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Nine Steps for Nine Lives

By Dr. Shawn Messonnier, DVM
Updated: 2009-05-21 10:33 AM 1616 Views    Category: Care and Grooming
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We've all heard the saying that a cat has nine lives. If you want your cat to live out its nine lives, it's important to do a good job preventing disease and treating illness appropriately. In this article, I'll explore nine steps that I take with my own feline owners to help their cats live long healthy lives.

As we explore the nine steps, keep in mind my five goals for my natural health care program.

1. Prevent Disease
2. Say NO to Drugs 
3.  "Heal" the Pet, Rather than "Treat" the Disease 
4.  Offer "Hope for the Hopeless" 
5.  Help Owners Save Money on Pet Care

1. The first step in any program to keep your cat healthy and live as long as possible is to feed him the best, most natural diet. Diet is so important that it’s my first step in this plan. It’s also the step the easiest for you to undertake. Your cat needs to eat every day and you totally control what your cat eats. The goal of step one is to reduce putting bad stuff into your cat and increase the good stuff. In order to do that, you’ll have to learn to read the label on your cat’s food. Avoid foods with terms like “animal or plant byproducts, artificial preservatives and flavorings, and chemicals like BHA, BHT, and ethoxquin.” Instead select foods made with real meat, minimal grains, and anti- oxidant-rich vegetables and fruits. If you don’t mind preparing food for your cat, either a raw diet or a cooked food can be used (you’ll find sample recipes in my award-winning book The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats.) Your holistic veterinarian can guide you in selecting the best diet for your cat.
2. After you get your cat eating the best diet, it’s important to begin putting things into his body that he doesn’t need and might be harmful. The most common mistake owners make in this regard involves over-vaccinating their cats. While vaccines can be very useful in preventing infectious diseases when they are administered correctly, most pets receive too many vaccinations. Not only does an unnecessary vaccination provide no additional disease protection, but it can cause the immune system to react inappropriately, leading to immune diseases including cancers. Several years ago veterinarians noticed an increase in the incidence of sarcoma tumors in cats, which we now know are the result of vaccinations. Instead of vaccinating your cat every year, I recommend having your veterinarian draw blood for a vaccine titer test, and only vaccinate if the results of that test indicating need to do so.
3. While not as commonly done in cats as in dogs, some owners routinely administer topical or oral flea preventive chemicals to their cats. As is true with dogs, most cats do not need to receive these chemicals on a regular basis. The best way to prevent fleas is by using a three step natural program designed to kill fleas on the pet, in the house, and in the yard. Preventive chemicals should only be used on a limited basis when absolutely necessary. This approach encourages health and minimizes the buildup of unnecessary toxins in your cat’s body (and when you remember that cats have a much more difficult time detoxifying poisons than dogs, is critical to prevent the unnecessary introduction of chemicals into your feline’s body.)
4. Even though your cat may be eating the best food, I still believe that all pets can benefit from additional supplementation. While every cat is different in its needs, in my practice all of my feline patients are prescribed several basic supplements to support their immune system, bladder, GI tract, joints, and maintain overall health. For cats under five years of age, I prescribed the bacon-flavored powder called Vim & Vigor made by Pet Togethers (www.pettogethers.net/healthypet). For cats five years of age and older, I add another supplement called Cholodin made by MVP Laboratories, to minimize the incidence of cognitive disorder (Alzheimer’s disease,) a common degenerative neurological problem seen in older cats. Your veterinarian can put together a supplement regimen that best suits their needs of your cat.
5. Dental disease (periodontal infection) is the most common infectious disease in cats and dogs. Pets with dental disease require regular dental cleanings done under anesthesia. To reduce the frequency of these professional cleanings, a preventive oral care program should be instituted. While regular brushing of your cat’s teeth is important, our respect the fact that most cats don’t like having this done, and I know most owners don’t want to fight with their cats. Therefore in my practice I prescribed two easy-to-use products made by Oxyfresh. Their oral hygiene solution is tasteless and easily mixed into your cat’s water each day. Their pet gel can be gently rubbed onto your cat’s teeth and gums each day. Finally for cats with severe gum disease (gingivitis,) I recommend adding a third product called Traumeel. This gel, made by the Heel company, has helped many cats with severe gingivitis.
6. For cats under five years of age, seeing the doctor once each year is usually sufficient to maintain proper health. Biannual visits become more important as your cat ages. I recommend a trip to the veterinarian’s office every six months for cats five years of age and older. During this visit, I do a complete physical examination and check the cat’s blood and urine for any abnormalities. Doing this twice yearly allows me to catch diseases in my feline patients before they show signs of illness, which allows me to help them stay healthy.
7. It’s very important to treat diseases when they are discovered, rather than waiting for your pet to become ill. If your doctor discovers a hidden problem during one of your cat’s visits, take care of it then and don’t wait for your cat to show signs of illness. The value of regular checkups is that we can prevent or at least slow down the progression of serious diseases when we catch them and treat them early. Waiting for the problem to manifest itself only puts your cat at risk for a lot of suffering and premature death.
8. While most owners don’t think of exercising their cats, the reality is that just like their canine counterparts, cats need regular exercise. While most cats can’t be put on a leash and walked around the neighborhood, there are things you can do at home to get your cat off of the couch and moving around. Chasing the cat around the room or up and down the stairs, throwing small toys for him to chase, or even having him follow a laser light shone onto the floors from a laser pointer are easy to do an important for your cat. And don’t forget about regular grooming. Clipping your cat’s nails and regularly brushing your cat (especially important for longer haired breeds) will prevent health problems as well.
9. Finally I believe it’s important to have a strong bond with your furry feline friend. Spend time with, play with, and love your cat. Enjoy being an owner of this special animal. Even with nine lives your cat won’t live forever, so make the most of every moment. While there are never any guarantees in life, following these simple nine steps will keep your cat happy and healthy for a very long time. My clients enjoy the increased health experienced by their cats when they follow these simple nine steps, I know you will too.

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Dr. Messonnier, a 1987 graduate of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, opened Paws & Claws Animal Hospital in 1991. His special interests include exotic pets, dermatology, and animal behavior. Dr. Messonnier is a well-known speaker and author. In addition to serving clients, he is a regular contributor to several veterinary journals, sits on the advisory board of the journal Veterinary Forum and regularly consults with veterinarians across the country and is a holistic pet columnist for Animal Wellness, Body + Soul, and Veterinary Forum. More info can be found at http://www.petcarenaturally.com.
1 COMMENTS Leave a Comment
on Thu, May 21st, 2009 at 10:38 AM, by luv4pets
  This is a nice numbered article about how to keep your cat healthy the holistic way.
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