This past year has been an eventful year, filled with lots of cat-related news and stories. For me, personally, one of the major highlights of 2013 has been becoming the president of the Cat Writers’ Association. For those of you unfamiliar with our organization, we are a group of writers, bloggers, journalists, photographers, artists, and other media-related professionals who focus specifically on the cat.


But enough about me. Cats, in general, continued to be a popular internet topic. 2013 saw the famous board game Monopoly retiring one of its older tokens, the iron, in order to replace it with a cat token instead.


Individual cats also continued to be popular online, with favorite felines like Grumpy Cat (aka Tardar Sauce), Colonel Meow, Lil Bub, and others continuing to take center stage. In fact, Grumpy Cat even accepted a movie deal.


Sadly, we said goodbye to another internet sensation. Buddha, who came by internet fame when video of his routine on an underwater treadmill went viral, weighed in originally at close to 32 pounds. The treadmill was part of Buddha’s weight loss program. Unfortunately, Buddha succumbed to heart failure not long ago and passed away.


The tragic death of Buddha brings to light another of the lead stories of 2013, the fact that preventable illnesses is on the rise in our cats. This is, in my opinion, probably the most important news of the year. For instance, obesity is one of the biggest problems our pet cats face and weight issues have increased by 90% in the past five years for our pet cats. Likewise, the number of cats diagnosed with diabetes has doubled in the past five years. Similarly, 85% of cats over 3 years of age suffer from some form of dental disease. Parasite infections (fleas, intestinal parasites, heartworms, and others) have all increased, despite the wide-spread availability of preventive medications that are both safe and effective.


For me, as a veterinarian, these statistics are troubling. Even more disturbing is the fact that veterinary visits and the pursuit of preventive health care for our cats has declined, as reported in several studies in 2013. I see these two things going hand in hand. For me, it stands to reason that if veterinary visits are less frequent and preventive care is spotty or non-existent for any given cat, the likelihood of preventable disease for that cat increases.


Sensationalistic reporting of both cat-related and general pet-related news was far from non-existent in 2013 either. One of the most blatant of these stories was the segment aired on ABC’s 20/20 entitled Is Your Veterinarian Being Honest with You? My colleague, Dr. Intile, addressed this issue very eloquently here on PetMD in her post Can You Trust Your Vet’s Advice? I agree with her conclusions. Though I won’t argue that there may be individual veterinarian’s that take advantage, the vast majority of us are simply looking out for the best interests of your pet. I cannot help but wonder though how many pets will not receive needed health care because of this story and others like it. That’s especially unfortunate at a time when so many cats are already receiving less than the care they need to remain happy and healthy.


A new campaign, aimed at educating the public about the importance of preventive pet care, rolled out in 2013 as well. The Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare encourages you to schedule regular checkups with your veterinarian for your pet and explains why these checkups are important. This campaign, I think, is one of the high points of 2013 and, hopefully, will urge all cat owners to seek the care necessary for their cats.


Those are some of the highlights of 2013. There are many more, such as the conclusion of several studies looking at the genetics of cats and cat diseases. These studies, conducted by partners of the Cat Health Network, succeeded in creating a genetic map of the cat genome, identified a genetic mutation linked to muscle weakness in certain species of cats, and also concluded that both genetic factors and lifestyle influence the body weight of our cats.


Obviously, there are some exciting things happening in the world of cats. The upcoming year, 2014, will likely be just as fascinating. My hope is that 2014 will be the year that the downward trend in veterinary care reverses and more of our cats become healthy and protected from disease.


Dr. Lorie Huston


Image: Thinkstock