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Have We Seen YOUR Cat Lately?

Feline advocacy groups are clamoring for life long care for cats.  Are our feline friends really a neglected species?  The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), The Morris Animal Foundation, the CATalyst Council, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and veterinary staffwant to help cat owners strengthen their knowledge about cat ownership and  better understand what their cats need in order to be optimally healthy and happy.  To read more about AAFP, go to  (link to AAFP website) and AAHA go to (link aahanet.org).  You might be surprised to learn that cats receive far less veterinary care than dogs:  according to their research, AAFP learned that the main factors contributing to less health care for cats are:

            #1 Misunderstandings about the signs of cat illness

            #2 Misunderstandings about cat illnesses, including heartworm disease

            #3 Difficulty getting cats to the veterinary office


Did you know that, according to recent surveys of cat owners performed by Brakke Consulting and the AVMA,:

•  83% of cats receive a complete examination from a veterinarian in their first year living with a new owner

• 48% of cats receive a complete examination from a veterinarian in subsequent years

• Preventable diseases in cats have increased and the increase is correlated with the

lack of veterinary care for cats

• 40% of cat owners are stressed out about bringing their cats to the veterinarian

• 36.1 million people in the U.S. own the 74.1 million cats in the U.S., an average of 2 cats

per cat owner

• Cat owners who consider their cats a member of their family will take their cats for   veterinary care four times more often than cat owners who don’t.

• Dog owners are more likely to take their dogs, not their cats, to the veterinarian.


Why is there such a disparity amongst pet owners regarding the care provided for cats versus dogs?

Misunderstandings about the signs of cat illness.  There are common misconceptions about cats and their behavior. These misconceptions have evolved over years and years of cats existing in our society, both as un-owned, stray animals living on city streets, suburban neighborhoods and farms. In fact, it had become a generally concept in the general public that cats are self –sufficient (“They only come around when they want food or shelter”), require very little care (“They can take of themselves-look how well they survive outdoors on their own” and prefer to be alone (“They always go off by themselves and hide”).


Below are the common signs of feline illness, often mistaken as “typical, unfriendly, self-sufficient, low maintenance” cat behaviors. Unfortunately, these behaviors are anything but normal and often signal a health problem.  When these signs of illness are unnoticed or ignored as typical cat behavior, the results can be advanced serious illness and even death.

#1 Inappropriate Urination Behavior: cats do not urinate outside the litter box out of spite, anger or retaliation. Cats thrive on a clean environment therefore when they urinate outside the litter box, it is an alarm to cat owners that something is wrong.

#2 Changes in Social Interactions: Cats are social animals who enjoy interaction with their human family and often with other pets. When a cat repeatedly rejects social contact or acts aggressively, this is a signal that something is wrong: pain? Disease? Fear? Anxiety?

#3 Increase or Decrease in Activity Level: Drastic changes in activity can be a sign of a medical of condition such as arthritis, discomfort from systemic illnesses or hyperthyroidism. Cats don’t normally slow down just because they are old!

#4 Changes in Sleeping Patterns:Know your cat’s normal sleeping patterns. The average adult cat may spend 16 to 18 hours per day sleeping, including many “cat naps”.  Cats should respond quickly to the usual stimuli, such as the owner walking into the room or cat food being prepared. Sleeping through these stimuli is a signal that something is wrong.

#5 Changes in Eating Habits: Contrary to popular belief, most cats are not “finicky” eaters. Look for changes in the quantity of food consumed, how much time the cat spends eating, how much water is consumed on a daily basis. Changes can indicate poor dental health, diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, cancer, kidney disease or other health problems.

#6 Changes in Weight:  Weight loss or excessive weight gain. A cat can be eager to eat, finish every meal, drink sufficiently but still lose weight. Weight changes often go unnoticed because of a cat’s thick coat. You can assess body condition by feeling gently along the ribs. The ribs should be easily felt but not prominent. On the other hand, obesity has become a serious health concern in cats, with increased risk of diabetes mellitus, joint disease and other problems.

