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Feline Friday: All Stressed Up–We Can Fix That!

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My cat Seren(dipity) hates visiting the veterinarian. Nothing against the vet, he’s marvelous and is the first practitioner who has managed to give her any semblance of a thorough exam in years! No, my little 6-pound dynamo simply prefers to stay home and in fact many cats are home-bodies that love the status quo and turn into kitty-maniacs at the first sniff of change.

But of course, all cats need veterinary check ups on a routine basis. And since Seren is now 14+ years YOUNG, it’s even more important that she receive regular health checks.


A few weeks ago, I learned that Thundershirt (originally designed for thunder/noise-phobic dogs) was available for cats. In fact, the kind folks at the company offered to send me a sample to review. They asked me about my pets, and imagine my surprise when they sent not one sample but FOUR! Yes, they provided me with a small, medium and large Cat Thundershirt, and a GINORMOUS-SIZE Dog Thundershirt for the Magical-Dog (stay tuned for a review of the doggy version).

Now, Seren could care less about thunder, fireworks or other loud noises. She simply runs to the window, hurls cat curses and demands cooperation from the weather. But she DID have her next veterinary visit due and I figured that would be the purr-fect test to see if the claims for stress reduction actually held merit. I knew that similar products like TTouch wraps used gentle pressure that offered a calming influence, and in fact I’ve been using a harness for several years to mimic this effect. The harness also gives the owner something to grab when the kitty wiggles or otherwise tries to escape.


A little background–about 10 years ago Seren had a dentistry at the vet’s (a different clinic than the current one). She didn’t really have bad teeth but I wanted a thorough check and some baseline blood work. The tests indicated a problem so the doctor also ran a urinalysis that showed she had diabetes.

Huh? Really? This surprised (and scared me!) because the tests indicated full-blown disease and Seren had none of the signs of increased thirst or urination or weight loss. So I contacted a veterinary internist/specialist Dr. Dottie LaFlamme (awesome vet who answered me immediately!) and ended up running a home urine test that said she was normal. It was the STRESS of the vet visit that created a false positive for diabetes.


Fast forward a decade, and my petite kitty still stresses during vet visits despite the halter. Also, for the past few months I noticed an increase in water intake and urine output. At first, I attributed it to her awesome new CatIt water fountain that she LOVES, and so she drinks more. But…she’s the right age for all sorts of metabolic or other issues to rear ugly-icity such as hyperthyroid disease, kidney failure and (gulp) diabetes. All can be treated and managed, but they just ain’t conducive to a happy situation.

I scheduled an exam, and a week out began introducing Seren to the Thundershirt (small size). All fasteners are with multiple strips of Velcro so are easy to fit the somewhat stretchy material. She already walks readily with either an H-harness or figure-8 harness so I didn’t expect too much of a learning curve. It’s not unusual for cats first fitted with a halter (or Thundershirt) to fall over and act PARALYZED-I CAIN’T MOVE! from the odd feeling.

Seren didn’t object to being fitted with the Thundershirt. She didn’t fall over, and actually stood still during the fitting, but loudly complained (normal for her!). The strap goes around the neck/chest, and the cape-like “shirt” drapes over the back and is wrapped snug around the tummy. But even the small size was a weeeee bit long in the body for my tiny cat, and she did a lot of plantigrade stance (back feet heel-to-floor) unless I scritched her tail area to create that elevator-butt effect. That seemed to convince her that she COULD move while wearing the thing.

Some cats would take longer to acclimate. Seren wore hers for five and then 10-minute stretches a couple of times a day for three or four days. She continued plantigrade stance up until the last day before her vet visit. And while at the vet this past Monday and wearing the Thundershirt, she was far less vocal and hissy than in the past. She even allowed the vet to look in her mouth and ears, and had the check up only required vaccinations and suchlike, it would have been a wonderful success right there.


It’s amazing the noise level a 6.1-pound cat can produced when picked up and carried into the back room by the vet. Wow–wonder if they make a Thundershirt stress reliever in “owner size” category?! In any event, for the third time in her life (once for spay at 4 months of age, once 10 years ago for dental), Seren went to “kitty jail” at the vet for a full blood panel, urinalysis and thyroid function test.

