Hi everyone! Since I joined the practice in June 2017, the Veterinary Center of Morris County has quickly become a welcoming second home to me. I am sure everyone would agree that the VCMC staff is a warm, friendly, and an overall wonderful group of people. Shortly after starting here, Dr. Edelle playfully began to refer to me as the “Cat-Vet” of the practice due to the strong passion I have for our feline friends. (Don’t worry I ABSOLUTELY love dogs too!) With that being said, Dr. Edelle came up with a great idea for me to start a monthly blog geared towards cat lovers! We want it to focus on client education and overall awareness of cat related issues, diseases, questions and concerns. I am very excited to start this blog and I feel I came up with the perfect name for it: “Earl’s of Wisdom”. Earl is my own personal cat! He is such an important part of my life and I couldn’t imagine a better companion! So, who better to name it after then my best furry friend!!
Caring For Your Feline Friend
Many people might feel that cats do not need to visit the veterinarian as often as dogs. However, it is extremely important for your cat to develop a relationship with his or her veterinarian when they are healthy in order for the veterinarian to get to know your cat’s overall personality. By establishing a bond early in life, your veterinarian will be able to detect subtle changes that could indicate the development of certain health conditions. It is recommended not only by the VCMC but also by the feline experts affiliated with the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) that cats should have regularly scheduled wellness exams every six months. Six months in a cat’s life is comparable to 2-3.5 years of a human’s life! A lot can change during that time. Depending on the disease, if detected early, 63% of common feline diseases can often be prevented or managed by dietary changes alone.
That Dreaded Carrier...
One of the biggest complaints by cat owners revolves around actually getting their kitty to the vet. “How am I supposed to catch them, get them in the carrier and get them to the vet??”. This can be a very stressful situation for both owners and cats if not done properly. I encourage owners to reduce your cat’s stress when coming in for routine appointments by transforming your cat carrier into a welcoming cozy environment. This can be done by having a familiar piece of bedding inside the carrier. There are also non-harmful calming sprays created to reduce cat stress (eg: Feliway) which you can spray in the carrier and on the bedding. If your kitty needs a little more help, there are medications that can be given ahead of the appointment. These can either be in the form of a nutraceutical calming chew called Composure™, or for more anxious kitties, a doctor can prescribe a stronger medication. For my final tip, please leave plenty of time to prepare and leave for your appointment. Arriving early means that not only are you feeling calm and relaxed but it gives your cat time to, hopefully, feel the same way.
Behavioral Changes Can Mask Illness
Cats are notorious for being labeled as stoic animals and masters at hiding illnesses. Typically, signs of your kitty not feeling well are easily missed or masked and owners do not realize that something is wrong with their feline companions. As a veterinarian, it is my responsibility to help owners be aware of changes that may be associated with illness in their cats such as:
- A decrease in interaction with humans or other pets in the household. This can often be a sign of fear, anxiety or pain.
- A decrease in activity can be associated with systemic diseases as well as the development of arthritis. Arthritis or degenerative joint disease is very common in older cats and can be properly managed if detected. Keep an eye on your cat for signs such as difficulty in maneuvering up and down the stairs, reluctance and/or slower to rise out of his/her bed, not being able to jump as frequent or high as in the past and not using the litter pan. We at VCMC believe that all senior cats would benefit from being put on a joint supplement, such as Cosequin™, Feline Joint Gel or Adequan™.
- An increase in activity in an older cat is a signature clinical sign of hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid gland. This is the most common endocrine disease a cat can develop in life.
- A decrease in food consumption could indicate a variety of issues ranging from dental disease to systemic illnesses to cancer.
- An increase in food consumption is often linked to endocrine diseases such as diabetes mellitus and hyperthyroidism.
- Obesity can lead to the risk of developing diabetes, joint, respiratory, heart and/or kidney disease.
- Sudden weight loss in older cats, despite a normal or even increased appetite is usually a sign of hyperthyroidism or diabetes mellitus. Weight loss with a decreased appetite is often associated with intestinal diseases or cancer.
- Inappropriate urination is a sign of lower urinary tract disease, kidney disease, diabetes mellitus or development of arthritis. It can also be a behavioral condition.
- Increased vocalization can be associated with hyperthyroidism, or may be a sign that they are in pain or experiencing anxiety.
- Bad breath (aka halitosis) is a sign of periodontal/dental disease. This is actually the most common disease in cats who are 3 years or older and studies have indicated that 70% of cats have developed periodontal disease within this age range. Therefore, proper dental hygiene is very important!
I also encourage owners to help out with grooming your cat by brushing them daily and having their nails trimmed frequently. Often owners are not aware that nails can become so overgrown that they penetrate the paw pads creating a painful condition. Lastly, my final piece of advice for my first blog post is for everyone to have fun and grow close to your feline friends! Provide physical as well as mental stimulation to your cats by showing them lots of attention, playing with them, and petting them. I look forward to seeing you and your kitty companions at the VCMC!
For more information on the health and wellness of your feline friends, visit The Cat Community, a website dedicated to everything feline and run by the American Association of Feline Practitioners.
-Rebecca Cozzarelli, DVM