A to Z Cat and Kitten Care
- Always have fresh drinking water available for your kitten or cat.
- Brush your cat's hair to remove excess hair and help prevent hairballs.
- Clean your cat's litter box regularly. Scoop it out daily and completely empty and scrub it clean monthly or sooner if necessary.
- Declawing involves complete removal of the nail, and the last joint of the toe on the front feet of a cat. Teaching your cat how to use a scratching post and regular nail clippings are an alternative to declawing. If you have questions about declawing, please ask your veterinarian.
- Exercise is important for your cat or kitten. Try to play with it and promote exercise every day. There are lots of great cat toys and activity games available. Exercise is good for your cat's health; it helps it release extra energy, helps minimize undesirable behavior, and helps make it more focused for training.
- Feline leukemia, distemper, viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), and calicivirus are common illnesses that affect cats. If your cat is sick, take it to your veterinarian for a physical examination and appropriate diagnostics and treatment.
- Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. Check your cat to see if there is redness along the gum line. Brush your cat's teeth with special cat toothpaste to help prevent tooth decay and infections. Your veterinarian will examine your cat's teeth and gums during its annual physical examination. Have your pet's teeth cleaned professionally when recommended by your veterinarian.
- Hairballs result from cats licking and then swallowing their own hair. Their hair is not digestible, so it just sits in the stomach, until it's a mass of hair, mucous and digestive acids. Some cats will periodically vomit up hairballs. The best way to prevent hairballs is to brush your cat regularly and feed it a special diet.
- Intestinal worms can be harmful. Bring a stool sample in each time you bring your cat in for its annual physical examination.
- Jealousy is common in cats when you bring a new kitten home or even a new baby. Make sure you give your cat lots of love and attention during this time.
- Kittens should not be taken from their mother until they are eight weeks old.
- Litter boxes should be scooped out daily. There should be one more litter box than cat in your household. For example, two cats should have access to three clean litter boxes. Additionally, cats may require more than one litter substrate from which to choose. For example, some cats will only urinate in clumping litter and defecate in pressed pine litter pellets.
- Mites, fleas, and ticks can all cause health problems in your cat. Please regularly apply appropriate mite, flea, and tick prevention medication purchased from your veterinarian. Please ask if you have any questions or concerns.
- Neutering male cats helps prevent unwanted litters and reduces the number of cats that are put to sleep because they don't have a home. Neutering males also helps prevent urine-spraying behavior.
- Older cats may become ill with kidney disease, thyroid problems, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and other medical conditions. Veterinary check-ups are recommended every six months for senior cats.
- Pet them, play with them, hug them, and love them and they'll purr...purr...purr.
- Questions—When you go to the veterinarian, make a list of any questions that you may have. Some pet owners leave a list posted on the refrigerator so all family members can post pet concerns or questions as they arise. This way, they ensure all of their issues get addressed during their pet's annual physical examination or catch unusual patterns early.
- Ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin that may cause itching and hair loss in your cat's coat.
- Spaying involves removing the uterus and ovaries of a female cat. Spaying your cat helps prevent accidental pregnancies and helps prevent uterine and breast diseases.
- Transport your cat securely in a cat carrier when going to the veterinarian.
- Urinary Disorders—There are several causes of inappropriate urination, including: territorial behavior, dirty litter box, and feline lower urinary tract disorder. Have your cat examined by your veterinarian to help differentiate between a physical and a versus behavioral problem. Sometimes it is as simple as making sure the litter box is kept clean, or adding another litter box. There are also tips to remedy inappropriate urination that your veterinarian can provide. Cats with urinary disorders have special dietary needs.
- Vaccinations, in addition to annual physical examinations, are imperative to your cat's good health.
- Wellness physical examinations are the key to keeping your cat healthy. Regular check-ups are a way for your veterinarian to get a complete picture of your pet's overall health. Exams can also help spot potential health problems before they become more difficult and more expensive to treat.
- Xpect the best care from Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital and Resort!
- You are the most important person to your cat. You are the key to his/her happiness. Your cat depends on you to feed it, love it, and provide regular veterinary care.
- Z-best, most caring doctors around!
