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THE HEALTH AND WELLBEING OF YOUR CAT

An important responsibility for any cat owner is to ensure their pet is healthy and content. Unfortunately, owing to the fact that cats are generally perceived to be low-maintenance pets and can be got at relatively low cost, this vital duty of care is often overlooked by owners.

Added to that, cats are naturally geared to hide signs of pain or discomfort, for to do so in the wild would decrease their own chances of survival, and so often the first signs of ill-health are often overlooked.

It is therefore necessary for each and every cat owner to not only keep a watchful eye on their pet for telltale signs of disease and injury but to also take preventative steps to ensure their cats remain healthy and they receive regular veterinary check-ups at a qualified practice.

It is important to emphasise that indoor cats should be shown the same level of care and oversight. Accident, injury, and infection can all occur within the home. Stress, which is frequently experienced by indoor cats, is a common cause for many debilitating feline illnesses, including Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and chronic skin disease.

By practicing a blend of observation and prevention, you can provide your cat with a better chance at a happier, healthier, longer life.

FINDING THE RIGHT VETERINARY PRACTICE FOR YOUR CAT

Whether you’re considering getting a cat or already have one in your life, part and parcel of owning a pet is being registered at a veterinary clinic. If you had to ask most pet owners, they would tell you that they simply chose the clinic that was nearest to them. Now, that may not have been the wrong choice, but it does not necessarily mean it is the right one.

So what factors should you consider when looking for a veterinary practice to register your cat? What are your cat’s current medical needs, factoring in its age and health status?

Does the practice have knowledgeable and caring staff?

Even before setting foot in a veterinary practice, you should consider going online and reviewing their website, and in particular the page about their team. What qualifications do the lead vets hold? Are any of them specialists in feline veterinary medicine? Is each vet responsible for his or her own caseload, or will your cat be handed over to a different member of the team depending on the day of the week?

How much care and consideration do the staff show toward your cat? Having the knowledge to treat your pet is one thing, but there should also be a sense of genuine care and interest, best expressed by how they relate to your cat in what can be a strange and stressful environment. One way to assess a clinic’s attitude toward its feline clientele is to see if they provide cat-only appointment times so that your pussy doesn’t have to share the reception area with a bunch of barking dogs.

Consider the layout of the practice itself:

The ideal, of course, would be that a veterinary practice’s reception area would be large enough to cater for separate waiting areas for cats and dogs. Similarly, separate consulting rooms would be advantageous, as the smell of previous animals would linger in that room. Congratulations if you are able to find such a clinic, for it is indeed rare, owing to the limited size and cost of commercial space available. Instead, you should consider how a practice makes up for this by offering alternative arrangements, such as cat-only appointments, as mentioned above?

Cats prefer to be high up from ground level, especially when there are dogs around. Does the practice offer a safe space for you to place your cat carrier beside you and off the floor? Is there space on the reception counter for you to place the carrier when you go to pay for your cat’s consultation or treatment? These are important considerations, especially if there are dogs in the waiting room.

In the consulting rooms, does the practice utilise synthetic pheromone dispensers to put their cat clientele at ease? These synthetic analogues to feline pheromones can help, especially if the consulting room has been used for both cats and dogs, as they communicate to the cat that this is, in fact, a safe environment to be in.

Finally, if your cat has undergone surgery it may require some time to recuperate in the post-operative ward. At the very least, does the practice provide separate wards for cats and dogs? Ideally, no dog should have to pass through the cat area, as the last thing your cat needs whilst recovering from surgery is to be stressed out by the sight or sound of an equally unwell hound!

Post-operative Care & Follow-ups:

Providing a safe place for your pet to recuperate is one thing, but what other post-operative care does the practice provide?  Do they give appropriate information when your pet is released to you, be that for how long it should be rested or how to dispense medication?  Do they offer a follow-up consultation or contact details of a nurse should you have some basic question regarding your pet’s aftercare?

Image © Halfpoint / courtesy of Shutterstock.com

What this essentially boils down to is how well does the veterinary practice manage to segregate the species in all aspects of care. Inevitably, no practice will be able to ensure absolute separation at all times, but then how do they mitigate the effects of that?

