5 Health Problems Cat Owners Overlook

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Cats have a reputation as low-maintenance pets, perfect for people who don’t have the time to care for an animal. That’s not true, of course, but it can be difficult to convince some people otherwise. "Cats take care of themselves," is something I hear a lot, and it makes me wince every time.

What’s largely happening is not that our cats are fending for themselves — as so many people assume — but rather that because they’re so good at hiding signs of illness, we don’t realize how sick they are until they’re very sick indeed. And sometimes when I do see cats as a practicing veterinarian, I see not only what people brought them in for — an abscess, perhaps, or a limp or a chronic cough — but life-threatening issues the cats' owners hadn't even noticed.

These are serious problems that seem painted in the boldest hues to my eye, yet appear to be invisible to many cat owners. And it happens all the time.

Are You Missing the Big Picture?

Sometimes, even when I point out these problems, cat owners don’t think they’re as important as I do. They may accept my diagnosis, for example, but not follow up or follow through on treatment plans. It really saddens me to think of the misery these cats are in. Don't be guilty of neglecting your cat's health; check out these five feline health problems people don’t worry about as much as they should — and talk to your veterinarian about any that sound familiar.

Feline obesity: Many of us are living in glass houses when it comes to weight (both ours and our pets'), which may be one of the reasons your veterinarian is reluctant to bring it up. And many veterinarians are doubly sensitive when it comes to discussing an overweight pet with an overweight owner, not wanting to hurt any feelings. But you need to take a good look at your cat, and you need to know what you are allowing when you let him get and stay overweight. Let me be blunt: Fat kills. And even when it doesn’t contribute to the development of a disease or condition that leads to euthanasia, it makes your cat’s life miserable.

Hyperthyroidism: You might think it’s wonderful how much energy your senior cat has, but if hyperthyroidism is at the bottom of all this activity, it’s really not a good thing at all. And while obesity is a problem, as I’ve noted, an increase in energy — coupled with extreme weight loss — is often due to hyperthyroidism, the overproduction of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism is easily treated or managed, which makes ignoring the symptoms even more tragic for your cat.

Urinary tract disease: Litterbox problems are one of the most common reasons why cats are given up for adoption. Many people don’t realize that these problems may stem from health issues, such as infections or stones in the urinary tract, rather than bad behavior. If you think your cat is missing the box “for no reason” or “out of spite” or even “because he’s stupid,” you need to reassess — and talk with your veterinarian. Don’t give up your cat, and don’t resolve to “live with” the mess. Find out if an illness is causing the problem, and then take care of the problem. You and your cat will both be happier.

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