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Caring for Cats

Caring For Cats

Cat owners often say you don't own a cat, your cat owns you. While cats are independent, they're not able to take care of themselves. In fact, cats do need your help. They especially need preventive and wellness care, because it’s in a cat’s nature to hide disease or health conditions.

The type of cat you bring home should depend on your lifestyle. A long-haired cat that needs a lot of grooming will take more care and attention than a short-haired cat, for instance. Also, there are breeds that are incredibly active and highly intelligent that do require more interaction than other cats. But, if you do your research, you can find the perfect cat that fits your family.

Preparing for Your Cat

Before you bring your cat home, do some preparations. Having everything in place will make the transition much more comfortable, especially if you’re adopting an adult cat. If you're bringing home a kitten, keep a close eye on them. Kittens can get themselves into trouble when left unsupervised. They can get stuck between furniture or appliances, or even fall into the toilet.

Here’s what you’ll need to purchase in advance:

Caring for Cats

Behavioral Training

When you bring a kitten into your home, it’s important to start behavioral training and socialization into family life. In the February 2016 Clinicians Brief, Ellen M. Lindell, VMD, DACVB outlined five important steps for introducing kittens into your home:

These can be shelves, perches, or catwalks. Play with them with a ball, a dim light on the wall, or a feather on a fishing pole. Discourage chasing or batting at hands or feet by redirecting their attention to interactive toys. Keep in mind that spraying kittens with water isn’t a good training method for kittens, because it may make them afraid of humans. Instead, offer treats or gentle petting strokes to gain the kittens trust and strengthen the relationship between them and family members.

Veterinary Care

Cats tend to hide symptoms as a defense from predators. So, by the time your cat starts showing symptoms of a disease or condition, they may have been sick for some time and the disease will be much more difficult, if not impossible, to treat.

We all know that cats are prone to hiding under the bed or another dark, quiet place and come out only when they need to use the litter box or eat. This is standard operation for many cats, and as a result, they often don’t get the attention they need and deserve. Many diseases can cause complications in other organs or health systems if left unattended.

When you adopt a cat, you’ll need their health record. Ask about any prior vaccinations they’ve had, parasite control that’s been used, what nutrition needs are, and what type of grooming is needed.

Bring your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible after you bring them home. If you already have other cats, the new addition will need to be kept separate until after you’ve visited the animal hospital. Your veterinarian will most likely run some tests to make sure they don't have feline leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus, which can cause infections and cancer in cats. Your veterinarian will also check for internal and external parasites. All cats need core vaccinations including Distemper (Panleukopenia), Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Rabies vaccinations. These are necessary even if the cat lives its entire life inside the home. Depending upon your family’s lifestyle, cats may need Feline leukemia, Feline Bordetella and Chlamydophila vaccinations. These lifestyle vaccines are necessary if your family interacts with a lot of other cats, invites other cat-owning families into their home, or brings the cat camping. Many contagious diseases can be transmitted from cat to cat. People who handle other cats can even carry disease into your home. It’s also important to have annual fecal and heartworm examinations performed to continually protect your cat from internal parasites. Many of these parasites are transmitted by insect vectors or carried in on shoes or clothing. Talk to your veterinarian about the exposure your cats have with the lifestyle your family leads. Cats are susceptible to various conditions or diseases that may hinder their healthy state or well-being. These include dental or periodontal problems, chronic pain, ear infections or ear mites, undiagnosed disease conditions such as Feline leukemia, diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, or nutritional deficiencies that contribute to their inability to enjoy a healthy life.

All cats should have an annual veterinary examination.

Caring for Cats

Spaying and Neutering

If your cat isn’t spayed or neutered when you adopt them, they she should be spayed by the time they’re five months old. Spaying is recommended for all cats. It not only prevents unwanted pregnancies but eliminates behaviors of a female cat when in the heat cycle. Spaying also reduces the chances of mammary cancer. If not neutered, male cats will want to roam your neighborhood, putting them at risk for fights with other animals, or being hit by a car.

Feeding Tips

Proper nutrition is as important for cats or other domesticated pets as it is for humans. A 2016 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 59% of cats in the United States are overweight. In fact, in the past ten years, the number of cats that are overweight is up 169%.

Why do cats become overweight? The primary reason cats become overweight is lack of exercise and excess food. It’s up to cat owners to be responsible by controlling the amount and kind of food cats eat.

Cats should be encouraged to play with a ball, a feather teaser on a string, jingle toys and treat toys for food. These food dispensers offer a treat if the cat can figure out how to find it inside the toy. Perhaps the biggest reason cats become overweight is that owners often use food or snacks as a form of communication and love. Don’t feed cats from the table.

Cats need well-balanced and nutritionally complete cat food formulated specifically for their age. A kitten will eat more often than an older cat, and you should invest in a food made especially for kittens. A mature cat will need to eat food that is geared for cats that are older.

When you adopt your cat, find out what they’ve been eating. If you plan on switching their food, you’ll need to mix the old food with the new food until it's completely switched over. Check the packaging to make sure that the food meets established standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

Cats are living longer today than ever before. Keep these tips in mind to provide the best prevention and care available for a long happy life. All family members will appreciate it! Contributed to by Bruce W. Little, DVM.

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