How does the practice deal with out of hours and emergencies?

Most veterinary practices will state that they offer 24-hour emergency care, but it is important for you to know who will be covering those shifts, as it rarely is the veterinary staff from the practice itself. Indeed, sometimes it is not even in the same clinic as the one you frequent but at a veterinary hospital further away!

Some practices may only offer out-of-hours care for recuperating patients, but does this mean that someone will be present throughout the night, or will your cat be left to recuperate in the cat ward by itself while the practice shuts down for the night?

What a practice means by ‘out-of-hours care’, and knowing the associated cost, should factor into any decision you make as to where to take your cat for its veterinary check-ups and treatments.

Putting pets before profit:

Don’t base your decision on any pet healthcare plans or membership schemes that a practice may have on offer. Research your cat’s needs in relation to what is actually on offer, and if you genuinely feel that the benefits they include are indeed warranted, even if it means locking yourself in with that practice for the duration of that scheme, then by all means consider it, but don’t make it an overriding reason to join that practice. Knowledgeable and caring staff are far more important when it comes to the health and wellbeing of your cat.

Get referrals:

Unlike dog lovers, cat owners don’t tend to congregate in parks to trade stories about their pet or to inform others of the service they’ve received at their local vet. Nevertheless, it is important to get a few good referrals of a practice before registering your cat there. Read reviews online, ensuring that any glowing reports have been written by cat owners, and consider knocking on a few of your neighbours’ doors – at least those that own a cat! – and get their opinion.

PREVENTATIVE CARE FOR CATS

A lot of your cat’s potential health issues can be prevented, or any long-term effects mitigated, when caught early. All that is required is that you monitor your cat regularly, observe its appearance and note any changes in its behaviour. By doing so, you may just save yourself and your feline friend a lot of pain and expense.

Diet and nutrition:

Simply by providing your cat with the appropriate quality and quantity of food and clean water, and sufficient space to exercise, you can help your cat maintain optimum health. Sadly, obesity in pets is a growing trend, and the cause for much of this is due to their not being provided nutritiously balanced meals and sufficient physical stimulation.

Ironically, though, when it comes to quality, it may be that we are providing our cats with too much of a good thing as opposed to too little! Premium foods tend to be high in fat content, and if your cat is an indoor cat or leads a sedentary lifestyle, then this can quickly result in your cat becoming overweight, especially if you employ free-feeding with no portion control.

Obesity coupled with a sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of your cat becoming diabetic. While most dogs suffer from type 1 diabetes, cats are prone to type 2 diabetes, which tends to be progressive and medication is often required. There is some evidence to suggest that cats not treated within six months of contracting diabetes are less likely to go into remission, so this is one area where both keen observation and prevention is key.

Overweight cats are also more prone to joint problems as they grow older, and those suffering from osteoarthritis will experience a faster progression of this debilitating disease with greater pain and loss of mobility.

How to Tell if Your Cat is Overweight:

Looking down at your cat, is he hourglass-shaped or egg-shaped?  When you feel his sides, can you feel the ribs?  If you can’t, then he should shed a few pounds.  If you see the ribs, then he could use a few more pounds!  Ideally, you should be able to feel ribs without seeing them.  Does he have a pendulous undercarriage?  This alone should not be taken as a sign he is overweight.  Some cats have a primordial pouch, which is a loose flap of skin under the belly.

Image © Ivonne Wierink / courtesy of Shutterstock.com

The best way to ensure that your cat remains healthy and slim is to feed it on a primarily dry food diet, saving canned or wet food as a weekly treat. But even then, don’t skimp on quality. Learn how to read the pet label and ensure you are providing your cat with kibble that is high in animal protein. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they cannot sustain a primarily plant or grain-based diet.

Allowing your cat to decide when it wants to eat as opposed to dishing out the kibble at a select time of day is generally recommended, but if you are providing food that is high in fat then it would be best to ensure you maintain a set portion that is put out each day, so essentially free-feeding but with a cap on it! Of course, this may be difficult to maintain in a multi-cat household, in which case you may need to have separate microchip food bowls for each animal to ensure there isn’t one glutton while the rest go hungry..

