Take Your Cat to the Vet Day
By Lisa King
August 22 is National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day. There is no comparable day for dogs, so why is this annual reminder necessary? The answer is simple: Even though there are more pet cats than dogs in America, owners take their cats to the veterinarian about half as often as they take their dogs.
There are many reasons people are reluctant to take their cats to the vet regularly. Cats are seen as low-maintenance compared to dogs, and while this might be true overall, when it comes to medical care it is simply not the case. A cat should see his veterinarian once a year whether he has any symptoms or not. This applies even if yours is a young, sprightly, indoor-only cat.
Another problem for many cat owners is cost. Veterinarian visits aren’t cheap, but spending the money for a checkup annually can catch problems early, when they are easier to treat, thus saving you money in the long run.
Many owners resist taking their cats to the vet because it is so stressful for the cat. Cats are notoriously nervous about vet visits. Since most cats only get in their carriers and take car rides on vet day, no wonder they run and hide at the first sight of the carrier. The solution is to create positive associations with the carrier. Leave it out on the floor with the door open in a room your cat frequents. Line it with a comfy blanket and occasionally put a few treats, toys or a sprinkling of catnip inside. Your cat will come to see it as just another piece of furniture, and might even take naps inside. You can also put him in the carrier and take him on short drives that don’t end up at the vet’s office.
Another good reason for yearly exams is so your vet can get to know your cat, which will make it easier for her to diagnose what’s wrong with him if he develops symptoms. Establishing a good relationship with a vet also makes it easier for you to trust her judgment in matters of treatment.
Once you’ve gotten your cat to the vet, a vet tech will first weigh him. Then comes the indignity of having his temperature taken with a rectal thermometer. The veterinarian will do a thorough check of your cat’s eyes, ears, nose, mouth and teeth, looking for inflammation, discharge and other problems. She will listen to your cat’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope. She will also examine his paws, genitals and anus, and comb through his fur looking for evidence of fleas. Next, she will gently examine your cat’s body, looking for bumps, swelling or other abnormalities. If this is your cat’s first visit to a particular vet, she might want to do blood work to establish baseline values to compare against later tests.
Talk to your vet about flea control, deworming and dental care. The handling of these issues will depend on your individual cat’s circumstances. Vaccinations are another topic to discuss with your vet. While rabies shots area regulated by law, most other vaccinations are given at the owner’s discretion. Some vaccinations are recommended to be given annually, but increasingly vets are waiting three years between shots. Work out a plan that both you and your vet can live with. Don’t hesitate to ask questions; your vet can also offer advice and guidance regarding diet, behavior problems or any other concerns you have.
As your cat ages into his senior years, he should visit the vet more often and be checked for arthritis, diabetes, kidney problems, thyroid issues, heart disease and other conditions common in older cats. If you’ve been assiduous about regular checkups with a trusted vet when your cat was young, you’ll be in good hands if you have to face a serious illness.
About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea” and the recently released “Vulture au Vin.”
Treating Without Fattening Up Your Cat.
Calories count for felines, too.
By Sandy Robins
There’s no question that giving treats to your adoring and appreciative feline is very much a part of the human-animal bonding experience.
But it’s important to remember that all treats have calories. This must be taken in to account in determining your cat’s daily food allowance. Fortunately, manufacturers are cognizant of this, too, and many go to great lengths to put the number of calories per treat prominently on their packaging. So, it’s entirely up to you to establish the desired number to dish out daily in terms of your pet’s optimal weight and health.
There is also no shortage of types of treats in terms of tastes and textures. And, in order to make the reason for treating cats on a regular basis more “palatable” to pet parents, manufacturers have added a silent “ingredient” to treats: functionality. That’s part of the reason there is a slew of treat products with special ingredients that claim to help prevent ailments such as tartar buildup, bad breathe or even hairballs.
Instead of indiscriminate treating, it’s a good idea to give your feline specific reasons to expect a reward. Grooming is a perfect example. While most cats enjoy long massaging brushing strokes, they often get wriggly when its time for that mani-pedi. To make nail clipping more pleasurable, treat your cat when it’s over and eventually she will begin to realize there is something good about the whole process. In addition, rewarding only for good behavior also helps control the number of treats you give your cat on a regular basis.
I use Fudge’s favorite freeze-dried fish treats as an incentive to get her to sit still for a couple of minutes twice a week when I have to give her subcutaneous fluids. From being totally resistant, she’s now tolerant of the procedure.
As people become more aware that it’s possible to train cats—even if it’s something as simple as getting them to sit on command—a treat is a wonderful reward for an action well done. Consequently, treats are very much a part of the popular clicker-training process whereby cats (and dogs) are trained using the click-and-treat positive-reward methodology.
Cats in the wild are used to hunting and working for food. Consider setting out a treasure hunt in your home by hiding treats and some of your cat’s favorite toys in different locations. This is a great way to prevent boredom and keep her engaged and “on the hunt” when she is home alone. You can also hide treats in specially designed cat puzzle toys or treat balls to keep the games going. And, if your cat has a favorite treat, change things up by trying different ones from time to time.
Another way to control treats—and prevent you from handing them out indiscriminately all day— is to use them to build a routine. I have a friend who likes to treat her three felines just before her bedtime. The cats know this and line up in front of the treat drawer every evening at 10:00 pm.
There might be occasions when your veterinarian says “No treats—ever,” for health reasons. However, you can take a small percentage of your cat’s daily kibble allowance and use it as a substitute for actual treats. By doing so, she still gets to enjoy the treating process without countering the vet’s instructions.
Finally, be sure to store your treats in a well-sealed treat jar, in a kitchen drawer or closet. You want to make sure your feline’s ingenuity for getting into things won’t enable her to party until the packet is finished, defeating your goal of keeping everything under control.
About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats