Choosing a Veterinary Hospital

July 31, 2013

Exotics1Is there a new puppy in your family? Has the backyard cat installed himself on your family room sofa? Have you inherited grandma’s piano and her parrot? If so, you won’t want to leave the important decision regarding the choice of your new pet’s healthcare provider to chance. Here are some tips for choosing the right veterinarian and veterinary hospital for your pet.

Location, location, location
In Sunday’s New York Times, healthcare reporter Elizabeth Rosenthal, talks about choosing a hospital for your own care. She writes, “Indeed, with thousands of good hospitals across the nation, the best selling point for routine medical care may simply be convenience…” Whether or not you agree with her point of view regarding your personal healthcare, proximity may be a consideration in choosing a primary care veterinarian. A new puppy will need several rounds of vaccines and a spay or neuter surgery requiring transporting the pet to and from the hospital on multiple occasions. But if you have a parrot, the closest veterinary hospital may not have a veterinarian with expertise in avian medicine and you will need to choose a clinic providing bird care, not necessarily the closest clinic.

Proximity plays an even more important role in the selection of an emergency hospital. When your pet is hit by a car and in shock, has serious bleeding or can’t breathe, time is of the essence and the closest animal ER is the best ER for your pet.

Assessing hospital quality
If you personally needed a heart valve replacement, for example, you might look for data on outcome for valve replacement surgery at the various hospitals in your area. In New York State we have the New York State Hospital Report Card. You could also search the doctor ratings on the website of your healthcare provider. Since this type of information is lacking for veterinary hospitals, you might turn to online sources to read the opinion of pet owners who have posted their experiences. I must admit, to me, these online reviews can often seem more like rants and may not provide the objective information you need to guide your pet healthcare decision making process.

A better method of assessing hospital quality would be to look for a hospital accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Their website also allows you to search for the AAHA accredited hospital nearest you. Choosing an AAHA accredited hospital assures pet owners that the hospital they select has the staff, equipment, medical procedures and facilities that AAHA believes are vital for delivering high-quality pet care. The Animal Medical Center has been AAHA accredited since 1976, and to maintain our accreditation we voluntarily receive triennial evaluations on over 900 standards of small animal hospital care.

Finding the right specialist
The easiest way to find a specialist for your pet is for your primary care veterinarian to recommend one she works with on a regular basis. This will ensure a good line of communication and seamless medical care. If your veterinarian doesn’t have a recommendation:

  • Search the website of the type of specialist you are looking for, e.g. veterinary cardiology, veterinary surgery or veterinary dentistry.
  • For a cutting edge therapy, you might have to travel a good distance to find the specialist your pet needs. Use a scientific search engine like PubMed or Google Scholar. Search for the procedure your pet needs. When the search identifies a particular hospital where the procedure is commonly performed or a veterinarian who is a frequent author of scientific articles on the procedure, focus your search on this clinic or veterinarian. Examples of this type of procedure include repair to a ruptured ligament in the knee or image modulated radiation therapy.

Quick tips on finding the right veterinary hospital

  • Know where the closest animal ER is and keep its address and phone number in your GPS device, cell phone and on the refrigerator list so you are prepared for an emergency.
  • Don’t be afraid to visit potential veterinary hospitals before booking an appointment. Find out if their clinic schedule matches your availability. Ask the receptionist about their preventive healthcare protocols.
  • In case your pet develops an unusual medical condition or requires specialized surgery, ask your trusted primary care veterinarian about the network of specialists they recommend.

Let’s Move: Simple Activities to Get Your Cats Moving

September 20, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama believes in physical activity as a way to combat childhood obesity in America. Her program, Let’s Move, aims to raise a healthier generation of kids.

Americans are also raising a generation of obese cats because most cats now live indoors. Research has shown that cats living in apartments and inactive cats have the highest risk of becoming obese. Cats with a bowl full of food available at all times are more likely to be obese when compared to cats fed at specific meal times. Many cat owners are unable to recognize obesity in their pet, so there is little early intervention. Here are my suggestions for simple, inexpensive cat activities to get your feline friend moving as part of a healthy cat lifestyle.

