Cat Health









"Excuse me... is this the doctor's office?? I heard there are good magazines concerning cat health, here"













One in three pets will need major veterinary care during their lifetime. Cat health insurance helps to pay expensive bills



















Good cat health equates to lots of scratching & stretching. Give your cat some scratching furniture of her own for these all important activities





















This is what an adult Tapeworm looks like... yuck, I can tell it's not good for cat health



























Sign: Cat  

A good sense of humor is important for people and cat health 



























Wow... what a migraine this one is!!




















Feline Miliary Dermatitis possibly caused by an allergic reaction to fleas






























Open wide and say aahhh



























































































































The eyes of a cat are extremely sensitive to motion and are very good at conserving light. It makes her a very efficient night time hunter.
















































There are times when cat health is dependent on milk supplements like PetAg KMR Milk Replacer for Kittens icon Either for growing kittens, orphaned or abandoned waifs, or for nursing moms







































Newborn kittens are very vulnerable and orphans need committed & specialized kitten health care






























This kitty wears an E-collar (Elizabethan collar) after surgery to remove a soft plastic toy he ingested












































Newborn kitten and Queen







































Young kittens need to be stimulated with a massage at the base of their tail to urinate. That kitten health chore is left to you if your raising orphans
































































These 10 day old kittens have their eyes open and are beginning to move around































































Cats multiply exponentially... it's for their own good cat health to have them spayed or neutered































































Petrodex Dental Kit

A typical cat dental health kit like the Petrodex Dental Kit for Cats includes a special malt flavored toothpaste, finger brush and cat sized toothbrush






















Finger Toothbrush Gloves

If you really want to get serious about cat health dental care, use Petrodex Finger Toothbrush Gloves. She'll let you start using a tooth brush just to get you out of her mouth wearing these finger toothbrush gloves





























The best thing for good cat health... is good lovin'





Cat naps would benefit both human and cat health


Be Observant to the Influences that can affect Cat Health
Cat health is arguably the single most important responsibility of being a cat owner. It seems that as resilient as cats present themselves to be, there's a whole host of problems that follow them around. Maintaining cat health can occupy much of your time when problems arise and can also be a relatively expensive proposition. The good news is that if one is observant, many problems can be effectively dealt with if they are caught early. Being observant includes being able to differentiate between true physiological problems and behavior problems which are usually stress related. Stress plays an important role in overall cat health not only as a contributing factor to poor cat health, but symptoms of stress can sometimes be confused with symptoms of bad physiological cat health.

For example:

  • If your kitty has inexplicably stopped using her litter box, is it a sign of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) which is a physiological cat health problem, does the litter just need changing, or is she under some stress due to a new member of the family coming into her home?
  • Does constant scratching better known as Pruritis (itching) and the appearance of lesions indicate feline miliary dermatitis due to fleas, mites or lice? Or does she have a food allergy? Is she having a stressful reaction to a change in her environment?

Environmental stress can have a detrimental effect on cat behavior, and consequentially cat health, conversely a physiological cat health problem can produce stress, also. In other words, a dirty litter box can produces stress that results in bad behavior and bad physical cat health can produce stress which also results in negative behavior. It's important if you notice your cat is not acting in a happy, contented "normal" manner, that you are able to eliminate non-relevant sources of a problem and diagnose her situation accurately in order to provide the proper treatment and care. This is why it's so important to develop a close relationship with your veterinarian right from the start of accepting responsibility for your cat. Many of the assaults on your cat's immune system are contracted by her hanging out with the wrong crowd. That is, infectious diseases picked up from infected cats she may come into contact with such as in a cattery or animal shelter, or with a feral cat. Then there're those maladies which are inherited genetically. It takes a trained professional to properly diagnose a cat health problem. But, your attentive observations can be very helpful to early diagnosis, which is extremely important, and treatment of any problems that can afflict cat health.

There are, of course, some basic cat health requirements that need to be met. Clean, fresh water. A nutritious and balanced diet. A happy home out of the storm. Lots of loving attention and lots of good healthful exercise all contribute to good cat health.


Some Non-Behavior Related Diseases
Below is a list, not necessarily complete, but comprehensive, of some of the more common cat health related diseases and some signs you should look for if your cat isn't being herself. If you have determined that she is not exhibiting stress related problems that can be fixed by adjusting her environment, then you need to talk with your veterinarian about the possibilities of her experiencing a physical cat health disorder. You may still need to adjust her environment to compensate for an illness and its treatment.

The disorders listed below are best handled by a professional; your vet. They are offered as a rudimentary introduction to cat health ailments and aren't meant to a diagnostic tool for any cat health problems.

Feline Tumors: Some Benign, Some Bad
Not all tumors are cancerous. Some are benign and don't infiltrate neighboring tissues or spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body, thus producing bad cat health problems. They are usually amenable to surgical removal. Malignant tumors are cancers that will invade neighboring tissue and spread throughout the body. They are probably the greatest concern you can have about cat health and cancers are usually fatal. Analyzing a blood cell count, a blood chemistry panel, urinalysis and biopsy are the usual methods of determining the type of tumor and whether it's benign or cancerous.

The most frequently observed cancers in cats are:

  • Feline Lymphoma
  • Mammary Cancer
  • Squamous Cell Tumors (Either skin associated or vaccine injection-site sarcoma)

According to the Veterinary Cancer Society, the 10 most common signs of cancer affecting cat health are:

  • Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
  • Sores that don't heal
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  • Offensive odor
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Loss of stamina or resistant to exercising
  • Persistent lameness or stiffness
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating

Many of these symptoms may indicate other cat health ailments and their presence doesn't necessarily mean that your cat has cancer. But, if they are present you definitely need to have kitty checked by your veterinarian.


Parasites of the Digestive System

  • Aonchotheca - Rarely found in the U.S. it's more common to Europe
  • Coccidia (Coccidiosis) - A cause of diarrhea it's usually found in kittens. Adults are usually immune but may be carriers and shed the protozoan known as coccidiosis in their feces. Kittens can pick coccidiosis up from their mother who may be shedding the one-celled animal. Stress plays a large role in the development of coccidiosis. It is a treatable poor cat health condition.
  • Giardia (Giardia cati) - Usually occurs in younger cats. Symptoms are diarrhea and loss of weight without a loss of appetite. Diagnosis and treatment are problematic and somewhat controversial.
  • Gnathostoma - With a complex life cycle this parasite is most commonly contracted by eating an infected prey.
  • Hookworms (Ancylostoma - Uncinaria) One of the most common parasites, their presence is indicated by anemia and a black, tar-like stool. They are readily treated with OTC wormers.
  • Ollulanus tricuspis - Found throughout the U.S. it is contracted by eating the vomit of an infected host. No know treatment but preventable with good sanitation habits.
  • Physaloptera - Although found throughout the U.S. it has no known treatment. Symptoms are similar to ollulanus tricuspis but not considered an important cause of disease.
  • Roundworms (Toxascaris leonina, Toxocara cati) - A common parasite of pets it is transmitted through mother's milk to the kittens or by ingesting feces. Humans are susceptible to the parasite, too. Treated with most wormers, repeat treatments are recommended.
  • Strongyloides (Threadworms) - Common to wet hot climates like the Gulf Coast these parasites appear in the vomit or feces of infected animals and either ingested or handled by a new host, including humans.
  • Tapeworms - There are many types of tapeworms affecting cat health and they're usually detected by observation of the worm in the feces of the host.
  • Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma gondii) - Cats can become infected by eating infected small prey, uncooked meat (usually pork), and raw goat's milk. Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite and depression. It's also treatable.
  • Trichinosis (Trichinella spiralis) - Better known as 'trichinosis' and is not a very important cause of disease of cat health, though it can occur.
  • Whipworms (T. serrata) - Rare in cats. Detection is through fecal exams and indicated by the presence of blood in the feces and anemia.


Anal Glands (Sacs)
The anal glands are located on each side of the anus in cats. Their purpose is to produce an identifying secretion which is unique to an individual cat. The secretion may be "sprayed" or deposited on a stool as it is passed. Other cats will then be able to tell who has been there. Glands may become impacted, infected or abscessed. Overall cat health is not affected by impacted glands but infected or abscessed glands can be painful and need to be treated. Symptoms include 'scooting' across the floor or continual licking of the anal area.

  • Colitis - This is an inflammation of the colon caused by bacteria, stress or parasites.
  • Diaphragmatic Hernias - Rupture of the diaphragm, either from trauma or occurring as a congenital defect, which can be surgically repaired.
  • Diarrhea & Vomiting - A word on vomiting and diarrhea. It's not uncommon for cats to eat something that doesn't agree with them. It's not necessarily a sign of bad cat health for this to happen. But, you do want to keep an eye on this behavior. Blood in vomit or diarrhea is not a good sign. If there is any listless behavior, continual bouts in a short span of time, fever, or if it occurs for more than a day or so, you should see your veterinarian. Bottom line, look for any secondary symptoms affecting cat health and don't let it go too long.
  • Hair balls - Formed in the stomach as a result of grooming. Usually passed with the stool but that which doesn't is vomited. Can be treated and doesn't affect overall cat health normally.
  • Imperforate Anus - A congenital disease wherein a kitten is born without an anus and is unable to defecate. Can be repaired surgically.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease - Inflammation of the stomach or intestinal walls and characterized by vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Intussusception of the Intestines - This is a sliding or telescoping of usually the small intestine. Occurs primarily in kittens and early detection is essential to cat health. Can be repaired surgically.
  • Megacolon and Constipation in Cats - Symptoms are hard dry stools, straining to defecate, defecating outside of the litter box or spending a lot of time in the litter box with no defecating results. She may become dehydrated. Mild constipation can resolve itself. Moderate constipation might require a change of diet and more severe types can require surgery.
  • Megaesophagus - When the esophagus loses its muscle tone kitty is unable to swallow. This is usually a congenital condition with no cure. Cats with this problem need to be fed a liquid diet.
  • Rectal Prolapse (Protruding Rectum) - Can be caused by constipation, diarrhea or from giving birth. The source for the protrusion needs to be identified quickly or death may result.


A cat's eyes are a wonder of nature. Large dilation allows a cat to see well at night. With the eyes positioned forward on the head, your cat can focus very clearly on her prey. As you may well guess, the eyes are critical to her overall cat health.

  • Conjunctivitis - An inflammation of the conjunctiva which is the membrane tissue that lines the eyelids. Symptoms range from redness of the conjunctiva to weeping of the eyes. Diagnosis should be done at once to determine if bacteria are present. Treatment for this cat health problem is usually quite successful.
  • Herpes virus Infection of the Feline Eye - (FHV-1) is one of the most common causes of conjunctivitis in cats and can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Heterochromia - A normal variation in the eye color of cats. Not a problem to cat health.
  • Horner's Syndrome - Symptoms are nerve related and indicated by small pupil size, drooping of the upper eyelid, protrusion of the third eyelid and the eye will have a sunken appearance. This can be the result of trauma, bite wounds, a foreign body in the eye, or a tumor on the spine. Symptoms outside of the brain or spinal cord will usually have a prognosis for good cat health recovery.
  • Microphthalmia (Small Eyes) - Usually occurs in newborns and is untreatable.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy/Degeneration - A progressive retinal disease that will lead to blindness. Usually begins with night blindness. There is no cure. But, since it occurs slowly over time your cat will adjust. Just don't go moving the furniture on her or she will become confused (see below).
  • Strabismus (Cross-Eyed) - This can be an inherited condition or the result of trauma. If it is inherited, there's nothing to do. Trauma to cat health can sometimes be corrected.

If a cat becomes blind, especially over a period of time, it is remarkable how well they can adapt. Their hearing, already very acute, becomes even more reliable as a sensor for her surroundings. But, keeping her environment familiar, as she knew it when she had her vision, is important for cat health... so that she doesn't lose her bearings.


Heart & Respiratory Systems
The heart and respiratory systems work together for good cat health to supply oxygen to body tissues and muscles via the blood circulatory maze of veins, arteries and capillary vessels. They also carry carbon dioxide away from tissues for exhalation into the atmosphere.

  • Aspiration Pneumonia - This condition is most common with kittens who are tube or bottle fed. It is result of the kitten getting too much milk too fast and is then taken into the lungs. The result can be a bacterial infection of the lungs. If you are hand feeding kittens, slow feeding is best for optimum cat health.
  • Feline Asthma - A common cat health disease that comes and goes, but is treatable. Symptoms are wheezing and coughing with the head stretched forward. In severe cases vomiting may occur after a fit. The condition is usually caused by allergens and sometimes viruses or infection.
  • Feline Upper Respiratory Disease Complex - A condition affecting the mouth, nasal passages, sinuses, and upper airway in cats and kittens usually caused by the feline herpes-1 virus. Most cats will continue to be carriers of the disease and will become contagious to other cats and especially to kittens that they nurse.
  • Heart Attacks - The most common form of heart disease in cats is called "cardiomyopathy". It is a result of not enough of the amino acid "taurine". Most cat foods today contain a sufficient amount of taurine.
  • Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) - Spread by mosquitoes, this disease is a result of the heartworm parasite taking up residence in the cat's heart. Not good for cat health. Best controlled by reducing exposure to mosquitoes. Prevention and treatment are done so at the close direction of your veterinarian.
  • Pneumonitis & Pneumonia (Infections/Inflammation) - If a lung infection (pneumonitis) leads to a build up of fluid in the lungs, it's called pneumonia. Pneumonia can also be caused by irritants such as smoke or trauma. Infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. All are serious cat health conditions. Symptoms include rapid, shallow breathing and a blue/gray color to the tongue, gums and lips. Immediate veterinary diagnosis and care is required at the signs of this condition.
  • Pneumothorax (Air in the Chest Cavity) - A puncture of the lung wall caused by some kind of trauma causing a lung to collapse. Treatment is with surgical repair.


Immune - Lymphatic - Blood Systems

  • Allergies in Cats
    Cats can be allergic to many of the same things that humans are. Food, pollen, smog, cigarette smoke, fleas and other insect bites. The symptom of an allergy is usually seen on the skin accompanied by the loss of tufts of hair, long thin lesions, 'twitchy' skin, itching, or mutilated skin. Pollen allergies can cause a runny nose. Food allergies may cause vomiting and an allergy to an insect bite may cause swelling at the bite site. Avoidance of an allergy cause is the best therapy for good cat health.
    • Allergic & Irritant Contact Dermatitis - A hypersensitive reaction to certain elements in the environment such as a metal like nickel, wool or rubber, chemical dyes or carpet deodorizers. Symptoms are lesions in the contact area, redness, small bumps and itching.
    • Anaphylaxis - Stinging insects, antibiotics, vaccines, certain foods, hormones and medications, can cause anaphylaxis sending your cat into shock and possibly death. Symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, shock, seizures and coma. Emergency treatment is required and minutes count.
    • Feline Miliary Dermatitis - Lesions of multiple small crusty bumps with underlying redness. Can be caused by a variety disease reactions from insects to bacteria or fungus. Treatment depends on the cause as diagnosed by your veterinarian.
    • Flea Allergy Dermatitis or Bite Hypersensitivity - A reaction to flea bites is identified by constant scratching or biting at the base of the tail. Treating for fleas means ridding the whole environment of fleas including the yard, house and sleeping areas of all pets with a product that kills adult fleas.
    • Food Allergies - Food allergy symptoms are itching, excessive scratching or miliary dermatitis. Diagnosis is a regimented process in close coordination with a veterinarian. Of course treatment is avoidance of the food causing the problem.
    • Human Allergies to Cats - See Cat Allergy
    • Hypersensitivity - This is the immune system overreacting to a stimulus. There are various types of hypersensitivity and are generally known to be genetic. The reaction is normal and considered to be a part of the body's defense system.
    • Mosquito Bite Hypersensitivity - Diagnosis of this hypersensitivity is based on the signs of disease (lesions are areas of crusts, scaling, and raw ulcers), season of the year, biopsy results, and improvement of the lesions when the cat is confined in a mosquito-free area for 4 to 7 days. Symptoms are treatable and prevention is to exercise a mosquito control program and limiting exposure to mosquitoes.
    • Urticaria (Hives) & Angioedema (Swelling of the Face) - Allergic reactions to drugs, chemicals, something eaten, or even sunlight. Can be treated with antihistamines, but usually will go away on its own.
  • Autoimmunity - This is a situation in which a cat's immune system has lost its ability to distinguish a foreign antigen from it's own body tissue. When the immune system is triggered, it will attack it's own body cells and tissue.
  • Cytauxzoon felis - A newly discovered parasite (1976) found in Florida, Texas and Missouri. It is believed to be spread by ticks and is always fatal. The signs of disease include listlessness, anemia, jaundice, high fever, and difficulty with breathing.
  • Feline Lymphoma - Symptoms are weight loss, rough hair coat, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. Feline lymphoma always involves a proliferation of lymphoid cells and is closely linked to FeLV and FIV leukemia viruses. Infected cats respond well to chemotherapy and vaccination against leukemia viruses is highly advisable for good cat health.
  • Lymphadenitis/Lymphadenopathy (Swollen Lymph Nodes) - There are many reasons for enlarged lymph nodes including infections, cancers or inflammation. The condition responds to treatment except that if cancer is involved it could be serious. Lymph nodes near an area of infection will become enlarged and inflamed, so different parts of the cat's body can be affected.
  • Lymphatic System - The lymphatic system is a group of organs that include the thymus gland and bone morrow. Other organs are the lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, aggregated lymphoid tissue, and spleen. The primary function of this system is to maintain proper fluid balances, absorb fats and trap antigens. Good cat health is dependant upon the lymphatic system to help keep your cat disease free.
  • Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper) - A highly contagious and severe viral disease, common throughout nature, characterized by diarrhea, vomiting, low white blood cell count, and seizures. Vaccines are available to protect your cat from this virus and should not be overlooked.
  • The Immune System - The immune system is a cat's defense system protecting her from disease causing agents like toxins, parasites, bacteria and viruses. Immune systems can malfunction by attacking it's own body tissue, overreacting to invasion or not reacting sufficiently to invasive agents. All can undermine cat health.
  • Trypanosoma cruzi - A fatal parasite found primarily in Central and South America.


Infectious Diseases
Most bacterial and viral infectious diseases can be prevented with vaccines, thus insuring good cat health.

  • Bacterial & Viral Infections
    • Avian Influenza and Your Cat - It's a possibility that domestic cats could pick up the "bird flu" virus (H5N1 virus) by eating the raw meat of infected birds. Contagion may also be possible through contact with other infected cat's feces, urine or nasal discharge. Symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing, a clear nasal discharge that may be red to pink in color, loss of appetite, and depression. There is no cure and it's fatal. Fortunately, there are no known cases in the U.S.
    • Cat Scratch Disease: Bartonellosis - A bacterial infection in people after being scratched by a cat or kitten during play. The bacteria are spread by ticks or fleas to the cat... and then to you. Sometimes known as Cat Scratch Fever the symptoms in people show in 7 - 12 days as swelling and an abscess at the injury site, and maybe flu-like symptoms. Usually resolves itself but sometimes antibiotics are needed.
    • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) - Identified as a retrovirus it's related to the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). The virus attacks the immune system making it impossible for the cat to fight off various infections and cancers. Infection is through contact with infected saliva or bite wounds. Mothers usually do not spread the virus to their offspring through their milk. There is no cure and treatment is dependant upon the disease the cat may develop. Click here for a full discussion of FIV
    • Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) - This virus affects many different systems of the cat's body, is a progressive disease and almost always fatal. Since household cleaners will kill the virus, it's another good reason to keep food & water dishes clean, as well as the litter box scrubbed periodically. There is a vaccine available for cats over 16 weeks old, and it's 50-75 % effective.
    • Feline Leukemia (FeLV) - This cancerous disease is caused by the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Cats may not show signs of the disease for years after being infected. Though cats may not show signs of the disease, some symptoms could be mild fever, slight lethargy, and swollen lymph nodes. Diseases that can be caused by FeLV are:
      • Immunodeficiency
      • Anemia
      • Immune-mediated diseases
      • Reproductive problems
      • Gastrointestinal disease
      • Neurological disease
      • Platelet disorders
      • Lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes)
      • Neoplasia

    Vaccination is the best prevention along with limiting your cats contact with feral populations. Click here for a full discussion of FeLV

    • Haemobartonellosis (Feline Infectious Anemia) - Another virus transmitted by fleas and ticks. Symptoms often include depression, loss of appetite, and dehydration, and is treated with antibiotics.
    • Plague (Yersinia pestis) - Rodent fleas carry this bacterial disease. Rodents such as rats, rabbits, prairie dogs or rock squirrels. Infection happens through the bite of a flea or your cat eating a flea infected rodent. Can be treated with antibiotics.
    • Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper) - The common symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, low white blood cell count, and seizures identify this highly contagious viral disease of cats and kittens. Transmission is through contact with the feces or urine of infected cats and with contacting contaminated food bowls, water dishes, clothing, shoes, hands, bedding, and litter boxes. Prevention is accomplished with a series of shots after 4 weeks of age. Using bleach to clean contaminated items will kill the virus.
    • Rabies - Usually transmitted through animal bites, this is a well known virus and is contagious to humans. After infection the virus travels through the nervous system to the brain and then to the salivary glands for re-transmission through another bite. It is fatal if not vaccinated against.
    • Tularemia (Rabbit Fever) - A relatively rare bacterial disease transmitted by ticks and can be treated with antibiotics.


  • Fungal Infections
    The most common way to receive a fungal infection is through breathing the fungus spores. They're everywhere. Sometimes, though a cat can pick up the spores from infected soil.
    • Aspergillosis - An infection of the nose and nasal passages. Early detection and treatment are essential for maintaining good cat health. Symptoms include a clear nasal discharge alternating with nose bleeding, ulcerations on the external area of the nose and facial/nose pain.
    • Coccidioidomycosis - Sometimes known as "Valley Fever", this fungus can cause respiratory diseases. Symptoms include fever, weight loss, loss of appetite and draining skin lesions. There is no vaccine available but can be treated with oral antifungal agents.
    • Cryptococcosis neoformans - Affects different cats in different ways. Some sneeze, others have nasal discharge, still others have skin lesions, nasal mass, eye problems or nervous system problems. Chronically affected cat health will show lethargy, loss of appetite and weight loss. This is treatable and usually only affects cats with depressed immune systems.
    • Diskospondylitis (Spondylitis) - An infection of the vertebrae and the inter-vertebral discs in cats. Cats are reluctant to jump or run, suffer depression, lack appetite, have fever and back pain. Treatment is long and dependant on localizing the fungus responsible for the disease.
    • Histoplasmosis Infection - Infections occur in the lower respiratory tract causing labored breathing, maybe some coughing and in some cases anemia and have pale gums. The disease is very debilitating and there's no vaccine for it.
    • Malassezia Infections - Not considered a terribly bad cat health problem this yeast infection is commonly found in the ear canal, anal sacs, vagina, and rectum of cats. It can be treated.
    • Pythiosis (Fungal Infection) - A rare but fatal infection contacted when a cat with open sores drinks, stands or swims in stagnant water. It's found primarily in the Southeastern U.S. Gulf Coast area. Infections will appear as large swollen nodules that will ulcerate and drain. The lesions are most common on legs, the head, and at the base of the tail. Unless treated early, it's usually fatal.
    • Ringworm - If she has good cat health, your cat will have a measure of natural resistance to ringworm. Lesions appear as round, hairless areas with scaly skin in the center. Often small pustules can be found in the lesion. Ringworm is treatable and can be transmitted to people.
    • Sporotrichosis (Fungal Infection) - A rare but potentially dangerous infection thought to be transmitted through bites. The bite wounds may abscess and turn into lesions that'll not heal, ulcerate and drain. Humans are susceptible to the fungus. Treatment consists of prompt care for any bite wounds.
    • Zygomycosis (Skin Disease) - These fungi live in the soil and on decaying vegetation. It is found on the skin and coat of cats but causes few problems with cat health. Infections appear as nodules in the skin and may ulcerate and drain. Treatment consists of surgical removal of the nodules.


