Did you know your cat could be sick and you may not know it until it’s too late? October is National Pet Wellness Month and a good time to learn how to tell if your feline friend is hiding a health problem. “The Great Cat Watch, for Wellness Sake!”TM campaign educates cat owners on how to watch for subtle signs of sickness and know when to contact their veterinarian.
“Cats are masters at hiding illness, so it may not always be obvious if they are sick,” said Ilona Rodan, DVM, Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, certified in Feline Practice and Co-Chair of the American Association of Feline Practitioners Feline Behavior Guidelines. Cats are naturally designed to conceal their weaknesses from predators. This built-in protection mechanism may help in the wild, but is a potential detriment for a domestic pet with a disease or condition that should be treated by a veterinarian.
According to a report by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), changes in behavior or normal routine are the first signs of a potential disease or illness. The AAFP Behavior Guidelines report is a first of its kind and was compiled from information and research from approximately 300 articles and several books. Some of these signs that can indicate possible illness include:
- Inappropriate Elimination Behavior
- Changes in Interactions
- Changes in Activity
- Changes in Sleeping Habits
- Unexplained Weight Loss or Gain
- Changes in Food and Water Consumption
- Changes in Grooming
- Signs of Stress
- Changes in Vocalization
- Bad Breath
An owner should be aware of these changes and take his/her cat to the veterinarian if one or more of these signs are observed.
Healthy cats typically have fairly predictable schedules. They normally sleep 16 to 18 hours per day, use the litter box when needed, and drink water and eat food regularly.
“In addition to watching for signs of illness, wellness exams are also important for cat health and preventing illness,” said James R. Richards, DVM, Director of the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and a past-president of the AAFP. “Wellness visits are the perfect opportunity to conduct a behavior assessment along with a routine physical examination.”
During the visit, the owner and veterinarian can talk about what is normal behavior for the cat and how to recognize changes.
Despite continued advances in feline healthcare, behavior problems are still the most common cause of euthanasia in pet cats. 1 The 90 million cats owned in America outnumber dogs by 20 percent. 2 And yet, they visit the veterinarian half as often. 3 Fort Dodge Animal Health and the AAFP encourage twice-a-year wellness visits and urge cat owners to watch for the subtle signs of sickness.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) is a professional organization of veterinarians who share an interest in providing excellent care and treatment of cats and are dedicated to the profession of feline health care.
Fort Dodge Animal Health, a division of Wyeth (NYSE:WYE), is a leading manufacturer and distributor of prescription and over-the-counter animal health care products for the livestock, companion animal, equine, swine and poultry industries in North America and international markets.
For more information, visit www.catwellness.org
- AAFP Feline Behavior Guidelines, 2004.
- APPMA, 2005/2006 National Pet Owners Survey, Greenwich, CT, 2005
- U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, AVMA, 2002