The Vet is In:

Your Cat’s Behavior Change Might Indicate Illness

Cats are their own worst enemies when it comes to letting their human guardians know when they are ill and need veterinary intervention.

Cats are their own worst enemies when it comes to letting their human guardians know when they are ill and need veterinary intervention. Their instinctive behaviors extend far into the past — much further than the ten thousand years in which we have domesticated each other, back to the time when they depended on their ability to hide illness and disability successfully in order to survive. Therefore, if your cat shows a difference in behavior for more than 2 days, whether it is a change of appetite, eliminations, or where he/she chooses to rest, you should consider having your veterinarian examine your friend to be sure there is nothing serious causing this change in habits.

Dr. Holly Cheever, DVM
Dr. Holly Cheever, DVM

One of our board members recently experienced the sad loss of her cat Sandy, a 15-year-old senior whose only health risk during his adult years had been his excess weight. One week he refused his meals shortly after exhibiting a hind-limb lameness, which his veterinarian had diagnosed as a traumatic injury causing a strained ligament. He would come to sniff the offering and would back off, a very atypical behavior for his usually food-loving self. His guardian took him back to his veterinarian, assuming that pain was the cause of his appetite decline. On this recheck exam, the doctor noted that both eyes showed discharge and elevated intraocular pressures due to glaucoma, and referred him to a veterinary ophthalmologist, who discovered that the cause of this condition was systemic lymphoma (cancer.) Sandy had experienced a spread of lymphoma to the back of his eye sockets and since his cancer was spreading (causing his anorexia) and his quality of life was spiraling downward, he was euthanized to release him from his pain.

In Sandy’s case, there would have been no way to save him, even with early detection. Lymphoma may respond briefly to chemotherapy, but we guardians should always ask ourselves if our kitties would elect to have more doctor visits, more needles, more medications stuffed down their throats, or whether we should let them pass away with humane euthanasia, rather than trap them in their failing bodies.

Please spread the word!

Holly Cheever, DVM

NYSHA’s VP, Dr. Holly Cheever, is a partner in a small animal practice, the Village Animal Clinic, in Voorheesville, NY. She sits on several boards for animal issues, is a speaker and consultant across the nation, and has testified before Congress about animal abuse in circuses, as well as in New York City regarding the carriage horse trade.

New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol. XXX, Fall 2016.