Category Archives: How To’s

Cats 411

Cat 411
By Karen Burgess, DVM 

What should be considered before getting a cat?
The introduction of any pet should first be discussed with all family members or potential human housemates.  Cats are a long-term commitment living up to twenty years. If unsure, ensure that no family members have an allergy to cats (typically to their saliva or dander).  If uncertain or unfamiliar with cats in general, it is a good idea to first visit and interact with cats in an animal shelter type setting.

What should I look for in a cat?
Ideally one would have the chance to spend at least an hour observing a prospective cat’s behavior.  Ensure that they are willing to be handled by humans and seem comfortable with all family members.  Cats that have been handled by people from a young age and raised by a mother cat tend to be better options (bottle raised kittens may have more issues with behavior in the future).   Observe for any signs of a respiratory infection (sneezing, nasal discharge), has solid stools, uses the litterbox, and has a good overall appetite.

What do I need to own a cat?
It is best to have the following supplies before bringing your new cat home.

  • Cat carrier, some shelters may provide a cardboard variety, plastic versions are typically more convenient and durable and are often available second hand at garage sales etc.
  • Litterbox, purchase the biggest available (even consider a concrete mixing container from Home Depot, often more affordable and larger than real litterboxes), avoid uncovered versions
  • Litter and scooper, clumping, non-scented preferable, commercial scoopers are typically most durable
  • Water and food bowls, separated
  • Cat food, try and find out what your new kitty is already eating and obtain a small amount of this to start with, having some additional cans of tasty cat food may also serve as a nice treat
  • Scratching post, horizontal and vertical, many types available, taller the better as cats typically want to scratch while in a full stretch, ask Healthy Paws for additional recommendations on scratching in general
  • Cat toys, various types available, favorites tend to be wand toys, balls, food dispensing balls, catnip products
  • Cat bed, covered often preferred
  • Cat hair brush and nail clippers for grooming
  • Cat collar, breakaway type (one that if a cat jumps and is caught by the collar will break away thus preventing choking), bell can be helpful in keeping track or your new friend

Where should my new cat stay?
In the beginning it is best to have a small room (laundry room, bathroom as example) set up as the cat room.  Put food, water, litterbox, bedding, scratching post, and toys in this room and use it as a home base.  Fill the litterbox with 2 inches minimum of litter and place food and water bowls as far away from the litter as possible.  Cats like hiding spots.  Keeping a carrier, covered cat bed, or even a box with one open side in the room may provide added security.  Use of the scratching post can be encouraged by sprinkling it with catnip or hanging a toy from the top.  As your cat and you feel more comfortable, gradually allow more access to other areas of the house.

Do I need to cat-proof my home?
Cats by nature are inquisitive animals often preferring vertical surfaces to allow a better view the lay of the land.  Small areas are also favorite hiding places for cats.  Take a look around the house before introducing your new cat to look for any potential areas that might require blocking off.  Look at all surfaces, including tops of cabinets/higher surfaces to ensure nothing will be harmed if your cat starts exploring.  Some common safety concerns for cats include…

  • Recliners
  • Washers and dryers/piles of laundry that unwittingly contain a sleeping cat
  • Doors left open to the outside
  • String, yarn, rubberbands, and hairties that may be ingested causing life-threating intestinal blockage
  • Trash cans that do not contain lids
  • Dangling electrical or window blind cords
  • Breakable objects that may fall during cat exploration (look for museum or earthquake wax to secure objects)
  • Household plants
  • Fireplaces, ensure have a screen
  • Boxes that are unintentionally thrown out with a cat inside
  • Burning candles
  • Closed closets or drawers that a cat may have hidden in

What about the first day at home?
Once home, take your new cat into their special room in their carrier.  Close the door, get situated sitting on the floor, open the carrier door, and wait patiently kitty decides how they want to explore.  Some cats will come bounding out and be excited about their new surroundings, others may hide for hours in the crate only coming out to explore when left completely alone.  Be patient, even shy cats can make wonderful pets; they just may require a bit more time to adjust.

When should the first veterinary visit be?
New cats should have a complete examination by a veterinarian within a week of coming home to ensure their overall health.

What are some good general cat resources?




How To: Toothbrushing
By Dr. Karen Burgess

1.  Right time right place
Chose a time when your pet and you are relaxed and in a comfortable space.

2.  Pet face
Hold your pet as you normally would when petting.  Rub or stroke their outer cheek (overlying their teeth) with your finger.  Lift their lip periodically during this process.  Provide a reward/treat at the end of each session.  Repeat this process twice daily for gradually increasing amounts of time until able to perform for 2 minutes and successfully rub over both upper and lower teeth.

