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Does Your Cat Have Nine Lives?

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

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"Cats have nine lives." Cats' agility, quickness, and ability to land on their feet have kept this proverb around for a long time. Have you ever wondered about the origin of this statement? It is thought that this came from ancient times when nine was considered a lucky number because it is the "trinity of trinities". Because cats seem to be lucky in their death escapes, this number was well-suited for the cat. Another theory is that the cat-headed goddess of Egypt was blessed with nine lives, and all other cats followed in her fortune.

While cats are amazing creatures that seem to be able to get themselves into trouble and emerge unharmed, they do not have nine lives. They are resilient, and their athleticism is often in their favor when running from a dog, dodging a car, or jumping from a high level. Their muscles, bones, and even their inner ears are constructed to help them right themselves during a fall and increase their odds of landing on their feet and absorbing the shock. Despite their anatomy and their survival skills, cats DO get injured and it IS very important to put safety first to allow your cat the longest life possible.

To help your cat live a long life and be able to enjoy her for many years, you must be a responsible pet owner. When you decide to adopt your kitty and give her a place to live, remember that this is a lifelong commitment. A cat is not a toy or a decoration, she is a living creature that deserves your love and care as long as she lives. If well cared for, a cat can live up to 20 years.

Spay and Neuter

Spaying and neutering is not only performed to prevent reproduction, it is also beneficial to your cat's health. Spaying and neutering reduces a cat's desire to escape the house and search for a mate, thus reducing the risks listed below of being outdoors. Sexually altering your cat before sexual maturity also reduces the risk of some cancer. A neutered cat has a decreased chance of prostate cancer, and a spayed cat has a reduced risk of mammary cancer. Chances of dangerous inflammations, infections, and cancers of the organs removed during the spay or neuter are eliminated.

Visiting the Veterinarian

It may not be your cat's favorite activity, but going to the veterinarian for regular check-ups is crucial. Regular veterinary appointments will provide your cat with a current vaccine status , clean teeth, and a physical exam - all which are very important for a long kitty life. As your cat gets older, your veterinarian may recommend regular blood work to monitor her health.

Cats tend to hide their illness until they are extremely ill. This concealment of weakness is a survival instinct to protect them from predators. For this reason, careful monitoring of your cat's habits and daily activities is a useful supplement to regular veterinary visits. If your cat unexpectedly loses weight, has a change in appetite, develops vomiting or diarrhea, is hiding more than usual, has unusual vocalizations, begins urinating or defecating outside the litter box, etc., you should contact your veterinarian. Cats often show illness or injury with minor changes in behavior such as these, so be mindful of your kitty's daily life.

Indoor Kitty

A cat who lives indoors only will have a greatly decreased chance of injury or untimely death. A cat who goes outside risks dog attacks, fights with other cats or wildlife, being hit by a car, infectious diseases (feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, feline infectious peritonitits, respiratory infections etc.), toxin ingestion (such as anti-freeze or rat poison), heat stroke, frost bite, etc. There is also the risk of the cat wandering away from your home and getting lost or picked up by a new owner. An outside cat also has an increased chance of acquiring internal (intestinal worms, heartworm) and external (fleas, ticks, maggots) parasites.

A cat that is raised from kittenhood as an indoor cat will probably have little to no desire to explore the great outdoors. These kitties are usually satisfied indoors by a window to observe the birds, a cat tree to climb, and some toys to stalk. Mental and physical stimulation is extremely important to the indoor cat's health. Be sure to provide her with adequate playtime.

If your indoor cat pesters you, begging and pleading to go outside, then supervised time outdoors may satiate her desire. A cat can be safely taken outdoors on a leash or in a pet stroller. You can also purchase a mesh pet tent to place in your yard for kitty's outdoor time.

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