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Ask the Cat Doc: Struvite Crystals, Diabetes, Toy Safety and More – The Conscious Cat

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Welcome to our regular “Ask the Cat Doc With Dr. Lynn Bahr” segment! Once a month, Dr. Bahr answers as many of your questions as she can, and you can leave new questions for her in a comment.

Dr. Bahr is a 1991 graduate of the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine and founder of Dezi & Roo, a company that designs, manufactures, and sells solution-based products that enhance the lives of cats and their owners. She volunteers at numerous animal-related charities and causes and serves on the Fear Free Advisory Board, the Parliamentarian of the Society of Veterinary Medical Ethics, the Cat Committee of the Pet Professional Guild, and the Alley Cat Allies’ Feline Forward Task Force.

Dr. Bahr is co-author of Indoor Cat: How to Enrich Their Lives and Expand Their World, available from Amazon.

For more information about Dezi & Roo and their unique and innovative cat toys, please visit Dezi and Roo on Etsy.

Concerned about toy safety

Hi Dr. Bahr,

We recently got a new kitten. We still had some toys left from when we had our previous 2 cats, so I started checking them to see which ones needed to be repaired or replaced, and which ones she could have right away.

I noticed that several of the plush-type cat toys which had been damaged have tiny synthetic fibers as filling. A few have synthetic hairs on the outside too.

These fibers appear to be made of plastic. With the talk about microplastics being bad for human health, now I’m wondering: what health problems can be caused by cats inevitably ingesting these as they play?

And a question for Ingrid: do you happen to know of any toy brands that use more natural materials? You can’t always tell from online store photos. – Madie

Hi Madie,

Congratulations on your new kitten. I wish you many years of happiness together.

You are wise to inspect all toys and I would recommend you discard any that are damaged. I am not an expurrt on microplastics but since they are harmful to humans, I would assume they are for cats as well and would avoid them if possible.

My company, Dezi & Roo, manufactures several toys made entirely out of ecofriendly, biodegradable materials that are not only safe, but lots of fun too. Check out the Hide and Sneak cat tunnel which I am certain your new baby will love.

Thank you for being a concerned pet parent and for choosing safe toys for your new kitty.

Struvite crystals – what to feed?


Regina says:

Dear Dr. Bahr,

My five year old Puff was diagnosed with struvite crystals after I noticed she was urinating only a few drops at a time. Thankfully her urine output was back to normal after a few days of antibiotics. It took a while to find prescription food she would eat but she seems okay with it now. I’ve read she should never eat anything else but I don’t understand why.

Aside from the cost of the prescription food, I’m concerned because her daughter Kiki is not fond of this food. Feeding them different foods or separately has proven to be very difficult.

Is it possible to also give them non-prescription food?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Hi Regina,

There are many diet options available to treat crystals in the urine, including non-prescription foods, that would accommodate both of your kitties. However, without knowing the exact details of Puff’s condition, I am not able to make any specific recommendation for your situation.

Struvite crystals form in the bladder when the urine becomes alkaline and there are several different causes that allow that to happen. Since Puff was given antibiotics, I am assuming she had a urinary tract infection which could contribute to the formation of crystals. In these situations, I don’t typically recommend prescriptions diets unless there is a need to dissolve large stones. Instead, my treatment goal would be to eliminate the infection with medications, instead of diet.

Cystitis is another condition that often presents with frequent, small (sometimes blood-tinged) episodes of urination. It is caused by inflammation of the bladder and treatment options include promoting increased water intake, reducing stress, pain medications, and added enrichment rather than diet manipulation.

I would suggest that you discuss her condition further with your veterinarian to get a better clarification on her diagnosis and the need for long term prescription diets. Hopefully, together, you will find suitable diets to accommodate both of your sweet girls’ taste preferences.

