International Cat Day: Keep your pet in good health as they age

A tabby cat lies in a basket with a knitted blanket. Supplied image.

A tabby cat lies in a basket with a knitted blanket. Supplied image.

Published Aug 2, 2023


Johannesburg – August 8 is International Cat Day and is the perfect opportunity for lovers of the quirky and cuddly creatures to lavish them with extra love.

Whether you share your home with a playful kitten, an energetic adult, or a wise senior cat, each age brings its joys and challenges.

To keep your fur baby fit and healthy, animal health company, Zoetis South Africa (Zoetis), is encouraging pet owners to pay extra attention to the health of their pets to ensure their care matches their age.

“Animal health is remarkably similar to human health,” Dr Tarryn Dent, Business Unit Lead: Companion Animals at Zoetis explained.

“Health issues can arise at any age and a little proactive prevention can go a long way to ensure kittens reach their golden years healthy and in comfort.”

Some of the health issues which affect cats include gingivitis, obesity, kidney disease, and hyperthyroidism, while senior cats may face additional challenges like arthritis.

“Regular visits to your veterinarian will help detect these issues early, and the appropriate care and medication can manage them effectively, ensuring your furry friend’s comfort and longevity,” said Dent.

There are many warning signs that a cat’s health may not be optimal and by familiarising themselves with early warning signs, cat owners can ensure timely intervention. “As a cat parent, it’s important to be aware of any unusual changes in your cat’s behaviour or physical condition,” said Dent.

“Some warning signs include a sudden change in eating or drinking habits, hiding, vomiting, diarrhoea, weight change, and decreased energy.”

The good news is that reacting quickly and getting veterinary attention at these times can make a big difference to a cat’s health, Dent said.

“International Cat Day is a great time to think about our cats and what they need from us. Curious and playful kittens need vaccinations, a balanced diet and regular veterinary check-ups to monitor growth and prevent health issues.”

She added that spending time playing with kittens using interactive toys also creates a strong bond and good social skills while adult cats, on the other hand, can really benefit from preventative care.”

“This includes regular exercise and interactive play that will help maintain their physical health and intellectual stimulation, a veterinarian-recommended balanced diet, and regular check-ups to monitor weight, dental health, and overall well-being, keeping any potential health issues in check,” said Dent.

Dental care is simple and critical for long-term cat comfort.

According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, some form of dental disease affects between 50% to 90% of cats over four years old, causing significant pain and discomfort and secondary health conditions, all of which greatly impact quality of life.

Dent explained that there are several common forms of dental diseases in cats, each with their unique symptoms and treatments.

“Gingivitis, the inflammation of gum tissue, manifests through swelling, redness, and discomfort or pain.”

She said that if left untreated, it can escalate to bleeding gums, changes in eating behaviour, drooling, and unpleasant breath.

“Regular brushing of a cat’s teeth, along with professional dental cleaning at a veterinarian, can help manage and prevent gingivitis. In severe cases, antibiotics and pain medications might be necessary, but the earlier prevention begins, the better.”

Periodontitis, a more serious condition, occurs when the infection goes beyond the gums, affecting the ligaments and bones that support the teeth. This can lead to exposed tooth roots, loose teeth, or even tooth loss.

“The most common cause of tooth loss in cats is tooth resorption,” said Dent.

“It’s a silent enemy, causing significant damage before any visible signs appear. The condition can be very painful and may affect a cat’s eating habits. Regular monitoring and follow-up are crucial to manage this condition, and extraction of the affected teeth is often the most effective treatment.”

She insisted that once again, a little bit of prevention can go a long way.

“Taking pre-emptive measures can greatly reduce the risk of dental disease.”

Simple practices like daily brushing of a cat’s teeth with pet toothpaste, offering them cat treats that have a Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal, or incorporating dental supplements, water additives, oral rinses, and dental diets into their routine can help, Dent advised.

She added that regular professional dental cleaning is also a must.

“Remember, your veterinarian is there to partner with you in caring for your cat, especially as they age. Don’t hesitate to discuss any questions or observations you have about your cat’s dental health at your local clinic.”

The Saturday Star