Cat Health

Diaphragmatic Hernia in Cats-Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis

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What is a diaphragmatic hernia?   Symptoms   Diagnosis   Treatment

hernia in cats

What is a diaphragmatic hernia?

Also known simply as a hernia, a diaphragmatic hernia (DH) is a defect or tear in the diaphragm, which in turn allows the abdominal contents such as the liver or intestines to enter the chest cavity. This may either be a congenital abnormality (present at birth), or the result of trauma, such as that in a car accident or fall from a high building. When this happens, pressure is applied to the lungs, resulting in difficulty breathing. Continue reading

Cat Health

Gastrointestinal Obstruction in Cats

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Causes of gastrointestinal blockage       What are the symptoms       How is it diagnosed?      How is it treated?

Gastrointestinal blockage at a glance

  • A gastrointestinal blockage is a blockage occurs anywhere from the stomach to the intestines.
  • There are a number of causes including ingested foreign object, hairballs, tumours, heavy worm infection, twisting of the intestine, telescoping of the intestine and adhesions.
  • Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea or a complete absence of defecating, painful abdomen, loss of appetite, hunched over appearance.
  • Treatment is surgery to remove or repair the blockage.

Gastrointestinal obstruction in cats

A gastrointestinal blockage refers to the blockage anywhere from stomach (gastro) to the intestines. Thankfully gastrointestinal blockages are less common in cats than they are in dogs, however they can and do occur.

Blockages can develop anywhere along the small or large intestine, it may be partial or complete. If a full blockage occurs, food, water and gastric juices can build up behind the site of the obstruction and eventually cause a rupture.

What causes a gastrointestinal blockages in cats?

The most common cause of blockage is ingestion of a foreign body, other causes include:

  • Hairballs
  • Tumours
  • Intussusception (a condition where the bowel telescopes in upon itself)
  • Hernia occurs when part of the intestines protrude through the abdominal wall
  • Volvulus (twisting of the intestine) which may run concurrently with a hernia
  • Pyloric stenosis (a narrowing of the tract where material flows out of the stomach, most commonly seen in Siamese)
  • Adhesions (fibrous bands of tissue which can form after abdominal surgery)
  • Heavy tapeworm infestation

Ingestion of foreign body is seen most often in younger cats, commonly items include string, tinsel, clothing, rubber bands and plastic. Cats with pica (again, most commonly seen in Siamese) are at risk of developing a gastrointestinal obstruction. Tumours are most often found in older cats. Hairballs are an extremely common cause of gastrointestinal blockage, they can occur in any cat, but longhaired cats are at greater risk.

What are the symptoms of an intestinal blockage?

Blockages may be partial or complete, and symptoms will come and go. Once an full obstruction occurs, food and water can not pass and is a medical emergency. Symptoms may include:

If a complete obstruction has occurred, your cat will not pass any feces, but may vomit dark brown material with a fecal odour.

Left untreated a gastrointestinal blockage can lead to death and necrosis in the affected region, resulting in death.

How is an intestinal blockage diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination on your cat and obtain a medical history from you, including onset of symptoms. He may find evidence of a foreign body such as string in the mouth, bunched up intestines, painful/swollen abdomen. Diagnostic tests will need to be performed, and may include:

Imaging tests such as x-ray or ultrasound may reveal foreign bodies, hairballs or tumours.

Barium contrast study will be necessary to to look for telescoping of the intestines, pyloric stenosis or intussusception. This involves feeding barium to your cat which coats the lining of the intestines, then performing an xray.

Endoscopy – A thin plastic tube with a light and camera at the end is inserted into the mouth and into the stomach to look for the presence of foreign bodies, tumours etc. In some cases, if a foreign body is found, it may be able to be removed at this time. Tissue samples may be taken during endoscopy.

How is an intestinal blockage treated?

Your veterinarian may need to stabilise your cat before treatment commences. This will involve the administration of IV fluids to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Most cases of gastrointestinal obstruction require surgery. That includes tumours, hernias, twisted or telescoped intestines and pyloric stenosis.

