Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Lingering Lids can Signal Illness

Uncle Jeb shows off his nictitating membranes.
Cats seem to have everything these days: fluffy beds, gourmet foods, nine lives, and they even have three eyelids! This third lid, called the nictitating membrane, helps to keep the eye moist and serves as an additional layer of protection. This lid mostly stays hidden, but when it remains elevated (like in the photo above) it can be an indication the cat is suffering from some malady.

One possible diagnosis is Haw's Syndrome. In this case, the elevated lid is the only symptom present, and is often caused by an underlying parasitic or viral infection. Treatment of the underlying condition, such as with antibiotics, often takes care of the lid issue. Third eyelid protrusion can also be a symptom of conjunctivitis, in which the soft tissue of the eye becomes infected and inflamed, or of Horner's Syndrome.

The symptoms of Horner's include the elevated third eyelid (that can also be red or swollen), but also a drooping of the upper lid, constricted (narrowed) pupils, and eyes appearing "sunken." According to VCA Animal Hospitals, Horner's is a neurological problem that in cats can usually be traced to a specific incident of trauma, like a car strike or bite wound. Treating the underlying trauma can alleviate the symptoms of Horner's, which often dissipate after a few weeks even when no specific cause is found.

The important thing to remember is that an elevated and visible third eyelid usually indicates a cat is not at 100%. A visit to the vet isn't always necessary, as your cat may even just have a minor eye irritation, but if symptoms persist for more than a few days or more than one are present, a trip to the vet may be necessary. Your vet can then perform a thorough examination to rule out any serious conditions or eye diseases, and recommend a course of action if necessary.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Squinty found, Chevvy still missing.

Squinty was found at worksite, emaciated and suffering from the flu.
Some great news from Nine Lives Greece this morning, Squinty has been located, and now has a forever home! She was found in rough shape at a worksite and needed immediate medical attention. We're very thankful that three of the four cats "relocated" from the U.S. Embassy in Athens in recent days have now been found and are being cared for. However, one life-long resident of the Embassy grounds, Chevvy, is still missing, and the circumstances of the "relocation" of these four cats remain unexplained.

We wrote to Ambassador David D. Pearce and asked him to explain the recent "relocation" of cats from the Embassy. Please help us to keep the pressure on the Ambassador and Embassy staff to explain the "relocation" of the four life-long resident cats and why their account of events does not match that of local rescuers on the ground. Please feel free to use the following letter or elements of it to ask Ambassador Pearce to come forward with more information about these disturbing events. The email address to write to is

You can also increase your impact by using social media!
Leave a message on the embassy’s Facebook page here:
Tweet the U.S. Embassy: @USEmbassyAthens
Tweet Ambassador David D. Pearce: @daviddpearce

Dear Ambassador David D. Pearce,

We are writing to you in regard to four cats who were relocated from the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Athens on or about Dec. 11. It has come to our attention that one of these cats is still missing and another was just found at a worksite emaciated and in need of emergency medical treatment.
We know the Embassy is aware of the public’s concern for these cats, but has said nothing regarding their safety or whereabouts since this Facebook message on Dec. 14:
“The U.S. Embassy Athens has received several messages expressing concern for the cats living on its grounds. Some of the cats were moved to another Embassy facility in Athens, which is another safe, fenced compound. Several of the cats continue to live at the Embassy as they did before. Thank you all for your concern.”
Two young cats were found by embassy personnel last week, and another, Squinty, has also now been found. According to a post on the Nine Lives Greece Facebook page the morning of Dec. 21:
“[Squinty] was hiding in a worksite between a rubbish dump and a busy road leading to Parnitha. The owners of the worksite, on seeing the poster, kindly gave us permission to search this huge site, and we found her hidden between machinery and construction materials. Squinty is painfully emaciated, filthy & suffering from flu, but still had plenty of purrs for her rescuers. We took her straight to the vet for emergency treatment, as she is in critical condition after this ordeal.”
Because the Embassy has provided little information regarding the welfare of these four cats, and because reports from animal welfare groups in Greece appear to contradict the embassy’s explanation of events, we ask that you please provide at your earliest opportunity information regarding the following questions:
-Why, how, and by whom were four cats “relocated” from the U.S. Embassy Athens grounds on or about Dec. 11?
-Did the Embassy consult with any animal welfare groups or professionals to make sure the process of relocation was done safely, humanely, and effectively? If so, with whom and on what date?
-Is the private worksite where Squinty was found the place where the cats were released by or at the direction of Embassy staff? Is this worksite the “safe, fenced compound” mentioned in the Dec. 14 Facebook post?
-Does the Embassy have written policies concerning the cats who live on the grounds and how they are managed and cared for? If so, please provide a copy of these policies.
Many Greeks are upset by the Embassy’s apparent disregard for the lives of these four cats who had made the Embassy grounds their home, and in the U.S., we are hearing from many of our 143,000 supporters who are furious that they would be represented abroad as uncaring toward animals in general, and cats in particular. We urge you to provide a thorough, public explanation of the process by which these four cats were relocated. Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.


