feline care

What makes a cat treat healthy?

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People love to shower their pets with treats and affection.


Although you can probably never give too much affection, cat treats are another thing. Cats can develop weight problems just we humans do. According to a study reported by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 57% of cats are overweight or obese.


Can cat treats ever be good for kitty? Are some treats better than others? And is “people food” healthy for your cat?


What Makes a Cat Treat Healthy?

Moderation is key. It's fine to feed your cat treats, but it should be a very small part of their diet.


How small? Many experts recommend cat treats make up no more than 10% of the total calories a cat eats in a day. That’s because most treats don’t add anything but calories to a cat’s diet.


The remaining 90% of your cat’s calories should come from a high-quality, nutritionally complete cat food.


Decoding the Labels

Learning what’s in packaged cat treats can be a bit of a puzzle. Labels are lacking in calorie counts, and not all nutrients are listed on cat food labels.


To learn how many calories are in your cat’s treats, you can contact the pet food manufacturer or check with your vet for recommendations.

At a minimum, look to see if a treat is approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This group sets pet food manufacturing standards, albeit minimal.


10 Tips to a Cat’s Healthy Relationship with Treats

Remember moderation. Like people, cats can develop a taste for treats, and they may decide to avoid their own food in favor of the goodies they love. For this reason, keep cat treats novel by offering them no more than two or three times a week.

Go easy with “people food.” Foods made for cats are formulated to contain the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids a cat needs for good health, so “people food” should be a minimal part of your cat’s diet. For an occasional delicacy, you might try small bits of cheese or cooked tuna, chicken, fish, or liver. You can also give your cat a tablespoon of milk now and again, but for cats that are lactose intolerant, this may cause diarrhea.

Avoid toxic foods. Raisins, grapes, onions, alcohol, salt, tea— we may love them, but these and other common foods can be toxic to cats. If you’re not sure a treat is safe, talk your vet before giving it to your kitty.

Ban begging. When giving your cat a treat, avoid doing it at the dinner table or at the cat’s insistence. Don’t reward begging.

Overweight cats need care. There’s no way around it: Cat treats add calories. But simply cutting out treats isn’t going to do much for an overweight cat. Have your cat evaluated by a vet, who will develop a safe diet plan to help your cat lose weight slowly and carefully. Rapid weight loss in an overweight cat can lead to a serious liver disease called hepatic lipidosis.

Go green. Catnip makes a fine cat treat and it’s low-calorie. Most cats love both catnip and cat grass (which is actually a cereal grass like wheat or oats). Both treats are easy to grow in a sunny window, and you can also find dried and fresh greens in pet stores. Always be sure the plant you’re offering your cat is safe for felines. But don’t be alarmed if your cat regurgitates the kitty grass you buy— some just do that. Stick with catnip for those cats. If you’re not sure a plant is cat-safe, check the ASPCA’s web site for information on plants toxic to felines. If you think your cat may have eaten a dangerous plant call your vet immediately, or contact the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

Give cat treats for fun and fitness. Help your cat exercise brain and body by using cat treats to train them in agility exercises or tricks.

Apologize with cat treats. Try giving cat treats after something your cat doesn’t like— such as claw trimming, tooth brushing, or a dose of medication. Along with praise and petting, this can go a long way toward soothing a feline who’s been forced to do something unpleasant.

Don’t use cat treats to replace love. Cats don’t have many needs: a healthy diet, a safe home, and loving attention. When you’re short on time, it can be easy to think a handful of treats builds the same bond as a stroke or cuddle.

Make your own natural cat treats. By cooking up small bits of liver, fish, or eggs for your cat, you’ll know exactly what’s in the treats they are eating. You can even make organic cat treats for your cat by buying meat, fish, and eggs that are certified organic. But remember, these treats should make up only a small part of your cat's overall diet.


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Whisker Fatigue in Cats

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If you've never heard of whisker fatigue, don't worry. It's not necessarily a widely known condition. But for some cats, it does negatively impact daily life.


Why do cats have whiskers?

