Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Year in Review: 2015

The Year in Review, 2015

Another year has come and gone.   My New Year’s resolutions for 2015 have also come and gone, most of them unachieved, unfortunately. 

I was hoping to eat healthier and get back down to 165 pounds.  I started the year at 179 pounds.  I am now 176 pounds.  Sigh. 

I resolved to organize all of my travel photos this year.  Didn’t happen.

I resolved to convert all of my cassette tapes into mp3 files, and then throw out the massive box of cassettes that I’ve hauled around with me for 30 years.  Didn’t happen.

I resolved to have all of my print photos scanned and converted into jpeg files.  Didn’t happen.

I read an article that said that, realistically, most people can keep between 5 and 9 resolutions.  The author of that article is a liar.

It was a year of ups and downs.  The biggest “up”, I suppose, is that my partner of nearly 16 years, Mark, asked me to marry him!  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Non-surgical Methods of Feline Sterilization and Contraception

Non-surgical Methods of Feline Sterilization and Contraception

Cats have long been recognized for their fertility.  Bastet, the Egyptian goddess of fertility, is depicted as a cat in artwork, and the ancient Egyptians worshipped cats as symbols of fertility. When it comes to making babies, the feline is one of the most prolific domestic pets around.  Cats are known for their ability to reproduce in their first year of life, and like rabbits, they are capable of multiple pregnancies within a single reproductive season. 

Because of their reproductive efficiency, the population of un-owned cats can expand rapidly, bringing with it considerable problems.  According to The ASPCA, an estimated 1.4 million cats are euthanized annually in U.S. animal shelters alone. 

Currently, surgery (spaying and neutering) is the preferred approach to sterilization. Trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs have been effective at reducing the feline population in many countries, but TNR programs have limited effectiveness.  Finding other methods of controlling the feline population, both owned and un-owned, is a major international welfare challenge.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Reader Question: Is there any Advice for an Owner of a Longhair Cat that gets Heavily Matted?

Dear Dr. Plotnick,
I have two domestic shorthair cats who are brother and sister. They will be 12 years old in April. The problem is that the female gets matted fur that I cannot remove unless I shave it off – which I am afraid to do. The mats do not seem to bother her, but they look uncomfortable. They are located on her chest area. Do you have any advice for me?

Bonnie L.

Dear Bonnie,

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Reader Question: My Cat is Peeing Outside the Litter Box. Is it because of the Other Cats in the Household?

Dear Dr. Plotnick, 
I have a male cat, 18 years old, who is urinating all over the house even though I am cleaning the litter box (shared by 3 cats) daily. I haven’t changed the type of cat litter, or his diet. This behavior is not new but there is an aggravation.

The two other cats are 1 male and 1 female. Could his behavior be due to the third cat being a male? What can I do to make him urinating in the litter? My veterinarian could not find any reason for this behavior.

Jacqueline B.

Dear Jacqueline,

Monday, November 9, 2015

Aung San Suu Kyi and a brief history of the Burmese democracy movement

            Readers of my blog know that travel and cats are my two passions.  Friends, clients, and readers have been asking me where I'm going next.  A few months ago, I decided that Burma (now called Myanmar, although I'm going to keep calling it Burma) was my next destination, and I've been preparing for it ever since, reading travel guides, history books, Burma-related blogs, and putting together an interesting itinerary (that of course includes cats.)  

Burma has been in the news lately, because of their upcoming election.  I shouldn't say "upcoming", because as I write this, the elections have just wrapped up, and results are trickling in.  We'll know more in a few days.

You really can’t talk about Burma without talking about the world’s most famous former prisoner of conscience, Aung San Suu Kyi.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you have to have heard about this remarkable woman.  Aung San Suu Kyi has served as the human face of the Burmese freedom struggle.  She is to Burma what Nelson Mandela was to South Africa. Because many Americans only have a vague awareness of what's going on in Burma and who Aung San Suu Kyi is, I thought I'd devote this column to (hopefully) Burma's next leader.         

            Undoubtedly, much of Aung San Suu Kyi’s standing comes from her status as the daughter of Aung San, the revered father of modern Myanmar.  Despite the illustrious parentage, her early life gave no hint of path she would later follow.  Born in Yangon in 1945, she was just two years old when her father was assassinated. She spend many of her younger years abroad, first in Delhi where her mother, Khin Kyi, served as Burmese ambassador to India and Nepal, before studying at Oxford University, where she met her future husband, Dr. Michael Aris, the late distinguished Asian scholar.  She later worked for the UN in New York before marrying Aris in 1971.  She and Aris spend their first year of their marriage in Bhutan, where Aris tutored the royal family.  They then returned to England, living in Oxford, where Aris became a university lecturer.  Aung San Suu Kyi continued her studies at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies.  She also raised two sons. 

            So how did the bookish and retiring wife of an Oxford lecturer rise to such global prominence? 

Friday, November 6, 2015

50 Cat Safe Plants For Your Garden

50 Cat Safe Plants For Your Garden

Guest post by Laura M. Sands

Growing cat-safe plants in your garden is a wonderful goal for pet owners and non-pet owners, alike. Avoiding toxic plants helps to ensure the safety of your own pets as well as neighborhood cats who may occasionally roam your yard. According to the ASPCA, plants like Aloe and Branching Ivy are particularly harmful to cats, but with so many plants that are safe for a cat to enjoy you’ll hardly miss any that should be avoided.

Some of the most beautiful and cat-safe plants for your garden include:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Feline Body Parts - The Liver

Feline Body Parts – The Liver
"Liver Me This"
by Arnold Plotnick, MS, DVM, ACVIM
  • Published in Catster   Volume 1, No. 3, Sept/Oct 2015
“What am I? Chopped liver?”  You’ve probably heard this figure of speech before, the speaker implying that he’s worthless.  I can assure you, as a cat veterinarian, that the liver (unchopped, at least) is anything but worthless.  In fact, the liver is one of the most important and versatile organs in the body.  If you’re impressed with the ability to multitask, then you’ll really admire the liver.  It stores glucose, to supply the body with energy when needed.  It makes clotting factors, to control bleeding. It detoxifies the blood.  It stores vitamins and minerals.  It helps digest food. It metabolizes drugs. You name it, the liver probably does it.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Aggressive Neighboring Cats

Aggressive Neighboring Cats

Guest post by Laura M. Sands

He’s handsome and brave, fun to watch and doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. As he strolls through the neighborhood while barely acknowledging your presence, you decide that you’ve just got to get close enough for a proper introduction. You make up your mind to just go for it as your cat silently approaches to join the fun. Before you can take another step, though, fur is quite literally flying and a friendship is ruined before it even begins.

