By: Dr. Jane Matheys
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance
Now that we’re a few weeks into the new year, in addition to making some healthy resolutions for yourself, you should consider making some for your cats! Aside from investing in pet health insurance for your kitty, here are some other ways you can help keep your cats happy and healthy through 2012 and beyond.
1. Examination/Wellness Visit
The importance of a yearly physical examination and preventative care for your cat cannot be overemphasized. Semiannual exams, especially for older cats, are even better. This is analogous to recommending an examination every two to three years for an adult human. Sensible, right? Cats age much more quickly than people do, and changes in pet health status may occur rapidly. Cats are also very good at hiding signs of their illness until it has greatly progressed. More frequent evaluation allows earlier identification of illness, improved quality of life, and reduces long-term costs related to your cat’s healthcare.
2. Dental Care
Dental disease is very common in cats, although owners are often not aware of it until their cat’s breath smells so bad that they can’t ignore it any longer. Dental disease can be very painful, and can threaten your cat’s health and welfare. Tooth brushing is extremely valuable in cats, and is best started during kittenhood when cats are most receptive. Tooth brushing can be encouraged with older cats, too, using positive interactions, rewards and patience! In addition to tooth brushing, a variety of dental products for homecare are available, including diets, treats, and chews.
3. Nutrition and Weight Management
Obesity is on the rise in our pet cats along with diabetes. It is far better and easier to prevent weight gain than it is to get an overweight cat to lose weight. Each cat’s food intake and feeding regimen needs to be individualized to sustain proper body and muscle condition scores. Your veterinarian can give you guidelines to help your flabby tabby drops pounds.
4. Behavior and Environmental Enrichment
Appropriate resources should be available throughout your home: food, water, litterboxes, scratching posts, hiding places, and elevated resting spots. The more cats in the household, the more resources that are needed. This will help eliminate undesirable behaviors like urine marking. Environmental enrichment is especially important for indoor cats. Physical and mental stimulation is necessary to prevent stress and illness associated with boredom and inactivity. See The Indoor Pet Initiative at indoorpet.osu.edu/cats for additional information.
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5. Retrovirus Testing
Retroviruses include Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). It is important to know the status of these two fatal immunosuppressive diseases in your cats. FIV is primarily spread through cat bites, so it is especially important to have your cat tested about 2 months after receiving a bite in a cat fight.
6. Parasite Control
All cats, including indoor cats, are at risk for both internal parasites(roundworms, hookworms, heartworm) and external parasites (fleas) and should receive preventatives against these. Check with your veterinarian as to which parasites are prevalent in your area.
Keep your cats updated on their vaccinations to prevent illness. Vaccinations are no longer given as frequently as they were in the past due to increased knowledge about their duration of immunity. However, even if your cat is not due for vaccinations in a particular year, it is still necessary that he/she receives a physical examination. The exam is the most important part of the veterinary visit! Some pet insurance companies even offer an additional wellness plan to help with the cost of routine care, like vaccinations.
It is a sad fact that many of the pet cats that get lost each year never make it back home because they are not wearing any form of identification. A microchip is a permanent identification that is easily placed under your cat’s skin near the shoulder blades. In addition, have your cat wear a collar and tags with current identification and contact information.
9. Recognize Signs of Illness
Cats are masters at hiding their illnesses, and early signs of sickness, stress and pain can be subtle and difficult to detect. Watch for vomiting, bad breath, lethargic behavior, difficulty urinating, changes in grooming habits, or changes in food consumption.
10. Pet Insurance and Financial Planning
Pet ownership requires responsibility! Budget in the cost of your cat’s daily care, and consider purchasing cat insurance for even greater peace of mind. Companies like Pets Best Insurance reimburse a flat percentage of the actual vet bill!