Questions On Dogs and Cats has devoted quite a bit of space to cats and their medical problems over this past year. However, Helpful Buckeye has received a few e-mails from cat owners who feel just a little slighted...even by the title of this blog. The cat owners have rightfully pointed out that there are now more cats as pets in the USA than dogs. They also have reminded me that "Cat" even comes before "Dog," alphabetically-speaking.
So, as my gesture of complete and full acceptance of their desire for more cat information, this week's issue will be solely about cats. For you dog owners, don't despair! Go ahead and read this material anyway...you might be surprised and actually find something you enjoy. If there's possibly a cat in your future, this would be the place to start.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT CATS
HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR CAT IS SICK
A checklist of 10 signs of possible sickness will alert you to the advisability of having your cat examined by your veterinarian:
GETTING YOUR CAT TO YOUR VETERINARIAN
OK, now you've established that there might be a health problem for your cat. How do make the trip to your veterinarian as easy as possible for your cat?
Getting Your Cat Into the Carrier
Adjusting to Car Rides
Pleasant Veterinary Visits
COMFORT AND CARE FOR THE AGING CAT
Written by: Debra M. Eldredge
Cats are living longer lives. An 8-year-old cat was considered a senior 15 years ago. Today, many veterinarians wait until ages 10 or 12 to classify a cat as senior. And more and more cats are living into their 20s! However, along with longer lives come increased health concerns. It only takes a few adjustments to your cats daily routine to improve its well-being and quality of life well into the golden years.
Indoor-only is the way to go for your older cat, even if it went outdoors as a youngster. Indoor cats have less exposure to disease and parasites. This lifestyle also protects cats from trauma, such as automobile injuries, vicious animal attacks and unscrupulous human treatment. As your cats vision and hearing become less acute, the indoors offer your pet an abundance of safety and security.
Its also important to re-examine your senior cats diet. Have you noticed a reduction in activity level? Ask your veterinarian about reducing your cats calorie intake to prevent obesity. Gradually adjust the diet according to your veterinarians recommendation: Abrupt change can cause serious liver damage and even death. Maintain top quality protein in your cats diet so it continues to receive those important amino acids available only in animal protein.
In addition to a dietary change, you may need to assist your cat with its grooming tasks. Your consummate groomer may develop arthritis, which makes thorough grooming a challenge. The nails can become brittle and some cats experience trouble removing the old, outer sheaths. Check your cats nails twice a week and trim them as needed. Use a slicker brush on your shorthaired cat or a wide-tooth comb on your longhaired cat to keep its coat shiny and clean. Regular grooming also provides valuable bonding time for you and your cat.
Your senior cat will especially appreciate creature comforts. Senior cats cannot tolerate temperature changes as well as they did in their younger years. Provide cool places for your cat to lie in the summer and a warm, soft bed for the cold winter months. If climbing is a challenge, offer step stools or ramps, or move a bed to the floor. If arthritis becomes a problem, provide warm, comfortable beds and encourage regular exercise. Ask your veterinarian about safe pain medications and food supplements that can help keep your cat's joints supple.
Some senior cats become a bit forgetful or lose their orientation. Many cats cry at night or wander around the house as if lost. Usually talking to them, holding them or even leaving a nightlight on can help.
Older cats need regular checkups twice yearly is ideal. Expect your veterinarian to periodically run bloodwork to check for changes in liver or kidney function, along with looking for anemia, diabetes and hyperthyroidism. You may also want to request a urinalysis to detect diabetes and kidney problems. Some veterinarians will check your cat for high blood pressure and do an X-ray or ultrasound to check for signs of heart problems or cancer. Early detection often means more successful and less expensive treatments.
Many older cats become less active and quieter, but some cats suddenly seem to rejuvenate. If your cat is active, hungry all the time and losing weight, it may be hyperthyroid...having too much thyroid hormone. Possibly caused by thyroid cancer, this disorder leads to an increase in metabolism. A blood test offers the best method of diagnosis, and several treatment options are available.
Increased hunger may also be caused by diabetes. A diabetic cat tends to drink more and urinate frequently. Veterinarians normally diagnose diabetes with a blood test and urinalysis. Most cats are treated with insulin injections and dietary modifications.
If your cat suddenly drinks more water than usual, get it checked for kidney failure as well as diabetes. Cats with kidney problems are often not hungry, just thirsty, while diabetics are hungry and thirsty. Most kidney diseases cannot be cured, but many cats improve with extra fluids and dietary changes.
Dehydration can be a problem in older cats, especially if their kidneys aren't 100 percent, says Nancy Freeboro, DVM, a veterinarian in Syracuse, N.Y. Having fresh water available at all times, and mixing water in with canned food can help.
Cancer can show up in a wide range of disguises. Obvious growths are one way, but subtle weight loss, decreased activity and a decrease in appetite can all warn of a malignancy. Again, routine checkups are invaluable. Caught early, some cancers are curable and many can be controlled for some amount of time.
Dental problems and some tooth loss is common for senior cats. Starting a kitten on regular dental care will help prevent some of this. Take your senior cat in for a veterinary dental cleaning, followed by more regular care. If your cat experiences tender teeth and gums, feed it room-temperature or slightly warmed food. Remember that cats can get oral cancer, too. Be vigilant to any changes in eating or chewing behavior, and follow up immediately with your veterinarian.
Age eventually catches up with us all, and you are your cats best health advocate. If you detect changes in your cats behavior, eating or elimination, take it to the vet for a checkup. Your careful attention and lifestyle modifications, along with your veterinarian's sound advice, make a great health-care team for your aging cat.
CAT TRAVELING TIPS
Dr. Jean Hofve is a holistic veterinarian from Denver, Colorado, and a pro when it comes to traveling with pets. She has driven her cats seven times back and forth from California to Colorado without having to endure constant yowls of protest. She offers these six tips designed to maintain your sanity when traveling with cats and checking into pet-friendly hotels:
“I’ve learned the hard way to not let my cats out of their carriers in the hotel room because they crawl under the bed and it is nearly impossible to get them out,” says Dr. Hofve. “They are far safer inside the bathroom and you are more apt to get a good night’s sleep because they won’t be roaming all over the room at night.”
MARK TWAIN'S THOUGHTS ON CATS