Going up, going down

One of the features lacking in most apartments, which may contribute to cat inactivity, is stairs. Using stairs is a good way to build strong muscles in your kitten or cat. My apartment doesn’t have stairs, but I have a step stool which I use to get to the top shelves in my kitchen. Some days I put the step stool out with a favorite treat or toy on top to encourage my kitten to move. The photograph shows my kitten playing on the step stool.

Cats recycle

Kittens don’t need expensive toys; in fact they find trash to be treasure. One of the favorites in my house is an empty toilet paper, paper towel or wrapping paper roll. They can chew, scratch and roll the tubes to their hearts’ delight and the toys are easily replaced when completely destroyed. Another great toy is a wide, sturdy ribbon. I saved one from a gift and tied it to the kitchen drawer handle. I pull the drawer out four or five inches so the ribbon flutters in a breeze. My kittens love to jump up and bat the ribbon and at the same time get excellent exercise.

Cats like shopping [bags]

A shopping day means a bonanza for your cat. Maybe they get a cute new toy, but what they are most excited about is the pile of shopping bags you bring home. My kittens adore a large shopping bag with a small cardboard box slipped inside. The box supports part of the bag where the kittens play king of the hill. The box also creates a space inside the bag for hiding, resting and planning a surprise attack on my ankles. If given a choice, they like bags with stiff paper loop handles which they slip through like children with a hula hoop. The photograph shows how I set up the bag and box and how much my kitten likes playing in it!

Do you have a favorite kitten or cat activity? Write back and let everyone else know how you keep your cat moving.

I Took My Kittens to the Vet: My View From the Other Side of the Table

September 13, 2012

I did something new last week: I took my kittens to the veterinarian!

Since my father was a veterinarian, he cared for my childhood pets and, of course, I and my colleagues at The Animal Medical Center have taken care of my recent pets. Consequently, I have never made an appointment or sat in the waiting room of a veterinary clinic other than to chat with a pet owner.

Foster care kittens

Last week things changed. You may remember my last foray into fostering.

My family and I temporarily adopted a pregnant cat, helped her deliver her kittens, and subsequently cared for her babies until it was time to let them go. This time, I am fostering two kittens already weaned from their mother. They are both underweight and under socialized. They came to me for a bit of TLC to spiff them up before getting a forever home. The female turned the corner the previous weekend when she started asking for attention and food. Her renaissance made the little orange male look even more malnourished and he retreated into a scruffy ball of fur with no appetite, even for delicately poached chicken breast or the most expensive kitten food from my local pet store.

Had the orange boy been my personal kitten, he would have come to work with me and undergone a full battery of tests. But, my foster care agreement specifies sick kittens come back to the rescue organization for medical care. So, I contacted them first thing in the morning and arranged for an appointment late in the day.

A day of worry

I spent the entire time, from making the appointment until leaving for the clinic, worrying about what was going to happen. Was the kitten so sick it couldn’t be helped? Could the whole problem be the healthy kitten spent all day pouncing on the little one, hoping for a playmate, preventing the little one from eating? The worst worry: what if the healthy kitten was ready for a forever home, the sick kitten required hospitalization, and I had to go home with an empty kitten carrier to an empty kitten palace because both kittens had to stay at the clinic?

The clinic visit

Luckily one of my friends at work drives past the rescue organization on her way home so the kittens and I got a ride, supplemented by a comforting conversation during the trip; the familiar face of the foster care coordinator was reassuring as well. The veterinarian, who might have been young enough to be my son, kindly thanked me for my participation in the foster care program, but when he said the kitten had lost 6 ounces, my pleasure melted away. Because the young veterinarian sees foster kittens daily and kittens are definitely not my core patient base, he gently explained foundling kittens frequently just stop eating for no apparent medical reason. The fix for the problem is simple: force feeding the kitten in the clinic for a few days to jump start their appetite and get them back on track. He also listened to my concern about the disparity in the size and energy level of the kittens. Together we decided the kittens should be separated and I would keep the healthy one while the poor-doer would stay in the hospital.

