3 myths about cat health

Ask any cat owner and they’ll tell you how low-key their pet is: they sleep the day away, they don’t need to go outside, they don’t need to be walked. But one thing that shouldn’t be low-key is a cat’s health.

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According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), a study conducted by Bayer and the American Association of Feline Practitioners found 52 percent of cat owners avoid regular vet visits. The study also found half as many cats receive annual exams as dogs and that:

  • 81 percent thought their cat was in excellent health
  • 53 percent said their cat had never been sick or injured
  • 63 percent of cats in cat-only households never go outside, and their owners assume they are not susceptible to disease

This isn’t to say cat owners love their pets less than dog owners. Rather, the majority (81 percent) of cat owners tend to think cats, especially indoor cats, are self-sufficient, and don’t require as much medical attention as dogs. This line of thinking, combined with a cat’s instinct to rarely show signs of illness before their condition becomes dire, has led to the low numbers of cats at the vet’s office.

Here are some myths about cat health, and the truth behind them.

Myth: Cats rarely need to visit the vet.
Fact: Cats should receive wellness exams every six to 12 months.

According to Kathryn Smith, a former veterinary technician, veterinary hospital administrator, and practice manager, cats are really good at hiding the fact that they’re sick.

“I used to see so many cat owners who said, ‘Oh he was fine until just this week,’ when really the cat had been sick for a long time,” she said. “They just didn’t realize the cat wasn’t well.”

Even if you’re cat isn’t purposely hiding symptoms, some symptoms are so gradual, you don’t realize something is wrong.

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An annual exam helps your cat’s veterinarian catch potentially deadly diseases before they become out of control. Your veterinarian might pick up a heart murmur that allows you to manage heart disease or small kidneys that may be a sign of chronic kidney disease.

It also helps you track discrepancies in your cat’s health. For instance, because weight loss or gain is gradual, a cat’s weight can change drastically before you notice if you aren’t making a regular note of the cat’s weight.

“On average, cats weigh about 10 pounds,” Smith said. “So if a cat loses a pound, that’s a tenth of its body weight, but it might not look like much. The heavier the cat is to begin with, the harder it is to notice a weight fluctuation, unless you’re tracking your cat’s weight regularly.”

The exam includes a dental evaluation, a cardiac and respiratory auscultation, a check for small or enlarged organs, a joint check, a behavioral exam, a heartworm test, and a weight check.

Myth: Cats don’t need preventive medications if they never go outside
Fact: All cats need vaccinations, flea and tick prevention, and heartworm prevention.

Cats and dogs get heartworms from infected mosquitoes. Before you argue that your cat never goes outdoors, think about the last time you were annoyed by that one mosquito that snuck in through the screen or door. That mosquito could be the one that infects your cat.

Signs of heartworm disease in cats are either very subtle or very dramatic, according to the American Heartworm Society. “Cats don’t exhibit many symptoms of heartworms, and one of the symptoms is sudden death,” Smith said.

Asthma-like symptoms may also be feline heartworm disease.  It’s vital to get your cat tested for heartworms, and to administer heartworm prevention monthly – why risk your kitty’s health? Heartworm prevention is an inexpensive way to keep your feline feelin’ fine. Cats need flea and tick prevention, too, if any pet in the house goes outside.

Your cat also should be vaccinated against rabies, as required by law. Additionally, your cat should be vaccinated against feline distemper and upper respiratory diseases. Outdoor cats should be tested for, and vaccinated against, the feline leukemia virus. Remember, your indoor-only cat could slip out at any time, even for just a minute. You don’t want to leave them vulnerable if they do.

Myth: My indoor-only cat doesn’t need to be microchipped.
Fact: All cats should be microchipped and should wear information tags.

In fact, Smith said, indoor cats in particular should be microchipped.

“If an indoor cat gets outside, it has no street smarts,” Smith said. “An indoor cat will go up to people because it knows people provide food, and if the cat isn’t microchipped and isn’t wearing a collar or tags – a lot of people don’t put tags on their indoor cats – then the chances of your cat returning home are slim.”

Of course, if you have an indoor/outdoor cat, microchipping is equally as important, as your cat regularly has opportunity to leave your yard.

Cat owners, take the time to protect your fur baby, and keep a better eye on their health. The best way to do that is with regular vet visits, but you should also keep tabs on your tabby yourself – take note of his weight, his eating habits, his grooming habits, and his play habits.

Any out of the ordinary behavior is worth a vet visit, and even if your cat’s behavior seems perfectly ordinary, don’t put off a visit to the vet – it could save your cat’s life. To schedule an appointment for your cat, call us at 830-875-2456 or contact us online. We have plans tailored to your kitten, adult cat, or senior feline, and we would love to see your kitty!