Keeping Your Cat Healthy

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Regular veterinary check – ups will give you peace of mind and catch any illnesses that might occur before they become too serious.

Things too keep an eye on for possible health problems:

Change in everyday routine – Listlessness -  Behavioral changes – Itchiness – Excessive scratching – Excessive cleaning – Appearance of the third eye lid (s) – Weight loss – Decreased appetite – Decreased thirst – Drooling – Limping – Increased thirst – Diarrhea – Constipation – Blood in feces – Increased urination – Straining while urinating – Vomiting – Bad Breath – Distended stomach – Watery eyes – Sneezing – Coughing – Dull coat – Pale gums. 

You can tell your cat is sick by watching his/her body language and look for any changes in his/her everyday routine.  Owners know their pets better than anyone else, so don’t be afraid to follow your instinct if you think something is wrong with you cat.

 Cats have 5 senses:  Mouth – Taste, Ears – Hearing, Whiskers – Touch, Nose- Smell, Eyes – Sight. 

Mouth –Taste:  Cat’s have a discriminating sense of taste.

Ears – Hearing:  Cat’s hearing is very acute, it can hear up to two octaves higher than humans and most other animals.

Whiskers – Touch:  The whiskers act as an antenna, so as to avoid objects in dim light.  A cat is also sensitive to touch.

Nose – Smell:  Cats are territorial, and mark their territory with sent to warn off other felines. 

Eyes – Sight:  Cats have poor color vision.   

MovementBalance

 Jumping:  Cats are superb athletes; they can perform a repertoire of vertical, horizontal and twisting leaps.  A cat can jump up to five times its own height in a single bound.  Its strong hind leg muscles and flexible spine enable it to thrust itself into the air and land again safely without injuring itself.  A cat will always look before it leaps, carefully assessing the distance before taking off. 

Climbing:  From a tree or fence, a cat can patrol its territory and watch its prey without being seen.  Using a strong hind-leg muscles and gripping with its front claws, going up is relatively easy, but coming down can be more difficult. 

Balancing:  A cat is extremely well coordinated because it possesses a very efficient system for sending messages to the brain from its muscles and joints.  It uses its tail as a counter – balance when walking along a narrow branch in the same way as a tightrope walker holds a long pole for balance.   

Tails:  In aggressive encounters, a cat will swish its tail from side to side as a threat.   Tails seem to be vulnerable to injuries.  The most common tail injuries are; tails getting caught in house and or car doors, bites acquired by fights and car accidents.  A badly injured tail can be amputated with no real harm to the cat, though he might feel and look a bit odd and take a while to get use to. Never pull a cat’s tail, because you can damage the spinal cord, which runs through the spinal column.  A cat may greet you with its tail held high and the tail tip bent slightly forward.  An erect tail indicates that a cat is happy and confident.  A tail flicked from side to side indicates a state of tension.  A cat on the defensive fluffs up its coat and its tail fur in order to appear larger.  

Ears

 EarsHearing:  The fine muscular control cats have over the outer part of the ear increases their ability to locate the source of the tiny sounds from any direction.  Cats have excellent hearing when young, it seems to deteriorate by the time they are about five years old. 

The position of your cat’s ears sends clear signals to the other cat.  When they stand straight up and forward because he is alert.  If the cat perceives a threat, the ears move down and sideways in direct relationship to the intensity of the threat.  If the cat is frightened, they will be pulled right down to the side.

Infections of the middle and inner ear can affect a cat’s mobility as well as its hearing.  Signs of ear disorders are persistent scratching, twitching of the head, shaking of the head, discharge, and the presence of dark wax.  These common ear disorders are microorganisms, foreign bodies, or ear mites.  On rare occasions deafness can occur after an infection. 

Ear Mites:  Are common in cats, dogs, ferrets, rabbits and other animals.  With proper treatment can be corrected.  Tiny mites live in the ear canal and can cause irritation.  You will see a dark brown/black pungent wax in the ears.  All animals in the household will need to be treated with ear drops. 

Ear Infection:  An inflammation of the ear canal can be caused by the presence of a foreign body, fungus, or bacteria in the ear.  Continuous scratching can lead to infections and sometimes a discharge.  Consult your veterinarians if you notice these symptoms, most cases are treated with ear drops. 

