True Care Veterinary Hospital

TRUE CARE FELINE PREVENTIVE GUIDE

The following preventive care guidelines are to help you help your cat live a long and healthy life. Cats are often forgotten when it comes to routine veterinary care. They give little sign of illness until it is often advancing or too late. ALL pet cats should be seen at least yearly for a physical examination and weight check. It is essential that you are familiar with your cat’s routine so that you can note any changes – even small changes can indicate there is a problem. Please note that these are only guidelines and are not a comprehensive discussion of the unique preventive and wellness needs of cats. Use us as a resource.

As of time of writing, there is an epidemic within veterinary medicine concerning cats. That epidemic is a lack of routine care for our pet cats – the number one pet in the USA. Dogs typically are taken to the veterinary office at least annually for routine wellness exams and are more likely to be taken in for re-checks of medical problems. Cats are often brought in when it appears that they are sick and, unfortunately, for some cats, that’s too late.

Annual physical examination

  • During a physical exam, we can listen to any concerns you may have about your cat’s routine at home and whether there may be problems, especially their oral cavity.
  • We will check all the major body systems and assess body and muscle condition scoring.

Body and muscle condition scoring

  • These are often the first problem noted in cats with illness but are easily missed at home.

Diet and feeding strategies

  • Cats are predators not couch potatoes.
  • Many cats have a hard time properly digesting the various types of kibble.
  • Some cats do not prefer canned or moist food over dry food.
  • Many cats do not drink enough water.
  • Excess weight in cats places them at high risk for the development of diseases such as diabetes and fatty liver (hepatic lipidosis).

Behavior

  • Cats are naturally curious animals and require an environment that stimulates them.
  • Cats who do nothing but eat and lay around all day will develop poor health and may become poor groomers – they don’t care.
  • Almost all behaviors demonstrated by cats are predatory (hunt/kill) – these activities can be encouraged through toys and interaction.
  • Cats will become stressed in multi-cat conditions in which subtle inter-cat aggression can occur – these can lead to a variety of disorders and behavioral problems such as inappropriate urination, lower urinary tract disease and issues with food.

Vaccinations

  • All cats are legally required to have current rabies vaccination.
  • It is recommended that they also receive their upper respiratory vaccination until they are at least 10 years of age – especially in multiple cat households and for cats that go outside.
  • Cats that regularly go outside should be vaccinated for feline leukemia after testing negative.

Parasite control:

  • Once cats have received routine parasite treatments when they are kittens, the need to deworm them depends on their lifestyle or exposure to fleas – cats that spend time outdoors should be dewormed at least twice yearly.
  • Fleas are always a concern, especially for cats that go outside – fleas transmit a variety of diseases to cats and can pass along tapeworms.
  • Cats can acquire ticks, and while not much is known about whether cats get tick disease like dogs, they can bring ticks into the house where people and other pets are exposed.

Know your cat’s routine!

Paying attention to how your cat eats and how much they drink is important. Equally important is how often they use the litter pan and how consistent the clumps and stools are. Changes in these may signal a significant medical or behavioral issue. Cats should do cat things: perch and observe, groom and have short periods of play with naps. They should be engaged with you and you with them – cats who hide are not doing well at all (they are stressed and will eventually get sick). They should groom and take care of their coats.

The litter box = the bathroom!

There should be one litter pan per cat plus an extra one. If you have one cat then have two pans, or possibly one larger pan. Litter pans should never be in high traffic areas or where there is equipment or machinery that make noise or emit unusual sounds. Litter pans should never be placed near food or water dishes. Cats prefer a secluded, quiet and comfortable area to toilet – if this is not provided, they will find a place that suits their needs but not yours! Stay consistent with the litter type as long as they are using it without issue – initially, this can be trial and error – we all have preferences. Inter-cat aggression can revolve around competition for litter pan availability.

Scoop the litter box TWICE daily – this can make a huge difference. Think about going in to a public restroom and the toilets are not flushed! Follow the guidelines on the litter container – most litters should be kept at about 3-4 inches depth to allow adequate ability for cats to cover things up (some cats do not cover their stools!) Pans should be emptied of all litter weekly and washed clean and dried – try not to use bleach or chemicals which could leave residual odors. Mild soap and water are all that is needed.

