Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is a condition seen frequently in our domestic house cats, but it truly can be a problem of our own making. During a recent seminar given at PetSage, Dr. Andrea Tasi, of Just Cats, Naturally, delved into this disease and our role in creating it. Thankfully, Dr. Tasi was able to give practical suggestions to help us help our cats from this painful and frustrating condition.
According to Dr. Tasi, FLUTD was never seen or diagnosed until the late 1970s. After this time, feeding dry cat food diets became more common. The ingredients of dry cat food diets are contrary to the true, completely carnivorous diet of the cat. Dr. Tasi explained that diet, the irrational use of vaccines and stress are three contributing factors that can often result in FLUTD.
Stress and how it relates to our cats’ environments is rarely recognized and discussed. Dr. Tasi explained how we, as cat guardians, have completely altered the environment and lifestyle of our relatively newly domesticated companions. The stress we’ve created by forcing our cats to live a non-species appropriate lifestyle can lead to changes in the biochemistry in a cat’s brain and bladder. A major stressor largely ignored is boredom, leading to unhappy, and eventually, unhealthy cats.
Cats are naturally active, engaging creatures who roam wide territories. Try thinking about it this way: cats are primarily indoor companions in cages–cages equal to the size of your home–whether that is a 700 sq. foot apartment or a 3000 sq. foot home. An outdoor wild male cat may have a home territory range as large as 1.66 square miles! Cats in their natural outdoor environment must seek out and hunt food on their own. By feeding them at scheduled intervals (in bowls of all things!) we have taken all the “fun” out of the hunt. After all, play behavior in cats is just modified hunting behavior.
We’re not advocating you simply open your door and turn your cat loose upon the world. Your dear companion could be at risk for getting hit by a car, trapped by animal control, or attacked by another animal. We’re simply encouraging you to think about ways to make your cat’s environment more interactive and enjoyable. Adding quality playtime and varying the types of play will go a long way to reducing environmental stress. It’s vital you play with your cat, at least once a day. Cats engaged in play build stronger bonds with their guardians. As Dr. Tasi cleverly put it “you can’t be stressed or fearful in your brain if you’re focused on playing!”
Here are a few playful ideas for your astute hunter:
The stress we've created by forcing our cats to live a non-species appropriate lifestyle can lead to changes in a cat's brain and bladder
The infamous cat-catcher!
One of my favorite wand toys that’s increasing in popularity is the 'Cat Catcher,' manufactured by Go Cat. The toy consists of a small brown mouse attached to a light flexible wire, which allows the mouse to dance and jump erratically. Cats are able to hone their stalking and chasing skills with this toy. Cats beg to play with these toys after they’ve been put away and we’ve yet to hear about a cat that’s failed to enjoy it!