Is “Whisker Fatigue” something to worry about?

Here’s an informative article from Cat Faeries’ Feline Editor at Large, Issac Newton, who happens to know a few things about cats and their food bowls.


Newton’s Purrspective – The Importance of Dishware

Lately I’ve been seeing references to something called “Whisker Fatigue” which claims that when a cat’s whiskers touches or rubs against the sides of a food or water bowl it creates an unpleasant sensation. True, a cat’s whiskers are so sensitive that we can detect even the slightest change in air currents around objects (such as furniture). This is one of the reasons blind cats can get around so well. http://animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/question592.htm Some people believe that this ultra-sensitivity can cause sensory overload when cat whiskers brush against the sides of a food dish.

We have read that symptoms of Whisker Fatigue include refusal to eat, food scattering, feline acne and even attacks on other cats in the home. The proposed solution is a flattened dish that doesn’t rub sensitive whiskers. Could this be true, is it truly “a thing” to be concerned about?




Isaac Newton

To date I can find no scientific evidence to support Whisker Fatigue as a clinical problem. There are far more likely explanations for the symptoms. However, the choice of food dishes is important to health and happiness for you and Kitty. Things to consider include:

  • Size and age of cat
  • Type of food
  • Personality
  • Dental or other mouth problems
  • Location of food bowls

Despite the numerous internet photos of cats wedging themselves into tight places we cats prefer our food be easily accessible and located in a quiet place far from smelly litter boxes. Common sense says that the dish should be the appropriate size for the cat. For example, if you give a little kitten canned food on a large plate he will certainly walk all over it during the meal. If a bowl has high sides the kitten is likely to tip it and spill dinner all over the room.

In general the dish should have the appropriate height sides to keep the food in place. Otherwise some pieces will inevitably end up on the floor. Many cats lick, rather than bite, canned food, pushing it around and flicking it onto the floor as they eat. Whether you feed canned, homemade or kibble the angle of the sides is important. A rounded shape is better than perpendicular vertical sides that can trap food and lead to feline frustration. (They are also easier for you to clean.)

For those of us in touch with our wild side mealtime behavioral quirks can result in a less than tidy dining area. Many cats just have to “kill” their food. Some cats pick up a piece of kibble and shake it as they would if it were freshly caught. Other cats scoop food out of the bowl as if they were fishing for salmon in a stream.

If Kitty is not eating, a medical problem is more likely the reason than the wrong china pattern. Make sure your cat does not have dental conditions such as loose teeth or infected gums. Even if your cat is hungry, pain may cause food avoidance. Dropping food, especially from one side of the mouth, is a symptom of dental pain. A sore mouth is sure to lead to general grumpiness, so it’s no surprise that tempers are short particularly with other cats in the house. If you can’t look inside Kitty’s mouth at least smell her breath. Bad breath is another indicator of problems. Please see your vet if you suspect dental disease. Catching it early will prevent more serious problems later.

Older cats may have arthritis or other conditions which make it more challenging to eat from a high sided dish. They are also more likely to have lost teeth and consequently be on a diet of soft food. Senior cats tend to be less fastidious about grooming. If Kitty doesn’t clean all the food off his chin use a damp washcloth to gently remove it. Feline acne occurs when food and debris clog pores and lead to skin infections. If you think the dish shape is a problem then experiment until you find one Kitty likes. And putting a placemat underneath helps with spill cleanup.

Overall the material and cleanliness of the dish are far more important than the shape. Plastic dishes scratch easily leaving crevices that harbor bacteria. Harmful chemicals can also leach out of plastic. Plastic dishes should be avoided or at least replaced as soon as they show any sign of wear.

Ceramic bowls are popular because of the bright colors, designs and varied shapes. Although safer than plastic they can still chip or develop micro fractures where bacteria hide. You would also need to test the piece for lead – do not assume that because the maker said they used a lead free glaze, as you read in a previous article (Is that cute cat food bowl really lead safe? (maybe not!)) if the kiln is old and ever fired pieces with lead based glazes cross contamination will occur.

Stainless steel is popular with veterinarians and kennels since it is unbreakable and does not harbor bacteria if cleaned with nonabrasive cleanser. However, it lacks the charm of ceramic or glass so few people use it at home for their feline friends.

