5 mouser myths debunked

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Mar 01, 2009
By dvm360.com staff




Everybody knows cats don't have nine lives and black cats aren't a cover for witches. But these types of tall tales have contributed to people's incorrect notions about cats. Here are often-heard feline health yarns, and what to say to clients to unravel them.

1. Cats are aloof, unsocial creatures

Dogs wag their tails and bark in delight when you come home. Cats show affection by nuzzling your leg. Even though they're not boisterous, they still want—and need—attention. Some cats do shun human affection, but these introverts don't represent the whole feline species. In fact, lack of interaction can be an early sign of illness.

2. Indoor cats don't need preventive medicine

A cat doesn't have to go outside to get sick, especially if it lives with other pets that do head out. Animals that go from the outdoors in might harbor—and pass on—all sorts of infections, from respiratory viruses to internal parasites. And fleas and mosquitoes can easily make their way into the house then jump onto or bite an unsuspecting indoor cat.

3. Cats are independent and don't need care

Cats don't need to be let out to go to the bathroom, but they can't open a can of food. Even though putting out extra food might satisfy their physical needs for a weekend alone, it doesn't cover their emotional needs. What's more, if a cat gets sick—say from ingesting a foreign object—while home by itself, it can be very sick by Sunday night.

4. Cats go outside the litter box to be spiteful

Behavior problems aren't at the root of inappropriate elimination. Instead, missing the box often signals an underlying medical condition, such as urinary tract disease or infection, kidney disease, and diabetes mellitus. It can also be a sign of arthritis, which makes getting into the litter box difficult. Teach clients that when they notice their cats "going" in the wrong place, they should contact you immediately.

5. Cats don't get heartworms

Heartworms affect dogs and cats differently, but they do affect cats. Cases of feline heartworm disease have been reported in all 50 states. Unlike dogs, cats are troubled by heartworm larvae (juvenile adult heartworms) rather than mature adult heartworms. When the larvae die in cats' lungs, they cause lesions that may lead to airway and arterial disease referred to as heartworm-associated respiratory disease (HARD). Cats that exhibit asthma-like symptoms may in fact be suffering from HARD. The disease can't be cured, but it's totally preventable with the proper use of preventive medication.