  • Protozoan Infections
    Protozoa are one-celled animals that affect cat health by causing infection to various organs of the cat's body. Treatment can be unique from other parasite infestations.
    • Cytauxzoon felis - Protozoa that multiply in the digestive tract of kittens and adults with suppressed immune systems. Adults can be immune to the protozoa but shed the disease in their feces. Kittens who come into contacts with the infected feces are vulnerable. Symptoms are diarrhea, sometimes bloody. Good sanitation and immediate removal of feces from kitten exposure is the best preventive measure.
    • Trypanosoma cruzi - This infection is passed by the "kissing bug" and is common to Central and South America. It is very rare in the U.S. Cats may have convulsions and paralysis of the hind limbs. There's no cure and because it's a danger to humans, euthanasia is recommended for infected animals.
    • Cytauxzoon felis - A newly discovered parasite (1976) found in Florida, Texas and Missouri. It is believed to be spread by ticks and is always fatal. The signs of disease include listlessness, anemia, jaundice, high fever, and difficulty with breathing.
    • Giardia (Giardia cati) - Usually occurs in younger cats. Symptoms are diarrhea and loss of weight without a loss of appetite. Diagnosis and treatment are problematic and somewhat controversial.
    • Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma gondii) - Cats can become infected by eating infected small prey, uncooked meat (usually pork), and raw goat's milk. Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite and depression. It's also treatable.
  • Typhus (Rickettsia typhi) - Transmitted by the bite of cat or rodent fleas, or the inadvertent scratching of flea feces into a wound. The disease can pass to humans who will show symptoms of fever, chills, headache, and general pain. A rash sometimes develops on the body except for the face, soles of the feet and palms of the hand. Flea control is the best prevention to spreading this disease to humans.


Liver Disease in Cats and the Feline Pancreas

  • Diabetes Mellitus - The pancreas is responsible for producing insulin which enables the body's cells to absorb glucose (fuel). The hypothalamus area of the brain is responsible for regulating the amount of insulin produced by the pancreas. It also tells your cat when to be hungry and when she is full. If there is an insufficient amount of insulin being produced, or if there is an abnormal amount being produced due to the body cells not responding to the stimulus of insulin to absorb glucose, she will feel hungry all the time and continue to eat even when the amount of glucose in the blood gets dangerously high. And the more she eats she will still lose weight because of the inability of the body cells to absorb glucose. This is more common in middle-aged, obese male cats. The exact cause for this phenomenon is unknown. Common symptoms of diabetes mellitus are:
    • Increased thirst (polydipsia) and urination (polyuria)
    • Inappropriate elimination
    • Change in appetite
    • Weight loss
    • Change in gait (walking)
    • Decreased activity, weakness, depression
    • Vomiting
  • Hypoglycemia - Literally, low blood sugar. Usually a result of inadequate nutrition due to not enough or poor quality (indigestible) foods. Excessive exercise can also be a cause. In some cases it can be a result of a liver disease. Symptoms are listlessness and weakness. It is a dangerous situation and requires immediate attention.
  • Liver & Gall Bladder - Poor cat health due to a liver disorder can manifest many symptoms that aren't necessarily specific to liver disease. Even though a liver disease can be fatal, the liver does have amazing regenerative abilities. Some symptoms include:
    • Seizures
    • Behavior changes
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Jaundice
    • Anesthesia intolerance
    • Increase in drinking and urination
    • Gray-white and soft feces
    • Abdominal distention due to liver enlargement
    • Reduced appetite
    • Weight loss

Liver disease may be due to viral or bacterial infection, parasites, cancer, inflammation, obstructive bile duct disease, fatty liver disease, toxic reactions, or as a result of some medications. Diagnosis is a complex series of tests including coagulation tests, bile tests, blood count, urinalysis, imaging techniques and biopsy.

  • Pancreatic Disorders
    • Pancreatic Insufficiency (Maldigestion Disorder) - This disease results when the pancreas doesn't produce the enzymes needed to break down the proteins, starches, and fats found in your cat's diet into small enough pieces that allow them to be absorbed through the intestinal wall. The result is she may actually be starving to death since food passes through without being digested.
      Pancreatitis (Inflammation) - Pancreatitis can be a life threatening condition affecting cat health, but early diagnosis and treatment will improve chances of recovery. Fever, rapid heart rate, and abdominal pain are the most common signs in cats. Treatment involves stopping all oral intake to rest the pancreas, correcting dehydration, and bringing under control proper fluid and electrolyte balances.


Metabolic & Hormonal (Endocrine) Disorders

  • Hyperparathyroidism - The parathyroid glands (not the thyroid glands) produce the parathyroid hormone which maintains the balance calcium and phosphorous in the blood.
    • Primary Hyperparathyroidism is when this gland becomes cancerous and produces too much of the hormone. Symptoms may be a lose of appetite, vomiting, drinking and urinating more often, and may appear drowsy or listless.
    • Secondary hyperparathyroidism is more common and occurs most frequently in kittens when fed an all-meat or organ diet (such as all liver) or a diet with an imbalance of calcium and phosphorous. Because the calcium intake is low, the parathyroid hormone removes calcium from the bones and causes the kitty to be reluctant to move, she may stand splay-legged, and may easily develop fractures because of the thinning of the bones. The changes in the density of the bones often cause abnormal growth. The remedy is to put her on a balanced diet for optimum cat health.
  • Hyperthyroidism in Cats - Hyperthyroidism is a very common endocrine disorder affecting cat health. It usually occurs in middle aged or older cats and has a wide range of symptoms. Diagnosis is easily determined with a blood thyroid level check. There are three different treatment options: anti-thyroid medication, surgery, and radio-iodine therapy. Treatment is usually successful and treated cats can lead a normal healthy life.
  • Pituitary Dwarfism - A kitten affected with pituitary dwarfism will fail to grow properly or proportionately. She will generally be much smaller than her littermates. Her teeth and hair coat will be slow to develop. Kittens may be slow or unable to progress mentally and physically. This is all caused by an inadequate production of the growth hormone (GH) by the pituitary gland due to a lack of development of the pituitary gland, cysts within the gland, infectious diseases which affect the gland, or tumors. There is no treatment for the condition.


External Parasites in Cats

  • Fleas & Ticks
    • Flea Control & Prevention - Controlling fleas on cats is a multi-step process. Adult fleas will spend most of their time on your cat, but flea eggs, larvae, and pupae can be found in your cat's environment such as in carpeting, rugs, bedding, and grass. Further, for every flea that you see on your cat, there are probably hundreds of eggs and larvae in your home and yard. A truly effective flea control program always includes treating your cat's environment as well as treating her. The essential steps for a successful flea control program are:
      • Remove fleas from the indoor environment.
        Remove fleas from the outdoor environment.
        Remove fleas from pets.
        Keep immature forms of fleas from developing.

    The best flea control is based on prevention. The use of collars, shampoos, flea combs, dips, sprays and topical ointments are all acceptable methods of control. Whatever you choose to use, maintain constant vigilance and keep current with whichever prevention program you choose to use. It's a real mess to deal with if fleas secure an infestation. It's not only bad for cat health... but for you, too.

    • Tick Control & Removal - Tick control is not unlike flea control in that it is a multi-stage process. Prevention is the best form of control and involves:
      • Reducing the potential for ticks from the outdoor environment by removing leaves, brush and tall grass.
      • Maintaining a prevention program for your cat with topical's, collars, baths, sprays, powders and shampoos.

    If you notice a tick has found your cat, remove it in the following manner:

