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Three kittens.

You just brought home a kitten that you intend to name Sam but your roommate tells you that you had better consider the name Samantha instead.

Determining the sex (gender) of a kitten is easy when you know what to look for.

Lift the kitten’s tail. The opening just under the tail is the anus. Below the anus is the genital opening which is round in males and is a vertical slit in females. In kittens of similar size, the distance between the anus and the genital opening is greater in the male than the female.

Male kitten – 8 weeks old

Female kitten – 8 weeks old

As the male kitten grows, the testicles become more apparent.

The color of the kitten may suggest its gender. Almost all (but not ALL) kittens of calico (black, white and orange) or tortishell (black and orange) color are females. More orange kittens are male than female although the association between color and sex is not as strong as in the calico/tortishell colored kitten.

This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.

Close up image of cat's face.
photo attribution

Giving a cat oral medication isn’t always the easiest task, but by remaining calm and following the guidance below, you can make sure your pet gets the medications it needs.

Your veterinarian will tell you if your cat’s medication should be given with food or on an empty stomach. If the tablet or capsule can be given with food, you may make a “meatball” by placing the medication in the center of a small ball of canned cat food or cheese.

Cats are more likely than dogs to chew their food, so felines often eat the “meatball” and spit out the tablet or capsule. This causes the tablet or capsule to partially dissolve and become difficult to handle. If the cat bites into the tablet or capsule, it will leave a bad taste in its mouth and likely make a second attempt more difficult.

The following instructions will help you give medications if a “meatball” doesn’t work for your cat. Use caution to avoid being bitten. A cat’s mouth contains many bacteria and bites can result in deep punctures. If bitten, clean the wound thoroughly and seek medical attention.

Medications for oral administration may be in pill, capsule, or liquid form.

Giving a cat pills or capsules

Hold the cat’s head from the top using your left hand if you are right-handed. The cat’s cheekbones provide a convenient handle to hold the head firmly without causing discomfort.

Tilt the head back and the cat will often drop its lower jaw open.

Hold the pill or capsule with your right hand between your thumb and index finger. You can use a remaining finger on your right hand on the lower incisors to keep the lower jaw open. Keep your finger over the small incisor teeth and not over the sharp fangs (canine teeth). Drop the pill or capsule as far back over the tongue as possible, then immediately close the mouth and blow on the cat’s nose to encourage it to swallow.

If the cat does not open its mouth when you tilt back the head, hold the pill as before and place your middle finger of the same hand over the small incisor teeth – not over the sharp fangs (canine teeth) – to open the lower jaw.

Pull open the lower jaw. Keep your middle finger in place to hold the lower jaw open (3), then either drop the pill or capsule as far back on the tongue as possible or use your index finger (1) and thumb (2) to push the pill over the back of the tongue.

If you use your thumb and index finger to push the pill over the base of the tongue, your fingers will be inside the cat’s mouth, and you must work rapidly to avoid getting bit.

Close the mouth and stroke the cat’s neck or blow sharply on its nose to encourage swallowing.

Pilling devices can be used to place a pill or capsule over the base of the tongue, so you do not have to place your fingers in the cat’s mouth. There are several ways to hold the pilling device.

You can hold the device between your thumb and middle finger and position your index finger to “push” the trigger. To prevent premature release of the pill, you can move your index finger to push the trigger just before dislodging the pill in the back of the throat.

You can also curl your fingers around the device with your thumb positioned to “push” the trigger. To prevent premature release of the pill, you may move the thumb to push the trigger just before dislodging the pill in the back of the throat.

You can also hold the device between your index and middle fingers with your thumb positioned to “push” the trigger.

After finding a comfortable grip, tilt the cat’s head back. It will often drop its lower jaw open. Insert the pill at the end of the pilling device over the base of the tongue.

If the cat doesn’t open its mouth, use the middle finger of the hand holding the pilling device to open the lower jaw. Insert the pill at the end of the pilling device over the base of the tongue. Push the plunger on the pilling device with your thumb or index finger to deposit the pill far back in the cat’s mouth.

Giving a cat liquid medications

Liquid medications are given in a pouch between the teeth and cheek. Quickly squirt the medication into the pouch, hold the cat’s mouth closed, and stroke its neck or sharply blow on its nose to encourage swallowing.

Liquids are more likely to accidentally enter the windpipe compared to pills or capsules. To avoid the cat inhaling liquid into the windpipe, do not tilt the cat’s head backward.

If you find it difficult to give your cat a pill or capsule, speak to your veterinarian about suspending the pill or capsule into a liquid. Some medications can be suspended in liquid while others lose their effectiveness. Always talk to your veterinarian before altering medication.

