How to keep your cat healthy from birth to old age need not involve expensive veterinary fees; nor is it particularly complicated. The key to good health is prevention and the earlier you start, the easier – and cheaper – it is to keep your cat healthy well into his senior years.
How to protect a kitten
When you get a new kitten make sure you have it vaccinated as soon as possible. Core vaccines include feline panleukopenia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis (also known as feline herpesvirus) and these are usually included in a single vaccination. Rabies is added at 12 weeks of age.
Feline calicivirus and feline rhinotracheitis are the two viruses most commonly responsible for upper respiratory infections (also known as ‘snuffles’) in cats. You can also vaccinate your cat against the potentially fatal feline leukaemia virus, especially in areas where the disease is endemic.
Deworm and deflea
Worms cause vomiting and diarrhoea and can be passed on to humans. You may not even know your cat has worms as they hide in your pet’s intestines. Deworming should be done every three months.
Flea allergies are common in cats and leave them with inflamed, itchy skin and raw, red patches from scratching – even though you may not even see the fleas! Seresto collars (available from EberVet Vetshops) will protect your cat for up to eight months. Revolution is a spot-on treatment that is particularly effective against flea allergies; it is applied monthly.
Sterilising your cat may prevent infection with feline immunodeficiency virus (feline aids) as this deadly disease is transmitted during territorial fights. Sterilisation also protects against mammary or breast cancer if your female cat is spayed before the age of six months. More than 85 percent of mammary tumours in cats are malignant and they tend to grow and metastasise quickly. Like breast tumours in humans, they start as a small lump in a mammary gland. Often, more than one mammary gland is affected. Surgery is usually needed.
Sounds weird, we know, but the truth is the earlier you start brushing your kitten’s teeth the better his chances of healthy teeth through adulthood. Starting at an early age gets them used to the idea. Here’s how to keep your cat’s mouth healthy for life https://www.ebervet.com/caring-pets-teeth/
What you feed your cat is also very important. Cats are ‘obligate carnivores’ which means they must eat meat otherwise they suffer from a taurine deficiency. This can lead to heart problems. Certain foods, usually poorer quality supermarket varieties, may cause the formation of crystals in your cat’s bladder. These crystals can block the urethra and your cat will not be able to pass urine. This happens more often in male cats. A cat with a blocked bladder must be treated as soon as possible as it is not only very painful but can also cause kidney damage and may lead to death.
Cats prefer to be solitary and owning multiple cats can cause stress especially in the more timid individuals. Stressed cats can develop interstitial cystitis – a painful inflammation of the bladder. They will show discomfort when urinating and often urinate in inappropriate places. You might notice blood in the urine as well. A change of diet, painkillers and changes in their environment will help to alleviate the problem.
The number one health problem in cats worldwide is obesity. Chubby cats are more prone to diabetes. They are also more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis.
As your cat moves on in life kidney failure, hyperthyroidism and hypertension are conditions to watch out for. During regular vet checks (once a year for cats under the age of 7; twice yearly for seniors) we can check for early signs of these conditions and early treatment may prolong your cat’s life significantly. Signs to watch out for include: drinking a lot of water, urinating a lot, occasional vomiting, weight loss, increased or decreased appetite, cat not grooming any more, mood changes or changes in normal behaviour.
Preventive care is the cornerstone of good health. If you start now, your cat will enjoy a healthy, happy life for years to come.