Diabetes and diarrhea

Hi Dr Bahr,

Charley has recently been diagnosed with diabetes and is now on insulin. He also has diarrhea. Test results of his stool didn’t indicate any issues. He is on meds for the diarrhea but he still experiences it and he has three litter boxes and he pees next to the boxes when he has gone to diarrhea in one of the boxes.
Poor boy just isn’t himself could you please give me some suggestions. Also if you know of any vets that specialize in cats in the Southern California area recommendation’s would be appreciated I live in Orange County but I am retired and willing to drive a few hours to a vet that can help him

Thank you,
Tricia P

Hi Tricia,

I am so sorry to hear about Charley’s diabetes diagnosis and hope he is doing better now. Hopefully, your veterinarian has given you guidance on the best diet choices to help control his condition in addition to his insulin regime.

There is a lot to learn about diabetes management and I hope you are doing research of your own so that you can manage it appropriately. Here are some websites that may help https://binkyspage.tripod.com/, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-diabetes, https://catfriendly.com/feline-diseases/diabetes/, https://catvets.com/diabetes-toolkit/faqs.

Charley’s diarrhea can be caused by many different things, and I would want to investigate them further. I am not sure what tests were performed on his stool, but the most common ones look for internal parasites. If this was the only test done, then there is a need to look deeper into the cause of his chronic diarrhea.

To help guide me in the right direction I would want to go in pursuing further diagnostics, I would need to know more specifics about his stool and diet. Helpful information would include how often his stools are loose and details about the color, volume, and consistency of them. These details are important to help localize what area of his digestive tract is most likely causing the problem and what further tests would help in a more definite diagnosis. Then I would base my treatment those findings.

Here is a website https://catfriendly.com/find-a-veterinary-professional/ to help you locate a cat friendly veterinarian in your area.  I hope you can find a good one close to you.

Cat coughs when he purrs

Hello Doctor! In 2017, I met a cat who was barely 1 year old and was hungry, full of fleas, and obviously lost or abandoned. I rescued him, and he rescued me. I love every fiber of his beautiful Being. He is a very secure guy His name is Apollo. He was also wearing a collar when I found him that was so tight and so small I am really not sure if he would have survived much longer.

I took him to my vet immediately and after a few visits and workup she declared him a “healthy cat;” however, I have a concern that causes me anxiety .

Apollo coughs only when he purrs; otherwise, he does not cough. I asked my vet about this and she surmised that, perhaps, he has a herpes virus that reactivates every once in awhile. I’ve always kept a journal on my kitties as I treat them with integrated medicine including homeopathics. I am not licensed but I studied and worked under a very well-known homeopathic fat to really helps my girls. They have since moved on but my one girl I had cancer of the mouth and homeopathics gave her six extra months of life. Anyway, I digress.

I checked my journal and poured over my notes and I did not see an entry about Apollo’s coffee until 2019, although it may have been earlier. I am wondering about several possibilities causing this cough when he purrs.

First, we live in a 94 year old Cottage that is on a bog and is damp and has mold. The cottage is very old and has that old house dust also. I am chronically ill with a decades-missed diagnosis of advanced and disseminated Lyme disease along with the tick-borne coinfections and autoimmune disorders left in its wake. I have difficulty keeping up with cleaning and I have financially devastated I’m fighting this Long Haul disease so I don’t have anyone cleaning for me anymore. A short I wonder about asthma. But wouldn’t he be coughing more often, not just when he purrs?

Secondly, I must address something that every human and four-legged has a challenge with: Stress. We are also under a lot of stress here as the owners of this Cottage and the five acres it sits on wish to liquidate what is part of a family trust. That means we have to go and I cannot afford to move anywhere without help from the county which may take years. I’ve always been isolated and I’m pretty much okay with it as I used to be in the public eye but since covid I’m extremely isolated and have very little support or help to get through my days. I know he feels the stress and I work hard and not let it affect him. Practically have an apothecary here for him and being an empath who also survived a lot of drama, I get his PTSD because I have it too his extraordinary really sensitive and all I have to do is look at him and I know actually not only how he is doing but also how I am doing. I always say that kitties are our barometers. So there’s the stress factor which doesn’t help anything.