So what just happened here? Well, while you were daydreaming about all of the fun you could have together, an aggressive neighboring cat decided that three's a crowd and that your cat is no longer allowed in his territory. The bigger problem here is that his territory is your yard, so how do you protect your outdoor cat from future harm?

How to Handle an Aggressive Neighboring Cat

Friday, October 16, 2015

Last day in Oslo: The National Gallery and the Contemporary Art Museum, a last peek at the Opera House, and then (sigh)... home.

Our short little trip to Oslo is coming to an end.  Our flight back leaves at 6:00 p.m.  Need to be at the airport at 4:00.  Gotta catch the train at 3:30.  This gives essentially half a day more of sightseeing before we say goodbye.  So, one more stroll up Karl Johans gate as we make our way to The National Gallery.

The National Gallery is Norways' largest and most prestigious art gallery.  It is housed in a  huge 19th-century building.  What it lacks in internationally famous painters (aside from Edvard Munch), it makes up in Norwegian art.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Oslo: City Hall and the Opera House, The Edvard Munch Museum, the Botanical Gardens, and a final walk through Grunlerløkka.

Our next to last day in Oslo started with a trip to City Hall.  City Halls tend to be the dominant buildings in Scandinavian capitals, rather than churches.  Perhaps that's why Scandinavia always ranks so high on the list of countries with happy, satisfied people.  Here, people pay high taxes, have high expectations, and usually get what they expect: a government that cares about its citizens and spends their money wisely, i.e. free health care, free universities, and well paying jobs.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Arrival in Oslo: Walking tour of this beautiful city.

In my job, I have a fair amount of vacation time that must be used up before the end of the year.  It’s a use-it-or-lose-it policy.  Fortunately, the opportunity arose for a lil’ five day mini-vacation in the middle of August.  I wanted to go somewhere with a relatively short travel time, and I don’t know why, but Scandinavia beckoned.  Having been to Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, I was left with Norway and Iceland as two relatively nearby vacation spots.  I checked and saw that flights to Oslo, on Norwegian Air Shuttle, were super-affordable, so using my Barclay Card air miles, I snagged two round trip tickets. Time flies, as it tends to do, and before I knew it, we were in the Carmel car on the way to JFK.

Oslo, the smallest of the Scandinavian capitals, is a great city.  Clean, friendly, loads of museums, great restaurants, tons of outdoor space, a beautiful harbor... this is a city that really has its act together.

A word now about Norwegian Airlines.   Yes, the airfare was surprisingly affordable.  It almost made me wonder if there was some catch somewhere.   There is.  You pay for your ticket, and then practically everything else is a la carte.  After you purchase your ticket, you don’t get a seat assignment.  You get your seats when you check in at the airport, unless you want to select your seat ahead of time online.  The cost?  33 euros!  That adds about $40 per seat, or $80 onto the ticket price.  And that’s one way.  Add another $80 for the flight back, and now you’ve added $160 to the total cost of your ticket.  Checked baggage? It’ll cost you.  Unlike most airlines, your first checked bag is not free.  It’s 42 euro!  Food?  Forget it.  They don’t even give you water on the plane unless you’ve pre-paid online or you order while on the plane.  Meals cost a fortune.  The person sitting next to me ordered dinner.  It was a tiny little spoonful of rice, some chicken, and a few veggies.  Not worth it.  The air temperature in the cabin was very low.  They had the place chilled like a meat locker.  Fortunately, I brought a sweatshirt, because if you wanted a blanket, guess what?  Yep.  $5.   Every seat has a screen on the back, so you do have choices of movies and TV shows, but it’s a crappy selection.  No headphones?  That’ll be $3. So, if you don’t mind risking getting a mediocre seat (our seats were fine, it turned out), taking all carry-on luggage, and bringing your own food (which I did),  packing a  sweater (which I did), and having your own headphones (check) and your own favorite movies and shows loaded on your iPad/laptop/iPhone (check), the flight is a bargain.  The bottom line:  flying Norwegian Airlines?  Plan ahead!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Amsterdam and Paris 2015 - Day 10 - Last day in Paris. Exploring Montmartre and the Museum Fragonard at the Veterinary School.

Day 10 -  Last day in Paris.  Exploring Montmartre and the Museum Fragonard at the Veterinary School.
(Continued from Day 9)

For the last day, I figured we should take the obligatory trek to Montmartre.  

It's a trendy neighborhood, and it has so much history.  So many struggling artists, poets dreamers and drinkers came here for the cheap rent and wild nightlife.  

The Metro takes you to Rue des Abbesses, where you encounter the rust-red Neo-Gothic Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre church.  It was built in the early 20th century. 

Nearby was Le Cafe Qui Parle, with their popular weekend all-you-can-eat buffet brunch.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Paris-Amsterdam Day 9 - Promenade Plantee, Cat Cafe, and Pompidou Center

Day 9 - Promenade Plantee, Cat Cafe, and Pompidou Center
(Continued from Day 8)

Our next-to-last day started at a hip breakfast place called Lockwood.  They open early for breakfast, and stay open late for dinner and drinks and music.  

I started the day with pancakes, which immediately put me into a sugar coma.

Next we were off to the big department stores, Printemps and Galleries Lafayette, but we realized that there was no need to go shopping in Paris when we have the same shopping grandeur right here in New York.  So we didn't stay long.  Galleries Lafayette had cool lights outside.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Amsterdam and Paris 2015 - Day 8, Part II

Paris - Day 8, pt 2
(Continued from here

This morning, we spent the day in a suburb of Paris, looking at the graves of beloved pets in the Cemetery of Dog and Other Domestic Animals.  This afternoon, we explored the opposite of suburbia.  We checked out le petit Manhattan.  In other words, La Défense.

