Cat Health Timetable
||Baby teeth arrive
||Kitten is weaned
||Call vet about
vaccinations and parasite check
||Rabies vaccination (in
||Permanent teeth arrive
||Time to spay female
||Time to neuter male
||Call vet about Rabies
vaccination (outside PA)
||Call vet about booster
Spay & Neuter
Unless you have acquired
a purebred cat for breeding purposes, neutering or spaying is
recommended and has a positive effect on your cat's health.
Neutering (males) or spaying (females) is a responsible way to prevent
the birth of unwanted litters. It can also improve your
kitten’s disposition and prevent many undesirable behaviors
such as urinating, or spraying. Spaying and neutering is so
widely recommended, many shelters and humane societies require this
procedure before you can adopt a cat so that more unwanted kittens
don’t come into the world.
Spaying is the surgical
removal of the female cat’s reproductive organs.
After spaying, she will not experience heat cycles or become
pregnant. Most veterinarians feel that 5 -6 months of age is
the ideal time for spaying, before she has her first heat.
When a cat is in heat, she becomes restless, nervous and
tense. She may roll on the floor frequently and appear more
demanding. Her voice may also become more piercing.
Once your cat has been
spayed, her disposition should change for the better.
She’ll probably be more relaxed, playful, affectionate and
less nervous and noisy. Spaying also helps reduce the risk of
uterine infections, false pregnancies and conditions related
to hormonal imbalances.
Neutering is the surgical
removal of the male cat’s reproductive organs. If
not neutered, he may exhibit an uncontrollable urge to roam by the time
he turns one year old. As he grows older, he may develop the
habit of spraying walls and furniture with streams of urine as a way of
claiming his territory. Once sprayed, furniture is extremely
difficult to deodorize.
Ideally, a male kitten
should be neutered before the age of 10 months, before he acquires the
“spraying” habit. However, neutering an
older cat is definitely still worth it, since it should weaken, if not
eliminate, those unpleasant tomcat traits.
Vaccinations are also
important to your cat's health. All cats, even indoor pets, need to be
vaccinated. Some viruses travel through the air or can be
brought into your house on people’s clothing or
shoes. There is also the risk of an indoor cat getting out or
that a disease-carrying cat may wander into your yard or
Your veterinarian will
provide routine vaccinations for feline distemper and upper respiratory
disease (rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and pneumonitis). In
addition, ask your veterinarian about vaccinations against Feline
Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Infectious Peritonitis
(FIP). Remember, some vaccines must be given as a series over
a period of time, and many require boosters.
A rabies vaccination is
essential and should be given sometime between 3-4 months of age,
depending on the vaccine.
Your veterinarian may
prescribe oral medication for a sick cat. Following are some
methods that will make it easier for you to give your cat
- Wrap your
cat’s body and legs tightly in a towel, leaving her head
- Grasp her head,
pressing opposite sides of her upper jaw. Pull her head
gently backward until her nose points straight up.
- Pull down her lower
front teeth, then drop the pill on the back of her tongue.
- Close your her mouth
and stroke her throat soothingly.
- As your stroke her
throat, be alert for a swallowing motion. Cats are clever at
hiding pills in their mouth and may spit them out.
- Wrap your cat in a
towel, and hold her head.
- With a medicine
dropper, gently pour a small amount of medicine into the side of her
- Stroke her throat to
While forming a good
relationship with your veterinarian is important, getting to know what
is normal for your cat is crucial to her health and well
being. Just like a parent with a child, you will learn what
is abnormal behavior for your cat and you might be able to help your
veterinarian discover the source of your cat’s health
Keep in mind that a
healthy cat has the following characteristics:
– Bright and clear; without signs of irritation or red or
yellow discoloration. Make sure there is no evidence of
tearing or cloudiness. If discharge collects in the corners
of her eyes, clean them with a cotton ball moistened with warm water.
- Mouth –
Pink, healthy gums; no redness or swelling at tooth margins, no bad
breath and no sores or growths on lips.
- Ears –
Clean and free of odor and discharge. Check for ear
mites. For more information on mites see Ear mites
below. Use cotton balls (not cotton swab sticks) moistened
with water for routine ear cleaning. Have your veterinarian
show you how the first time. Be very careful; your
cat’s ears are fragile.
- Nose –
Clean and free of discharge or sores.
- Coat and Body
– Smooth body with thick, shiny,
silky coat. Feel for lumps and ticks; check the coat for
fleas, greasiness, dandruff or bare batches.
- Anus –
Free from swelling or evidence of internal parasites. For
more information see Internal Parasites below.
During a routine exam
your veterinarian should check your cat’s eyes and ears,
listen to her heart and breathing, feel her abdomen and coat,
and inspect her mouth for disease or tartar build up.
The veterinarian may
require tests such as examination of a stool sample for internal
parasites and blood tests to uncover disease. Regular tests
and vaccinations are especially important during a kitten’s
first year of life.
Even with good care, your
cat might not always be in the best of health. She could have
a flurry of sneezes or a coughing spell. She may regurgitate
occasionally, even if she is not seriously ill. But if these
symptoms persist, don’t ignore them. Take her to
the veterinarian right away. Other signs to watch for which
indicate the need for veterinary attention include:
- Severe diarrhea or
constipation which persists for more than 24 hr. or accompanies other
signs of illness
- Persistent vomiting
- Listlessness and lack
of interest in grooming or socializing
- Labored breathing or
- Straining to urinate
or blood in the urine
- Lumps or swelling
which increase in size
- repeated sneezing,
coughing, or gagging
- Loss of appetite for
several days (make sure he isn't snacking on your neighbor's cat)
- Sudden loss of weight
or weight gain
- A dull, patchy coat
which sheds heavily
- Red, watery eyes or
- Failure to wash herself
- Failure to use the
hiding from the family under beds and sofas
- Resents or resists
- Scratching or biting
by a normally even-tempered kitten or cat
- Other unusual symptoms
usually live in a cat’s digestive system and are detected by
an examination of the stool. Treatment can begin as early as
2 weeks of age and be repeated at 2 to 3 week intervals, as determined
by your veterinarian. The veterinarian will also do one or
more parasite checks within this period.
