cat health

How to Give Your Cat a Happy and Healthy Life

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Cats typically fail to receive the same veterinary attention as dogs. Fewer than half the population of felines receive appropriate veterinary care in a year. Could it be rising costs in every industry yet not in wages? Fear not, proper feline care doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here are ten ways to keep your cat happy and healthy.

1. Keep cats indoors

Unfortunately, both family vets and emergency vets see all kinds of wounds and fractures in cats who are left outside, unattended. Cats come in who were hit by a car, shot at with an arrow, shot at with a BB gun, shot at with a real gun, and bitten by animals (dogs, possums, raccoons, other cats). In some areas, cats vanish after encounters with coyotes or other predators.

If you feel that keeping cats indoors is inhumane, then walk them on a leash around the yard. This will prevent them from getting out of the yard if left unsupervised. Sadly, we live in a world where the safest place for your cat is on the couch.

2. Couch Potato Chubbiness

Just because cats should live on the couch, doesn't mean that they shouldn't exercise. Sedentary cats are prone to obesity. One way to avoid this is provide toys for play. Initiate play with your cat. This is good not only to help your pet lose extra pounds, but to tap into your cat’s natural hunting instincts. Different cats like different toys, so explore various options. You can also offer a special “food toy” which releases food when it's moved in a particular way. Another idea is to hide pieces of their cat food around a room to increase your cat’s hunting instinct.

3. Litter

Cats are obsessed with cleanliness. A clean litter box is critical to avoid inappropriate urination and defecation in the house. A litter box should be cleaned once a day. If you have more than one cat, you should offer multiple litter boxes – all cleaned once a day.

4. Carrier

Get your cat used to the carrier. Teach them that it is a safe place and not a torture device. This can be done by just having the carrier out as a hiding spot. Food is a big incentive in getting your cat into the carrier. This will make it a lot less stressful when it is time to take your pet to the annual veterinary exam.

5. 3D world

Cats live in a 3D world. They don't live only on the ground like many dogs do. Cats like to jump and perch and observe and rest at various heights. To learn more about the 3D environment concept, take a look at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine's overview of perches as well as their Indoor Pet Initiative page for tips to keep cats (and dogs) happy.

6. Physical exam

A healthy cat is a happy cat. Cats should have a yearly physical exam, and older cats may benefit from an exam twice a year. It's not always easy: cats are very good at hiding signs and you often have to look hard to know if a cat is sick. Unfortunately, you still might not know until your cat's body cannot take it anymore. This means that by the time you realize that your cat is sick, it may be very late (or too late) to find a cure. Thankfully, a thorough physical and blood work can reveal problems like lumps and bumps under the skin, eye conditions, ear infections, as well as kidney or liver disease.

7. Preventive care

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – wise words attributed to Benjamin Franklin. After the yearly physical, you and your vet can decide what your particular cat needs: vaccines, deworming, heartworm prevention, blood work, flea and tick prevention and dental care.

8. Microchip

A microchip is a tiny device (the size of a grain of rice) that is placed under the skin and stays there for life. If your pet is ever lost and ends up in a shelter or a vet clinic, a microchip reader will reveal who your cat belongs to. This can help reunite you with your cat and is much more reliable than a collar and a name tag.

9. Food

How to best feed a cat is a highly controversial topic. Professionals like veterinarians know that there is a lot of “junk food” on the market. Some call it "kitty crack." Feeding these foods (which of course we cannot name here) would be similar to humans eating at a fast food restaurant every day at every meal.

It is probably fair to say that there is no ideal food for all cats. Finding the best solution for your particular cat should ideally come out of a heart-to-heart discussion with your family vet. The choice will vary depending on your cat’s age, size, and bill of health.

10. Socialization

Cats are social creatures. They (sometimes) enjoy each other’s company. Consider going to your local shelter and saving a life by adopting your next feline friend. Double the cats: double the fun!

Let’s finish our review of tips to keep cats happy and healthy with one more suggestion. If you’re concerned that you may not be able to afford proper veterinary care if your cat gets really sick, then consider getting pet insurance. This is a great way to know that no matter what happens, you will be able to provide the best care for your feline friend.

As you can see, none of the above suggestions costs a lot of money. With common sense and a little bit more attention, you can ensure your feline friend will remain in good health for a long time.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


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Rehabilitating an Injured Cat with Physical Therapy

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An injured cat will need a period to rehabilitate and regain his normal functions. Even if physical therapy is not regarded as a practical rehabilitation method, as people believe cats won’t cooperate, this method may be effective in speeding up the healing of an injured cat. Most cats enjoy physical therapy.

The Benefits of Physical Therapy for Cats

  • Physical therapy can be used to rehabilitate a cat that has undergone surgery, has an injury or a chronic disease that affects his functions.

  • Physical therapy can diminish pain and reduce the swelling caused by a surgery. In addition, physical therapy will strengthen the muscles and make the joints more flexible.

  • Therapy can correct limping and limb stiffness and may also improve the mental state of the cat by reducing stress and calming him down.

Physical Therapy Techniques for Cats

The main physical therapy techniques used for felines include hot and cold treatments, therapeutic ultrasounds, passive range of motion and active rehabilitation.

The cat may benefit from all these techniques or the vet may recommend a selected number of techniques, depending on the medical condition and the state of the injury.

Hot and Cold Treatment

Among the passive rehabilitation methods, the hot and cold treatment is known to be highly effective. This method can be employed to relieve pain caused by an injury and may also be effective in managing arthritis pain.

Cold compresses are applied, which reduce swelling and pain; these compresses can be held for 20 minutes at a time and may be applied several times per day.

Hot compresses may be used when there is no swelling present. The purpose of these compresses is to speed up the metabolism rate and reduce pain. Apply hot compresses for 20 minutes, 2 to 4 times per day. Ensure that the temperature is bearable for the pet.

This therapy can be performed at home, but consult a physical therapist prior to using hot and cold compresses.

Therapeutic Ultrasound

Therapeutic ultrasound is also a passive method, which strengthens muscles and promotes blood flow to the injured area, speeding up the recovery. This method relieves pain. The method must be used with caution for cats that have metal implants (i.e., in fractures), as these implants can heat up and cause burns.

Passive Range of Motion

Passive range of motion will focus on improving the function of joints and can be employed if the cat’s joints have been motionless for extended periods of time (i.e., from splints or casts). This method of controlled movement will also strengthen the muscles.

Active Rehabilitation

Active rehabilitation is recommended when the cat starts to walk and resume his normal activities. There are multiple techniques of active rehabilitation, including ball exercises, aqua therapy, balance boards and treadmills. These will focus on strengthening the muscles and improving flexibility.

Physical therapy in cats can be used for various periods of time, depending on the type of injury, age and health of the cat. The frequency of the sessions will be determined by a therapist, but it's usually 1 to 5 times per week.


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Related: We have more information under our cat health categories.

Eye Discharge in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Anything from a simple cold to a serious illness could be causing your cat’s eye discharge. Learn a few of the more common causes of eye discharge, when to see a vet, and what you can do at home to help your feline friend.

Eye Discharge Causes

A healthy cat’s eyes should be bright and clear.

Eye problems can bring out another cat entirely, one who paws at his eyes, squints, or blinks excessively. Because eye problems can lead to devastating consequences -- including surgery or blindness -- always talk to your vet when you notice your cat has irritated eyes. A few common reasons for cat eye discharge include:

  • Feline upper respiratory infections. A frequent cause of eye discharge in cats, these can include viruses such as feline calicivirus, a contagious respiratory disease, pneumonitis or rhinotracheitis (herpesvirus), bacteria, and protozoa. Symptoms can be mild or progress to something very serious and may include a sticky, pus-like eye discharge.

  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye). An inflammation of the light pink lining around your cat’s eye, conjunctivitis can cause one or both of your cat’s eyes to look red and swollen, be light-sensitive, and have clear, teary or thick mucus eye discharge. Conjunctivitis with fever, diarrhea, and trouble breathing can point to potentially fatal feline infectious peritonitis, though this isn’t very common.

  • Corneal disorders. A cat’s cornea, the dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye, can become inflamed, injured, or ulcerated. The result may be cloudiness, excessive blinking, inflammation, and increased tear production.

  • Watery, tearing eyes (epiphora). Blocked tear ducts, an overproduction of tears, allergies, viral conjunctivitis, and more can be behind your cat’s abnormal tearing.

  • Uveitis. An inflammation of the internal structures of the eye, trauma, cancer, immune problems or infections can cause the serious, often painful inflammation of uveitis.

  • Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca). A chronic lack of tear production, dry eye can lead to an inflamed cornea, red eyes, and if left untreated, blindness. Because the watery portion of tears is missing, a yellow, gooey eye discharge can result.

  • Other eye discharge causes include feline infectious peritonitis, allergies, something lodged in the eye, or third eyelid problems.

Eye Discharge Treatments

Because so many conditions can lead to eye discharge in cats, you really need to talk to your veterinarian before trying any eye discharge treatments on your cat.

Depending on what your veterinarian finds, treatment for cat eye discharge might include:

  • Feline upper respiratory infection. Specific treatments depend on the cause of the infection as well as how serious it is and may include eye medications, antibiotics, decongestants, and fluids.

  • Conjunctivitis. Pollen, dust, weeds, or other irritants can cause conjunctivitis, which may be treated with a steroid ointment. if it's caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotic ointments may be used.

  • Corneal disorders. Treatment depends on what’s troubling your cat’s cornea, but may include keeping kitty’s eyes clean, antibiotic eye ointment or drops, drops that promote healing, removing loose corneal tissue, cauterization, or surgery.

  • Watery, tearing eyes. Under general anesthesia, your vet may use plain water or saline to flush your cat’s blocked tear duct. If there's an infection, antibiotic eye ointment or drops may be needed.

  • Uveitis. The right treatment depends on what’s causing your cat’s uveitis, though that’s often hard to diagnose. Care may include eye ointment or drops to control inflammation and pain.

  • Feline calicivirus. Secondary bacterial infections, which can cause pneumonia and other serious issues, are common with calicivirus, so always call your vet if you suspect your cat has this disease. Treatment may include symptom control, antibiotics for secondary infections, and supportive care.

  • Dry eye. Many things can cause dry eye, from immune-mediated disease to distemper. Treatment can include eye drops or ointments, immune-suppressing drugs, antibiotics, or artificial tears.

When to See a Vet

Your cat’s eyes are as delicate as they are beautiful. Small problems can quickly turn into serious conditions. If your cat’s eye discharge symptoms don’t clear up within 24 hours or if your cat is squinting, talk to your veterinarian right away.

If you have medications left over from a previous eye problem, don’t use them on your cat’s eyes. Different eye issues call for different medications, and you can end up causing serious injury by using the wrong one.

Preventive Home Care for Healthy Eyes

You can help avoid eye problems in your cat by keeping up with yearly vaccinations, avoiding kitty overcrowding, and checking your cat’s eyes frequently for redness, cloudiness, a change in color or shape, discharge, or sensitivity to light.

To safely remove your cat’s eye discharge and make them more comfortable while waiting for their vet appointment, arm yourself with a bag of cotton balls and these simple tips from the ASPCA:

  • Dip a cotton ball in water. Wipe away the eye discharge, always from the corner of the eye outward. Use a fresh cotton ball for each eye.

  • Steer clear of any over-the-counter drops or washes unless your vet has prescribed them.

Because correct treatment can be so critical to the health and well-being of your cat, always talk to a veterinarian to be sure kitty is getting just the right care needed.


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Related: We have more information under our cat health tags.

Why "Dry Pilling" Is Dangerous for Cats

If your cat coughs or vomits after taking a pill, there's probably a good reason. Coughing or vomiting after having swallowed pills dry could very well be a result of dry pilling (giving your cat a pill without any liquid). If you have ever tried to dry-swallow an aspirin, you'll recognize how uncomfortable the experience can be. Swallowing half a pill can even be worse, because of the sharp corners.

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Why "Dry Pilling" Is Dangerous for Cats

Dry pilling can lead to pills getting stuck in your cat's esophagus (the tube leading from the mouth to the stomach). While dry pills are likely to get stuck, capsules are even more dangerous for cats. The smooth, gelatinous surface tends to cause capsules to lodge in the esophagus.


A 2001 study presented in a veterinary journal stated that "After 5 minutes, 84% of capsules and 64% of tablets are still sitting in the esophagus." The study also brought out the dangerous occurrences of esophagitis, which can be caused by the irritation of pills and capsules remaining in the esophagus for long periods of time. This can often lead to blockage, entirely.


How to Give Your Cat Liquid to Avoid Dangerous Dry Pilling

It may seem impossible to force a cat to drink. Fortunately, though, there are a number of tricks you can use to prevent problems when administering oral medications to cats:

  • Follow Pilling with Liquid
    Use a small 1cc syringe filled with either plain water or low-salt broth. Approach the cat from the back or side, rather than front-on. Keep the cat's head level rather than tipped back, to facilitate swallowing.

  • Conceal the Pill in a Pill Pocket
    Pill Pockets are cone-shaped, soft treats with a hole down the center. Just pop the pill inside and pinch the top closed, and offer it to your cat as a treat.

  • Treat After Pilling
    Offering a favorite treat will not only encourage future pilling cooperation but will help get the pill into the stomach quickly so it can go to work.

  • Canned Food After Pilling
    Try giving only a small portion of a regular meal of canned food before the pilling, and withhold the remaining portion for afterward.

  • Compounded Flavored Meds
    Some pharmacies will compound medications into flavored liquid doses, which are both easier to swallow, and a lot tastier than pills. Your veterinarian may work with a compounding pharmacy, a "regular" pharmacy may have flavors for pets (we strongly advise against shopping online for your pets meds).

  • Transdermal Meds
    Some medications can be formulated into a gel or ointment that can be rubbed into your cat's inner ear. These can also be compounded by pharmacies.

At least one of these solutions should relieve both you and your cat of the anxiety and discomfort found in dry pilling. Speak with your veterinarian specifically about the best approach for your feline friend.


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White Cats and Deafness

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Hereditary deafness is a major concern found in white cats, and especially so if one or both eyes are blue.

Research has found that only 17-22% of white cats with non-blue eyes are born deaf. The percentages rise to nearly half (40%) if the cat has one blue eye. An upwards of 65-85% of all white cats with two blue eyes are deaf. Some of these cats are deaf in a just one ear. Interestingly enough, if a white cat has one blue eye, the ear that is deaf tends to fall on the same side as the blue eye.

Cats with only one deaf ear out of the two tend to appear normal and their issue may never be known to their humans. Even if born completely deaf, cats can live perfectly fine lives as long as you take heed to not put them in situations where they must rely on audible cues (i.e. the outdoors). There is no treatment for hereditary deafness.


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