Middle and Inner Ear Infections:  If an infection spreads to the middle or inner ear, it can result in damage to a cat’s hearing.  Sighs of this disorder include loss of hearing, and sense of balance.  A cat may tilt its head to one side.  Your veterinarian will provide antibiotics, do not delay taking your cat to the veterinarian, permanent damage may result to the cat’s hearing. 

Foreign Bodies:  Such as grass seeds, can get caught in a cat’s ears and may cause irritation, which could lead to infection.  If you can not see anything consult your veterinarian, by looking through an ear scope, he/she can safely remove the foreign body. 

Ear Injuries:  Due to their exposed position, a cat’s ears are prone to being bitten, torn, or scratched during fights.  These injuries can become infected, and may require veterinary treatment.  Cats are also prone to damage from frostbite and sunburn, which could lead to cancerous growths.    

Eyes 

At birth kittens are blind, with eyes tightly closed. They remain closed for a week to 10 days; the vision is poor for the first few months.  Cats rely heavily on sight and have excellent night vision and a wide visual field.  The pupils are able to dilate fully to a circle in low – light conditions, but in bright sunshine they contract to vertical slits to protect the highly sensitive retina.

The cat has a third eyelid called the nictitating membrane.  It is a good indicator of your cat’s health (If you see it your cat is not well).  It looks like pale, whitish tissue and lies in the inside corner of the eye.  Each time a cat blinks, the eyelids clean the surface of the eye.  The inside surface of each lid and the visible part of the eye are covered with a membrane that is kept moist by tears released   through pinhole ducts in the corner of the eye.

Cat’s eyes come in three basic shapes; round, slanted, and almond shape.  Their colors are basically green, yellow to cold and most rarely blue.  /there is a wide range of different shades within these three basic colors.  Most non-pedigree cats have green eyes.  

Respiratory Disorders 

The Respirator System consists Nasal passage, Voice box, Throat, Trachea (windpipe), Bronchi, Lungs Chest cavity, Diaphragm, and Ribs.

Respiratory illnesses that affect cats are due to infections by bacteria or viruses, and the upper respiratory tract is usually affected.  A majority of conditions are mild, but if neglected can become serious.  Cats can sometimes suffer from colds and occasional sneezing.  Signs of respiratory disorders include breathing difficulties and discharge from the eyes and nose.  A sick cat’s breathing may be deep and labored or rapid and shallow.  Coughs may be fluid and chesty or dry and harsh.  Prompt veterinary care is order, to prevent the condition from becoming chronic or life-threatening.

Feline Respiratory Disease:  The two most common respiratory viruses are Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) and Feline Calici Virus (FCV).  FVR is usually the more serious disease.  The main sign of FVR is a watery discharge from the eyes and nose which becomes thicker as the disease progresses.  A cat with FCV may also have a runny nose and eyes, and it will typically have ulcers on its tongue and mouth.  FVR & FCV vaccination is essential.  Antibiotics may reduce the severity of the disease's effects, but depends on the cat's immune system being able to fight off the virus.

Pneumonia:  A lung infection may follow severe respiratory diseases.  Fever, difficulty in breathing, nasal discharge, and a cough are often associated with pneumonia.  Veterinary treatment is required.  Nursing and cage rest are an important part of the treatment.

Bronchitis:  This condition usually accompanies other respiratory diseases.  It is caused by an inflammation of the air tubes (bronchi) that link the windpipe to the lungs.  Persistent coughing is the main symptom.  Veterinary treatment is required.  Nursing and cage rest are an important part of the treatment. 

Pleurisy:  A bacterial infection may lead to an inflammation of the layer covering the lungs (pleura).  This causes a buildup of fluid in the chest cavity that makes breathing difficult.  Veterinary treatment is needed.  The fluid in the chest cavity may need to be drained.

Asthma:  An allergic sensitivity can sometimes bring on an asthma attack.  It is characterized by a sudden difficulty in breathing and wheezing and coughing.  Veterinary treatment is needed to ease breathing and prevent repeated asthma attacks.

Chlamydial Disease:  This is caused by bacteria that produce signs similar to Feline Respiratory Disease.  A vaccine may give some protection against the disease.

