PDSA veterinary nurse Nina Downing answers questions from pet owners


Dear PDSA Vet: We went on vacation for two weeks earlier this year and our cat, Thompson, stayed with a neighbor. Since our return, he seems to prefer to live there and does not return! Is he mad at us for leaving him? Sat

Cats can’t hold grudges against their owners, but they can be quite sensitive to change. While at Your Neighbor’s, Thompson may have gotten used to a different schedule, new people, and new smells, so adjusting to his old routine could be stressful for him. You can reduce Thompson’s stress by making sure he has a daily routine and creating a safe space he can retreat to when he wants to be alone. A plug-in pheromone diffuser can also help reduce his anxiety when he is home, increasing the chances that he will stay with you.

Dear PDSA Vet: My cat coughs up hairballs quite often – about once a month – is there a way to prevent them? Jack

Hairballs occur when cats groom their coat and swallow hair. Most pass through the digestive system normally, but if any hairs remain in the stomach, they may bind into a ball. Occasional hairballs can be completely normal, especially in long-haired breeds, as cats are very clean and groom themselves a lot. The best prevention is daily grooming with a brush or comb to help remove dead hair. However, talk to your vet if your cat vomits frequently, as hairballs can sometimes cause a blockage in the intestines. They can rule out any medical reasons, but can also advise you on special diets or other products that may help reduce hairball buildup.

Dear PDSA Vet: I recently noticed that my Yorkshire Terrier had blood in his stool. Could it be serious – should I take him to the vet? Samantha

Any pet with blood in its stool should be examined by a veterinarian. Blood in the stool, which may also be accompanied by mucus, may be a sign of colitis (inflammation of the colon – large intestine) or other conditions such as infections, tumor, damage to the rectum or a burst abscess. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough examination to determine the cause and can then advise you on any additional diagnostic tests or treatment needed. It may be helpful to take a stool sample to show your vet, or even a photograph if a sample is not possible.

My new kitten seems to be settling in well since we brought him home and he is very energetic. How do I know if she is getting enough exercise and are there ways to manage this? Danielle

Exercise is vital for your kitty’s overall physical and mental health, and encouraging plenty of playtime at home is the perfect way to keep her active and stimulated – it will also help you create an unbreakable bond. In the wild, cats use hunting as a form of exercise, so try recreating jumps and having fun with their favorite toys. Although it may be tempting, don’t use your fingers or toes to play as this can create unwanted (and painful) habits like biting and scratching. It’s best to keep your cat indoors until it’s microchipped, vaccinated, and neutered, but in the meantime you can aim for several short periods of indoor play throughout the day. Pick times when he’s active and looking to explore – and use a variety of different toys so he doesn’t get bored. For more advice on how much exercise your kitten needs and how to give her the best start in life, you can download our free guide at pdsa.org.uk/weighup-pr.

PDSA is the UK’s largest veterinary charity providing a vital service to pets across the UK whose owners struggle to pay the cost of treating their sick and injured animals.

For many vulnerable pets, PDSA is there to help their owners when they have nowhere to turn.

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