The doctor told me Seren was actually quite good (huh…degrees of good-icity?) once away from “mom.” She was sedated for the blood draw. With her history of stress-induced sugar-spill I was amazed that the urinalysis came back absolutely normal! To me, that indicated some major stress reduction. Was it the Thundershirt? It’s difficult to point to a direct cause-and-effect but certainly, Seren was more willing to be handled during her time at the vet.

Her CBC and other blood panel values came back normal, too, although kidney function was “borderline” indicating she’s close to falling into very early kidney disease. I had to wait for the thyroid tests to come back from Texas A & M. I got the call this afternoon–NORMAL! Wow, my stress levels dropped accordingly.

The take away message, I think, is to pay attention to your pet’s normal behaviors and get a check on anything that seems outside the norm. As it turns out, maybe I could have waited on Seren. Kidneys are amazing organs, though, and compensate so well that by the time you see obvious signs (more drinking, more urination) up to 70% of kidney function is gone. Learn more about cat kidney disease, feline diabetes, and cat hyperthyroidism (and how to treat) in COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING CAT.

Seren will get a new diet, one that takes a bit of the strain off her kidneys to give this 14-years-YOUNG cat as many more happy, healthy years as possible. Because 14 years are not enough. And if stress reduction helps her keep kitty-calm during vet visits, the Thundershirt is an easy and practical, non-invasive option.

I am a fan. And–check out Seren-the-Model in the video, below. FYI, she always talks (from both ends…tail never stops!).

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Monday Mentions: Cats, Dogs, Writing & Cute Kitten Videos

Monday Mentions is the mash-up-day of all the neato-torpedo links and blogs and writer-icity crappiocca collected over the past week. This past weekend I’ve managed to finish two new puppy articles on hypothermia and frostbite first aid, edit/upload a new video (see below, SQUEEEE!), and edit several more fiction chapters. Oh, and I’ve written (in advance) all the blogs for this week. Whew!

That’s because I leave for the Cat Writers’ Association annual conference this Thursday and will present the Shojai Mentor Award at the banquet. Friday evening I partner with Susan Logan, editor of Cat Fancy Magazine, as the entertainment for the event. We’ve had some challenges putting together the musical accompaniment, but I think finally the orchestration (on CD) is ready. I hope to see y’all there!


Kitty Ball Bed–buy a raffle ticket, win a fashionable snooze spot for your feline, AND benefit Floppy Cats. Oh, a “floppy cat” is a Ragdoll kitty, a stunning breed, and this raffle item from The Refined Feline benefits Ragdoll Cat Rescue.

Darlene Arden’s PerPETually Speaking Blog offers a lovely post on Adopting Older Pets

Lisa Mac’s shares tender remembrances of a brown spotted tabby in Across the Rainbow Bridge

Last winter Christine Davis lost two very special fur-kids. This always leaves a hole in a pet parent’s life. But when your livelihood also is intrinsically linked to the furry loves in your life, every waking moment (and even when you sleep at night) you are reminded of that absence.  But Christine did something about her pain and the result is FOREVER PAWS, a gentle and tender fable that comforts those who hurt while celebrating our cherished relationship.

I don’t have children, don’t understand ’em, can’t write for ’em (they scare me!) and almost NEVER review kid books. Although this small gift book is appropriate for children (I think–what do I know?),  it strikes a chord with this adult. I was already a fan of Christine’s other books–but this one is extreeee spashul. I hope you won’t lose the furry love of your life for a long, long time. But when it happens, Christine’s book FOREVER PAWS will help.


Cat Writers Association Annual Conference in White Plains, New York, November 17-19. Yes, folks that’s THIS COMING WEEKEND! Currently there are 11 editors/agents scheduled for one-on-one appointments, over a dozen seminars, sparkle-icity during the awards and receptions, and–oh yes–a nearby cat show. Lots of dog-centric folks and just dang fine writers of all stripes will be there.