The moral of the story

I know from experience, it is impossible not to worry about your sick pet. And I also know your veterinarian wants your sick pet to get better almost as much as you do! But a kind word, an open ear, and a treatment plan that took my input about the kittens into consideration put my mind at ease and got the sickly kitten back on the road to good health.

Thinking Outside the (Litter)box

July 3, 2012

Recently, The Animal Medical Center hosted Dr. Bonnie Beaver, an internationally recognized expert in animal behavior. The focus of her seminars was feline behavior issues and my favorite presentation was about the number one behavior problem in cats – inappropriate elimination. Dr. Beaver had some great suggestions for cat owners and I hope readers of Fur the Love of Pets find them helpful.

1. Location, location, location

Cats prefer a litter box near, but not in the midst of, household activity. Make sure not to place the box in the back bedroom on the second floor, or in the furthest corner of the basement. You may live in a house or apartment with multiple bathrooms in convenient locations; your cat needs the same arrangement. Cats prefer a quiet spot with privacy, but also with easy access. The litter box should not be near your cat’s food bowl. A good rule regarding the number of litter boxes is one box for every cat and one extra.

2. Cleanliness is next to feline godliness

A clean, odor-free litter box is critical. When my recent litter of six foster kittens started using a litter box, I was quickly reminded how fastidious cats are. The minute I changed just one of the boxes, six kittens and their mother were racing to be the first into the pristine box. With so many cats, I was on continuous scooping patrol and I changed the entire box every other day. If I was late coming home from work or slow to change the box, the kittens would empty a nearby trash can and go on the scattered papers. Who knew six-week-old kittens could be so fussy?

3. A sign of illness?

Illness may cause inappropriate elimination. If your cat stops using the box, your cat needs to visit her veterinarian. Medical conditions such as a urinary tract infection, pain when defecating, or a systemic disorder known as interstitial cystitis may cause your cat to associate discomfort with her litter box. If untreated, she may stop using the box and use the corner of your dining room rug instead.

4. Beaver’s best tips

  • If your cat has a favorite out-of-the box location, prevent access to that area using an upside down plastic carpet runner. The little prongs on the bottom of the runner will not hurt your cat, but will serve as a deterrent to bad behavior.
  • To clean up cat accidents, use enzyme- or bacteria-based products that break down smelly urine molecules.
  • If the box is covered, remove the cover. If it doesn’t have a cover, try one and see if your cat just wants more privacy.
  • Make sure the box is big enough for your cat. Sometimes out of the box really means just can’t fit in the box.

Coping with Cat Claws

June 19, 2012

Lacey is available for adoption through Petfinder (see below)

This is the third in a series of blogs written about our fabulous felines for Adopt-A-Cat Month.

I just finished fostering a litter of six kittens. Having them was a delight, but also a responsibility. I enjoyed every minute I could spend watching them cavort about in my spare room, but knew my job was to raise them to be good pets in their forever homes. So I took having the kittens — right down to their toenails — very seriously.

Promoting proper scratching

Lucy, the mother cat, liked to scratch on my sofa, so I purchased a sisal scratching mat for her at my local pet emporium and worked to redirect her scratching to the mat. I taped the mat to the floor with duct tape since cats like to feel resistance against their feet when they scratch and the mat wrinkled if it was not taped down. I also sprinkled the mat with cat nip and taught her to sit on the mat for a treat, making it a popular cat hangout. Lucy also liked to scratch cardboard boxes, so I kept one or two in the cats’ room for that purpose. Once they were old enough, the kittens followed their mother’s lead.

Nail care

At about one week of age, the kittens’ toenails were like razors. To protect my skin and their devoted nursing mother, I clipped 24 feet’s worth of kitten nails. Approximately every week after, I clipped another round of 24! By the time the kittens were ready to go back to the adoption agency to be spayed or neutered, I could clip all the nails without a struggle as the kittens learned to accept nail clipping. My hope is their new families will be able to continue clipping with ease.