Nasal Discharge:  A watery discharge from the nose and eyes is a sign of several infections.  If the discharge is accompanied by sneezing and sniffling, the irritation may be due to an infection of the nasal cavities.  Consult a Veterinary for  an examination and diagnosis of the infection.

Lung Worm:  This tiny parasite may be found in the lungs of cats in rural areas.   Severely affected animals may have a dry cough.  A Veterinary can prescribe drugs to treat the lungworm parasite.

Digestive Disorders

The digestive system is the center mechanism, converting food eaten to energy.  Nutrients are broken down in a variety of ways to make a cat function properly.  The most common problems affecting the digestive system are vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and appetite and weight loss. 

The Digestive System is made up of:  Mouth, Esophagus, Liver, Stomach, Pancreas, Large Intestine, Small Intestine, Anus.

Feline Infectious Enteritis (FIE) also known as Feline Panleukopenia:  This widespread viral disease is highly contagious.  It is spread by direct or indirect contact with an infected cat.  FIE develops rapidly,  so that in severe cases young kittens may die before a diagnosis can be made.  The virus attacks the gut and the white blood cells.  The main signs are depression loss of appetite, and persistent vomiting and diarrhea.    Vaccination is effective in protecting a cat against FIE infection.  Early diagnosis and isolation of an infected cat is important to stop the disease from spreading.  Careful nursing is essential to prevent dehydration.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP):  This virus primarily causes an infection of the abdominal cavity, but it also effects the liver, kidneys, nervous system, and brain.  FIP mainly attacks cats under three years of age; older cats are more resistant/  The main signs are loss of appetite, fever, weight loss, and a swollen abdomen.  Veterinary treatment is needed.  An infected cat must be isolated to prevent the disease from spreading to other cats.

Vomiting:  It is normal for a healthy cat to vomit occasionally, for example after eating grass or when getting rid of hairballs.  Severe vomiting, abdominal pain, and excessive thirst indicate a serious digestive disorder that may be caused by a cat ingesting an irritant or contaminated food.  Vomiting or regurgitation of food ma be due to several reasons.  Consult your veterinarian if the vomiting is severe or of it persists for more than 24 hours.

Diarrhea:  Mild diarrhea may be caused by stress or a change in diet, but if symptoms persist it may suggest a bacterial or viral infection.  Diarrhea accompanied by vomiting or blood in the stool is a sign of a serious disorder.  Consult your veterinarian if the diarrhea persists for longer than 24 hours or if there is any blood in the stool.  Do not allow the cat to become dehydrated.

Liver Disease:  The liver may be damaged as a result of a viral disease or ingesting a poison.  Signs of liver malfunction may include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, and abdominal pain.  Consult your veterinarian immediately.  Diagnosis can be aided by analysis of blood, urine and stool samples.

Diabetes:  This condition is due to the inadequate production of insulin by the pancreas.  Early signs are frequent urination, excessive thirst, increased appetite, and unexplained weight loss.  Treatment involves careful dietary control and, in some cases, daily injections of insulin.

Constipation:  A cat should have a bowel movement at least once a day.  Elderly cats, particularly longhaired types, are the most likely to suffer from a blockage in the bowel due  constipation.  If there is now movement after two days, seek veterinary treatment.

Dietary Sensitivity:  Some cats are unable to digest the sugar in milk, and this may cause diarrhea and vomiting.  Other foods that may cause allergic reactions include fish and eggs.  Consult your veterinarian, he/she will be able to determine if there is an allergic reaction, by taking a blood sample.

Mouth and Tooth Disorders

The cat's mouth and teeth are adapted to their role of hunting and catching prey, while the tongue is equipped with hooked, abrasive papillae used for grooming.  Damage or inflammation to a cat's mouth, teeth, gums, palate, or tongue can make it difficult for it to eat, and it may be unable to groom itself.  Cats do not often get cavities in their teeth, but bacteria and debris may sometimes build up on the tooth surface to form plaque, and when mixed with minerals in the saliva, this hardens into tartar or "calculus".  If not treated, gingivitis may result, followed by recession of the gums and the loss of teeth.  There are a number of microorganisms, especially those associated with Feline respiratory disease, that cause mouth ulcers.  Occasionally, objects like fish bones can become lodged in the mouth and must be removed.  Cat's teeth  are not very prone to decay, they benefit from regular cleaning.  This is especially the case with older cats.  Feline fangs; adult cats have 30 teeth, shaped for cutting and tearing meat, rather than for grinding or chewing.  The carnassial teeth are adapted for slicing through flesh.  A kitten gets its milk teeth at about 14 days old, and loses these to adult teeth at four to six months old.