While we are talking about food, be aware of those products that are for human consumption but toxic to cats, like chocolates, grapes, and raisins, and keep them out of paw reach.

For further information on best practices for feeding your cat, feel free to visit our page on ‘Cat Feeding & Nutrition’.

Grooming:

Cats are fantastic self-groomers. But that doesn’t mean they can’t use your help from time to time. In fact, a weekly groom can do wonders, not only for your cat’s continued health but also as a bonding experience between you and your pet.

Be sure to gently comb off any excess fur, because if you don’t, you’ll just have to clean up the coughed-up furballs later, anyway. It will also give you the opportunity to check your cat for any cuts, scrapes, or wounds it may have received while out on its daily jaunt. It’s also a chance to familiarise yourself with your cat’s body, so that were a lump to appear, you would be able to recognise it as such and take action. Finally, weekly brushing will allow you to monitor your cat’s weight, so that any sudden drop in weight or bloating will be quickly identified.

Check your cat’s eyes for signs of discharge, and then examine its ears. If there appears to be minimal earwax and no debris then your cat may be doing a good job all by itself, but if he is shaking his head a lot and if you notice a dry, black discharge, it may indicate that your cat has ear mites.

Examine your cat’s teeth and gums. Dental issues are a common problem for cats, especially for those on a primarily wet food diet.  Wet food lacks the abrasive qualities of dry food to remove plaque from the surface of their teeth. This can lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease, which brings with it oral pain, bad breath, and difficulty eating. There are plenty of cat-friendly chew toys designed to help keep their teeth clean, but you may wish to consider brushing your cat’s teeth. If so, be sure to use only cat-friendly toothpaste, as human toothpaste contains fluoride, which is toxic to cats.

For more tips on cat grooming, visit our page about ‘Cat Grooming’.

Neutering:

Having your cat neutered not only forestalls the possibility of an unwanted litter, it also mitigates a range of potential health issues that can arise in an intact animal. These include mammary and uterine cancers in female cats, as well as testicular cancer and prostate disease in male cats.

Most male cats lose the urge to roam and overtime are less likely to show aggression toward other male cats, which means less chance of bites and injury. Spayed females will equally be less likely to wander and it will help reduce stress in both sexes should you decide to keep your cat indoors.

In the past, spaying of queens has tended to be more invasive than castrating of tomcats, resulting in a longer recuperation period, but the advent of keyhole surgery has helped to reduce both the trauma and recovery time for female cats.

It is generally recommended to neuter your cat at around four months of age, just prior to its reaching sexual maturity.

For further information on neutering, please refer to our page on ‘Neutering & Spaying Your Pet’.

Vaccinations:

All kittens should receive their initial vaccinations between nine and twelve weeks of age. These should then be followed by annual boosters. Some vaccines are considered ‘core vaccines’, in that they are considered essential for all cats because of the severity and spread of the diseases they protect against. Other vaccines are labelled as ‘non-core vaccines’, and should be provided based on an individual cat’s age, health, and circumstance.

Core vaccines protect against the following infections, some of which are country/region dependent:

  • Feline calicivirus (FCV)
  • Feline herpesvirus (FHV-1)
  • Feline parvovirus (FPV)
  • Rabies

Non-core vaccines protect against the following infections:

  • Feline chlamydophilosis
  • Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica

Adverse Reactions to Vaccinations:

In rare instances, a cat may suffer a mild allergic reaction.  Symptoms may include swelling and redness at the injection site, or around the eyes, lips, and neck, loss of appetite, decreased energy levels or lameness, and a mild fever.  In extremely rare cases such reactions have proven severe or fatal.  Mild to moderate cases should clear within a week, but should still be closely monitored, as moderate cases can worsen overtime to become severe.

