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Beyond Nine Lives

This is a sponsored post by Elizabeth Arguelles, veterinarian and owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza.

Preventive care and regular wellness checks at your veterinarian are an important part of helping your cat live beyond nine lives. In addition to keeping your feline friend’s vaccinations up to date, wellness care also gives your vet an opportunity to catch any disease processes early before further damage occurs.

How often should you take your cat in for wellness exams?

While it depends greatly on your cat’s particular needs, the general rule of thumb depends on age. For healthy cats seven years and under, annual examinations are recommended, even if no vaccinations are needed at that time. Senior cats, ages 8 to 14, need preventative exams once every six months, or twice a year. Geriatric cats, ages 15 and beyond, ideally need exams once every three months, or four times a year.

Factors that influence the frequency of the visits include your cat’s age, breed, prior medical history, lifestyle and vaccination history.

What preventive care will the vet administer during each visit?

The first and arguably most important part of every wellness check is a full visual and physical exam of your cat. The information that your veterinarian collects during this exam will help establish a baseline regarding your cat’s health for use in this and future exams.

When your vet does a nose-to-tail exam, they examine the following:

  • Body condition score: Checking your cat’s weight and body condition on
  • Weight: Checking for trends of weight loss or gain
  • Coat condition: Checking if your cat’s coat is dry, oily, has any dandruff
  • Eyes: Checking for any abnormalities and assessing vision
  • Ears: Checking for any debris
  • Mouth: Checking dental health including plaque, tooth decay, gingivitis a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being too thin and 5 being too heavy and whether your cat is grooming itself regularly
  • Heart and Lungs: Listening for any abnormalities and assessing any
  • Abdomen: Palpitate abdomen feeling for any abnormalities and checking
  • Pain Assessment: Checking on a scale of 0 to 4 by applying pressure
  • Walk/gait: Checking for any stiffness or abnormality
  • Mouth: Checking dental health including plaque, tooth decay, gingivitis and overall gum health. Cats’ teeth can develop problems very easily, so regular dental checkups and cleanings are critical to maintaining good health, especially as your kitty ages. The dental screening often helps prevent mouth pain and infections that, if left untreated, could lead to other illnesses.
  • Heart and Lungs: Listening for any abnormalities and assessing any heart murmurs
  • Abdomen: Palpitate abdomen feeling for any abnormalities and checkingfor changes in size of liver, kidneys and the large/small intestine.
  • Pain Assessment: Checking on a scale of 0 to 4 by applying pressure during examination at certain points and watching for reaction with 4 being very painful and 0 being no sign of pain
  • Walk/gait: Checking for any stiffness or abnormality when walking/jumping; looking for signs of pain or potential joint disease

An exam should also include:

Annual Labs: By performing lab work annually, we may be able to spot underlying disease processes and create a treatment plan before symptoms become severe. Even if you have a young cat, annual labs can provide an important baseline for your veterinarian to spot future early disease processes. Read More


Beyond Nine Lives

This is a sponsored post by Dr. Elizabeth Arguelles, veterinarian and owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza.

Nothing is more frustrating for owners than inappropriate urination, which is the leading cause of feline surrenders. Once you’ve diagnostically ruled out medical reasons for inappropriate urination with your veterinarian, the next step is to isolate what environmental elements are causing your cat’s unwanted behavior. With owner dedication, behavioral inappropriate elimination can be rehabilitated helping you and your cat to have a better quality of life.

What are the behavioral causes of inappropriate urination?

Behavioral disorders that result in urinating outside the litter box generally fall into one of two categories: dislike of or aversion to the litter box and new sources of stress.

Why would your cat start disliking the litter box?

A number of different things might make your cat reluctant to use its litter box. Inaccessibility is one obvious reason why a kitty might start going elsewhere. Other causes could include the following:

  • The litter box has not been cleaned frequently enough for the cat’s taste.
  • There are not enough litter boxes for all the cats in the household.
  • The kitty’s litter box is too small, making it more difficult to use.
  • The box has a hood or a liner that bothers the cat in some way.
  • The owners are trying a new brand of litter, and the feline simply does not like it.
  • The cat prefers other surfaces, such as carpets, potting soil or bedding, over the litter box.

What stressors can cause inappropriate elimination?

