The Catvocate

Why does catnip—also known as catmint—have such a strange effect on your cat?

Some history: catnip was actually used by humans to treat nervous maladies, hysteria and, yes, insanity. It was consumed as a tea or a juice, as a poultice, and even smoked and chewed. It has a mild soothing and even hallucinogenic effect. (I am NOT suggesting here that we all start drinking catnip tea; chamomile will do just fine.)

Most cats become extremely mellow after they eat catnip, happily lolling about and then snoozing. Other cats, however, will smell and roll in catnip and seem to go bonkers—running around, chasing their tails, drooling, and even becoming aggressive with both other cats and humans –a state that lasts roughly 10 minutes.

And then there are the cats who are immune to catnip—about 50% of cats have no response at all. Why? The sensitivity to catnip is inherited. Kittens also don’t respond to catnip until they are three to six months old.

So: your cat loves catnip. There’s no reason why he or she can’t have it. Many cat toys are either catnip scented or contain actual catnip. Some toys even have little pockets in them so that you can replace the original catnip with new, fresh nip.

How do you keep catnip fresh? The best way is to store it in an airtight bag in your freezer. Another good way is to store it in a tea tin.

Your boy or girl might even enjoy live catnip—most pet stores carry both live catnip in little pots or as seeds so that you can grow your own on a sunny windowsill. Cats will happily chew on live catnip, which means catnip plants won’t last very long, but that you’ll have a happy cat.

What is Scarf and Barf...If You are Lucky Enough Not to Know.

Hello Catvocates!  I want to tell you a little bit about Bill and Marigold, who came in for a visit today. Bill is a terrific guy who never planned on having a cat!  You see, Marigold found Bill.  

Marigold started by showing up on Bill’s back porch and looking adorable.  You guys know how this goes, right?  He started innocently enough, by just putting out food for her.  Before you knew it she was curled up in his lap in front of the fire.  Marigold is now a permanent resident and is happily acclimating to the indoor only life.

Bill and Marigold have been together for about 3 weeks.  They were back in today for the last of Marigold’s booster vaccines.  I asked all the usual questions.  “Any sneezing, coughing, diarrhea, vomiting…”  

“Yes,”  Bill replied.  “She goes to her dry food, gobbles it down, and then barfs it up!  Is she ok Doc?”

Here we have it Catvocates, another case of Scarf and Barf.  Of course I checked Marigold out for other causes of vomiting.  Luckily, Marigold is not sick.  She does, however, have the same problem as many, many of her other feline friends.

You see, a cat’s stomach is not much bigger than a ping-pong ball.  Nature made it that way on purpose.  In nature, cats hunt for small prey between 9-20 times a day (Not every attempt is successful)!  They hunt, catch, play with their prey, eat, groom and sleep and they do this over and over all day and all night.  They usually catch small rodents, insects and birds.  The edible portions of these prey are rarely more than 1-2 tablespoons.  

When a cat sidles up to the heaping bowl of dry food, that we like to call the All Day Buffet, they do not limit themselves to to natural constraints of their stomach volume.  When they overdo it, mother nature takes over, and they vomit the undigested food.

If your cat suffers from Scarf and Barf, look to nature for the answers.  Portion the daily ration into 1-2 tablespoons and feed this small amount in 5 or so feedings over the course of the day and night.  It would be even better if you could simulate the hunt.  Have your cat exercise and then follow the exercise session with a small portion of food.

When we feed our cats the way nature intended, Scarf and Barf is rarely an issue.  

With these adjustments in how Marigold is fed, she is going to be just fine and Bill will not be stepping in cat vomit any time soon.



It is said that cats have nine lives. As a vet, I’m not sure about that, but they do
lead many different kinds of life styles. Many cats spend part of their lives
outdoors. Some cats go outside for part of the day, while other cats live their
entire lives outdoors as part of a feral colony. A large number of cats spend all
their time indoors. But regardless of their circumstances, cats are born innate
hunters. Mice, squirrels, and birds, beware! A cat is considering your demise!

Cats are fascinating and wondrous creatures--adorable, friendly, fuzzy,
cuddly. They are also natural hunters, and even though they may be very well
fed in the home, when a cat goes outside, it has a natural instinct to hunt and kill.

What exactly does this mean? What happens when your cat leaves a dead bird
on the back porch for you? Pete Marra, an animal ecologist with the Smithsonian
Conservation Biology Institute, set out to answer the question of the impact on
cats on wildlife, and the results are surprising. 

In 2013, the journal Nature Communications reported that cats kill somewhere
between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 and 20.7 billion small
mammals per YEAR. Yes, you read those numbers correctly. Marra found that
cats may be responsible for the deaths of as much as 15% of the bird population
in the United States. Wow.

These statistics have been controversial. Other sources report that cats are an
important part of the food chain, and that they help keep the ecological system in

If you are concerned about your cat's hunting wildlife, the best way to reduce that
impact is to keep your cat indoors. That said, the indoor-only cat will retain the
natural instinct and urge to hunt, and it is up to the well-informed cat owner to
understand this drive and find an acceptable way to redirect the hunting instinct.

How do we do this? Through Feline Environmental Enhancement.


To many Catvocates, Cats are like potato chips - you can't have just one without going back for more.  Adding one of these irresistible cuties to your current household can be absolute bliss for your solo cat, the added cat company might be exactly what they were secretly wishing for. Other cat pairings are not matches made in heaven.

