Cats are so much more than furry little companions — they’re family. Because we want our feline friends to live long, happy lives, it’s important to keep ourselves well-educated when it comes to caring for them. We spoke to an expert from Royal Canin, Dr. Laura Pletz, DVM, who answered several important questions about cat health.
It seems like a no-brainer that preventative care is the best way to keep our feline friends happy and healthy. Yet according to Royal Canin, only 50% of owners take their cats regularly to the vet. Why isn’t this number as high as it could be?
Pletz: Visits to the vet clinic can be stressful for both the cat and the owner, especially when they don’t have the knowledge and tools to help make the visit more pleasant for all. Because of this, many owners will avoid a vet visit until they notice a concern with their pet. Unfortunately, cats are very good at hiding symptoms of illness and they may not show symptoms until their illness is very advanced.
If regular visits to the vet is an important part of keeping our feline friends healthy, how often should owners bring their cats in for a checkup?
Pletz: Every cat should visit the vet at least annually to have a thorough physical examination and discuss the best preventative healthcare measures with their veterinarian. As they age or if they are diagnosed with a particular condition, your veterinarian will likely want to see you more frequently.
What are the most common misconceptions about cat behavior?
Pletz: I think one of the most concerning misconceptions is that cats always get stressed visiting the vet and there is nothing you can do. Many veterinary clinics are leveraging techniques in their hospitals to make it a more positive visit for cats and owners, and can provide advice on things to do prior to the visit to make a big difference.
What are some behavioral signs or changes that signal a prompt trip to the vet?
Pletz: The most important things to watch for are changes in daily behaviors. Changes to appetite, litter box habits, or their interaction with other pets and family members are the easiest changes to spot. Always take increases or decreases in appetite or the amount of water they are drinking seriously. If you notice the amount of urine and feces in the litter box is different, this should also raise a red flag. If you notice they are interacting with the family differently, such as hiding more or showing aggression to other pets in the household, be concerned. If any of these are noted, you should call your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Speaking of behavioral signs, is it true that less active cats are prone to urinary health concerns?
Pletz: It is true that being overweight increases the risk for urinary health issues, so often inactive and overweight cats can be affected.
What are some other signs that cats are at risk of or are suffering from a urinary issue?
Pletz: Frequent trips to the litter box that result in several smaller amounts of urine, rather than a few larger clumps can indicate an issue. You may also notice that they are urinating in places other than the litter box, such as rugs, blankets, or in the bathtub or sink. In more severe situations, you may even notice blood in the urine.
Can you share some advice for cat owners to help prevent urinary issues?
Pletz: The best measures to prevent urinary issues are to keep your cat at a healthy body weight and do what you can to provide a very enriched environment for your cat. Stress can also be linked to urinary issues in cats, so providing a stress-free environment is very important.
When we think of cat health, we likely think of nutrition — what cats should or shouldn’t eat and how often — but does grooming also play a role in cat health?
Pletz: Cats should eat a complete and balanced diet that is formulated for their needs based on age, lifestyle, or any other health concerns. Both wet and dry foods can be appropriate, and this choice is often based mostly on the preference of the individual cat. Consulting with your veterinarian for the best nutritional recommendation is a key topic for the annual visit. Routine grooming is also important for overall health. Most cats only require occasional brushing and nail trims, but long-haired cats require more frequent brushing to avoid any matting of their fur.
With the world reopening and people returning to the office, what are a few ways to keep our cats active, stimulated, and well taken care of while we’re away?
Having an enriched environment for your cat with toys they love and lots of safe places to climb and explore are important. It is also important to make sure all pets in a multi-pet household have the space they need to feel safe and explore throughout the day.
We all want our beloved feline friends to live long, happy, and healthy lives. If you want to stay curious about cat health, nutrition, and the best ways to care for your four-legged friends, visit Royal Canin.
All images via Getty.