Pledge health and happiness with this complete cat care guide

This joyous season, give the gift of health and wellbeing to your feline friend. Follow these tips from an expert and take responsible pet parenting a notch higher!

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When you bring a new cat to your house, its optimum health becomes your priority. Your vet will provide a regular health checkup for your cat, routine vaccination against infectious diseases and deworming, tips on health, grooming, ear cleaning, neutering, parasite control, nail trimming and skin problems. If you notice any unwanted behavior, then contact your vet immediately.

A cat’s behavior is usually the best indicator of whether she is healthy or not. If you find any changes in feeding habits, decreased body activity, dull and depressed, sluggishness or restlessness, then you should contact your vet at the earliest.

Eyes – the window to their soul

In healthy cats, eyes should be clear, bright, and free from any kind of discharges. Cats should be alert and confident in and around their surroundings.

Take care of her ears and spread the cheer

The outer part of the ear often becomes dirty and should be cleaned with a cleanser once a week. The sign of a healthy ear is that it is pink and there shouldn’t be any smell, discharge, or crust formation inside it.

The prose of nose

Cats’ nose should be felt soft, velvety and moist upon touch. Nostrils should be free of discharge and there should be no crusting on outer surface. If there is sneezing or any kind of discharge running down the nose constantly, you should get medical help for your pet.

Take care of those pearly whites

Cats require regular brushing with the help of cats’ toothpaste only and it should start from an early age. Pink colored gums, no broken teeth, and no foul smell from the mouth are the signs of good dental health in cats.

You can keep your pet’s teeth healthy by feeding cat food and some soft dental chewable sticks. It also helps in prevention of accumulation of tartar. If the tartar accumulates in the teeth, it may cause bleeding in the gums, bad smell from mouth, and dental infections. Tartar cleaning can even be done by your vet.

Shiny coat is perfect to boast

Healthy cats have glossy, shiny, and soft coat. Cat’s skin should be free of scratches or any kind of wounds. There shouldn’t be any fleas or ticks on her body. Weekly bath is advisable after completing 3 months of age with cat shampoo only. Grooming using a brush should be done regularly and all the loose hair be removed.

Vital genitals

Anal area should be very clean.
Sometimes hair around the anus is soiled with stool resulting in anal plugging. Cats rub and drag their anus against the ground which is an indication of worm load. Live worms can also be seen around the anus. If you notice any of these signs, consult your vet

Perils of Poisoning

Poisoning is not common as cats are careful and selective about their food and will vomit if they have ingested any harmful material. Sometimes they ingest poison accidentally by eating plants, while catching a mouse, ingesting some insecticides. Your cat may also end up by licking its coat contaminated by harmful substances. In such cases consult the Vet immediately.

  • Poisoning: Arsenic, strychnine, thallium and warfarin poisoning causes vomiting
  • Antifreeze agents: lack of coordination, convulsions, coma and vomiting might be noticed
  • Alcohol: vomiting, depression, dehydration, collapse, coma and death may occur
  • Drugs: aspirin, disprin and paracetamol may cause lack of coordination, loss of balance, blue gums and it could become fatal
  • Household cleansers: cause vomiting, diarrhea and nervous signs
  • Insecticides and pesticides: ingestion causes drooling saliva, muscle twitching and convulsions
  • Plant poison: Many plants are toxic to cats which include Christmas cherry, spotted dumb cane, sweet pea, azalea, oleander, lupin, Christmas rose, rhododendron, clematis and delphinium

Be ready for Emergency Care

  • Cardiac massage – Sometimes your cat might suffer from respiratory and heart failure after drowning, getting electric shock, poisoning, injury, and blood loss. If your cat gets unconscious and you see no signs of breathing then you must place your fingers on the chest at the point of elbow and press down gently and firmly. Repeat for 5-6 times at 2-3 seconds interval, alternate this with artificial respiration.
  • Artificial respiration – Cat’s mouth should be opened to ease breathing and clear the airways if any fluid or mucus plug is present. Pull the tongue forward to clear the throat as this may stimulate the breathing process and help the cat to regain consciousness. Place your hands on the chest to apply pressure on the unconscious cat as this may expel air from the lungs allowing them to be refilled with fresh air, repeat this process every 5 sec until she breathes again.
  • Mouth to mouth resuscitation – If the chest area is injured then lungs may not be able to refill the air. In such cases one should directly blow air into cat’s mouth. Hold the unconscious cat in upright position with its mouth closed and breathe in its nostril for two to three seconds to inflate the lungs. Check for chest movement. Pause for 2-3 sec and repeat. Continue this until the cat starts breathing on its own.
  • Drowning –Sometimes a cat may accidentally fall in the pool or water bodies. In such cases, take the cat out of water at the earliest and gently dry it using a towel. If there are no signs of movement then hold it upside down by gripping the hind legs firmly above the hock joint as this helps in draining the water out of her lungs. It can also be done by gently swinging the cat downwards. If there is no recovery then start resuscitation.
  • Fractured leg –If you suspect that your cat has got a fracture, handle her really carefully or she may even bite because of pain. One should lay her on a blanket and then pick her up carefully. Keep the injured leg on upper side and avoid twisting or bending of the body. Put the cat in a carrier or basket and then take it to the vet.

Say yes to Neutering

Neutering is the removal of sexual parts of an animal. All the female cats can be spayed after attaining 8-10 months of age which includes the removal of ovaries. All the male cats can be castrated after 8 months of age. These operations prevent unwanted kittens and prevent conditions like uterine infections including cancer. These also prevent wandering of cats outside the house which may lead to loss of the pet, accidents, fighting, and injuries. Neutered male cats are much less likely to sprinkle their urine to mark their territory. Talk to your vet to know more about it.

The satisfaction of vaccination
Timely vaccination is must for all cats.

Vaccination stimulates the immune system to fight against all infectious diseases. Cats should be vaccinated against panleukopenia, calcivirus, rhinotracheitis, herpese virus, and rabies. Kittens be vaccinated at the age of 2 months, booster dose of same be repeated after 21 days. The third dose of the same vaccine should be given again after 21 days of the first booster.

Vaccine for rabies should be given at the age of 3 months and booster dose to be repeated after a month. After completing this protocol, a yearly pattern must be followed for all the vaccinations.

Parasite prevention

Several external and internal parasites may infect cats. The internal parasites may include roundworms, tapeworms, and certain hookworms. Eggs of these parasites are passed in the cat’s feces. The pregnant cat may even transmit these to the offspring through the placental barrier. Worm infection can cause hair fall, itching, weight loss, anemia, vomiting and diarrhea. Make sure to regularly deworm your pet to prevent against parasites. The dewormer should be given monthly until the cat is 1 year old. Next dewormer be given once in every 2 months until the cat is 2 years old. Quarterly deworming should be followed after 2 years of age.

Cats may get infection from protozoa like toxoplasma. These are intracellular parasites in the digestive tract. It’s of zoonotic importance as it may transmit particularly to pregnant women. Cats may also be infected with heartworms which are transmitted by mosquitoes. Blood tests are the diagnostic tools for complete confirmation of infection. External parasites like fleas, ticks, mange mites and ear mites can be controlled by spot on preparations which is advised by the vet.

Good grooming = good mood

Grooming should be done regularly in cats with the help of cat brush only. It should start at an early age. Its helps in increasing the blood circulation, removes dirt and dust, and ecto-parasites from your pet’s skin. It also helps to remove loose hair from her body. Cats are self-groomers and keep themselves clean by licking their body frequently. Due to this they often end up ingesting hair and formation of hairball inside the stomach. To avoid this, consult your vet for anti-hairball formula. Often electric clippers are required for grooming in long haired cats.

Regular veterinary check-up for
happy and healthy cats

Kittens should be examined by your vet every month until they are 1 year old. After that quarterly examinations are enough. Senior citizen cats i.e., 8-9 years old require examination half yearly for any disorders in kidney, liver, or any other internal organs. Regular vet checkup every 6 months is recommended wherein all tests should be done to rule out any illness or disease.

Trust the magic of medications

It’s very difficult to administer tablet or liquid form of medicines directly to cats. It’s advisable to feed the oral medicines in cat food, gravy or mixed in chicken. Do not forcefully administer the medicines orally as it may end up in trachea causing aspiration and even death.

The nitty-gritty of nutrition

Proper nutrition is required throughout the life. Kittens are in growing phase and balanced nutrition leads to good growth. They also require more calories, protein, vitamins and minerals and some fat is also essential. For adult cats, the nutritional needs are different and so are for momsto- be. Consult your vet to know the best nutritional practices for your pet.

Being a pet parent is a huge responsibility. Make sure you do your best every day to keep your feline friend happy and healthy!

(Dr Hemant Jain MVSc (Surgery), Nagpur)

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