Although Paris keeps its historic center sky-scraper free, this district affords tourists the view of Paris most don't usually see: that of a modern-day economic superpower.  La Defense was first conceived more than 60 years ago as a district that would accommodate the business needs of the modern world.  Today, it is a thriving commercial and shopping center, home to 150,000 employees and 55,000 residents.

The centerpiece of the area is the huge La Grande Arche de la Fraternité.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Amsterdam and Paris - Day 8, Part 1 - The Cimitière des Chiens (or, I DO Wanna Be Buried in a Pet Sematary)

Day 8, Part 1 - The Cimitière des Chiens (or, I DO Wanna Be Buried in a Pet Sematary)
(Continued from Day 7.  Day 1 starts here.)

Our eighth day in Paris started with a long train ride to the Northwest of Paris, to a suburb called Asnière-sur-Seine, for what turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

Paris is well known for her celebrated cemeteries, most notably the Père Lachaise, which is home to the graves of such luminaries as Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Jim Morrison.  On my recent trip to Paris, I had another cemetery in my sights – the Cimitière des Chiens, the world’s oldest public pet cemetery.

The cemetery has a rich history.  In the 19th century, although animal welfare had been steadily improving in Paris, the options for what to do with the remains of a deceased pet were still crude and limited.  More often than not, the remains were tossed out with the household garbage, when they were not dumped into the Seine or in the moats around the fortified city walls.  However, on June 21st, 1898, the Paris city government declared that dead pets could no longer be discarded in the trash or dumped in the river.  Deceased pets had to be buried in hygienic graves that were located, at minimum, 100 meters from the nearest dwelling and in such a way that “the body will be covered with a layer of earth to be at least a meter thick”. 

At that time, the suburb of Asnière-sur-Siene, in the northwest of Paris, was a Sunday destination reserved for Parisians in search of greenery and distractions.  This stretch of the Siene happened to face L’Ile des Ravageurs (the Island of Destruction), a small island occupied only by rag merchants who gathered old fabric, metal and other abandoned objects for retail.  Attorney Georges Harmois and journalist Marguerite Durand sought to profit from the new law authorizing the internment of deceased animals by conceiving, on May 2, 1899, the “Anonymous French Society of the Cemetery for Dogs and other Domestic Animals”.   On June 15, 1899, the society purchased from the Baron of Bosmolet half of L’Ile des Ravageurs, which met the requirement of being at least 100 meters from the nearest dwelling. The first zoological necropolis of its kind, the cemetery was officially opened to the public at the end of the summer of 1899.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Amsterdam and Paris 2015 - Day 7 - The Marais, Saint Germaine des Pres, and the Museum of the History of Medicine

Day 7 - The Marais, Saint Germaine des Pres, and the Museum of the History of Medicine
(Continued from Day 6)

Le Musée d'Histoire de la Médecine is one of my favorite finds in all of my time in France. I'd never even heard of it 'til an American friend posted a link to it on my blog, asking me if I'd been there. I sure hadn't, and I made plans to go right away! I've always been a huge fan of medical museums and sought them out in all my travels (my favorites so far being the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia and the Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum in Berlin), and I'm pleased to report that le Musée d'Histoire de la Médecine did not disappoint! It's a relatively small but absolutely fascinating museum if you're into creepy medical stuff. The place only takes about 45 minutes or an hour to see, and it's delightfully weird.

The Musée is full of things like scary old medical instruments, creepy medical models, strange prosthetic limbs, and more. One of the strangest and coolest items, which you'd totally miss if you're not looking for it, is a small circular table right by the staircase to go up to the second floor. At a glance, the little table doesn't seem too noteworthy, but take a closer look. It's got an intricate design under the glass top, which is made entirely of human body parts, with a real human foot as the centerpiece. Seriously:
- See more at:

Today started out nicely, with breakfast at Frenchie to Go, a well-known place not far from our hotel. Their main restaurant, Frenchie, is next door.  Reservations can be tricky to get.

Frenchie-to-Go's signature dish is their bacon breakfast sandwich.  Reviews make it sound like it's the most amazing thing ever.  Good, but overrated.

After breakfast we tackled the first item on our busy itinerary: explore the Marais.  When the Ile de la Cite became overcrowded in the 17th century, it was here, the Marais, where the wealthy Parisians moved.
Over the years, it became the center of the city's Jewish community, although today the gay and lesbian community have adopted the area.   In this nabe, you find hip boutiques, busy cafes, trendy art galleries, narrow streets, leafy squares, Jewish bakeries, aristocratic chateaux, and real Parisians.

Our walk starts at Place de la Bastille.  This is where the famous Bastille fortress stood. Though virtually nothing remains (you can just make out a faint cobblestone outline of the Bastille's round turrets traced in the pavement where Rue St. Antoine hits the square), it was on this spot where history turned.  On July 14, 1789, the people of Paris stormed the Bastille and released its seven prisoners.  This dramatic triumph of citizens over royalty ignited all of France and inspired the Revolution.  Over the next few months, the Parisians demolished the stone prison brick by brick.

The fortress is gone, but the spot remains a sacred spot for freedom lovers ever since.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Reader Question: A Gastrointestinal Cat Query. Is it Feline Colitis; a Colon Infection?

My 18 year-old cat has very foul smelling, watery diarrhea.  Occasionally there’s red blood in the diarrhea, and you can actually hear noises coming from her stomach.  She has a big appetite but is losing weight. She does have a thyroid problem.  Any advice about the diarrhea?