Cats like predictability and do not generally react well to stress. Urinating outside the litter box can be your kitty’s way of letting you know that it is not happy with recent changes to its environment. If it’s clear that none of the factors mentioned above are causing litter box problems, then stress could be the source. Read More

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This is a sponsored post by Dr. Elizabeth Arguelles, veterinarian and owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza.

Inappropriate elimination, or urinating outside the litter box, is a fairly common and frustrating problem for felines. As owners we tend to assume the cause is behavioral, but the cause could be rooted in a medical issue that requires treatment or even an emergency room visit.

The causes of inappropriate urination generally fall into one of two categories: environmental issues, such as stress, or underlying medical conditions. In the first of a two-part series, we’ll discuss the latter and talk about ways to address those problems.

Why do medical issues cause cats to urinate outside the litter box?

There are three broad types of medical conditions that can lead to inappropriate urination: those that make going to the bathroom difficult or painful, those that lead to more frequent trips to the litterbox, and those related to mental or physical deterioration.

In the first case, cats that have trouble urinating can start to identify the litter box with pain and discomfort. In the second, more frequent urination increases urgency and can lead to more “accidents” when your kitty fails to reach the box in time. In the third, cats who lose their cognitive abilities due to age or who have joint problems may end up avoiding the litter box.

What specific conditions can lead to inappropriate urination?

Below are some examples of each of the three categories. Please note that if you have a male cat exhibiting any signs of difficulty urinating, straining, frequent trips to the litterbox, vocalization while in the litterbox, or any signs of pain – IT IS AN EMERGENCY! If your male cat is exhibiting any of the listed symptoms, do not wait to seek medical attention — it is potentially a life threatening condition. Read More


Beyond Nine Lives

This is a sponsored post by Elizabeth Arguelles, veterinarian and owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza.

Though cats come off as solitary creatures, they carry strong bonds to their humans and other household companions.

The process of acclimatizing naturally territorial cats at a young age to sharing space with other animals is called “kitten socialization.” It’s essential to get your new kitten accustomed to the sights, sounds and smells of people, babies and any other inhabitants of your feline’s permanent home.

Though kitten socialization requires some effort on the part of the cat parent, it’s an essential part of helping the kitten grow into a healthy and well-adjusted adult that is comfortable in its surroundings.

What is kitten socialization?

As was mentioned above, it is the managed process of getting a new cat used to its new environment and its other residents. An important part of this is “localization,” which refers to efforts to get a kitten attached to a particular place.

How can you help socialize a new cat?

There is a lot that you can do to ensure that a young cat grows up comfortable around humans and other household pets. Early handling, for example, not only gets a kitten used to being around people, it also aids in in its physical development. Here are some other steps you can take:

  • Make an effort to introduce the kitten to a variety of new people and situations.
  • Reinforce playful and inquisitive behavior with treats and affection.
  • Adopt a more gradual approach if the kitten is fearful or withdrawn.
  • When introducing the kitten to another pet, restrain the other animal to reduce the risk of a fight or an attack that can lead to a lifelong fear.

Please be aware that there might be a great deal of variation from cat to cat. While some cats will adapt quickly to new people and other pets, others might take longer to adjust. So be ready to tailor your approach to each kitten and talk to your veterinarian about different options before you begin the process.

When is the best time for kitten socialization?

As with human babies, kittens begin adapting their behavior to their surroundings at a very early age. So it is extremely important to start guiding that process as soon as possible. Studies have shown that kittens are the most receptive to socialization between the ages of two to seven weeks. If they are handled frequently, have pleasant interactions with other pets and enjoy generally positive experiences during that period, they are more likely to grow into friendly adult cats.

Conversely, if they have not had much social contact by seven to nine weeks of age, kittens are more likely to fear humans and other pets for the rest of their lives.

Though handling a kitten is beneficial to its development, it does not mean that it should be separated from its mother at too early an age. If possible, a kitten should stay with its mother for up to 12 weeks after birth. Taking a young cat away from its mother before this time not only can leave psychological scars but can also deprive the kitten of important skills. Young cats learn a lot from observing their mother, so seeing the mother interacting positively with the people and other pets in the house passes on an important lesson.

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This is a sponsored post by Elizabeth Arguelles, veterinarian and owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza.

Spring has finally sprung, and many of us are spending more time outside. Unfortunately, the blossoming of flowers and the reemergence of grasses bring with them certain risks and dangers for your cat. Chief among those are pests and parasites looking to feed on your beloved pet after a winter of dormancy.