Image © Stokkete / courtesy of Shutterstock.com

As a cat grows older its immune system will weaken, and so it is reasoned that senior cats should continue to be vaccinated. But it is equally true to say that by this time most cats will have built up a natural immunity due to their annual boosters, and so may no longer require continued vaccination. This is only the case with core vaccines, whose potency generally lasts up to three years.

Senior cats – especially those that don’t mix with other cats and that live indoors – may not require further vaccination, but that decision is ultimately up to the owner and the veterinary surgeon. Most certainly, though, pets that are in poor health or suffering from an immune-mediated disease or cancer should not be vaccinated.

Antiparasitic treatments:

Just as all cats – whether indoor or outdoor – should be vaccinated, so too should they be routinely treated against parasites. The most common types of parasitic infection that your cat should be protected against include external parasites, such as:

  • fleas,
  • mites,
  • and ticks

Signs of External Parasitic Infection:

You will know your cat has fleas when it begins to scratch a lot, usually accompanied by excessive grooming. A cat that is infected with ear mites will frequently scratch at its ears and shake its head, and you may notice an unpleasant odour coming from its ears. Ticks should be discovered through weekly grooming and removed using tweezers or a tick removal instrument.

Image © Faraonvideo / courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Antiparasitic treatments also protect against internal parasitic infections, such as:

  • heartworm,
  • hookworm,
  • roundworm,
  • and tapeworm

Common signs of internal parasitic infection include loss of appetite with subsequent weight loss, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhoea, with mucousy or bloody faeces.

It is easy to think that your cat will be safe indoors, but all it takes is a single infected rodent to bring a parasite into your home. Similarly, fleas can carry tapeworm, which means any flea infestation carries with it the potential for further parasitic infection.

Cats most at risk are those that are prone to hunt, as many of their natural prey – birds and rodents – are carriers of these parasites.

There are a number of products on the market designed to combat parasitic infection, but it is best to prevent infection in the first instance, so speak with your vet about an appropriate product to combat parasites in your area. Most likely you will be recommended some form of a flea and worm prevention programme.

Training & vigilance:

Most people associate training with dogs, but cats can be trained, too! So teach your cat to respond to its name. That way you can summon him in at night for a quick cuddle and a check-over before going to sleep, and can call to him first thing in the morning to ensure he hasn’t experienced some mischief during his nightly prowl. For more information on how to train your cat, please visit our page: ‘Training Your Cat’.

Vigilance is knowing what signs to look out for that suggest your cat may be in need of a visit to the vet. They may be behavioural changes, such as showing signs of decreased activity, reduced alertness, lack of grooming, or loss of appetite. There may also be visible signs, including sudden weight loss, increased urination or inappropriate toileting, laboured breathing, or a bloated abdomen. Your cat may become withdrawn and isolated, no longer favouring its preferred perches if they can only be reached by jumping.

Stress is not only an effect of illness but also one of its primary causes. A lot of the signs of illness as outlined above are equally expressed in a stressed cat. The best thing an owner can do is to discover the cause of that stress and to diminish its impact on the happiness and health of their cat.

To sum up, there are a whole host of things you can be doing to keep your cat from a visit to the vet, other than going in for its annual health check. Simply take these few things into account and keep an eye out for potential issues that may arise, through monitoring:

  • its weight – is it displaying any sudden weight gain or weight loss?
  • the condition of its coat – is it shedding more than usual, or over specific areas of its body?
  • its gait and behavior – is it limping or showing tenderness or sensitivity on any part of its body?
  • its intake of food and water – is there a sudden shift in its eating or drinking pattern?
  • its faeces – have its stools changed markedly in terms of quantity or consistency?

Taking these few things into account will help you prevent your pet from having to pay a visit to the vet, or more to the point, put up with the stress of such a visit while you pay for the privilege!

COMMON AILMENTS IN CATS

Health problems in cats can be as a result of breed-specific genetic issues, age-related concerns, or environmental/activity-based outcomes. While none of these is necessarily or wholly preventable, there is much that a responsible owner can do to prepare for such eventualities.

