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6 Tips to keep your cat healthy

Christine Bryant is a freelance writer based in Columbus, OH, where she lives with her husband and daughter. She writes for SheKnows, as well as several other publications that include newspapers and magazines. She writes on topics such ...

Keep your felines in tip-top shape

Cat lovers unite! Cats have found a special place in our hearts, and we owe it to them to keep them as healthy as possible.

Cat with vet in background | Sheknows.com

Cats are wonderful creatures that ooze cuteness with their furry faces and entertaining personalities. Just like humans, cats have nutritional and health needs that mean the difference between an unhealthy and a healthy life. After all, a healthy cat is a happy cat, so here are six tips to help you make the best choices for your four-legged family member.

1

Vaccinate your kitten

The vaccines that have been designated as core, and are recommended for all pets, generally protect against infectious diseases that are very common among felines.

"It is difficult to protect even an indoor pet against these infections without vaccination, since we may inadvertently bring the organisms into our homes as we come and go," says Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA Animal Hospital.

For a complete list of vaccines your cat needs, visit here.

2

Spay your cat

There are a variety of diseases that can be prevented simply by having your cat spayed. The two most common are pyometra and mammary gland tumors, Murray says. Pyometra is a common condition in which the uterus becomes infected and fills with pus, often resulting in an extreme illness and emergency surgery.

"Breast cancer is highly malignant in cats, and female cats who are not spayed have 91 percent more risk of developing breast cancer than a cat spayed before six months of age," she says.

Spaying also eliminates the chances of ovarian and uterine cancer, and neutering removes the risk of testicular cancers, says Dr. Jules Benson, vice president of Veterinary Services at Petplan.

3

Watch their teeth

While it would be nice if your cat could join you at the bathroom sink with his own toothbrush and toothpaste, the truth is cats can't perform their own dental care. Next time you're at the veterinarian, have her check your cat's teeth.

"Teeth that are infected or broken cause pain, difficulty eating and chronic kidney infections — often without many clues from your cat," says Dr. Patti Maslanka, owner of HomeCare Veterinary Services.

4

Prevent fleas

Fleas can be more than an annoyance. Infestations can have serious consequences for our feline friends, ranging from dermatitis to secondary bacterial infections. Because fleas survive on blood from the animals they infest, cats with fleas can also become anemic due to blood loss.

"Severe flea anemia requires treatment with blood transfusions, and can be fatal if not discovered and treated properly," Murray says.

5

Don't smoke

Just like with humans, cats can suffer from secondary smoke inhalation as well, leading to cancer and chronic lung diseases like asthma and bronchitis. Because they self-groom, they also may ingest toxic particles from cigarette smoke.

"This factor is believed to be one reason that cats living with people who smoke have higher rates of oral cancer," Murray says.

6

Don't skip appointments

An annual wellness visit is just what the doctor ordered! Weight, eating habits, heart rate, condition of teeth and claws, and presence of any growths within the skin are all things your feline's doctor will monitor, Maslanka said.

Cats older than 7 should see the vet twice a year, Benson says. "These checkups help catch potential problems — which cats are adept at hiding — before they develop into something more serious," he says.

Tell us:

Do you have any tips that have helped you keep your cats healthy? Share your tips in the comments section below.

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Photo credit: Jon Schulte/Photodisc/Getty Images
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