#7 Changes in Grooming Habits: Typically, cats are fastidious groomers. Look for hair mats, dirty coat, hair loss, greasy appearance and whether your cat has stopped grooming at all.  All of these can signal underlying disease such as fear, anxiety, obesity, skin problems or other health issues.

#8 Changes in Stress Level: Boredom and sudden lifestyle changes are common causes of stress in cats. Stress can be caused by change of litter/litter box, family changes such as adding a new pet or human family member, change of diet, moving, change of litter box location, absence of family members and more. Stress can cause cats to change their normal behaviors including eating, sleeping and socializing.

#9 Changes in Vocalizations: Vocalizations include crying, howling or any other new/unusual sound a cat starts making. Changes can indicate pain, anxiety, hunger, hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure or some other medical issue.

#10 Bad Breath: there is no such thing as “cat breath” in a healthy cat.  Bad breath is often an indicator of oral disease, often unseen by the cat’s owner. Untreated oral disease can lead to pain, tooth loss and spread of infection to other organs. Studies show 70 percent of cats have gum disease as early as age 3.

Cat owners should become aware of their cat’s normal behaviors and habits.  When any of the above hidden signs of illness occurs, a visit to the veterinarian is in order.

Misunderstandings about cat illnesses, including heartworm disease. The most common misunderstandings about feline illnesses include heartworm disease, urinary tract blockage and disease, diet deficiencies, dental disease and dental disease. These diseases are all preventable!


Feline Heartworm Disease Facts:


Though cats are atypical hosts for heartworms, cats can still have one to three adult heartworms present in their system if they become infected. This might seem like a low number; however, even so few heartworms can cause substantial damage through a condition known as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). Since the medication used to treat heartworms in dogs cannot be used in cats, prevention is the only means of protecting cats.


Feline Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) Facts:

FLUTD is not a disease in itself, but a term used to describe conditions that can affect the lower urinary tract (urinary bladder and/or urethra) of cats. FLUTD affects around 1-3% of cats each year, making it one of the more common diseases seen. Some of the common symptoms of FLUTD are painful urination, increased frequency of urination, blood in the urine, urinating outside of the litter box, over grooming due to pain in the bladder, and blockage of the urethra preventing the cat from urinating.


Dental Disease:

Dental disease is a very common problem in both young and old cats, but tends to become more severe as cats age.  Dental disease is commonly associated with the accumulation of plaque on teeth, resulting from bacteria in the mouth, as well as tartar formation.  Signs of feline dental disease include difficulty eating, excessive drooling, pawing at the mouth, red and swollen gums, and loose teeth. Daily oral care, specially formulated dental diets, as well as veterinary dental cleanings are allways to prevent the progression of periodontal disease in your cat.



Difficulty getting cats to the veterinary office.  Cat stress, cat owner stress, chaos, time and guilt play their own roles in the difficulty getting cats to the veterinarian.  Cat owners dread the ordeal of corralling their cats into the dreaded cat carrier. The carrier symbolizes clawing, crying, car noise, temperature change and confinement to the cat; and for the cat owners, chasing, wrangling, climbing under beds or over cabinets, frustration, guilt about mishandling one’s cat and time pressures to be on time for the veterinary appointment. Many a cat owner has called the veterinarian to cancel or postpone an appointment due to the inability to find, catch and struggle the cat into the carrier on time.  If this sounds like a nightmare, it is; therefore it is completely understandable why cat owners avoid veterinary visits.  Thanks to the research by AAFP, they have created the AAFP Cat Friendly Practice Certification Program which encourages veterinary professionals to understand and embrace basic cat handling strategies to reduce the stress for cats and cat owners alike.

Veterinary staff should be available to answer all your questions and be happy to help cat owners learn more about their cat’s health.  If cat owners can help their cats to feel more comfortable about car travel and trips to the vet, it will help owners to be more relaxed too! Below are some tips to help cat owners de-stress visits to the veterinarian:


Home Care: Help your cat feel more comfortable by “pretending” to do routine veterinary procedures at home such as touching his/her feet, trimming nails, cleaning ears,  and teeth brushing.

