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Cat Scratching And What You Can Do About It

As veterinary professionals, we often hear many complaints from clients about their cats destroying their furniture by scratching. What is important to remember about scratching behavior in cats is that it is a completely natural and often necessary behavior- even wild jungle cats do it!

So, why do cats insist on scratching? There are many reasons but here and just a few! It is a great form of exercise and gives them a nice stretch for their back and shoulder muscles. (Imagine the good feeling that you get after a good stretch after a good sleep!) Studies also show that scratching is one method many cats use to reduce their own stress. You might think that there is nothing in your home that would stress your feline friends but we often forget that some cats stress about everything! From moving to even just rearranging the living room furniture, cats are often extremely sensitive to even the smallest of household changes. Cats will also scratch as a way to mark their territory. They have secretory scent glands in their paws that allow them to communicate with other cats about where they have been through pheromones.

We have established that scratching is natural for cats but it is important as pet owners to teach our cats which surfaces we deem acceptable for them to scratch. Providing scratching posts, cardboard toys or scratch pads can give your cat nice surfaces to sink their claws into and hopefully save your house from damage!

Ideally, we want to start young! If you are getting a new kitten ensure you have appropriate scratching posts around your home before your bring your new friend into your life. Teach your kitten that the post is a great place to be! Play with them by it, place catnip or treats on it and be sure to positively reinforce appropriate scratching behavior- that is give your kitty a treat every time you see them using their “approved” scratching surface!

For older cats, you can use attractants such as treats or catnip to get them wanting to be near the post. You can also reward them for using the post. It is important to remember that whether young or old, training your cat to use appropriate scratching surfaces will take time – be patient with your feline friends, they are just trying to learn!

Still no luck? There are solutions out there to deter cats from scratching inappropriate surfaces. There are commercial pheromone sprays that are available through veterinary clinics such as Feliway as well as “no-scratch” sprays that are often found in pet stores. These sprays work wonders for some cats but will make no difference with others- remember that every cat is different!

You can also try making your cat’s favorite inappropriate scratching surfaces no fun to scratch anymore. You can make it “un-scratchable” by putting undesirable textures on the surface such as tin foil, sandpaper or the underside of a plastic non-slip mat.  Cats also dislike citrus scents so you can try soaking cotton balls in citrus juices and attaching them to the surface to deter them from scratching the surface.

Still having issues? Contact your veterinarian at Mill Creek Animal Hospital for a behavioral consult! Remember that scratching is natural for cats. We just need to teach them where to do it!

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My Dental Cleaning by Carrots the Clinic Cat

I recently had my check-up with Dr. B, and he mentioned that I have a lot of tartar on my teeth and something called a resorptive lesion. I had been noticing that my mouth wasn’t feeling so clean, and it did hurt when I ate my kibble. Dr. B recommended that I have my teeth cleaned, and they would remove the bad teeth at the same time so that I wouldn’t be in any more pain. I was pretty nervous as it was my first time, but I see the staff here do it almost every day, so I figured I could be brave for one day. I asked the Techs to take pictures during my dental so that I could show you all that happens, and hopefully, you wouldn’t be so nervous if you need a Dental too! The first part was the worst part. The girls forgot to give me dinner the night before my procedure and then they didn’t give me breakfast either! I tried to explain to them, but they said it wasn’t safe to eat before you go under anesthetic. My stomach was saying otherwise, but the girls wanted to make sure my dental cleaning was as safe as possible. This is why they did blood work on me a couple of days before my procedure, as well. They started by giving me an injection in my hind leg to make me feel a bit sleepy, and it also offers some pain control. They let me relax for a little bit in a kennel before they brought me out to the dental table. My front leg was shaved, and a catheter was put into my vein. The clippers tickled, and the catheter poke wasn’t too bad, but then they put a whole bunch of tape on my leg to keep it in place. The tape was the worst part because I knew they’d be ripping it off later! The tech then checked my vitals to make sure everything was good. She then told me I was going to feel sleepy. She gave me an injection through the catheter in my front leg. Boy was she right, sleepy I got! I tried to keep my eyes open, but they just kept getting heavier and heavier. Now what happened next is a bit foggy, but I went into a nice deep sleep. During my sleep, the tech placed an endotracheal tube into my trachea (orange tube in the photo). This was to ensure I could breathe the entire time and so that water and debris couldn’t go into my lungs. The tube is hooked up to oxygen and a gas anesthetic to make sure I stay asleep for the entire procedure, as well. She also put gauze in the back of my throat for extra protection. She then cleaned my teeth with an ultrasonic scaler. It makes a high pitched noise, so I was glad I was under so I couldn’t hear it. My teeth were cleaned above and below the gum line. Apparently, tartar can build up down there too. The tech told me it’s similar to when she goes to the dentist, but she’s allowed to stay awake since she doesn’t bite the dental hygienist. I’m sure there are some humans that do bite, though! Then the tech looked closely at all my teeth and wrote down anything important on my chart. She also put a probe down between my gums and each tooth to ensure there aren’t any large pockets that could cause me issues. Big pockets are great spots for bacteria and tartar to hide, and I sure don’t want any of those anymore. Luckily I didn’t have any fractured or broken teeth and no big pockets. They did find two teeth that were resorptive lesions. These were the culprits causing me some discomfort, so they had to be extracted. Dr. B asked the girls to x-ray these teeth to see how much damage there was underneath the gum line so that he would know how to remove them. We recently upgraded to digital dental x-rays, and I was lucky to be one of the first to test it out. You can see in the photo my x-ray on the laptop. The roots of those teeth were all eaten away, so Dr. B did a crown amputation. He told me that it means just the top of the tooth that you can see is removed as almost all of the tooth below the gums were gone. He then sutured the extraction sites closed so that they would heal well and to prevent food and debris (from me grooming myself) from going inside and causing an infection. Once Dr. B was done, the tech double-checked that everything was nice and clean. She then polished my teeth with a minty paste. She didn’t let me pick my flavour of polish, but we don’t have fish flavoured anyways. She then put on fluoride that had to sit on my teeth for a bit and then it was all wiped off. The tech made sure that she wiped off all of the fluoride as it isn’t safe for me to swallow when I woke up. This is why pets have special toothpaste, and we can’t share with you humans. Once all the fluoride was wiped off my teeth, the tech made sure the gauze was out of my throat, and everything looked good. It was now time for me to wake up. They turn off the anesthetic gas so that I am just breathing oxygen, and I slowly came around. They don’t take out the endotracheal tube until I am awake enough to breathe on my own safely. This was when I started to remember again what happened. I woke up with a minty fresh mouth, but I was very confused. The girls tried to assure me that everything went well and that I was safe in their arms, but I was too confused. So, of course, I tried to wiggle about and figure things out for myself. Don’t they know I’m an independent cat? The tech held me safe until I was a little more with it even with my protest. I have to admit I was feeling the drugs for quite a while. They made sure I could walk and jump well before I was allowed to free roam the clinic again that night. They also made me a bunch of nice cozy beds on the floor around the clinic so that I wouldn’t have to jump up on anything, which was good because I was still feeling a bit off all night. For the next couple of days, the girls gave me a pain medication, which I hate to admit was delicious. I pretended that I was upset getting it, but boy was it chicken flavoured delight, and I made sure to lick every last drop off of my lips. Hopefully, by knowing what the process is, it will help you feel a bit less nervous about your dental cleaning, and if your humans have any questions about Dental cleanings or preventative measures, the staff here are always willing to discuss them.

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