Ask the Vet


Dear Dr. Schelling,
Can my cat Virgil catch the H1N1 virus?

- Paula in Alabama

Dear Paula

This is a very timely question as just recently H1N1 flu has been confirmed in a 13-year-old cat from Iowa.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) released the following information:

State officials confirm a cat in Iowa has tested positive for the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, marking the first time a cat has been diagnosed with this strain of influenza.

The cat, who is recovering, is believed to have caught the virus from someone in the household who was sick with H1N1. There are no indications that the cat passed the virus on to any other animals or people.

Prior to this diagnosis, the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus had been found in humans, pigs, birds and ferrets.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) are reminding pet owners that some viruses can pass between people and animals, so this was not an altogether unexpected event. Pet owners should monitor their pets' health very closely, no matter what type of animal, and visit a veterinarian if there are any signs of illness.

The AVMA is actively tracking all instances of H1N1 in animals and posting updates on this web site.

The Iowa Department of Public Health writes:

The 13-year-old indoor cat in Iowa was brought to the Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where it tested positive for the H1N1 virus. The diagnosis is the culmination of collaborative efforts between IDPH, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Center for Advanced Host Defenses, Immunobiotics and Translational Comparative Medicine, USDA, and IDALS Animal Industry Bureau.

“Two of the three members of the family that owns the pet had suffered from influenza-like illness before the cat became ill,” said IDPH Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Ann Garvey. “This is not completely unexpected, as other strains of influenza have been found in cats in the past.” Both the cat and its owners have recovered from their illnesses.

People can keep their pets healthy by washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and minimizing contact with their pets while ill with influenza-like symptoms. If your pet exhibits signs of a respiratory illness, contact your veterinarian.

“Indoor pets that live in close proximity to someone who has been sick are at risk and it is wise to monitor their health to ensure they aren’t showing signs of illness,” said Dr. David Schmitt, State Veterinarian for Iowa.

For more information about H1N1, visit this site or call the Iowa Influenza Hotline at 1-800-447-1985.

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Thanksgiving Safety Reminder:

A "safety first" attitude and some not-too-difficult precautions will help you and kitty enjoy Thanksgiving and avoid mishaps caused by tempting unsafe food, cat-unaware guests, and dangerous decorative plants. This article focuses on Thanksgiving but also has general tips that are useful for the major holiday rush that follows.



We've had our cat for about year now (or, really, he's had us). We named him Murray because he's so "purry." His purr motor revs up almost as soon as we start petting him. Sometimes before, I think. We're fascinated by this phenomenon. How do cats purr, and in what other circumstances, besides lovey sessions, do they purr?

- Anonymous

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Dear Anonymous,

Simply put, we purr primarily to express emotions and, in times of distress, to comfort ourselves and others. Most people know that cats can purr with abandon (and usually lots of kneading) when they're being stroked and pampered by one of their favorite humans. But purrs come in handy in other situations too. For example, a mom cat purrs to her kittens while nursing. We're proud of our purr.

Exactly how do we produce this exquisite sound? That's a question which has vexed the best medical minds. Perhaps the explanation is better left to philosophers and poets:

How doth the little kitty purr?
With verve, charm, and confidence
Quietly wrap'd in fur.

Nonetheless, the question is examined from a scientific standpoint in this article --WHY DO CATS PURR-- which also has lots of information about why and when cats purr. For instance, did you know we can customize our purrs for different situations? The article also looks at the therapeutic power of purring.


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Questions? Email me at

PURRFECT CRINKLE BOUNCER WAND TOY: My human loves to take the Purrfect Crinkle Bouncer out of the toy box for some playtime fun. He knows the crinkly plastic and floating feathers will attract me, and then the game's on! My human shifts the Crinkle Bouncer one way and I give chase; he shifts it the other way and I pounce, and the plastic crunches underpaw; he makes the toy fly and the feathers flutter, and I jump and grab it with my claws. All in all, a very satisfying play session for both of us. In fact, I think I have even more fun playing with the Purrfect Crinkle Bouncer than he does!
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The following review was submitted by
one of Fancy's human assistants

TOP TAG PET ID: You do your best to make sure your cat is safe and sound – but the unexpected happens. The Top Tag Pet ID may provide vital protection for your cat – and peace of mind for you – in those situations that we don't like to think about.

The Top Tag Pet ID is a visible, easily readable repository of key information about your cat. Your cat wears it on a collar, like any ID tag. But the Top Tag is actually a “flash drive” that plugs into your computer's USB port and can store all sorts of data, such as home and work phone numbers, current medications, allergies, prescription foods, and commands to which your cat responds. Not only can these facts help reunite you with your cat, but they can also help assure that kitty is well cared-for in the interim.

The Top Tag ID comes in a plastic case and can easily be attached to any collar. If it gets wet, dry it off completely, and chances are it will work just fine.

You may want to combine this with a conventional tag that displays your cat's name and main phone number. If you take your cat on leash-walks, buy one to attach to kitty's harness, too. Last but not least, the product makes a great gift.
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The average cat sleeps between 12-14 hours a day
Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods.  Cats have never forgotten this.
Purrfect Crinkle Bouncer Top Tag Pet ID