In this article, we’ll discuss one of the most common and most dangerous: the tick.

What are ticks?

Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of their animal hosts. Though commonly called insects, ticks are arachnids, just like spiders and mites. By themselves, their bites are not generally harmful to humans or pets. However, many ticks carry diseases that can be passed directly into your cat’s bloodstream, and that can potentially be fatal. Even when those are not transmitted, the bites can still result in nasty infections.

Ticks are most prevalent in the late spring and early summer.

How do ticks get on your cat?

Ticks generally live in tall bushes or long grasses. When an animal brushes past, the parasites quickly climb onto the potential host. Once there, they proceed to bite the animal and begin sucking its blood.

Fortunately, ticks can only crawl and cannot fly or jump.

Outdoor cats are obviously more likely to pick up ticks, but indoor kitties can also get them if their owners or any other pets living in the house bring them inside.

What diseases can your cat get from a tick bite?

If you think that your cat has been bitten by a tick, please don’t hesitate to seek veterinary help immediately, as ticks can transmit several potentially fatal diseases. These include:

  • Babesia, Cytauxzoonosis and Mycoplasma, which are similar to Lyme’s Disease. Symptoms of those vary but tend to include fever, loss of appetite, jaundice and severe anemia.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Severe blood loss
  • Skin irritations and infections

How can you determine whether your cat has ticks?

Because ticks swell once they begin ingesting blood, they are generally visible to the naked eye once they get on your feline friend. However, there is always a possibility that they are obscured by your cat’s fur. So if you live in an area where ticks are common, it is a good idea to check your kitty regularly and with more than just a visual inspection. Read More


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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza.

Obesity is a common problem among cats and can negatively affect their long-term health. Excess weight puts additional strain on a cat’s body and increases the risk of developing diabetes, joint pain, liver and heart problems, or other issues as it gets older.

The cause of obesity is typically very straightforward. It usually develops when your cat’s food intake exceeds its energy requirements. Typically, this means overfeeding coupled with an overly sedentary lifestyle. The good news is that obesity can easily be prevented by feeding your cat a nutritious diet, portion control, and ensuring that it gets regular exercise.

What is obesity?

Obesity is determined by percentage of body fat. If a cat has accumulated enough fat that it weighs 10 to 20 percent more than its ideal body weight, then it is considered “overweight.” Medical obesity occurs when the kitty’s weight swells to more than 20 percent of the normal weight.

Is there an easy way to check if your cat is obese? Obesity is determined by more than body weight alone. When touching your cat, you should be able to feel its backbone and palpate its ribs. If you cannot feel your kitty’s ribs without pressing, then it is potentially carrying too much fat. Always consult your veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis. You should also be able to see a “waist” between the back of your cat’s rib cage and hips when looking down. There should be a “tuck” in its tummy when viewed from the side, meaning the abdomen should go from the bottom of the rib cage to the inside of your kitty’s thighs.

What can you do if your cat is obese?

If you believe that your cat is too heavy, please visit your veterinarian. Once your vet has determined that your feline friend is indeed overweight, the first step is to help your cat with weight loss. Depending on your kitty’s specific case, your vet might prescribe a different diet either over the counter or prescription or may even have you switch to more wet food as opposed to dry food. Typically, diets lower in calories and fat, but higher in fiber can help your cat feel full without all the unnecessary extra calories.

In other instances, your veterinarian might suggest that your cat stay on its regular food, but that you limit it to specific portions or frequencies. Whatever food you and your veterinarian decide on make sure it is nutritionally balanced and a high quality food to keep your feline friend feeling great all around.

It is critical that you consult your veterinarian before making any dietary changes designed to reduce weight. Shedding pounds too quickly can cause a cat to develop serious and potentially fatal liver diseases in the short term and to become malnourished in the long term. Simply reducing the volume of food your cat consumes is not recommended without consulting your veterinarian.

Once your cat is on the new food plan determined by its vet, it is up to you, the cat parent, to resist the temptation to give your feline friend snacks. And just like for humans who are on a weight loss plan, regular weigh-ins are essential. Those usually take place every two to three weeks at your veterinary clinic. If your cat prefers weigh ins at home, purchase a digital baby scale for maximum accuracy.

