Cats have been human companions for nearly 10,000 years. While we may never know what they are thinking or feeling, our feline friends’ independent and loving nature is a unique, rewarding experience. Knowing how to properly care for your cat can be challenging, especially since they are experts at masking signs of disease or discomfort. Ensure your cat remains healthy long into their senior years by following these guidelines.
Never skip yearly veterinary exams
Yearly, or more frequent exams, by your Country Valley veterinarians are the best way to ensure your cat is healthy and thriving. In fact, according to a 2013 study conducted by Bayer Health Care and the American Association of Feline Practitioners, more than half U.S. cats had not seen a veterinarian for needed checkups. You bring your car in for regular servicing to keep it running smoothly—in the same way, yearly or more frequent exams are essential for your cat’s overall health, wellness, and disease prevention. The most subtle changes could indicate that your cat is sick. Schedule an exam with your veterinarian if you notice any of the these changes:
- Decreased activity
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Coughing and/or sneezing
- Stiffness, and difficulty jumping up onto surfaces or into the litter box
- Matted or rough-looking haircoat
- Increased or decreased water intake
- Changes in litter box use
Vaccines and parasite control are important for purrvention
Regardless of your cat’s lifestyle, vaccinations are the best insurance against preventable illness, and the easiest way to help them live a long, healthy life. Specifically, vaccinations prepare the body’s immune system to fight various disease-causing organisms. During kitten-hood, your cat should receive a series of core vaccinations three to four weeks apart. Once they cross over to adulthood, your cat should receive booster vaccinations every one to three years, according to your veterinarian’s recommendations.
Parasite control is also a simple and effective way to prevent disease in your pet. Kittens often contract intestinal parasites from their mothers, as well as from their original environments. In addition to their vaccination series, your kitten should receive a series of deworming treatments to kill any unwanted house guests in their bodies. Parasite control is important throughout your cat’s life and will vary based on their lifestyle and veterinary recommendations. Internal and external parasite control is recommended whether or not your cat lives entirely indoors, because fleas and other external parasites, in particular, can hitchhike on the human family members into the home. Common intestinal parasites include roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. Parasite overload can cause the following clinical signs:
- Loose stools or diarrhea
- Pot–bellied appearance
- Dull hair coat
Make every day a cat spa day
Cats are excellent at bathing themselves daily to clean and groom their fur, and you will rarely need to bathe them—in fact, regular baths may disrupt their natural oils and potentially dry out their skin. However, if your cat does need your help, always use a cat-safe pet shampoo. Rather than a bath, your cat’s spa days should include daily brushing to help prevent hairballs or matted fur. Brushing can serve as bonding time, and is the perfect way to check your cat for any lumps, bumps, or abnormalities on their skin. Also, should your cat allow it, trim their nails every few weeks to prevent overgrowth injuries. If possible, start when they are a kitten, so that nail trimming is not stressful in adulthood.
Check your cat’s chompers for dental disease
Similar to humans, dental health is important for overall wellness and disease prevention. Dental disease is one of the most common and serious health problems in cats. Recent studies have shown that more than 50% of cats will develop a form of dental disease by age 4. Oral bacterial overgrowth can lead to serious infections throughout the body, especially in the heart. Fortunately, many common cat dental disease conditions are preventable and treatable. Brushing your cat’s teeth with a pet-safe flavored toothpaste every two to three days will best prevent plaque buildup, but if your cat is not a toothbrushing fan, dental treats or oral rinses and gels are a great alternative.
Additionally, we will examine your cat’s teeth during their wellness exams and, if your veterinarian sees dental disease signs, they may recommend a dental cleaning under anesthesia. Dental disease signs in cats include:
- Difficulty eating, or decreased appetite
- Unusual head tilting while eating
- Excessive drooling
- Swelling on the side of the face
- Bad breath
- Bleeding gums
Cat care into the golden years
During adulthood and into your cat’s senior years, your veterinarian will recommend annual blood work to evaluate their internal organ function and general health, because changes in various blood values can indicate an early disease process, such as kidney disease. Early disease detection allows your veterinarian to more effectively monitor and manage your pet’s health. Check out Country Valley’s senior health check packages for a cost-effective and thorough way to monitor and care for your senior cat.
The Country Valley Veterinary Clinic team loves all frisky felines like family. Call our office with all your cat-related questions, or to schedule a wellness exam.