    • Grasp the tick with a pair of tweezers as close to the head as possible.
    • Pull the tick straight out trying not to squeeze it so that it breaks apart. You want all the tick to be removed to lesson the possibility of infection.
    • Rub the bite with an antiseptic. There may be a red bite spot but should clear up quickly. If it persists, see your veterinarian.
  • Mites & Mange
    • Cheyletiella yasguri, C. blakei (Rabbit Fur Mite) - Also known as 'walking dandruff', which comes from observing white scales (dandruff) moving around on the skin. The movement is caused by the mites motoring around under the scales. The mites don't usually cause any significant diseases and since the mites will live only for a few days off the host, it's effective to remove the cat from the premises for several days until the mites die. Common flea insecticides are also effective.
    • Demodicosis - This is a rare skin disease in cats. However, if your cat suffers from hair loss and itchy skin, particularly around the eyelids and head, Demodex, as the mite is known by, could be the cause. The disease is relatively easy to identify and treat successfully.
    • Ear Mites - Though it's not important to identify which kind of ear mite may have infected your kitty's ear, it is important to know for your cat's health that they are very contagious. They also can live anywhere on the cat's body, not just in the ears. Symptoms are persistent scratching around the ears and shaking of the head. Bad infestations will show fresh blood or dried blood which looks like coffee grounds. Left untreated damage to the ear canals, eardrum and deafness can result.
    • Feline Scabies (Notoedric Mange) - If your cat suffers from severe itching or hair loss around the head, eyelids and neck, she should be examined for this mange mite. The condition can be treated, but prevention is the best medicine by keeping kitty from strays or infected animals. The mite can infect humans.
    • Trombiculiasis (Chiggers) - Chiggers take up residence in the ears and can be easily seen, looking like paprika due to their reddish color. They are controlled with a topical anti-parasite drug
  • Other External Parasites
    Cuterebriasis - This is a situation in which the larvae of the Cuterebra fly (a bee-like fly) develop under the skin after the eggs have been picked up by the cat as she passes by the eggs which have been deposited in the soil, stones or grass, or ingests them while licking her coat. The larva need to be surgically removed and if not, it will continue to enlarge and ultimately break through the skin and fall to the ground completing its cycle to adulthood.
    Lice (Pediculosis) - These insects can be seen with the naked eye and are host specific. That means they will spend their entire life-cycle on one cat. Lice are easy to eliminate with a lice specific shampoo
  • Other Internal Parasites
    Bladder worm (C. felis cati) - Adult female worms are almost 2½ inches long; males are half that size. Adult worms can be seen and removed if the bladder is surgically opened. Diagnosis is generally made through finding eggs in the urine. There is no treatment and the best prevention is with good sanitation habits. Though rare in cats, symptoms resemble that of a urinary bladder infection such as frequent and painful urination.
    Eye worm (Thelazia californiensis) - Eye worms live in the tear ducts, between the eye and the lids and they don't normally cause serious disease, but can be annoying. Because of the irritation to the eye symptoms may produce more tears, be sensitive to light, and occasionally develop conjunctivitis. By applying a topical anesthetic to the eye, the parasite may them be removed. As the medical name implies, they parasite is most common on the Pacific Coast.
    Giant Kidney Worm (Dioctophyme renale) - This parasite worm can grow to over a yard in length, virtually destroying the kidney. Usually no symptoms will be shown and diagnosis is almost always post mortem. Fortunately, it is a rare disease in cats.


Reproduction & Fetal Development

  • Fetal Development & Congenital Defects
    • Cleft Palate - A skeletal disorder of kittens that occurs when the bones in the roof of the mouth don't develop properly, allowing a passage to the nasal cavity to develop. Symptoms are in kittens having milk coming out of their nose and/or inhaling milk into their lungs causing a difficulty in breathing or even pneumonia. The problem can be surgically repaired.
    • Sexing Kittens - Pretty hard to do until the kitten is 8 weeks old. After that you should be able to determine the kitty's sex.
  • Pregnancy - Birth - Newborn Care
    • Newborn Kitten Care - Newborn kittens must have all their needs met either by their mother (Queen), or in the case of orphans, by their care giver. This includes feeding and nutrition, stimulation of urination and defecation, knowledge of normal cat development, proper care of the nursing Queen and preventive health care. The Queen should have easy access to food, water, and her litter box, but out of reach of the kittens. Within 2-3 days, the Queen's appetite will just about double from her pre-pregnancy intake. She will need a constant supply of high quality kitten food and water to maintain her weight and health while feeding her kittens. She may need supplements of vitamin and mineral tablets. She should not look gaunt and maintain her weight.

    Healthy kittens are firm, plump, and vigorous. Kittens nurse about every 1-2 hours. If they nurse until their stomachs appear round and they sleep quietly, they are eating enough. If they are crying and moving a lot, they are not eating enough. They may be swallowing air which makes the stomach appear larger. As they become weaker, they will lay still and not cry. Kittens develop a preference for which teat they nurse from within days of birth. They locate the same teat by smell. Before, during, and after nursing, the Queen will lick the stomach and perinea area to stimulate urination and defecation and continue to do this for 2-3 weeks.

    Kittens will begin to imitate the Queen's eating and drinking habits at around 3-4 weeks of age. A secure shallow water dish should be available for them for at least part of the day. At this age, the kittens can start receiving kitten mush. A high quality dry kitten food can be placed in the blender with liquid kitten milk replacement and hot water. This should be blended to the consistency of human infant cereal. The kittens should receive 3-4 meals a day to start. When the kittens have checked it out, walked in it, and have eaten some, the Queen can be allowed to finish it and clean the kittens. Each week, decrease the amount of the milk replacement and water and the time of blending, so by 7-8 weeks the kittens are eating dry food. As the kittens eat more solid food, the Queen may spend time away from the kittens for longer periods of time. By the time they are 7-8 weeks old, they should be fully weaned from the Queen's milk, eating dry food, drinking water, and using the litter box. As weaning progresses, the Queen's food should be decreased. If the weaning is not rushed, she will naturally start decreasing milk production as the kittens increase their intake of solid food. Starting the fifth week of lactation, add a small amount of premium adult food to the Queen's diet and slightly decrease the amount of kitten food. Keep gradually increasing the adult food and decreasing the kitten food, so by the time the kittens are weaned at 8 weeks, the Queen is eating only adult food. During the last week of weaning, the Queen's food consumption should be less than 50% above maintenance level and declining towards normal maintenance level.

    The nesting box should be changed at least once a day, initially. The Queen will stimulate the kittens to urinate and defecate for the first several weeks of their life. Around 4 weeks of age, they will begin sand-scratching behavior. Initially, they follow the Queen to the litter box and play in it. By about six weeks of age, they learn to eliminate in the litter box. A cake pan with short sides that the kittens can climb over works well at this stage. Kittens learn to bury their feces by watching mom burying hers.

    The nursery area should be maintained around 75-80 degrees F for the first week. It can then be gradually dropped to about 70 degrees F. If a heat source is used, it should not be warmer than the Queen, or the kittens may head for the heat source to nurse. Kittens will lay side by side or piled on top of each other to stay warm and for the contact. If they are spread throughout the box, the temperature may be too warm. Kittens need the extra heat, because they are unable to regulate their body temperature until several weeks old.

    Every mammary gland and nipple of the Queen should be checked at least once a day for redness, hardness, discharge, or streaking color. If mastitis (infection of the mammary gland) develops, the veterinarian should be contacted immediately. If caught early, milking out the affected gland and applying hot compresses will help prevent a spread of the infection. If the Queen develops multiple glands with mastitis, the kittens will need to be bottle fed. The kittens' nails should be trimmed weekly starting within days of birth. This will help prevent some of the scratches on the Queen's mammary glands. The kitten's deciduous teeth start coming in around day 11 so start checking her mammary glands daily for bites.

    The Queen will have a bloody discharge from her vulva, which may be quite heavy for several days. It should decrease, become darker, and be nearly gone within 2-3 weeks.

    Vaccinations and health checks usually begin at about 6-7 weeks of age. Consult your veterinarian regarding which vaccinations are necessary for your litter.

    The umbilical cord will normally fall off in 2-3 days. But, keep an eye out for Infections of the umbilicus.

    Kittens will twitch and jerk as they sleep. This helps develop the nervous system and muscles. Kittens crawl well by 7-14 days of age, walk at 16 days, and have a normal gait at 21 days. They need to be on footing that offers traction. By 4 weeks of age, the kittens follow each other and actively play with each other. By 5 weeks of age, the kittens pounce and stalk in their play. At this age, they will also begin grooming themselves and each other.

    Kittens are born without teeth. The baby (deciduous) teeth begin to appear at 2-4 weeks. All of the baby teeth are usually present by 8 weeks.

    Kittens learn to use a scratching post by watching the Queen use it. A solid secure post should be available by 3 weeks of age. Do not allow kittens access to other surfaces for them to scratch at this point. Once a pattern of using the scratching post is established, they will follow it fairly consistently for their entire life.

    The kittens' eyes will begin to open around 7-10 days of age. Do not pry open the lids for any reason, because their immature eyes are not ready to handle light. Some kittens will take a day to open the eyes while others will take 3-4 days. The retina matures around 5 weeks of age and then the kitten will see clearly. The eyes will have a bluish color to them at first and then change to their adult color over time. If their eyes appear white or solid blue, take the kitten to your veterinarian immediately.

    The Queen will start spending more time away from the kittens at around 2-3 weeks of age. They'll start to follow her from the box and begin to explore. They should be well supervised and have safe toys available to play with.