Thank you,

Dear Terry,

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Amsterdam and Paris 2015 - Day 6 - The Canal St. Martin, Belleville, and the Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Day 6 - The Canal St. Martin, Belleville, and the Pere Lachaise Cemetery
(Continued from Day 5

Our first full day in Paris began with a walk up the Canal St. Martin, and then a visit to the newly hip neighborhood of Belleville. To get to the canal, you take the Metro to Place del la Republique. This is where the rally for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo killings took place. Flyers and graffiti from the rally were still present at the statue in the center of the square.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Reader Question: What could the issue be if my cat is having trouble jumping up onto furniture?

Question: My female cat, Sadie is 8.5 years old and weighs about 14 pounds.  Lately, she has been having trouble jumping up on to furniture; she has actually missed a couple of times.  I have been concerned about her joints, about a year ago and took her to the vet about it, and she didn’t couldn’t find anything after checking her joints.  I do give her “Hip and Joint” cat chews, two a day.  What could this problem stem from: bad joints, or maybe a weight problem?  I can tell this is affecting her confidence in jumping on to things.  What do you suggest?

Thank you,
Ms. Laurel B.

Dear Laurel,

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Amsterdam and Paris 2015 - Day 5 - Goodbye Amsterdam, Hello Paris

Day 5 - Goodbye Amsterdam, Hello Paris
(Continued from Day 4)

Day 5 of our trip was mainly a travel day, but we had the entire morning to do something in Amsterdam.  I was considering the Rembrandt House, or maybe the zoo, but Udi was free that morning, and offered something pretty neat.  He said that if we wanted, he'd take us into the countryside and we could visit some little villages.  I thought that sounded great, so we got in his car, and off we went.

On the way, I actually saw a Dutch windmill.  Finally.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Amsterdam and Paris 2015 - Day 4 - Markets, Parks, a Cat or Two, and the Eurovision Song Contest

Day Four in Amsterdam - Markets, Parks, a Cat or Two, and the Eurovision Song Contest
(Continued from Day 3

Saturday was our last full day in Amsterdam.  We were going to check out the newly renovated Stedelijk Museum, but there was a change of plans.  Our friend Udi was free that morning, and he suggested we check out some local markets.  Sounded good to us!  First we had a nice brunch at Teun.

Then we hit an outdoor market in his neighborhood, the Jordaan.  Vendors were selling a variety of drinks.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Amsterdam and Paris 2015 - Day 3 - The Red Light District, Amstelkring Museum, and Westerpark

Day 3 in Amsterdam - The Red Light District, Amstelkring Museum, and Westerpark
(Continued from Day 2)

No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a peek at the city's oldest neighborhood, which has hosted the world's oldest profession since the year 1200.  The Dutch call this area "De Wallen" or "The Walls", after the old city walls that once stood here.  Amsterdam's current city government is trying to contain the sex trade so that it's limited to this area of the city.

This was my fourth visit to the city.  I had to check it out on my first visit, naturally.  On my second visit, with Mark, he wanted to see what the fuss was about, so I checked it out again.  Then I went with Brad, and it was his first visit, so once again I found myself traipsing through De Wallen.  Thankfully, on my fourth visit, I no longer had any desire to witness the decadence.  However, there are a lot of cool historical things to see in this area, so off we went.  Taking photos is verboten (unless you want a police officer or a gargantuan bouncer reminding you of this, up close and personal, if you try), so I limited the photos to inanimate things.

I thought this was cool, though.  This statue is titled "Belle" and it depicts a full-figured woman standing in a doorway at the top of a few small steps, as she looks confidently out into the world.

It was created by Els Rijerse, a Dutch artist.  The bronze sculpture is located on Oudekerksplein, in front of Oude Kerk, Amsterdam's oldest church.  Mariska Majoor, a former prostitute who now works at the Prostitute Information Center.  The statue is meant to show respect to the millions of women around the world who earn their money through prostitution.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Disorders of the Feline Esophagus (and the Difference between Vomiting and Regurgitation)

Last week I examined a cat that was brought to my feline-only veterinary practice for a gastrointestinal problem.  I asked the client what her main concern was, and she said that the cat was regurgitating frequently.  I asked if the cat was truly regurgitating, or if he was vomiting.  She said, “I didn’t realize there was a difference”.

I would venture that most people incorrectly believe that vomiting and regurgitating are synonymous. Vomiting is the forceful expulsion of stomach contents through the mouth.  When animals vomit, the forceful contractions of the stomach are clearly visible.  Regurgitation, on the other hand, is the ejection of undigested food from the esophagus, the tube that connects the mouth and the stomach.  (In lay terms, we often call the esophagus the “food pipe”, similar to the way we call the trachea the “windpipe”.) Regurgitation is a passive process; the animal leans forward, puts its head down, and the esophageal contents are expelled.  Unlike vomiting, there is no salivation, retching, or violent abdominal contractions.  The two processes are completely different, and so are the disorders that cause them.

Upon further questioning of my client, it was apparent that the cat was actually vomiting, and this was no surprise.  Esophageal disorders are much less common than disorders of the stomach and intestines in cats. Below is a list of the most common esophageal disorders in cats.

Esophageal foreign bodies
Reflux esophagitis
Hiatal hernia
Esophageal stricture
Cancer of the esophagus

Megaesophagus is a condition in which the esophagus is weak and unable to propel food from the mouth to the stomach.  The esophagus becomes flaccid and large (hence the “mega”, derived from Greek, meaning “large”).  There are several causes of megaesophagus in the cat, such as congenital and hereditary disorders (Siamese cats are predisposed) and neuromuscular disorders (such as dysautonomia and myasthenia gravis).  In most cases, the underlying cause is never identified.  Regurgitation is the most prominent sign in cats with megaesophagus.  If megaesophagus is secondary to a neuromuscular disorder, other signs, such as weakness, muscle pain, and muscle atrophy may be present.  Some cats with megaesophagus will regurgitate food into their mouths and then accidentally inhale some food into their lungs, leading to aspiration pneumonia.  Additional clinical signs associated with aspiration pneumonia include fever, labored breathing, and coughing.   Diagnosis of megaeophagus can often be made via radiology (x-rays).  Administration of barium before the x-rays are taken greatly enhances the visualization of the esophagus, aiding in the diagnosis.  Treatment of megaesophagus consists mainly of supportive care, except in those rare cases where a treatable underlying cause has been identified.  Supportive care involves feeding frequent small meals with the cat in an upright position.  The cat is trained to eat from a bowl placed on an elevated platform.  Ideally, the cat is held upright for 10 minutes after eating so that gravity may assist the movement of food into the stomach.  Liquefied food works best.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Amsterdam and Paris 2015 - Day 2 - The Six Collection, Electric Ladyland (the First Museum of Fluorescent Art), and EyeBar