Daily cleaning is essential no matter what type of dish you choose. Biofilm, sometimes referred to as slime, can accumulate even if you are only feeding dry food. The moisture comes from Kitty’s saliva and brews up a mixture that attracts nasty bacteria that could be life threatening in some situations. http://www.catfaeries.com/blog/your-cats-water-bowl-do-you-know-about-biofilm/ A second set of dishes that can be rotated daily will simplify the clean dish routine. Use a good quality nonabrasive cleanser and be sure to rinse thoroughly with hot water. Or put in the dishwasher.

You can’t be too careful when it comes to feline health. We recommend dishes made from high quality materials, always manufactured in the USA. Pyrex is always a good choice and the bowls come a huge variety of sizes suitable for food and water.

In closing since we didn’t find any medical articles to validate the term “whisker fatigue” we think it’s a good marketing ploy. Also, the bowls we found were rather expensive ($45 and beyond!) and were usually not made in the US or they wouldn’t tell us where they were made.
 
 
 
 

Are essential oils safe for your cat?

Cat Faeries gets about 30 emails a week asking if we carry essential oils, and if we don’t, they want to know why. We also hear from people who have essential oils confused with flower essences, which are what Cat Faeries specializes in and are two very different things. And these are great questions! One is a volatile plant oil, and the other is purely vibrational, the vibration of a plant or flower, not actual plant material.

In 1982 Auntie Cat Faerie got her first certification as an aromatherapist and believe me when I tell you, in 1982 NO ONE knew what on earth that was, the word actually scared them! Auntie Cat Faerie went on to get 4 more certifications during the 1980’s. (just a little obsessed are we?!) But by the early 1990’s the term aromatherapy was being misused and overused so she got out of that field not wanting to be associated with a modality that had corporations who make those toxic “air fresheners” but began to call them aromatherapy, or with people who had zero training or background who got involved in multi level marketing selling essential oils to friends and co-workers. Also, aromatherapy was never a good term for essential oil usage as the smell is only one part of the benefits of this healing modality – Essential Oil Therapy would have been better. Anyway, the oils penetrate skin, enter the blood stream, and can affect all vital organs, therefore on must be highly trained to recommend or administer them. And understand the species they wish to work with.

Sir Issac Newton our “feline editor at-large” wanted to give our readers the scoop on essential oils and their use for cats. Before you pounce on that story I’m going to tell you about a use for one essential oil, oregano oil, which will prove how effective the oils can be – as well as – how strong these volatile compounds are.

You’ve heard about “oil pulling” with coconut oil? If not, you would take a spoonful of coconut oil, and add ONE drop of oregano oil to it, put it in your mouth and swish for 15 to 20 minutes, first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything, to remove toxins and freshen the mouth. Yes, 15 or 20 minutes seems like an eternity to swish something in your mouth so to distract myself I feed the cats and check email – the time flies. When the time is up spit it out in the trash (not the sink) and rinse with water or use a dedicated toothbrush. My dentist is blown away by my progress because I had a history of gum disease which is 100% resolved from the swishing. I try to swish again before bed, after flossing, and interestingly the two oils always seem to find and dislodge a particle or two that I missed flossing! Now this is where essential oil therapy comes into play and its truly fascinating – the added oregano oil is so potent that it literally has kept me from accumulating any tartar. As you know tartar is so rock hard at the gum line or clinging to teeth needs to be chiseled off by a dentist. Well, if oil swishing with one drop of oregano oil has keep Auntie Cat Faerie tartar-free (truly, my mouth is a tartar producing factory) you can imagine what too much could do if ingested by a person and small animal like a cat. The best of the holistic veterinarians we know, like Cheryl Schwartz, says NO to essential oils for cats. Many cats have died or ended up in the Kitty ER from essential oils.

As a side note, our Catnip Meow Mist is a hydrosol which is the watery run off during the process of making essential oils. Catnip doesn’t yield much in the way of essential oil (don’t trust anyone who says that it does, it will be fake if they are selling it) but it makes a divine hydrosol and it’s perfectly safe for a cat, baby, or any being to come in contact with. Can this be said about other hydrosols? Maybe yes, maybe no – it would depend upon the plant used.


