Your pet cat
With owning a cat comes responsibility as well as much joy You can make a major contribution to your pet’s longevity, happiness and quality of life by providing him with good nutrition, loving attention in a safe, sanitary environment and regular checkups at your veterinarian’s.
Basic Cat Care
Spaying or Neutering your cat/kitten
Many veterinarians believe that spaying or neutering not only helps solve the serious problem of a burgeoning population of unwanted cats but also makes for friendlier, easier-to-live-with pets. Spayed female cats are more relaxed, playful and affectionate, while neutered males are calmer and less likely to ‘spray’ or urine-mark their territory, wander away from their home or fight. Plus, sterilization has health benefits – it minimizes the risk for breast cancer in females.
Spaying removes the uterus and ovaries of a female cat, usually around the age of six months. A major surgical procedure, it is performed under general anesthesia and most often involves an overnight stay at an animal hospital. Complications are rare and recovery is normally complete within ten days.
Neutering, also carried out under general anesthesia, removes the testicles of a male cat. The small wounds that result usually heal in about a week. Less complicated than spaying, it is often performed on a ‘day surgery’ basis when the cat is 6 to 12 months old.
Your Geriatric Cat
When is the best time to start caring for your ageing pet? When he’s a kitten. Starting off your cat’s life with good nutrition, scheduled veterinary appointments and a happy home life sets the blueprint for a high quality of life in his older years. Most cats are considered geriatric by the age of 8 to 10. Much like humans, time takes its toll on vital organ functions as your cat ages. Cats are more subtle than dogs in showing you when they are sick or in pain. Paying attention to your cat’s behaviour will make detecting problems easier and help them live healthy lives well into their teens.
What you can do at home
- Check your cat’s mouth, eyes or ears regularly. Watch for loose teeth, redness, swelling or discharge.
- Keep your pet’s sleeping area clean and warm.
- Make fresh water available at all times.
- Maintain a regime of proper nutrition and loving attention.
How old is your cat?
|If your cat is…||In human terms, that’s|
Obesity is a big health risk. An older cat is a less active cat, so adjustments to your pet’s diet to reduce caloric intake are imperative. This will relieve pressure on his joints as well as manage the risks of heart failure, kidney or liver disease, digestive problems and more. Other changes to his nutrition should include increasing fiber, fatty acids and vitamins while decreasing phosphorus, sodium, protein and fat.
Arthritis’ severity can range from slight stiffness to debilitation. You may detect this problem when he becomes less attentive about his grooming and litter box habits. These signs may also indicate the slowing down of his cognitive functions. Anti-inflammatory medication can help relieve the pain. Your veterinarian will prescribe any necessary medication.
Intolerance to hot and cold temperatures occurs because your cat produces less of the hormones which regulate the body’s normal temperature. Move his bed closer to a heat source. If he is an outdoor cat, avoid letting him out on cold days.
Tooth loss or decay not only makes it harder to chew but also increases the likelihood of infection or tumours. Cats are very sensitive to oral pain. Brushing and cleaning the teeth will keep tartar, gum disease and gingivitis at bay.
Constipation may point to colon problems or hair balls. A diet that is easily digestible and rich in nutrients is essential.
Skin or coat problems in ageing cats means the skin loses elasticity, making your pet more susceptible to injury while the coat’s hair thins and dulls over time. Regular grooming to maintain the coat’s luster and fatty acid supplements are highly beneficial.
Frequent colds and infections may indicate an impaired immune system. Bring your cat in for a check-up. Your veterinarian may suggest a test for Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.
Increased thirst is a possible sign of diabetes, kidney failure or hyperthyroidism. Your veterinarian will determine this and prescribe the appropriate medication.
Decreased sense of smell may drastically reduce your cat’s appetite. Try serving smaller portions more often throughout the day. Ask your veterinarian about foods formulated for geriatric cats.
Your pet counts on you for protection
With major advances in treating serious infectious and other pet diseases, oral disease – most importantly periodontal or gum disease caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar – has become the number-one health problem for cats. It’s estimated that without proper dental care 70% of cats will show signs of oral disease by age three. With your help, your pets can have healthy teeth and gums throughout their lives.
You simply need to provide them with a few things:
• A nutritious diet
• Chew treats
• Regular brushing at home
• Yearly dental checkups by a veterinarian
Good dental health begins with the proper diet
The wrong kinds of food can cause dental distress in pets. Feeding your cat a dry food rather than a moist, canned one will, through its mild abrasive action on the teeth, help remove the bacterial plaque that can harden into tartar. Dry food also provides adequate chewing exercise and gum stimulation. Avoid giving your pet sweets and table scraps as they may also increase plaque and tartar formation. Your vet may recommend the use of special dry foods designed to reduce plaque and tartar buildup, especially if your pet is prone to dental problems due to his breed or individual genetic history.
Brushing your pet’s teeth
Cats need to have their teeth brushed in order to eliminate the dental plaque that can cause tooth decay and the formation of tartar, which can lead to gum disease. You should begin a regular, daily brushing routine as soon as you bring your new kitten home. Even older cats can be trained to accept having their teeth brushed. You simply need to introduce the activity gradually and make the experience a positive one for your pet. Reassure and praise him profusely throughout the process and reward him with a very special treat when it’s finished. Here’s how it can be done:
• Start by dipping a finger in tuna water or warm water.
• Rub this finger gently over your pet’s gums and one or two teeth.
• Repeat until your pet seems fairly comfortable with this activity.
• Gradually, introduce a gauze-covered finger and gently scrub the teeth with a circular motion.
• Then, you can begin to use a toothbrush, either an ultra-soft model designed for people (baby tooth-brushes work well for cats) or a special pet tooth-brush or finger brush, which is a rubber finger covering with a small brush built in at its tip.
• Finally, once your pet is used to brushing, introduce the use of pet toothpaste in liquid or paste form. Most of these contain chlorhexidine or stannous fluoride – ask your veterinarian for his recommendations. Don’t use human toothpaste, as it can upset your pet’s stomach. Your veterinarian may also advise the use of an antiseptic spray or rinse after brushing.
Don’t forget a yearly dental checkup
Doing your best to ensure that your cat receives the proper diet and regular brushing at home will help maintain his teeth and gums in top condition. To provide optimum dental care at home, you need to start with a clean bill of dental health. That’s where your pet’s veterinarian comes in.
They will give your pet a thorough examination of the entire oral cavity to determine whether there are any underlying problems and, especially important, tartar buildup. Brushing removes plaque but not tartar, so if your pet’s teeth do have tartar, your veterinarian will have to remove it with a professional cleaning and polishing, usually accomplished under anaesthesia. After removing the tartar above and below the gum line, your veterinarian may treat your pet’s teeth with fluoride and will provide you with instructions for home care and follow-up.
A few tips:
• Chew treats can help remove plaque, and provide stimulation for the gums.
• Watch out for wood – throwing sticks to dogs or letting your cat pick up a piece of wood with his mouth can result in splinters and gum damage.
• Don’t let your pet chew on hard materials like bones or stones. They can wear down, even break teeth, damage gums and lead to infection.
A few statistics:
• Kittens have their first 26 “milk” or deciduous teeth at 2 to 3 weeks of age. Their 30 permanent teeth begin erupting around 3 months.
• Cats have the fewest teeth of any common domestic mammal.
• Puppies develop their deciduous teeth at 2 weeks of age, with their 42 permanent teeth starting to appear at 3 months.