Here at Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital, we believe that an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. This is especially important due to the fact that cats, dogs, and pocket pets age much faster than humans. We strive to examine all of our patients at least once a year. Please bring in your pet for a routine wellness exam, any needed vaccines, any required lab work, and preventative care for unwanted parasites. Together, we can ensure continuing quality of health and extend the life of your beloved companion.
Puppies and kittens should be examined by a veterinarian at a young age and often begin receiving their vaccinations when they are six to eight weeks old. Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital offers new puppy and kitten exams, which include advice about nutrition and training for your new pets and recommendations on vaccinations, de-worming, and parasite control.
Vaccines create antibodies, which protect your pet from disease. Up-to-date vaccinations play a large part in keeping your pet healthy and free from disease. However, not every pet requires the same series or frequency of vaccines. Current research in veterinary medicine has linked possible over-vaccination in senior and geriatric pets with certain immune-related conditions. Our veterinarians tailor a vaccine protocol that is specific to your pet based on his or her lifestyle and immune status. Blood samples may be taken and laboratory titers run to verify or measure a pet's immune status to specific contagious diseases.
Since vaccine schedules are subject to change based on the most current information available, we recommend that you call our hospital for information about our vaccine protocols. Maryland state law requires rabies vaccinations for both cats and dogs.
If you think your pet needs vaccinations, please call Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital to schedule an appointment for a physical examination and vaccinations. Vaccination schedules are determined by your veterinarian and are based on state law, physical examination findings, as well as the age and health of your pet.
Decision To Have Your Cat Neutered Or Spayed
Having your pet spayed (ovariohysterectomy) or neutered (castrated) is an inexpensive and realistic method of pet population control. The number of unwanted adult and young animals that are euthanized each year in the United States is astounding. Aside from the pet overpopulation problem, neutering a male animal and spaying a female helps prevent, and even eliminates, many medical problems.
Male cats are almost impossible to keep as pets unless they are neutered. When they reach sexual maturity (around seven to nine months of age even earlier for some cats), their kitten lifestyle dramatically changes. A non-neutered adult male cat becomes very territorial. His life predominately consists of patrolling and defending his territory. Even though his immediate territory may consist of the building and grounds where he lives, he may also consider the female cat that lives two blocks away as his territory. He defends his territory against intrusion by other animals, particularly other cats.
There is nothing more ferocious than a fight between two non-neutered male cats. Some non-neutered male cats have even been known to attack Dobermans and German Shepherds that have entered their territory. Unless your male cat is neutered, you may be spending a good deal of time and money at the veterinary hospital, having him treated for injuries.
Male cats often spray urine. This behavior is instinctive and has nothing to do with litter box training. Non-neutered males spray urine in order to identify ("mark") their territory.
These unacceptable behavior traits will probably never be seen if your kitten is neutered at an early age. If your adult cat is neutered, most of these problems will disappear.
A non-spayed adult female cat is a kitten machine. Female cats have their first estrous cycles around seven to nine months of age. During the springtime, some kittens can actually go into heat when they are five to seven months old.
Detection of estrous is usually quite easy. Most owners think that there is something wrong with their cat. The cat becomes extremely affectionate, wants to be caressed, and rolls about on her back. She is very vocal and meows incessantly. No vaginal bleeding occurs (some cats may have very limited bleeding, but this is very rare) like in dogs; however, non-neutered male cats are still attracted by their scent. Your neighbors will definitely comment about the nightly musical serenade performed by the large variety of male cats that patrol your house.
If your non-spayed female cat is bred, kittens will arrive in two months (that's kittens, not kitten). The average litter size is six to eight kittens. More kittens will arrive again in a few more months as female cats have estrous cycles year round.
First Aid at Home
First Aid is only a temporary measure until you can get to the vet. Call Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital at 301.776.7744 if you suspect something is wrong with your pet. Problems that worsen over several hours and/or are accompanied by pain, weakness, difficulty breathing, bleeding, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, and fever, need the immediate attention of a veterinarian.
You should not use the Internet as a resource a pet emergency or when your pet is seriously ill. In an emergency, first aid is not a substitute for veterinary treatment. However, before you are able to get your pet to a veterinarian, knowing some basic first aid can help. Always seek veterinary care following first-aid attempts.
Wrap a towel around the wound and apply direct pressure. Call us immediately.
