With spring’s arrival, you may take your cat outside with you, or allow your cat to go out more often. Now is the time to prepare him for the outdoors so both of you can enjoy the spring and summer seasons more safely. By taking note of the following summarized points, you can prevent or catch problems before they become serious.
Of course, taking care of your cat is a year round responsibility. You should keep a detailed medical file on each pet to remind you when vaccines are due, when the last fecal sample was checked and what special seasonal events are required, such as a trip to the groomer.
Parasites proliferate in warm weather. With a little planning and some medical help, your cat can be kept parasite free. Ticks, fleas, heartworms and intestinal worms are the primary culprits. Your veterinarian has medications available to prevent these parasites from infesting your cat and to eliminate the parasites if already present.
Several topical and oral medications are available to prevent and treat tick infestations. If you find a tick, remove it carefully with a tweezers or tick removal instrument.
For more information, please see the related story How to Remove and Prevent Ticks.
Preventing fleas is much easier than treating an already established flea infestation. Topical and oral medications are quite effective in keeping your pet’s flea problem to a minimum. If fleas are allowed to proliferate, your pet and your entire environment – home and yard – must be treated.
For more information, please see the related story How to Control and Prevent Fleas on Your Cat.
Though more common in dogs, heartworms are still a preventable parasite in your cat. For cats at risk of infection, monthly oral preventative is strongly recommended, based on geographical location and lifestyle. Since mosquitoes transmit heartworms, the risk of heartworm infection is increased in the warmer months.
For more information, please see the related story Can Cats Get Heartworm Disease.
Roundworms, hookworms, coccidia and giardia are common intestinal parasites. At least once a year, you should have a fecal sample microscopically evaluated for these parasites. Early treatment can reduce the chance of serious illness. Currently, there are monthly medications available that help prevent some of these parasites from developing. Even if your cat is on medication to prevent parasites, annual fecal evaluation is still recommended.
For more information, please see the related story Parasite Control.
In addition to parasite control, preventing contagious disease is also recommended. Several vaccines are available to help reduce your cat’s risk of acquiring diseases such as feline upper respiratory infections, gastrointestinal viruses, feline leukemia and rabies.
Kitten vaccines are generally started around 6-8 weeks of age and are given every 3-4 weeks until the kitten is 16 weeks of age. Feline leukemia vaccine is given to those kittens at risk of exposure. At risk kittens include those that spend time outdoors and kittens that live in multi-cat households. Rabies vaccination is given at 3-4 months of age and then one year later.
Annual revaccination (booster shots) is recommended the first year after the “kitten shots”; thereafter, you should discuss the benefits and risks of annual vaccination with your veterinarian. There is no national accepted standard at this time. Many veterinarians stagger booster immunizations over a number of years. The rabies vaccines should be given as recommended by local law.
For more information, please see the related story Vaccine Recommendations for Your Cat.
Proper nutrition is essential in maintaining health. As the temperatures rise, some of our cats become more active. With this increase in activity, more calories are needed to provide the necessary energy. If your cat is not as active and tends to get sluggish in the heat, reduce his caloric intake.
In the springtime, some owners of cats with long hair choose to have them professionally groomed, trimming their hair even to the point of shaving. These owners feel that their cats greatly benefit with less hair during the heat of the spring and summer. Other owners prefer to leave their cats natural. In all cats, routine combing and brushing is recommended. As the mercury rises, shedding usually increases. This leads to more accumulation of hair and the formation of mats and tangles if your cat is not frequently brushed.
For more information, please see the related story Grooming Your Cat.
Though keeping your cat indoors at all times is the safest, some choose to allow their cats periodic access to the outdoors. Be aware that as the outdoor temperature increases so do the activities of people and other animals. The incidence of motor vehicle trauma and animal attack increases in the spring and summer. You can prevent these by either taking your cat outdoors on a leash and harness or constructing an outdoor enclosure that your cat can safely enjoy.
For more information, please see the related story Should You Let Your Cat Go Outside?