As a cat veterinarian for over 20 years, I’ve noticed a few common themes to some of the questions and comments I get in the examination room. Cat owners are amazing people. They love their babies. They want to protect their babies. They want to know what the heck is up with their babies?! It is an ongoing struggle trying to understand and communicate with feline creatures. I decided to collect some common questions/comments and address them all in a blog post that I think my veterinary colleagues might relate to as much as my readers can. I hope you can appreciate my tongue-in-cheek tone to some of these issues. (Vets and Techs, did I miss any? Let us know in comments.)
No Holding Back: Top Nine Things that Cat Owners May Not Want to Hear from their Cat Veterinarian
1. They don’t teach us mindreading in vet school
Your cat always sleeps on the couch. Today you found her sleeping on the chair. This is highly unusual behavior. I mean, she ALWAYS sleeps on the couch, on that blanket that you put there specifically for her. I understand this. No, really, I understand. On physical health examination, though, she checks out fine. Totally healthy. Why did she suddenly start sleeping on the chair? I don’t know. I just don’t know. No veterinarian will know.
2. Spite is a human emotion, not a feline one.
She didn’t pee on your bed to spite you. It’s either a medical problem, marking behavior, or inappropriate elimination. Bring her in, and we’ll rule out a medical cause. Then I’ll ask you a bunch of questions to figure out whether it’s marking, or whether it’s inappropriate elimination. Then I’ll give you some tried-and-true suggestions as to how to fix the problem. That’s kinda what I do.
3. Your cat is not a Russian Blue… She’s an American Gray.
Yes, I know, she looks just like a Russian Blue in the breed book. I know. Still… you found her near the dumpster in your apartment complex. Expensive purebred Russian Blues don’t just appear near a dumpster as kittens that need to be rescued.
(3b: No, your cat is not a Maine Coon. It’s a domestic longhair. Sorry.)
4. Your cat was not abused as a kitten.
I know she runs under the bed every time you take out the Dirt Devil. This does not mean she was beaten with a Dirt Devil as a kitten. It means the Dirt Devil is 4 times her size and makes a terrifyingly loud noise when you turn it on.
5. It’s not a hairball
Yes, cats get hairballs now and then. But your cat has been vomiting five times a day for the past two weeks. The first vomit had a little hair in it. The last 23 vomits did not. Your now-dehydrated, debilitated, underweight cat does not have hairballs. Don’t wait until vomit number 23 to bring him in.
P.S. Cats don’t “cough up” a hairball. Hairballs live in the stomach. Cats vomit up hairballs. Coughing means there’s a lung problem. Your cat is coughing? It’s NOT hairballs. Bring him in.
6. It’s not worms
Your 13 year old cat is eating voraciously and is losing weight. You’re thinking it must be worms. Your cat lives totally indoors; where would it get worms? Now you’re thinking of going to PetCo to purchase an over-the-counter dewormer. Um, don’t. Your cat has hyperthyroidism. Bring it in, for heaven’s sake, before he goes into heart failure.
7. Your breeder may or may not know what s/he is talking about.
Sorry, but four years undergrad and four intensive years of vet school means that a veterinarian knows more about feline health than your breeder. I’m sure your breeder is a wonderful person. However, unless there’s a D.V.M. after his/her name, you really should listen to the veterinarian, not the breeder.
8. Yes, your cat still needs vaccines even if your cat is totally indoors.
I address this one at least once a day, every day. Here’s a whole blog post explaining why: Why We Vaccinate (Even Indoor Cats)
9. Just because your cat seems fine doesn’t mean you can skip bringing him to the vet for years.
You seem shocked when I point out that your cat is missing half of his teeth. I ask if they were extracted during a previous dental procedure. Oh, he’s never had a dental procedure? Well, I guess the teeth rotted out of his head. You say that he never showed any sign that his teeth were bothering him? Hey, remember five months ago, when he got all finicky and stopped eating dry food, and demanded only wet food? That wasn’t finicky. It hurts to crunch dry food when your teeth are rotting out of your head. How were you supposed to know? You’re not. It’s my job to tell you. But I can’t, unless you bring him in. Every six months, for life.