Cat scratch behavior

Scratching is normal behavior for cats. Scratching sharpens the claws and helps to shed the outer layers of the claw. It also help a cat mark their territory by leaving behind both a visual and olfactory mark for other cats.

Controlling claws

I realize not all cats get the right start in life with regard to scratching behavior and nail clipping. In addition to working to modify scratching behavior like I did with Lucy, one solution to protect your family and furniture is to use nail covers. Cat owners attach these colorful covers to their cat’s nails with special glue. Your family and furniture are protected while your cat can safely exercise his desire to scratch.

Declawing a cat is considered a last resort to controlling scratching behavior. An alternative procedure is tendonectomy, also called tenectomy. This surgical procedure severs the tendon responsible for extending the claw. Cats still have nails, requiring trimming, but cannot injure family or damage furniture since the nail cannot be extended. Cat owners must commit to weekly clipping of the nails or they will grow very long and possibly injure the cat’s delicate foot pad.

When clipping cat nails, I prefer to use a human nail clipper or a special nail clipper for cats that looks like a small scissor with curved cutouts in the blade. Ask your veterinarian for additional tips on how to clip your cat’s nails, or have your veterinarian or groomer do it for your cat.

Lacey is available for adoption through Petfinder.

Getting Another Cat After a Diagnosis of FIP

June 5, 2012

Jamie is available for adoption (details below)

June is Adopt-A-Cat Month® and to celebrate felines, I will devote one blog a week to them during the month of June.

Recently, I had a series of conversations with a pair of cat-owning clients about the diagnosis of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) in their beloved cat. I use the term “diagnosis” a bit cautiously since one of the difficulties in these conversations is the lack of a specific diagnostic test for this devastating disease. Contradiction defines FIP. The only clear feature of this disease is that it affects cats. Feline infectious peritonitis is infectious, caused by a coronavirus, but the FIP-causing form of the virus appears not be too highly contagious. Peritonitis, or inflammation of the abdominal cavity, is only one feature of this systemic disease, which can cause ocular inflammation, neurological signs, liver problems, and fluid around the lungs. If that list of problems sounds bad, it gets worse. Feline infectious peritonitis is invariably fatal. My most recent conversation with this cat-owning- family has centered on their wish to add another cat to their household without causing themselves FIP heartbreak all over again.

The easy part

Coronaviruses, the FIP virus included, are not very sturdy viruses and can be removed from the household environment by common household cleaners like bleach. There is no need to dispose of bowls, blankets and litter boxes since the dishwasher, clothes washer and a good scrub will decontaminate these articles. But the extra cautious cat caretaker might want to start fresh for the new arrival. The entire home should be carefully vacuumed to remove any traces of old cat litter (and fecal contamination) from the environment. Any traces of the virus should dissipate in about one to two months, and after that time, a new cat may re-enter the home as soon as the family is emotionally ready. If the family has another cat, one exposed to the cat diagnosed with FIP, the proper timing of the arrival of the new cat is questionable as I found contradictory information when researching the topic.

Checking cat health

Since most American homes with a cat actually have more than one cat, a diagnosis of FIP causes double upset: the illness of one cat and possible exposure of the other cat to a serious infectious disease. Although FIP may commonly strike an entire litter of kittens, my experience tells me unrelated adult cats rarely pass the fatal form of the virus between each other. The healthy cat will likely have blood tests indicating exposure to coronavirus for the 3-6 months after the death of the sick cat. Some experts recommend waiting six months before getting another cat; others recommend periodic blood tests to monitor antibodies against coronavirus and introducing a new cat only when the test is zero. Keep in mind the lack of a specific diagnostic test for FIP and that the available tests are general, identifying a coronavirus, not the specific FIP-causing coronavirus. Coronavirus antibody tests are not standardized, so the test should be performed by the same laboratory to allow results from one test to be compared to the next test.