Day 2 in Amsterdam - The Six Collection, Electric Ladyland (the First Museum of Fluorescent Art), and EyeBar
(Continued from Day 1)

It's amazing what 31 hours of being awake, followed by half an ambient and a comfortable bed will do for you.  Woke up feeling very rested, and we faced the day with great anticipation, for today we were going to view The Six Collection.   Udi has lived in Amsterdam for over 20 years and had never even heard of it, so when I made a reservation for a tour, he said he would take the morning off from work and join us.  

To explain The Six Collection, I'm going to quote liberally (in other words, blatantly plagiarize) from Russell Shorto's book, "Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City", one of my favorite books of the year.  

The beautiful house below is the home of the Six family.  The family has resided in this home since the 17th century.  When you step into the home (through the street-level doorway, rather than up the stairs), you enter into another world.  Living in the home is a man named Jan Six.  His father, the previous occupant, was Jan Six.  His eldest son is named...  Jan Six.  The fifty-six room home we were about to enter is not just a private residence.  It is the home of The Six Collection, arguably the world's grandest collection of art in a private home. The collection began in 1600s.  By the turn of the 20th century, it had grown in such size and prominence that Jan Six (not sure which one) asked the Dutch government for help in managing it.  They worked out an arrangement (which not everyone is happy about, leading to ongoing squabbles, becoming at times a matter of parliamentary debate) is an arrangement whereby the collection is owned by a private foundation (owned by the family), which has a legal contract with the Dutch state whereby the government provides a subsidy to maintain the collection and the family promises not to sell anything, and to open the house to the public on a limited basis.

So I went to the website, chose "English", and then filled out the form to reserve a tour of the place.  Fortunately, the request was granted.  As Mark, Udi, and I hovered around the entrance, two other couples appeared.  They, too, must have requested a tour online.  At precisely 10:00 a.m., a woman opened the door and invited us in.  The woman introduced herself as a student who was studying the works in the collection.  She would be the one conducting the one-hour tour.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Be Careful with Flurbiprofen around Cats

In mid-April, the FDA issued a warning to pet owners about the dangers of flurbiprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for humans.  It is used in some topical medications to treat muscle and joint pain.  The drug has been blamed for sickening or killing several cats.  I’m not sure if readers of this blog heard about this in April, but I think it bears repeating.

In two cases cited by the FDA, the cream or lotion was not applied directly to the cats.  Instead, it was used on the owners’ neck or feet.  Exactly how the cats became exposed isn’t known.  The two cases cited included two cats in one household that suffered kidney failure, but recovered with veterinary care.  Two cats in a second household that showed reluctance to eat, displayed lethargy, vomiting anemia and black, bloody stools went to a veterinarian, but ended up dying.  A third cat died after the owner stopped using the medication.  Autopsies found evidence of NSAID toxicity in the three cats’ kidneys and intestines.

Fluriprofen is a very potent NSAID that is not recommended for oral use in dogs or cats because of their extreme sensitivity.  Occasionally, the drug is prescribed for pets in eye drops, for some inflammatory eye conditions.  People using these medications should be very careful when applying them in a household with cats.  Even very small amounts could be dangerous to these animals.  Sometimes, fluriprofen cream is combined with other medications, like the muscle relaxer cyclobenzaprine, as well as other varying active ingredients, including baclofen, gabapentin, lidocaine, or prilocaine.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Amsterdam and Paris 2015 - Day 1 - Arrival

I love to travel.  It’s what I live for.  Although I tend to seek out new and exotic lands, it’s nice to go back to familiar places now and then.  I get to revisit restaurants and museums that I enjoyed the first time I visited, and I get to check out new neighborhoods, new exhibits, and new shops and stores.   So, for my first trip of 2015, I chose two fantastic cities – Amsterdam and Paris. 

As you know, I’m a cat veterinarian and enthusiast, so I try my best to do and see anything that may be cat-related while I travel.    Previous trips I’ve taken – to Greece, Turkey, and Morocco – made this easy. These countries were swarming with stray cats.  They were everywhere.   This is not the case in Amsterdam and Paris, however, I did manage to see a few, as you’ll soon discover.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Feline Acromegaly

Feline Acromegaly

This underdiagnosed glandular is caused by a pituitary tumor, leading to
diabetes that may be difficult or impossible to control.

Chester is a 13 year-old diabetic orange tabby.   When he first presented to my feline-only veterinary hospital five years ago, he had the classic signs of diabetes:  excessive thirst, increased urination, and weight loss despite an exceptionally good appetite.   Making the diagnosis was easy.  Chester’s blood sugar was greater than 400 mg/dl (normal is somewhere in the 80 to 150 range) and he had lots of sugar in his urine.  Most diabetics are male. (He is.)  Most are middle aged. (He was.)  Most are overweight. (He was.)  It was a classic, textbook case.

I prescribed insulin injections twice daily for Chester.  After a couple of minor adjustments, we arrived at the insulin dose that controlled his diabetes:  3 units twice daily.  A typical diabetic cat requires somewhere between 1 and 4 units twice daily.   Finding Chester’s proper insulin dose was almost as easy as making the diagnosis.   Every six months thereafter, I examined Chester, and my physical exam findings, coupled with a few simple blood tests, confirmed that Chester’s diabetes was very well regulated.

And then it wasn’t.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Shelter Cats Rule - Student Noah Glassman talks with Dr. Arnold Plotnick and other Feline Pros about Shelter Cats

Way to go Noah!! Great job creating this educational social action video about why Shelter Cats Rule!

Noah is a 4th grader making an impact in the feline world by raising awareness about shelter cats.