3.  Opening the mouth
Put a hand underneath your pet’s chin and let them rest their head in your hand.  At the same time, place your second hand on top of their nose (muzzle).  Immediately release and provide a reward/treat.  Repeat 5-10 times a couple times a day.  After several days (when pet appears at ease with above), do the same but lift the upper lips with the hand on the nose exposing the teeth for a few seconds.  Reward and repeat as above.  Next gradually increase the time teeth are exposed until up to 10 seconds.  Once this has been achieved, open your pet’s mouth and touch inside the mouth for a second. Reward and repeat 5-10 times a couple times daily.  With each session, try and open mouth slightly wider with the goal being to see all the way to the back teeth.  Finally, gradually increase the time the mouth is kept open and time that your finger is kept in the mouth/touching the teeth/gums.  If at any time your pet shows signs of anxiety or resentment go back a step until they are comfortable and relaxed before moving on.

4.  Bouillon or tuna water dip
Dip your finger in a tasty liquid of choice.   As before, hold the nose and lift the upper lift keeping mouth closed, gently rub your opposite hand’s finger along the gums and teeth working from back to front.  The gum line (crevice where gum meets crown or white part of tooth) is of particular importance.  Initially perform for 2-3 seconds before providing a reward/treat.  Repeat 2 to 3 times daily for gradually increasing amounts of time until able to rub outer surface of all teeth for 10 seconds each.

5.  Pantyhose wrap
Repeat step 3 but with finger wrapped in pantyhose or gauze.  Provide a reward/treat at the end of each session.

6.  Taste test toothpaste
Repeat step 4 after placing a small amount of animal toothpaste on your finger.  Provide a reward/treat at the end of each session.

7.  Toothbrush
Place a small amount of toothpaste on soft bristled children’s or pet’s toothbrush; try to apply the paste between the bristles thus allowing it to last longer and not be immediately licked off.  Lift the upper lip and using slow oval motion at a 45 degree angle focusing on the gum line; brush one tooth and associated gum only.  Pay particular attention to the gum line as this is where bacteria and plaque collect.  Provide a reward/treat at the end of session and repeat twice daily.

8.  Gradually increase
As pet is comfortable with it, increase the number of teeth that are brushed up until brushing each side for 30 seconds.  Attempt to do three to four teeth at a time and complete 10 strokes over each section.  As always, provide a reward/treat at the end of each and every session.

9.  Inside of teeth
Although of less importance, above steps can also be repeated for the inner surfaces of the teeth.

Subcutaneous Fluids

Subcutaneous Fluid Administration
By Dr. Karen Burgess


-Keep supplies at room temperature.
-Prior to getting your pet, set up your administration set.
-Remove fluid bag and administration tubing from packaging.
-Remove plastic tab from end of fluid bag.
-Hang fluid bag ideally just above head height (the higher the bag the faster the fluids will flow due to gravity).
-Remove cap from pointed end of administration set and carefully pierce fluid bag; do not touch tip of administration set during this process.
-Squeeze clear plastic tube on administration set immediately below fluid bag to fill chamber partially; the idea is to keep air out of the line but still be able to see the fluid drip into the chamber.  If you fill the chamber too full you will not be able to see the drips.  In this situation, take the bag down, hold it upside down, squeeze chamber to empty fluid back into the fluid bag, and start again.
-After the chamber is partially full, use roll bar on the fluid line to open up flow.  Once fluid is flowing freely from end of line, reclamp the roll bar stopping flow of fluid.
-Place a fresh needle on end of administration tubing.


-Chose a time of day and location that are as relaxing as possible for fluid administration.  This may be on your lap, a favorite pillow, or perched near a window.
-Offer your pet a high value food reward while giving fluids or immediately after if possible.  This can often help alleviate some of the negative feelings they may have about the process.

Fluid Administration

-Lift a scruff of skin at nape of neck forming a tent or triangle.
-Taking care to not stick your own hand, pierce skin with needle perpendicular to the skin.  Insert until needle is no longer visible.
-If blood is seen after needle insertion, remove the needle and use a different location.
-The needle should pierce the skin easily and cause minimal discomfort.  If needle seems dull or causes unexpected pain, replace with a new needle and try again.
-Using one hand open up roll bar clamp on fluids allowing flow while holding pet with other hand.  It may be necessary to have an extra pair of hands to help.
-Watch line on fluid bag until volume desired has been administered.
-Close roll bar clamp and swiftly remove needle from pet.  Replace lid and then replace needle with fresh needle (thus ensuring a new needle at the start of every treatment).
-Do not touch the needle or the end of the administration tubing with your hands or to any other surfaces.  These should be kept as sterile as possible with the needle only coming into contact with your pet’s skin.

 Fluid Pocket

-The pocket of subcutaneous fluids is absorbed overtime by the body.  If you notice the pocket is still present (you may find it in the same location or “settled” under the chest or belly) at your next scheduled administration time, do not give further fluids and contact Healthy Paws Animal Hospital