    Kittens will start to socialize between 2-7 weeks of age. This means that socialization responsibilities falls on their human care taker. They should be exposed to everything possible from metal food dishes dropping, vacuums, garage doors opening and closing, thunderstorms, sirens, garbage trucks going past, dogs and other pets, car rides, etc. Don't try to keep the area quiet during the day. Kittens need to get used to normal household noises. Children should be allowed to play with the kittens, but with supervision. Everything the kittens are exposed to now will help them become well-socialized and unafraid adults. Each kitten should be handled 30-40 minutes a day between 2 and 7 weeks of age. This'll get them used to your handling of them as they grow older. This time should consist of petting, grooming (light brushing), washing (no immersing), playing, and talking with them. The kittens learn by imitating the Queen. They'll learn to fear what she fears. They learn to hunt by watching her hunt, and practicing with prey she brings back to the nest. This period is quite possibly the most important time of their life because they will learn how to relate to their human friends which will greatly determine cat health and happiness.

    • Colostrum, Kittens First Milk - When a kitten is born, her immune system is not fully developed. If a kitten was on her own, she would be completely susceptible to almost any infectious condition. If a serious disease were encountered, she would probably die. Fortunately, Mother Nature has devised a method to provide newborn animals with protection: colostrum, the first milk. Colostrum with its antibody protection is only present in the first 24 hours of milk flow and newborns can only gain colostrum immunity if they nurse during that time frame, and they are less than one day old. After that, it makes no difference how much or how little they nurse, they will not receive any more antibodies. All the protection the kitten will receive is what she gets in that first day of life. After that, antibody protection can only augmented with vaccination. Further, the amount of antibodies present in the milk are directly proportional to the levels of antibodies present in the mother. Therefore, you want to be sure the Queen has a high antibody level through proper vaccination before breeding. Then she will be able to pass more protection to her young. The young will then possess higher levels of protection for longer periods of time against the diseases that we commonly vaccinate for such as feline panleukopenia and feline upper respiratory infections.

    It's extremely important that kittens receive colostrum in the first 36-48 hours of their lives. Colostrum will provide protection, nutrients, vitamins, and fluid for them. Being sure a newborn kitten receives colostrum will give her a wonderful start to good cat health and a happy life.

    • CPR in Newborns - If a kitten is not breathing when it is born, follow the CPR directions outlined below. Have someone contact your veterinarian for help:
      • Clear her airway. Hold the kitten's head downward to allow gravity to help drain fluid from her mouth, throat, and lungs. Use a suction bulb to remove any fluid from her airway.
      • Give two or three little puffs of air into the kitten's mouth and nose. In order to do this, your mouth needs to close around the kitten's mouth and nose. Do not give large breaths, or the kitten's lungs may easily be damaged. Note: some diseases can result in weak or dead kittens and can be transmitted to humans through contact with the kitten or fluids.
      • Check for a heartbeat; feel the chest wall between your fingers or use a stethoscope. If there's no heartbeat, compress the chest in the area right at the back of the bent elbow. This is approximately the location of the heart. Press the chest between the thumb and forefinger. Compress quickly because newborn kitten's normal heart rate is over 150 beats per minute.
      • Every 15-20 seconds, give another couple puffs of air.
      • Each minute check for a heartbeat/breathing. If the heart is beating slowly, stimulate the kitten by rubbing it roughly (but carefully) with a towel, turning it over in your hands, or holding it by its scruff. The kitten needs stimulation and may need you to give it a few breaths of air in order for her to live. Continue to work with this kitten for 20 minutes to determine if she can be saved.
      • If the heart is not beating, continue the CPR for about 5 minutes. If the kitten is not alive and active by then, it's unlikely the kitten can be saved.
    • How to Raise Orphans - Raising an orphaned litter successfully must consist of the following:
      • Nutrition and Weaning - If at all possible, the litter should nurse from the mother to gain the advantages of colostrum (see above). If that isn't a possibility, then they'll have to be bottle fed. A foster Queen might allow the kittens to nurse with her own litter if they are the same size as her baby's, but she'll need nursing help if she is going to take on two litters. Do not use cow's or goat's milk because they're not equivalent to the milk that a kitten needs for good cat health development. There are commercial kitten milk replacements available, or you can make an emergency formula based on the following recipe:
        3 oz condensed milk
        3 oz water
        4 oz plain yogurt (not low fat)
        3 large or 4 small egg yolks - no whites
        Yes, they'll have to be burped after each feeding, in the same manner a human baby is burped... upright on your shoulder with gentle patting.

      For the first 24-48 hours each kitten needs 1 ml of milk per hour. Each day, after the first 24-48 hours, increase the amount at each meal by 0.5 ml until a maximum of 10 ml per meal is reached. Kittens will need 9-12 meals a day until the second week, when they can go to 5-7 ml per feeding. By the third week start them on kitten gruel (see above) 3 times a day with bottle feeding continuing. By the fourth week, they should receive 4-6 bottle feedings a day and the gruel increased to 4-5 times a day. The middle of the night feeding can be reduced and then eliminated once they're eating gruel well. They can be completely on solid food by 7 weeks of age. Malnutrition is not uncommon in orphans. Consultation with your veterinarian regarding the kittens' diet is of the utmost importance.

      Sanitation - A newborn kitten cannot urinate or have a bowel movement on her own. Her muscle control over these functions is not fully developed. A kitten must be stimulated to urinate and defecate. This duty is normally performed by the mother by her grooming or licking of the kitten's anal area which stimulates urination and defecation. Orphaned kittens must be manually stimulated by their guardian to enable urination and defecation. Kittens must be stimulated after each and every feeding. Fortunately, this is easy using a cotton ball or piece of very soft toweling. Moisten either with warm water and gently rub the anal and genital area. Within one to two minutes the kitten will urinate and/or defecate. Some kittens will respond better before eating while others respond better after eating. Try both times to keep the kittens healthy. Record of each kitten's urination and defecation so that you don't lose track of who's gone and who hasn't. Kittens will need to be stimulated in this fashion until their bladder and bowel muscles strengthen, usually by 21 days of age when at that time most kittens will eliminate on their own.

      Clean the kitten and now you're done until the next feeding. (Whew!!). Look at the urine and feces. The urine should be a pale yellow or clear. If it is dark yellow or orange, the kitten is not eating enough. Do not feed more formula at one time, but feed more often. The stool should be a pale to dark brown and partially formed. A green stool indicates infection, and too firm indicates not enough formula. Again, if the stool is hard, feed more often rather than increasing the amount of formula given per feeding. It's possible to feed a kitten too much, but not too often. Too much food causes bloating, gas, regurgitation, and sometimes aspiration into the lungs.

      Temperature and humidity - Young kittens can't conserve body heat or shiver to create heat. Supplying an artificial heat source such as an incubator, heat lamp, warm water pad, electrical heating pad, or special electrical heated mats designed for newborn pets will help kittens maintain a proper body temperature. But, don't keep it so hot that it burns them! Keep a thermometer in the kitten area to monitor the temperature.

      A 25-watt light bulb suspended over one end of a small nesting box will usually supply sufficient heat. Heating pads need to be monitored closely since the kittens may be too weak to move away from them. If a heating pad is used, wrap it in a thick towel or sheepskin to protect the kittens from burns.

      During the first week, air temperature should be maintained at 85-90 degrees with a relative humidity of 55-65%. Over the next 3 weeks, decrease the temperature to 75 degrees F. But, use the "three bears" common sense principle. If the kittens are piled on top of each other all the time, they are too cold. If the kittens are spread far apart, they are too warm. If they lay next to each other, the temperature is "just right".

      Normal newborn kitten body temperature is 97 degrees F and should be obtained before feeding kittens. Small shampoo bottles filled with hot water, wrapped in a towel and placed next to the kittens works well and changed when necessary. Kitten body temperatures are in the 100-102 degree range at about 4 weeks of age.

      Keep the moisture in a range comfortable for humans. In a homemade nesting box, a towel dampened with water and placed over the box will help. Do not raise kittens in a damp or moldy basement area. The stagnant dampness is usually cold and invites mildew and respiratory infections. Temperature control is more critical than humidity.

      Keep kittens on a surface with good traction like a blanket or sheepskin. This will help their motor skills development.

      Disease prevention - Orphaned kittens can be at a higher risk for developing infectious diseases. This is especially true of kittens that were orphaned without having received any of their natural mother's colostrum which is especially rich in disease-protecting antibodies. Kittens that didn't nurse from their mother in the first 24 hours have not received colostrum and do not have good immunity. Therefore, properly vaccinating the kittens is very important. Some veterinarians may recommend starting orphaned kittens vaccinations at an earlier age and de-worming started as early as 3 weeks of age.