  • Strictures may be stretched via endoscopy, or in severe cases where scarring has occurred, the affected part of the intestine may need to be surgically removed.
  • If death has occurred in the intestines, that portion will need to be surgically removed.
  • Anti worming medication to treat tapeworm.

Preventing gastrointestinal obstructions:

Obviously not all conditions can be prevented, however foreign body ingestion can be reduced by not allowing your cat to play with string, thread. Cats should be groomed at least once a week, more often if you have a longhaired cat.

Cats prone to hairballs can benefit from having fibre added to their diet or the addition of lubricants (such as butter) to help the hairballs pass through the body. Read here for more information on home remedies for hairballs.

Cat Health

How To Get Rid Of Cat Fleas

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How do I know my cat has fleas?   Effects of fleas   Can I catch fleas from my cat?   Treating fleas   Long term flea control

Cat fleas at a glance

  • Cat fleas are a common parasite that live on the fur and skin of cats, feeding on the cat’s blood.
  • Transmission occurs when a cat comes into contact with fleas in the environment, another animal or even when humans bring fleas inside.
  • Fleas not only cause discomfort but can also transmit diseases, parasites and cause anemia.
  • Symptoms include itching, scratching and in many cases an allergic reaction to the saliva producing crusty sores on the back and around the neck.
  • Treatment is twofold, killing fleas on the cat and in the environment. Veterinary prescribed flea treatments are the most effective, they come in topical form applied to the skin on the neck or tablet form.

 

How to get rid of cat fleas

How do I know if my cat has fleas?

Most pet owners are unaware their cat has fleas until they notice their cat scratching. Some cats can have very heavy infestations without being bothered, other cats are extremely sensitive to the saliva in a flea bite and just one flea can be enough to cause him to itch and scratch.

The most common signs of a flea infestation include:
  • Itching, biting and scratching, especially around the neck, ears and around the base of the tail.
  • Crusting papules and sores: Some cats are sensitive to the saliva in the flea bite and may develop crusting, this is particularly common along the back and around the neck.
  • Salt and pepper: You may notice flea eggs and droppings in his coat or bedding. Flea eggs are white, droppings are dark red, giving the appearance of salt and pepper.

To check for fleas, carefully go through your cat’s fur, paying close attention to the base of the tail and around the neck. Cat fleas are brown in colour with a flat body, and approximately 2 mm in length.

Effects of fleas on your cat

Fleas are more than a nuisance, they can have a serious impact on your cat’s health and comfort. Heavy infestations can lead to anemia, especially in young kittens.

A lot of cats develop an allergy to flea saliva, which is known as flea allergy dermatitis, an extremely uncomfortable condition characterised by itching, biting and scratching along with multiple papules. Left untreated, repeated biting and scratching can damage the skin and lead to a bacterial infection.

Fleas have the potential to transmit a number of diseases on to cats including tapeworm, plague, bartonellosis, tularemia, feline infectious anemia and rickettsia.

Life Cycle of the flea

cat fleaTo combat fleas, it is important to understand their life cycle. There are 4 stages of the flea life cycle, known as metamorphosis.

Only 5% are actually adult fleas which would live on your cat, the remainder are found in the environment in the form of eggs (50%), larvae (35%) and pupae (10%). It is absolutely vital to treat both your pet and the environment (home and garden) if you are to combat fleas.

1) Adult flea: The adult flea emerges when it is stimulated by environmental factors such as vibrations, warmth or breath of the host. The flea can come out of its cocoon within seconds of stimulation. The lifespan of an adult flea is around 2 – 3 months. The adult flea is around 1.5 – 4mm long, and dark brown or black in appearance. Adults suck blood from their host. Adult fleas begin laying eggs within 36 – 48 hours of their first blood meal. A female flea consumes up to 15 times her body weight in blood per day.

2) Egg: At .5mm in length, flea eggs are barely visible to the human eye, the female flea lays approximately one egg per hour. The flea egg is whitish, smooth and dry and easily falls off the coat into the environment. Flea eggs hatch in around 1 – 10 days, depending on conditions. Flea eggs and flea droppings are often found together. When the cat scratches the eggs along with the droppings fall off the cat. The droppings provide food to the larvae when they hatch. The eggs and droppings together have the appearance of salt and pepper.

