by Mollie Hunt
Whether an unforeseen accident or a sudden health flare, we can never completely avoid a health crisis that could send our cat to the ER, but there are things we can do to make an emergency visit less likely. A trip to an emergency vet clinic is extremely expensive, more money than most people have available. Moreso, since cats are notoriously stoic about pain, by the time you realize there’s an emergency, your cat may have been suffering for a while. No one wants things to come to that if they can help it.
While we can’t eliminate the possibility of a surprise trip to emergency, here are a few ways to minimize the risk.
- Establish vet care.
A relationship between you and your vet can make all the difference. Once the doctor gets to know your cat, they are better equipped to make an informed diagnosis when your cat gets sick. Choose a vet who is willing to answer all your questions and communicate with you in a timely manner. It can take some time to get an initial visit with a new vet, but after your cat becomes an established patient, you should have quick access to care.
- Get routine wellness visits.
You do it for yourself, why not do it for your cat? Depending on age, a checkup once or twice a year can save you money in the long run. Many common diseases show up through tests and exams, so you can begin treating them long before they become an emergency.
- Take note of changes in your cat’s behavior.
You are your cat’s best observer. You know his little habits and tendencies because you see them every day. A change in behavior, such as not using the litter box, not eating, hiding, or acting grumpy, can signify a health issue. If the behavior seems worrisome or persists for more than a few days, touch base with your vet. (See #1)
- Do weekly at-home nose-to-tail physical checks.
It’s really just like petting your cat, but with the intention of discovering if something is amiss. Check skin, ears, eyes, nose, feet, and butt. The Humane Society of the United States has good step-by-step instructions on this link.
- Learn about cat illnesses.
Education can save you a lot of worry. The more you know about common cat illnesses, the better you will be at deciding when an issue is an emergency and when it can wait for an appointment with your regular vet. The internet is a great resource, but avoid iffy sties and opinion pieces that don’t come from a trusted source.
- Take a cat first aid course.
You don’t have to do this step, but it can’t hurt. As I mentioned in #5, the more you know, the better equipped you are to deal with an illness, accident, or emergency. Here is a link to the course I took: Veterinarian-approved content, real cat and dog teaching assistants and the edu-taining instruction of best-selling author and pet expert Arden Moore. Yes, she really does have a cat and dog helping her train!
- Keep your cat indoors.
I know there are two sides to this debate, but it’s proven that indoor cats have a better chance of living a long life than their outdoor brothers and sisters. Outside cats run the risk of acquiring parasites, being hit by a car, coming into contact with poisonous substances, and getting lost or stolen. There are also predators, even in the inner city. Coyotes and raccoons can injure or kill a cat.
- Feed your cat quality food.
We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” The same is true for our cats. Though they might quaff down the cheap kibble with gusto, that doesn’t mean it’s good for them in the long run. But quality doesn’t always have to mean expensive. Check for brands like Purina that have done extensive long-term testing with their foods. Ask your vet what is best for your cat, depending on age and health issues such as diabetes, kidney disease, or hyperthyroidism. Cats get most of their hydration from their food, so a mainly wet food diet can be healthful.
- Supply plenty of fresh water.
Just like humans, cats need water to survive and thrive. Providing multiple water stations around your house gives your cat a chance to drink her fill. Cats will often ignore water placed next to their food bowl, distracted by the food itself, so get creative. We’ve had cats who loved a water glass on the coffee table. Another enjoyed his own water fountain. Cats with certain issues such as kidney disease need extra water. A sudden increase in thirst can be a sign of a health problem. (See #3)
- Love your cat.
It goes without saying, we love our cat companions. Still, remembering this in times of stress is important. If your cat is experiencing a health emergency, she will be stressed and may lash out. Be gentle, patient, careful, and loving at all times.
Is there something you do that helps keep your cat well and happy? If so, drop it in the comment line.