Cat Preventative Care - Preventative Care And The Well-being Of My Cat

What is considered preventive care for my cat?

Preventive care is trying to avoid what-ifs. We want to do things that will help prevent problems. That's a good thing to do in all sorts of walks of life.

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

How can preventive care extend the life and improve the health of my cat?

I think about specific examples. If we can keep your pet from getting a disease or problem, or even developing a behavioral issue, then they're going to be happier and healthier, and you're going to be happier and probably healthier as well.

What types of preventive care do you recommend for cats?

Some of the more obvious would be vaccines to prevent problems that they can catch from cat to cat. If it's a single kitty household, then they may not be as high of a risk. Sometimes, as kitten's lifestyles change, they want to be an outdoor cat even though you want them to be an indoor cat. Cats get parasites, fleas and ticks in particular. In cats, it's hard to see fleas unless they're really infested. So I tell owners that cats are avid groomers. There was a study of which I can't remember the specific numbers, but cats groom a whole lot of fleas off themselves in a matter of minutes. So if you think about how much they groom themselves and how many fleas they're removing, and then you find one, just think about how many fleas there really are.

If they're grooming them off, what do you need to worry about? Tapeworms are the biggest thing. And then other things that we talk about regarding preventative care is behavior.

If you have a multi kitty household, we know that not all cats like other cats, some of you can relate to that if you don't like being around people a lot. But cats can develop behavioral issues. So we talk a lot about preventing urinary problems, which is a common problem we see in cats, whether that's due to a medical issue or a behavioral issue. One of those things we could do a whole video on this, and maybe we have, is urinary issues in cats. One preventive method is to have one litter box per cat plus one. Also, litter box hygiene. We can go into depth on that, but basically, you want to keep that litter box clean. Different people have different definitions of clean. Dental care is a good one. Cats are difficult. They're just smaller, so sometimes they don't like your fingers or toothbrush in their mouths. Cats can just be finicky. They don't even really like you to look at them, let alone look at and brush their teeth. But we do have cat-specific toothbrushes. They have flavors that cats like on the toothpaste to make it more enticing. If they don't let you, they won't let you. That's where we step in and provide that care for them on a regular basis.

Every time they come in, we look at their teeth to see if there's a problem. If you didn't look at them or didn't attempt what owners can't, the owner may never know that it has a dental problem. Cats, especially longhaired cats, can get big mats, which then cause hairballs, and it just is up against the skin, so it can cause some problems. Even a step back from that, we can talk about nutrition because a lot of our cats, and even our long hair cats, are great groomers, but when they're overweight, it's very hard for them to groom, especially their rear end. That's when they get matted fur, and they can get fecal impaction and a lot of other things that are just husbandry issues because they're not able to take care of themselves. We know that cats live a very sedentary life in general. Our domesticated cats aren't going out and hunting and catching their food to survive. They might still hunt, but they're still getting that bowl of food or fancy feast when they come in. So you have to think about energy used and food taken in. When they gain weight, that can predispose them to a lot of different issues, which is another big problem we see with our indoor cats. Grooming, diabetes, that type of thing.

Another aspect in that same realm of indoor-outdoor cats is that the outdoor cats have a lot of enrichment, but sometimes the indoor cats get bored. Some owners do a fantastic job of enriching the environment. We think that if their environment's not enriched, they can get stressed, get bored, and they can have behavioral issues because of that. I always find it kind of funny to think of what can stress a cat when they sleep 25 of the 24 hours, but they can get stressed. For indoor cats, you should opt for having the proper scratching post, proper places for them to hide and climb, and windows to look out of. Mine loves to watch birds. And another thing I thought of regarding our outdoor kitties is that their preventative care is a lot different because they're exposed to the elements. While they are maybe mentally stimulated for hunting and climbing and things like that, they can have more risk of getting attacked and snake bites, being exposed to different things outdoors that could be harmful to them.

