How To Manage the Top Health Concerns for Cats

Beautiful grey furry cute cat funny lying and looking into the camera lens

Key Points

  • Dental chews and treats remove plaque and tartar buildup that could lead to infection.

  • Regular brushing removes loose hair and prevents the formation of hairballs.

  • Slow-feed bowls help control a cat that tends to overeat and may be in danger of obesity.

Your cat's health is one of your top priorities, and staying on top of their health prevents many illnesses and diseases. By managing the top health concerns for cats, you secure a long and happy life for your beloved pet. This comprehensive guide provides detailed information on addressing and preventing common health issues cats face.

It may be difficult to tell if your cat is sick; they hide their symptoms until it's serious. One thing to look for is behavioral changes. In this Reddit post from July 8, 2023, one user describes changes in their cat's behavior. After investigative discussion, there were changes in the household, which may be responsible for these behaviors.

If your cat eats, drinks, and uses the litter box normally, there's less cause for concern. If there are other changes in behavior, they may be stress-related. You should always address these concerns with your vet.

Behavioral Enrichment

Cats are brilliant, curious animals that require mental stimulation to thrive. When they don't have adequate behavioral enrichment, they get bored, anxious, and even exhibit behavioral problems. Incorporate the following strategies to promote a healthy and happy environment for your cat.

Introduce engaging toys and puzzles that encourage your cat's hunting and chasing instincts. Toys with interactive features provide hours of mental stimulation and a bonding experience between you and your cat.

Cats have a strong instinct to scratch and climb, which helps them exercise and maintain healthy claws. Provide sturdy scratching posts and cat towers, placing them strategically around your home to encourage your cat to use them instead of your furniture or curtains.

Food-dispensing toys provide an incentive for your cat while stimulating their problem-solving abilities. Fill these toys with dry kibble or treats, requiring your cat to work for their food and engage in their natural foraging behavior.

Dental Care

Dental health plays a vital role in your cat's health. Poor oral hygiene leads to gum disease, tooth decay, and systemic health problems. Establishing a regular dental care routine is imperative to maintaining your cat's health.

Gradually introduce tooth brushing to your cat using a cat-friendly toothpaste and toothbrush. Brush your cat's teeth daily, using gentle motions to clean the teeth and gums. As long as your cat learns to accept the action, the direction isn't essential. If your cat doesn't like a traditional toothbrush, there are finger brushes too.

Consider alternative options if your cat is resistant to toothbrushing or has unique dental needs. Dental treats and chews created to promote oral health help reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Add dental water additives to your cat's drinking water to help maintain a healthy mouth.

Routine dental cleanings performed by a veterinarian are essential. During these cleanings, your cat's teeth get examined and cleaned. Any necessary treatments, such as extractions or other surgery, happen under anesthesia.

Hairball Management

Cats are meticulous groomers and often develop hairballs. While occasional hairballs are normal, excessive hairball formation leads to vomiting and severe health issues. Some foods and treats help a cat break down and digest hairballs, but grooming reduces the risk of them forming.

Brushing your cat's coat regularly, especially for long-haired breeds, removes loose hair and prevents excessive swallowing during grooming. Specific brushes are available for particular coats and lengths. Choose the appropriate brush for your cat to make it a soothing experience.

Grooming gloves or brushes capture loose hair and effectively reduce the hair your cat ingests. These tools allow you to groom your cat while providing a gentle massage, creating an opportunity for a pleasant bonding experience.

When grooming your cat, pay attention to the direction of the hair growth and use gentle strokes to avoid causing discomfort. Tackle any mats or knots promptly — but carefully — to prevent excessive licking and swallowing of hair.

Administering tick drops on a cat

Parasite Control

Parasites pose significant health risks for your cat. Implement preventative measures and practice good hygiene, like regularly washing their bedding. Regularly apply veterinarian-recommended flea and tick control products on your cat, especially during peak seasons. These products effectively repel and eliminate fleas, ticks, and other parasites, reducing the risk of diseases. Use flea and tick shampoo made for cats for infestations.

Parasite Prevention

The parasites on their skin and fur are annoying and potentially dangerous, but the internal ones must also be eliminated. Administer deworming treatments — as your veterinarian recommends — to prevent and eliminate internal parasites in your cat, like hookworm, roundworm, and tapeworm. Regularly examine your cat's feces for early detection and effective treatment if you see any parasites.

Wendy Fries, senior editor for WebMD, wrote in an April 2, 2023 article for Fetch about one of the most common feline health problems: tapeworms. Fries stated, "You'll need to treat your adult cat with a deworming product every 1 to 3 months. Speak to your vet about getting the right dewormer for your cats. You can find many deworming products in supermarkets and pet stores, but they may not all be safe for your cat or effective for the type of worms that your cat has." 

If you see worms in your cat's stool, take pictures or bring a sample to your vet's office, at the very least.

Heartworm Prevention

Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition transmitted by mosquitoes. Protect your cat from heartworms by regularly administering veterinarian-prescribed heartworm medication. These preventatives come in various forms, including topical solutions and chewable tablets.

Preventing Obesity

Obesity is a growing concern among domestic cats. Preventing obesity and maintaining a healthy weight for your cat is crucial for their overall well-being. Measure your cat's meals accurately according to their age, weight, and activity level. Most pet foods have recommendations on the label. If your cat tends to overeat, use a slow-feed bowl or food-dispensing puzzle to slow their roll.

Use interactive toys such as feathers, balls, or laser pointers to engage your cat in regular play sessions. Provide towers or shelves for climbing and jumping, such as scratching posts or cat trees. Incorporate interactive exercises like teaching your cat to play fetch or using puzzle toys or activity mats.

Make time to interact and exercise with your cat daily. Physical activities such as chasing string toys, engaging in gentle wrestling, or using wand toys provide mental and physical stimulation and strengthen your bond. When you must be away from them, certain toys encourage independent play.

Urinary Tract Health

Urinary tract issues, including urinary tract infections and crystals, are prevalent in neutered male cats. Maintaining urinary tract health is essential to prevent discomfort and potentially life-threatening conditions.

Make sure your cat has access to fresh water at all times. Consider using pet water fountains or dripping faucets, as cats are often attracted to moving water sources. Adding wet food to your cat's diet provides an additional source of hydration.

Keep your cat's litter box clean and accessible. Provide a litter box for each cat in your household, plus an additional one. Regularly scoop the litter box and replace the litter frequently; consider investing in an automated litter box if you have a busy lifestyle.

Schedule routine veterinary check-ups to monitor your cat's urinary tract health. Regular screenings, like urine analysis, detect early signs of urinary tract issues or infections. Prompt veterinary intervention is crucial for treating any urinary tract problems.

Get to the Bottom of the Top Health Concerns

Be proactive when it comes to your cat's health. Preventative measures help stave off many parasites and diseases. Cats tend to hide symptoms, so be conscientious when you think something is off with your pet. Focus on behavioral enrichment, dental care, hairball management, parasite control, preventing obesity, and urinary tract health.

Make regular appointments with your vet and update them on your cat's behaviors and lifestyle. They'll give you specific advice and tips for your cat's needs. Don't wait until your cat's ninth life to care for their health. Give your cat a healthy and happy existence with their loving owner.

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