By Gerry White


First of all, let’s have a quick look at what we’ve accomplished so far (or should have):


  • We’ve learned that we are ultimately responsible for Fluffy’s well-being
  • We’ve learned that Fluffy is unique, that she’s an individual with special needs
  • We’ve learned that Fluffy’s longevity is based on proactive care, versus reactive treatment
  • We’ve chosen a vet that Fluffy and I are both comfortable with
  • We’ve learned how to avoid the risks of toxic poisoning around the home
  • We’ve learned how to read various test reports and interpret doctor-speak
  • We’ve learned a bit about common ailments and how to identify the symptoms

Gee, now that we know everything about cats…let’s just start our own Kitty Kat Kare Klinic! On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t quit our day jobs just yet.

First thing I want you to do is step outside of yourself and have a look at the big picture: The characters are Fluffy, yourself, and the professional vet, and the scene is that Fluffy lives with you, not the vet. In order to have a better understanding of all this, I think it’s important that we disassemble the picture now, and look at the characters individually.


FLUFFY: Our first thoughts are that we are obligated to speak in her behalf, because she cannot speak for herself. That’s only half-right. She most certainly can -and does- speak for herself. All the time. She communicates with us primarily through behavioral patterns.


YOU: As intermediary, and as Fluffy’s primary caregiver, you have the biggest job of all. You’ve had to learn so many different things about Fluffy, about ailments and conditions and symptoms, about the medical profession itself, and about the veterinarian who tends to her medical needs. And you’re the boss -the administrator. You observe, interpret, translate, and you control everything.


THE VET: He/she has the professional medical expertise required to keep Fluffy healthy, and to fix her if she becomes unhealthy.


Stated in such a way, it sounds like a well-oiled machine, doesn’t it? Well, it can be just that, providing we understand that each party has limitations.

First of all there’s Fluffy. Yes, she’ll show us when something is wrong, but:

(a) We know she’s an actress, who will hide her pain until it becomes unbearable

(b) She cannot verbalize her thoughts and feelings; we have to interpret.

Then there’s the vet, who only sees Fluffy maybe twice a year, so his/her knowledge of Fluffy’s recent behavior is non-existent; he/she needs you to provide that information.


Lastly, we come down to you, and it’s imperative that you understand your position, your obligations, your powers, and especially your limitations. As for the power, most significant is the fact that you hold the power of life or death over Fluffy in your hands, in your decisions. As for limitations, understand that your Feline Education is limited to fringe information; you know a little about certain ailments and conditions, you’re pretty sure you can spot some of the symptoms, you even know something about certain drugs and treatments. But understand that you are not qualified to accurately diagnose a medical condition.

This reminds me of an ex-neighbor who was a good (but occasionally irritating) friend for many years. This chap could (and often did) give lengthy dissertations based on some topic he acquired from a three-minute TV news segment, or something he picked up from some magazine article. Just add a little water and you have…Instant Expert. Do not become my neighbor! And this is thin ice you’re walking on, okay? On the one hand, you should be aware enough to spot the signs of (let’s say) potential kidney problems…too much drinking, too much urinating, blah-blah-blah. On the other hand, you need to let these observations become tentative conclusions and nothing more. Her drinking/urinating habits are changing, and they seem to fit the symptoms outlined for kidney problems. That’s it; stop right there. You know something is wrong and you know Fluffy and the vet have to meet soon, and that’s all that you know for sure.


Now for some very important words of wisdom: Okay, you observed the problem, went back through your notes, and you’re convinced this is the possible onset of kidney problems. It could also be that the house-air is too dry and she’s simply drinking excessively to overcome dehydration; ergo, more pee; it could be a diet-related issue; it could be a minor/major kidney or bladder infection; it could be a minor/major Urinary Tract Infection…it could be a dozen other reasons, too. The point is: You don’t know what it is, not for sure.


So when you take Fluffy to see Doc, do not steer him with your own diagnosis. Tell him the symptoms, clearly and concisely, and then become silent. Yes, vets will follow your lead. If you try to sound more knowledgeable than you really are, they’ll believe you…it’s a quick, easy place for them to start. And you don’t want that; you want them to diagnose Fluffy based solely on the information you’ve set forth, period! Now, if you’re pretty well convinced it’s a potential kidney problem, and the vet tells you all Fluffy needs is to have her teeth cleaned…this is when you bring your suspicions into play…not before. Whether or not your home-based diagnosis is correct, it’s reasonable to assume that a sore tooth isn’t making her drink and pee more, so you need to voice your opinions, strongly. If the vet stands on his/her diagnosis, and you’re equally firm in your own suspicions, then you need a second opinion, or you need to get Fluffy in front of a specialist, chop-chop! And this is where the ice gets thin: You risk alienating the vet with your insistence, but the greater risk is allowing Fluffy’s probable kidney condition to progress untreated.

Back to ProActive Cat Care

Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy’s assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.