This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.

Veterinary ECG

What is feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy? 

Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the most common type of heart disease in cats, causes the heart muscle to thicken and decreases the heart’s efficiency. Some cats show no sign of illness, especially early in the disease, which can lead to congestive heart failure.

What causes feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?

The cause of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is unknown, although certain breeds of cats appear to be predisposed. Middle-aged male cats may be more commonly affected.

What are the signs of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?

Signs of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can vary from no symptoms to lethargy and rapid or labored breathing. Other signs can include sudden weakness, collapsing episodes, and sudden death due to disturbances in heart rhythm.

In some cases, signs of left-sided congestive heart failure, including fluid accumulation in the lung, may occur. These signs include lethargy, decreased activity level, rapid and/or labored breathing, and possibly open mouth breathing with excitement or exercise. Sometimes left and right-sided congestive heart failure develops with fluid accumulation inside the chest or abdominal cavity, causing greater respiratory effort and abdominal distention.

Once fluid accumulations have occurred, clinical heart failure is present, and aggressive medical therapy should be sought.

In some cats with a very large heart chamber, a blood clot may form and if it enters the circulation may cause weakness or paralysis (usually of the rear legs).

How is feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy diagnosed?

A physical examination by a veterinarian may reveal a heart murmur, abnormal heart and lung sounds, or irregularities in heart rhythm that can lead to a suspected diagnosis of the disease. Chest X-rays, electrocardiograms, and echocardiograms are often used to confirm a diagnosis and determine severity.

A routine physical exam and one or more of these tests may be recommended every six months to one year to look for any progression of disease in cats without clinical signs.

How is feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy treated?

Treatments for feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy vary depending on the severity of the disease in the patient.

Asymptomatic cats may not need medical therapy, but routine reevaluations will often be recommended. Other cats will need medications to slow the heart rate and promote relaxation of the pumping chambers (ventricles). If arrhythmias or congestive heart failure signs are present, additional medications may be required.

Since this disease can be progressive, medications and dosage may change with time. Therapy is always tailored to the needs of the individual patient.

What should I do if my cat has or is showing symptoms of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?

If your animal is showing symptoms of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, contact your veterinarian or the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital at 509-335-0711. If your cat has already been diagnosed with the disease, our cardiology team can help to create the best treatment plan for your pet.

This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.

Siamese cat drinking from a puddle on a driveway.

Antifreeze is extremely toxic to animals and can cause fatal kidney failure. Unfortunately, dogs and cats find the liquid quite tasty and will eagerly drink it up when given the chance.

What should I do if my pet ingests antifreeze?

Contact a veterinarian immediately if you see your pet drinking antifreeze or suspect it had access to antifreeze. Very small amounts of antifreeze can be fatal.

For example, a cat can ingest a fatal amount of antifreeze by simply licking its paws after walking through a puddle of the chemical. Five tablespoons are enough to kill a medium-sized dog.

If you suspect your animal has ingested antifreeze, staff at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital are available for emergencies 24/7 and can be reached at 509-335-0711.

What are the signs of antifreeze poisoning in dogs and cats?

Signs of antifreeze poisoning depend upon the time after ingestion. In the first hours after ingestion, the pet may be depressed, stagger when moving, and have seizures. They may drink lots of water, urinate large amounts, and vomit.

The pet may appear to feel better only to get much worse a day or two later as its kidneys fail. Signs of kidney failure include depression and vomiting. The amount of urine they pass will often decrease to a very small amount.

How is antifreeze poisoning in pets diagnosed?

The diagnosis of antifreeze poisoning is made by blood and urine tests, although some of these tests will show negatives by the time kidney failure develops. Antifreeze poisoning should be considered in any free-roaming dog or cat with consistent signs.

How is antifreeze poisoning in pets treated?

Treatment for antifreeze poisoning needs to be started as soon after ingestion as possible to be effective. The earlier treatment is started, the greater the chance of survival. Once kidney failure develops, most animals will die.

If the pet is seen within a few hours of ingesting antifreeze, vomiting is induced to remove any antifreeze still in the stomach, and charcoal is placed in the stomach to bind antifreeze in the intestine. Antifreeze itself is not very toxic but it is broken down by the liver to other components that cause the damage. If the pet is presented to a veterinarian soon after drinking antifreeze, a drug is given that impairs the liver from converting antifreeze to these toxic products, allowing the unconverted antifreeze to pass in the urine. These drugs are useful only when given early and are not effective after the pet is showing signs of kidney damage.

