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Health Q&As

Great tips and advice from the Animal League Experts.

Below are Q&As on health that relate to cats or dogs. Not what you're looking for? Use the form below to change your criteria, or submit your question to one of our experts.

Pet Health Disclaimer
North Shore Animal League America’s Pet Health Advice is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s health. Never disregard professional veterinary advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read online.

Legal Category
Our Cat is An Escapee

Dear Vet,

My husband and I have a 3-year-old female cat at home.  She is a sweet cat but she constantly tries to exit our house!!  She only goes missing for a couple hours at a time and likes to lay around on our porch when she is done exploring.  Is this ok?  We feel she needs to explore the wild and be a normal cat.   

Escapee cat owners  


Hi Escapee cat owners,

Sometimes it can be hard to keep a cat indoors that has been allowed to leave whenever it can.  There are many reasons why I recommend not allowing your pet to leave your home.  Besides the potential for your cat to be hurt (cars, other animals outside if you're in the country), there are also infectious diseases and parasites your cat can pick up if it comes into contact with another animal.  The most common disease which is spread outside is Feline Leukemia Virus and/or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV. 

FIV is primarily transmitted by bite wounds and cat fights.  Once infected, the cat is immune compromised.  While in a normal cat, infections and parasites can be easy to treat - an FIV+ cat can have difficulty clearing disease and can have life threatening effects.  FeLV or Feline Leukemia can be transmitted by oral and nasal secretions most commonly, but has also been known to be infectious via urine, feces and milk.  If a cat contracts Feline Leukemia, it can lead to cancer and blood diseases.  They can also have a compromised immune system and can get sick with other infections much more easily.

These 2 diseases are reason alone to keep your kitty inside and care is to be taken so that she does not escape.  Good luck with your cat!

Submitted by Escapee Cat Owners
Answered by Mark Verdino
How Do I Care for an Orphaned Kitten?

I just found an orphaned newborn kitten in my backyard. How do I take care of him?


The ideal caregiver of an orphaned kitten is another nursing mother cat. A recent mom nursing a small litter will frequently accept orphaned kittens as her own. Try contacting local humane societies, shelters and veterinarians to see if anyone knows of an appropriate surrogate mom for the orphan. If one cannot be found, then caring for the baby is up to you.

Most pet stores and veterinary clinics stock commercially made kitten milk replacer as well as bottles that are just the right size for tiny kitten mouths. Only use a product specifically made for cats – cow’s milk will cause diarrhea and does not have all of the nutrients your kitten requires. Hold the baby in an upright position tilted back at an angle no more than 30 degrees to prevent aspiration. Sometimes it takes infant kittens a little time to get used to the feel of the bottle’s nipple instead of mom. You will need to be patient and do not open the hole of the nipple too much or the baby may get too much at once. When the baby is three weeks old, you can begin to offer the milk from a bowl, and then slowly introduce kitten food mixed with the milk.

Newborn kittens should nurse every 1-2 hours. Kittens are unable to pass urine or feces on their own, so after every feeding, the baby needs to be stimulated to excrete waste. You can do this by gently massaging the anal and urinary regions with a warm, moist gauze or cloth. Once the kitten is four weeks old, you can place them in a litter box after meals and they will soon be trained to go on their own.

It is very important to keep newborn kittens warm. A heating pad or hot water bottle wrapped in a towel can work well as long as the kitten is able to move away from the heat source at will.

Infant kittens are very fragile. Be sure to supervise any young children closely to avoid harming the infant. However, weeks 2 through 7 are very important in the socialization of a kitten to people, so gently handling the baby during this period will make him an excellent pet.

Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Mark Verdino
My Kitten Plays Too Rough..

I love playing with my new kitten, but sometimes he plays too rough. How can I enjoy the games without getting bitten or scratched?


Playing is a normal behavior that allows kittens and young cats to develop social skills with other cats as well as improve coordination and hone problem-solving skills. Feline play involves mock aggression – stalking, chasing, pouncing, kicking, etc - so it is natural for kittens and young cats to engage in rough, active play. Problems can arise when a cat plays with a human companion instead of a feline buddy.

Here are some ways to enjoy playing with your kitten and not get hurt.

  • Do not encourage your kitten to swat at your hands or feet. Instead, direct the play behavior away from yourself by using a toy attached to a wand, or throwing your kitten’s favorite toy.
  • If your cat is a stalker, and wants to ambush your feet and ankles, carry toys with you and throw them to distract his attention away from you.
  • Help your kitten burn off excess energy by changing toys frequently and creating a complex, stimulating environment.
  • Consider adopting another young cat as a playmate. Be sure to choose a cat or kitten that is outgoing and has a similar energy level to your current cat.
  • Give your cat a "time out" as soon as the play becomes so rough you may be bitten or scratched. End the game by leaving the room. Do not attempt to move your cat while he is still overly stimulated from the game.
  • Avoid using gloves with toys dangling from them. This may encourage your cat to attack your hands even when not wearing the gloves.
  • Never punish your cat physically for rough play. This may cause him to become fearful of you, and convert rough play into true aggression.

With calmness, consistency, time and effort, you can teach your kitten to play with you in an appropriate manner. If you need help, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian for more advice.

Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Mark Verdino
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