      Nurture and socialization - Orphaned kittens should be raised together to aid with their social development. They need to be petted, cuddled, and played with by humans for 30-40 minutes each day in addition to their feeding and cleaning schedule.

      Kittens need mental and physical stimulation and if they have littermates, they will stimulate each other while moving about. Snuggle with each kitten as you wake her to eat and for a time after eating. They need the nurturing to thrive. Soft stuffed animals put in the nesting box can offer something to snuggle with while they sleep.

      It's important for the orphan kitten to have interaction with all members of the household at 3-6 weeks of age. Remember, she is still a baby and must be handled with care, but begin to introduce the kitten to noises, grooming procedures such a bathing, teeth cleaning and brushing, new people, and other pets. Early socialization and enabling the kitten to feel secure in her own environment will help prevent many poor cat health behavior problems in the future.

    Whether it's one kitten or a whole litter, the possibility for success is real, but it will be time consuming. You will want to work closely with your veterinarian throughout the entire process. But, the rewards are immeasurable. You will be assuring this orphan a life of happy cat health matched by the self esteem that you will be rewarded with.

    • Avoid Drugs in Pregnant or Nursing Cats - Avoid using all medications in pregnant and lactating (nursing) cats. There may be instances in which a medication may need to be used to save the life of the Queen, even though it may potentially harm the fetuses. Administer a drug or supplement to a pregnant or nursing cat only after first consulting your veterinarian
    • Eclampsia (Milk Fever or Puerperal Tetany) - A nursing Queen is especially susceptible to blood calcium depletion because of milk production. Mother cats with milk fever are unable to quickly move calcium into their milk without depleting their own blood levels of the mineral. Initially, the affected Queen will be restless and nervous. Within a short time, she will walk with a stiff gait and may even wobble or appear disoriented. Eventually, she will be unable to walk and her legs may become stiff or rigid. She may have a fever with body temperature over 105 degrees F. Her respiration rate will increase. Death can occur without treatment. Veterinarian assistance is mandatory at the first suspicion of these symptoms.
    • Pregnancy Care - Pregnancy usually last 60-63 days with normal litters of 3-5 kittens. Pregnant cats should maintain exercise routines to keep her muscles toned and avoid obesity. At the fourth week of her pregnancy, add a little premium kitten food to her diet and increase the ratio until she is completely on the kitten food by the last week of pregnancy. As the kittens grow, you may need to feed her small meals more often. By her last week of pregnancy, she may be eating small meals every 3-4 hours as the kittens take up more room. At the end of her pregnancy, she may also be eating 1-1/2 to 2 times what she did before she became pregnant. She will gain weight, but she should not become obese.
      Before she has her litter, she should be checked for fleas, worms, etc. so that she doesn't pass them on to her litter. Treatment should be discussed with your veterinarian.

    A couple of weeks before she has her litter, set up a nesting box in a quiet, safe spot for her. Don't wait too long or she may have her litter in the closet, the basement, or under your bed. You may want to keep her inside the house so that she doesn't give birth in the neighbors bushes.

  • Spaying & Neutering Cats - In a large study, groups of cats were spayed/neutered at 7 weeks of age, 7 months of age, and 12 months of age or older. The cats were placed in homes and followed for years. Later when comparing the groups it was found that:
    • Cats spayed/neutered before 12 months of age were generally longer and taller.
    • Cats who were not spayed/neutered until 12 months or older were noticeably more aggressive and less affectionate.
    • There weren't any significant differences in the development of the urinary tract among the three age groups.

Spayed or neutered cats do experience a change of metabolism. But, we should dispel a couple of myths about the procedure.

  • There isn't any correlation between spaying/neutering and obesity and laziness. Cat health is maintained through proper feeding habits and exercise. Just like for people.
  • There is no advantage to letting a cat go through heat and giving birth. Nor is there any disadvantage to not having those experiences.
  • It's not a good idea to spay a lactating cat. This is because mammary tissue can be damaged and the resulting leakage of milk into the internal tissues can cause infection and/or healing complications.

Responsible pet owners will have their cats spayed or neutered at the first opportunity. The feral cat population problem in this country, as well as in the world, is at epidemic proportions. For more information on the subject read our Feral Cats chapter.

  • Heat Cycles - Female cat heat cycles are influenced by seasonal changes of the amount of daylight. The cat heat cycle is between January and September. Beginning in January when daylight begins to increase, a female cat will go into heat, and keep coming back into heat every 7-10 days until she is bred. This will continue until the amount of daylight decreases, usually around October.

As you probably know, a cat in heat is very vocal, calling constantly for a male mate. She will roll on the ground and constantly rub against furniture or your leg. She will assume a breeding posture with her head and front legs near the ground and the rump area held high. She may urinate often.

There is a cure. Spaying her will shut down the breeding cycles and urges.

  • Sexual Maturity - Male cats will be able to mate when they reach about 5 months of age.

Female cats generally are sexually mature when they reach at least 80% of their adult weight. And, as noted, timing of heat is also dependent on the amount of daylight. Thus, a female cat may go into heat anytime between 5 and 12 months of age and feral cats may reach sexual maturity earlier than indoor cats.


Skeletal and Nervous Systems & Muscles

  • Bone Fractures - Fractures or breaks in bones are usually caused by abnormal stress being placed on the skeletal system. There are 4 common types of fractures that affect cat health adversely:
    • Closed Fractures are bone fractures that do not break the skin.
    • Compound Fractures are bone breaks that protrude through the skin.
    • Epiphyseal Fractures occur most commonly in young kittens. The soft, spongy areas at the end of growing bones are weak areas that will break easily.
    • Greenstick Fractures or hairline fractures are breaks that leave the bone seemingly intact, but broken.

Symptoms of a broken bone will vary with the location and severity of the break. A broken leg bone will be indicated by the cat not putting any weight on the leg, holding her paw in the air. Joint breaks are the most serious. For example, a broken back can lead to paralysis.

  • Arthritis & Other Joint Disease - Many cats will develop arthritis or some form of joint disease at some point in their life. Many times the disease will be contracted early in life with symptoms not showing until they are older. Severity affecting cat health can range from being completely unnoticeable to you, to being totally laming or debilitating. There are so many joint diseases affecting cat health that they are divided into classifications:
    • Ligament, tendon, or muscle disease (ruptured anterior cruciate ligament for example)
    • Fractures involving the joint
    • Developmental disorders (hip or elbow dysphasia)
    • Congenital disorders
    • Dietary and hormonal disease (hyperparathyroidism, obesity)
    • Metabolic disorders (diabetes)
    • Cancer
    • Degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis)
    • Inflammatory joint disease (progressive poly-arthritis)
    • Degenerative spinal joint disease (inter-vertebral disc disease
  • Cerebellar Hypoplasia - Is a condition in kittens in which the cerebellum fails to fully develop or even begins to degenerate shortly after birth. It is recognized about 2 weeks after birth by a motion called "intention tremor". When the kitten intends to do something, it will tremor. As the disease progresses it can interfere with the kittens ability to eat or walk. There is no known treatment for the disorder.
  • Degenerative Joint Disease (Osteoarthritis) - Caused by a wearing away of the cartilage at the ends of bones with inflammation arising as the worn edges of the bones rub against each other. Atrophy might occur in the muscles of the affected joint because the cat will use that joint less, and over development will occur in the areas she is using to compensate for the lost movement. This painful disease to cat health is treatable medically or surgically.
  • Diskospondylitis & Spondylitis - This is a bacterial or fungal infection of the vertebrae and the inter-vertebral discs of the cat backbone. It is known as Spondylitis if only the vertebrae are involved. Common symptoms include weight loss, lack of appetite, depression, fever, and back pain. Plus a reluctance to run or jump. Treatment depends on finding the agent of the infection affecting her cat health.
  • Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis (Inflammatory Reticulosis) - This disease is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, known as the central nervous system. It's cause is unknown. Symptoms can include neck pain, a rigid stance, reluctance to move, muscle spasms along the spine, loss of function of limbs, fever, and/or loss of vision. Some treatment is available and may cause remission, but there is no cure.
  • Limping - If your kitty is limping or favoring a foot, the first thing to do is inspect her paw. Limping can be caused by a cut, a foreign object between her toes or in her pad, even an in-grown toenail. An inspection of her feet should be part of a regular, weekly cat health maintenance program.
  • Polydactyly (Extra Toes) - A genetic trait of a cat having more than 5 toes on a foot (or feet). It's relatively common in cats and does not affect cat health.
  • Seizures (Feline Epilepsy) - Seizures can be caused by trauma, infection, or a drug overdose. In some cases seizures are considered to be idiopathic (unknown cause) epilepsy and cannot be directly attributed to any known incident. The seizures may vary in intensity, cannot be cured, but they can be controlled through medication.


Dental Conditions & Disease

  • Bacteria & Oral Disease - Dental problems, which occur in adult and aging cats mostly, are one of the most common cat health problems faced by veterinarians. Bacteria, the leading cause of poor dental cat health, contributes to bad breath, discolored teeth, deposits on the surfaces of teeth, or red and irritated gums. Bacteria working their way between gums and teeth eventually can lead to periodontal disease. From there bacteria can cross into the blood stream and infect other organs of the body such as the heart, liver and kidneys. With good dental hygiene, cat health problems that result from oral disease can be prevented.
  • Cavities - Cavities in cats are usually rare because good cat diets are low in decay causing sugars. Avoid sugary treats and keep kitty on quality cat foods to maintain good cat health.
  • Chronic Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) & Stomatitis (inflammation of the oral mucous membranes) - There are 3 primary causes for inflammation of the mouth and gums:
    • Hyperresponsiveness - a hypersensitivity or allergic reaction to bacterial plaque.
    • Immunosuppression - a suppressed immune system caused by viral infections such as FIV or FeLV.
    • Viral or Bacterial Infections - direct viral or bacterial infection such as calicivirus or FIP.

Symptoms will include a change in behavior, i.e. irritability, aggressiveness, depression or a tendency to be reclusive. Cats may drool, eat little or not at all, have bad breath, not groom properly or bleed easily at the gums. Treatment and prevention include:

  • Regular Dental Cleaning -  and polishing by your veterinarian.
  • Fluoride Application - by your veterinarian.
  • Extraction of Teeth - if there are resorption lesions or severe periodontal disease.
  • Daily Home Care - including brushing and the application of 0.2% chlorhexidine.
  • Antibiotics
  • Corticosteroids
  • Good Nutrition - often with vitamin supplements since she may not eat as much as she should because of the discomfort

Beginning a regular dental hygiene program as a kitten will prevent drastic dental cat health problems as your cat ages.

  • Dental Resorption Lesions - are a result of the structural breakdown of the tooth. First goes the enamel, then the tooth will deteriorate all the way to the root. It is a painful condition and can lead to the loss of the tooth.
  • Periodontal Disease - Food particles and bacteria form plaque which builds along the gum line, irritating the gums. If not removed pockets can form encouraging bacteria growth and can lead to loose teeth, abscesses, and bone loss or infection. It can be very painful, too. Periodontal disease is irreversible and obviously detrimental to cat health.
  • Bad Breath - Besides plaque and gingivitis, there can be many other causes for a cat's bad breath:
    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Kidney disease
    • Gastrointestinal disease, cancers, obstructions, and certain infections
    • Infections of areas around the mouth
    • Respiratory disease and some sinus infections
    • Dietary "indiscretions" such as eating stool or spoiled garbage
    • Tonsillitis, oral cancer, trauma, and some autoimmune diseases

Some bad breath causes can have sever consequences for cat health if not properly treated. Except for dietary indiscretions, all bad breath should be looked at by your veterinarian.

  • Dental Health Care for Cats
  • Develop a Complete Dental Care Program - A good cat health dental care program will include:
    • Regular Veterinarian Visits - including a professional oral exam.
    • Veterinary Dental Cleaning - that might be needed as a result of the findings from a veterinarian oral examination.
    • Home Oral Care - including an oral exam of her mouth and brushing of her teeth.
  • How to Brush Her Teeth - Approach this important aspect to good cat health with a positive, upbeat attitude. Try to make the experience fun for both you and your cat. Don't restrain her and take it slowly so that she will get used to the habit... or even look forward to it:
    • Let your cat get used to you putting things in her mouth. Dip your finger in tuna water, chicken broth, or other liquid she may like. Call her with a voice that means "treat" and let her lick the liquid off your finger. Then rub your soaked finger gently over her gums and teeth. After a few sessions, she should actually look forward to this and then you can move on to the next step.
    • Place a gauze around your finger. (You can again dip it in the tuna water or other liquid.) Gently rub her teeth in a circular motion with your gauzed finger. Repeat this until she feels comfortable with the procedure. Remember... praise her and keep an upbeat attitude.
    • Now, you're ready to introduce a toothbrush, dental sponge, or pad. She will need to get used to the consistency of these items, especially the bristles on a brush. Do this by letting her lick something tasty off the brush or pad to get her used to the texture.
    • When she is used to the cleaning item you're going to use, add the toothpaste (or rinse). Cat toothpastes usually have a poultry, malt, or other flavor so she'll like the taste. Let her get used to the flavor and consistency of the toothpaste by applying some to her gum line with your finger. Don't forget to praise her.
    • You're ready to start brushing. At first, you may just want to brush one or both upper canine teeth (the large ones in the front of the mouth). These are the easiest teeth for you to reach and will give you some easy practice. When she accepts having several teeth brushed, slowly increase the number of teeth you are brushing. If you make it appear to be a game, you'll both have fun with this routine. Talk to her in a happy voice during the process and praise her when you're done.

This should be aimed for as a daily habit. But, if you miss a day once in a while, it won't hurt. Just don't stop doing it. Remember... if the program is started when she is a kitten, it will become an accepted habit, even bonding in nature. Plus. it'll contribute immensely to her overall cat health.


In Conclusion...

"You can see", interjects Alexander, "there's quite a long list of subject matter related to cat health. People don't necessarily need to become an expert or proficient at diagnosing what bad cat health might be. They should leave that to their veterinarian. They just need to be observant and be ready to take action, like get in the car and go to the vet's if they see something that doesn't look right".

Good cat health will result when:

  • Clean sanitary habits such as keeping litter boxes changed and washed regularly (2-3 times a week), kitty's bedding and favorite lounging areas laundered or vacuumed, food and water bowls cleaned daily.
  • Appropriate vaccinations with follow-up shots as necessary.
  • Conscientious prevention habits like keeping an active flea collar on your cat, yard and lawn maintenance, and not letting her socialize with feral cats.
    Providing a high quality "cat" food diet (not people food) with sensible and regular feeding times.
  • Clean fresh water should be always available. It's critical for good cat health.
  • Maintaining a close working relationship with your veterinarian.

Cat health care costs can be quite daunting. Sometimes reaching into the thousands of dollars for some severe or chronic cat health problems. Investing in cat health insurance is a smart decision often overlooked by many cat owners. For less than $100.00 a year most cat health ailments can be covered including greatly reduced costs for spaying/neutering and required vaccinations.

The most important thing you can do for the health of your cat is to develop a close relationship with your veterinarian. Which means a close relationship between the vet and your cat. Because your veterinarian will see your cat often in the normal course of her life for spaying or neutering, vaccinations and check-ups, dietary problems, age problems and even behavior problems, he will be familiar with the state of her cat health.

"O.K... enough of the philosophizing" yawned Alexander. "There's something I want to show you. I can create an air of calmness with this special ability I have. The ability to purr". With this, Alexander laid on his belly, legs straight in front of him. He put his head on his front legs, resting himself on his right cheek. With his eyes half closed, his motor was on fast idle. "A relaxing sound accompanied with a gentle vibrating massage that can literally put one to sleep. I know. It works on me within seconds. Yes, a purr can be beneficial to anyone's health... and, especially for children having trouble sleeping".  Saying this, he relaxed his head softly... then closed his eyes completely.

Shhhh... good cat health also includes a good cat nap

And at the End of Life...

While Alexander is asleep, there is one other important thing that needs to be considered. The day will come when you may have to say goodbye to your feline friend, when her cat health fails. Hopefully, you will have had a good life together filled with many pleasant memories. Such parting can be very painful, even traumatic. Fortunately, there are those who are specialist at easing the pain and loss one feels when a treasured pet passes on. If you find yourself at such a moment, you may find a visit to the following web site will be helpful and they offer sensitive information:

Rainbow Bridge Pet Memorials - Personalized pet memorials for your loved ones are a wonderful way to commemorate the lives of those who gave us so much love and companionship.

This a particularly difficult subject for anyone who has a pet with whom they share a life. But, it is one that will be faced some day.

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On her way to great cat health

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