Cleft Palate:  Kittens are sometimes born with the two dies of the hard palate at the roof of the mouth not properly joined.  Affected kittens will not be able to suckle milk properly.  Surgery to repair the hard palate may sometimes be possible.

Dental Problems:  Dental problems are common in older cats.  The deposition of plaque on the tooth surface leads to brownish-yellow tartar forming on the teeth.  This results in food being trapped, which causes inflammation of the gums (gingivitis).  If the infection invades the tooth socket (periodontitis), the tooth will become loose or an abscess may form.  A cat with dental problems may have bad breath, and it may experience difficulty in eating and paw at its mouth.  Regular brushing of your cat's teeth with a toothbrush helps prevent the buildup of plaque,  If there is extensive tartar or a cat is very uncooperative, a veterinarian can descale the teeth under anesthetic, using an ultrasonic scaler.

Gingivitis:  An inflammation of a cat's gums is the first sign of dental problems and is usually associated with a buildup of tartar on the teeth.  Gingivitis may start as a dark red line bordering the teeth, but if it is left untreated the gums will become sore and ulceration may occur.  A cat with gum disease may have bad breath, drool, and experience difficulty in chewing food.  Consult your V if you notice any redness around a cat's mouth and gums. 

Mouth Infection:  Stomatitis is an inflammation of the mouth lining.  It may result from a foreign body in the mouth, a viral disease, or dental problems.  An affected cat will have difficulty in eating, and the inside of the mouth will appear reddened.  Treatment depends on the cause of the infection.  Your veterinarian will be able to identify the underlying cause. 

Rodent Ulcer:  A “rodent ulcer” is a slowly enlarging sore or swelling on a cat’s upper lip.  Consult your veterinarian for treatment.  “Rodent Ulcers tend to recur if treatment is stopped to soon.

 Salivary Cyst:  If the salivary glands or ducts that carry the saliva to the mouth become blocked, the result may be the formation of a salivary cyst (ranula) under the tongue. Prompt veterinary treatment to drain the cyst is required since the cat will be unable to eat.

Mouth Ulcers:  Ulcers on a cat’s tongue and gums are sometimes caused by Feline respiratory disease or kidney disease.  Consult your veterinarian for an examination to determine the underlying cause.

 Skin and Coat Disorders 

There are two types of skin disorder:  parasitic and nonparasitic.  External parasites such as fleas, lice, and ticks are very common in cats.  Other nonparasitic conditions that can affect the skin and coat are dermatitis, ringworm, stud tail, feline acne, tumors, and abscesses due to fight wounds.  Most problems are not contagious and respond well to treatment.  Ringworm, however, can be transmitted to other cats, and even humans.  The main sign of skin disorders are irritation, inflammation and changes in the surrounding skin, and hair loss.  They are not specific to any one ailment.  Changes in the skin and coat can sometimes be an indication of a serious illness, and if a cat stops grooming itself this may be an early sign that it is sick. 

 Abscess:  This is a painful swelling that becomes infected and filled with pus.  It is usually caused as a result of a fight wound.  The most common sites of abscesses are on the face and around the case of the tail.  Consult your veterinarian if your cat has been bitten.  The wound may become septic and require veterinary attention. 

Dermatitis:  Is a term for several skin problems, that can cause inflammation and dry, scaly skin.  Allergic dermatitis is caused by an allergy to certain foods (such as fish, eggs, sugar in milk) or to flea dirt and may result in hair loss.  Flea collar dermatitis is the result of a reaction to the insecticide in the collar and causes itching and redness.  Solar dermatitis may affect the skin on the ears of white cats in sunny areas.  Your veterinarian may administer antibiotics, and using anti-inflammatory or hormonal agents.  Solar dermatitis may be controlled by applying protective suntan cream to the cat’s ears.  Flea collars should be removed at the first sign of irritation.

