Albuquerque Journal Article – Secretly Sick

green eyed cat

Don’t Let Your Cat Fool You

Do you examine your cat’s mouth? That would mean putting him on a table under a bright light with an assistant gently holding his shoulders as you slowly open his mouth big enough to see all of his teeth. Actually, about the only time that really happens is during the annual physical exam. What? Your cat doesn’t see the doctor every year? Don’t feel bad. A lot of cats hate going to the veterinary clinic.

There’s a widespread belief that kitties need little in the way of medical care, that they pretty much take care of themselves. What nonsense! Other than hiding their illnesses they’re no different than the rest of us. They just aren’t programmed to fuss and belly ache. Everybody needs periodic physical exams to head-off smoldering problems.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association established a strong link between chronic dental disease in cats and kidney failure. Examining the medical records of 169, 242 cats over a 12 year span researchers found the risk of kidney damage greatest for kitties with more advanced periodontal disease. How did they know? Two thirds of the cats in this massive group had no gum disease. They stayed much healthier.

The kidneys of all cats wear out as they age, making failure of these vital organs the leading cause of death in feline seniors. If I were a cat, and I may actually have been in a former life, I would want a pain-free healthy mouth and a long life.

My residency training is in veterinary behavior medicine. I can assure you that most cats who freak-out in the doctor’s office were inadvertently frightened during an earlier visit. This species is very good at “one event learning”.

Does your cat hate the veterinary staff? Have you caught her sticking needles in a doll that looks just like your veterinarian? Cats like this desperately need gentle handling. Veterinarians and clinics that are Fear Free certified have the training and compassion to keep you and your kitty happy together longer. Go to to find one near you.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.