Cat whiskers are extraordinary sensing hairs that give them almost extrasensory powers. Despite their evolution, whiskers (tactile hairs or vibrissae), have remained as features on most mammals in some basic form.

For cats, whiskers are much more than facial adornments that add to their cuteness. Whiskers act as high-powered antennae that pull signals into their brain and nervous system. The ultra-sensitive sensory organs at the base of the whiskers, called proprioceptors, tell your cat a lot about their world. They provide your cat with information regarding their own orientation in space and the what and where of their environment. In these ways, whiskers help your cat move around furniture in a dark room, hunt fast-moving prey (by sensing changes in air currents) and help to determine if they can squeeze into that incredibly tight spot between the bookcase and the wall.


So what exactly is whisker fatigue?

While cats can voluntarily “turn on” the sensory focus of their whiskers exactly where they want, whisker receptors mostly respond to a cat’s autonomic system — the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves that respond to the internal and external environment without conscious control (for example—pupils constricting in response to bright light).

You can think of whisker fatigue as an information overload that stresses out your cat. Because whisker hairs are so sensitive, every time your cat comes into contact with an object or detects movement, even a small change in air current or a slight brush against their face, messages are transmitted from those sensory organs at the base of their whiskers to their brain. That barrage of “messages” could stress out your cat, eventually causing what some people call whisker fatigue.

However, “fatigue” may not be the best description of the condition, since what your cat is feeling is probably more like distaste or aversion than soreness or actual fatigue. In fact, whisker stress is another term some people use for the condition.

Not all feline vets think whisker fatigue is a real condition or cause for concern. Dr. Cathy Lund of City Kitty, a feline-only veterinary practice in Providence, R.I, questions the validity of whisker fatigue. While a cat’s whiskers do serve as very sensitive tactile sensors, she does not believe contact between whiskers and objects causes stress in cats. That said, stress, for whatever reason, is a real issue of concern for cat owners and vets.


What causes whisker fatigue?

While your cat relies on their fetching facial antennae to navigate the world, they can’t tune out unnecessary messages the way we filter out background noise. They inadvertently finds stimulation in the most common and ever-present situations, like at their food or water bowl. If their whiskers touch the sides of the bowl every time they dips their head to sip or eat, this can cause whisker fatigue, the theory suggests.

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Your cat’s behavior at their food and water bowl will tip you off that they are stressed. Some signs to watch for include:

  • Pacing in front of the bowls

  • Being reluctant to eat but appearing to be hungry

  • Pawing at food and knocking it to the floor before eating

  • Acting aggressive toward other animals around food

Of course these behaviors can also be related to potentially serious health conditions like dental disease, oral tumors, gastrointestinal diseases, behavioral problems and more, so if you have any concerns about your cat’s well-being, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Many vets, regardless of their opinions on whisker fatigue, agree that cats often find eating out of a bowl unappealing in general and providing a flat surface for meals is preferable.

Whisker fatigue is not a disease (and is not caused by or related to any type of illness) and appears to manifest primarily with the repeated daily contact with food and water bowls. However, a cat who is stressed is not happy, and if they avoid eating and drinking, they might become malnourished and/or dehydrated.


How can whisker fatigue be prevented?

Luckily, preventing or stopping stress related to whisker fatigue at feeding time is as easy as replacing your cat’s food and water bowls. At meal time, provide a flat surface or a wide-enough bowl for cat food so that their whiskers don't touch the sides of the bowl. In a pinch, a paper plate can serve as a suitable food dish.

Most cats prefer a lip-less, large flowing water source, for drinking. Ideally, cat parents should provide an automatic, fresh water source, like a cat water fountain, which cats prefer to an icky, stale bowl of water that might as well be from an old tire.

Some cat parents believe another solution is to trim their cats’ whiskers, but this is a giant no-no. Trimming whiskers mutes their expression, dims their perceptions, and in general, discombobulates cats and annoys them.


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Eye Discharge in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Anything from a simple cold to a serious illness could be causing your cat’s eye discharge. Learn a few of the more common causes of eye discharge, when to see a vet, and what you can do at home to help your feline friend.

