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Ask-the-Cat-Doc-with-Dr.-Lynn-Bahr

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 graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991. Unlike most veterinarians, she did not grow up knowing that she would become a veterinarian. “It was a cat who got me interested in the practice and I am forever grateful to him,” said Dr. Bahr. Over the course of her veterinary career, Dr. Bahr found that the lifestyle of cats has changed dramatically. As the lifestyle of cats has changed, so did Dr. Bahr’s client education. In addition to finding medical solutions, she also encourages owners to enrich their home environments so that their cats can live long, happy, and healthy lives.

This new understanding led Dr. Bahr to combine her passion for strengthening the human-animal bond with her veterinary background and knowledge of what animals need and want to start her own solution-based cat product company, Dezi & Roo, inspired by two cats of the same names.

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

Do you have a question for Dr. Bahr?
Leave it in a comment and she’ll answer it in next month’s column!

Can you train a cat to not go into the street?

I have two cats i adopted recently (about 8 months ago and 2 months ago) who i am letting be outside during the day. I live in a residential area of a small city. The problem is they are starting to go in the street. I’m terrified of them getting hit by a car and so feel a lot of anxiety when they are outside now. There’s not a lot of traffic but i still think it’s dangerous. Being indoor-only is not an option as my house is about 350 sq-ft; and that was never the plan. Can they be trained to not go into the street? Otherwise I”m thinking of trying to find a home for them in a more rural area, although it would break my heart to give them up. (I know a lot of people feel very strongly about indoor-only, i know that argument very well, so please don’t repeat it. thank you.) – Almazul

Hi Almazul,

Thank you for taking the time to write in about your dilemma trying to keep your cats out of the street while still letting them enjoy the outdoors. I completely understand your conflicted feelings and sympathize with you. It is extremely important to keep your babies safe; that goes without saying. However, you do not need to go to the extreme of rehoming them to do so.

Not all cats should be housed exclusively indoors, and I believe there are many circumstances where they can safely enjoy the outdoors. In fact, I have just written a book on the subject (available for pre-order here) to help guardians, like you, navigate this complex, and controversial, subject.

Cars are a danger to cats, and I applaud you for feeling anxious about your kitties going into the street. I would be concerned too. Most cats are like 2–3-year-old children and should be supervised whenever they are outside playing. Is it possible for you to be out there with them to monitor where they go? Or do you have a backyard where they can play instead of the front yard? If so, can you put in a cat fence?

My cats respond very well to the sound of my voice and I can often distract them with a harsh “eh, eh, no” as soon as I see one wanting to jump up on the deck railing or venture away from me. They also come for treats when they hear me shake the jar and this is how I corral my kitties into following me inside when I want them to.

Human parents often face the same dilemma when allowing their children to ride bicycles or teenagers to drive. Both are dangerous activities but that does not stop them from permitting their kids to do so. Rather, responsible parents make sure their children are kept as safe as possible by insuring they are well equipped to engage in these risky activities. They provide them with proper instruction and the necessary equipment, like driver’s ed classes, bicycle helmets, or a car with airbags, to keep them from harm’s way. And parents typically assess their child’s maturity and ability to handle the privilege of riding their bikes in the neighborhood or driving a car by themselves before allowing them to do so.

Pet parents can do the same with their cats. While we cannot eliminate all the dangers lurking outside, we can make sure that our kitties are at least equipped with safety measures if we are going to allow them the opportunity to explore outdoors.

I hope you can find middle ground that allows you to keep your kitties happy and safe at home, with you! Good luck.

Cat with upper respiratory issues

Hello Dr. Bahr,

my (male) cat is probably 14 years old (I’ve had him since October 2019, was told he is 12 years). I loie alone, 2 bedroom condo, balcony). I’ve noticed respiratory problems months ago, but they were no more than an almost unnoticeable sound when he was purring. The vet of course couldn’t do anything, couldn’t hear it and said his lungs were fine. Now it has advanced to sneezing , breathing through his mouth and is rather obvious, sometimes includes a nose drip. Now the vet says, that his lungs are still clear, it is most likely a virus and the only thing I could possible do is, to put him a in steam filled bathroom for 10 minutes once or twice a day. Do you have anything else I could do? He also has FIC every 3 weeks and I try to keep any kind of stressful situation away from him. That’s why I have not done the steam-filled bathroom yet – it would be adding to his stress to be locked in my bathroom, even if I stay with him. Hope to hear from you and thank you in advance to have taken the time to read about my BoBo and his issues. – Ina Holthaus

Hi Ina,

Thank you for adopting an older cat and giving him such a good home. You are pawsome!

Any cat that breathes from his mouth because his nose is congested needs medical attention, and I would encourage you to have him seen by another veterinarian for a second opinion asap.

From what you have reported it does not appear that his lungs are at issue BUT more likely that his upper respiratory tract is being compromised. There are several conditions, like a foreign body, tumor, nasal polyp, fungal, bacterial, viral, etc., that could be causing the problem, and these should be investigated. Your boy needs help now!

If possible, look for a veterinarian that focuses on feline medicine and one who will help you with pre-visit pharmaceuticals to keep your boy calm and relaxed before his exam. This will go a long way in reducing his (and your) stress level.

Please let me know how this turns out for you.

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