Feline breast cancer is the third most common cancer among cats after lymphoma and skin cancer. In a 2005 study done at the University of Pennsylvania, “cats spayed prior to 6 months had a 91% reduction…those spayed prior to one year had an 86% reduction in the risk of mammary carcinoma development compared with intact cats.” While breast cancer in cats is more common than in humans, it is far less common than it is in dogs, but cats have the highest malignancy rate and the lowest survival rate of all three. That myth that “it’s good to let a cat have a litter of kittens” has no basis in fact, and can be a death sentence since spaying your cat before she even goes into heat the first time is the best way to avoid breast cancer, not to mention reducing the risks of injury and disease a cat faces while out carousing…not to mention a cat in heat is really annoying to have around. For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, spay your little girl!
A healthy cat will eat what you give her, a kitty who is a little under the weather may need some persuasion; we won’t be talking about those manipulative and overly dramatic “finicky” kitties here. We’re considering cats who are recovering from illness or injury or who are elderly, and for whom even eating is a little bit of a burden. She may seem hungry, even show up for mealtime, but take a sniff or even attempt to eat and walk away. Often illness, surgery, trauma or age reduce a cat’s appetite through weakness, stomach upset, loss of smell or loss of taste, and a cat in a slightly weakened condition may need some inspiration for the taste buds. First, wake her up at least 15 minutes before you want to feed her—a sleepy kitty in a weakened condition isn’t ready to eat as soon as she wakes up, so pet her and give her attention for a while until she seems entirely alert. Always use fresh food, usually canned, so its smell is the strongest, and you don’t need to resort to fish-based foods, often liver-based food is more appealing. Then tease her with the food—play “kitty airplane” the same way you would with a recalcitrant child, show her the can and her dish, open the can and let kitty sniff the food then put it aside, making a big show of getting her dish ready, putting the food in the dish, allowing her to smell it all the while, then finally present it. This little play helps to get her digestive system started and her body gives her the signal to eat, plus, she’s wondering what they heck you’re up to, and curiosity is a big stimulant for a cat. If she’s still reluctant, pick up a little in a spoon and offer it for her to lick off; a little at a time is sometimes just enough. Don’t leave her food out, but put it back in the can and keep it, offering it again a little later. It may mean wasting a few cans, but open a new can with every session. She’ll appreciate your efforts.
International Spay Day is February 24, but Romeo is yowling outside your door and Juliet’s not going to make it that long—have her spayed before she goes into her first heat for the season! A female cat in heat can outsmart even the most observant owner, and there are already enough kittens for everyone not to mention the health risks she might face while “catting around”. Spaying is also riskier and more expensive when a cat is in heat, so catch her before it starts. And as a bonus, spaying your little Juliet before age one significantly reduces her lifetime chances of developing breast cancer, the third most common cancer among cats, and spaying before six months reduces it even more. So celebrate International Spay Day with cats all over the world on February 24.