Are there other things that you can do at home to help? Increased physical activity is also very important for both weight loss and maintenance. Talk to your vet about exercises that burn more calories and help to enrich your feline’s well-being.


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This is a sponsored post by Dr. Elizabeth Arguelles, veterinarian and owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza.

Does your cat ever have issues with an upset stomach? Do they vomit on occasion or even have diarrhea sometimes? If you answered yes to either of those questions, your cat may have an underlying gastrointestinal issue.

One of the most common in cats is IBD, or Irritable Bowel Disease. IBD can be very uncomfortable for your cat, but learning to recognize the symptoms of a flare up can help you manage the symptoms and keep your cat more comfortable.

What is IBD?

IBD is not actually a single disease. Instead, the term refers to a group of chronic gastrointestinal (GI) disorders that are caused by an infiltration of inflammatory cells into the wall of a cat’s gastrointestinal tract.

These cells cause a thickening of the digestive tract lining. They also inhibit digestion, as well as the normal absorption and passage of food. Though it can affect cats at any age, IBD is more commonly seen in felines that are middle-aged or older.

What causes IBD?

What actually causes the infiltration of inflammatory cells is not currently known. It may occur as a result of the body’s response to bacteria or parasites. Or it may be due to an allergy to certain ingredients in your cat’s food. IBD could also be caused by an underlying abnormality in your feline’s immune system. Read More


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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza.

Whether you have been a cat parent for years or are just introducing a new kitty to your home, it is worth taking a few minutes to make sure your house is a safe and secure environment for its feline inhabitants.

Household cleaners, beauty products, some plants and flowers, and even certain foods — all of which are found in most homes — can be dangerous or even fatal to cats if ingested. Fortunately, a little foresight and prevention can go a long way toward keeping your kitty away from potential dangers.

Here are some ways to “cat-proof” your house and make sure your furry feline stays happy and healthy:

Common household supplies and both over-the-counter and prescription medicines need to be stored in such a way that your cat can’t get into them. If you drop any pills on the floor, pick them up immediately. Store your medications in a cupboard or cabinet, because childproof containers are not necessarily “chew-proof!” Putting childproof latches on those doors will also keep your cat from investigating, chewing or even licking anything dangerous.

Many household plants and flowers are toxic to cats, with lilies being the most dangerous. Avoid bringing lilies of any kind into your home because even a small amount ingested can be fatal. Even though other plants and flowers are less toxic, some varieties can still cause vomiting or diarrhea if your cat eats them. For this reason, it is best to keep any plants and flowers out of your kitty’s reach. Or better yet, replace them with cat-friendly plants like catnip or “cat grass.”

Keep breakable objects out your cat’s reach. As we all know, our kitties love exploring and jumping on tables, cabinets and bookshelves. They have been known to “accidentally” break some of the fragile items resting in those spots. Broken glass or ceramic can also pose a danger to the cat if it walks or chews on the fragments. If you’re not able to move stuff out of your feline friend’s way, there are ways to encourage it to jump elsewhere. For example, make sure your cat has a cat tree or shelving that they can walk on instead. Scratching posts and pads are other options for deterring your kitty from jumping on the furniture.

Unplug exposed electrical cords when you are not using them. Some cats love to chew on electrical cords, especially those attached to Christmas lights. This behavior can expose your kitty to a nasty shock. To avoid this, you can cover your cords with a protector or coat them with a non-toxic spray from the pet store.

Make sure that drapery and blind cords remain out of reach. Cats love to play and bat around strings, but they can inadvertently strangle themselves if they wind the cord around its neck or choke on the plastic pull if they swallow it.

Always check refrigerators, freezers, dresser drawers, closets, washers and dryers before closing their doors. We all know how stealthy cats can be, and you might not notice your cat sneaking past you to find a quiet, dark place to sleep.

Keep the toilet lid down. Cats sometimes look for sources of water other than what’s in their water dish. In their quest to find new sources, they can end up venturing into the toilet. This could result in a very wet and unhappy cat.

These few easy little tweaks can help keep your cat happy and safe in your home.

If you have any questions or concerns about whether something is dangerous, please always consult your veterinarian. For more information please visit our Feline Health Library at:

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza.

Traveling with your furry feline, whether for vacation or due to a move, can be stressful for everyone involved. But with a few helpful tips, traveling with your cat can be a more enjoyable experience for you and hopefully create less anxiety for your cat.

