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Posted on 04-07-2017
We hear this frequently. But is the cat fine? There are many conditions that the humans believe are “normal” for cats, but actually affect the cat’s quality of life. Hairballs, being overweight and “fish breath” are three of the most common conditions that are thought of as normal.
Hairballs or tricobezors are clumps of hair and partly digested food that build up in the stomach. They cause irritation in the stomach that leads to the cat vomiting them. This is normal for owls and hawks, but not cats. A few years ago there was a study by a well-known cat veterinarian by the name of Dr. Gary Norsworthy in San Antonio, TX. The bottom line of his research was that normal cats only had one to two hairballs a year. It did not matter how long the coat was, long haired cats still only had one or two hairballs a year. Those that had more hairballs did have an intestinal disease. Usually these could be controlled with diets or medication. For occasional hairballs, the hairball diets, hairball treats or gels, grooming, and sometimes shaving can help.
About 50% of the cats seen by veterinarians are overweight to obese. This has many effects on the health of a cat. From arthritis to diabetes and heart disease, cats share many of the same disease as overweight and obese humans. Keeping their weight within normal range will prevent many of these diseases and help manage the disease when it occurs. What is normal? As cats vary in their bodies just like humans, the best tests are 1) can you feel the top of the spine with light pressure , but not the shoulder blade? And 2) does the cat have a waist or an hourglass shape when looked down at? If your cat does not get narrower behind the ribcage, the diet needs to be evaluated by a veterinarian.
The breath of a cat should not have much of an odor, unless they just finished eating canned food. Then it should smell like the canned food. Any other odor is an indication of dental disease. By the time most cats are 3 years old, 80% have some degree of dental disease. This may only be tartar build up, but it may be gum disease or resorptive lesions that need treatment. An examination and/or dental scaling and treatment are best.
There are special diets that treat all of these common conditions, but they are all for use under a veterinarian’s care. Talk with your veterinarian (the dog sees one right?) or speak to a cat only veterinarian. There are several in the area.
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