Enjoy this news story by Noah Glassman Class of 2023, Ethical Culture Fieldston School

Make sure to favorite and share his video. Your shares will go a long way for cats without forever homes... (and sharing will go a long way for Noah too)


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

In Memoriam: Missy - From Rescue Cat to In-Clinic Living

Manhattan Cat Specialists has some sad news to share. On Wednesday evening, May 13, our sweet, sassy hospital cat, Missy passed away. Since 2008, Missy had graced our clinic with her fiery tortoiseshell attitude, (“torti-tude”), greeting clients at the front desk with a teasing grin and a swipe of a paw after one pat on the head. As our staff biographies explained so well on our website, Missy’s bio stated “give her a pat and she’ll appreciate it; give her two and she’ll swat your hand away.” Even with her feistiness, though, Missy was a part of our clinic, and she learned to love us and trust us, and it never crossed our minds to give it a second thought to care for her as our own when she became our responsibility.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cats and the Veterinary Physical Exam - Twice a Year For Life

"Twice a Year For Life"

Take your feline friends to the veterinarian for semi-annual exams. 

            At our cat practice, we recommend that clients bring their cat in for evaluation every six months.  Most of our clients accept this without question, but some of our clients are puzzled by this.  “I always thought cats were supposed to be examined once a year”, they tell me.  I tell them that once a year is a minimum.  I really think twice a year is more appropriate for cats.  Here’s why:

            Cats are experts at hiding their clinical signs.  Evolutionarily, cats are programmed to hide signs of illness.  Predators instinctively look for the weakest or sickest animal to prey on, so cats do everything they can to pretend that they’re not sick, until they simply can’t hide it anymore.  By the time the cat reveals to the owner that the cat is sick, sometimes the illness has progressed too far to successfully treat. 

            In a previous blog post, I posted a chart comparing a cat’s age to a human’sage.  Early on in life, cats age relatively fast.  Once they hit adulthood, it’s a pretty steady progression, with each cat year approximating four human years.  Going to the veterinarian once every year would be the equivalent of a person going to the doctor every four years.  Going every six months would be the equivalent of going every two years, which is more reasonable.   I hate going to the doctor as much as anyone, and I delay it if I can, but even I will admit that going once every four years is too infrequent, and even every two years is still not often enough.  To illustrate my point, I’m going to use two real life examples, starring yours truly, and yours truly’s own cat, Crispy

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Reader Question: What is causing my cat's chronic diarrhea?

Dear Dr. Plotnick,

My 16 year-old female cat has had chronic diarrhea for 2 years now amd our vet is stumped. She has gone from 7 lbs down to 5. She is also constantly hungry. Her water intake is normal. We feed her continually. She's had a blood test, an x-ray, and ultrasound, and everything is normal. We now have her on a high protein diet and it seems to be maintaining her weight now.  We're reluctant to do a biopsy because of her age. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Lois F.

 Dear Lois,

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dr. Arnold Plotnick Now a Writer for Catster

As many of you know, in addition to my veterinary work, I also am a writer. I have this blog, Cat Man Do, and I am the former medical editor (and now frequent contributor) to Catnip magazine.  I was the Ask the Vet columnist for Cat Fancy for many years.  Sadly, Cat Fancy folded, and was replaced by a new magazine, 

I am happy to report that I’ve just been offered (and I’ve accepted) a position with Catster as the writer of their new column, “Body Parts”.  This will be a fun, informative look at the different body parts of the cat - where they are located, what they are, what they do, why it’s important, and when do we know when something has gone wrong.  It sounds like a fun column, and I’m looking forward to it. 

I'll be certain to post updates when one of my articles gets published on Catster.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Response to the Story of the Vet that Shot a Cat with an Arrow

I feel I have to chime in about Kristen Lindsey, the Texas veterinarian who killed a feral cat by shooting an arrow into its head (warning, the graphic photo is shown), and then posting a sickening, graphic, brutal photo of it (which I will NOT post here) while gleefully bragging about what she had done. 

I am a cat veterinarian and well-known cat lover.  Cats are my life, personally and professionally.  When this story hit, it was appalling on so many levels that it really has taken me a few days to sort it all out.  Where does one even begin?

The first place this hits me is simply as a cat lover.   It pains me to hear about any kind of harm to any kind of cat.  I live with a cat, Crispy, who still bears the scars of an act of kittenhood cruelty, so I’m particularly sensitive to this.  Seeing a photo of a cat with an actual arrow in it is agonizing enough, but seeing the person who perpetrated this sick, obscene act in the very photo, right next to the poor cat, proudly smiling at the harm she has done amplifies the disgust 100-fold. 

The next place it hits me is as a veterinarian, because it is completely unfathomable that the murderer is a colleague.  It absolutely boggles the mind.  I’ve been reading some of the commentary that has sprung up in the aftermath of her brutal act.  Dr. Andy Roark, a well-known veterinarian, speaker, and columnist, posted a column about Dr. Lindsey’s “murderous boast”, saying that it’s a “black eye for vets”.  His concern is that a story like this is bound to affect the public’s perception of veterinarians as a whole, and that veterinarians are now going to have to work harder to rebuild our reputation.  I have read many of Dr. Roark’s columns and usually agree with everything he says and writes, but I respectfully disagree with him on this one.  I don’t think anyone in their right mind, upon reading this story, has come to the conclusion that veterinarians only pretend to like animals, and that what Dr. Lindsey did to that cat is how veterinarians really feel about them.   It reminds me of the spate of shootings years ago, perpetrated by U.S. Post Office workers.   At one point, there were so many shootings that the phrase “going postal” became part of the vernacular, as meaning “becoming enraged to the point of violence, usually in a workplace environment.”   It took years for postal workers to overcome this reputation.  No one uses the phrase “going postal” anymore, and if they do, it’s thought of as being corny or outdated.   If the killing of this cat was the third or fourth of a spate of pet killings perpetrated by veterinarians, then Dr. Roark’s fears would be justified.  But I think most people see this act for what it is – an isolated incident by a sociopath.  Our reputation of compassionate caregivers remains intact.

