October is pet wellness month and because, as veterinarians, we know that you want your fur babies in your life for as long as possible, we’d like to help you put your pets on the path to wellness. We’re taking the opportunity in this blog post to talk about the many ways you can help improve your cat wellness. From prevention and vaccinations to regular exams and watching for symptoms of illness, there are many things you can do to ensure your cat is as healthy as possible. And probably even more so than dogs, cats can be stoic creatures who don’t show signs of pain until they are quite sick, making this all the more important. Read on for five tips for better cat wellness—your favorite furry feline will thank you.
1. Partake in Regular Cat Wellness Exams
It’s all too easy to forego regular wellness exams because, as we mentioned above, cats are very stoic and, thus, often appear healthy even when they could very well be hiding pain or illness. We recommend you do it biannually or annually to ensure that your kitty is healthy from head to toe. We examine their teeth, their eyes, their ears, musculoskeletal system, neurologic system, feel their abdomen, make sure we're not seeing any abnormal lumps or bumps on the body, check their skin under their tail. So it's a full overall exam and discussion with the clients to make sure their pets are doing well.
We'll be looking for any abnormalities that maybe have not gone undetected. For example, ear infections. We get our otoscope, which is a device that we use to look into the ear, to check for any early ear infections. We listen to the heart for any underlying heart murmurs or any lung disease that we can also take. Sometimes cats are good at hiding things and they're hard to find. So using some of these specific techniques that we've learned as veterinarians, we can detect things that maybe the cats are not showing us right now.
Another thing we like to remind people about in order to make sure wellness exams aren’t traumatic for your cat (or you!) is to give your cat time to conquer that carrier. If you get a kitten or even adopt an adult cat, leave the carrier in a high-traffic area with some toys, treats, other comfort items inside so the cat enjoys going in and out. Get them used to it, as the last thing you to do is to use the carrier for vet visits only. If you do this, your cat will likely panic as soon as they see you get it out because they’re, quite frankly, associating it with getting poked and prodded.
2. Watch For Signs and Symptoms That Your Cat Might Not Be Feeling Well
Cats are very good at hiding things, but that is also one of the signs that they're not feeling well—hiding from you. If they’re hiding under the bed or hiding somewhere where they don't normally go or not grooming themselves, those are clear signs something may not be right. Also, cats don’t pant. Any cat that begins to pant needs to be taken to the vet immediately.
Other common signs of a cat not being well are:
- Not eating as much
- Not eating at all
- Drinking more or less water because sometimes increased water consumption can indicate some underlying Diabetes or other conditions
So these are some common signs that we see that cats aren't really feeling well, but the majority of cats tend to hide when they’re under the weather.
3. Early Detection of Health Issues in Cats is Crucial
Early detection goes hand in hand with #2, as you want to watch for signs and symptoms that a cat isn’t well and then give your fur baby prompt attention. Early detection is so important because, if you find the issue early, you potentially can get ahead of it without becoming something so full-blown that now you’re trying to catch up to the issue and getting treatment for what’s going on. So early detection is really the mainstay of cat longevity and wellness. And don't trust your cat's wellness to Dr. Google! If you suspect your cat is in pain, call your veterinarian.
4. An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cat Cures
Again, this goes hand in hand with the others as, if you’re watching your cat for any changes in behavior or health issues, you will hopefully catch any problems early on. However, there are plenty of other facets of cat preventive care, and the first and easily one of the most important are cat vaccinations. These are an essential component of cat care. They include a series of immunizations given to your cat when they are a kitten, and then boosters for these are given over the cat’s lifetime. The reason vaccinations are so important is that they help to prevent potentially fatal diseases that cats can catch, some of which could also be passed on to humans. Some vaccinations are based on the cat’s lifestyle so consult your veterinarian to find out the best vaccinations to get your kitten or cat on the path to wellness.
Cat dentistry is another crucial part of cat preventive care and, sadly, its significance is often overlooked. As mentioned, cats often keep their pain private and the harsh truth is that, by the time the cat is 3-4 years old, they will have developed a gingival disease or other dental diseases that require veterinary care. A proper exam will include dental X-rays and anesthesia before a thorough cleaning but, of course, regular brushing at home will go a long way in making this a more pleasant experience for your cat.
The X-rays are done to reveal the source of any pain in your cat, which can be caused by the following:
- Tooth Loss
- Mouth Sores and Ulcers
- Periodontal Disease
- Gum Disease
Flea and tick prevention is another hallmark of preventive care for cats. Fleas can infest your home and cause severe irritation of your cat’s skin. Ticks are even more dangerous, as the diseases they transmit can be fatal. And unlike what you might assume, both indoor and outdoor cats are at risk for these parasites no matter where you live. Your veterinarian likely has a product or two they favor in this regard, so check with them to keep your cat from these easily preventable parasites.
5. Cat Nutrition is an Essential Component in a Good Cat Wellness Program
Opinions on cat nutrition tend to vary from veterinarian to veterinarian but there is one thing everyone can agree on—low-quality food and cat treats that are high in carbs and fats are bad for your cat’s health. Feline obesity is quite common, so developing and sticking to a good nutritional plan from the time they’re a kitten through their senior years is essential to good health. Most vets will recommend high-quality canned food that’s well balanced but a small amount of kibble is usually okay and can be good for your cat’s teeth. Free feeding is generally frowned upon because cats don’t have a lot of restraint in this regard and will eat until they get sick.
Pet wellness month is a good time to ask yourself whether your pets and, in reference to this post, specifically your cat is up to date on vaccinations, is eating well, getting good dental care, and more. If you’re overdue for a cat wellness visit, please call us today!