Cats have an endlessly fascinating social structure.  In nature, they can live alone or in groups, but they always hunt alone.  Experts call them solitary hunters.  Since cats don't depend on each other for food, they can be choosey about the company that they keep. How can you tell if your cats are getting along?  There are 5 key signs that your cat household is zen:

1 -  Bonded cats rub their bodies and faces on each other.  Cats have glands that contain pheromones on their faces and rubbing their faces together co-mingles these pheromones and creates contentment between bonded cats. 

2 - Cats that enjoy each others company will stand next to each other and intertwine their tails.  This may be another way of co-mingling pheromones. 

3 - Let sleeping cats lie. Cats that feel safe and comfortable with one another will rest or sleep cuddled up together.  So nice for them, and so adorable for us to watch.

4 - Cat friends that know each other well can romp and roughhouse without taking things too far.  This sort of play between cats is great for exercise as well as for bonding.

5 - Allogrooming.  Allo-what?  Cats that are bonded will lick and groom each other. Friends that groom together, stick together.

Here's wishing peace and togetherness for all of your multicat households.



Oh Catvocates, this can be a frustrating and itchy problem.  Fleas not only live on your cat, but can remain in their environment for years!  Ick!  Understanding how the life cycle of the flea works will help you to get rid of the fleas in your environment for good!

Adult fleas live on your cat (actually, they live on cats, dogs and rodents).  In the warmth of your cat’s fur, they feed on its blood, mate, and produce 40-50 flea eggs per day.  These eggs roll off of your cat and fall onto your carpet, bedding and furniture.  There they hatch and within 10 days, they become larva.  Flea larvae make a cocoon, where they pupate.  But it’s no butterfly emerging from this cocoon, it’s a fully-formed flea.  This can happen any time between 7 and 174 days.  In the teeny tiny world of parasites, your environment is teeming with eggs, larvae and pupae.

To deal with this problem we need a 3-pronged approach.

1.  All of the animals in the house must be treated with a monthly preventative.  There are lots to choose from, but not all of them will be right for your cat.  Please ask your vet for their recommendation for a flea prevention treatment that is safe for your cat’s weight, age and medical condition.  (

Your pets should stay on a monthly flea prevention treatment, as this (as the name suggests…) will prevent future infestations.


2.  Welcome to the world of vacuuming.  For the next 2-3 weeks, you will need to vacuum daily to remove as many eggs, larvae and pupae from the environment as possible.  Vacuum carpets and furniture – removing cushions and getting between cracks.  Don’t forget under the bed, behind the sofa, in the closet, or anywhere else your pets spend time.  Be sure to put the contents of the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag and throw the sealed bag away in the outdoor trash.  Wash all bedding and fabrics on high heat and dry on high heat in the dryer – if possible.  Does your cat spend time in the basket of towels?  You’ll have to wash that too.  It will be a long few weeks.


3.  Chemicals.  Listen, I don’t like to use environmental chemicals if I don’t have to.  It is usually possible to rid your world of fleas with steps 1 and 2, but sometimes it is not enough. If you are at your wits end, there are exterminators, foggers, sprays and powders.  Again, check with your vet as these may be safe for your cat, or they may not. A quick phone call to your vet will keep your cat safe.

Let’s put an end to itchy, creepy, crawly fleas.  Armed with this knowledge, a good vacuum and some elbow grease, you will achieve a flea-free home for you and your cats!

Safe Flea Prevention

January 15, 2016


Hello Catvocates!  After thoroughly creeping you out with my last post on fleas and flea denial, I promised you I would explain how to get rid of fleas safely and effectively on your cats.  But, be aware, not all flea products are created equal.  Some flea products just don’t work at all.  Some flea products can be deadly to your cat.  I am going to explain the difference. Read More

Flea Denial

January 12, 2016


Hello Catvocates! Let's talk fleas, shall we? They are creepy and crawly and...ick! Are you starting to itch yet?

It is a bit of a strange time of year to be talking about fleas, right? Aren’t fleas only a problem in the warm weather? Well, that is what most of my clients think. But, about once a week, a have a very concerned cat owner bring their beloved in for a urgent appointment due to uncontrollable itching at the base of the tail. After performing a thorough physical exam, I retrieve my trusty blue fine toothed comb from the disinfectant and go to work. Yep. There they are! Creepy, crawly fleas!

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A Weighty Problem

January 06, 2016


Dearest Catvocates, I will begin this post and end it with the same thought. We must stop loving our cats through food.

I was at yet another veterinary lecture on feline wellness yesterday. This one focused on weight management and health. There is a terrible truth that we must face. We are seriously overfeeding our cats and it is making them sick. Nearly 60% of the cats in America are obese.

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1) Keep it Lean - Did you know that almost 60% of the cats in America are obese?   Being overweight is very dangerous for your cat.  Obesity can cause diabetes, joint pain, and skin disease.  We all love our cats, but we need to stop loving them through food.  I recommend that you measure out your cat's daily food.  If your cat is eating dry food only, it likely needs about ½ cup per day.  You can discuss this with your vet.  Stay away from the “all day buffet.”  Feeding small portions of food many times during the day is better than putting it all out at once.   In the wild cats would be hunting for food up to 20 times a day.  Even better yet would be to find a way to have your cat hunt for their food in the house.

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The holiday season brings lots of changes to our home environment. Many of us decorate with exciting new things, cook different foods and have a flurry of visitors to celebrate our respective holidays. While humans look forward to this time of year, it can be a tough season for our cats.

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