Vet Office: Stop by the office with your cat when you don’t have an appointment, just to weigh him/her and reward with a treat afterwards.

▪  Demonstrations: Ask staff for a demonstration of how-to-tricks for these home-care activities. With practice, you will be comfortable and confident …and your kitty will be too!

  • Transport:  getting a cat to any destination can be a harrowing experience…unless you know and use our Transport Tips.  There are 4 key steps to increase the success of transporting your feline family members. Start out by following “C.A.T. S.”






COMFORT: Create a Comfortable Carrier Environment

▪   Never dump your cat into the carrier. This creates anxiety about the carrier.

▪   Consider a carrier whose top comes off and enables your cat to stay in the bottom half during his/her examination!

▪   Keep soft, padded bedding inside the carrier to make it an inviting place to travel.

·   Keep treats  inside the carrier as a reminder that the carrier is a good place to be.

·   Scatter some catnip into the carrier to soothe and calm your cat any time he/she is inside the carrier.

·  Spray the inside of the carrier with Feliway® Spray to release calming  pheromones.

·   Keep a favorite toy in the carrier to create a positive, comforting connection with the carrier.

·   Cover the carrier with a familiar towel or blanket for “privacy” while he/she is inside the carrier.


ATTITUDE: Make the carrier a normal part of  everyday life:

▪  Keep the carrier in a place your cat can explore at all the times, including just to take a nap or have a treat.

▪  Keep toys, a favorite pillow or blanket inside the carrier.

▪  Take your cat for rides in the carrier other than just to the Vet.

▪  Start with short rides and gradually extend the rides to a longer distance.

▪   Never leave your cat unattended in your car!  Heat and cold can place your cat in serious danger.

▪   Cats travel best on an empty stomach, therefore plan your car rides for several hours after your cat has eaten.

▪  End each car ride with lots of praise, petting and a healthy treat!


 TIMING: Timing is Everything!

  • Refrain from feeding your cat for a few hours before a trip to the veterinarian. 

·  Feel free to bring your cat’s favorite treat or the missed meal with you. We will happily bond with him/her by feeding him/her here at the hospital! This will create a positive connection between us and your cat!

  • At least one week before the appointment, be certain the carrier  is comfortable, accessible to your cat, has cleaning bedding and is ready for travel!


SAFETY: Use a carrier you like and will use.

Although your cat may protest going into the carrier, it really is the safest place for him/her while traveling to the vet AND while waiting in the waiting room.  There are things you can do to help your cat feel better about being in his/her

▪   The carrier should be sturdy enough to bear the weight of your cat without straining at the seams or places where there is a handle or other hardware.

▪   A cleanable surface is a must. Most carriers are made of hard washable plastic or soft-sided, added washable vinyl.

·   Rollable carriers come with a handle and on wheels, just like a suitcase.

·   Consider your comfort and safety too: pick a carrier style that is a good match for your physical strength and size to enable you to use the carrier safely and without dread.

·   Test out any new carrier at home after you buy it, before you need to use it for a trip.  If it’s not a good fit for you and your cat, return it and try a different style!

Celebrate Cats at our Meow Mixer!

Cat owners have a difficult task when it comes to understanding their feline family members because cats have this mysterious air about them that many people struggle to figure out.  Cats don’t go to daycare or play groups or cat parks or play times or socialization sessions.  They don’t get asked for cat play dates with other cats; and they don’t travel in packs or do tricks for treats. At least most of the cats we know don’t! Cats seem to have their own rules about life when it comes to what they will eat, when they will eat; who can pet them, pick them up or talk to them; and whether they will sit on your lap, sleep on your head or inside your closet.  In general, cats are nothing like dogs which makes them mysterious to most people!  Interpreting your cat’s behavior and language can be very challenging, but we have just the solution for all cat parents: Meow Mixer.  Our Meow Mixer is an informal gathering of cat parents to mingle with other cat parents, get free advice from an expert, enjoy some casual refreshments and learn more about your cat. We love cats—in fact Wignall Animal Hospital is an AAFP Certified Cat Friendly Veterinary Practice—and we find cats fascinating and fun.  Come spend some time with us at our Meow Mixer and you’ll see why.