Car trips: Car travel can actually be easier for you and your feline friend for long trips. While generally speaking a lot of cats don’t like being in the car, you are able to control their comfort and environment more than you are with air travel. Here are a few tips for making the trip more pleasant:

For your and its safety, keep your cat in its carrier at all times. A panicky cat loose in the car can potentially cause an accident. Wiping the inside of the carrier with artificial pheromones such as Feliway might help make being confined easier on your kitty. If it’s a longer car trip — think more than 6 hours — you can try using a small dog crate or pet pop up tent in your back seat to allow room for a litter box and more comfortable bedding.

Put the carrier in the back seat of the car. If an airbag goes off while the carrier is in the front seat, it could injure your feline friend.

Secure the carrier properly by wrapping a seat beat around the front to minimize shifting or falling.

Do not let your cat stick its heads out the window. Such behavior is extremely risky, as your kitty can jump out when the car is stopped, can be injured by debris, or can get sick when hot or cold air is forced into its lungs.

Let your feline friend out for walks/rest stops, but only if it accepts being put on a leash. Do not let it roam free in unfamiliar places.

Never leave your cat alone in the car. A car can heat up very quickly in the summer and drop below freezing in the winter, and both can cause irreversible damage to your cat. And you might also be issuing an unspoken invitation to pet thieves!

Plane trips: Though traveling by car is always preferable to flying, there are times when a plane trip is unavoidable. If you find yourself in such a situation, here are some tips to make air travel safer for your cat:

If you are allowed, ALWAYS opt to bring your cat in the cabin with you. Flying in the cargo hold can dangerous due to stress, as well as the abnormal temperatures and air pressures. In addition, many felines get lost or injured during the loading and unloading process. Putting your cat down below also limits your travel options, as certain times of year are too hot or too cold to allow animals to be put in cargo. Fortunately, most airlines will allow you to travel with your cat on board for an additional fee.

Be sure to call the airline well in advance to reserve a spot. Only a limited number of animals are generally allowed in the cabin on each flight. Read More


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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza.

If you’ve ever injured a foot, you know how debilitating it can be. Having to limp around because of a cut, sore or other trauma can really limit your mobility and cramp your style!

The same goes for our feline friends making paw health an important part of your cat’s care. So how can you help your cat stay “happy-pawed?”

Here are some tips:

Always talk to your veterinarian if you notice that your cat is licking their paws obsessively, limping, or favoring a leg. This behavior can indicate a variety of issues so it’s best to your cat examined if you’re noticing these symptoms. Obsessive licking can be signs of dermatological issues, food allergies, or even anxiety. Limping or favoring a leg can be signs of internal injury or even arthritis in a senior kitty.

Wipe your kitty’s paws with a damp cloth once a day, making sure to check between the toes and around the pads. Your cat’s feet should be kept as clean as possible, meaning free of litter, dirt and household chemicals. Keeping chemicals off your feline friend’s paws is especially important, as they may be ingested during the grooming process and cause toxicity. For outdoor cats, make sure to clean their paws each time they come back inside. By wiping each time they go in and out you remove pollens and potential toxins they may have picked up.

Inspect your kitty’s paws for cuts, sores, swelling or splinters. In addition to being very painful, those injuries can cause potentially dangerous infections. If your cat has a prominent and obvious splinter, contact your veterinarian immediately. Attempting to remove it yourself can potentially cause more damage and pain for your cat.

Clip your cat’s claws regularly. This will help prevent its nails from getting caught painfully when it scratches things. Most cats do not like it when their claws are trimmed, but gently massaging your kitty’s paws helps get it used to having someone touch its paws and makes the process a little easier. To clip the nails, carefully apply pressure to the top of your cat’s foot and the cushioned part underneath. This will cause your kitty to extend its claws. Then clip the very ends, making sure not to get too close to the base of each nail (which can cause pain). Your vet can help you with recommendations about which clippers to use and can even do the trimming if your cat is less than cooperative.

Certain longhaired breeds may need the hair between their pads trimmed. Contact a groomer or your veterinarian before trying this at home. When and if you try it at home, always use a rounded pair of grooming scissors to minimize potential accidents. It’s incredibly easy to cut your cat’s skin accidentally and cause a painful injury. Read More


Live Beyond 9 Lives banner This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

It can be tempting for pet owners to forgo spaying or neutering their cats. Letting “nature take its course” by avoiding an “unnecessary” or “elective” surgical procedure can seem like a better option to many. However, it can pose serious health risks and unwanted behaviors and can cause unnecessary increases in your community’s cat population.

