Generally, your cat may be kept in good physical and mental health by simply offering it a proper diet, a clean living area, and plenty of affection. However, some precautions do need to be taken and these may vary from area to area or breed to breed. Your veterinarian may be able to alert you to any health concerns specific to your animal. After acquiring a cat or kitten you should take it to your veterinarian to have it examined. You should ask that a fecal sample be checked in order to be certain that your cat is not infected with internal parasites. Your veterinarian may also answer any questions you might have about your animal. Establishing a relationship with a good veterinarian is also important in the event that an emergency should arise with your cat. In such a circumstance, there may not be time to search for a good veterinarian.
Choose a healthy kitten or cat to bring home. If you are obtaining a purebred animal, you should check into its breeder’s background. You should ask for references from people who have bought animals from the breeder or cattery before, or ask your veterinarian or local breed club for any information they may have. Once you arrive at the cattery, you should try to be alert to your surroundings. Note whether or not the area is clean and odor free, as it should be. Ask yourself if other cats the breeder is keeping appear healthy. Also, you may want to look at the cat’s parents. They should be healthy and good natured. You should ask your references, as well as the breeder, if any animals in the cat’s line have had genetic or health problems. A good breeder should not hesitate to answer any questions you may have about the way the kittens are raised or about the health and temperament of past litters.
Another way to purchase a purebred cat is through a purebred cat rescue organization. Many rescue organizations may specialize in just one breed, and older cats may make good pets as they are often already housebroken. Older cats may be a bit calmer than kittens.
Your local animal shelter is another good place to look for a pet. These organizations can have purebred as well as mixed animals, and may offer kittens as well as adult cats.
In choosing your cat, you should try to check it over well. A healthy cat or kitten is usually active and has bright, clear eyes. There should not be any discharge about the nose, mouth, or eye area. The cat’s teeth and claws should be strong and clean, and the animal should not be too timid or show signs of aggression. Of course, most cats will be shy around new people. A healthy cat’s coat is usually shiny and does not have bald patches. In some breeds, there may be exceptions to these statements. The cat’s hair should be free of mats and large tangles, and it should be clean. Often a cat that does not clean itself may be stressed or unhealthy. If you look inside the cat’s mouth, the gums should usually be light pink in color; not white and not red. If you gently press your finger to the gum, the color should quickly return. If it does not, the cat may be dehydrated or ill. Overall, the cat should appear bright, alert, responsive, and healthy.
During the initial visit to your veterinarian, vaccinations, worming, and reproductive health will probably be discussed. The fecal sample that you brought to your veterinarian will help determine whether or not your animal is free from internal parasites or worms. If you have obtained an older cat who was not well vaccinated, a Feline Leukemia test may be prescribed; this is a simple blood test which may be done while you wait. A heartworm test may also be administered in order to be sure your cat is free of heartworms. This is especially important in warm and damp climates. A preventative regime may be prescribed; your cat may be given a pill to take every one to six months which will keep it heartworm free. If the fecal sample contained parasites, your veterinarian will probably prescribe a wormer for your cat.
If you do not plan on breeding your cat, your veterinarian will mostly likely recommend that you have it spayed or neutered. This is a simple and very common operation that is important to your animal’s health. In fact, if you acquired your cat at an animal shelter, the shelter may have given you a certificate or coupon to bring to your veterinarian in order to have your cat spayed or neutered for free or at a discount. Male cats are neutered, and female cats are spayed. Usually the animal is placed under a general anesthesia and its reproductive organs are removed. The animal must be kept quiet and fairly inactive for a few days after the surgery. The benefits of having your cat spayed or neutered may be significant. In male cats, neutering may reduce aggression, problems with inappropriate urination, the desire to roam, and may eliminate or reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. In females, spaying will generally improve the cat’s temperament and will reduce the risk of uterine infections in addition to mammarian and ovarian cancers. Even if you keep your cat indoors or confined, it may escape, or other cats may find a way to break in to mate with your cat. Each day, many healthy cats are euthanized in shelters. Spaying or neutering your pet will help prevent unwanted kittens from meeting this fate or from suffering neglect.
Vaccinations are another important aspect of preventative health for your cat. If you have an older cat, chances are it may have already begun a preventative regime of vaccines. Young kittens may be protected from diseases by the antibodies in their mother’s milk. Once they are weaned, they will need to be vaccinated in order to develop immunity to other illnesses. Often there will be a starter vaccination regime involving kitten shots administered over intervals of two, three, or four weeks. Generally, these will cease when the cat is three or four months old and will be supplemented with a yearly booster shot. Often, cats are given a combination shot which is known as FVRCP or a five-in-one shot. FVRCP is an acronym taken from the names of the diseases this shot protects against: Feline Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia Virus. This may be called FVRCCP, which means it includes a Chlamydia vaccine as well. A Rabies vaccine is also important, and may be required by law in many areas. Generally, a cat will receive its first Rabies vaccine before it is six months old, and then another a year later. After that, a booster will be needed every few years. Cats who go to shows, live in catteries, or are boarded frequently may also be vaccinated for Feline Infectious Peritonitis.