Cat Behavior and Welfare at Uptown Vets

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You’ve probably met the mascots of Uptown Vets — Jimmy and Eva, our resident “house cats”.  Some of you may have even met Carter, our resident old-man cat, who keeps Julie, Gwen, and Vanessa company in the front.  You may not know that we often have even more cats living in the hospital, as fosters.

We speak with our clients about the stress on cats in “multi-cat households”, so what do we do to keep all our our cats healthy and happy?  A LOT!!!

Private Space

Cats are typically solitary creatures, and need to have their own territory, which can be difficult in a hospital full of animals and people.  Each of our cats has carved out a nook for him/herself, and we try to respect their selections by providing a comfy bed and convenient litter box in this area.  We also try to feed them and provide access to fresh water in this same area to minimize the stress that comes from being forced to cross other cats’ territories to reach key resources.  Wherever possible, we also try to give nearby options to hide, in case our cat feels threatened.

Cats are very intelligent, and so far all of our cats have selected out of the way areas for their own.

Interestingly, the only “co-habitating” cats in the hospital are Jimmy and Eva.  Their territories overlap, and they are happy to share.  They are also the only cats that allogroom (groom each other) among our clowder (the proper term for a group of cats).  This is a great way to assess if your cats need to carve out their own zones in the house — many that are happy to share territory will also allogroom.

Food

Each of our cats is fed twice a day, and is fed from his own bowl, in his own territory.  Each cat is fed an appropriate diet for her health concerns (honestly, most of them eat low calorie food as they seem to be battling obesity after eating all the leftover cat treats!), and appropriate portions for her size.

Litter boxes

Did you know the “golden rule” for litter boxes in multi-cat houses?  It is 1 box per cat, plus an extra!  So for our current group (6 cats!!!), we need 7 litter boxes.  We fall a little short, with 4-6 boxes at a time, each in a separate part of the hospital.  So far it is working, but we do notice the occasional problem, and have to increase the number of boxes available whenever a new cat joins the crew.

Attention

You’ve probably seen us chasing Jimmy out of exam rooms (he has a catnip problem, and looooooves to stalk the appointment rooms in the hopes of getting some), but we also ensure each cat gets positive attention every day.  Each staff member has a favorite cat (and each cat has a favorite staff member) who dotes on him/her.

Preventative Care

Even as a veterinary office, we need reminders for preventative care for our cats.  Each cat is up to date on core vaccines (Rabies and FVRCP), as well as the Feline Leukemia vaccine.  We check their stool for intestinal parasites every 6 months, and run annual labwork to check organ function.  We also apply a topical monthly parasite preventative (Revolution), even though they are indoor cats.  Each cat receives a full physical every 6 months, and additional examinations whenever there is a change in behavior.

Enrichment

Our cats have a lot going on every day, but we still try to provide species-specific enrichment.  At the moment, we have 3 scratching posts/pads, a water fountain (encourages water intake by providing “running water”), a battery-operated laser pointer toy, lots of catnip time, a variety of small floor toys, hanging squeaky toys to be batted around, and covered beds to play hide-and-seek.

If you have any questions about our house cats, or what you can do to improve the welfare of your own cats, please let us know!  We’re obviously crazy about cats and are happy to give advice.  Other good cat resources include:

www.icatcare.org

www.catvets.com

www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc