There are several things that you can do yourself to maintain your cats' health.
If you find anything unusual during the checkup, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Like the saying goes, it's better to be safe than sorry.
- Weigh your cat regularly. Also, place your hands on the cat's ribs; you should be able to feel them but they should not be sticking out. Feel all over the cat's body, paying attention to any new fat pouches or lumps.
- Check your cat's fur. It should be smooth all over and free from cuts or scales. Be sure to pay attention to possible signs of fleas (black flakes or specks).
- Check the eyes. The whites of the eyes should be glossy white with no redness. You can pull down the lower eyelid to check for pinkness. Pupils should react to changes of light and you can check this by varying the light sources (although don't shine bright light directly into the eyes).
- Gently examine the cat's ears. They should be clean and pink, with no odour or debris.
- A cat's mouth should also be checked regularly. Move the lips away from the gums and press a finger gently but firmly over an upper tooth. When you remove your finger, the pink color of the gums should return quickly. Check all teeth for any irregularities.
- Look at your cat's claws and paw pads for any cuts or cracks.
Home health checks are good, but they're not a replacement for regular vet visits (at least once a year). Also, keep vaccinations up-to-date.
You can clean your cat's ears, but make sure you do so very carefully. Moisten a cotton ball with a little bit of baby oil and wipe away any dirt or debris from the front of each ear in a circular motion. Do *not* poke into the inside of the ear.
If you have to give your cat a pill, there are many ways to do so. The easiest way (I find) is to hold your cat in a towel or blanket, then gently open his jaw by squeezing the upper jaw and pulling the lower jaw down with a finger. Put the pill on the back of the tongue, then close the mouth. Don't let go yet! Rub his throat until he swallows or licks his nose.
Cats can get many diseases, but there are things that you as a cat owner can do. For some good information about feline diseases, check out Cat Fancy's Feline Library of diseases.
There are many plants that are extremely toxic to cats. These plants can cause serious harm or death, depending on the quantity ingested. If you really want to have one of these plants in the house, make sure they're out of reach, or try sprinkling the leaves with cayenne pepper.
Here are a few signs of poisoning to watch for: continual vomiting, diarrhea, refusal of food, pale gums or tongue, swollen tongue, abdominal pain, and convulsions.
Does your cat vomit due to hairballs? There are natural remedies that you can use to help. Some of these include: one tsp. of bran a day, 1/8 tsp. of unflavored fiber product or unprocessed psyllium hulls a day, or 1 tsp. of canned pumpkin or strained prunes a day. There are also commercial products that are available.
Cats love toys, but it's up to you to make sure all the toys are safe. Rubber bands, beads, buttons, string, ribbon, bells or any small parts can be ingested and can cause your cat problems.
If you can, keep your cat inside. This will protect your cat from disease, accidents and abuse. Indoor cats, on average, live longer than outdoor cats.
There is much debate about declawing a cat. I have an opinion about this, but remember, this is only my opinion. Outdoor cats should never be declawed because it will put them at a real disadvantage when being outdoors (especially when encountering other outdoor cats). The declawing of an indoor cat should only be done as a last resort. If a cat won't stop scratching, and everything has been tried, I feel it's better to declaw a cat and keep it rather than sending it to a shelter or humane society.
One of the most important things you can do for your cat it to have him/her fixed. This increases a cat's life expectancy, reduces various medical problems, reduces the cat's tendency to roam, spray and fight, and can even make training easier and more successful. Check out my spay/neuter page for more info.
The average kitten will start litter box training between the ages of 4 and 6 weeks. There are several Do's and don'ts of litter box training.
- Do keep the litter box clean
- Do have more than one litter box in your home
- Do pay attention to your kitten's litter preferences
- Do keep the litter box in a secluded area
- Do give your kitten praise after litter box use
- Don't use perfumed litters
- Don't keep the litter box near food or water bowls
- Don't use ammonia-based cleaners on the litter box
- Don't allow dogs, children or other cats deny your kitten access to its litter box
Some cats are very tidy when they use the litter box, but some tend to scatter the litter. If your cat is a 'scatterer', try using a woven or rafia mat under the box..this will contain the litter to a smaller area.
If your cat stops using the litter box, there can be cause for concern. There could be several reasons for this change in behaviour, but you'll have to do some detective work to determine the actual cause!
- Medical causes
Visit your vet and tell him/her about your cat's change in litter box behaviour. The vet can perform an x-ray to check for arthritis. Sometimes older cats have pain when climbing in and out of litter boxes and may stop doing so. A urinalysis can be performed to check for diabetes or a urinary tract infection. Be sure to get the vet to rule out intestinal disorders as well.
- Aversion to the litter box
If the cause isn't medical, you'll need to take a look at recent changes. Have you changed the brand of litter lately? Some cats will notice and react negatively. Try changing back to the original brand. Are there any new smells around the litter box? Make sure you clean the litter box regularly, using the same cleaners. Have you moved the box? This can also cause your cat to stop using the litter box. If possible, put the box back where it was. If not possible, try adding a cover to the litter box to add privacy.
- Mood changes and stress
If there are changes in people or mood around the house, sometimes cats will react to this by rejecting the litter box. Spend time playing with the cat...this will let the cat know that he/she is not forgotten about even though there are changes. Cats need to adjust to changes just as people do.
If you catch your cat eliminating outside the box, use a firm 'no'. Pick up your cat and take him/her to the litter box. If he/she finishes in the box, be sure to use praise. Punishing your cat will most likely make the problem worse.
Dry or wet food..which is better? They both can be good, but dry has several advantages. Dry cat food is a good source of nutrition for cats that don't have special nutritional requirements or conditions. It's generally less expensive, neater and more convenient. Several days' worth can be put out, without going bad. This will only work with cats who won't overeat however. Dry food is also much better than wet food with respect to dental care.
Always keep a bowl of fresh water available. If possible, refresh it daily.
Your cat may like 'people food', but table scraps should be kept to a minimum, if at all. Human food is generally not good for cats.
If you do give your cat table scraps, always check for bones before giving anything to your cat. Bones can get caught in a cat's mouth or, if swallowed, can get stuck in the digestive tract.