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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

Here Kitty, Kitty

Jun 28, 2016 05:00PM

Is Your Cat Hiding Being Sick??

by Dr. Karin I Derfuss

[dropcap]Cats.[/dropcap] They are not small dogs. Many, many people still don't believe cats need regular medical care, or even a rabies vaccine! Has everyone forgotten that rabies is fatal and can be transmitted to humans? Despite years of educational outreach by veterinary organizations, the cat is still the forgotten family member, and many health problems are our fault.

It is much easier to tell when a dog is sick. Cats are very good at  hiding disease and owners typically report it “just happened.” Their surprise is easy to understand. Cats retain some remnant of genetics or instinct that frequently causes them to not appear ill. This is why regular exams, weight checks, wellness blood work, urine samples, proper diet and keen observation are key. Many cat owners also own multiple cats all using the same litter boxes, all eating and drinking from the same bowls. Veterinarians are frequently frustrated by the answer “I don’t know, I have more than one cat” when questioned about a particular feline because it is so important to observe and monitor each cat individually.

Let’s review a few diseases that seem to “happen overnight.”

Urinary tract infections or urinary distress. Cats are hugely stressed. The typical cat has lost its territory, is being fed a diet nothing like a true carnivore’s diet, forced to share its toilet, and has almost zero daily activity. Cats can develop idiopathic hematuria or stranguria simply from being in their environment. Your veterinarian should have expert advice and tools to de-stress your cat and help if a urinary issue does occur. At least one litter box per cat is essential, some may need to be covered or uncovered, and they must be in various places around the house. Can your cat make it to the litter box when needed?

Dental disease. Cats in the wild crunch on bones and cartilage while eating, which cleans their teeth. Domesticated cats either need a raw diet with bones incorporated into the mix, or home dental care products from a veterinarian. Brushing is always best, but not practical for cats. Water or food additives that act as edible toothpaste are usually a good solution.

Obesity. Over 50% of pet cats are clinically obese. When a 10-pound cat gains one pound this is a 10% weight gain; two pounds is a 20% weight gain! This is equivalent to a 150-pound person gaining 15-30 pounds. Cats do most of their growing by 6 months of age, and rapidly become overweight because of overfeeding, incorrect diet choices and lack of activity. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they do not eat corn, wheat, soy, rice or any other carbohydrate in nature. Dr. Margie Scherk is a popular veterinary speaker who has given the following advice during her lectures: the average 10 pound cat who must hunt for its food will sleep only six hours per day and spend the remainder of the day hunting. It will catch (hopefully) 7-8 mice per day, each mouse averaging 30 calories. This calorie count of 200–250 calories per day is equivalent to 1/3 – 1/2 cup of dry cat food per day.

Overgrown toe nails and matted fur. Cats shed their toe nail shells by scratching. The front toe nails retract and become significantly longer than the rear toe nails. As cats grow older, they are not able to scratch as well, the toes become arthritic and nails become thick and do not retract as well. Be sure to check your cat’s nails regularly (at least once a month) and cut them as needed. Not all cats are great about grooming themselves either. A cat does not develop a full body matt in just a few days. All types of hair coats require some maintenance, again, especially as a cat ages. If a cat is not grooming its back half, there is a good chance that your cat has arthritis. If there is litter stuck for the bottoms of the rear feet your cat may have diabetes.

Please provide regular veterinary care for your cat and be observant. Your veterinarian and hospital staff are a tremendous resource and will offer far better advice than Dr. Google.

Dr. Karin Derfuss graduated from Cook College (Rutgers University) before attending Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine. She is IVAS certified in veterinary acupuncture and continues her integrative studies through IVAS, CIVT and the Chi Institute.

Dr. Derfuss practices at the Branchburg Animal Hospital, 1167 Route 28, Branchburg. Facebook: BranchburgAnimalHospital. 908-707-0045.


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