Breed-specific concerns:

Just as with purebred dogs, so too are a number of cat breeds prone to genetic health issues and hereditary ailments. These can range from heart and kidney complications, to vision, hearing, and dental issues, and skeletal problems, such as spinal defects, hip dysplasia, and joint problems.

For instance, the British Shorthair, the Persian, and the Exotic breeds are all vulnerable to polycystic kidney disease (PKD), which can result in kidney failure, while the Maine Coone is susceptible to spinal muscular atrophy, which is a progressive muscular weakness beginning in their hind legs. The Maine Coone and the Ragdoll are both predisposed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a thickening of the heart muscle that can lead to heart failure. Even the Siamese, which generally do not have many physical health issues, is more prone to certain types of cancer.

Breeding for Deformity:

Whether it is to achieve the ‘babyface’ of a Persian or the short legs of a Munchkin, many breeds have been deliberately selected to suffer for a ‘cute’ look. Brachycephalic cats suffer breathing issues, ocular discharge, and infections of their nasal folds, while there is mounting evidence Munchkins are prone to lordosis and pectus excavatum.  Is it morally right to deliberately breed animals to achieve a ‘look’ that robs them of their natural proclivities?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Screening tests are available for some but not all inherited disorders, so it is worth knowing for what genetic disorders your cat may be at risk and speaking with your veterinary surgeon to find out if such a screening test is available for those particular hereditary concerns. If you are about to get a kitten, then speak with the breeder and ask to meet its parents. Be aware, though, that the parents themselves may still be quite young, and so may not have yet presented with any symptoms, so it is worth asking how the breed-pair were selected for mating and whether there are any veterinary records for those cats’ parents.

Mixed-breed cats are generally less susceptible to genetic issues brought on by inbreeding.  However,  they will still be prone to any hereditary ailment present in either of their parents.

Aged-related concerns:

As all cats age, they become susceptible to a range of ailments, from vision and hearing problems, arthritis, and cancer. Both chronic renal disease and heart disease are common in senior cats. Diabetes is also a concern, especially if the cat is overweight or obese.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is another common ailment, and presents as a general cognitive decline in a senior cat. For cats suffering such a decline, dietary management and natural supplementation is key, but so too is environmental enrichment, so ensure that the cat still has access to its preferred perches, even if via a ramp, and that there is continued mental stimulation, such as through the use of food puzzles. All this may help slow the degenerative process. At the same time, ensure that the cat is able to gain easy access to the litter tray in order to reduce stress and inappropriate toileting.

Senior cats may also develop degenerative joint disease (DJD). As with any animal suffering arthritis, it is important that they be handled carefully, so be gentle when picking up the cat up or putting it down, especially when moving it in or out of a pet carrier. Ensure that food and water bowls are placed within easy reach of the cat, and, as with a cat suffering cognitive decline, that its litter tray is accessible. It may become necessary to find another litter tray with a lower lip if your current tray has high edges.

No matter how senior the cat, it will always want to visit its familiar spots, so try and accommodate wherever possible by positioning lower lying items that the cat can use as stepping stones to reach those preferred perches, or even create a few ramps for your elderly feline.

Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC):

FIC is brought on by the inflammation of the urinary tract, and is the most common medical cause for abnormal urination in cats. A cat suffering from FIC will find it painful to urinate, and so may show signs of distress whilst toileting. As it will associate its litter box with this pain, this may result in inappropriate toileting elsewhere in the home.

Image © Todorean-Gabriel / courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Environmental & activity-based outcomes:

Cats are acrobatic creatures by nature, leaping from impossibly high ledges, navigating the tops of the narrowest of fences, but even the canniest of felines will sometimes put a paw wrong.

Cats also seem to get into scrapes, be it with the dog next door or another cat around the corner, there will invariably be a time when pussy comes home licking its wounds.

And of course there will always be the risk that the feline fuzzball will eat something it shouldn’t.

