Did you know that cat owners take their cats to the vet less often than they take their dogs, not to mention less often than dog owners take their dogs? In fact, over the last two years, the disparity has gotten even worse. I recommend that you take your cat to a vet for medical checkups and teeth-cleanings as often as your vet recommends, but at least once a year, and certainly any time your cats begin to exhibit any unwanted or abnormal behaviors.
One possible reason that people don’t take their cats to the vet as often as they probably should is that cats hide their illnesses more effectively than dogs. For example, it’s been estimated that nearly a third of cats over the age of eight suffer from painful arthritis, but you’d never know it. Cats don’t show it by limping, as dogs or horses do. Cats rarely even vocalize their pain; in fact, if they’re not feeling well, they may even purr, because purring can be a form of self-soothing. Although a cat may also signal an illness by a sudden unwillingness or inability to jump or eat, or by sleeping more, and playing and hunting less, other signs that something is wrong – say, sudden aggression, spraying, or inappropriate elimination – may be misunderstood as signifying behavioral rather than medical problems. Hyperthyroidism, for example, is just one of many possible physiological causes of aggression. And I can’t tell you how often an abscesses tooth has been to blame for all the cat fights within the home.
When was the last time your cat had a dental exam? The stress of a painful tooth or sore gums can transform the dynamics of the entire household – and not for the better! Poor oral health leads to pain or discomfort, which leads to stress, which leads to tension among cats.
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