Given the number of cat videos and pictures shared across social media it’s hard to believe that cats are often neglected, even by the most loving owners, yet statistics show that dog owners are more likely to consult a vet for their pet than cat owners. Why?

Dogs are easy; their emotions are on display for all to see. Happy, sad, sick, well … whatever they’re feeling, you’ll know about it but when it comes to cats we’re often in the dark. Fiercely independent by nature cats are also masters of disguise, which means that when they’re ill you won’t know about it until the disease is far advanced. Their ancestors were hunters and a sick hunter quickly became prey, so they learned not to show signs of illness or infirmity.

As a result, many people believe cats are ‘low maintenance’, don’t need much care and will happily fend for themselves. Sadly, that’s not true. Cats need every bit as much care and attention as their doggy counterparts; in fact, you may need to be more vigilant when owning a cat simply to notice when they are ill.

Cats DO need company

Many first-time cat owners believe it’s ok to leave a cat with a big bowl of food when they go away for a weekend, or to let a neighbour pop over to drop food in the cat’s bowl once a day. The truth is that cats relish company as much as dogs do and while they may not display their affection as easily as dogs, they will pine, develop behavioural issues (destroy furniture or fight with other pets) or wander if you’re not there.

Cats DO need medical care

Surfing the net when your cat is off its food is not going to give you a proper diagnosis. According to US cat aficionado Dr Eric Garcia, the internet is rife with horrifically inaccurate cat health info. Because they’re so good at hiding symptoms of illness, by the time your cat has stopped eating or you notice that he is drinking huge amounts of water whatever is ailing him has more than a foothold in the door. Cats are at risk of a host of ailments, including kidney disease, diabetes, dental disease and viruses like Feline Leukaemia and Feline Aids. 

The only way to really determine your cat’s health status is to have him checked over by your vet, once a year before the age of 7 and at least twice a year thereafter. 

Vets use what is termed ‘signalment’ to help determine your cat’s health status; knowing your cat’s breed, gender and age can assist in ruling in, or out, a host of potential diagnoses and having you share as comprehensive a history as possible with your vet will also help.

Cats DO need to play

In the wild, cats got their exercise from hunting, but domesticated cats have food provided for them and because the average cat sleeps about 80% of a normal day, they’re at risk of obesity and diabetes. Exercise is essential, and your cat needs you to help him exercise. There are a variety of catnip-stuffed mice, wind-up toys or tinkling balls that will get your cat off the sofa and charging around the lounge. Ask your nearest EberVet Vetshop to show you their selection. If you have a young cat, cutting a few round holes in a cardboard box will provide hours of entertainment.

Cats DO need good nutrition

If you want your cat to enjoy old age, good nutrition is essential. Rats and mice are not sufficient to keep your cat in good health. Choose an age-appropriate diet, that takes into account your cat’s physical health (dental issues, arthritis, kidneys). Your vet or Vetshop can advise. 

Cats, like dogs, are sentient beings in need of affection and attention. Don’t neglect yours –

Veterinarian Dr Hilldidge Beer is CEO of the EberVet Petcare Group and of EberVet Vetshops,

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