Not all ailments will require the immediate intervention of a vet, but close observation would be advised, along with some common sense intervention:

  • Abrasions should be kept clean, allowed to breath, and be given the chance to heal. To that end, an Elizabethan collar, or cone, of appropriate size – one that will not allow your cat to lick at the injured area – may be needed.
  • A cat that is limping or no longer spreading its weight evenly over all four limbs should be seen by a vet, who may simply prescribe some anti-inflammatory medication, although it could be a sign of an more severe injury.
  • Any significant wound should be seen by a vet, as it may require antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication.
  • A cat that has mild diarrhoea should be offered plenty of water and small meals consisting of shredded white chicken with white rice or mashed potato. If there is no sign of improvement within 24 hours, or if the cat’s condition deteriorates, then the vet should be contacted immediately.

Be aware of those human foodstuffs that are toxic to cats, such as chocolate, grapes and raisins, and even cheese and milk, which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in lactose intolerant cats, and try to keep them out of paw reach. There are also plants that are toxic to cats, including Azaleas, Chrysanthemums, English Ivy, Lilies, and Tulips.

Managed care:

There are times when, with the best will in the world, no amount of care can be considered fully corrective, and your pet will be coping with their ailment as a lifelong condition. Conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, and osteoarthritis may require daily medication in conjunction with maintaining a specific diet and supervised activity. It is for eventualities such as these that having the right pet insurance means you are able to provide the best possible lifelong treatment to your feline friend. For more information, feel free to visit our page on ‘Pet Insurance’.

An important factor when giving medication to a cat with specific dietary needs is how that medication is administered. There is no point in maintaining a diet that is nutritionally balanced for a certain condition if the tablets are then parceled in a highly palatable foodstuff whose nutritional value is contraindicated. Consult with your vet about what food the tablet can best be wrapped in to be acceptable to your pet while also maintaining the dietary needs for that condition.

Incontinence in Cats:

Urinary incontinence is most common in older cats and large breeds.  While obesity is a common risk factor, other medical causes include spinal and limb disability, FIC, urinary tract infections, and diseases that cause excessive drinking, such as diabetes and kidney disease.  Diapers can prevent inappropriate toileting but should not be used as an excuse for not instilling proper toilet training or because the cat is exhibiting signs of litter tray aversion.

Image © Shine Nucha / courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Suffice to say that, while a good vet is essential to a cat’s welfare, there is still plenty that the responsible owner can do for their pet in terms of general ailments, both those created from without and those borne from within.

ADVANCED SURGERY FOR CATS

Taking your cat in for surgery can be a stressful time for both you and your pet. Remaining calm and offering your pussycat plenty of support and affection without being too overwhelming is the best salve that you can provide for your feline friend. Be mindful of any pain or discomfort they might be in, provide them with a calm and secure environment, and try to stick to your routine as best you can.

It may be worth investing in a cat cage for such eventualities, for if your cat is really poorly or injured, you may need to keep him in an enclosed space until you to take him to the vet, and most likely you will also need to keep him in there for a time post-surgery until he is properly on the mend. Be sure to get a cage that is sufficiently large as to allow for a small litter tray, as well as for food and water bowls, and space to nap. Some cages come with plastic containers for food and water that can be attached to the side of the cage, but depending on your cat’s circumstance, he or she may not be able to reach them if, for instance, suffering a leg or spinal injury.

Pre-operative preparation:

Speak with your vet about when to stop providing your cat with food prior to surgery. In most instances, your vet will advise that you don’t feed on the morning of the operation, but in some cases this might be extended, with fasting times ranging anywhere between four to twelve hours prior to surgery. A lot of this will depend on the age of your cat and the type of surgical procedure to be performed.

Keep your cat inside the home the night before to forestall any possibility that he is not to be found the following morning. Secure the cat flap and check that all windows are shut to keep him from escaping. But be sure to provide him with sufficient opportunity to toilet to reduce discomfort and stress.

Depending on the nature of the surgery, there is the reasonable chance that your cat will have to stay a short time at the practice to recuperate and be monitored immediately post-surgery. Check with the vet practice whether it would be okay for you to bring one of your cat’s beds or blankets with him to provide as bedding for their post-op care. You may want to include something that retains your own scent on it, as well, for what better way to help with the recuperative process than for your kitty to have the familiar scent of home?