When Can A Young Child Testify? from Dr. Doug Lyle’s forensics blog and guest blogger Leslie Budewitz

Bloody Good-And She BITES! another from Doug’s awesome blog about a woman who truly believes she’s a vampire (and sets out to prove it, ew!)

Build Tension With Physical Intimacy–In your novel, of course! Great info in time for the Na-No…aka Nonny-Nonny-BooBoo novel writing month. But seriously, Jenny Hansen nails it again.

A Sure Thing–Not! from Dystel & Goderich Literary Agency (prepare to gnash dentures)

10 Absolutely Fantastic Intensifiers You Should Really Avoid–awesome, dude!

In early November I received a delightful note from Darlene Jones, thanking me for the Tuesday Tips series on Kindle-ization. She says the tips helped her through the process publishing her novel EMBATTLED which has already garnered a positive review. Congrats, Darlene! May your book be read and enjoyed by many, and your royalty statements have commas!

KOBO (an Ebook Platform) sold to Japan’s Rakuten for $315 million. And they say there’s no money in Ebooks. Pshfffft.

Beware The Social Media Snuggie from Kristen Lamb–she knows this schtuff! And she’s funny, too. *s*

Gene Lempp has an incredible blog and each Saturday his mashup of awesomeness lists some of the best blog-icity on the planet, including priceless info for writers. Here’s the most recent blog treasures post–you’ll want to bookmark this.


Dog Seminars Directory A site that lists a variety of dog-centric seminars scheduled around the world.

Awesome dog writer Caroline Coile has launched a new blog–yay!–and you MUST read this very kewl post about 11 Famous Canine War Veterans.  The second on the list, Sgt Stubby, probably wouldn’t be welcome in many circles today. *huge sigh*

Nominate A Dog Hero  for the 2012 Dog Hero Awards through The American Humane. Categories include police, military, service, therapy, guide, and search and rescue dogs.

Susan McCullough, another talented dog writer/author, blogs over at the Northern Virginia Dog Blog about her “Nine, Going On Two” senior dog. Lovely post.

November is National Pet Diabetes Awareness Month with some great info from the experts at VCA Animal Hospitals, check it out! Since diabetes is often a disease of aging pets, it’s appropriate to learn about this the same month we’re encouraging “aging pet” adoptions. Learn about doggy diabetes here, and for the kitties you can learn about feline diabetes here. 

Jake the Dog Daily Blog, the life and times of a yellow lab.


How’d I get so lucky, eh? This past week a bunch of us behavior consultant types gathered together for a very tough assignment. Seems my colleague Dr. Amanda Florsheim took in a feral kitty who was “too preggers” to fix. The resulting four babies currently are about 6-7 weeks old by the time you read this. Our fantastic fun evening arduous task was to help socialize them. You can tell from the video it was a harrowing experience.

Prime kitten socialization period is 2-7 weeks so Amanda has exposed the babies to friendly dogs, kids, many adults, different locations–and scary-R-us behavior consultants. Once the pizza arrived the kits turned into cheese-heads. I still have my fingers so the bite inhibition training has worked very well.

Please contact me if you fall in furry love with one of these babies and I can arrange an intro–although I hope you’ll consider adopting a senior kitty, doggy or other fur-love in your own locale.


This month as a special “thank you” to all my furry-fantastic-followers, I’ll give away a paw-tographed copy of Complete Care for Your Aging Cat and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog. To get in the running, simply post a comment in the blog about your special pet (old fogey or not) and I’ll draw two names at the end of the month. You can use these award-winning updated books as a resource for yourself or wrap up for a pet-friendly holiday gift to a fur-loving friend. And as an EXTRA-special incentive–and to encourage all of y’all to mentor each other and spread the blogging/twitter/Facebook love–the two winners get to name one purr-son who gives them wags of support and deserves a book, too!

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting. We’ve become a great community including those in the #MyWANA social network twibe hosted by the awesome @KristenLambTX.  So I’m stealing borrowing Kristen’s methods and creating my own hashtag. Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!