Eye Discharge Causes

A healthy cat’s eyes should be bright and clear.

Eye problems can bring out another cat entirely, one who paws at his eyes, squints, or blinks excessively. Because eye problems can lead to devastating consequences -- including surgery or blindness -- always talk to your vet when you notice your cat has irritated eyes. A few common reasons for cat eye discharge include:

  • Feline upper respiratory infections. A frequent cause of eye discharge in cats, these can include viruses such as feline calicivirus, a contagious respiratory disease, pneumonitis or rhinotracheitis (herpesvirus), bacteria, and protozoa. Symptoms can be mild or progress to something very serious and may include a sticky, pus-like eye discharge.

  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye). An inflammation of the light pink lining around your cat’s eye, conjunctivitis can cause one or both of your cat’s eyes to look red and swollen, be light-sensitive, and have clear, teary or thick mucus eye discharge. Conjunctivitis with fever, diarrhea, and trouble breathing can point to potentially fatal feline infectious peritonitis, though this isn’t very common.

  • Corneal disorders. A cat’s cornea, the dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye, can become inflamed, injured, or ulcerated. The result may be cloudiness, excessive blinking, inflammation, and increased tear production.

  • Watery, tearing eyes (epiphora). Blocked tear ducts, an overproduction of tears, allergies, viral conjunctivitis, and more can be behind your cat’s abnormal tearing.

  • Uveitis. An inflammation of the internal structures of the eye, trauma, cancer, immune problems or infections can cause the serious, often painful inflammation of uveitis.

  • Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca). A chronic lack of tear production, dry eye can lead to an inflamed cornea, red eyes, and if left untreated, blindness. Because the watery portion of tears is missing, a yellow, gooey eye discharge can result.

  • Other eye discharge causes include feline infectious peritonitis, allergies, something lodged in the eye, or third eyelid problems.

Eye Discharge Treatments

Because so many conditions can lead to eye discharge in cats, you really need to talk to your veterinarian before trying any eye discharge treatments on your cat.

Depending on what your veterinarian finds, treatment for cat eye discharge might include:

  • Feline upper respiratory infection. Specific treatments depend on the cause of the infection as well as how serious it is and may include eye medications, antibiotics, decongestants, and fluids.

  • Conjunctivitis. Pollen, dust, weeds, or other irritants can cause conjunctivitis, which may be treated with a steroid ointment. if it's caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotic ointments may be used.

  • Corneal disorders. Treatment depends on what’s troubling your cat’s cornea, but may include keeping kitty’s eyes clean, antibiotic eye ointment or drops, drops that promote healing, removing loose corneal tissue, cauterization, or surgery.

  • Watery, tearing eyes. Under general anesthesia, your vet may use plain water or saline to flush your cat’s blocked tear duct. If there's an infection, antibiotic eye ointment or drops may be needed.

  • Uveitis. The right treatment depends on what’s causing your cat’s uveitis, though that’s often hard to diagnose. Care may include eye ointment or drops to control inflammation and pain.

  • Feline calicivirus. Secondary bacterial infections, which can cause pneumonia and other serious issues, are common with calicivirus, so always call your vet if you suspect your cat has this disease. Treatment may include symptom control, antibiotics for secondary infections, and supportive care.

  • Dry eye. Many things can cause dry eye, from immune-mediated disease to distemper. Treatment can include eye drops or ointments, immune-suppressing drugs, antibiotics, or artificial tears.

When to See a Vet

Your cat’s eyes are as delicate as they are beautiful. Small problems can quickly turn into serious conditions. If your cat’s eye discharge symptoms don’t clear up within 24 hours or if your cat is squinting, talk to your veterinarian right away.

If you have medications left over from a previous eye problem, don’t use them on your cat’s eyes. Different eye issues call for different medications, and you can end up causing serious injury by using the wrong one.

Preventive Home Care for Healthy Eyes

You can help avoid eye problems in your cat by keeping up with yearly vaccinations, avoiding kitty overcrowding, and checking your cat’s eyes frequently for redness, cloudiness, a change in color or shape, discharge, or sensitivity to light.