Environmental conditions such as humidity, light, and temperature determine how quickly and how many flea larvae hatch from flea eggs. The lower the temperature, the fewer larvae will hatch. Optimal conditions for flea larvae to hatch are 70% and higher and temperatures of 21 – 32 degrees C (70 – 89 degrees F).

Flea eggs fall off the cat when it jumps, scratches, moves and sleeps. Eggs are found all over the home, but in their highest concentrations in your cat’s preferred spots such as bedding.

3) Larvae: The larvae are vermiform (maggot like) like in appearance and up to 6mm long, flea larvae avoid light by residing deep in carpet fibres, under furniture and rugs and in crevices. At this stage, they have no legs or eyes but have chewing mouthparts. Flea larvae feed on adult flea excrement, food debris, and dead skin.

4) Pupae: This is the transition stage between larvae and adult flea. After approximately 7-18 days the flea larvae pupate. It takes approximately 7 – 10 days for the larvae to develop into a flea, although it may be some time before the flea emerges from its protective cocoon. They are at their most resilient as pupae, and resistant to insecticides.

The flea larvae spins a sticky, protective silken (produced by the saliva of the larvae) outer cocoon, covered with particles of debris such as dust, hair, lint etc. The pupae are found in carpet fibres, crevices etc., and are virtually undetectable.

Can I catch fleas from my cat?

A heavy infestation may lead to fleas taking the occasional blood meal from humans, but they generally prefer to live on cats. Signs you may have been bitten by a flea include itching and scratching and a small, red, papule. Humans are most often bitten around the ankles and feet.

Treat your cat

This is a two-pronged approach. Treating the cat and the environment (your home/outdoors), both of which have to be done at the same time.

There are many products available to treat fleas on cats. Flea collar, shampoo, flea combs, spray, tablets, powders, insect growth regulators and topical treatments. The most effective products are the spot-on or oral suspension treatments which are available from your veterinarian. It is possible for fleas to develop a resistance to some products, speak to your vet for his advice on the most effective flea control treatment.

Flea collars

There are many different types of flea collar on the market. Some are insecticide only and work by killing adult fleas on the cat. Other flea collars contain IGR’s to kill the eggs and larvae.

Flea collars often only kill fleas on the cat’s head and neck, but fleas further down the body survive.

Shampoo/Dips

There are many different types of flea collar on the market. Some are insecticide only and work by killing adult fleas on the cat. Other flea collars contain IGR’s to kill the eggs and larvae.

Flea collars often only kill fleas on the cat’s head and neck, but fleas further down the body survive.

Flea Combs

Flea combs aren’t overly effective, only removing 10 – 50% of fleas on your cat. If you wish to use this method place a small bowl of water with some detergent in it close by and drop the fleas into the bowl. This will drown the fleas. Placing a small amount of petroleum jelly onto the teeth of the comb will help the fleas stick to it.

Flea Powders

Flea powders will kill adult fleas on the cat. Powders may cause the cat’s coat to dry out and also may be irritating to the cat’s oral and respiratory mucosa.

Oral suspensions

Program® is given to cats via an oral suspension once a month. The product is added to the cat’s food and is absorbed into the bloodstream. When a flea bites a cat treated with Program it ingests the active ingredient (lufenuron), which is passed to her eggs and prevents them from hatching. As this product only prevents eggs from hatching, an appropriate adulticide will also be needed to kill adult fleas. Seek advice from your veterinarian before using more than one product on your cat. It is also extremely important to speak to your veterinarian if you are considering treating a pregnant or nursing cat. They will be able to recommend the safest treatment for your cat.

Spot on treatments

Topical adulticide. There are several effective products on the market which are administered via a liquid form to the cat’s shoulders. These are available through your veterinarian or online pet product store. These products are very effective for killing adult fleas on your cat. The active ingredient varies from product to product. The application is generally once a month.

Cat Flea Sprays

There are some effective cat flea sprays on the market. Frontline make such a spray. Wear rubber gloves while applying the spray to your cat while ruffling the coat. Avoid contact with the eyes and mouth.