Meow Mixer

Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Wignall Animal Hospital
1837 Bridge Street, Dracut


Tamara Pikulik, DVM, Chief of Staff
Our Team of Staff Feline Advocates

Meow Mixer is an informal evening created exclusively for our cat parents. Enjoy wine, light refreshments, Q and A with Dr. Pikulik, lots of great information about feline health, the free Pet Wellness Report for cats and how to more easily get your cat to the vet! RSVP below by 6/27/15, or by calling 978-454-8272

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We’ll help you size up your pet to get in better shape!









People turn their attention to shaping up for summer every May; and your pet’s doctor wants your pet to stay in shape too! Pet nutritional and exercise trends may mimic human health trends. Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control estimate that 65% of American adults are overweight and 50% of American pets are overweight as well? Excess weight results from too many calories and not enough activity. Just as with humans, the health risks of overweight pets are often preventable when body weight is properly managed. Both you and your pet can enjoy a healthy lifestyle with the right approach to weight management. Improve your pet’s skin, fur and body weight by knowing a few simple facts. Read on for Fat Facts and Treat Tips for Pet Owners.

10 Fat Facts

Treat Translator

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Hills® Pet Nutrition have teamed together creating a formidable team to fight pet obesity. To learn more about the AVMA/Hills PetFit Program, read Success Stories and get tips, tools and coupons you can use at our hospital, visit www.petfit.com. The best weight for any pet is achieved by combining a high quality food + adequate exercise + regular veterinary checkups.

Pet nutrition companies offer a wide range of weight loss and weight management options. Over the years, Hills® Pet Nutrition has developed scientifically engineered pet foods based on ground breaking research and clinical trial success. The Hills® Prescription Diet® family of pet of pet diets includes Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution, r/d® for weight loss, r/d® for weight loss maintenance and m/d® for the diabetic pet. In addition Hills offers the “Light” diets ranging from Light Hairball formula for cats to Light Senior for cats and dogs aged 7 and older. Hills® Pet Nutrition guarantees weight loss satisfaction, or your money will be 100% refunded!

Need more incentive to get in shape? To help you both get moving, we’ll enter you into a Free Drawing for a Fitbit® Activity Tracker every time you send us a “sweaty selfie” of you exercising with your pet 5/1-5/31/15! Send your photos to Fbphoto@wignall.com. One One winner will be chosen randomly on June 1, 2015, so get moving and check our Faceboook page today!

QUESTIONS? Call, email or stop by the hospital for more information!












Your pets are special to you, so it’s natural that you want them to share in the joys of the Holiday Season together.

Here are some tips to help make this time of year joyous for everyone.

Food and Drink
Many human foods are toxic to pets. This list includes chocolate, yeast, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, alcoholic beverages, etc. Keep all food out of your pet’s reach and be sure that trash barrels have secure covers so that they will not be investigated by your curious pet.

Stick as closely as possible to your normal routine. Try not to vary feeding, walking and play time with your pets.

Do not leave lighted candles unattended. Pets can burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders.

Hosting Parties
If you host a party, remember that some guests may be uncomfortable around pets. Your pet, in turn, may be uncomfortable or frightened around a large group of unfamiliar people. Dogs and cats may be best kept in a room that will not be used by your guests.

Christmas Tree
Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it cannot tip or fall on your pet. Do not allow your pet to drink from the tree water. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea. Do not use edible ornaments . Your dog may knock over the tree trying to get to them. All other ornaments should be kept off of the lower branches so they will not be broken by a wayward tail or playful cat or eaten by accident.

Gift Wrap and Packaging
Once all the gifts have been opened be sure to put away any small toys and throw away any twist ties and elastic bands used to hold toys in their packaging. Small pieces can be a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockages.

Mistletoe, Holly, and other plants
Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. Many varieties of lilies, can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested.

Pets, especially kittens, love this sparkly, light-catching material that is fun to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery.

(Click the button below for a printable version of our safety tips.)


“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”