Safe and enriching cat enclosures


Three Questions for Veterinarian Heather Napolitano

Veterinarian Doctor Heather Napolitano

Catio Guy: Tell us a bit about your practice, Dr. Napolitano.

Dr. Napolitano: I have a Los Angeles based small animal practice that specializes in cats and dogs. I developed a three pronged approach that I live by when practicing veterinarian medicine:

1. I make animals as comfortable as possible. Vet offices are extremely stressful to pets and can be very scary experiences. Owners are usually stressed too. So I take as long as necessary to make the animal feel comfortable with my presence. And when I do the exam, I pet or massage the animal, rather than your more typical poking and prodding.

2. I associate myself with veterinarians who practice impeccable medicine and have the highest quality diagnostic tools so that I can find out what is wrong with the animal in the quickest and most efficient way possible.

3. Educating the client is extremely important to me. I’m going to tell you what’s going on but then give you options. Sometimes the highest quality medicine is not the answer. For example, not everyone is comfortable with radiation treatment. As such, I work together with the client to come up with the best plan for their family.

Catio Guy: What is your position on outdoor cats and catios?

Dr. Napolitano: Based in Los Angeles, as crazy as it may seem, coyotes are a big deal. They are predators forced from their natural habitat into urban areas, and cats are their number one prey. At least that is what we see with domestic animals.

Historically people would just let their cats out at night. But it’s not something we see as much anymore. We do not recommend it. I tell clients who let their cats out at night to be prepared for the worst.

Instead, I recommend catios because it is still important to give your cats exposure to the outdoors. Nocturnal animals, it’s natural for them to want to be outside at night. Otherwise they get restless and often pester their human owners throughout the night. A catio not only keeps your pets safe from coyotes, raccoons and cars, but will also keep them stimulated and enriches their lives. As a bonus, we humans can get a good night sleep.

Catio Guy: Tell us a cat story that ends happily.

Dr. Napolitano: Well, I’ll stick to the catio theme. One of my favorite clients had to relegate a previously outdoor cat to the indoors after its sibling was killed by a coyote. The cat became very aggressive and regularly attacked the entire family whenever its claws grew long. Initially we applied soft claws to the cat which did help limit the cat’s aggression. But the moment the soft claws fell off a month or so after application, the cat would revert to physically attacking the family.

My diagnosis was that this extremely intelligent cat was entertained by the family’s shrieking and fleeing response to the attacks. The remedy was to find other significant stimulation to focus its attention. So I recommended the family invest in a catio believing the additional stimulation of the outdoors would diminish the cats need for stimulation elsewhere. And it worked!!

Visit Doctor Napolitano’s website.

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