Maggie Funkhouser
Director of Communications and Outreach

Friday, December 18, 2015

U.S. Embassy in Athens "relocates" cats from grounds

14-year-old Squinty, removed by personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece and still missing.

The U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece is blessed to have several tame and friendly cats that call the grounds home. But about a week ago four of those cats, who have lived their entire lives on the grounds, were “relocated” to an undisclosed location for reasons that have yet to be explained. Two of these “relocated” cats, Mohawk and Pumpkin, have since been found and are now in foster care, but the other two, one named Chevvy and a 14-year-old frail female named Squinty, have not been located.

Greek rescue group Nine Lives Greece has been searching for the missing cats and says caring embassy staff have located two of them. However, the U.S. Embassy has not officially revealed why or how the cats were removed, whether it worked with any rescue groups or animal care professionals to properly do the relocation, and has only insisted on Facebook that, “Some of the cats were moved to another Embassy facility in Athens, which is another safe, fenced compound.” According to Nine Lives, the two cats who were found were NOT in a safe, fenced compound. Instead they were found near busy streets in an area where packs of stray dogs are known to roam.

8-month-old Mohawk, "relocated," but found.
We need your help to pressure the U.S. Embassy to reveal exactly what happened to these “relocated” cats. It must tell us why the cats were removed, the manner in which the removal was done, and provide proof that the cats are now safe and cared for as it claims.  

Please help us in the search for Chevvy, Squinty, and the truth by emailing the U.S. Embassy and Ambassador to Greece David D. Pearce at Ask why the cats were removed, in what manner, and to what precise location; demand proof that Chevvy and Squinty are safe and cared for as the embassy claims; and let the staff and ambassador know that their treatment of cats in this instance is unacceptable and does not represent the views of compassionate Americans.

You can increase your impact too by using social media!
Leave a message on the embassy’s Facebook page here:
Tweet the U.S. Embassy: @USEmbassyAthens
Tweet Ambassador David D. Pearce: @daviddpearce

Your voice is needed today to help locate Chevvy and Squinty, and to remind the ambassador and his staff that their actions in regard to these cats misrepresents our views as compassionate Americans, and that we do not accept being represented abroad as uncaring toward the cats in our communities.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Kicking Kidney Stones with Ollie

The ACR office has many litter box options around for our resident cats, including simple plastic pans, high-sided boxes and fully enclosed furniture pieces that hide a litter box inside. We find this allows our cats to pick what they prefer, and reduces the incidences of “present” leaving, marking, or simply missing the target. And as much as we try to let the cats do their business in private, we must be mindful of out of the ordinary litter box behavior. One case in point is our senior cat Ollie.

Ollie is 14-years-old and his front paws are declawed. This led to some interesting box acrobatics when he tried to avoid stepping on pellet-style litter, which seemed to bother his front feet. Ollie was fine once he located the boxes with clay litter, but we recently noticed him taking much longer than normal to urinate, and when we checked what he’d left behind and saw a small amount of blood, we knew it was time for a vet visit.

