Five tips to help your cat get all nine lives
By Dr. Marty Becker
and Gina Spadafori
Modern veterinary care is not inexpensive.
Every day we hear from readers who remember when “Good ol’ Doc Jones” patched up their cats for next to nothing.
These days, readers complain, many veterinarians want to use available diagnostics to see what’s really going on (and reduce risk during anesthesia), suggest newer procedures to fix things that were fatal not that long ago, and pretty much try to do the best job they can with all the advances of the last couple of decades.
Costs for everything have gone up, and “Good ol’ Doc Jones” is paying more to keep the hospital doors open, even before you consider all the new options veterinarians can offer today. The good news: If you practice good preventive care with your cat — which should, of course, include neutering — you can really keep costs down.
Top strategy for doing so: Close the door on your cat’s wandering.
A lot of cat lovers hate hearing this. They’ve always let their cats roam, and they’re reluctant to change. A free-roaming cat seems easier to care for, especially if the outdoors serves as a litter box (a policy that’s never fair to or popular with the neighbors).
But the things that can happen to a free-roaming cat can really cost you at the veterinarian’s. Outdoor cats are at high risk for poisoning, infectious disease, accidents and attacks, all of which can mean misery for your pet and expensive veterinary costs for you.
Other strategies for preventive cat care:
• No more yearly shots. The emphasis has shifted away from automatic annual combination boosters to tailoring the kind and frequency of vaccines to an individual cat. Some vaccines are now given at longer intervals — every three years is common — and some are not given at all to cats who are not at high risk for a particular disease.
Skipping annual shots isn’t an excuse to skip regular “well-pet” exams, which are a cornerstone of a preventive-care program. You can discuss which vaccines are right for your cat during the visit.
• Keep your cat lean. Too much food and not enough activity puts the pounds on a pet. Excess weight is attributed to any number of health issues in cats, especially arthritis and diabetes. Don’t crash-diet your cat — it can be deadly. Instead, talk to your veterinarian about a healthy diet that will trim down your cat before the pounds really add up. Add in activity with daily play sessions using a laser-pointer or cat-fishing pole, whatever gets your cat going.
• Don’t forget the teeth. It doesn’t hurt to get into a regular routine of brushing or swiping your cat’s teeth, and many cats can learn to enjoy or at least tolerate the practice. If their teeth are left alone, cats develop dental problems that can shorten their lives and lessen their quality of life.
• Practice good grooming. Basic brushing, combing and flea control are a must for preventive care. Keeping your pet parasite-free will make living with your animal much more pleasant (after all, fleas bite people, too). Regular brushing can also help build the bond between you and your cat, and will allow you to notice skin problems and lumps and bumps early.
Five tips for nine lives, all of them guaranteed to save you money and spare your cat. You can’t beat that!