Animals that present to a veterinarian in kidney failure due to antifreeze poisoning can occasionally be saved with aggressive treatment. Some specialty veterinary practices offer dialysis that can be used to eliminate waste products not being removed by the diseased kidneys to keep the pet alive and give the kidneys a chance to repair. Whether the kidneys will repair themselves or not depends on how severely they are injured. Unfortunately, kidney damage caused by antifreeze is usually severe and irreversible. Kidney transplantation has been performed in dogs and cats.

How can I prevent antifreeze poisoning?

There are several steps you can take to protect your pets from being poisoned by antifreeze.

  • Keep new and used antifreeze in a sealed, leak-proof container
  • Take used antifreeze to a service station for disposal – don’t pour it on the ground
  • Check driveways for puddles of antifreeze that may have leaked from the car
  • Consider the use of alternative antifreeze products that are less toxic to pets
  • If antifreeze is placed in toilets make sure the lid is down and the door to the room is closed

This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or proc

Image of tick on computer screen in lab.

What are ticks?

Ticks are small, blood-sucking arachnids – yes, they are related to spiders – that can transmit diseases to animals and people. Fortunately, the Pacific Northwest has fewer reported cases of tick-borne disease than other regions of the United States, but ticks can still spread or cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick paralysis, and other illnesses. Prompt removal of ticks can lessen the chance of disease transmission.

Ticks are commonly found in grassy, wooded, and brushy areas. In the Pacific Northwest, they are most prevalent during the spring and summer.

How does my pet get ticks?

To survive, ticks must eat blood. Many species of ticks patiently wait on the edge of low-lying vegetation to snag an unsuspecting host, like a cat, dog, or human. Once on its host, the tick will hunt for a good spot to feed and then burrow its mouthparts into a good spot for a meal. A tick will feed anywhere from several minutes to multiple days.

Where will I most often find ticks on my pet?

In dogs, ticks are most often found around the animal’s neck, ears, in folds between the legs and body, and between toes, but they can be found anywhere. Cats often get ticks on their face and neck.

How do I remove a tick from my animal?

How do I remove a tick from my animalYou have likely heard about many methods for tick removal that include nail polish, petroleum jelly, or matches, however, these approaches can often do more harm than good. The best way to remove a tick is with fine-tipped tweezers.

  • Using the tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. If the tick does not release, continue to provide pressure. Do not twist or yank the tick out, as mouthparts can break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouthparts with tweezers.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

After removing the tick, you can preserve it in rubbing alcohol in case your pet should become sick later. Label the container with details about the time and place where the tick bite occurred. This information will be helpful to a veterinarian diagnosing an illness.

How do I prevent my pet from getting a tick?

After being in areas where ticks may be present, thoroughly examine yourself and pets for ticks.

There are also many preventatives available. Consult with your veterinarian about which tick preventative is appropriate and safe for your pet.

What should I do if I am concerned my pet has a tick-borne disease?

If you are concerned your animal has a tick-borne disease, consult with your veterinarian or schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians by calling 509-335-0711

This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.

Effect of Gabapentin on Cardiovascular Parameters in Cats

Gabapentin is an oral medication commonly given to cats for sedation or prior to veterinary visits to reduce their anxiety. While there are currently no known side effects in cats, this medication does tend to lower their heart rates, which can be detrimental to cats with heart conditions.

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effect of gabapentin on feline heart function. If our study finds that gabapentin affects the function of normal cats significantly, judicious use of this medication will be recommended for cats with known or suspected cardiac disease.


Cats in this study will receive a physical examination, two blood pressure checks, two echocardiograms and two electrocardiograms (ECG). The approximate value for these procedures is $866.00.

Enrollment Requirements

This study is being conducted in clinically healthy cats between 1 and 7 years of age and at least 8.8 pounds. Enrolled cats cannot be on any medications other than heartworm, flea and tick preventatives. Successful candidates for this study must be reasonably comfortable with veterinary visits and amenable to receiving oral medication.

Treatment Methods

There are three appointments necessary for this study, spanning approximately three weeks:

Study Screening: At this appointment, we will do a physical examination and very brief echocardiogram to make sure your cat qualifies for the study. If your cat qualifies, we will send you home with study instructions and medication (either gabapentin or a placebo).

Study Appointment 1: 1-2 hours prior to arriving for this appointment, you will give your cat the study medication dose. At this appointment, we will measure your cat’s blood pressure and do an echocardiogram and an ECG. At the end of this appointment, we will send you home with study medication (whichever medication your cat did not receive the first time).

