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Medical Information

  Inappropriate Urination.
The most common behavior made to veterinarians, feline housesoiling can be divided into those eliminating outside the litterbox, and those related to marking behavior. In ALL cases it is imperative that medical causes be eliminated before proceeding to behavior therapy! General history should explore changes in eating, drinking or activity patterns. Appropriate screening tests should be performed. For urine related problems, a urinalysis (including specific gravity and sediment analysis) is the minimum data base. A complete blood count with differential and serum biochemistry should be performed as a screen on any cat with suspicious findings on physical examination. Inappropriate urination may be associated with a number of medical conditions! If you are not willing to pursue medical diagnosis first, you may well be wasting your time with behavioral interventions!

Inappropriate urination occurs on horizontal surfaces outside of the litterbox and may be present in individuals of any age breed or sex. Often the location is in the vicinity of the litterbox, just not in it. Remote, private spaces may be favored (behind a piece of furniture). There may be specific substance preference (house plants, area rugs).

One common cause of inappropriate urination is dissatisfaction with some quality of the litterbox, including insufficient cleaning. Another factor may be the social relationship with other cats in the household. Evaluating both of these requires a systematic approach of determining what the cat prefers. This approach includes providing litter boxes of different types, using different types of litter, and experimenting with different locations for the box. It is helpful to keep a chart and give each change at least a week before determining it is or is not successful. Many cats don't like covered litter boxes, particularly if they feel threatened by someone or something in the environment. Location is key - make sure the box is not in a dark corner, scary location (near loud washing machine for example) or where the cat feels there is no privacy. Many cats hate the pan liners - try not using them. Some cats have a preference for clumping over clay or vice versa, many are bothered by the perfumes put into some litter. A clean litter box is a must; cleaning at least once a day is often necessary. In a multicat household, one box per cat plus one extra is recommended, with differing locations for the boxes.

Fecal housesoiling:
Again - a fecal examination should be performed to rule out medical concern - constipation, diarrhea and internal parasites. Discomfort associated with the litterbox may cause the cat to search for alternate places to eliminate.

Environmental - Litterbox. Scoop daily. Clean thoroughly once a week. Do not use scented cleaners or deodorants near the litterbox. Provide one box per cat plus one, and distribute them. Be sure litterbox not in high traffic or high noise area. Move food bowls away from the litterbox Provide both covered and uncovered box options. Offer a variety of litter. Do not use a liner as odor of plastic may be objectionable.

Inappropriate elimination sites - Place an alternate litterbox over the sites of accidents. Once the box is being used regularly, move it slowly several inches a day to a site more acceptable. Use deterrents at the site of elimination. Aluminum foil, plastic sheeting or odor deterrents such as citrus spray. Pine cones may be placed at the base of houseplants to physically deter elimination.

General management - for long-standing problems it may be necessary to confine the cat to a small room remote from the sites of housesoiling Provide the cat with litterbox, food and water. When regular litterbox use is achieved or when cat is well supervised, it can be let out of the room for increasing periods of time. Clean all inappropriate sites with an enzymatic cleaner. Use a citrus deodorant spray or doublesided tape to discourage the cat from visiting problem areas. Use an electronic sound alarm or electronic mat to deter a cat from an area where eliminations occur.

Behavior Modification - Positive reinforcement - reward the cat with a favorite treat for use of the litterbox. Punishment is rarely effective as it must follow within one second of the offensive behavior. Rubbing the cat's nose in the elimination product is not effective. Punishment associated with sounds or movements by the owner (as reaching for a spray bottle) may condition the cat to avoid the owner. Counterconditioning may be used by feeding or playing with the cat at inappropriate elimination sites.

Feline Leukemia Virus
What is it? FeLV may well be the most common cause of serious illness and death among domestic cats. FeLV causes cancer and attacks the immune system, making affected cats susceptible to many diseases they otherwise might be able to fight off. It is not contagious to humans or to other species.

