Today's Veterinary Practice

SEP-OCT 2018

Today's Veterinary Practice provides comprehensive information to keep every small animal practitioner up to date on companion animal medicine and surgery as well as practice building and management.

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PEER REVIEWED 34 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 environment may help the cat cope with this confinement. 15,16 Questions remain about whether to treat the specific problem(s) or wait to see whether treating the environment first resolves the problem(s) and about whether some combination of pharmacologic and MEMO intervention is most appropriate for any individual patient. Only properly designed and conducted studies in the future will be able to address these questions. Because cats tend to form attachments to places, confinement in places where they don't feel safe can adversely affect their behavior and physiology. Fortunately, effectively enriching these spaces can mitigate their perception of threat. 17 Enriched conditions permit cats to cope with their surroundings and feel safe in their space. For cats housed in veterinary hospitals, factors inside and outside the cage can affect their welfare. 17 Inside the cage, each cat needs the following: ■ A place to hide. Cats hide to escape threats and to keep warm. They also need something to scratch and/or perch on, which we place at the back of the cage to try to help the cat feel safer. ■ Bedding. Cover the bottom of the cage completely because bare surfaces can be cold and uncomfortable. Bedding with the cat's and client's scent also may reduce the cat's perception of threat. Because most cats prefer familiar bedding, change bedding only when soiled (rather than daily). ■ Food and water. If feasible, feed the cat its usual food. To help the cat feel safer, place the food and water bowls at the back of the cage, as close as possible to the hiding place. ■ Litter box. Because the litter box is used less frequently than food and water bowls, it can be can be placed at the front of the cage. ■ Covered door. To reduce potentially threatening stimulation, cover as much of the cage door as possible. More detailed information about caring for hospitalized cats is available at Outside the cage, control the following to minimize stress 16 : ■ Lights. If natural light is not available, either use a timer to provide predictable lighting from day to day or turn lights on and off manually at the same time each day. Do not turn lights on and off each time someone goes in and out of the ward. ■ Noise. Keep noise levels in the ward to a minimum, ideally <60 dB (which is quiet conversational level and can be measured with smartphone apps). ■ Music. Some cats benefit from hearing music (played softly). ■ Odors. Minimize smells such as those from dogs, other cats, perfumes, alcohol (from hand rubs), cigarettes, and cleaning chemicals (including laundry detergent). All can be aversive and stressful, especially to cats confined in a cage where they can't move away from the odors. ■ Temperature. Cats prefer warm temperatures, 85˚to 100˚F. 18 Provide bedding that allows cats to "cocoon" to retain warmth if they choose to do so. ■ Daily routine. To increase predictability, perform cleaning, feeding, and treatment procedures as close as possible to the same time each day, preferably by the same person. Return cage furnishings to the same place after spot cleaning, and house each cat in the same cage throughout its stay. ■ Attention. Whenever possible, dedicate a familiar person to pay extra attention to the cat, in the form of brushing or playing. BOX 2 Physiologic Parameters That Indicate Stress Increase in presence of: Pupil diameter Respiratory rate Temperature Heart rate Blood pressure Sweaty paws Excessive shedding Flushing (blushing of skin) Anxious lip-licking Because most cats prefer familiar bedding, change bedding only when soiled (rather than daily).

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