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PETS’ CORNER Help your cat to live long

Living

FELINE FRIENDSHIP A cat can live for more than 20 years if cared for properly.

Ask the Vet

Esther Van Luipen

Now and then I hear pet owners quibble about the cost of veterinary care nowadays. ‘It used to be really cheap to go to the vet with my cat. Dr Murphy used to be able to fix my cat and it would cost next to nothing’. The reason for this is that we have moved on a lot with our medical care (both for ourselves and for our pets).
The idea of a vet taking bloods or taking an X-ray of your cat to find out what was wrong was unthinkable even ten years ago. Cats were barely vaccinated in that time. And they were never sick according to the owners. However, when I ask what happened to those cats and how old they were when they died, most people answer that their cats often went away to die, and that they could have been as old as ten years.
What really happened is that cats got sick and went away to die on their own. Cats really do have nine lives and should get much older than ten. A cat could actually live for more than 20 years if cared for properly.
In order to prevent your vets bills running up, there are a few things you can do to keep your cat healthy.
First and foremost: Close the door on your cat’s wandering. Some cats may be reasonably roadwise, but some day during an unguarded moment they could get hit by a car. Also wildlife and other feral cats can do a lot of damage to your pet.
If you decide to keep your cat indoors and there is no contact with other cats that can walk in and out, it is possible to cut out vaccinations. It is still important to go for a yearly check up with your vet to keep an eye on parasites, skin diseases, weight and dental care. If your cat does go in and out of the house, it is important to bring him in for his vaccinations every year. Make sure you include the vaccination for FeLV, the Feline Leukaemia Virus, which is very common and easily spread amongst cats.
Keep your cat lean. This is crucial. As with people, a lot of diseases are associated with having ‘too good of a lifestyle’. Diabetes is of course number one. Also, inactivity can pile on the pounds, so keep your cat active by doing laser point games with him, and make toys out of aluminium foil to play with. Cats also love playing with feathers on strings – attach the string to a stick (so the toy looks like a fishing rod) and you’ll have hours of fun.
Don’t forget the teeth. Give your cat a good-quality kibble with dental cleaning properties. Also, you can put a bit of Dentasept tooth paste on the gums on a regular basis to avoid bacterial build up of tartar.
Brush your cat regularly and use regular flea and worm prevention. The climate indoors is ideal for fleas all year around. When flea control products are used on a monthly basis and your cat is regularly groomed you will be able to see if there are is a skin problem bothering him (also check his ears). Even if your cat is indoors you need to worm him, because worm eggs can be brought in on the soles of your shoes.
These tips will save you a bit of money on vets’ costs in the long run – and ensure your cat’s nine lives are as long as they should be!

> Esther van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. She can be contacted at 094 9373955 or at living@mayonews.ie.