By Dr. Kim Cargill, DVM
Many people may not know this, but I originally grew up in a rural part of North Carolina. As a child, we had “indoor dogs” and “outdoor dogs” that my parents kept in a fenced area with their dog houses. Likewise, there were the few cats that we kept “indoors” and the other random strays that would come and go outside. Every now and then, kittens would appear. That was always very exciting to me as a child. Our pets’ veterinary care consisted of rabies clinics for the dogs. The cats only went to the veterinarian if they were very sick (and after my parents had tried everything they could think of on their own first). By that time, it was generally too late to help these pets and they rarely made it back home. Those were the pets that I would hold funerals for in the back yard.
Now over 20 years later (that’s an age hint for you!), as a veterinarian myself I am able to see how times have changed for the better in so many ways. There are so many more options for being able to help our pets than there were back then. We have learned the importance of preventative care so that we are able to prolong the quality time that we have with our beloved pet family members. Unfortunately though, for cats this seems to still be lagging behind. We find that there are still so many cats that are only brought into see us when they are very sick, and at that time once a disease is so far progressed it makes helping them much more difficult and expensive.
Take a case I saw several weeks ago. The cat had not been eating for about 1 week, and prior to that the owners had noted that the cat had been drinking and urinating more. We had not seen this cat in the last 5 years. As it turned out, the cat had renal failure, as it is unfortunately very common in older cats. If we are able to diagnose it early, many times these pets can be managed and maintain a good quality of life for some time. However, in this case the pet was so ill that due to the poor prognosis the owners elected to have the cat humanely euthanized.
As sad as this case was, it served to emphasize the importance of routine physical exams and preventative care in cats as well as dogs. Your young cat should be seen by the veterinarian once yearly. As pets age, it is better to have them checked every 6 months so we can identify and address potential issues earlier. If we become more proactive with our cat family members, hopefully we will see less of these tragic cases and help our cats to live longer, healthier lives.