It is true that by keeping your cat indoors you are preventing all sorts of potential health problems. She will not have any injuries from wildlife, other cats or cars, not to mention a number of infectious diseases. Keep in mind however that millions of housecats die every year from serious ailments that ‘being indoors’ will not protect her from. As a species, cats are notoriously good at hiding when they don’t feel well. Only a thorough yearly physical exam with a veterinarian (which may or may not include lab testing) can detect most of these diseases, which, if treated early, can be made manageable and comfortable and prolong the life of your cat. Some of the most common of these diseases include:
Cardiovascular disease in cats is typically not symptomatic until very advanced and the cat is very ill or worse suddenly dies. Heart murmurs and arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm) can only be discovered through a thorough physical exam. Cats can get high blood pressure which can become severe and lead to blindness and sudden death in some older cats if it goes undetected.
Dental disease is not just a cosmetic ailment (i.e. bad breath and yellow plaque/tartar). It is infection, inflammation and PAIN. Until dental disease becomes very advanced, however, cats typically do not show any overt signs (pawing at the mouth, dropping of food, difficulty swallowing). Because of the huge impact dental disease has on your cat’s overall health in its advanced stages, this is definitely a disease we want to tackle early on and prevent. Your vet has many tools at their disposal to help with this.
Diseases of the metabolism such as diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, and liver and kidney disease. If these diseases are caught early cats can live healthier, longer and much more comfortable lives.
Cancer in cats sometimes only shows up as weight loss, which can be subtle – a loss of even 3-4oz is significant, and most home scales are not accurate enough to distinguish subtle changes. Annual physical exams allow your vet to monitor your cat’s weight for trends. A thorough abdominal palpation can often pick up tumors of the intestinal tract before they begin showing other signs.
Infection: some older cats can have an infection in their urinary bladder, but not show any symptoms even though it is painful. Indoor cats can also be afflicted with latent respiratory tract viruses such as herpes, and calici that flareup periodically and cause problems in their sinuses, tongue and eyes.
Obesity is a very common ailment in the lives of our sedentary indoor cats – without needing to use their hunting abilities to catch prey, it is easy for cats to overeat. Obesity is probably one reason why we appreciate diabetes, heart disease, chronic constipation and asthma to be as common as they are in cats.
Arthritis afflicts up to 90% of cats over the age of 12. Because cats are so good at hiding when they are in pain it can be hard to detect. What is often thought of as ‘slowing down’ because of advancing age is actually pain.
Ingrown nails don’t sound like such a big deal on the face of it, but they are a common and painful problem of older cats, especially when the curl right around and grow into the soft pads of the cat’s feet