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Cat Health

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 11 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Cat Health Cat Disease Cat Illness Sick

Despite their apparent self-sufficiency, cats are actually very dependent on their owners for good health care. Choosing a vet who is experienced in dealing with feline disorders and behaviour is essential but there are also many things you can do to ensure that your cat remains in optimum health.

Immunisations

The first step to good health - it is vital for kittens to have vaccinations, starting from about 8 weeks. If they have not had their vaccinations yet, make a stop at the vet on the way back from the breeders or pet shop for a first examination and first shots. These should protect them against the serious feline diseases - such as feline panleukopenia (distemper), viral rhinotracheitis/calicivirus and feline leukaemia - many of which can be fatal. Many vaccinations will then need a yearly booster thereafter - discuss this with your vet.

Worming

Worming your cat regularly is important, particularly in young animals where a severe case of worms can cause anaemia and serious illness. There is also the human health aspect to consider, especially if children are involved. As with all things, prevention is better than cure and so it is advisable to follow a good worming plan throughout your pet's life, rather than wait until they become infested. In general, kittens are wormed every 3 weeks until they are 6 months of age and thereafter, every 3 months for the rest of their lives. Again, your vet can advise as to the best worming products and methods.

Flea Prevention

Fleas can cause terrible discomfort to your cat - aside from the itching, they can cause anaemia and even a severe allergic skin reaction. They also carry the risk of tape-worm infection, which is dangerous to humans. Different products vary greatly in their effectiveness - most vets now recommend a "spot-on" treatment (squeezed from a vial onto the pet's skin, between the shoulder blades) as the best and safest way to control fleas, for 4 - 8 weeks after each application. There are also other products such as flea powders and shampoos or collars but these tend to have limited effectiveness.

Grooming

Getting into a regular grooming routine will help keep your cat in good health. Not only will it help you bond with your pet but it also gives you a chance to examine her all over and check for any signs of external parasites or injury (e.g., abscess). Regular brushing stimulates the coat and removes dead hairs - particularly if you have a long-haired cat, where hairballs can be the bane of their life, a weekly brush out is necessary. Trimming claws might be necessary if your cat does not spend a lot of time outdoors or does not use a scratching post regularly.

Things To Watch Out For

Diarrhoea - usually caused by an inappropriate diet (e.g., milk and other dairy products should not be fed, despite the myth that cats enjoy milk) although it can also be the result of bacterial infection or viruses and other parasites. In most cases, a 24-hour fast will return things to normal but if diarrhoea persists, consult your vet.

Vomiting - the occasional bout of vomiting is normal, as curious felines often ingest things they shouldn't. However, if the vomiting is frequent, it may be a sign of hairballs, parasites or other more serious problems. If vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms such as diarrhoea or listlessness or there is blood in the vomit, see your vet immediately.

Sneezing - this is usually a sign of "cat flu" or "snuffles", which is a disease of the upper respiratory tract. There is little you can do in terms of medication as the disease is viral and requires the cat's own immune system to combat it, which may take up to 2 weeks for complete recovery. Make sure the cat is kept warm and that it is still drinking, as well as offer tempting smelly foods as many cats will not feel hungry. Having the cat in a steamy room once or twice a day may help to clear the mucus from its chest and use cotton wool moistened with warm water to gently clear any crustiness from its eyes and nose.
* sneezing can be a symptom of another disease so always check with your vet.

Eye & Ear Infections - you will notice a runny discharge and the ears will give off a foul odour, while your cat may scratch them often. Consult the vet immediately.

Bad Teeth - yellow or brown teeth, bleeding gums, drooling, bad breath and a refusal to eat are all signs that your cat needs veterinary attention to its teeth. It may even require a general anaesthetic while the vet cleans and treats its teeth and gums. As your cat gets older, regular dental check-ups are a good idea.

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