Cat health and care: what to consider
By Charlotte Stiles
Knowing how to care properly for your cat is the best way to keep them healthy and happy. Whether you’re thinking about getting a cat, or you just want to brush up on your knowledge, we’ve created the guide for you!
In this article, we’ll go through all aspects of cat care, broken down into the following sections:
- Day one considerations – spaying and neutering, microchipping, vaccinations, insurance.
- Daily care – food and water, environmental enrichment, hygiene.
- Monthly care – parasite control, pet sitters.
- Yearly care – booster vaccinations, dental health checks, general health checks.
- Cat health – how to assess your cat’s condition, common signs of a sick cat.
Day one considerations
In this section, we’ll go through things to think about before or shortly after you become a cat owner. Whether you’re buying a kitten, or adopting a cat from a shelter, the points we’ll discuss, will help you give your cat the best start in its new home!
Spaying and neutering
Aside from preventing your cat from having kittens, spaying (female), and neutering (male), a cat has a range of benefits such as (source):
- Increasing your cat’s expected lifespan.
- Decreasing the risk of some tumors and infections in your cat’s reproductive system.
- Minimizing unsociable behaviors associated with finding a mate such as scent marking (males) or vocalization and increased clinginess (females).
- Decreasing the urge to roam, which means outdoor cats are less likely to become involved in fights or traffic accidents.
Veterinary opinions can vary on the best age to spay or neuter a cat, so talk with your veterinarian to find out their recommendation.
Sterilization surgery is frequently performed by most vets, so pet parents can be confident that care will be delivered with a high degree of safety. Healthy pets usually recover from the procedure very well and normally you can take your cat home the same day.
If you’re thinking about spaying or neutering your cat, talk to your veterinarian to discuss the procedure and details regarding post-operative care for your pet.
You can read more about spaying and neutering pets in our article ‘Spay neuter awareness month: what you need to know’.
Although not compulsory everywhere, microchipping and registering your cat is very highly recommended by veterinarians.
Inserting a microchip is a simple procedure that is not particularly painful for your pet (it feels like any normal injection). Following registration, your pet can be scanned by any veterinarian or shelter, which enables them to be reunited with you, in case you become separated!
Similarly, services such as our Lifetime Protection Membership, give you access to lost pet specialists who are available 24/7 to help you become reunited with your pet as soon as possible.
Vaccinating your pet reduces the chances of them becoming sick, and like microchipping, is very highly recommended by veterinarians. Vaccination against some diseases, such as rabies, is even required by law in certain areas.
Vaccination protocols usually start when your cat is around 8 weeks old, with multiple injections and yearly boosters to keep your cat protected. Talk to your veterinarian to find out which vaccines are recommended for your cat.
It might seem a bit of a luxury but enrolling in insurance for your pet can save you a lot of heartache and money throughout your cat’s life. No matter how well you care for your cat, sometimes they become sick for reasons beyond our control.
Having pet health insurance means that, if your cat gets sick or has health issues, you can focus on helping your pet to get better, rather than worrying about the cost.
Now we’ve gone through the less interesting (but very important!) aspects of having a pet cat, let’s look at the fun part!
Food and water
The perfect food for your cat depends on factors such as their:
- Activity level
- Health status
- Body condition.
There is a huge range of cat food available, talk to your veterinarian or a pet nutritionist to help you make the best choice. It’s recommended to give your cat food that has been approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
You can read more about this topic in our article ‘What’s the best pet food for your cat or dog?.
Playing with your cat is not only extremely fun but also encourages them to perform natural behaviors which helps keep them healthy and happy.
A scratching post meets your cat’s needs and decreases the chances of them destroying your furniture. There is also a vast range of cat toys, from balls to water fountains, so you choose the best option according to your cat’s character.
Providing your pet with a cat bed gives it a special place where it can rest and be alone. Be sure to choose one which is an appropriate size for your cat and put it in a suitable (calm and quiet) location.
Depending on your cat’s breed and character, you might want to consider brushing them from time to time. Healthy and happy cats will groom themselves, however, if they allow you to, brushing can be a good way to strengthen the pet-parent bond.
It’s also a good time to check your cat for any injuries or problems. We’ll talk more about that in a later section.
You’ll also need to choose a litter and suitable litter box for your cat. There is a range of types available so you can choose according to your budget and your preferences. You can read more about creating the perfect litter box for your cat in this article.
