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normal cat may be an indicator of incipient illness, most notably, hyperthyroidism or hypertension.
4. Changes in Sleeping Habits: This refers to pattern
of sleeping (times of the day and night) as well as postures and locations. A cat with pain or with dementia may either sleep for longer or for shorter periods than previously. With FIV infection, the latter may occur. Night- time yowling suggests a decline in vision or hearing, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, pain or dementia.
5. Changes in Food And Water Consumption: This refers to quantity, preferences, as well as changes in behaviours associated with these activities (i.e., where, how often, attitude, amount at each instance, body posture, etc.).
6. Unexplained Weight Loss or Gain: As gratifying as it is to see rapid weight loss in a previously obese patient, even for those on appropriate dietary regimes, dramatic changes are neither desirable nor the norm. Oral pain may cause inappetence. Gradual weight and muscle loss may be related to ageing but should be monitored and investigated. Weight gain is most often from excess calories but could also be due to abdominal or thoracic fluid accumulation. Helpful tools include repeated assessment of body weight percentage weight change, body and muscle condition scoring.
7. Changes in Coat and Grooming: Excessive grooming may be caused by skin irritation (e.g., allergy, fleas, dryness), neuropathy, or be psychogenic (a way to reduce stress by releasing endorphins). A decrease in grooming is often associated with pain, often arthritic or oro-dental. Hairballs may be a sign of dermatologic or psychogenic problems, altered digestive motility or pain.
8. Signs of Stress: Along with aforementioned inappropriate elimination and overgrooming, signs of distress include hiding, chewing on non-food items, a flicking tail, ears placed further back than normal, unprovoked attacks.
9. Changes in Vocalization: These may be a change in tone, pitch, or urgency and frequency of vocalizing. See above regarding night-time yowling.
10. Bad Breath or Smelly Coat: Numerous oral and dental conditions result in halitosis; periodontal disease is extremely common in cats. The odour from sialoadenitis, infected ulcers, tumours, abscesses and anal gland secretions may be spread onto the coat via grooming.
However, even recognizing that their cat has a problem may not be enough to motivate the client to bring their cat in to the veterinarian. Screening to proactively identify disease early and to provide solid medicine can be an even harder “sell” because most people do not like bringing their cats in to the clinic. Many cat owners would rather provide care at home or even skip any form of consultation unless there is “something serious
going on”! The second significant opportunity to improve the lives of our patients and be of help to our clients is therefore enabling less stressful trips to the clinic.
Getting cats to the clinic
It is no fun bringing a cat to a veterinary clinic (for
the owner or the cat)! All veterinary team members should be trained in coaching clients how to make
the trip less stressful, from the experience at home, during transit, and once they arrive at the clinic. This conversation begins when the client calls to make
an appointment or at the first visit with their cat. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has a free downloadable client handout entitled: Getting Your Cat to the Veterinarian (catvets.com/uploads/ PDF/2011FelineFriendlyClientHandout.pdf). Clicker training can be used to help create positive associations with the carrier. Catalyst Council (www.catalystcouncil. org) has created excellent videos that clinic teams and clients can watch to learn how to accomplish this.
The frightening experience begins at home. Imagine the scenario from the cat’s point of view: The carrier comes out, your caregiver is nervous, she chases you around and tries to force you into the carrier. You resist and may resort to self-defense. There are new or residual smells of human sweat, fear, maybe even blood. You may feel so anxious that you soil yourself! Eventually you are in the carrier. Everyone is exhausted. Then you are moved into a “car” that makes you move without any intention or action on your part. You may be a bit nauseous; certainly you are scared. You cry out repeatedly. You may vomit
or soil yourself. Then the “car” stops and you get carried on a noisy and unfamiliar street and into a place with overwhelming smells and sounds! Help! And you are already aroused and anxious....look out!
We can reduce the stressors the cat encounters, or, in the case of a new cat, prevent them from occurring by teaching or habituating the cat to associate positive experiences with the carrier, the car, and even the clinic. By leaving the carrier out (or using a Hide-Perch-Go box/ carrier) so that the cat sees it as non-threatening and enters it for meals, treats or other rewards, we reduce the initial tension and fight. Taking the cat on short car rides unassociated with the clinic helps to recondition the cat’s negative associations with the clinic. Finally, taking the kitty to the clinic to be fussed over or only
to get a treat will help teach the cat that the clinic isn’t necessarily a horrible place.
Taking the household pet inventory
While there are a lot of cats who never receive veterinary care, there are a lot of cats living with existing clients we never see. We don’t even know that they exist! If the cat is well or if the client has had a really bad experience in the past with a cat (or anticipates “bad behavior” from
a cat), they are unlikely to voluntarily bring them in for
Your Singapore, the Tropical Garden City
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