% of cases, and symptoms will usually resolve within 1-2 weeks
Obstructive FIC occurs in approximately 15-25% of cases. Obstructive FIC causes the urine to be unable to drain from the bladder. This is a potentially life-threatening condition, and symptoms include, in addition to those listed above, lethargy, vomiting and/or inappetance. Obstructive FIC predominantly occurs in male cats due to their narrow urethra, however can still occur in female cats.
Diagnosis of FIC:
FIC is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning all other causes of urinary tract inflammation must be ruled out. Other causes of lower urinary tract signs include a urinary tract infection, urine crystals and bladder cancer.
First, your veterinarian will need to evaluate a urine sample from your cat. Ideally, the urine sample is retrieved via a short procedure called cystocentesis. This procedure is performed by inserting a small needle through the skin and into the bladder. The urine sample is sent to an external laboratory for comprehensive testing. Your veterinarian may also request blood tests.
Risk factors for FIC:
Some cats are more prone to FIC. As stated above, this is usually a combination of factors including genetics and the environment.
Cats that are more at risk of developing FIC include:
Male cats (especially neutered males)
Overweight cats and sedentary cats, with very little exercise
Cats in multi-cat household, particularly when there is tension between cats
Cats in a new or different environment to their usual routine
Cats that eat mainly dry food or cat biscuits (leading to inadequate water intake)
Cats that do not have adequate number or size litter trays
There is currently no cure for FIC, and due to the waxing and waning nature of the disease, goals of therapy are to reduce the severity and duration of clinical signs. Treatment also aims to prolong the time between FIC episodes in cats that experience recurrent FIC.
Treatment includes a multi-modal response, including:
Environmental modification to reduce stress
Multiple and separate resources such as food and litter trays (particularly in multi-cat households)
Hiding places and high viewing points
Increased play, exercise and human-cat interaction
Outdoor runs and enclosures
Increasing water intake and diet management
Low calorie weight loss diets
Specific urinary health diets
Pet fountains to promote drinking water
Increasing wet food component of diet
Litter tray management
Increasing the number and locations of litter trays in the house – particularly in multi-cat households (one litter tray per cat PLUS one)
Trialing different types of litter – your cat may have a preference!
Increasing the size of the tray
Use of medications (over the counter and prescription from your veterinarian)
I always recommend an examination by a veterinarian each time your cat has a recurrence of FIC to ensure that they are not experiencing a life-threatening urinary obstruction. By working with your veterinarian, the aim is to reduce the severity of symptoms during a FIC flare up, and reduce the frequency of recurrence long term.
My name is Sophie Huxley and I am located in the beautiful city of Darwin, Northern Territory.
I graduated from Murdoch University in Perth at the end of 2018, and moved straight to the Northern Territory. I love Darwin’s beautiful warm winters (also known as the dry season) but I am equally as obsessed with the humid Darwin summer and its spectacular tropical storms during the wet season!
Whilst I treat all small animals (dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.) I have always had a special spot in my heart for our feline friends.
At university I was president of the ‘Feline Interest Group’ and did many hours of work experience at feline-focused veterinary hospitals throughout university.
Once I moved to Darwin, I met a fellow cat-obsessed friend and colleague named Kelly, and together we formed Darwin’s only feline rescue – A Safe Place for Meow.
Although I have only been a Veterinarian since 2018, I have been working in the veterinary industry for over 10 years and have gained a vast amount of experience from other feline-focused colleagues. In addition to this, when I am not busy with the feline rescue, I am always working hard to expand my knowledge on feline behaviour and medicine.
I am very passionate and fascinated by feline behaviour and fear free handling at the veterinary clinic. Many people avoid taking their cat to the vet due to the fear of how their cats may react at the clinic! This can lead to serious health issues going undetected and untreated.
I also strive to educate owners about how they can reduce their cats stress levels at home, particularly for those with multiple cats within a household and for cats that have been diagnosed with stress cystitis (also know as idiopathic cystitis).
So, that is why I created this blog! For all the cat owners, soon-to-be cat owners, or maybe also those who don’t have a cat but are just as fascinated by them as I am! I’m here to help you decode cats, by providing articles about all things feline such as behaviour, environmental modification and common feline diseases and illnesses. I am also planning on sharing some interesting and heartwarming cases and stories with you all about cats/kittens that we have in our feline rescue. Enjoy!