Study Appointment 2: 1-2 hours prior to arriving for this appointment, you will give your cat the study medication dose. At this appointment, we will measure your cat’s blood pressure and do an echocardiogram and an ECG. At the end of this appointment, your cat will have completed the study.
This is a double-blind study so you and the investigators will not know which medication your cat is receiving for each appointment. Cats will be randomized to receive either gabapentin or the placebo first and will receive the opposite study medication at the second study appointment.

Owner Responsibilities

Owners are responsible for bringing their cat to the WSU VTH for the three study appointments. To be eligible for this study, owners must be able to a) give their cat pills at home and b) carefully follow a written study timeline.

Contact Information

Valorie Wiss, Clinical Studies Coordinator

Nina Nechyporuk did not give it much thought when her senior ragdoll cat, Abby, jumped from her lap to the floor and made a short wheezing sound.

Dr. Janean Fidel, veterinary oncologist, and Margaret Wong, a fourth-year student, examine Abby prior to her undergoing a second round of chemotherapy.

Strange, but nothing to worry about, she thought. Just two days later, though, Abby was noticeably struggling to breathe, and by Friday, her owners, Nechyporuk and Richard Waugh, were unsure if their beloved cat would survive.

“We didn’t think she was going to make it through the night — it was unbearable,” Nechyporuk says.

In the ensuing days, the couple would learn Abby had a life-threatening tumor in her trachea. While just millimeters in size, it was blocking her airway.

There was never any doubt they would do everything possible to save Abby, but when the treatments available at veterinary clinics near their home outside of Vancouver, Canada, failed to keep the cancer at bay, options were dwindling.

The best hope was some seven-and-a-half hours away in Pullman at Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Not a typical ragdoll

Nechyporuk and Waugh have always considered themselves a “cat family,” but until Abby, all their cats had been strays and others in need of love. As they considered their first purebred in 2003, a ragdoll sounded like the perfect fit — the breed, after all, is known for being overly affectionate and for its tendency to go limp and relaxed when picked up

It did not take long for the couple to realize that Abby did not fit the breed description.

“As a young cat, she didn’t really have much use for Richard and I,” Nechyporuk says. “She was a very independent cat and standoffish. She does not behave at all like you would expect from a ragdoll.”

That never detracted from their love of Abby.

She’s a fighter

Waugh first arrived in Pullman with Abby in Memorial Day of 2019 prepared for an extended stay. Under the care of Dr. Janean Fidel, WSU’s lead veterinary oncologist, Abby was to undergo 18 rounds of radiation therapy using the teaching hospital’s  linear accelerator, or LINAC, a machine that allows tumors to be targeted with powerful radiation.

Abby responded remarkably well to the treatments, and nearly a month later she and Waugh finally returned home. A follow-up CT scan in October of 2019 showed the treatments had worked and the tumor had shrunk.

“They asked us to come back in the spring of 2020, in March or April,” Nechyporuk says. “But we all know what happened — COVID. We did not make it back for that appointment.”

Then, in November, the wheezing started again. The tumor had returned, and Abby found herself back at WSU. Dr. Fidel recommended 10 doses of radiation therapy to target the tumor, followed by several rounds of chemotherapy. Abby has completed her radiation treatment and has had two chemotherapy treatments, the second of which was delayed due to her having a low white blood cell count.

Despite having undergone 28 radiation treatments since May of 2019, a recent X-ray of Abby’s lungs shows they are still in good condition.

“We have so much confidence in Dr. Fidel. We wouldn’t have Abby treated anywhere else,” Waugh says. “The outlook for Abby is good. She is not suffering, she’s not in pain and she responds very well to the treatment — she’s a fighter.”

Dr. Fidel says it is unlikely Abby would be alive if it were not for the radiation treatments she received using the LINAC. The machine is one of the only available for radiation treatment in the region. Every year it is used to treat hundreds of animals throughout Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Canada.

The WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital is currently raising money to purchase a new LINAC. As the machine has aged, it is no longer as dependable as it once was, as demonstrated by the two times during Abby’s treatments that it unexpectedly stopped working. Fortunately, it only resulted in slight delays for Abby.

“It is like a very old car that keeps needing to be repaired,” Dr. Fidel says. “It is repairable, and it functions, but it is going to flat out stop at some point.”

Fidel says a newer machine will also allow radiation to be better directed at tumors while protecting surrounding healthy tissue, and dosage rates can be better moderated, reducing treatment time.


Abby, her owners say, has changed considerably since starting her treatment. The once independent cat now seems to enjoy the companionship of Nechyporuk and Waugh. She is genuinely affectionate, and she has even become more of a lap cat.

“She sits on my lap every single night — now I am the center of her world,” Nechyporuk says. “We love her to bits.”

“I think,” Waugh adds, “she realizes how much we love her.”