What does spaying or neutering entail?

Spaying (for females) is a surgical procedure in which the cat’s reproductive organs (ovaries and uterus) are removed. Neutering takes the testicles out of male cats.

What are the benefits to your cat?

Longer and healthier lives: In addition to preventing unwanted pregnancies, spaying helps keep female kitties from developing uterine infections and even breast cancer, which is fatal in approximately 90 percent of the cats who contract it. To ensure that the kitty gets the maximum protection, you should spay before its first “heat” or reproductive period.

In male cats, neutering prevents testicular cancer if done with in the first six months of life.

What are the benefits to your community?

Population control.Neutering and spaying reduces the stray cat population in your area and helps reduce the number of cats who are euthanized. Unfortunately, millions of cats are picked up off the streets every year, given to shelters and put to sleep due to overcrowding. This huge population of strays is largely the result of unplanned litters that could have easily been prevented by spaying or neutering the parents.

What are the benefits to you as a pet owner?

A quieter and cleaner house. An unspayed female cat will normally go into heat for four to five days every three weeks for the entire duration of its breeding years. During those periods, she will try to signal to male cats that she is receptive by yowling incessantly and urinating in your house. Spaying eliminates this behavior. Better behaved male kitties.

Unneutered cats tend to be more territorial and aggressive toward other cats. They are therefore more likely to urinate in the house and to get in fights with other nearby felines. Indoor cats will try to sneak out of the house to look for reproductive opportunities, exposing them to additional dangers outdoors and potential health risks. Neutering generally reduces these aggressive and unsafe behaviors.

Cost savings. The cost of spaying or neutering is usually far less than caring for a litter of cats. When having your cat spayed or neutered, always make sure to get labwork to ensure it is safe for them to undergo anesthesia and make sure you are sent home with pain medication to help them recover. Spaying or neutering your cat is an affordable, safe, and responsible decision that ultimately helps control populations, provides lifelong health benefits for your cat, and creates a better household environment for you.

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This is a sponsored post by Elizabeth Arguelles, veterinarian and owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. 

Veterinary care for our feline friends continues to advance and improve allowing us to help our cats live longer with more quality years.

Unfortunately, veterinary medicine still can’t cure everything, especially the effects of time and aging. Feline hospice care has emerged as a way to help give your cat comfort during the end of life allowing you to have more precious time and your cat to remain comfortable.

How can hospice care help your cat?

Just like human medicine, hospice care is a treatment plan designed to provide supportive care to cats that are in the final stage of life whether it’s from progressive disease, cancer or old age. The main goal is to ensure that your cat maintains quality of life as comfortable and as pain free as possible.

When is hospice care advised?

Unfortunately, there usually comes a time in every cat’s life when its veterinarian concludes that further treatment will not improve its condition and that continuing any aggressive procedures might cause unnecessary pain or discomfort. Hospice care is not meant to take the place of euthanasia — there will be a point even in hospice care that euthanasia is the most humane course of action, but for those that euthanasia is not an option, it helps to make your cat’s remaining time as comfortable as possible.

What does hospice care entail?

Pain management: Pain management is the most important element of hospice care. Allowing a sick or elderly cat to suffer is unnecessary with modern veterinary medicine, so your vet will likely prescribe pain medications to ensure your cat is comfortable. Be advised, though, that cats are masters at hiding when they are in discomfort. You may have to look for subtle signs of pain, including hiding, avoiding contact, changes in body language like ears back or squinting eyes and changes in gait and movement.

Comfort: Comfort involves environmental changes in your cat’s living space. Ensuring your cat has clean comfortable bedding, stays warm, and has easy access to food, water, and a litter box is crucial.

Remember, aging felines can be painful and stiff from arthritis so providing a litter box that’s easy to get into and out of is important. Make sure to keep all of your cat’s essentials on the same floor of your house so they do not have to go up and down stairs. Even with the pain medication, your feline friend might have heightened pain sensitivity, so take care to handle it very gently.

