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Friday, April 18, 2014
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Published: 8/26/2012

Indoor cats need regular checkups

BY GARY THOMPSON
ASK THE VET

It would seem paradoxical that as more cats avoid the pitfalls and dangers of being outside by remaining exclusively in our homes, the lack of regular health care opens them up to a new host of problems. One of the most common reasons for avoiding a trip to the veterinarian is how difficult it can be for people to get their cat out of the house.

Imagine you spend your days lounging in the sunshine with your every need provided for you by your bothersome human house mate and once a year you are scooped up, locked in a box, and transported in a noisy, bumpy contraption to a place with weird smells and noises to have your sensibilities assaulted by a strange person. This person proceeds to open your mouth, touch you, listen to you, and -- gasp -- maybe even take your temperature in an unholy fashion! All of this may be punctuated by a poke in the backside.

However, this tortuous process is one of the best ways for your cat to prevent and handle any number of health-related issues that commonly occur in all felines.

Even cats that live exclusively indoors need periodic immunizations. Cats are more likely to be exposed to rabies in our part of the Midwest when bats find their way inside. We open doors and windows and cower behind the couch, but cats see an airborne treat to chase and kill, and most cases of rabies in northwest Ohio are found in bats.

Remember, cats will not show outward signs of illness until the bitter end, and weight loss is difficult to detect until it is substantial. Weight gain or loss is essential to tracking a cat's health and weighing is part of every visit. Seventy percent of cats will develop painful dental disease that can contribute to kidney problems and heart disease and make everyday tasks such as eating, drinking, and grooming excruciating. Regular dental care will help avoid these outcomes.

My own cat has suffered any number of indignities from my children treating him like a furry toy, and he hates going with me to the office for his checkups. However, with a little work and bribery you can make this process less traumatic for you, your cat, and your veterinarian.

One step is to bring the cat carrier out from time to time so that your cat doesn't always associate the box with his annual abduction. Put treats and toys in the carrier and leave the door open for him to investigate. His natural curiosity will force him to take a peek. However, if you have a dog, try to put the carrier up or away from the dog so the cat doesn't feel trapped. You can put food and water in the carrier as another enticement. When your cat is feeling reasonably agreeable, put him in the carrier and leave the door open while providing as much positive reinforcement as possible. You could even take a quick spin around the neighborhood to desensitize him to car rides.

Once at the office, ask your veterinarian about cat-friendly options that might be available. Many hospitals have dedicated cat exam rooms and, if your schedule is a little more flexible, find out what times might be a little more quiet for you to come in so your cat is not exposed to any more stress than necessary.

Questions for Dr. Gary Thompson can be emailed to askthevet@theblade.com or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 N. Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.



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