Researchers now believe
that many cats transmit roundworms and hookworms directly to their
offspring. Your veterinarian will advise you as to whether a
parasite check and/or worming treatment are appropriate as part of your
kitten’s or cat’s routine healthcare –
whether or not symptoms are present.
– Tapeworms are one of the most common problems cats
encounter; however, they rarely pose a health risk. Cats can
acquire tapeworms by eating a rodent or ingesting a flea carrying an
immature tapeworm, so flea control is important. Keeping him
indoors also may help. Small, white worm segments around the
anus or in her litter box indicate tapeworms are present (though
infected cats may show no symptoms). Check the litter box
periodically. Your veterinarian can give an injection or
prescribe medication as treatment.
- Roundworms –
A mother cat, even if she has been wormed, may pass roundworms to her
kittens through her milk. Take a stool sample to the
veterinarian when your cat is scheduled for her regular
shots. These internal parasites can cause weight loss,
weakness, diarrhea, or mucus in the stool. Mildly infested
cats sometimes show no symptoms. Your veterinarian can
de-worm your cat safely. Frequent, thorough cleaning of the
litter box can help to avoid re-infection.
- Hookworms –
Kittens may acquire hookworms from their mother before birth or when
nursing, so it’s vital for your veterinarian to routinely
check your kitten for them. If possible, keep your cat away
from other cats’ waste, since hookworms can be transmitted
this way. Hookworms cause anemia, diarrhea, weight loss,
vomiting, or black, tarry stools. Your vet can provide
appropriate treatment. Frequent, thorough cleaning can help
- Coccida –
to avoid these organisms, which can live in your cat’s
intestines, make sure your cat doesn’t eat raw or undercooked
meat, including rodents. Also, clean her litter box daily,
since it takes one or two days for feces to become
infectious. Most infected cats show no symptoms at
all. Your veterinarian can prescribe oral
- Toxoplasma –
Toxoplasmosis is a multi-systemic disease caused by a parasite that is
dangerous to humans as well. Symptoms can include nonspecific
signs such as fever and loss of appetite as well as ocular lesions,
difficulty breathing and loose stools. Since toxoplasmosis
can cause severe birth defects in humans, pregnant women should avoid
changing the litter box, having a non-pregnant family member do the
External parasites live
on your cat’s body. These are diagnosed by physical
examination and by tests run on your cat’s skin. If
left unchecked, parasites can make life miserable for you and your
cat. However, there is much you can do to prevent and treat
– Fleas are often acquired from another cat or from
the environment. Examine for fleas during grooming.
If you suspect your cat has fleas, consult your veterinarian for a safe
and effective treatment method. Signs of flea infestation
include frequent scratching or biting of the fur.
Occasionally you will see small red spots on her skin. Black
specks (flea dirt) may cling to her fur on her neck or rump.
The only way to fight flea infestation is to treat both your cat and
are several ways to combat fleas. A flea bath or dip by a
veterinarian or groomer is the most efficient treatment for serious
problems. Another solution is to bathe your cat thoroughly,
then follow up with flea spray or powder which is labeled safe for
cats. Never buy or use these products at random; certain
combinations of insecticides can be harmful to your cat since they lick
themselves as part of normal grooming. When in doubt, always
consult your veterinarian for a safe and effective flea treatment
must also wash your cat’s bedding in hot, soapy
water. Clean the carpeting with a commercial rug cleaner
safe for cats. Vacuum thoroughly and throw away
vacuum cleaner bags afterwards. Use flea-killing room foggers
according to your veterinarian’s instructions to make sure
all newly born fleas are destroyed. Also, consult a
professional exterminator if the problem gets out of hand.
- Ticks and Lice
– Fortunately, ticks and lice are a rarer problem than
fleas. However, you should periodically examine your cat for
these parasites, especially if you live in a hot or wooded region where
hidden tick may resemble a scar or other bump. Remove a tick
by grasping it with a tweezers close to the skin and pulling upward
slowly and firmly. Avoid twisting and breaking the
tick’s head off. Leaving it in your cat could cause
skin irritation and infection. After the tick is removed
apply antiseptic to the skin.
can be controlled through most flea sprays and powders. Be
sure to use only those which are safe for cats and approved by your
- Ear Mites
– Cats are very susceptible to ear mites. Since
they can lead to secondary ear infections, it is important to check
their ears regularly. They usually acquire ear mites from
contact with other cats. If you have several cats and one
becomes infected consult your veterinarian about treatment or
prevention for the others. Signs of ear mites include
excessive ear scratching and shaking of the head. Ears might
show rough spots or have material resembling dried blood in
them. Other signs of ear mites include dark, foul smelling
ear wax. Your veterinarian can prescribe eardrops for
treatment and demonstrate how to keep your cat’s ears clean.
- Mange is caused by several kinds of mites. It can also be
transmitted to humans. As a preventative measure, make sure
your cat avoids unnecessary contact with other cats. Signs of
mange include loss of fur in patches, excessive bleeding, or
bald spots around the eyes, nose or ears. Your veterinarian
can use a special insecticidal dip to treat mange.
Virus( FeLV) -What is FeLV or Feline Leukemia
Virus? Find out the facts about this disease, what symptoms a cat
exhibits, treatment, and how to prevent it from affecting your cat
Diabetes- Find out the facts about this disease, what
a cat exhibits, treatment, and if your cat is at risk.