International Cat Day—a day to celebrate—is October 29.
Cats often do not get the medical care they need. They sometimes go years without visiting a veterinarian and rarely go in for “check ups,” like dogs do. About 80 percent of cat owners think their felines are so self-sufficient that regular exams are unnecessary (according to Bayer Health Care Feline Findings, 2013). About 60 percent of all veterinary clients are dogs, even though there are actually more cats than dogs.
When cats are lost, they’re far less likely to be recovered, because they are too rarely microchipped and hardly ever wear an ID tag. Shockingly, some cat owners don’t even search for their lost kitty and somehow rationalize that the cat will survive just fine.
Cats are relinquished to shelters for behavior problems more often than dogs (though they don’t have more behavior issues, it seems people have less tolerance for cat problems) and sometimes they’re just booted outdoors for these problems.
In some places, people even shoot at stray or community cats.
Put simply, cats are the Rodney Dangerfield of pets: They get no respect.
Millions of pet owners love their cats, but they may not know why twice-annual veterinary visits may be life-saving. Or, maybe they don’t truly recognize subtle signs off illness in cats, or understand that microchipping cats is equally as important as it is for dogs. While many families love their cats, they often take them for granted, believing that cats are “self-starters.”
Here are 11 steps you can take to show your cat respect and love.
1. Routine checkups: All cats should get a preventive care checkup at least once a year, and more frequently for senior cats and those with chronic conditions. During the exam, veterinarians assess current health and may detect conditions early. This can prevent suffering and can even be life-saving, as well as being easier on cat owners’ wallets. See more HERE.
2. Don’t rely on “Dr. Google”: The internet doesn’t have a stethoscope and can’t do blood work on your cat. Also, there’s lots of misinformation posted online. Anytime there’s a change in your cat’s behavior, this could signal a medical problem, so see your veterinarian, not a website!
3. Weight checks: About 60 percent of indoor cats are overweight or obese, which can impact quality of life and lifespan. A few extra pounds can be difficult for owners to detect, yet can have significant health effects. Read more HERE.
4. Kitty playgrounds: Addressing a cat’s physical, emotional, and environmental needs enhances the pet’s health and quality of life. Offer outlets for natural behaviors, generally referred to as enrichment. Fulfilling enrichment needs will benefit your cat’s physical and mental health. Read more about the five pillars of a healthy feline environment HERE.
5. Get the scoop: Litter box habits offer a peek into your cat’s psyche. If a cat is missing the box or there’s any a change in kitty’s litter box habits, these may signal a medical issue and/or anxiety, so see your vet. Read more HERE.
6. Cats aren’t finicky: While some cats are fastidious about food, there may be a medical explanation for any new erratic eating behaviors (unless the cat has always been this way). The pet could have a gastrointestinal problem, diabetes, a dental issue, or any number of other problems. Don’t wait to contact your veterinarian, and never allow a cat to go more than 24 hours without eating, as a fatal liver disease can occur.
7. Brush up: Periodontal disease is the most common disease in cats over 3 years old. If a cat’s breath isn’t fresh as a daisy, the pet may be silently suffering from painful teeth or gums or another medical issue.
8. To sleep or not to sleep: Vocalizing overnight, or changes in your cat’s sleep/wake cycle may be signs of illness. In older cats, this can also indicate feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome (“kitty Alzheimer’s”). The sooner your veterinarian can diagnose the problem, the better.
9. Give your cat the best: It’s worth sniffing out a Cat Friendly Practice. These veterinary clinics have made a commitment to pay more attention to their feline clients and to think about cats from the cat’s perspective. Read more HERE.
10. Reduce stressful vet visits: Nearly 60 percent of owners say their cats hate visiting the veterinarian. That stress starts at home, and the good news is, you can help. Read more HERE.
11. Support all cats, including a local trap-neuter-release-vaccinate program for community cats and support cat health studies through the nonprofit Winn Feline Foundation, which is now celebrating 50 years.
Loving your cat is definitely a start, but it’s not enough.