As cats age, they may have issues getting into and out of litter pans and may start using the floor – its less uncomfortable. For very old cats, an old baking sheet is ideal.

Litter pan covers do not work with every cat. If you use one, we recommend scooping twice daily so that odors do not build up to prevent the cat from wanting to use the pan.

If you decide to try another litter do not switch abruptly. Instead, place another pan near the existing one with the new litter and the cat will let you know if they will use, or even prefer, the new type. Many cats do not like litter that is scented. If anything, adding some baking soda in with the litter can help control odors. Most clumping litters will do a good job of odor control, but nothing beats regular daily scooping.

Feeding your cat

Veterinary nutritionists recommend feeding for life stages – so kitten food for kittens, senior diets for older cats, etc. Cat food typically has a higher protein and fat level than dog food. Cats will also develop a preference for texture and odor – cats have few taste buds so they more or less smell their food. In general, you can follow the feeding guidelines on the food label and this can be changed based on the cat’s level of activity and body weight score. Feeding guidelines are usually in 8oz cup measuring.

True Care recommends meal times and not free choice feeding. Many cats will eat beyond what they need if the food is left out all of the time. This can lead towards obesity and health problems. Food that sits out more than a few hours can slowly become rancid as the fats start to oxidize. Use stainless steel dishes and do not use dishes that are too high or narrow as some cats do not like whisker contact with the bowl. A shallow bowl or even a ceramic saucer may be better. It may be ideal to slightly elevate the bowl as well, especially in older cats. Fresh water should be available at all times and, ideally, should be running (there are many cat fountains which stimulate cats to drink more than they may from a dish). The water should be topped up during the day and changed completely the next morning. Keep food and water well away from litter pans!

Feed cats’ small meals during the day. Treats are fine in-between but do not overfeed these and they are not a substitute for a balanced diet. Some cats eat too fast (bolt their food) which can lead to vomiting – if this occurs, we have to slow the eating down – use a puzzle feeder, puzzle toy food dispenser, or even just sit with your cat and give a little at a time – quality time! Rapid ingestion of food probably stems from competitive stress in the litter – slow down the eating to avoid vomiting.

Grain-free in cats? Grain free diets are fad diets, even with dogs. Wild cats, like wild dogs, eat a variety of things. As of time of writing there is no evidence of grain-free diets contributing to heart disease (as suggested in dogs).

Stray and feral cats

Many communities in Western New York have large populations of stray or feral cats. These colonies pose both health concerns (especially rabies) and can devastate local wildlife populations.

If you feed and care for a colony, you should work towards getting the adults spayed and neutered. There are numerous local rescue groups (such as Feral Cat Focus www.feralcatfocus.org) that may be able to assist you with this HOWEVER, please consider donating as this all costs money and they have to constantly fund raise. True Care can offer guidance on the care of the colony and participates in low cost or feral spay/neuter.

Stray cats, in general, are approachable and you may be able to routine touch them. Feral cats are NOT handleable period and require humane trapping.

What are the most common diseases/conditions that affect cats?

  • Lower urinary tract disease – often caused by stress
  • Obesity – boredom or free/excessive feeding
  • Tooth disease – cats get painful mouths and endure this for years
  • Upper respiratory infection – often precipitated by stress
  • Hyperthyroidism – especially in cats 8 and older
  • Diabetes – often over 8 years and obesity is a major factor
  • Vomiting – not just hairballs, inflammatory bowel disease is very common
  • Diarrhea - often due to primary gastrointestinal disease but stress is an influence
  • Anxiety – especially seen with inter-cat issues in the house, or cats roaming the property
  • Fleas – these parasites are relatively easy to prevent/control, they transmit disease

As you can see, managing stress and getting your cat in yearly are the first steps in disease prevention – it’s about wellness – we should detect and react to disease early!

Additional resources for cat owners:

Dr.Ross + Dr.Hill, owners of True Care Veterinary Hospital

After working at other clinics in the past, we knew we wanted to offer a different level of service and care for our clients - especially how they were treated. We offer treatment options, fair pricing and care we would expect for our own pets and especially enjoy educating our clients. We enjoy doing this every day at True Care and the clients and "their kids" are thrilled!