How is it transmitted? FeLV is transmitted via saliva, mucus, urine, feces and blood. Mutual grooming and biting are the most likely means of transmission. Transmission via sneezing, hissing, sharing food and water bowls and sharing litter boxes is also possible. FeLV can also be transmitted from queen to kittens, however, with a FeLV+ mom only some kittens may become infected. Kittens may also convert from a positive test result to a negative one if they are able to mount a sufficient immune response. Testing may also miss infections in very young kittens, so repeated testing is recommended when they are older. The virus does not live long outside an infected cat. Warm, dry environments will deactivate the virus, and common household detergents and disinfectants can quickly eliminate it from any contact surfaces.

What does the virus do? Once inside the cat's system, usually entering through the mucous membranes, FeLV reproduces in the tonsils and lymphoid tissues. Some cats are able to mount a sufficient immune response against it and defeat the virus at this stage. If not, then the virus moves into the bone marrow.

FeLV infection is global in occurrence, with prevalence rates varying by location. The best means of preventing this disease is by preventing exposure to FeLV + cats.

Testing - The ELISA test is recognized as the preferred screening test for FeLV. The IFA (indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA) test is more appropriate as a confirmatory test for FeLV. After screening by an ELISA test, a positive test result should be repeated

Vaccination - A vaccine for FeLV became available in 1985. A two dose series followed by annual boosters, there is variable efficacy among products. Vaccination does not affect the carrier state or the development of disease in cats with existing infection, so all cats should be tested prior to receiving the vaccine.

Signs & Symptoms - Anemia, a lack of pink or red color in the gums. Weight loss. Recurring or chronic Illness. "Fading kitten syndrome" during which a kitten becomes progressively weaker. A cat syndrome similar to distemper - lethargy, fever and diarrhea. Persistent or recurring fevers infections or chronic illness, breathing difficulty or rapid breathing. Jaundice, a yellow color in the mouth or the white of the eyes. (These symptoms can also be associated with many other diseases. Pls see your veterinarian for further information).

FeLV positive cats may live for months or even years. Effective FeLV management involves preserving the health of the infected cat, preventing the spread of the infection, and early recognition and aggressive treatment of FeLV associated disease.

FIV - Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus is in the same family of viruses as FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus). They are both retroviruses. But the subfamily of FIV is different: It is a lentivirus (or "slow virus"). The other familiar lentivirus to all of us is HIV, which causes AIDS in humans. So, humans are not alone in having a virus that affects the immune system.

FIV is not limited to domestic (house) cats but can be found in the big cats as well. 84 percent of Serengeti lions harbor FIV and the virus has been identified in 25 species of cats around the globe from cougars in Wyoming to snow leopards in the Himalayas. It appears that felines have gradually developed the ability to live with the FIV virus for long periods of time.

FIV is a cat-only disease. This immunodeficiency virus (like all immunodeficiency viruses) is very species specific - so specific, in fact, that the virus domestic cats have is different from the kind the big cats have.

Don't worry, humans CANNOT catch FIV from a cat that has it.

Casual, nonaggressive contact among cats does not appear to be an efficient route of spreading FIV. Casual includes sharing litter boxes, water and food bowls or snuggling and playing. It is even unlikely for an FIV mother to give FIV to her kittens. Feline immunodeficiency virus is fairly unstable outside the cat and will not survive for more than a few hours in most environments.

No vaccine against FIV is available. Owners can protect their cats only by prev enting them from contacting infected cats. Pets kept indoors and away from free- roaming cats are highly unlikely to contract FIV infection. Ideally, catteries, rescues and multiple-cat households should test all their cats and remove any th at are infected. Once FIV-negative status of resident cats has been established, all prospective feline newcomers should be tested for FIV antibodies, and only FIV-negative animals should be brought into the household or cattery. A quarantine period of about 8 weeks to 12 weeks, followed by a repeat test, is recommended for a cat with an uncertain history of exposure to the virus, such as a stray cat.

Of course, there are all kinds of contagins out there that we all come into cont act with every day, the common cold virus is just one example. As a precaution when you are sharing equipment with a cat that has unknown history, say a stray you are helping or a cat you are helping to transport, you should thoroughly clean and disinfect or replace food and water dishes, bedding, litter pans, toys and carriers. A dilute solution of household bleach (4 oz. bleach in 1 gal. water) makes an excellent disinfectant.

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