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Our Expert Dr. Marty Becker shares the first chapter of his new book with Vetstreet.com readers. "Your Cat: The Owner's Manual" will help owners solve problems and enhance their bond with their cats through a tip-filled book on everything from finding the right cat to preventing health problems and bad behavior. The book will be available for purchase at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Booksamillion.com and Indiebound.org.
Some people are born into cat-loving families, while others have cats thrust upon them through marriage to a cat lover, an inheritance from a family member, or sometimes a cat who just shows up at the door. And then there are those who independently make the decision to take up life with a cat. However you came to love cats, welcome. You are a member of an exceptional club. You are entering into a unique relationship that can be joyful, entertaining, sometimes frustrating, but in the end always rewarding. Life with a cat is special, if you know what to expect and how to play the feline rules. Dogs can bend to human will. Cats? They’ll bend a little, but not much.
Cats are surrounded by myths and misconceptions. It’s no wonder that they are often misunderstood. I want to help you separate fact from fiction when it comes to this interesting and intriguing animal.
Remember: Cats are not small dogs.
When you are reading about different cat breeds or reading the personality descriptions of cats at a shelter, you may come across some that are described as “doglike.” It’s true that some cats, like dogs, will follow you around, play fetch, or go for walks on leash. But that is where the resemblance ends. Cats differ from dogs in many ways.
First of all, their nutritional needs are different. Cats are what biologists call “obligate carnivores,” which means they must have meat in their diet to survive. Lots of meat. While dogs can exist on a diet that contains large amounts of grain, cats need meat protein to be at the top of their game. Meat contains a nutrient called taurine that is essential for heart and eye health and normal cell, muscle, and skeletal function. Cats can’t synthesize taurine on their own, so they must get it from their diet. Cats also have other nutritional requirements that vary from those of dogs, such as the type of vitamin A they can use. That’s why you should never feed your cat the same food you give your dog. Cats don’t need carbs; when they go on a diet, it is high protein like the Atkins diet, which is often referred to as the Catkins diet.
A cat’s physiology is different, too. Cats metabolize drugs differently than dogs or people. It’s very dangerous to give a cat the same drug you or I or the small dog next door might take, even if it’s for the same type of problem. Take pain, for instance. I’ve seen clients kill their cats by going to the medicine chest and giving their cats aspirin or Tylenol (acetaminophen). The same holds true for parasite treatments.
Never apply a flea or tick treatment or a shampoo made for dogs to your cat. Always call your veterinarian first and ask if a particular medication is safe for your cat and at what dose. (Click on the page numbers below to continue to the next part of Chapter 1. )
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