Upper respiratory infections (URIs)
URIs are similar to the common cold that we get, and you can look out for similar symptoms: sneezing, runny nose and eyes, red eyes, fever and decreased appetite. The difference, however, is that these infections can be more serious than common colds, and can actually be fatal if left untreated.
These airborne viruses are very contagious and can be transmitted to cats through human handling or contact with infected cats, or from contact with litter boxes, food bowls and grooming tools. Separate your new cat from any other cats for at least three weeks and until you are sure your newcomer doesn’t show any symptoms of a URI.
Prevention is, as they say, better than cure, so make sure you do your best to keep your cat away from other infected cats or objects. If you cat does come down with cold-like symptoms, contact your vet straight away. He will probably prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary infections and tell you about you some ways to care for your cat. Make sure you follow these carefully, and that your cat eats and drinks sufficiently.
Rabies is a viral illness that is transmitted through bite wounds from infected animals and attacks the nervous system. All cats need to be vaccinated against rabies, so ensure your cat is vaccinated.
If your cat bites anyone, they may ask to see proof of a vaccination, which is another reason to keep your cat vaccinated.
This is often known as feline distemper, and is a highly contagious viral disease that can be transmitted through contact with humans, infected cats, clothing, food bowls and cat carriers.
Symptoms of this disease are very sudden, so be sure to look out for vomiting, loss of appetite and diarrhoea, and contact your vet as soon as you notice any of these.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
FeLV is a fatal and infectious virus that affects the immune system of your cat, and causes several forms of cancer and other associated diseases. It is transmitted through the saliva, urine and faeces of infected cats.
It is interesting and important to note that there is no link between feline leukemia and human forms of leukemia.
Blood tests will determine whether or not your cat is carrying the virus. It is best to get your cat tested before they are vaccinated against the disease. There is no cure for the virus, so it is best to keep your cat indoors if possible.
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
FIV is similar to the human acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), but it is not the same virus and cannot be passed on to humans.
This fatal virus attacks the immune system and causes a variety of symptoms. Signs to look out for include, but are not exclusive to: respiratory problems, loss of appetite, persistent diarrhoea and oral infections.
FIV is primarily passed from cat to cat through bites. There is a vaccine available to protect your cat against FIV, but a blood test should be performed beforehand.
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
FIP is another virus that is almost always fatal to cats. This virus can take two forms, commonly referred to as wet (which involves fluid in the abdomen) and dry (which does not). Both forms of FIP may cause fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea and loss of appetite.
Get a blood test to determine if your cat has been exposed to this virus. While there is no effective treatment for FIP, there are lots of highly effective vaccines against the virus.
Watch out for fleas in your home, or on your cat. They can cause problems such as anemia, allergies, skin infections and tapeworms. There are many effective and safe products that can be used to prevent and fight fleas. Ask your vet about the best and safest options for your cats.
Remember: never use products that are intended for dogs on your cat as they can actually be fatal to your cat.
Tapeworms are parasites that are picked up by ingesting rodents, raw meat or fish, or from adult fleas that are carriers. They are passed through the cat’s faeces. Keep an eye out for tapeworm segments in your cat’s stool or under his or her tail – they look like small grains of rice.
If your see signs of tapeworms, take a faecal sample to your vet to get a worming medication for your cat. You will probably need to start a flea control programme at the same time.
Never used over-the-counter deworming products as there are ineffective and can cause unwanted side effects in your cat.
These are internal parasites picked up from the infected faeces of other animals. Symptoms vary, and can be non-existent or quite serious. The symptoms could include: diarrhoea, weakness, depression, loss of appetite and weight loss.
If you notice any symptoms, take a fresh faecal sample to your vet to diagnose the problem and get the correct medication to treat the parasites.
Roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms
These are internal parasites that cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, a pot belly and a dull coat. These symptoms will worsen if left untreated.
Your vet can diagnose these parasites by examining a faecal sample under a microscope and these will be treated by several doses of medication.
If you spot a dark, waxy build-up in your cat’s ears, he or she may have ear mites. These are microscopic parasites that cause unbearable itching. To try and stop the itching, your cat may shake its head, or paw at its ears – sometimes even scratching them raw.
¬Take your cat to the vet if you suspect he or she may have ear mites, as if left untreated these can even cause deafness.
This parasite is not only a concern to your cat, but may be a concern to you too, as it can affect humans, particularly those with a compromised immune system.
Some pregnant women think that they need to get rid of their cat during pregnancy for this reason; however, this is not necessary. Safe handling of food and water, and precautions when cleaning the litter box can easily prevent the transmission of the parasite.
Cats become infected by the parasite through eating raw prey, but only pass contagious faeces for about two weeks. To prevent infection, keep your cat indoors whenever possible and feed him commercial cat food.
Be sure to watch your cat (especially males) for any signs of discomfort or straining during urination, or blood in the urine. These symptoms can indicate a very serious condition, and if your cat is unable to urinate he could die within hours. Take your cat to the vet immediately if you notice any unusual behavior or symptoms with regard to urinating. Talk to your vet for tips and advice on reducing the risk of urinary problems in your cat.
- Keeping a close eye on your furry friend will help you to notice any changes in his appearance or behaviour. This will help to catch any potential health problems early on in your cat’s development and increase the likelihood of treatment working quickly and effectively.
Keep an eye on the following things to ensure your cat remains healthy and full of energy:
Keeping your cat’s teeth healthy is important as their teeth actually affect their overall health. If too much tartar builds up on their teeth, it can infect and irritate the gums, causing them to get red and swollen, and to bleed and cause bad breath.
Check your cat’s teeth regularly and try to brush them as often as possible. Ask your vet or pet store for toothbrushes and toothpaste, or ask your vet about the cleaning services they offer.
The eyes of a cat are clear and moist, and pupils should react to a bright light and not be dilated. If you notice any swelling, redness, squinting or thick yellow discharge, take your cat to the vet immediately.
An interesting fact is that cats actually have a third, inner eyelid. This membrane should not be exposed, so if you can see this eyelid covering part of the eye, this may be the sign of a health problem. This could be caused by an infection or a foreign body in the eye, or could be a sign of stress, and you should seek advice from your vet.
It is normal to notice clear wax in your cat’s ears. However, if the wax is crumbly and/or dark brown, this could be an indication of ear mites and treatment may be needed.
Grass burrs or seeds are often known to cause irritation in the ears of cats. If you notice your cat scratching his ears an increased amount, or if the ear becomes infected and traumatised, this could be a sign of these and you should take your cat to the vet immediately.
The wall of a cat’s ear canal can be easily damaged in a cat fight. A puncture could result in a large blood blister that can become infected if left untreated. If you have a cat that is often outside, we recommend having regular checks done on your cat’s ears.
If your cat’s ears are very hot, this could be a sign of a high temperature and you should consult your vet to make sure there is nothing to worry about. Don’t forget that cats love to bask in the sun or near fires, so make sure that this isn’t the cause of the heat!