Invest in a cat carrier that can be divided in half, as this will help you to place kitty inside without having to stress him out by pushing him through a narrow door or down through an equally small top hatch. Similarly, the vet will be able to remove the top half of the carrier at the practice and inspect your cat without necessarily having to remove him from the security of the carrier base.

Post-operative care:

It’s well documented that those pets that receive adequate pain management post-surgery enjoy a shorter recovery period. Invariably they begin to eat and drink sooner, and thereby begin to toilet more quickly, which can lead to an earlier release to home-care.

It is important, though, to bear in mind that such pain management needs to be carefully handled by both the veterinarian as well as the owner. If the pain is sufficiently masked so that the cat believes it is well enough to resume its normal activities, this can lead to a relapse of its condition or to further injury.

Cones for Cats:

All dressings should be kept both dry and clean, and an appropriate Elizabethan collar, or cone, should be worn at all times if the cat is keen to lick the wound.  Food should be made available in a saucer, as some cats find it difficult to eat from a bowl while wearing a cone.  It is best to keep even relatively active cats confined to a room, as accidents can occur if the cone catches the lip of a ledge while the cat is jumping up.

Image © Sophie McAulay / courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Keeping your cat caged may be advised based on the nature of the surgery.  Ensure that the cage is placed in a warm, quiet place in the home, but somewhere that the cat will not feel completely isolated. Communicate softly with gentle petting, and avoid avid stroking or handling.

When it comes to giving medication, it is preferable that it be given orally as opposed to mixing it in with food. This way you can be more assured of ingestion, and should the cat vomit the food later you need not worry as to how much of the medication has been absorbed into its system. If you would like to learn how to get your cat to accept medication, please refer to the information on our page: ‘Training Your Cat’.

Giving a Cat Medication:

When giving a tablet, ensure that it is small enough for the cat to swallow.  Hold the cat’s head in one hand firmly but gently.  Using a finger from the hand that is holding the tablet, softly press down on its lower jaw to open the mouth and place the tablet toward the back of its tongue.  While maintaining your hold on the cat, gently stroke it under the chin and down its neck.

Liquid medication should be supplied through a syringe inserted at the side of the mouth.  Squeeze a little at a time so that the cat has the opportunity to swallow and doesn’t end up choking or gagging on the medication.

For cats that use their forepaws to claw at your hands, wrap a small towel around the neck, not too tightly, and pinch it closed behind its head so that the towel covers its forelimbs (as if your cat were at the barber) and proceed as above.

Images © Katho Menden & fotogenicstudio / courtesy of Shutterstock.com

If your cat belongs to a multi-cat household, it might be worth procuring a pheromone dispenser containing the synthetic analogue of the feline allomarking pheromone, known as Felifriend. Synthetic F4 is known to reduce inter-cat aggression and increase the tendency for cats to approach and show affiliative behaviour. This will help when introducing your cat back into its community, especially if it has been gone for a while.

RESEARCH:

Veterinary science, especially as it pertains to cats, is a dynamic field, with ongoing research and breakthroughs. Whether it is in the field of pharmacology, diet and nutrition, or surgical practices, new drugs, better-formulated food, and improved medical procedures are constantly being tested and rolled out.

In order to keep abreast of all these innovations, those employed within the veterinary industry will regularly attend lectures and workshops – often referred to as CPDs, which stands for Continuing Professional Development.

While it may be difficult to contemplate right now, it is worth considering whether you would be prepared to donate your cat’s body toward this further education of veterinary surgeons once your beloved feline has passed on. Much as with humans who donate their bodies to science, your cat would be able to help both the vets of today to learn new and more advanced procedures, as well as the vets of tomorrow to improve their skill and knowledge of animal anatomy. What better legacy can your furry friend bestow once it is gone than to assist those who will be caring for the next generation of cats?

Mull it over while in the company of your pet, and if you feel this would be the right path to take, then speak with your veterinary surgeon to see if they know of any local veterinary colleges or universities that would accept or collect your pet’s body once it has passed on.

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