Injections

Program is a flea treatment which is injected under the cat’s skin once every six months.

Tablets

Capstar and Comfortis are administered orally once a month to treat fleas. Comfortis also treats flea allergy dermatitis. I have used this product on my own cats, one of whom had terrible FAD and it was the only product that finally worked.

When applying a flea product to a cat it is important to follow the instructions on the packet to the letter. Cats are extremely sensitive to chemicals and if you are using one than one product your cat may be exposed to too many toxins, resulting in sickness or death.

Revolution also kills worms (except tapeworm), so makes life a bit easier for pet owners, according to the Bayer site, Advantage cat flea control, also kills flea larvae in the pet’s environment too.

Rotating flea products may help increase effectiveness as fleas are becoming resistant to some flea control products.

After administering flea products, closely observe your cat for adverse reactions.

Warning: Don’t ever use flea products designed for other pets on your cat and ALWAYS follow the dosage chart on the back of the packet.

Natural cat flea repellents

If you would prefer a chemical-free flea repellent, you can try the following.

  • 50 ml apple cider vinegar
  • 50 ml water

Mix together in a spray bottle, spray onto your hands and stroke into your cat’s coat as well as on your cat’s bedding and other areas your cat frequents. You can also add two drops of catnip essential oil to increase effectiveness.

Food-grade diatomaceous earth can be applied to floors, bedding and your cat’s coat. Avoid the head and face as it can be irritating if inhaled.

Remove fleas by hand using a flea comb. This is a good method, especially when removing fleas from young kittens (under 6 weeks of age) who are too young for most chemical flea products. When removing fleas, flick them into a bowl of hot soapy water to drown them.

A word of caution when using natural cat flea products

Always be careful with essential oils on or around cats. Remember these oils are concentrated and many are toxic to cats even in low doses. I frequently see people advising the use of tea tree oil as a natural flea treatment, but this is toxic unless diluted to 0.1-1%. So avoid using, or use with extreme care and only at a safe dilution. Just because something is natural doesn’t make it safe.

Garlic should also be avoided as this is toxic to cats.

Treat the environment

Indoors

Vacuum: Flooring and carpet prior to spraying your home, paying close attention to skirting boards, under furniture and other nooks and crannies flea larvae love to hang out.

Frequent vacuuming will also remove fleas and their eggs. One useful tip is to put a flea collar in your vacuum cleaner bag. When vacuuming, pay extra attention to corners, skirting boards, under furniture and any other nooks and crannies. Also vacuum furniture, curtains etc. This is where the larvae love to hang out, eating dust and debris, so it is vital that you thoroughly vacuum. Once you have vacuumed, clean out the bag and dispose of carefully. Ensure that every time you vacuum, you empty it out the bag or canester to prevent any fleas escaping.

Cat flea fogger

Use an insecticide (fogger): To treat the house and environment you can either hire the services of a professional pest controller or buy a product from your local supermarket. Most DIY products come in the form of an aerosol “bomb”. Prior to letting the bomb off you and your pets should temporarily vacate the premises. Be aware that flea bombs are toxic to other animals, so all pets (including fish) need to be removed prior to bombing.

IGR’s: (insect growth regulators) disrupt the cycle of the flea. They prevent eggs from hatching, kill larvae and prevent adult fleas from reproducing. These most often come in as a bomb/spray.

A pest controller should be able to spray your house and garden for fleas. It is important to specify that you have cat(s) living in the house, so they can use a suitable spray which is safe for pets.

Wash rugs, cat bedding etc., in the hottest possible cycle. You can also spray unwashable bedding with flea sprays such as Frontline.

Treat outdoors

Cat fleas

Fleas can infest your garden and outdoor buildings too, so while you are treating your cat and house, also pay attention to your garden.

Spray areas your pet tends to hang out, and if he has bedding in the garden, bring it in and wash it.

You will need flea bomb any outdoor buildings such as garages and sheds, especially if your cat hangs out there.

Keep wood piles stacked and away from your home.

Long term flea control for cats

Regular application of a good quality flea control on your cat is the best method of flea control. Ensure your cat’s bedding is regularly washed in hot water and hung outside in the warm sun to air dry.

