Cats – creatures of nine lives or one?
The old saying of cats having nine lives is a testament to their survival skills. Whether we love cats or respect them from afar, we tend to believe they are tough, independent creatures with few care needs. Regrettably, this perception hinders their chances of living a long, healthy life.
It is true that cats are independent souls that can thrive and adapt in many different households and environments, however, they are also very talented at hiding illness. They adapt to adverse situations and health challenges by “sucking it up,” purring and carrying on … until they reach the proverbial “last straw.”
Veterinarians are often presented with a beloved family cat that is now very ill. When questioned in-depth, owners often realize in hindsight that the cat has maybe been a “bit off” for a much longer period of time than they realized.
How can cat owners prevent this scenario? Have your cat examined by a veterinarian regularly even if it appears to be healthy. Young and middle-aged cats less than seven years of age should be examined yearly. Senior cats should have a veterinary examination twice yearly.
How will this help your cat’s health and longevity? It will help identify early signs of disease and any modification to lifestyle that could enhance health. For example, contrary to popular belief, most cats are overweight and more than half are obese. In the typical indoor cat household, cats spend most of their day grooming and sleeping instead of hunting for their next meal. This sedentary lifestyle promotes obesity.
Your veterinary care team can assess your cats' weight in proportion to it’s frame size and determine if weight should be lost or gained. Nutrition, activity and monitoring programs can then be created to minimize the risk of developing weight-related diseases like diabetes.
A thorough hands-on veterinary examination can discover many conditions that are not apparent to even the most observant, conscientious owner. Screening diagnostic tests in conjunction with the physical exam provide a more detailed assessment of your cat’s current health status and any early warning signs of disease. For example, kidney failure is common in older cats. If the early stages are detected with lab work, significant improvements can be made in the quality and length of life.
A discussion of lifestyle and parasite product recommendations is an integral part of preventative health. All pets require regular deworming tailored to their lifestyle and potential parasite exposure. Appropriate parasite control protects the whole family.
Behavioural issues that many owners label either as “spiteful” or even “cat acceptable" can be rooted in medical conditions. Many cats are euthanized annually because of inappropriate urination or defecation – i.e. they don’t use their litter box. Veterinary care teams can diagnose underlying medical conditions and treatable behavioural issues that can be managed with client education, patient treatment and often some patience.
Be an exceptional cat owner and help ensure your cat’s one life to live is the best it can be!
Dr. Corinne Spitzer is an owner and director of North Peace Veterinary Clinic Ltd. with her life and veterinary partner, Dr. Perry Spitzer.