Ollie’s x-rays showed he has kidney stones, which are small crystals made of the mineral calcium oxalate that form when there is too high a concentration of the mineral in the cat’s system. (Bladder stones are a related malady and can be made up of calcium oxalate or struvite, both minerals that occur naturally in a cat’s body.) According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, kidney stones often go undiagnosed until they grow large and cause a cat to show symptoms.[i] The most common symptoms of kidney and bladder stones are blood in the urine; painful, strained or frequent urination; and recurring urinary tract infections.[ii]

Ollie’s gotta go, so how do we fix his problem with stones? Both surgery and a change in diet are options. Kidney stones can be left alone as long as there are no symptoms and the cat undergoes urinalysis on a regular basis to check mineral concentration levels.[iii] Some types of stones can be slowly dissolved by providing prescription food, but if there is any obstruction your vet may recommend surgery. (A complete obstruction is a medical emergency and can be fatal!)

Vets aren’t exactly sure why stones form, but Dr. Richard Goldstein of Cornell University says on their site, “we’ve observed that it tends to occur frequently in domesticated cats, especially in those that are not very active, don’t take in enough fluids, and don’t urinate enough.” He adds that male cats are more susceptible to blockages due to their narrow urethra.

In Ollie’s case, the vet found a kidney stone but no blockage and the blood in his urine was likely caused by the stone irritating the inner wall of his kidney. Ollie will be fed one type of prescription food to dissolve the stone, and then will be switched permanently to a preventative prescription food formulated specifically for maintaining a cat’s urinary tract health. He’s got the risk factors of being male, and is relatively inactive as a senior cat who is bothered by his declawed paws sometimes, so we’ll be encouraging him to drink more water and get more active too.

Remember that changes in a cat’s behavior, especially around the litter box, should be noted, and if you suspect a problem call your vet right away, as one stone of prevention can be worth ten stones of cure.

[i] “Bladder & Kidney Stones.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Feline Health Center. Web. 2014. 15 Dec. 2015.
[ii] “Bladder Stones in Cats: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment.” WebMD. WebMD. n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2015. 
[iii] “Kidney Stones in Cats.” petMD. petMD, n.d. Web. 15, December 2015.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Make a Pet-Safe Home for the Holidays

Photo: TRF_Mr_Hyde via Flickr

Hosting a holiday get together and decorating for the season? Festive decorations and plants make a home warm and inviting for guests, causing them to linger after meals and gift-giving for hours and hours and hours… You’ll want a break from the hubbub, but not for an emergency trip to the vet! Make sure your feline companions enjoy the holidays too by taking some simple precautions to keep them safe.

Photo: MsSaraKelly via Flickr
Many holiday decorations are shiny and enticing to playful cats, but potentially harmful. If swallowed, ribbon and tinsel can cause intestinal blockages. Ornaments and other decorations with small pieces should be placed with care; if it’s a choking hazard to a small child, it’s a risk for cats as well.

We also mark the season by bringing a bit of nature indoors, in the form of trees, wreaths, flowers and other decorative plants. Maybe the two most ubiquitous holiday plants are Christmas trees (pine) and poinsettias. Both are toxic to cats, but actually only mildly so. Common symptoms from ingesting these plants are drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea, with the severity depending on how much is eaten. Pointy tree needles can cause mouth and digestive system problems too, so closely monitor low-hanging branches for signs of nibbling.

Be sure your tree is solidly in place so there’s no risk it will tip over on pets or people if kitty tries to climb it, and keep your tree’s water covered, especially if using additives or fertilizer to keep it fresh; these sometimes contain substances toxic to cats as well. 

Holly. Photo: Jacinta Iluch Valera via Flickr
Mistletoe. Photo: Alex Gorzan via Flickr

Holly leaves and berries are toxic to cats, and so is Mistletoe, so a quick kiss underneath is fine, but keep it out of reach of curious paws. Lillies and daffodils are a bit more of a worry for cats, as some varieties are moderately to severely toxic for cats. For this reason, we suggest keeping holiday bouquets completely out of reach. (Traditional rose bouquets are one safe alternative.) 

Lily photo by Karyn Christner via Flickr. Daffodil photo by Sarah via Flickr. Illustration by ACR.

Throughout the hectic holidays, make sure you’re keeping an eye on your cat companions for changes in behavior or signs of distress, and call your vet immediately if you suspect a problem. Be sure to have your vet’s phone number on hand, as well as contact information for a nearby emergency or after-hours clinic that is open during the holidays. In addition, you can call the ASPCA's 24-hour poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Hotline at 800-213-6680. (A fee may apply to both numbers, but it's worth it in an emergency.)