Selecting the new cat

While I couldn’t guarantee the worried cat owners their next cat would not develop FIP, I did suggest some steps for choosing a healthy cat:

  1. Kittens are the most susceptible to contracting FIP and coronavirus is ubiquitous in the feline population. Kittens starting life as strays, in a shelter or from a coronavirus-infected cattery may have had early exposure to coronavirus. Prospective kitten families should choose a kitten from a coronavirus-free cattery or perhaps a kitten reared in a private home, without exposure to other cats, which decreases the possibility their new kitten has been exposed to coronavirus.
  2. Kittens exposed to coronavirus may not have a positive antibody blood test until after 10 weeks of age and if the prospective family wants to keep their feline friends free of coronavirus, testing should be performed after the kitten is 10 weeks of age.
  3. Once a lucky kitten is chosen as the new family member, it should be kept indoors to prevent future exposure to coronavirus and other outdoor dangers.

For more information about FIP click here.

Jamie is available for adoption from the Humane Society of New York. For more information on how you can adopt Jamie, click here.

What Ever Happened To…?

April 4, 2012

Over the past several months, I have written about several patients treated by the veterinarians of The Animal Medical Center. Each blog is a snapshot in time and the case resolution is not always known when I post the story. Today, I will follow up on four patients whom I have previously written about as a way of sharing what happens during a typical day.

A lump on the rump

Addie's lump

Dogs have more skin lumps than any humans I know and I spend a good deal of my time measuring lumps and recording their precise locations as a cancer monitoring tool. In “Will that be One Lump or Two?” I wrote about Addie, a Standard Poodle with a benign lump on her rump. At the time of writing the first blog, my decision was to do nothing as the aspiration of the cyst proved it to be benign. However, the sebaceous cyst grew and started to look like it might rupture. And even though the lump was benign, we removed it since once these cysts rupture, they can become infected and an annoyance to both the dog and the owner. Below you see how we had to remodel her upscale hairdo when we prepped her for surgery. You can also see how large the mass had become, compared to the original photograph, necessitating its removal before it burst.

Washing away ringworm


Ringworm is a common disease in kittens, and I wrote about treating a gorgeous pair of Abyssinian kittens for ringworm in “Spa Day for Kittens.” The crusty, scaly lesions on Elizabeth and Moby’s ears resolved with topical treatment and a lyme sulfur dip. To make sure ringworm has been eradicated from the fur, I performed a toothbrush test. This involved brushing the kittens with a toothbrush and submitting the hair collected in the bristles for ringworm testing. Much to my (and their owner’s) chagrin, the test was positive even though the photograph shows the hair has completely grown back compared to the original photograph. The kittens, now nearly cats, are back on my appointment schedule on a weekly basis for dips and oral anti-ringworm medications.

 The kitten with the feeding tube


Joey, “The War Horse Kitten,” spent many of her first days at The AMC being treated for an esophageal problem that required placement of a feeding tube to provide her with adequate nutrition and several procedures to stretch out her esophagus using a balloon dilator. Joey, now nearly a year old, has been spayed and rules the roost at home. After a pretty rough start, she’s turned out spectacularly beautiful, as you can see from her photo.

Pregnancy primer


Here’s a recent photograph of Jasmine, one of the puppies born in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Puppies.” I had great fun doctoring the five female Jack Russell Terrier puppies born to Tallulah. They were a hit at Show and Tell for a class of first grade girls, who hugged the puppies while I talked about playing safely with dogs. Jasmine is staying with her mother’s family and will continue to be my patient, so stay tuned for more stories about her and other wonderful pets.

Photos: Ann Hohenhaus, Joey’s family, Jasmine’s family

The War Horse Kitten

September 30, 2011

Photo courtesy of Joey's family

Many New Yorkers believe the best play currently on Broadway is War Horse, adapted from the children’s story of the same name.

The War Horse is named Joey and inspired the name of the patient whose miraculous story I tell below.