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Though relatively new to the West, traditional Chinese treatments such as acupuncture have been used to improve the health of humans and animals in the Far East for thousands of years. At Just Cats Clinic we are very excited to announce that one of our full time veterinarians will be starting the Chi Institute’s program to become certified in veterinary acupuncture.

What is “traditional Chinese medicine?”

Traditional Chinese medicine is based on Daoist philosophy, which sees the body as a microcosm of the larger universe around it. As such, practitioners believe that the forces and laws that govern the external environment also regulate the body’s inner workings.

Diseases are the result of imbalances inside the body, and diagnosing them requires identifying the underlying pattern of said imbalances. Because the body is an interconnected system of functions, a disease and the disharmony that causes it have to be treated together. This is the reason why the term “holistic” is often used in reference to traditional Chinese medicine.

There are four branches of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine: herbal medicine, food therapy, Tui-na (a type of massage) and acupuncture. The practice of using Chinese herbal medicine can treat a variety of diseases and most herbs can be compounded in easy to administer forms.

Food therapy tailors diet and food ingredients based on each patient’s need to prevent imbalance with in the body. Tui-na, a form of Chinese medical massage, targets different acupoints in the body to promote circulation and correct imbalances. Acupuncture stimulates the healing process by using tiny needles to normalize nerve functions and circulation. The needles are inserted into different acupoints on your cat’s body, depending on which particular ailment is being treated.


Though the thought of sticking needles into your feline friend may send shivers down your spine, acupuncture is actually a painless experience for your kitty. When a properly trained acupuncturist inserts the needles, they do so in such a way that no pain signals are sent to your cat’s brain. As a result, the process is so relaxing that your cat may even fall asleep during the treatment.

How can acupuncture help your cat?

Used in conjunction with existing Western treatments, acupuncture can be a great, non-invasive way to improve the health of cats suffering from long-term pain, arthritis, asthma, allergies chronic kidney disease and a host of other ailments.

It can also ease the discomfort associated with the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy in felines undergoing cancer treatments. In addition, acupuncture can relieve the pain and stiffness that older cats often feel, increasing their quality of life, boosting their energy levels and hopefully adding years to their lives.

When looking for a veterinary acupuncturist, always make sure they are a licensed veterinarian and that they have had formal training in veterinary acupuncture. While acupuncture is incredibly safe, it must be done by a practitioner that has completed training to ensure its being done correctly.

One of the most recognized programs for acupuncture is the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. It involves a rigorous program with hands on training with certified acupuncturists, class room hours with small student to teacher ratio, and an examination process. The Chi Institute is also endorsed by the China National Society of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine.


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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

It takes a lot people working behind the scenes to ensure that a patient’s visit to a veterinary clinic goes as smoothly and pleasantly as possible for both the cat and the owners. One of the key members of your cat’s healthcare team is your practice’s licensed veterinary technician.

Though the terms “licensed veterinary technician” and “veterinary assistant” are sometimes used interchangeably, there are definitive differences between the two positions.

For starters, though licensed vet techs sometimes do the jobs of veterinary assistants, the latter usually cannot do what the former does. No specific educational training or credentials are required for someone to become a veterinary assistant. Licensed veterinary technicians, on the other hand, must complete a two-year program at an American Veterinary Medical Association accredited college or technical school and hold a professional license that must be renewed annually. Licensed technicians are also required to complete a certain amount of continuing education as well. Read More


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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Cats have sensitive ears and can suffer from a variety of ear problems throughout the ear as a result. Ear issues can occur in any of the four major parts of the ear: the pinnae or the outer ears sitting on the top of the head, the external ear canal, and the middle ear and inner ear. In this article, we examine some of the more common problems associated with each part of the ear. As always, if you suspect any ear problems in your cat, contact your veterinarian for an exam.

Issues affecting the pinnae or outer ears

Wounds or external trauma: By far the most common problems affecting the pinnae are wounds. In the majority of cases, these cuts, scrapes or scratches are a result of fights with other cats. Occasionally, however, your kitty can inflict these wounds to itself when scratching its head.

Fortunately, most of these external traumas are minor in nature. If a bite or scratch is deep enough, though, it can tear all the way through the pinna creating a greater risk for infection, and if deep enough maybe even sutures. With any noticeable cut or scratch on the outer ear, have your veterinarian examine the ear. Abscesses can develop and cause considerable pain to your cat and require immediate medical attention.

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