I am Dr. Elaine Wexler-Mitchell, a feline practice specialist here in Orange County, and I am excited about contributing regular information about cats to the OC Register. I plan to write about news, health, technology, and treatments for cats with help from the other veterinarians in my practice. I want to help cat fanatics and newer cat owners provide great care for their pets.

Recent pet owner surveys show that pet dogs are twice as likely as pet cats to see a veterinarian for any reason during a year. This means that cats are frequently undiagnosed and untreated for illness, and they are not receiving consistent preventive care. About a year ago, the CATalyst Council was formed to help promote feline health care welfare in North America. Sponsors of the council include veterinarians, rescue organizations, pet food and drug companies, and other interested in supporting cats. I applaud their goals of educating the public and the pet industry about cats and their needs.

Since I work with cats everyday, I know the reasons why a cat might not visit a veterinarian. Cats are creatures of habit and most prefer to stay home and reign over their domains instead of visiting their doctor (The same is probably true for most humans). Some cats become so stressed when they leave their homes that they become wild animals and refuse to cooperate for handling or examination by veterinary staff. I have become quite adept at dealing with these situations.

The problem with not having regular veterinary care is that cats are masters at covering up their illnesses, and often it is hard to know that a cat is sick until he is gravely ill. Subtle changes like weight loss are frequently missed by owners. Lots of cats vomit, so when is vomiting a sign of a problem? A year in an adult cat’s life is equivalent to about 4 years for a human, so cats age more rapidly and have changes each year. A veterinary exam allows an objective assessment of the cat’s physical condition and behaviors. If the cat comes at least annually, trends such as weight, body condition, dental health, and behavior are monitored.

Regular veterinary visits should be providing you with not only a thorough tip of the nose to the end of the tail exam, but preventive care including needed vaccinations, parasite control, feeding recommendations, behavior consultation, grooming help, and dental care. I like it when clients come in with a written list of questions to discuss about their cat and care. There are many controversies in feline care including which vaccines should be administered and how frequently, what the best diets are, if declawing inhumane, and if cats should be kept indoors. There is a lot of information on the Internet about cats and health, but not all of it is correct, so I like to give my opinions.

I do my best to regularly attend continuing education programs, stay involved in organizations such as the American Association of Feline Practitioners, train fourth year veterinary students, work with cat breeders, and help feline rescue organizations. These experiences keep me current on a wide range of cat issues that I plan to share in this column.

Written by Dr. Wexler-Mitchell of The Cat Care Clinic in Orange, CA
Copyright © 2011 The Cat Care Clinic