Withhold food and offer small, frequent amounts of water. After 12 hours, introduce small amounts of soft, bland food, such as boiled rice, noodles, well-cooked chicken, or cottage cheese. Avoid hard foods.
You can take your pet's temperature with a Vaseline-lubricated rectal thermometer. The normal temperature range for a cat or dog is from 100 to 102.5 F.
Never give medication in any quantity to your pet without the direct advice of your veterinarian.
Please read The National Animal Poison Control Center website to find out more information on poisons and your pet. www.aspca.org
Here are some FAQs from ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center
I think my pet has ingested something potentially dangerous, but she seems normal. What should I do first: call the APCC or rush her to my local emergency veterinarian?
If you suspect that your pet may have become exposed to a harmful substance, but is not showing signs of illness, stay calm. Contact Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital at 301.776.7744 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at 1.888.426.4435 first. Not all exposure situations require an immediate trip to the clinic.
What should I do if I think my pet ate something poisonous?
If your animal is having seizures, losing consciousness, is unconscious or is having difficulty breathing, telephone ahead and bring your pet immediately to your local veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic. If necessary, he or she may call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.
Otherwise, call Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at 1.888.426.4435.
What information will I need when the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Hotline?
When you call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at 1.888.426.4435, it's most helpful to be ready with the following information:
- the species, breed, age, sex, weight, and number of animals involved
- the animal's symptoms
- information regarding the exposure, including the agent (if known), the amount of the agent involved, and the time elapsed since the time of exposure.
Have the product container/packaging available for reference. Collect any material your pet may have vomited or chewed in a sealed plastic bag.
Urinary Tract Infection
Small frequent urinating, straining to urinate, and blood in your pet's urine can be signs of a urinary tract infection. Call us immediately if your pet demonstrates any of these symptoms.
Withhold food and offer small, frequent amounts of water. After 12 hours, introduce small amounts of soft, bland food, such as boiled rice, noodles, well-cooked chicken, or cottage cheese. Avoid hard foods.
Below is a list of some first-aid items that you should have handy at home.
- COTTON BALLS/COTTON SWABS—For applying ointments or cleaning a wound
- FIRST-AID CREAM OR ANTIBACTERIAL SKIN OINTMENT
- GAUZE BANDAGE (1-2 INCHES WIDE)
- HAIRBALL REMEDY
- RECTAL THERMOMETER
- SELF-ADHESIVE BANDAGES
- SYRINGE: FOR GIVING MEDICINES OR LIQUIDS.
- STERILE GAUZE DRESSINGS—To help stop bleeding and protect wounds until you get to the vet.
- TWEEZERS—To remove ticks, glass, or foreign objects from your pet's skin
Here are some websites that provide information on pet first aid:
Heartworm Disease in Cats
Heartworm is a serious, life-threatening disease of dogs and cats. It is due to the presence of the adult stage of the parasite Dirofilaria immitis in the pulmonary arteries and right ventricle of the cat and dog's heart. Until the early 1970s, the occurrence of heartworm in the United States was primarily confined to the southeastern part of the country. Today, it is found almost everywhere in the continental United States and is a major threat to the canine and feline population of Canada.
Transmission of heartworm depends upon the mosquito population of an area. About 70 species of mosquitoes are capable of transmitting the disease. The more mosquitoes in an area, the greater the chance of heartworm transmission.
Heartworm disease occurs most commonly in dogs. It has recently been shown that heartworm is a major cause of heart disease in cats. The infection rates in cats are much lower than dogs because cats are not ideal hosts for heartworms. However, this does not mean that the disease is less serious in cats than in dogs. The opposite is usually the case.
Heartworm also infects wild animals. Coyotes, wolves, and foxes are carriers of the disease in the wild. In a particular area, when the wild animals are infected, the disease is permanent.
The adult heartworm is 6-14 inches in length. It is thread-like, white in color, and primarily found in the pulmonary arteries and right ventricle of the heart. When adult male and female heartworms are present, mating occurs. In dogs, the female worm releases large amounts of small, microscopic "microfilariae" into the bloodstream.
In cats, Microfilaremia (microfilariae in the bloodstream) is uncommon and occurs in less than 20% of heartworm cases. When microfilaremia is present, it is inconsistent and transient in nature. As such, cats are poor reservoirs of the disease.