Newton’s Purrspective – Essential Oils – Should They be Used on Cats?

Essential oils are all the rage for people these days. Uses range from plain enjoyment of the fragrance to treatment of actual physical ailments. The oils can have therapeutic value, but many factors determine the quality of the extracted plant oils.

These include:

  • The plant itself and what part is used
  • Climate and cultivation methods
  • Timing and method of harvest
  • How the oil is produced and stored




Isaac Newton

How many people do the research to determine if the essential oils they purchase are high quality? Are they likely to do what the company claims? Do they contain impurities which could be harmful? To date, there is no regulation.

That said, I’m not surprised that the use of essential oils for cats remains highly controversial. One of the attractions of the oils for people is the scent. Cinnamon! Eucalyptus! Lavender! Cats’ noses are very sensitive (one of the reasons we prefer unscented cat litter) and we are unlikely to find enjoyment in such concentrated perfume.

Some people use the oils for perfume as well as therapy. A drop or two of lavender is said to be calming for people. However, it is unlikely to have the same effect on Kitty. Also, remember that anything you apply topically to a cat is likely to be licked off in minutes. Oils may be safe for humans to ingest, but cats have a different metabolism and sensitivities to chemical compounds.

Essential oils are highly concentrated. Some, such as the popular Tea Tree Oil, can cause serious skin irritation if not diluted. This, of course, is a danger in applying any oil directly to a cat’s skin. Also remember that oils are fat soluble. They cannot be simply rinsed off. And, once absorbed by the skin they can travel to any part of the body containing fat.

Most oils can be distributed into the air using a nebulizing diffuser. Although much less concentrated than direct inhalation the mist could still be an irritant to Kitty’s delicate nostrils. For safety’s sake some recommend using a diffuser only in a part of the house with no cat access.

The bottom line is I could find no evidence that essential oils should ever be used on cats. The potential hazards are far too great.

However, cats can still enjoy the benefits of plant compounds. Hydrosols come from steam distillation of plants used for aromatherapy. The result is a much less concentrated plant essence. Auntie Cat Faerie explained to me that this is the process used to produce Catnip Meow Mist. I love this for freshening up my Cat Faeries toys. I didn’t mind pieces of dried catnip all over the floor, but it triggers the need to vacuum in some people.

Flower essences are the safest product available for your cat. They are generally made from an infusion of plants and flowers picked at their peak. However, Cat Faeries is one of the few companies using a special process that is in harmony with the natural and healing spirit worlds.

Unlike oils, flower essences have no scent. Cat Faeries flower essences also lack alcohol, vinegar or anything else that would taste bad. They can be sprayed on furniture, added to food or water, and even applied directly to Kitty. The Flower Essence section lists more than a dozen scenarios and directs you to the appropriate product for your cat or cats. If you are unsure, send an email to Auntie Cat Faerie. She will be happy to answer your questions.
 
 
 
 

A Reader’s Experience Working At A No-Kill Cat Shelter

Trisha has written for us before. She’s charming young lady who’s always got something to say. This time it’s about her experience as a volunteer at a no-kill cat shelter with some tips on how a volunteer can ease the load for employees so they can get more done.

As a former volunteer I’ll add a bit about how being a cat shelter volunteer has hidden perks for people. During my orientation at the San Francisco SPCA they said that many volunteers reported that their time there was better than therapy. I took that to mean: “Walk in depressed, walk out happy and at peace.” One high school aged girl who was trapped at her abusive parent’s house until she turned 18 said she could tell the cats all of her problems which became less of a burden because the cats listened. Others said that it gave them a mental health break from their own mind’s chatter. And dog walkers reported significant weight loss.


My Experience Working At A No-Kill Cat Shelter

By Trisha Miller

For the last 8 months I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering weekly at a no-kill cat shelter near me, called Simply Cats. Due to time constraints I’ve had to stop volunteering for the time being, but I enjoyed every second of it. If you have a few hours of your day to dedicate to a shelter in your area, I highly suggest that you do so. Even if on a small scale, I knew that I was making a difference in these cats’ lives. I was helping to provide them with a safe, clean home and did my best to provide them comfort. What’s more, I helped to relieve some of the full-time staff so they were able to attend to critical matters that demanded their attention. If you’re wondering if volunteering is right for you, I’d like to share my experience with you and hopefully help you form your own conclusion.

