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Monday, January 28, 2013

I Bet You Don't Take Your Cat To The Vet

Admit it. You have a cat that I, your veterinarian, don't even know about. I have been taking care of your dogs for many years now, so we know each other pretty well. But you never mention that cat. I know what you're thinking. "Why should we talk about the cat? He seems healthy enough, never goes outside, and besides, he HATES car rides and new situations."

You are in good company. The overwhelming majority of American cat-owners do not take their cats for routine check-ups and vaccines. They all think like you do (we have survey results). It's understandable, but dead-wrong to not give your feline friend the same medical care as dogs get. I blame myself (and my colleagues) for your misinformation. Veterinarians do not do a good job of educating the public about why cats NEED regular veterinary care. So here I am, trying to help correct this oversight.

I'm going to start with the most important reason to take your cat to the vet every year. Cats are amazing at hiding signs of illness. I mean really gifted. More often than not, when we see a sick cat, we see a cat who is in real danger of dying from their disease. And the owners of these dying felines usually tell us that their cat has only been sick for a few days (and doesn't even seem too sick). Meanwhile, the weight loss, pale mucous membranes, heart murmur, jaundiced eyes, or disastrous lab results tell a different story. The owners simply never noticed the signs because the cat was too clever to give himself away.

You see, cats are not small dogs. If one of your cats lost 2 pounds (20-25% weight loss) over a 6-month period, would you notice? Or if one of your cats was drinking more or urinating more? What if one of your cats (assuming, like many cat owners, you have three or more) stopped eating, and was hiding more? How long before you notice? Well, you can bet that most cats are sick long before they start even showing these signs that you won't notice.

I can tell you with total confidence, that cats who get regular check-ups will have their diseases noticed much sooner, with less medication needed, and most-importantly, a better prognosis.

What about the fact that, unlike your dogs, your cats never go outside? This makes them less at-risk, right? Hmmm.... maybe so, but not much. Parasites, and disease carrying vectors will find their way into every home. Did you know that most commercial potting soil is contaminated with roundworm eggs? Also, indoor-only cats are actually at an increased risk (compared with indoor-outdoor cats) for certain diseases such as interstitial cystitis. The most important thing to think about here, though is this: staying inside will not protect your cats from diabetes, hyperthyroidism, chronic liver and kidney disease, asthma, etc....

Now, I know your cat hates to ride in the car, and hates new situations. My cats do too. However, we do have a special cat-friendly exam room just for him. We like cats here. We will be gentle. He will still get stressed out, but in all honesty, didn't your kids get stressed out at the doctor when they were little? But you still took them, because the alternative was very frightening. Your cat is in the same situation. I know you love him and want the best for him. You didn't know! Now you do. I will see you both soon.   :-)