 Ringworm:  A skin infection caused by a parasitic fungus, not a worm.  Signs of infection can be difficult to spot and vary from a few broken hairs on the face and ears to small, round patches of scaly skin on the cat’s head, ears, paws, and back.  A cat may carry the disease without showing any symptoms.  Ringworm can be treated with a variety of antiseptic creams and, in severe cases,   antifungal drugs.  Disinfection of all bedding is important because it is transmissible to humans.

 Tumor:  A skin tumor is a swelling on or beneath the cat’s skin and can be either benign or malignant - the latter means that it is cancerous.  Cancerous growths usually grow very rapidly and cause bleeding and ulceration.  Examine any lump or growth that appears on your cat’s skin Consult your veterinarian immediately if you are concerned. 

Nervous Grooming:  Nervous licking or grooming of the coat may result in partial hair loss and sometimes dermatitis.  This behavior may be caused by boredom or anxiety.  Treatment involves identifying the reason for the stress.  Tranquilizers or sedatives may be prescribed.

Feline Acne:  Acne on a cat’s chin and lower lip is caused by blocked ducts leading to blackheads, pimples, and small abscesses forming on the skin.  Antibiotic treatment is sometimes needed.

Stud Tail:  This is an excessive secretion of oil from the sebaceous glands at the base of the tail.  It commonly affects unneutered male cats and may cause staining on pale-colored cats.  Wash the coat with a safe shampoo. But consult your veterinarian if it becomes infected or if there is an irritation.

 Hair Loss:  A neutered cat may suffer from hair loss on its hindquarters and abdomen.  This may be due to a hormonal imbalance.  Consult your veterinarian to identify the reason for baldness.

Nervous Disorders

The grace, coordination, and agility of cats require a highly sophisticated system of nervous control.  The intricate network  of nerves runs without mishap for most of the time, but if a problem does occur, it tends to be of a serious nature.  Although relatively rare, cats are occasionally subject to fits and seizures.  These may be due to several  causes, including brain tumor, poisoning, or an inherited epileptic condition.  However, the most common cause of nervous problems is physical damage as a result of road traffic accidents.  An inflammation of the brain or spinal cord can be associated with some infectious diseases.  Paralysis of a limb can result if the spinal cord or the nerves supplying that part of the body are damaged in an accident.  If the nerves do not heal, the paralysis may be permanent. 

The Central Nervous System is made up of:  Brain, Spinal Cord, Nerves, and Vertebrae.

Brain Damage:  Severe trauma to the brain is most often due to a road traffic accident or fall and is usually fatal.  Strokes are very rare in cats.  They are due to a blood clot forming  in a vessel to the brain and often result in a loss of functioning of one part of the body.  Brain damage can also be caused by a tumor or a congenital defect, or by the spread of a bacterial infection from another part of the body.  Prompt veterinary treatment is essential following an accident or fall, especially where head injuries are suspected.  Most cats recover from a minor stroke, but the may need treatment for residual problems, such as loss of sight or recurring seizures.

Meningitis:  This uncommon nervous disease affects the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord.  It results in fever, dilated pupils, loss of appetite, and convulsions.  Urgent veterinary treatment is required. Your veterinarian may take a specimen of the spinal fluid for examination.

Encephalitis:  Is an inflammation of the brain itself and may be caused by some viruses such as rabies, or bacterial infection.  Signs can be variable and include fever, dilated pupils, seizures, and paralysis.  Prompt veterinary treatment is required.  Your veterinarian will need to establish the cause of infection.

Seizures:  Are relatively rare in cats.  They may be connected with brain damage, poisoning, or a vitamin deficiency or may even be inherited.  Epileptic episodes may begin when a kitten is about six months old or the may suddenly start following an accident or blow to the head.  Consult your veterinarian immediately.  Do not move a convulsing cat.  Seizures can sometimes be controlled by anticonvulsant drugs.

Paralysis:  The spinal cord and nerves supplying a part of the body may be damaged following an accident, resulting in paralysis of the affected area.  This usually happens to a cat's tail or limb.  The cat will be unable to  bear any weight on the affected limb and may drag it along the ground.  If the nerve is severely damaged and the limb is fractured in an accident, amputation may be necessary.  Most cats are able to cope surprisingly well with only three legs.

