By keeping your cat indoors only, you are preventing your feline from coming in contact with other animals, run-ins with cars, and many infectious diseases. This saves millions of cats' lives each year. Research shows that indoor only cats live much longer lifespans than their outdoor counterparts. However, millions of cats die from diseases from which we cannot protect them (inside or outside). Cats are very good at hiding when they don't feel well, and only a thorough physical examination (which may include blood work) by your veterinarian can detect most of these diseases.
Dental disease in cats is not just a cosmetic issue involving bad breath and yellow tartar. It is infection, inflammation and PAIN. Studies show that over 70% of pets over three years old have some degree of dental disease. And let's face it, how many of us open up our pet's mouth and thoroughly look at their teeth on a regular basis? Your veterinarian will.
Older cats in particular are more susceptible to diseases such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism and kidney disease. If caught early through physical examination and blood work, these diseases can be treatable.
Studies show that indoor cats quickly become overweight due to their sedentary lifestyle. They are no longer relying on their hunting skills to eat, and often we are feeding them too much. Obesity can shorten cats' lives by making them predisposed to arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, constipation and certain liver diseases. We know that cats that are an ideal weight live on average two years longer than their overweight counterparts. Your veterinarian can help determine what your cat's ideal weight should be, along with helping you get your pet on the best diet in order to keep your feline trim.
Among cats 12 years and older, 90% of them have some degree of arthritis. There are two reasons we don't notice it as easily in cats as dogs: cats are good at hiding when they're sore or sick and they usually get arthritis on both sides of their body, not just limping on one leg. What is actually interpreted as "slowing down with age" is actually pain. The symptoms are arthritis in cats can be subtle so your veterinarian will be important in helping to determine how we can ease their pain.
Being indoors only does not guarantee your cat won't get fleas or heartworms. Heartworms are transmitted via mosquitos. In the south, mosquitos are everywhere at all times of the year. Studies show that indoor cats get heartworms just as often as outside cats. Cats housed indoors only certainly live longer lifespans, however it is still crucial they be seen by a veterinarian once yearly or twice yearly for senior cats.
Dr. Susan Novak is an associate veterinarian at Armadale Animal Hospital. She received a BA degree from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and a DVM degree from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Dr. Novak has a special interest in veterinary dermatology, oncology and pathology.