CAT'S CORNER

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Keeping Your Cat Healthy

You can help your cat live a long life by offering her the care and attention she needs through all the stages of her life. Although cats are very independent animals, you are ultimately responsible for their health and physical well being. Your cat obviously needs a balanced diet to keep her fit - but she also needs shelter, general care and companionship to keep her healthy and happy throughout her life.

Your veterinarian
Vaccination
Worming
Fleas
Neutering

Your veterinarian
Your greatest ally in the prevention of health problems is your veterinarian. Make sure you register with a vet and find out how to arrange appointments and business hours. Your vet will advise you on vaccinations, worming, feeding and general health care for your cat.

When you need to visit the vet with your cat, take her in a strong cat carrier. A good carrier will keep her from escaping, and will separate her from other animals in the waiting room that might frighten her or pass on infection. If your cat is sick, the vet will need to know all the details about her illness. So have all the necessary information readily available.

Remember, always consult your vet or the trained staff at the clinic if you are in doubt about your cat's well being. Don't try to treat your cat with your own or any other pet's medicine - cats are very susceptible to the toxic effects of a number of drugs used for other species.

Most vets keep regular business hours, but also have a go-to clinic for after hours emergency care. Make sure you have that number on hand in case your cat becomes very weak or collapses, is injured or losing blood, has sudden difficulties in breathing, loss of consciousness, uncontrolled seizures, continuous vomiting, diarrhea or any other severe or worrying symptoms. Keep in mind that emergency clinics are specialized, so they cannot give the kind of comprehensive care your normal vet can -- and emergency vets may charge more for similar services.

Vaccination
In the past, infectious diseases such as Feline Infectious Enteritis (panleucopenia), Feline Calicivirus (FCV), and Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) were a significant cause of illness in cats. Vaccination against these and other diseases has effectively reduced their incidence. However, vaccination requirements vary among countries and regions, so discuss a suitable vaccination program with your vet.

Vaccinations require an initial course of injections, followed by booster injections at various times throughout your cat's life. Remember, these booster injections help maintain her immunity, but they also provide a good opportunity for your vet to do a full health check. Use this opportunity to ask any questions about your cat's health, but do not wait until a booster is due before seeking advice for a medical complaint. Remember, always consult your vet or the clinic's trained staff if you are concerned about your cat's well being.

Worming
As part of your cat's general health care, you need to treat her regularly for roundworms, especially if she is in close contact with young children. Most adult indoor/outdoor cats should be wormed routinely every six months - but if you actually see worms, treat your cat more often. There are many safe, effective products available, which will eliminate these worms, and your vet will be able to prescribe a suitable treatment.

Tapeworms may also be a problem from time to time. If your cat is infected, you will see tapeworm segments in the fur around her anus or in the feces. (The segments look like grains of rice that sometimes move.) Occasionally, you may see a larger segment of the tapeworm, which will be flat and ribbon-like.

Your cat might contract one type of tapeworm by eating rodents, which carry the intermediate stage of the parasite. Fleas transmit another type, so you must treat your cat for fleas if you notice any tapeworms. Ordinary roundworm tablets are not effective against tapeworms - ask your vet about appropriate treatments.

Fleas
Some cats may have fleas but show no signs of irritation; most will react by licking, scratching and biting themselves excessively, especially along the back and around the base of the tail. Some cats are actually allergic to the flea's saliva, and for them, the bite of a single flea is enough to provoke a violent skin reaction. Look for brownish-black fleas moving through your cat's fur, or for dark specks of material ("flea dirt") in her coat.

Your vet will recommend a suitable de-fleaing treatment and an effective flea eradication program. If you buy flea powders or sprays from a store or pet shop, check that they are suitable for cats and kittens. Always follow the directions carefully and remember to treat other pets in the household as well.

If you do find that your cat has fleas, you must also treat her environment, because fleas spend more of their life away from their host than on their host. Remove all of your cat's bedding and wash it well in hot water, along with the box or basket. (Dusting powder in the blanket or box is also helpful.) Vacuum thoroughly around the carpets, baseboards and furniture. You should also use an insecticidal powder or spray, which has been designed for use in the environment; the residue is then vacuumed off a few hours after application. Remember that most of these products are not suitable for direct use on your cat.

Neutering
Unless you are planning to breed your cat, it makes sense to have him or her neutered. In males, or tomcats, the operation is referred to as castration; and in females, or queens, it is known as spaying.

Male cats that have not been neutered tend to wander for long periods from home and often return home with wounds and injuries from fighting. They also mark their territory - including the contents of your house - by "spraying" objects with their urine - which has a particularly unpleasant smell. Castrated male cats make better house pets, fight less and tend to live longer than intact tomcats.

If not spayed, female cats come into heat regularly and, if not kept indoors, are likely to become pregnant. During the time they are in heat, they are extremely noisy and very attractive to the neighborhood toms. A queen may have one to four litters per year, with up to eight kittens in each litter.

Your vet will advise you when your cat will be mature enough to have the operation. For both sexes, the surgery is routine, and recovery is usually very quick. Most vets will keep your cat at the clinic overnight, and once the patient arrives home, he or she should be kept indoors until the wound has had time to heal.

Always follow the advice of your vet.

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