Feline Dysautonomia (Key-Gaskell Syndrome): The cause if this  rare condition, which affects a cat's nervous system, is unknown.  Signs include rapid weight loss, appetite loss, vomiting, regurgitation of food, ad permanently dilated pupils.  Urgent veterinary attention is essential if there are to be any prospects of the cat recovering.

Poisoning:  There are a number of household substances that are extremely poisonous to a cat should it ingest them.  Poisoning may cause signs such as convulsions or muscle tremors.  See veterinary attention immediately if you suspect that your cat has been poisoned.

Loss of Balance:  Unsteadiness and lack of coordination when walking may be the result of faulty development, injury, vitamin deficiency, or disorder of the inner ear.  Seek veterinary attention immediately for a through examination of the cat.

Urinary Disorders

Problems that affect a cat's urinary system warrant urgent veterinary attention, since such disorders can be serious and life-threatening.  If your cat strains when passing urine, or cannot pass any at all, you should contact your veterinarian at once.  A cat's urine is fairly clear or pale yellow; if it becomes cloudy or colored, this may indicate a bladder infection or even the start of kidney disease.  Excessive thirst and frequent urination can sometimes be a sign of diabetes or liver disease, while incontinence may often be associated with hormonal imbalance or a spinal injury.  Make sure your cat has plenty of fresh water at all times to drink.

Urination:  The urinary system is responsible for keeping optimum levels of useful chemicals in the blood and eliminating toxic ones.  Waste material is filtered through the kidneys and released as urine down the ureters to the bladder.  The urine then passes through the urethra an out of the body.

Chronic Kidney Disease:  This is the most common disorder that affects elderly cats.  The gradual deterioration of the functioning of the kidneys makes it difficult for a cat to eliminate waste products from its body.  An affected cat may start to urinate more frequently and will have an increased thirst.  Other common signs of kidney disease are weight loss, bad breath,  and mouth ulcers.  Consult your veterinarian, who will be able to make proper diagnosis after taking a sample of blood and or urine.

Acute Kidney Disease:  Is not as common as the chronic form and usually affects younger cats.  It may be caused by bacterial or viral infection, or as the result of a cat swallowing a toxic substance.  The signs are vomiting and loss of appetite, severe depression, and dehydration. Consult your veterinarian immediately, who will try to combat the toxin if the disease is caused by poisoning.  Fluids need to be given to prevent dehydration.

Urinary Obstruction:  Minute crystals or a sandy sludge can sometimes cause a blockage of the bladder if they build up to plug the urethra.  This particularly affects neutered male cats because the urethra of the female cat is relatively wide.  A cat with urinary problems will strain to pass a little bloodstained urine and, in severe cases, it may not be able to pass any urine at all.  The bladder may be distended and the abdomen tense and painful to the touch.  This condition causes an affected cat a great deal of pain and distress.   Urgent veterinary treatment is required to relieve a bladder obstruction.  Left, untreated, a cat may die in two days.  Careful dietary control is needed to ensure that a cat has a high water intake.

Cystitis:  An inflammation of the bladder is most commonly caused by bacterial infection or may be associated with an Urinary Obstruction. Signs include frequent urination accompanied by straining and an increased thirst.  The urine may be bloodstained and the cat may persistently lick its rear end.  Consult your veterinarian immediately, in order to ensure that the condition does no worsen - if this happens, the bladder may become blocked.

Incontinence:  Frequent or constant urination due to a loss of voluntary control may be due to old age, injury or and infection of the bladder.  This is not the same as urine marking or spraying, which is territorial behavior.  If there are any other signs, such as straining, consult your veterinarian immediately.  Do not limit the cat's water intake. 

Blood and Heart Disorders

Disorders of the blood are more prevalent in cats than problems with the heart.  Even though the heart is fairly small, it is well adapted to the feline lifestyle, capable of rapidly accelerating from a resting  heart rate to one that provides the blood circulation needed for sudden bursts of action.  As the heart ages, these periods of activity become less frequent, but it is only when there is advanced deterioration of the heart that the cat gets breathless and reluctant to move at all. 

The Circulatory System is made up of:  Pulmonary Veins, Pulmonary Arteries, Left Auricle, Right Auricle, Left Ventricle, Right Ventricle (the four chambers),  and the Heart.