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December is National Cat Lovers' Month

December is National Cat Lovers' Month
December 2, 2021

We see a lot of cats at Laughery Valley Veterinary Hospital. So, when I saw that December was National Cat Lovers' Month, I thought I'd let you know about the feline experiences we have. Most cats will come to the vet with some degree of fear in their heart and mind. Some more than others. They let everyone know they did not appreciate the pet taxi confinement nor the ride over to the clinic. But there are plenty of our feline patients who seem to enjoy the experience and love the attention we give them.

Cats are known for their aloof attitude which makes them different from dogs who are more social. This difference is understood in the joke that says dogs have owners but cats have staff. My personal favorite is that cats were worshiped in ancient Egypt as gods and they've never forgotten it. But many of our clients tell us how lovey-dovey their feline friend can be at home. Like people, cats have varying personalities, which their owners get to know quickly after having them for a few days. No matter which personality type they have, a true cat lover learns to live with their new friend, allowing for their unique idiosyncrasies.

Even though cats are mammals and physiologically have this in common with dogs, in vet school a common quip taught is that cats are not small dogs. They have many of their own unique health experiences, diseases and conditions. For example, where dogs as they age may develop a low thyroid level and need thyroid replacement hormone, older cats are prone to hyperthyroidism and will need long-term medication to slow down the thyroid gland. Sometimes names can be misleading. Distemper virus in dogs causes respiratory and neurological signs, but distemper in cats is actually a completely different virus causing gastrointestinal signs like diarrhea.

This year we have seen more than the usual number of kittens who come in sick with nasal and eye discharges, sneezing and poor appetites. They are commonly thin to the point of emaciation and the human who brought them tells of finding this poor kitty beside the road or was found in their barn having been birthed by a stray cat that cannot be caught. There is the aforementioned distemper virus, as well as the upper respiratory viruses that are common in these kittens. There are good vaccines for these diseases but unfortunately for the sick kittens, they were exposed before they could be vaccinated. And the roundworm and hookworm burdens they carry weaken their immune systems as an added detriment. More than a few of these kittys cannot be saved. Many are the days I find myself conversing with a client about what a tough world it is outside for cats, in general, and for kittens especially.

For the most part, we see hundreds of well cared for, healthy pet cats who are loved by their humans. These come in for their vaccines and are protected against parasites on a regular basis. It is fitting to have a month that celebrates the cat lover and their feline friends. Together they are a big and important part of what has been called "Pet Nation". In this century, in particular, we have pets that get much more attention than they did 50 years ago. And this national phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down. Ask any pet owner about the joy and comfort their pet affords them. They will likely talk on and on about it!

Submitted by,

Harley Robinson, DVM