Environmental Enrichment for Your CAT!

By: Dr. Christa Kahuda

Keeping your cat indoors has kept him safe from many health hazards such as infectious diseases and injuries.  However, most outdoor cats lead busy lives. They explore, hunt, scavenge for food, and they might interact with other cats. In contrast, our indoor cats have little to do and boredom may set in. For some cats, indoor confinement and other adverse experiences can even lead to health problems such as inappropriate behavior, obesity, and chronic conditions such as lower urinary tract disease.  Studies conducted over the last several years have found that by modifying the indoor environment for our cats we may be able to reduce some of these conditions and unwanted behavior.

The first line of therapy for your indoor cat is environmental enrichment.  This means providing for all the resource and social needs of your cat.  Consider the categories below – you may find many ways to easily improve your cat’s indoor environment!Charleston Harbor Veterinarians Cat Sleeping

Food:  Cats prefer to eat individually in a quiet and safe location where other animals, appliances, or sudden movement will not startle them.  Cats are also natural predators and some prefer hunting and stalking behaviors.  You can stimulate these situations by also hiding small amounts of food around the house or by using a food puzzle container from which your cat can release food pieces.

Water:  Each cat may have a preference for freshness, taste, movement, and container of their water.  Be sure to provide a variety of options for your cat’s drinking water and be sure to change the water and clean the bowl regularly.

Litter Boxes: Litter boxes should be provided in several locations throughout the house.  Those locations should be quiet and convenient for your cat.  The locations should also provide an easy escape route.  You may need to test several types of litters to determine which your cat prefers, but generally unscented clumping litters should be considered.  Litter boxes should be scooped daily and completely cleaned weekly.

Space:  The cat’s environment should include appropriate areas for scratching (horizontal and vertical), climbing, resting, and hiding.  Raised platforms, shelves, or window seats often appeal to cats.  Some cats enjoy playing and hiding in cardboard boxes.

Play:  Cats have preferences regarding interaction with their owners.  Some may like to be petted while others prefer to play.  Provide a variety of toys for your cat. Some cats prefer toys that they can throw around themselves. Other cats prefer toys that require owner participation, such as those you wiggle and dangle. Stimulating play for a cat involves opportunities to “hunt,” so move toys in such a way that they mimic the movements of a rodent or bird. Introduce new toys periodically to keep your cat from becoming bored.

Resources:  Often indoor cats compete for resources – you may start to notice intercat aggression due the perception of limited resources.   Provide multiple ‘spaces’ for each cat and also be sure to provide separate/safe locations for food, water, and litterboxes. 

Phermones:  Phermones are chemical substances that are produced naturally by cats.  Synthetic forms of these phermones may reduce anxiety in cats when used in combination with environmental enrichment.  (consider ‘Feliway’)  

Please feel free to contact us with questions or concerns regarding your indoor cat! 

Adapted from “Pandora syndrome” by C.A. Tony Bluffinton, DVM

Dr. CK

My mission: Time for a change…

By: Dr. Christa Kahuda

Charleston Harbor Vets | Tucker

Years ago I set out to become a veterinarian because I love animals (obviously – otherwise I made a very bad decision) AND, just as importantly, I enjoy people – especially teaching people!  Yet more often than not I find animals cower in fear, pace, and pant when they come to see me and their families dread the visit just as much.  There is so much good that is done during a veterinary visit – there must be a way to make it better for everyone.  We need to change the accepted standard.  When Dr. Blackwood and I set out to create our own practice we took a step back and noted the many triggers and frustrations for our patients and their owners.  We made it our goal to find solutions…To make it easier and more comfortable to be the best pet owner you can be.  To tailor our practice to you.

Here are some of the things we noticed about the typical vet clinic and how we’ve set out to change them:

  1.  It feels like a cold hospital:  The typical medical grade floors, seating, and décor are largely removed.  You will find you feel you are walking into a friend’s living room when you enter CHV.  Get comfortable and relax in our home-like atmosphere with a cup of coffee and a snack for you and your pet.
  2. The waiting room is stressful:  How often do you hope that you are the sole visitor in the waiting room because otherwise your dog will completely embarrass you with his unruly behavior?  Do you hope you can find a quiet corner to hide your cat’s carrier?  Believe it or not, the veterinary team struggles with the waiting room just as much!  The receptionists dislike clients staring at them, the doctor winces whenever a dog fight almost breaks out, and the nurses hate trying to be heard over the phones, conversations, and barking.   The solution:  ELIMINATE the waiting room!  You may walk into the clinic, be greeted by a team member – and escorted immediately into a private room.
  3. The exam room is uncomfortable:  In many cases once you escape the waiting room you end up  in a tiny, hot room with uncomfortable seating, harsh lighting and unsettling pictures of heartworms and fleas.  Check out the changes we’ve made:
    • larger than average exam rooms
    • outdoor windows in every room
    • dutch doors:  you will no longer be captive inside a closed room wondering if you were forgotten!  Our doors allow you to let your pet off leash or out of the carrier separated from other pets while still allowing you connection with the hospital staff
    • free WiFi
    • comfortable seating and décor for you and your pet
  4. The unseen treatment areas are distressing:  It is sometimes worrisome to allow your pet to be taken to the back treatment area for diagnostics.  We will make it our goal to do most procedures in the exam room.  If your pet is taken to the special procedures area – you will find you can watch each step of the process through large windows.  You will even be able to catch glimpses of the OR and dental surgeries.
  5. The laboratory testing is concealed and results are confusing:   Diagnostics on the microscope will be able to be viewed in the exam room and either Dr. Blackwood or myself will explain our findings directly and clearly.  Your pet’s blood work will largely be run in-house with results that day – and often during the visit.  You will be able to ask questions and make informed decisions while meeting with your doctor without waiting days for results.
  6. The pet is in new and scary situations:  Encouragement and positive support with healthy treats and a calm quiet environment will help to relax your pet.  Team members trained in low-stress techniques, limited use of metal exam tables, a designated feline room, comfortable resting areas, and other small alterations in standard procedures will go a long way to a better experience for all.
  7. Lack of communication:   We can email, text, phone, facetime, Skype, facebook, or even meet in person – with the many ways to communicate we promise to connect with you on your level.  Part of the connection form lets you tell us how to reach you – and provides you with various methods of contact for us.  We want you to have all the information you need so that as a team we can keep your pet healthy and comfortable.
  8. Healthcare is expensive:  The advances in medicine for both humans and our pets have made costs increase.  While we cannot magically make the costs go away, we will work hard to be open-minded and flexible with our medical recommendations to keep your pet healthy.

So, those are a few of the ways we want to change what a visit to the vet looks like and hopefully if even a little bit of that resonates with you we’re on the right track.  I imagine we’ll have all sorts of new ideas to implement over the years and we can’t wait to get started by meeting you and your pets very soon!

Dr. CK