Another aspect of this entire incident bothers me in particular: the veterinarian’s comment about feral cats.  Accompanying the sickening photo of her with the impaled cat was the comment “My first bow kill, lol.  The only good feral tomcat is one with an arrow through its head! Vet of the year award gladly accepted.” This is immediately followed by the “crying laughing” emoticon.  (If you thought my use of the word “sociopath” to describe this woman was too strong, maybe the “lol” and the “crying laughing” emoticon in her murder commentary will change your mind.)  What is it about feral cats that makes this barbaric act acceptable to her?  I’m going to go out on a limb her and assume that she does not hold the same contempt for owned cats as she does for feral cats.  The clinic she worked for provided service for dogs, cats, horses and cattle.  I don’t know whether she herself treated cats, but she did work at a veterinary office that does.   The life of a feral cat is often a difficult, miserable life.  They’re constantly scrounging for food, exposed to the elements, desperately seek any kind of shelter, trying to fight off illness with no veterinary care, dodging traffic, dogs, and occasionally cruel humans… it’s a rough, challenging life. I have a number of clients who perform animal rescue or have devoted themselves to helping feral cats.  I have two clients – a married couple – who own a home on an island and have been feeding and caring for a small colony of feral cats for years, employing caretakers to make sure these cats are fed even in the off-season.  They worry about these feral cats the way they do about their own pet cats. When I’m presented with a feral cat, whether it’s truly feral and living outdoors, brought in to me terrified in a humane trap, or brought in by a client who has adopted it and is trying (successfully or not) to socialize the cat and give it some kind of happy, cared-for life, I treat each cat with the same concern and care that I would a pet cat.  Just this past weekend, I was in the hospital for a day and night with a heart arrhythmia. (Don’t worry, I’m fine.)  I was sharing my hospital room with another patient on the other side of the room-dividing curtain, a middle-aged Hispanic gentleman.  As the doctor came in and spoke to and examined the patient, I could not help overhearing his circumstances - homeless alcoholic, drinking problem that’s been going on for over 40 years.  He arrived in the emergency room in an alcoholic stupor, was admitted, and was being encouraged once again to go into rehab.  You really couldn’t come up with a more striking contrast on both sides of the curtain – a white veterinarian practice-owner with a nice salary and good health insurance, and a man with no home, no money, and no health insurance, resisting rehab and wanting to get released so he could continue drinking (which he readily admitted to the doctor).  And yet the attending physician treated us both with the exact same concern and compassion, regardless of our backgrounds and socioeconomic status.  My point is that, as a veterinarian, I treat socially well-adjusted pet cats and feral, unsocialized cats the same. In fact, I’m often more attentive to the feral ones not just because I have pity for them, but also because I know that this might be my one and only chance to examine and tend to them.  I am very aware that, unlike most people, cats have no say in the life that they are given.  Am I naïve to assume that most veterinarians feel the same way, given the contempt that Dr. Lindsey expressed for ferals in her sick and twisted post?  I have to believe that her contempt for feral cats is just more evidence of her sociopathic nature.  It would be way too depressing to think that most of my veterinary colleagues discriminate between feral cats and owned ones.

The more one digs into this story, the more you will find, and I’m not sure how good that is.  People have also been digging into Dr. Lindsey’s background, and someone found her old blog in which she lists her “current interests” as “Living my days to the fullest, finding the meaning of happiness, killing things or trying to kill things (animals, a full glass of whiskey, hangovers, etc.)…”  Yes, a veterinarian is listing her current interests as killing or trying to kill animals.  Isn’t that just charming?  The psychotic paragraph of current interests ends with “… hunting with my dad and better yet…learning from my dad was we hunt.”

I know I’m wading into controversial waters here when it comes to talking about hunting.  I understand that millions of people do hunt, even veterinarians. (Some of my veterinary school classmates were hunters, I’m sorry to say.)  I’ve heard all of the arguments, pro and con, and it’s beyond the scope of this blog post.  Yes, it’s hypocritical to eat meat you buy in the supermarket that comes from factory farms, blah blah blah, yes at least hunters are eating the meat that they kill, blah blah blah.  Spare me.  Whether you eat the meat or not is not the point.  For me, it’s the deriving of pleasure that hunters feel when they deliberately end an animal’s life that I’ve never understood, will never comprehend, and will never forgive. Period.  As someone who is required to deliberately cause the death of animals as part of his job, I’ve lived for years with the sorrow that it causes every day.  We do it so much that it gets incorporated into our DNA.  Every veterinarian reading this knows what I’m talking about.  The knowledge that what we’re doing is justified and is relieving animal suffering is what allows us to keep it together, even though our actions cause such terrible grief in our beloved clients.  So to derive satisfaction and make a fun outing of a day where the goal is to deliberately end an animal’s life seems sick and twisted enough, but for a veterinarian to do this seems doubly unfathomable.  Again, I don’t understand it and I don’t think I ever will.

In any event, as much as I’d like to wash my hands of this entire story, I can only hope future stories will come about Dr. Lindsey’s license being revoked, or charges of animal cruelty being leveled, or lawsuits by the people who owned the cat she killed (in case you hadn’t heard, the “feral” cat she had such contempt for was actually a pet cat).  I also hope that in this age of social media where news travels very fast, that any attempt by Dr. Lindsey to remain low-key and eventually quietly find another job as a veterinarian is met with social media outrage and exposure so that no veterinary hospital ever hires her and that she never works again as a veterinarian.  She doesn’t deserve the honor and joy that comes with this job, and her clients and patients deserve better. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Crispy the Cat and her New Challenges

MAR 17, 2015 8:00pm - In 2001, while working at the ASPCA, I encountered a kitten in their hospital’s ICU. She was one of the cruelty cases. Some horrible person had put her in very hot water. The tips of her ears fell off, as did her tail. The doctors and staff at the ASPCA took excellent care of her, slathering burn cream on her wounds and tending to her medical needs. I vowed, if she survived this ordeal, that I would take her home and make sure the remainder of her life was completely trauma free.