At 10 weeks of age and weighing only one scrawny pound, Joey was admitted to the AMC. She was all personality. When her cage door was opened, she would launch herself onto your shoulder and purr in your ear. But even at her tender age, she had already been through a medical war of sorts, hence her name.

Joey’s medical war started just before she was ready to go to her new family, when everything she was eating started coming back up through her nose and mouth. Even if food and water were given with an eyedropper, 15 drops were too much.

Because of her age, her AMC team considered a rare congenital problem where an aberrant blood vessel tightens around the esophagus and blocks the passage of food. To diagnose this rare condition, Joey was anesthetized for CT scanning. Three nurses hovered around this tiny kitten to ensure proper anesthetic monitoring. Fortunately the CT scan showed Joey did not have this condition and her internal medicine team was relieved since treatment for this condition requires immediate thoracic surgery. But, the CT scan showed a narrowing of the esophagus due to the presence of some abnormal looking tissue.

Joey in the CT scanner. Photo: Ann Hohenhaus

The second part of Joey’s medical battle involved using the bronchoscope to view the inside of her esophagus. This is the same piece of equipment used to remove the pen cap from Barclay’s trachea.

Normally we would not use the bronchoscope to look at an esophagus, but Joey was too tiny for the usual scope. Dr. Douglas Palma, Small Animal Internal Medicine specialist at the AMC, found a polyp of the esophagus was the cause of the narrowing. The esophagus had shrunken down to barely a pinhole and also had an out-pouching called a diverticulum.

The photo at right shows a thin wire passed through the esophagus on the right and the diverticulum on the left.

The next part of Joey’s war involved placing a feeding tube past the narrowing and into the stomach to allow the esophagus to rest and to allow Joey to get food and water.

The AMC veterinarians thought they had won the battle, but a couple of weeks after the feeding tube was removed, food started coming up through Joey’s nose again. This time the diagnosis was an abscess in the area of the previous diverticulum. Very strong antibiotics were required, and after an initial course in the hospital, Joey’s family continued the antibiotic injections at home.

Joey sleeping on fleece in ICU the day after her multiple procedures. Red arrows point to the feeding tube wrapped into her neck with a blue and white bandage.

Today, thanks to the dedication of her family and the skill of her AMC Internal Medicine team, Joey is no longer the scrawny kitten seen in these photographs. She still has not quite completed treatment and needs her esophagus stretched to allow food to pass more easily into the stomach, but she is well on her way to good health. Throughout this entire ordeal, Joey has been sweet, loving and as her family says, “a piece of work.” The AMC is happy to have contributed to this work in progress.


This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

Measuring Your Pet’s Medication

November 8, 2010

Medical professionals, veterinarians included, speak to each other in our own language, more difficult to understand than either ancient Latin or Greek. This language is confusing to pet owners and often results in question about medication administration.

This weekend was a case in point. An owner called while she was out of town on vacation. I had completely confused her with my instructions on how much medication to administer. She was hours away and unable to drop by The Animal Medical Center for a refresher course. In giving instructions, I forgot pet owners are not always well versed in scientific weights and measures and the sight of an oral dosing syringe can induce paralysis in even the most educated client. Here are the definitions for some of the most confusing terms.

Milliliter (ml) is a measure of volume and a liquid medication dose is commonly given in milliliters. A milliliter is the same as a cc (cubic centimeter). But a milliliter does not tell how much medication is being given. Medication is typically measured in milligrams (mg). For example, a tablet of the antibiotic amoxicillin contains a set number of milligrams, but the milligrams contained in a milliliter of amoxicillin depend on the particular antibiotic brand’s strength. In other words, all liquid medications are not created equal. Veterinarians will always talk about how many milligrams your pet needs when you want to know is how many milliliters to squirt down the throat of your dog who has its teeth clamped shut and has just slipped under your king sized bed.