What about senior cats? How will preventive care help them? With senior cats, a lot of times, we don't necessarily know there's a problem until we come in and we've weighed them. Last year they weighed four pounds more, or they've lost two pounds or something like that. The blood work isn't a big one for our cats. I think about our senior cats having sort of three big diseases that we commonly see. One is thyroid disease, like hyperthyroid in our older cats. That's almost exclusively a senior cat disease. Heart disease is one, and then kidney disease. With physical exams and blood work, which is part of the prevention, we can detect most of those problems. I'm always one for stories or comparisons. I think of it as your kids. You see them every day, and you don't really notice their growth. Cats are kind of the opposite. You don't necessarily notice that they've lost weight because you're with them every day, but yet they come into the vet and get weighed, and then you can see, oh my goodness, they've lost four pounds since their last visit. That helps put things into perspective. There are certain diagnoses, certain problems that make them keep eating, but they lose weight, like thyroid disease. So you may notice they're still eating a lot, but you didn't notice that they have a condition.

What are some possible conditions that can be avoided with cat preventive care?

I think the big ones are infection, parasites, behavior, nutrition, and weight for our cats.

What are the risks of failing to provide preventive care for my cat?

The risks are that your cat doesn't live as long or doesn't have a great quality of life. We're big on the number of years as well as the quality of those years. We want to make them happy while they're with us.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Preventative Care - FAQs

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

What does preventive care actually mean for cats?

Preventive care for cats involves a lot of different things, but we're basically trying to keep our cats healthy, and we are trying to do things that will prevent problems from happening. That can involve parasites, vaccinations, or even just nutrition and husbandry.

How does cat preventative care help my cat?

It can help in a lot of different aspects. When we think about our younger cats, their immune systems are not exposed to many things, so vaccinations can prevent them from catching certain diseases. We talk a lot about flea and heartworm prevention. By going ahead and applying that prevention beforehand, we don't have to worry about fighting fleas or diseases that parasites can carry.

What will my veterinarian do during a cat preventative care appointment?

During that appointment, we will do a complete physical exam. One of the first things we do is talk about history. So we ask questions like do you have any concerns? Because even on a regular wellness exam, a lot of times, clients have questions. Maybe their pet's doing something that they aren't used to or acting a certain way, and they want to know, is that normal? That's good for cats because if they change their behaviors or habits, there's usually a reason. They hide things so well. With the full physical exam, we talk about how we examine a pet from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. We want to look at all aspects in between, whether that's looking at their teeth or proper dental hygiene, looking at their ears, making sure there are no infections there, listening to the heart, feeling the belly, and looking at the coat. That's a lot of what's involved in wellness exams.

What can I do at home for cat preventive care?

A big thing I find with cats, especially indoor cats, is proper nutrition and portion control. We know that our kitties indoors don't get quite the exercise they do outside. They're not relying on hunting to survive and to be nourished because we're providing that food. Being overweight can cause a lot of problems, so keeping them at an ideal weight can prevent a lot of problems. Overweight cats can't groom themselves as well, and diabetes is a threat. Another thing you can do at home is to make sure your cat has plenty of environmental enrichment. That's the big name that we use because that can prevent behavioral issues. Behavioral issues are one of the leading causes of having to rehome your pet, wanting to rehome your pet, or even euthanasia, which we don't like to think about. If we can do things to prevent behavioral issues, it's a lot easier than treating them later. Things like cat trees, puzzle toys, two sides of our den have windows, and I'm a bird photographer, so we have birds all over the place. The cats will just line the couch and watch birds. Something to enrich their mental as well as their physical, is perfect. Playing with them is a little more difficult, but a laser pointer and things like that help.

Is cat preventive care optional?

Of course, it's optional, but we would say that it's very necessary. Not only is it better and easier to prevent than to treat, but it's also less expensive. So if you can do those things on the front side, you don't have to come and see me as much for the problems that could occur later.

Do I need to consider flea and tick prevention for my cat's preventive care?

Definitely, even if your cat is a strictly indoor cat, there are multiple reasons that that will factor in, but especially our outdoor cats are more at risk. However, with our indoor cats, we often have another pet that may go in and out. Maybe we have one cat that's all indoors, but one that goes in and out, or our dog, or we go in and out of the house. All of those factors can put your pet at risk, and there are things that can come indoors, like mosquitoes that can transmit heartworms and put your pet at risk. With flea and tick prevention, we are often protecting not only against flea and tick but also against intestinal or heartworms. You may not see any fleas or ticks on your cat that goes in and out, but they often groom them off. They may miss one, and one turns into thousands fairly quickly. So it's just good to have the preventive on there that takes care of the multiple things and keeps your cat healthier.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.