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Don’t Let Your Cat Die Young - 10 Risk factors for Premature Death in Cats

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Everyone would love to have their cat live a long healthy life. However, many cats are taken away from us far too soon. Sometimes it is due to preventable causes, but other times it's the result of a preventable problem.

Taking care of your cat's life is a lot like taking care of your own. There are genetic factors, but there are things in the environment that change life expectancy as well.

There are several things we can do to shorten our life. For example, if you were to ask our physicians about risk factors for early human death some would be drug abuse, overuse of alcohol, obesity, low/no exercise, and driving without a seatbelt just to name a few.
Have you ever thought about what the risk factors would be for cats?
Here are risk factors for a short life in cats:

1. No ID tag: Cats without ID tags may be lost and never reunited with their owners.

2. No Microchip: Lost cats with microchips get a little extra care should they ever run away and get hurt. They will be stabilized and treated by veterinarians and given extra time for their owners to find them.

3. Cats Allowed to Roam: There are pros and cons to allowing your cat to go outside. There are some indoor/outdoor cats that live long healthy lives. But tons don't. They meet the fate of malicious people, dog bites or being hit by cars not to mention the possible exposure to many infectious diseases. An alternative is to create a big screened in porch area where they can be out and safe. Some owners create a cat safe fenced yard that doesn't allow them out nor other animals in.

4. Secondhand Smoke: Risk of lung problems and cancer is higher in cats routinely exposed to second hand smoke.

5. Access to Trash: Cats that are allowed access to trash can get into things that can cause life-threatening conditions. Think of everything that you throw into the garbage. What would happen if your cat ate it? Dental floss, yard, string, ribbon are a few problem products.

6. No Vaccines: Cats not given vaccines are at risk for multiple preventable diseases such as feline leukemia, panleukopenia, and more.

7. No heartworm prevention: Heartworm disease is a common disease in dogs and is also seen in cats. It is often very difficult to treat in cats (more so than in dogs) and can be fatal. It is easily prevented by giving routine monthly medication.

8. Not Being Spayed or Neutered: Cats that are not spayed are at higher risk for breast cancer as well as a potentially fatal uterine infection called pyometra. Unaltered males are more likely to fight and escape the house to roam – allowing them the opportunity to get hit by a car or shot.

9. No Check-ups: Cats without routine check-ups can have problems that can be preventable. Early diagnosis can cure many diseases.

10. No Emergency Plan: Owner that don't have any plan or resources to pay for health problems is a common cause of early death. I've seen very treatable problems lead to euthanasia because of lack of financial resources to treat those problems. Problems as simple as a broken leg or infection ended very sadly.

So what can you do? Vaccinate, spay and neuter your cat, microchip and keep him or her on monthly flea and heartworm prevention medications. Keep a collar and ID tag on your cat and keep him or her on a leash or in a fenced in yard. Keep your yarn, ribbon and string picked up and feed a high quality food.


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