Cat Health

Roundworms in Cats – Symptoms and Treatment

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What are roundworms?   Transmission   Symptoms   Diagnosis   Treatment   Prevention

roundworms in cats

What are roundworms?

Also known as ascarids, roundworms are a common intestinal parasitic worm. There are two species which affect cats, Toxocara cati and Toxascaris leonina. Infection with T. cati is most common.

Roundworms feed upon the intestinal contents, competing with the host for food. They are around 3 – 5 inches long with a spaghetti-like in appearance.  Both T. cati and T. leonina are found throughout the world. Continue reading

Cat Articles

How to stop a cat from hunting

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How to stop cats hunting

One of the few downsides of owning a cat is the fact that many of them like to bring their humans gifts in the form of a dead or worse, a half-dead animal on the doorstep.

Even a well-fed cat will do this as it is in their nature to hunt. Not only is this a huge issue for native wildlife, many of whom are already suffering the effects of increased urbanisation, but it also puts your cat at risk of injury (from said animal) poisoning and parasitic infection. Continue reading

Cat Health

Heatstroke in Cats-Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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What is heatstroke?   Symptoms   Should I treat it at home?   Veterinary treatment   Preventing heatstroke

Heatstroke in cats

What is heatstroke? 

Medically known as hyperthermia, heatstroke is a life-threatening medical condition in which the body’s internal organs (liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, and brain) begin to shut down as a result of elevated body temperature caused by high temperatures and humidity.

Cats protect themselves against high temperatures by panting and licking their fur, however, they can overheat very easily. More so than humans, as panting isn’t a particularly efficient way to cool down the animal.

The normal body temperature of a cat is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.2 to 39.2 Celsius. If the outside temperature is warmer than the cat’s internal temperature heatstroke is a very real possibility.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency which can lead to organ dysfunction, blood clotting disorders, coma, and death. It must be treated urgently.

Symptoms of heatstroke in cats

  • Rapid panting
  • Bright red tongue
  • Dark red gums
  • Salivating (drooling)
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Lethargy
  • Capillary refill time of less than 1 second. To test this, lift your cat’s upper lip and place a finger on the gum applying a small amount of pressure. Remove your finger, and you should see the gum has turned white. Time how long it takes for the area to turn pink again.
  • Vomiting (possibly with blood)
  • Diarrhea (possibly with blood)
  • Bleeding from the nose (this is indicative of disseminated intravascular coagulopathy [DIC]), which is a condition in which the blood clotting system fails.
  • Coma

How to avoid heatstroke in cats

  • Never leave your cat in a parked car, even in the cooler months, but this is especially important in hot weather. If you are travelling with your cat in the car, provide adequate ventilation or use the air conditioning.
  • Provide shade. If your cat is allowed outside (either free to roam or in an enclosure) make sure they have access to a shaded area where they can escape from the sun and heat.
  • If your cat is indoors only, give him access to a cool area. It is especially important not to confine the cat to any room where temperatures are especially high, such as a sunroom. Rooms with large windows or east facing rooms (in the Southern Hemisphere) tend to become hotter in afternoons so make sure your cat has access to cooler parts of the house. Cool flooring such as tiles and slate can offer relief. My dogs like to lie on the kitchen floor on hot days as it’s away from the sun and has slate flooring.
  • Drinking water. Always ensure your cat has an adequate supply of fresh, cool, clean water, indoors and outdoors. On warmer days, add some ice cubes and make sure you have more than one water bowl. Locate bowls out of direct sunlight.
  • Avoid strenuous activity in high temperatures.
  • Limit exposure to the outdoors in the hotter months. 11.00am and 3.00pm are the hottest times, so keep your cat indoors during this period.
  • Keep the home cool with air conditioning or a fan. Keep your cat indoors during hot days, and if possible with the air conditioning or a fan turned on.
  • Closing blinds or curtains can help to keep the room cool.
  • Catsicles. Popsicles for cats can be a novel way to keep your cat cool when the heat hits. These can be made from lactose-free cat milk (available from your supermarket) or canned cat food. Add milk or wet food to ice cube trays and freeze overnight. Take one or two frozen catsicles out as a cool treat.
  • Cold water bottles. Fill old soft drink bottles with water (don’t fill right to the top as water expands when it is frozen). Take out and wrap a towel around the bottle. Place where your cat sleeps.
  • Glasshouses, sheds and garages can become extremely hot. Always check before closing doors to ensure your cat hasn’t snuck in.
  • Think for your cat. I have found that even on extremely hot days my cats won’t always move themselves to a cooler part of the house, sometimes you have to do it for them.

