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Cat health: Is your cat suffering?

We are going where?
We are going where?Photo by Wendy Warwick White

Are you one of the guilty ones? Do you shower your feline friend with love, toys and treats? Carefully select the best quality food? Keep your home kitty-friendly and safe? Does kitty look fit and healthy, glossy coat, shining eyes? There seems little point in suffering the trauma to man and beast of stuffing kitty into a carrier and taking it to the vet for an annual wellness check then. Think again. An increasing number of much-loved companion cats are getting sicker and their caregivers don't have any idea it is happening. Are you one? Cats like to keep secrets; they don't want us to know if they're not feeling well.

According to Bayer Health Care Feline Findings 2013, the majority of cat owners think their kitties are so self-sufficient that regular exams aren't necessary. Some even believe indoor-only cats don't get sick at all because they never come into contact with other cats. Kitty may be safer inside away from cars and coyotes but it may not escape heart disease, cancers, kidney or hyperthyroid disease.

The American Veterinary Medical Association noted that since 2001 the number of cats visiting the vet for an annual wellness check has dropped 30%. Emergency visits though have increased. Is this an indication no one realized kitty was suffering from a serious chronic illnesses or they were simply waiting until kitty was really sick before getting it treatment?

The statistics are concerning. Over the last 7 years the number of overweight and obese companion cats has soared 90% to 58% of the population. The culprits are usually insufficient exercise, food left out all day and offering table treats. The perception of what is the normal weight for kitty has changed over the years, people often having no idea that tabby is tubby. The health effects on kitties are the same as those common to overweight humans. They include diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and cardiac issues and are prevalent in these much-loved, and overfed, cats. An annual report from Banfield Pet Hospital, based on their records of more than 465,000 cats across the U.S., claims that since 2007 arthritis in cats is up 67%; dental disease has risen by 21% to 49% since 2006 and there is a noted increase in thyroid and kidney disease. Often a cat suffering from painful dental disease is mistaken for just a fussy eater. The bacteria caused by lingering dental disease can cause or contribute to damage to the liver or kidneys.

Michael Cavanaugh, CEO of the American Animal Hospital Association said:

”It's really very simple; if we can get people to see veterinarians once or twice a year, pets would be healthier, and living longer, and overall pet owners could actually save money,"

Partners for Healthy Pets, a consortium, made up of the AVMA, the American Animal Hospital Association and more than 90 other veterinary organizations, is sponsoring a $5.5 million public awareness campaign urging annual checkups.

A Bayer study found that 39% of pet owners say they will look online before calling their vet. Can your laptop or smartphone analyze a bacteria culture or test a urine sample? Searching the internet to see if kitty has a medical problem is not an acceptable, or reliable, substitute for a hands-on examination by a vet.

Don’t be one of the guilty ones; show kitty how loved it is by taking it to the vet for a wellness check at least once a year.