Finally, excluding stress and the possibility of respiratory issues, I am wondering about that tight collar that he had on him. It left an indentation on him after I took it off that lasted maybe 6 months. In short it took a long time for that indentation to disappear. Could have caused damage to his windpipe or his trachea? He was very young. That collar look like a kitten size collar. And I just have to bring up again that the vet guessed he was barely a year old because he had no tartar on his teeth whatsoever. And now that I’ve seen him grow up I know he was young because I can look at pictures and see the difference. Sometimes he has a little difficulty eating. I bought him we’re going to make bowls that are tilted to help him. He doesn’t vomit a whole lot. It’s rare actually unless he ate too fast or consumed a bad cricket.:-)

He is my life, doctor. I’m 60 years old and I’ve lost my career as a professional, touring singer songwriter and musician. When I got sick my career came to a screeching halt and I also lost my fiance. And Friends disappear when you get sick too. My family is not capable of giving me the emotional support I need and I had to learn to grow and accept that. We all have different capacities. My Apollo my dear sweet boy, is my family now. And I hope I can live out his years with him. I am not sure some days how long I am meant for this world because my body is systemically annihilated from this disease.

I am only learning disability and, though I am exceedingly grateful for it, it does not meet my expenses or the continue to increase in cost of living. Nevertheless, I put him first and try to feed him the best quality food possible. I feed him a lot of freeze dried raw food that I hydrate. I made the mistake of feeding him some dry kibble sometimes(this is the food he has trouble swallowing sometimes( and I feel guilty about that. But I have huge need for a lot of sleep and I don’t want him to miss a meal so that’s when I leave out sometimes. I give him fresh, cold distilled water three times per day. I brush him. I give him a lot of holistic remedies that really do help him. I do the best I possibly can and some days I don’t do so well, but I always try to make up for it. I love him. I love cats.

One last thing. I have not taken Apollo to the vet since covid arrived. For one, he has PTSD, and I just cannot leave him alone for a vet visit. They were requiring the pets we left off curbside. Secondly oh, my line positions feel like the vaccine is contraindicated for me and while my immune system as a very narrow margin I am waiting to be inoculated. So I’m very worried about exposure. I see a traditional veterinarian as I work with both sides of Medicine. However, I do want to avoid stress and Trauma for Apollo. And I’d like to try to avoid invasive procedures if possible.

His cough really really concerns me and I also noticed sometimes I can stop it if I gently massage his throat. And if I pick him up so we standing on his back feet. Strange but seems to work sometimes.

I don’t think I can bear losing him. I’ve lost so much and so many people in my life. I’ve been doing a lot of drama. If I can delay one more loss as long as I can I’m a very blessed person. He blesses me everyday with his presence, is gratitude, discomfort, is playfulness, yes love, his wisdom and his courage. He endured a lot as a kitten. I don’t know what happened to this little fellow but whatever it was really affected him. He is quite edgy but so improved as I work with him on it every day.

Anything you can do to help us is greatly appreciated and considered a blessing. Right now I don’t have cash for a vet visit anyway. I’m trying to find someone to loan me some money temporarily so I can take him back in. But like I said I’ve already explored this matter with veterinarian. Thank you in advance for your time and your energy. I know energy is one of our most valuable resources.

Mary Byrd Brown (aka “Byrdie” )
& Apollo

Hi Byrdie,

Thank you so much for writing in and for sharing your deep love of Apollo with me.  Your devotion to him is obvious and he is very lucky to have you as his humom. As much as I would like to help you figure out what is causing his cough, without an actual physical exam and/or diagnostics, I am unable to formulate a diagnosis or give medical advice. I would only be guessing, and given the limited information available, it is impossible for me to know what is going on.

While seeking medical attention is not an option for you, I can recommend a few things that may help in the meantime. Given the possibility of the existence of mold and dust, it would be beneficial to give Apollo as much fresh air as possible. Open the windows or find a way to allow him safe access to the outdoors. Adding water to his dry food to moisten it may make it easier for him to consume and I recommend making it as “soupy” as he will accept. Finally, it would be helpful for you to take videos of his coughing episodes. You may want to investigate the possibility of a remote or virtual veterinary exam and the videos will be instrumental in presenting his problem and helping the veterinarian see what is happening.

I understand how attached you are to him and how concerned you are for his well being and my heart goes out to you. I know that he means everything to you, and you want the best for him. Giving him shelter, food, love, and companionship is what matters most to him and you are doing a great job of that. Don’t negate how important that is to his happiness and well being. Good luck and I wish you well.

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Published for: WATPFC