Keeping an Eye On Your Cat's Health
Cats are vulnerable to certain common ailments and as a cat owner, it is up to you to keep an eye on the general health and well-being of your feline friend.
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Watch for signs of disease, ill health, or injury, by observing how they look, how they eat, sleep, or even walk. Note any changes in behavior or activity and call your vet for advice. If recommended, take the cat in for a professional examination.
Here are some of the most common things to watch for:
1. Diarrhea. Cats have very sensitive digestive systems, so diarrhea is quite common when their diet is changed or if they've gotten into something they shouldn't have, such as table scraps, human snack foods, or even mice (could be dangerous if the rodent has been poisoned). The first thing to do wtih diarrhea, if the cat seems OK in every other way, is to supervise its diet. One way to do this is to remove your cat's food dish for 24 hours. Dehydration is one of the worst side effects of diarrhea, so keep plenty of fresh, clean water available. The next day, feed the cat some cooked hamburger and rice (no spices for flavor!). This is considered a non-allergenic, but temporary, diet for gastro-intestinal cleansing. If the diarrhea stops, resume his normal diet, but with smaller portions for a day or so. If the diarrhea won't stop, it's time for a visit to your vet, who might want to check for intestinal parasites, or a potential disease process.
2. Vomiting. Cats who throw up often might be victims of poor diet, poor grooming, or ingesting something they shouldn't. Vomiting is a sign that the body doesn't like, or can't handle, some things. If your cat is eating cheap dry kibble, such as "grocery store food," most likely the vomiting is due to inadequate nutrition and too many additives. Cheap foods may contain poor ingredients, along with fillers, such as bentonite (a type of clay) and plastic pellets "recycled" into a powder. Who wouldn't vomit on that diet?
Other causes of vomiting can include allergies, hairballs (be sure to groom often so they don't swallow too much fur), and eating plant matter. Also watch that your cat isn't eating any house plants, as some are toxic.
The best remedy to this problem is to provide a good quality, nutritious food. And, as with diarrhea, excessive vomiting can lead to dehydration, too, so provide water at all times.
3. FIV, or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. This disease is similar to the HIV virus in humans, but they are not related to the point that any cross communicability is possible. Thus, a human cannot get AIDS from a cat, nor can the cat get it from a human. However, it can have deadly effects on a cat, just as HIV does for people. That is, the immune deficiency may lead to death from something simple, such as a mild respiratory infection that a healthy individual could fight off.
If you have a cat with FIV, it's not an immediate death sentence, however, and your pet can live a normal life with you. However, the precautions you need to take include seclusion from other cats, never letting the cat outside, a good nutritious diet for maximum health, and keeping his living area clean so he does not succumb to a simple bacterial infection.
4. Diabetes. Cats can have diabetes just as humans can. It most often occurs in older cats, especially those who have had inadequate diets most of their lives. You will need to have your cat checked by a vet if he starts urinating a lot more often than usual and is not able to get to the litter box in time. If he seems more thirsty than usual, this could be a sign, too. You may need to give the cat insulin shots, and change his diet. A diabetic cat, like a human, can live for a very long time, but there is some effort to be made in diet and medication.
Article by Dr. R.J. Peters
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