06/22/2013 03:44 pm ET

Cat Health Problems Pet Owners Often Overlook (PHOTOS)


From Vetstreet's Dr. Marty Becker:

Cats have a reputation as low-maintenance pets, perfect for people who don’t have the time to care for an animal. That’s not true, of course, but it can be difficult to convince some people otherwise. "Cats take care of themselves," is something I hear a lot, and it makes me wince every time.

What’s largely happening is not that our cats are fending for themselves — as so many people assume — but rather that because they’re so good at hiding signs of illness, we don’t realize how sick they are until they’re very sick indeed. And sometimes when I do see cats as a practicing veterinarian, I see not only what people brought them in for — an abscess, perhaps, or a limp or a chronic cough — but life-threatening issues the cats' owners hadn't even noticed.

These are serious problems that seem painted in the boldest hues to my eye, yet appear to be invisible to many cat owners. And it happens all the time.

Are You Missing the Big Picture?
Sometimes, even when I point out these problems, cat owners don’t think they’re as important as I do. They may accept my diagnosis, for example, but not follow up or follow through on treatment plans. It really saddens me to think of the misery these cats are in. Don't be guilty of neglecting your cat's health; check out these five feline health problems people don’t worry about as much as they should — and talk to your veterinarian about any that sound familiar.

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Health Problems Cat Owners Miss

"Chronic" Doesn’t Mean "Untreatable"
Ongoing problems with your cat’s health sometimes start slowly and get worse over time. In other words, these issues can creep up on us, so we may not pay much attention to them, or we might overlook them entirely. That’s why I want you to step back right now and look at your cat. Be brutally honest: Are you ignoring chronic health issues that are making your cat miserable? Are you sure you aren’t?

If your cat hasn’t seen a veterinarian in a while, it’s time to schedule that comprehensive exam. And take heart: For every one of these often chronic conditions there are things that can be done to stop, treat or even reverse the damage. All you need to do is recognize the problem and work with your veterinarian for your cat’s better health.

Also on Vetstreet:
5 Health Problems Dog Owners Ignore
How Old Is My Pet in People Years?
Looking for a Cuddly Cat? Here Is a Breed You'll Like
Why Does My Cat… Meow at Me?
5 Reasons Cats Are Given Up for Adoption — and How to Avoid These Problems