Prevention is always better than cure. Conduct regular health checks at home to look for early signs of illness. Be vigilant, as some cats are very good at hiding illness or pain. If you notice anything unusual, contact your vet.
Below is a list of things to consider when health checking your cat:
In addition to examining your cat regularly at home, it is also a good idea to take it to the vet for an annual check-up. These can be crucial when trying to detect subtle changes in your pet's health. If your cat is elderly or has special medical needs, you may need to see the vet more frequently.
Your cat must be immunised to protect it from harmful, or even fatal, diseases.
All cats must be immunised against:
If your cat is interacting with other cats (either inside or outside your home), it probably should have additional vaccinations for Feline Leukaemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).
Kittens should be vaccinated between 8 and 9 weeks of age, with a second injection between 12 and 13 weeks of age. Yearly booster vaccinations is necessary to ensure continuing immunity.
Cats can suffer from several types of worms and parasites including roundworm, hookworm, tapeworm, heartworm and toxoplasmosis.
Intestinal worms in cats can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, anaemia, poor appetite, weight loss and a dull coat. If not treated promptly, worms and parasites can severely affect the health of both your cat and your family.
Fortunately, there are a number of excellent products available to treat and prevent worms and parasites. Products include tablets, pastes and topical products that are applied to the back of the cats neck. Kittens should be wormed monthly from 6 to 16 weeks and every 3 months thereafter.
If your cat is contained to your property and is not able to hunt or associate with cats which do hunt, it is much less likely to contract worms.
Ask your vet about a suitable worming program for your cat.
There are a range of diseases which our pets can pass onto humans. These can also be referred to as zoonoses.
Worms, ring worm and toxoplasmosis, in particular relate to our children, pet dogs and cats. Good hygiene practices, regular worming and flea treatment and keeping your environment free of cat and dog faeces will go a long way to minimise the risk of these and other diseases being passed on.
Fleas are blood-sucking parasites that can cause a number of problems for your cat, including the transmission of disease and parasites, skin irritation, itching and anaemia (if present in large numbers). Fleas may also cause your cat to develop a flea bite allergy that will require treatment by a veterinarian.
Be aware that fleas spend most of their life off your cat, so just because you cannot see them does not mean your cat does not have them. Fleas can also infest your home, biting people and causing irritation.
Fleas are not difficult to treat. They love to breed in warm, dirty areas where they will not be disturbed. Infestation can be prevented by regular washing of your cat’s bedding and vacuuming carpets, floorboards, cracks and crevices.
Talk to your vet to find out which treatment and preventative products are suitable and safe for your kitten or cat. Some flea products are combined with worm treatments and can be administered as a convenient two-in-one treatment.
Ensure that any products you use are specifically formulated for cats, as some dog parasite control products can be toxic to cats. Most flea products cannot be used on kittens under the age of six weeks.
Tooth and gum problems occur in 8 out of 10 cats over the age of 3. You can prevent gum disease by regular brushing of your cat’s teeth.
Cats tend to accumulate food debris and bacteria on the outside of their teeth, causing plaque. The plaque hardens to form tartar, irritating the gums and causing gingivitis and loss of teeth. Bacteria from your cat’s teeth can even enter its bloodstream, damaging its kidneys and other organs.
It is important to brush or wipe your cat’s teeth regularly. If your cat is very young, do not attempt to brush its teeth, but gradually encourage it to have its teeth inspected and touched.
Follow these simple steps to brush your cat’s teeth:
If your cat is resistant to being touched in the mouth, oral hygiene gels are available that can be given directly to your cat or placed in its food.
Dental chews are also available, as well as special dry food diets that contain fibre and exert a brushing action as your cat chews.
Your cat may be suffering from dental problems if:
When gingivitis is severe, cats may even drop food from their mouths and lose weight because they are unable to eat.
Contact your vet if you have concerns about your cat’s dental health.
Cat flu is a general term used to describe a common set of symptoms of the upper respiratory tract.
Cat flu is usually caused by Feline Herpes Virus (FHV), Feline Calicivirus (FCV), Feline Reovirus, Bordetella Bronchiseptica or Feline Chlamydophila.
Symptoms of cat flu include:
Cat flu is spread through direct and indirect contact. Direct contact is via eye, nose or mouth discharges. Indirect contact includes via contaminated food bowls, bedding etc.
If you are visiting multiple breeders or shelters on one day, advise them beforehand. Some breeders will ask you not to visit them if you have been to another cattery, to reduce the chances of transmitting diseases.
Treatment depends on the cause of the cat flu. There are no drugs for viral infections and supportive care is essential to ensure that your cat recovers. Supportive care includes keeping the nose clear of discharge and encouraging your cat to eat and drink. Seek advice from your vet about the best treatment options for your cat.
No, it is not possible to catch a cold or flu from your cat, nor can your cat catch a cold or flu from you.
To stop the spread of infection between cats you should always wash your hands properly and change your clothes after handling a cat with cat flu, or a high-risk cat (such as a stray or a cat from a shelter).
If a cat contracts FHV or FCV, it always will be a carrier. Carriers show no outward signs of infection, but may expose other cats to infection. There can be an occasional outbreak at times of stress (pregnancy, lactation, overcrowding, poor nutrition, new family member) or sickness.