Why Volunteer?

I started volunteering at my local shelter simply because I’m a cat lover and I had a free day each week with nothing to do. Why not help out some cats and make the lives of the shelter employees a little bit easier. In addition, one of my two cats is a rescue cat, and sadly was not living at a no kill shelter. If I wouldn’t have chosen to take him home I’m afraid the worst possible imaginable scenario might have taken place. That being said, I have a soft spot in my heart for rescued animals.

If your local shelter is anything like mine, then you’ll agree that shelter employees have very little time to do so many tasks, and can really use the help. Running the shelter, greeting guests, accepting cats, and trying to organize events is more than enough to make an employee feel overwhelmed, I’m sure.

On top of all of that, my local shelter has about 20 individual rooms that house cats in each. These rooms need to be attended to twice per day. When you have, on average, two or more cats in each room, the room gets messy in a hurry. They need someone to clean up the mess and to just be with the cats and comfort them during their stay.

My Job Duties

My assignment at my particular no kill shelter was to clean the rooms of the cats. As I mentioned before, this needed to be done twice per day. So, I stepped in for an earlier shift on my off day, which only took up about 2 hours of my day. I would scoop litter, clean all surfaces, sweep and mop, and make sure the cats had fresh water. After I was done making sure their living area was sparkling clean, I was able to just enjoy my time with the kitties, play with them, and pet them (the best part!).

As volunteers we also had the opportunity to spread awareness about the shelter via social media and throughout the community. My shelter has regular events that we were encouraged to attend in order to help raise funds to keep the shelter open and get the cats all the necessities for maintaining a fulfilled and happy life while they are at the shelter.

What You Need to Know

A friend of mine recommended that I volunteer at the shelter because she is currently a volunteer as well. We discussed the possibility back and forth and among my many other delights, I was especially happy to volunteer for a no-kill shelter. However, even if you choose to volunteer at a no-kill shelter, you should prepare yourself for some things you might see or learn during your stay.

Some cats do come from hoarding or abuse situations. My local shelter has a veterinary staff on hand to help any kitties that need medical attention. You may come into contact with cats that have illnesses or impairments due to their neglect or abuse. So, you’ll want to mentally prepare for that before you walk in the door. As heartbreaking as it is to see, all of the cats that I encountered with illnesses or impairments were completely healed, thanks to the dutiful veterinary staff, and were as full of life as any other cat I came across in the shelter.

All in all it was an absolutely wonderful experience that I am sad has come to a temporary close. I plan on volunteering again as soon as my schedule opens up again and I suggest that you do the same if you are able. There is simply no experience like it. It is extremely gratifying, fulfilling, and rewarding!

Have you volunteered at a shelter? I’d love to hear about your experience 🙂
 
 
 
 

The Dangers of Sharing Meds With Your Cat!

Newton’s Purrspective – Don’t Share Your Medications

Numerous websites warn people about the dangers of certain plants or household cleaners. Too often these sites group things as “toxic to pets”. “Pet” is too ambiguous to be truly useful. Do they mean dogs and cats? What about rabbits, turtles, gerbils and any other small animal that may share your home? Even if we narrow it down to dogs and cats there are far too many differences to generalize. We need to consider: 1. the likelihood of exposure and 2. the species specific sensitivities to various compounds.




Isaac Newton

Anything that is easily accessible (e.g. houseplants), or introduced into a cat’s environment (e.g. disinfectants used on bedding), should be “cat safe”. The internet can be wonderful, but, as I wrote recently, the information may not be reliable. As a start, check a reputable website for plants http://www.petmd.com/cat/emergency/poisoning-toxicity/e_ct_poisonous_plants and other household toxins https://www.edf.org/health/where-are-toxic-chemicals-your-home . Household chemicals are unlikely to have species specific warnings so please consult your veterinarian before using them around your feline friends.

