Your cat’s health is important to you and it’s important to us, too. In order to provide a complete resource you can refer to for cat care, we’ve put together a few short articles on maintaining your cat’s health – specifically issues related to litter, waste and proper elimination. Just as you’d consult with a doctor for any personal medical issue, you should always consult with your vet about your cat’s specific veterinary issues or any problem you observe.
The single best treatment you can provide to ensure your cat’s health is the proper prevention of issues in the first place. Preventive care keeps problems from arising, avoiding unnecessary pain and stress for your pet, plus steep vet bills that can be associated with disease and injury.
When you first get your cat, always take it to your vet for a full check up and to get it caught up on all its necessary vaccines. Ask your vet to give a best estimation of the age and breed of your new cat, if you don’t already know; these two factors can help you determine any potential issues to avoid. For example, Siamese and Himalayan breeds are prone to asthma, so you want to eliminate their exposure to dust, including from litter.
Once your cat has the good foundation of an initial checkup and you’re armed with any background information that will help avoid potential issues, the next major choice you will need to make is whether you will have an indoor or outdoor cat. Although you may think keeping your cat outdoors is good for providing the most natural environment, it also drastically increases the risk for disease and injury.
Even the American Red Cross recommends, “It is best not to allow your cat to roam outside. Your pet might be hit by a car, be injured by other animals, eat poisonous materials, bite someone, contract and spread diseases (including rabies), get lost or stolen or become a victim of abuse.”*
By keeping your cat indoors, you’re ensuring its safety and giving yourself a little peace of mind. If you do choose to let your cat go outdoors or to have a wholly outdoor cat, make sure it has proper ID tags on its collar. Also, always check your car engine in cold weather to ensure your cat’s not on top of it trying to keep warm and remove any harmful plants from your yard (two big preventable risks for outdoor pets).
Indoors, you still need to make sure that the environment will be as safe as possible for your cat. Here’s a list of common trouble-causers and how to avoid them:
- Don’t leave objects stacked precariously, because your cat may try to climb and would get hurt if the stack topples over.
- Keep household cleaners, laundry detergents and other potentially harmful products locked away.
- Make sure you don’t have any plants that could make your pet sick. You can find a complete list of toxic plants to reference on the ASPCA website and always refer back to a list like this when you get new plants in the home.
- As with car engines, the American Red Cross also recommends to check chimneys, dryers, sofa beds, trash compactors and other large appliances to make sure the cat hasn’t crawled in before you use it.
Once the environment is safe, you can maintain your cat’s healthy more easily with proper diet, regular grooming and constant vigilance against disease-carrying fleas and other pests. The final step in preventive care is to be consistent with regular yearly check ups with your vet. This ensures no issues have arisen in the past year, keep them current on vaccines and provide important indicators of potential problems, like changes in weight or coat quality.
For more information on how an indoor environment with an automatic litter box system can contribute to maintain your cat’s health, see our article on the Benefits of an Automatic Litter System for more information.
Recognizing Symptoms & Basic First Aid
“The best way to recognize and respond to an emergency is to know what is normal for your cat and to know how to recognize an emergency.”
Cats are largely creatures of habit, so if you can get used to your cat’s habits, you can see a potential problem at its earliest stages. Things that you need to watch include:
- Food and water intake
- Amount of urination / deification
- Decrease in energy / excessive sleeping
- Weight loss
- Fur loss
- Excessive scratching
- Bumps, bites, dry skin or skin rashes
- Loss of balance / coordination
- Panting (cats actually only do this when distressed or frightened)
The sounds your cat makes can also be another strong indicator of how your cat is feeling. “A cat’s meow is truly [its] attempt to communicate with us. Cats do not usually meow at other cats, only to us humans!” From purring to meowing, each sound has a specific meaning in being vocalized, so get accustomed to your cat’s normal sounds, so you can recognize sounds of distress when they’re voiced.
Once you’ve recognized there is an issue, take your cat to the vet immediately and provide as detailed of an account as possible of the symptoms you see. Remember, the information you provide can make or break a vet’s diagnosis because you have 24/7 access to the animal and the symptoms it’s displaying.
For emergency situations, both the American Red Cross and ASPCA recommend that you have a basic first aid kit for your pet. It should at least include:
- Adhesive tape
- Sterile dressings
- Rectal thermometer
- Antiseptic ointment
- Cleansing solution / rubbing alcohol
- A clean towel and cloth Glucose paste (for diabetic kitties)