Cat Health Care: General Guidelines

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Healthy orange tabby cat looking straight ahead lying down

Having a healthy cat is what we all hope for, and as caregivers it's up to us to manage our cats' health. Here are some general cat health care guidelines to help ensure that your cat stays healthy and happy.

Routine vet care for cats

Regular veterinary care is essential for your cat's overall health and well-being. You should seek veterinary care at the very first sign of illness, rather than waiting a day or two to see whether the problem resolves. A quick call to your veterinarian can often mean the difference between a rapid recovery and the development of serious complications.

Moreover, remember that cats age about five times faster than humans. The average life span for cats is about 14 years and depends on genetics, nutrition, environment, and vaccinations. 

Cats should receive an annual physical exam until the age of 8, generally speaking, and then biannual exams should be done in a cat's senior years. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations regarding necessary vaccines. But even if no vaccines are needed, your cat still needs a regular physical checkup. At this time, your veterinarian will also make recommendations regarding your cat's diet and exercise.

Health problems in cats

Regularly monitor for potential signs of illness in your cat. Important things to be aware of include your cat’s appetite and thirst (increase or decrease), constipation or diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, lumps or bumps, sneezing or nasal discharge, urination problems, weakness, and weight loss. 

When you seek veterinary care, be prepared to provide a history of these problems. You should be able to answer these questions:

  • How long has the problem been present?
  • Is the problem getting worse or staying the same?
  • Have any home treatments been tried and what are they?

Be as thorough as possible when telling your vet about the problem. To have the best outcome possible, follow your veterinarian’s treatment recommendations closely. If you are unable to administer the prescribed medications or treatments, report this immediately so that an alternative can be prescribed. 

Cat diet

Good nutrition is the foundation for a long and healthy life. Choosing a type of food for your cat can be confusing, as there are so many brands. And all cat foods are not created equal. 

Premium brands are usually better than store or “generic” brands. As with anything else, the adage “you get what you pay for” is generally true about cat foods. 

For advice on choosing your cat's diet, consult with your veterinarian. Should you choose wet or dry food? Some cats prefer one or both. But know that feeding your cat only dry food doesn’t guarantee that the cat won’t need regular dental care.

Spaying/neutering cats

Finally, spaying or neutering your cat can greatly contribute to a healthy, happy life. This surgery can be done as early as 8 weeks old in cats. 

A spayed or neutered cat is often less prone to urine marking and fighting with other cats. Heat cycles in female cats are eliminated, and the urge to roam in male cats is reduced. The chance of developing reproductive organ and mammary cancer is lessened or eliminated. And a spayed or neutered cat will not contribute to the homeless pet problem.