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When a kitty needs care

Posted: May 5, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 5, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Recent studies performed by the American Veterinary Medical Association have shown that there are more pet cats than pet dogs in the United States — 82 million pet cats to 72 million pet dogs — making cats the most popular pet.

Despite these numbers, fewer and fewer cats are seeing their vets for care every year, which is bad news for cats, because most are very good at hiding their illnesses until they are severely ill.

Why is this so? It cannot be that cat owners don’t care about their pets compared to dog owners. Rather, I believe it is due to some misconceptions about cats and their behavior. 

Some common cat myths heard at Happy Pets include: “My cat seems fine; she isn’t having any problems,” or “Cats are naturally healthier than dogs.” 

Our favorite myth is “Indoor cats don’t have to see the vet or get shots because they are safe inside the house; only outdoor cats get sick.” 

Kittens need to be seen by the vet regularly for their vaccinations and specific laboratory tests, such as fecal exams and feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency testing. 

From this age through adulthood, the focus is more on yearly preventative care, vaccine boosters, weight management and dental care.

Obesity which increases the risk of the cat developing diabetes mellitus, joint disease and other problems, has become a serious health concern in cats.

At age 7, cats are considered senior individuals and need to be seen by the vet more often; ideally, twice a year, to check for certain geriatric conditions such as hyperthyroidism or kidney disease, which can shorten the cat’s life if not treated — thus making prevention and early detection especially important.

In addition to ensuring kitty receives routine veterinary care, the American Association of Feline Practitioners has put together the following list of 10 subtle signs of sickness that mean your cat needs to be seen by the veterinarian:

Inappropriate elimination behavior (urinating or defecating outside the litter box); changes in interaction, changes in grooming, changes in activity, changes in sleeping habits, changes in vocalization, changes in food and water consumption, unexplained weight loss or gain, signs of stress or bad breath.

Since cats will do everything they can to hide their illnesses, you may not notice any signs until they have reached an advanced stage. 

Therefore, prevention is the preferable treatment option, and this can only be accomplished with regular annual or semi-annual wellness visits.

Catching a problem early can not only spare your cat from suffering, but in the long run, save you some money, as well.

To make the vet trip as enjoyable for cats as it is for dogs, try making the carrier more comfortable and cozy with blankets, favorite toys or an article of clothing belonging to your cat’s favorite person; which helps a kitty feel more secure. 

Several days before the appointment, leave the carrier out and open, and place food and treats in the carrier. Spray a synthetic feline pheromone or put catnip or other botanical blends in the carrier to help make your cat feel calm and secure. Once kitty is comfortable with the carrier, take him or her for a few short car rides, always making it a positive experience.

If all else fails and your feline friend still stresses, then have the veterinarian come to your cat in the comfort and security of your home.

Evelyn Vega is a veterinarian at Happy Pets Veterinary Center.


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