By Dr. Julie Stephenson
Someone once asked me if I had just one tip to give cat owners what would it be? I answered very quickly, keep your cat indoors. There are a lot of dangerous things outside for cats. Some diseases seen mostly in outdoor cats include:
Outdoor cats have a high likelihood of getting abcesses. Cats get into fights and bite each other, and those bites can become easily infected. Usually abcesses are easy to treat, but can cost $500 to $800 to treat as the cat will need to be sedated and the abcess will need to be drained. Antibiotics and follow up care will be necessary.
There are physical dangers that cats face outdoors such as cars, dogs, getting stuck on fences, or getting trapped.
Luckily, I don’t have to give just one tip to cat owners. My next tip is keep your cat a healthy weight. Overweight cats have a higher incidence of many diseases including diabetes and liver disease. One problem seen most frequently in obese cats over normal weight cats is urinary blockage. This is a situation where a crystal or plug blocks the urethra in males and make them unable to urinate. This is an extremely painful, sometimes deadly as well as very expensive problem to treat. Keeping your cat at a healthy weight will help prevent this problem
Cats are obligate carnivores. This means they require protein in their diet. They also require an amino acid called taurine in their diet. This is available to domestic cats only in cat food. This is just one reason your cat cannot live on tuna fish alone. Without taurine in the diet, your cat can get a progressive and deadly heart muscle disease.
Cats and yarn are a cliché. But don’t let your cat play with strings of any kind without your supervision. If your cat swallows a string, it will not be able to pass it and it will lead to an intestinal blockage. This will require surgery to repair. There are plenty of toys available that aren’t as dangerous.
To declaw or not to declaw. That question has many veterinarians facing off. Declawing a cat is a procedure where the tip of the digit (finger to us) is amputated. Obviously a painful procedure, you need to ask your veterinarian about pain management, including what pain medications you will be sent home with. The younger the cat, the better they will recuperate. Some veterinarians will not declaw cats over the age of 3 or 4 because of the trauma involved, unless there is a medical reason such as a person in the house with diabetes or is immune-compromised. Some veterinarians use laser, and if they are proficient at it, it can be a less bloody and less painful procedure. There are alternatives to declawing, such as making certain that kitty has a scratching post or two. There is a product that you can put on the claws making them soft, although many owners complain that they fall off easily. My personal feeling is that I don’t like doing the procedure, but I know that there are many cats that would not have homes if they weren’t declawed. Ask your veterinarian what she recommends.
Last, but not least, please keep your cat away from Tylenol or acetaminophen. This is a fatal medication in cats. They cannot metabolize it and it will kill them. If you feel your cat is in pain, notify your veterinarian.