I kept my word. The little diva, who I dubbed “Crispy”, turned out to be the most intelligent cat I’ve ever owned, and we formed quite a bond. I can read perfectly every thought of hers, and she apparently can read mine. It’s been like this for 14 years.

This past Thursday, during a visit to my hospital for her annual grooming and lab tests, I felt a mass in her abdomen.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Georgia Engel and Dr. Arnold Plotnick

Simply wonderful! Georgia Engel - star of film, television, and stage - lover of felines - brought her cat in to see Dr. Plotnick at Manhattan Cat Specialists for a check-up. She is known for her role as Georgette Franklin Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and has also appeared on The Love Boat, Coach, The Office, Mork and Mindy, Fantasy Island, Passions, just to name a few.  We were all star-struck here at the cat hospital.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lymph Node Enlargement in the Cat

Lymph Node Enlargement in the Cat

We’ve all heard of lymph nodes, but what exactly are they?  What do they do?  And why be concerned when they become enlarged?

As a feline veterinarian, I perform dozens of physical examinations every week.  Every veterinarian performs the physical exam in his or her own style, making sure to evaluate all body systems thoroughly.  Assessment of the lymph nodes is unquestionably a part of every veterinarian’s physical exam. 

The lymphatic system is an arm of the immune system that plays a role in the development of the body’s immune response. Lymph is the fluid that flows through the lymphatic system.  It is rich in protein and white blood cells.   Cells of the immune system circulate throughout the lymphatic vessels in the body. Lymph nodes are small, oval-shaped organs that make up part of the lymphatic system.  As lymph flows through the lymphatic vessels, it passes through at least one set of lymph nodes, and often several sets, before ultimately emptying into the general circulation where it mixes with blood.   The lymph nodes are the major sites in the lymphatic system where the immune cells gather.   

Friday, February 27, 2015

Therapeutic Diets in the Management of Feline Medical Conditions - (What to Feed a Cat that is Unhealthy)

In my feline-only veterinary practice, not a day goes by without a client asking me what is the best diet for their healthy cat.  These days, it is becoming more difficult to answer this seemingly simple question. Many people feel that cats should be fed canned food only, and that dry food is terrible for their cat. Other people feel that the composition of the food is much more important than the form (canned vs. dry) and insist that low carbohydrate (“grain-free”) diets are the only ones suitable for true carnivores like the cat.  Still others shun all commercial diets and are adamant that homemade “raw” diets are the only way to go.

An easier question for me to answer is what to feed a cat that is unhealthy.  As veterinary medicine has progressed, the use of therapeutic diets has played an increasingly important role in the management of many illnesses.  The number of companies that manufacture therapeutic diets has grown, as has the variety of diets that they offer.  These diets can help manage a remarkable number of ailments (see Table 1).  In this article, I’ll touch on the most common conditions that I see in my practice, and how these diets help me manage these disorders.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Arden Moore's New Book *Fit Cat: Tips and Tricks to Give Your Pet a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life.*

One of the best things about being a veterinarian and writer is that I often get to cross paths with very cool people.  And there is probably no one cooler than my friend and colleague Arden Moore.  The supremely talented Ms. Moore takes multitasking to an entirely new level.  She is a radio show host, podcaster, dog and cat behavior consultant, editor, speaker, entertainer, educator, and pet first-aid instructor.   Let’s not forget author extraordinaire.  She has written many many books, including The Cat Behavior Answer Book; Happy Cat, Happy You; The Kitten Owner’s Manual; Planet Cat: A CAT-alog; 50 Simple Ways to Pamper Your Cat; and Understanding Your Cat: Practical Answers to All Your Behavior Questions.  That’s just some of the cat stuff.  She’s written just as many dog books.

Today I was the lucky recipient of an advance copy of Arden’s newest cat book, “Fit Cat: Tips and Tricks to Give Your Pet a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life." First of all, it’s an attractive looking book, with some really cute cats and kittens on the cover.  Somehow, Arden manages, in just 200 pages, to thoroughly cover nearly everything you’d need (and want) to know about keeping your cat physically and mentally healthy and happy.  Check out the scope of these 14 chapters:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Rabies in New York City in 2014

"You're crazy Dr. Plotnick!"
Call me crazy, but every year I like to read the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s rabies reports and see if anything has changed since the last year, or if there are any new trends.

The news is:  there was a big drop in rabies cases.  For the entire year 2014, twelve animals tested positive for rabies.  They were 10 raccoons, 1 skunk, and 1 opossum.  Six raccoons and the skunk were from Staten Island, and 4 raccoons and the opossum were from Brooklyn.   That’s a very big drop for Staten Island.  In 2013, there were 49 rabid animals reported.  Last year, it was only 7.  There were no rabid animals in Queens, for the fourth year in a row.  The Bronx almost always has one or two rabid animals reported, but in 2014, there were none reported.  That’s the first time that’s happened since 1996. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mast Cell Tumors in Cats

Mast cells are a component of the immune system. They originate from the bone marrow, and play an important role in the inflammatory process, especially in allergic reactions. Mast cells are found in all tissues of the body, but are concentrated in the skin, respiratory tract, and digestive tract.

Mast cells produce a variety of chemicals that have differing effects on the body. These chemicals are stored in granules within the mast cell. In fact, it is the striking blue granules that are the most salient feature of mast cells when looking at them under a microscope.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reader Question: My Stumpy Manx Has Been Constipated for 5 Years. Is There Anything that Can Be Done?

We have a 6 1/2 year-old male Manx cat.  Our cat has been dealing with constipation for about 5 years, off and on.  Lately he has been getting anal infections which have been treated with antibiotics.  We have recently starting giving the cat lactulose and cisapride once again because of the constipation.  I was also told he has no nerve feelings on the right side and is about 3 vertebrae short from where his tail stub is. I realize it is difficult to make a prognosis in an email and especially without examining the cat.  Is there anything else that can be done for my cat? We love him with all our hearts.  I really do not want my cat to suffer nor do I want to euthanize him sooner than has to be.

Thank you,
Adele G.

Dear Adele,
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