Modern veterinary care is not inexpensive.
Every day we hear from readers who remember when "Good ol' Doc Jones" patched up their cats for next to nothing.
These days, readers complain, many veterinarians want to use available diagnostics to see what's really going on (and reduce risk during anesthesia), suggest newer procedures to fix things that were fatal not that long ago, and pretty much try to do the best job they can with all the advances of the last couple of decades.
Costs for everything have gone up, and "Good ol' Doc Jones" is paying more to keep the hospital doors open, even before you consider all the new options veterinarians can offer today. The good news: If you practice good preventive care with your cat -- which should, of course, include neutering -- you can really keep costs down.
Top strategy for doing so: Close the door on your cat's wandering.
A lot of cat lovers hate hearing this. They've always let their cats roam, and they're reluctant to change. A free-roaming cat seems easier to care for, especially if the outdoors serves as a litter box (a policy that's never fair to or popular with the neighbors).
But the things that can happen to a free-roaming cat can really cost you at the veterinarian's. Outdoor cats are at high risk for poisoning, infectious disease, accidents and attacks, all of which can mean misery for your pet and expensive veterinary costs for you. Tips on converting your cat to a happy indoor life can be found on The Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital's Indoor Cat Initiative's website (www.indoorcat.org).
Other strategies for preventive cat care:
-- No more yearly shots. The emphasis has shifted away from automatic annual combination boosters to tailoring the kind and frequency of vaccines to an individual cat. Some vaccines are now given at longer intervals -- every three years is common -- and some are not given at all to cats who are not at high risk for a particular disease.
Skipping annual shots isn't an excuse to skip regular "well-pet" exams, which are a cornerstone of a preventive-care program. You can discuss which vaccines are right for your cat during the visit.
-- Keep your cat lean. Too much food and not enough activity puts the pounds on a pet. Excess weight is attributed to any number of health issues in cats, especially arthritis and diabetes. Don't crash-diet your cat -- it can be deadly. Instead, talk to your veterinarian about a healthy diet that will trim down your cat before the pounds really add up. Add in activity with daily play sessions using a laser-pointer or cat-fishing pole, whatever gets your cat going.
-- Don't forget the teeth. It doesn't hurt to get into a regular routine of brushing or swiping your cat's teeth, and many cats can learn to enjoy or at least tolerate the practice. If their teeth are left alone, cats develop dental problems that can shorten their lives and lessen their quality of life.
-- Practice good grooming. Basic brushing, combing and flea control are a must for preventive care. Keeping your pet parasite-free will make living with your animal much more pleasant (after all, fleas bite people, too). Regular brushing can also help build the bond between you and your cat, and will allow you to notice skin problems and lumps and bumps early.
Five tips for nine lives, all of them guaranteed to save you money and spare your cat. You can't beat that!
Why not consider
pair of adult cats?
Q: We are looking for two kittens to adopt. We are having trouble finding what we want. We don't want to pay breeder prices, and the shelter doesn't seem to have much selection. We are looking for two kittens from the same litter. Do you have any suggestions? -- A.N., via e-mail
A: Prime kitten season peaks in late summer, but depending on where you live, you'll start seeing kittens in shelters soon. By August, most shelters will be swimming in kittens, with seemingly endless choices when it comes to coat type and markings. There will be too many kittens, really, because each year many more kittens will be born than can possibly be adopted. (Which is one reason why the constant effort of humane and animal-rescue groups to spay and neuter pets is so important.)
You can wait for more selection, but I have a better idea: Adopt a pair of adult cats. If you don't mind cats who are not siblings, you could also adopt an adult cat now and a kitten or cat later.
The choice is yours, of course. But my advice is to seriously consider adopting a bonded pair of adult cats.
Since you want to end up with two siblings, adopting adult littermates who are already comfortable with each other seems to me to be the perfect solution. If you're really interested in adopting siblings, I have no doubt you can find that in a bonded pair of adult cats. Just check around with area shelters and rescue groups.
Once the kittens start arriving, the older cats have a hard time competing for attention. Why not give a couple of great cats a second chance? -- Gina Spadafori
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.
-- Is the troubled business of high-volume dog breeding being outsourced? A report on dvm360.com points to an increase in puppies shipped into the United States as one sign that overseas puppy mills are a growing concern. California attorney John Hoffman told the veterinary website that more French Bulldogs are imported into the United States than are bred here because artificial insemination and delivery by caesarean can be done more cheaply without the assistance of licensed veterinarians. Health certificates must be signed by a veterinarian for puppies to be shipped, but activists say documents can be forged and puppies are being shipped too young to get them in front of potential buyers at their most appealing age. The increase may be in part a response to crackdowns on domestic substandard breeding operations. Officials in California have also noted an increase in puppies smuggled in illegally. In addition to cruelty concerns, officials worry about potential health problems for pets, people and livestock that such imports present.
-- A fund established in March by Betty White and the Morris Animal Foundation to help wildlife after disasters proved to be timely in the wake of the oil-rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The Betty White Wildlife Rapid Response Fund is intended to give wildlife researchers monetary aid to respond to unexpected events, such as natural disasters and emerging diseases, that result in the immediate need for animal health research. The Emmy-winning star and lifelong animal lover will match all donations up to $25,000. You can donate at Firstgiving.com/MAFrapidresponse.
-- A cat's heart normally beats between 140 and 220 times per minute, with a relaxed cat on the lower end of the scale. It's not unusual for a heartbeat to be high at the veterinarian's, since most cats don't like being away from home, and they certainly don't like being handled in such settings.-- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker Shannon