Another, less discussed, hazard is medications. Doctors warn humans not to share prescription drugs. Labels for over the counter medications are required to state the maximum safe dose (along with other precautions). But what about unintentional sharing?

What would happen if you dropped one of your prescription pills on the floor and couldn’t find it? A puppy uses taste to explore his environment so your pill could be gone in seconds. But I’m a cat. If I found a pill on the floor I might find it fun to bat around for a while, but eat it? – not likely! We cats are more cautious about these things, but some adventurous felines may ingest medication by licking or carrying a pill while playing with it. If you misplace a pill call your veterinarian (or poison control center) to find out what signs to look for if Kitty has indeed ingested it.

The real danger of human medications to cats is being dosed purposely. If Kitty has arthritis, diabetes or allergies you may be tempted to give her something you have on hand for yourself. The AVMA website lists medications that are “poisonous to pets” https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Poison-pills-for-pets.aspx . Some of the medications listed may actually be prescribed for cats in a veterinary practice. However, the appropriate dose will be very different from that for a human. At best, the wrong dose will be ineffective, at worst it could be fatal.

Veterinarians don’t calculate dosages based on weight alone. They also figure in factors such as:

  • Age
  • Other diseases or conditions
  • Other medications Kitty is already taking

Please seek professional advice before giving cats human medication.
 
 
 
 

Why Your Cats May “Act Up” When It’s Spring

Dear Auntie Cat Faerie,

For some reason my little “darlings” are picking on each other again. Looks like a job for Comfort Zone! Plus a couple of new toys should help.

Thank you !

Mary


Hi Mary,

Sorry to hear that the little dears are acting up. This isn’t an unusual occurrence in Spring as there are some outside cats who aren’t fixed and this is when they go into heat or start popping out kittens. Unaltered cats prowl around outside looking to mate and to mark territory they spray hormone filled urine on our plants, bushes, trees, patio furniture, cars – and the worst: our doors! The smell of hormone spiked urine smells really strong, and it can be threatening to an indoor cat. On top of that there is sound – our spayed/neutered indoor cats hear the unaltered cats caterwaul in a high pitched sound that can scare them, put them on edge, and sound like a territory threat.

The sounds and smells of such outdoor cats upset many indoor cats which causes them to fight among each other, or the worst: they might retaliate and pee outside of the box or spray urine in the house. Even when cats are spayed or neutered, like yours are, they seem to go into a phantom heat of sorts also which heightens their sensitivity and causes some fighting or territory battles among a family of cats. It really seems that mating and territory impulses can run deep in the DNA! Cats being cats, they are very sensitive to all sounds and smells as these two senses are part of how cats communicate.

Cats like people have unique personalities, likes and dislikes, tolerances and intolerances. Some house cats care greatly about these smelly noisy intruders, yet other indoor cats don’t care one bit!

Thank you, as always Mary it’s a delight to hear from you, and I hope the “darlings” have calmed down from the Convivial House Cat and Comfort Zone and that they are enjoying their new toys!

Auntie Cat Faerie
 
 
 
 

All About 3-Legged Cats

One of our favorite customers, Kelleen (Kelly) has a feline-family of 4 “tripod” cats a clever name for cats who have only 3 legs. She was delighted to share their story and photos with our customers and readers. Here’s her story about her tripod cats!

Read more:



 
From Kelly: Elixir

 
 

Tripod cats have a special place in my heart, and a big place in our family. Between myself and my daughter, we now have four three-legged cats – as well as one four-legger!

In our minds and theirs, our tripods are just cats – active, curious, playful, and loving. Missing body parts or no, these resilient little beings are amazing, gorgeous animals, each with their own distinct personality, deserving of love and pleased to give it in return. They don’t have any pain related to their missing limbs, and are not bothered at all by their differences, still approaching everything with a cat’s “can-do” attitude.