To safely remove your cat’s eye discharge and make them more comfortable while waiting for their vet appointment, arm yourself with a bag of cotton balls and these simple tips from the ASPCA:

  • Dip a cotton ball in water. Wipe away the eye discharge, always from the corner of the eye outward. Use a fresh cotton ball for each eye.

  • Steer clear of any over-the-counter drops or washes unless your vet has prescribed them.

Because correct treatment can be so critical to the health and well-being of your cat, always talk to a veterinarian to be sure kitty is getting just the right care needed.


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8 Ways to Help a Blind Cat

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A blind cat can have a wonderful, happy life. It is not at all uncommon for pets, particularly older ones, to suffer vision loss. Normal cat vision is close to humans or perhaps just a little less. Pets have more problems focusing on near objects than people do, though, which is why your kitty may have some trouble seeing the last few kibbles in the food bowl.

Just as people over the age of 40 tend to need reading glasses, the same vision changes start to develop in almost all cats over the age of five. This normal change, called nuclear sclerosis, results in less flexibility of the lens, a hazy appearance, and less ability to focus on close objects. Pets still see pretty well despite the bluish tint to their eyes. Blind cats typically are still very happy. They continue to enjoy and remain engaged in life and the world around them—including their humans. Kitties do not need to see you to love you.


Your blind pet’s comfort level, safety, and emotional health are important. Follow these tips to keep the cat happy and comfortable.

Do not move food or litter box.

It is vital to keep the food, water bowls, litter box, and pet beds in the same spot, so your cat can easily find belongings.

Do some scent marking.

It may be helpful to “scent” important objects for the cat with strong odors such as peppermint to help its nose “see” what it is looking for.

Avoid rearranging the furniture.

Blind pets memorize and "mind-map" the house, and moving things around will confuse the cat. It is not at all unusual for a blind cat, for instance, to still insist on making floor-to-counter leaps with confidence as long as its memory remains fresh and accurate.

Safeguard dangerous zones.

Pad the sharp edges of furniture with bubble wrap until your cat learns to avoid the danger. Block off steep stairways with baby gates to prevent falls.

Use your voice to guide your cat.

Your pet’s personality and behavior may change a bit as vision fades. Some pets become more dependent on the owner, and act “clingy”—basically they will treat you as a guide, stand very close, and follow you around. Get in the habit of speaking to your cat when you enter or leave a room to help it keep track of your whereabouts.

Attach a bell to other animals in the house.

In multiple pet homes, another cat or dog may serve as a guide for the blind pet. Help your blind pet by attaching a bell or other noisemaker to the other animal's collar.

Create a safe spot in each room.

To avoid tripping over the pet that is always underfoot, provide a safe, comfy bed in each room. Very social cats may become standoffish once vision fades. They may want to avoid contact with houseguests to avoid being stepped on.

Don't startle your cat.

Blind pets also startle more easily, so always speak to your cat before petting him to avoid being accidentally nipped or swatted in reflex.


If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


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White Cats and Deafness

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Hereditary deafness is a major concern found in white cats, and especially so if one or both eyes are blue.

Research has found that only 17-22% of white cats with non-blue eyes are born deaf. The percentages rise to nearly half (40%) if the cat has one blue eye. An upwards of 65-85% of all white cats with two blue eyes are deaf. Some of these cats are deaf in a just one ear. Interestingly enough, if a white cat has one blue eye, the ear that is deaf tends to fall on the same side as the blue eye.

Cats with only one deaf ear out of the two tend to appear normal and their issue may never be known to their humans. Even if born completely deaf, cats can live perfectly fine lives as long as you take heed to not put them in situations where they must rely on audible cues (i.e. the outdoors). There is no treatment for hereditary deafness.


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Don't forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for more recipes, articles, and clinic updates delivered to your inbox (here). Or, you can keep up to date by liking and following our Facebook page (here). We also have additional helpful articles under our tips category (here).