Monthly care considerations
Let’s now move on to the care considerations to think about on a monthly basis.
Whether your cat goes outside or not, it’s recommended to protect them against parasites such as fleas, ticks, and worms. This can be done by giving them medication you can get following advice from your veterinarian.
Always be sure only to use these products as advised by the manufacturer’s guidelines.
It’s always good to have a pet sitter’s number on hand, in case you need to leave home for a while without a cat. You can ask a willing friend or family member, or search for recommended professionals.
Make sure that the person you ask is experienced, trustworthy, and most importantly, that your cat likes them! Read more about this topic in our article ‘How to find a pet sitter’.
Grooming and nail care
Healthy, happy cats will groom themselves to help keep their skin and fur in good condition. They’ll also make use of a scratching post to maintain their claws. Depending on your cat’s breed and age, they may require a little extra help from time to time.
This may involve you trimming your cat’s claws, brushing them, or taking them to a professional groomer.
Yearly care considerations
Let’s now look at some care considerations for cats on a yearly basis.
To keep your cat protected against some diseases, they’ll need to have booster injections following their initial vaccinations. It’s important to remember to take your cat for their booster injections on time, or else you may have to restart the vaccination protocol again.
Your veterinarian will record all the information about your cat’s vaccines in your pet’s passport so you can check when their boosters are due. Some clinics even offer a reminder service.
Dental health check
Many veterinarians recommend that cats have their teeth checked minimally once per year, regardless of whether they have any symptoms. During the procedure, your vet will put your cat under general anesthesia to examine their teeth and perform cleaning as necessary.
This helps keep your cat’s teeth in good condition and allows potential oral health problems to be treated before they become serious.
General health check
Aside from giving the possibility to diagnose undisclosed health conditions, annual general health checks are beneficial as your veterinarian can advise you whether you need to make any changes in your cat’s routine.
It also gives you an opportunity to ask them any questions you may have. It’s worth noting that some veterinarians even offer a package that combines general and dental health checks, anti-parasite treatments, and vaccination boosters.
Cat health and common signs of a sick cat
Keeping a close eye on your pet and getting to know their habits and routines, is the best way to spot problems early, and increase the chances of a successful diagnosis and treatment.
Spending time with your cat, by playing or brushing them, gives you the perfect opportunity to check on their condition. We’ve created a list of things to look for below:
- Are they carrying an appropriate amount of weight? Vets refer to this as Body Condition Scoring, you can read more about it here.
- Are their ears, eyes, nose, and mouth free of discharge?
- Are their eyes bright?
- Are their gums pink in color, with no bleeding, swelling, or bad breath?
- Do they groom themselves regularly and are their fur and nails in good condition?
It’s also good to check and clean their food bowl, water bowl, and litterbox frequently. This will give you an idea of how much they are eating and drinking and could also help you to spot digestive system problems.
As we’ve discussed through this article, satisfying all your cats needs by providing them with a suitable environment to live in, access to appropriate food and water, regular health checks, vaccinating them, and giving them medication against parasites, decreases the chances of them becoming sick. However, sometimes your pet may get sick due to factors beyond your control.
Spotting signs of a problem early increases the chances of a proper diagnosis and treatment. So we’ve listed some common signs of a sick cat below:
- Behavioral changes – vocalisation, depression, decreased or increased interaction, changes in grooming or sleeping routine, changes in drinking and or urination habits.
- Gastrointestinal changes – diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, or increased or decreased appetite.
- Changes in movement and posture – limping, stiffness, crouching, or ‘hunched up’ posture.
- Changes in body condition – weight loss, poor hair condition, or muscle loss.
Disclaimer: Please refer to the list above as a guide only. If you have any reason to think your cat may be sick, take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
With our Lifetime Protection Membership, you can access veterinary professionals anytime by phone, email, or live chat, so if you think your cat might be sick, you can get the help you need quickly.
You can read more information about sickness in pets in our article ’10 most common signs of pet pain’.
We hope you’ve enjoyed brushing up your knowledge of cat care. Knowing as much as possible about how best to care for your pet and acting accordingly, helps them to live a long and happy life.
The information provided and contained herein are the opinions of Pethealth Services (USA) Inc. which are based on external publication. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Pethealth Services (USA) Inc. assumes no responsibility or liability for any loss, claims or damages arising out of the within content.