Living with tripod cats is not much different from living with their 4-legged counterparts, except they are perhaps a bit noisier as they thump around the house and scrabble to climb things. There are a few factors to consider, though, when deciding to adopt one (or if your cat is injured and loses a limb). For example:

  • Litter boxes need to be larger because they can lose their balance and go outside the box – but at the same time, the sides can’t be too high because they need easier access.
  • It’s important not to overfeed tripods, as too much body weight will make it much more difficult for them to remain active and navigate their surroundings on 3 legs.
  • It is more difficult for three-leggers to run or climb to get away from predators, so it’s best for them to be indoor-only cats. I built a fully enclosed catio outside my back door so my four can spend time in the sun being cats – chasing snakes and voles, watching birds, climbing tree limbs, and relaxing in the grass – while they remain safe from our resident eagles, raccoons and neighborhood dogs.
  • Some toys are better – for example, all three of mine, who are each missing a rear leg, love the Kitty Kicker-style toys that they grab with their front legs and kick at with that extra-strong back leg of theirs. They love ground-level scurrying toys they can “catch and kill” also. Toys that dangle in the air are not so enjoyable because with only one rear leg tripods can’t stand up and swat or jump up to bat them out of the air.

Not all tripod cats are the same, of course, or have the same needs. Cats missing a front leg are sometimes more likely to hide or to use their teeth – just as cats who have been declawed may – because they feel they can’t protect themselves or communicate their displeasure with their claws. Cats missing rear legs have a harder time climbing, balancing on narrow walkways, and “landing” gracefully when they jump. There are also differences between those who lost limbs as adults and those who grew up already missing a limb. Our three who lost limbs as adults sometimes still try to jump/climb on things that they can’t handle because they seem to forget that the leg is missing!

The wonderful characters of our quartet of tripods and the enjoyment they have brought into our lives make it well worth the bit of extra thought and work involved in creating a fun, healthy, safe environment for them. They may be missing some parts, but they make our family whole!


Here is some background on our tripod family:

Our family’s very first cat was a tripod who lived in a home with too many animals that bullied and terrorized the little 3-legger who couldn’t get away or fend the others off from his food. My daughter, who has always had a soft spot for the underdog (or undercat, as it were), asked the family if she could have him, and brought him home so he would have a loving, quiet home where he would be protected and cherished. Although I had always been a “dog person” (who liked cats but had no particular interest in having one as a pet), I soon fell in love with little Prince Arcane and was on my way to becoming a “cat person” as well!


 
Arcane

 
 

Because Arcane was officially my daughter’s cat, I adopted a lovely little silver tuxedo girl of my own (who still has the use of all four of her legs), but Juju was not a very feline-social cat and wanted little to do with Arcane, who always wanted to play with her. I watched him trying to play, and her rebuffing him and simply removing herself to someplace he couldn’t get to, and I always felt badly for him. When I saw a feisty young male flame-point come in to the shelter who needed to have his back leg amputated (it had been broken in multiple places and the previous owners had tried to set the leg themselves instead of taking him to a veterinarian), I thought how perfect it would be for both of the tripod boys to have someone to play with, so Ozymandias joined our family. The two boys became fast friends and wrestling partners, thumping around the house after each other and taking each other down with WWE-like body slams.


 
Juju

 
 


 
Ozymandias

 
 

Since then, my daughter moved out with a roommate, taking Arcane with her. I knew Ozzie would drive Juju crazy chasing her around wanting to play, and wanted a playmate for him. Since I already had the house catified and the catio designed for the needs of 3-legged cats, it was a given that I might take in another tripod if the right one happened along. Coincidentally, a litter of 4-month-old kittens had been brought in from a local feral colony a couple of months before. The entire litter was ear-tipped and placed into the shelter’s barn cat program, but one was found to have an injured leg that would not heal and had to undergo amputation. Although she was still very skittish, she could not go to a barn home due to her missing leg, so one of our cattery volunteers, knowing my setup at home, suggested I meet her. Though my plan had been to get an adult male cat as a companion for Ozzie, I could not pass on little Alchemy once I met her. She came home with me, and after an extended introduction period she and Ozymandias are the playmates and bosom buddies I had hoped they would be!


 
Alchemy

 
 

My daughter noticed that Arcane seemed at a loss alone at their new home, and her roommate had always wanted a cat of his own, so when just a few months later another laid-back young black male cat had to undergo an amputation of a shattered rear leg, I immediately offered to help the kids adopt him. Elixir is now comfortably ensconced in his new home and gradually becoming friends and playmates with his “brother from another mother.”
 
 


 
Elixir