A diabetic pet presents a special set of challenges, one of which is how much insulin to give. Based on the comments above, the careful reader would surmise insulin is given in milliliters – it is a liquid medication after all. But no, it is given in units and double no, 1 unit does not equal a milliliter. If you have U 100 insulin, 100 units = 1 milliliter. If you have U 40 insulin, 40 units = 1 milliliter. To complicate matters more, each insulin needs its own special syringe matched to the type of insulin, ie, U 100 syringes for U 100 insulin. Understanding these seemingly trivial differences means success or failure in treating your diabetic pet.

Decimal points are another prescription predicament. The numbers 5.0, 0.5 and .05 are 100 fold different and yet when they appear on a prescription label they can be confusing. Proper prescriptions use zeros to highlight a decimal point. Numbers should have a leading zero before any decimal point, ie 0.5 is correct. Numbers should not have a trailing zero, ie 5.0 is incorrect. These differences highlight how carefully pet owners should read a medication label before administering a new medication.

Finally, because of the obesity epidemic in pets, veterinarians are making pet owners more conscious of how much pets eat. One cup is easy to understand, but calories per cup vary dramatically. One cup of Eukanuba puppy food contains 503 kcal and one cup of their weight control product for large breed dogs contains 272 kcal. Some foods list kcal per kg (kilogram) of food. Converting kilograms (a measure of weight) to cups (a measure of volume) requires advanced math, or a scale from your local cookware shop.

So when it comes to medicating your pet, ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to call your veterinarian’s office for clarification, because a microgram of prevention is worth a milligram of cure.

Have you ever encountered problems with your pet’s medication dosing? Tell us your story by commenting below!

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.


For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

How to Make Your Cat “Green”

March 10, 2009

green-catWhen Cat Fancy magazine asked me about making a cat “green,” my first thought was, “How can these fluffy balls of fun contribute to our carbon footprint?”  Cats don’t operate motor vehicles and they don’t contribute to landfill much, except for the occasional sofa shredded beyond recognition.  And, those disgusting hairballs we end up stepping on in the middle of the night are totally organic and biodegradable.

What I didn’t know was that traditional clay cat litter is not biodegradable.  It is made from clay which is strip mined making it tough on the ecosystem both coming and going.  The dust from clay litter contains substances which contribute to the development of feline lung diseases.  Furthermore, cat feces, which end up in our costal waterways, may be harming wildlife such as sea otters (delightful creatures almost as cute as cats).  It seems that there is an epidemic of Toxoplasmosis in sea otters traced back to cat feces flushed down human toilets.

Below are some suggestions to make your cat “green.”   They range from simple to creative and I think there is something for everyone. They are divided into 4 major areas: 

Food and Treats
catnip200Purchase cat food in recyclable containers – bags or cans are most commonly recyclable.  Then recycle the containers.

Grow your own cat grass and cat nip – your cat will love you and you can erase a little of your carbon footprint.

Cat Litter and Litter Boxes
Litter box issues are tough and nothing causes more friction between a cat and its owner, so if you plan a switch do it slowly and be prepared to revert to your previous litter and litter box on a moment’s notice.

Toilet train your cat.  This is a no-no if you live in a coastal region.

cat-on-toilet200Use litter from recycled materials, such as recycled newspaper

Use a biodegradable litter:
• Pine based flushable litter – This litter is specially processed to make it safe for cats. Do not use pine chips for your garden as they may not be safe.

• Corn based flushable litter

• Wheat based flushable cat litter

Make your own litter from old newspapers

Disposable litterbox – Great for travel, but may not be great for the environment so be sure it is biodegradable; no plastics

This self washing litter box has reusable pellets instead of litter.  It looks like a very cool device, but it really needs a carbon audit

bamboo-scrathing-postProtect the delicate natural environment
Keep cats inside to protect native wild birds

Put cat feces in the garbage or compost it if you live in coastal areas to protect native water species. In Australia, keep cats inside to protect native small marsupials.

Environmentally friendly products
Environmentally friendly toys

Environmentally friendly grooming products

Book on making cat toys

Sustainable bamboo scratching posts/cat trees

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