Dogs can maintain a large number of worms for a long time, while cats often die suddenly with very few worms. Even the presence of one worm in a cat's heart can cause a severe reaction. This difference is due to the fact that cats have much more intense immune and inflammatory responses.
Indoor and outdoor cats are equally susceptible to infection, with outdoor cats commonly believed to be at increased risk. The distribution of feline D. immitis infection in the U.S. seems to parallel that in dogs but at a decreased prevalence.
In cats, it is difficult to recognize the clinical signs of heartworm. Sometimes there are no signs at all. In acute cases, the common clinical signs usually include collapse, breathing problems, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, blindness, or heart rhythm disturbances. In cases of cats that suffer from a more long-term disease, the signs can also include coughing, lethargy, or loss of appetite.
The clinical signs of heartworm infection in cats is non-specific, and may mimic many other feline diseases. Diagnosis by clinical signs alone is nearly impossible. Infected cats may die acutely without allowing any time to make a diagnosis or offer appropriate treatment.
Common clinical symptoms associated with feline heartworm disease include:
- vomiting intermittently (food or foam), usually unrelated to eating
- asthma-like signs (intermittent difficulty in breathing, panting, open-mouth breathing)
- difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
- rapid breathing (tachypnea)
- weight loss
Some cats with heartworm disease may be totally free of any clinical symptoms of the disease.
Your veterinarian may want to perform several tests in order to diagnose feline heartworm disease. These tests may include a physical exam, radiography (X-rays), CBC, blood chemistry, and ultrasound. Radiology is very helpful as most infected cats have abnormal chest X-rays, even when there are no visible signs of the disease.
Antibody detection tests are currently available for routine screening for feline heartworm infection. Antibody production occurs even if the heartworms do not complete their development.
Feline Heartworm Prevention
In the past, it was not considered necessary to give cats heartworm preventative. However, with the rising incidence of this disease in cats, the American Heartworm Society recommends the use of preventative medication for cats in areas of heavy heartworm infestation.
Cats are often blood tested prior to administration of a heartworm preventive. There are several products approved by the FDA for use in cats. Your veterinarian will recommend the product that is most effective for preventing heartworm disease in your cat.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects all warm-blooded animals, including humans. The virus is transmitted through saliva when an affected animal bites a susceptible victim. On rare occasions, the rabies virus can enter the body through deep scratch wounds (or any break in the skin or mucous membranes) or by inhalation. Inhalation of the virus is an unusual method of transmission; however, it can occur in caves that are heavily populated by rabid bats.
A rabid animal bites its victim and injects saliva containing the rabies virus. In the newly infected animal, the virus begins to multiply. Virus multiplication occurs in the area surrounding the bite wound. After a period of time, virus particles enter large nerves and travel toward the spinal cord and brain. Once inside the brain, the rabies virus multiplies a second time. As multiplication occurs, viruses pass to the salivary glands. This is particularly important and accounts for the danger associated with saliva.
Early symptoms include personality changes. Friendly animals become shy, and reserved animals often become aggressive.
Two forms of rabies are recognized: the "furious" or "mad" type and the "paralytic" or "dumb" form.
The most common form of rabies is the furious type. Animals hallucinate and snap at imaginary objects. A rabid animal is extremely aggressive and may attack or bite other animals as well as his (or her) owner. Other signs include excitation, irritability, photophobia (extreme sensitivity to light), and seizures.
In the United States, wild animals are the reservoir for the rabies virus. Raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats are commonly infected. Raccoons and skunks are particularly a problem due to their presence in urban and suburban areas. Pets become infected when they come into contact with these animals (and are bitten).
Vaccinating pets protects them from rabies!
Vaccinations begin at three to four months of age and should be continued throughout the animal's life.
State law often mandates rabies vaccinations.
If you would like additional information concerning rabies, contact Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital or your local public health official.
To My Owners...From Your Loving Cat
If you love me and want me to have a purrfect life...
Get me spayed or neutered when it's time.
Get me vaccinated.
Clean out my litter box.
Buy me a scratch pad.
Brush my hair so I don't get so many hairballs.
When I get very old and I am suffering from the pain of a terminal illness, please don't prolong my suffering. I know you'll be sad and you will miss me.