Five Common Mistakes Made by Cat Owners

Lorie Huston, DVM
Updated: August 12, 2015
Published: May 06, 2013
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As cat owners, we all want to keep our four-legged friends healthy and happy. And, of course, we want to do everything we can to make sure that happens. Still, the average cat owner often overlooks some important aspects of their pet’s health care. Here are five of the most common mistakes I see cat owners making in my own veterinary practice.

1. Not seeking regular veterinary care

All cats need regular medical care. Yet, on average, cats see their veterinarians less often than their canine counterparts — despite the fact that the number of cats kept as pets outnumbers the number of dogs.

Why do cat owners not seek regular veterinary care for their cats? In many cases, it may be because they simply don’t understand the importance of these visits for their feline friend. Cats are masters of disguise when it comes to hiding the signs of illness. The early symptoms of disease are often subtle and difficult to notice. Especially for older cats, these signs may even be mistaken for “old age”. Your veterinarian is trained to look for signs of disease that may not be readily identifiable by the average pet owner. Early intervention of any disease or health condition that your cat may develop can lead to a more successful treatment outcome. In some cases, this may even prolong your cat’s life.

Other times, the hassle of getting the cat to the veterinarian may be the reason for not visiting. Conditioning your cat to his carrier before the trip to the veterinarian can help. Take a look at this video featuring five simple tips for making a carrier cat-friendly.

2. Assuming indoor cats can’t get fleas and other parasites

This is a common misconception. Cat owners frequently (and mistakenly) believe that because their cat lives indoors fleas and other parasites cannot become a problem. Too often, cat owners believe that parasite prevention is unnecessary for their indoor cat. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Fleas can find their way indoors very easily, hitch-hiking on your clothing or on a dog that does go outdoors, or finding their way through tiny openings in screens and doors. In addition, intestinal parasites like tapeworms and roundworms can be a problem as well. Mosquitoes can find their way indoors also, potentially exposing your cat to heartworms. Make sure your cat is on an appropriate parasite prevention program.

3. Overfeeding your cat

Obesity is one of the most common problems veterinarians diagnose in cats. It is estimated that over 50% of pet cats are either overweight or obese. These cats are at risk for numerous health issues. Weight issues can effectively shorten your cat’s lifespan, sometimes by as much as 2 years or more. Feed your cat to keep him lean and in good body condition.

4. Assuming hairballs are normal

An occasional hairball is not unusual. However, frequent vomiting (with or without hairballs in the vomit), coughing, or gagging is not normal and may indicate that there are health problems other than hairballs. Cats with these symptoms may be suffering from gastrointestinal disease, skin disease or a variety of other health issues. If your cat is displaying these types of symptoms, your cat should be examined by a veterinarian.

5. Not caring for your cat’s teeth

Your cat’s oral health should not be overlooked. The majority of cats over 3 years of age already have evidence of some degree of dental disease. Brushing your cat’s teeth is the gold standard for in home oral health care and most cats will tolerate brushing with a little patience and conditioning. However, if brushing is impossible, your veterinarian can offer other options to help your cat’s mouth healthy and pain free.

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: Alena Ozerova / Shutterstock