Are any cats at greater risk of developing heatstroke?

Any cat can develop heatstroke however some are at greater risk.

  • Brachycephalic breeds with short faces such as Persians, Himalayans, and Exotics.
  • Old cats.
  • Very young cats.
  • Sick cats.
  • Obese cats.
  • Cats with heart conditions.
  • Cats with medical conditions which affect breathing.
  • Pregnant and nursing queens.

Should I treat my cat at home and how?

Mild heatstroke (body temperature of 104°F or 40°)

  • Move him to a cool/shady spot, turn on air conditioning or fans if possible to cool the cat down and help with evaporative cooling.
  • Slowly bring the cat’s temperature down at home by wrapping him in cool, damp towels. Keep water away from the mouth and nose.
  • Spray the cat with cool water.
  • Apply ice packs or frozen vegetables to the head and between the legs.
  • Put rubbing alcohol on the cat’s paws and legs to assist in bringing the temperature down.
  • Offer plenty of cool, fresh water to drink.

Once the body temperature has returned to normal, stop cooling or you may cause hypothermia in your cat. Monitor your cat’s rectal temperature, every 5 – 10 minutes. Once you have brought your cat’s temperature down take him to the vet. The cat may appear to be over the incident, but the damage may have been caused to the organs, so it is always recommended your cat is given a check over by a veterinarian.

Moderate to severe heatstroke (body temperature is 105F or 40.5C)

Take the cat to the vet immediately. If possible, have somebody else drive, while you attempt to bring down the temperature on the way via the above methods.

When not to treat your cat at home: 

  • If you don’t have access to a thermometer to determine the body temperature
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Bleeding
  • Having seizures
  • Unresponsive
  • Body temperature over 105 F or 40.5 C

Take your cat to the veterinarian immediately.

 

Treatment:

Some ways your veterinarian will treat your cat are as follows:

  • Decrease body temperature. Your veterinarian will carefully bring your cat’s body temperature down to a safe level. He will introduce cool fluids to the body either intravenously or by administering a cool water enema.
  • Oxygen therapy will be given if your cat is having difficulty breathing.
  • Intravenous fluids will be given to treat dehydration.
  • Cortisone injections. Heatstroke can be associated with swelling in the throat, aggravating the problem. Your vet may give the cat a cortisone injection to treat this. [1]
  • Monitoring. Your cat will be carefully monitored for signs of kidney or liver failure or disseminated intravascular coagulation.

Aftercare:

Cats who have suffered heatstroke are at greater risk of developing it again. So it is important to take the necessary steps to avoid this.

Carefully monitor your cat’s health for signs of possible long-term damage caused by the heatstroke and speak to your veterinarian if you see anything unusual.

Watch for blood in the urine.

Your veterinarian may prescribe a special diet which will put less strain on the damaged kidneys.

References:

[1] Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook by Delbert G. Carlson and James M. Giffin.

Cat Care

Preventive Care For Cats – How To Keep Your Cat Safe

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Preventive care for cats

Sharing your life with a cat is a rewarding and enriching experience. Cats have so much to offer including love and companionship. But we must face the fact that along with this comes the responsibility of caring for their physical and emotional wellbeing. Cats will get sick from time to time, but there are ways to reduce the chances of this happening. Below are some suggestions.

Continue reading

Cat Care

How to Kitten Proof a Home

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Kitten proofing your home

Before you bring your new cat home it is important to spend some time kitten proofing to ensure the house is safe for your new addition.

One useful way to visualise potential hazards is to look at your house from your cat’s level. Bear in mind that kittens are adept climbers and jumpers, and are quite capable of accessing areas several feet from the ground. Continue reading