Max's House

Preventative Health Care For Your Cat

Keeping Your Cat Healthy

The old saying aside, cats only have one life, and they are afflicted by injury and disease just like all other living beings. One of the best ways to safeguard feline health is to know what is normal for your cat, and to be on the lookout for physical and behavioral changes at all times. You can do this by incorporating a mini-physical exam into your grooming routine; by keeping track of how much your cat eats and drinks and how often she visits the litter box; and by noticing if her demeanor changes. Taking these simple steps will enable you to catch most illnesses in their early stages, when they may be most curable.

In addition, schedule regular veterinary checkups. Your veterinarian will tell you how often your cat needs to come in for well-pet visits, which will include vaccinations, based upon your cat's age and state of health. Of course your vet will also see your cat when any rnedical problems arise. The more observant you are and the better your communication with your veterinarian,   the healthier your cat is likely to be.   Most certainly, you can extend the life of your cat far beyond what would otherwise be expected by following simple preventative health care measures for your cat.

The Mini-Physical Exam

It's a good idea to give your cat a mini-physical examination as part of the weekly grooming session. Make the home checkup an extension of the normal physical attention you pay your cat and he will not even know that he is being "examined". It doesn't matter where you perform the exam, as long as both you and your cat are comfortable. If your cat usually isn't allowed on the kitchen table or counter, don't examine him there, as it may be confusing and stressful.

Skin and Coat

Weekly grooming provides a good opportunity for evaluating the health of the skin and hair. Pass your hands over your cat's body, feeling for swelling, asymmetry, or sensitive areas. Call the veterinarian if you discover patches of hair loss, the black flecks that signal the presence of fleas, scabby areas, or skin bumps.

With your cat facing away from you, gently lift the tail and take a quick peck at his rear end. If you see tan-colored, rice-size objects, you are probably looking at packets of tapeworm eggs which require veterinary treatment. Next, use a moist paper towel to clean away any feces. In longhaired cats in particular, feces can get caught in the fur and, if' trapped against the skin, can cause serious problems. If the hair has become matted, you will need to use blunt-tipped scissors. Be very careful cutting out mats or, better yet, take your cat to a veterinarian or professional groomer, who can use clippers to remove the mats.

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Check for fleas by parting the fur and
looking for the small wingless insects
or by using a flea comb to detect flea dirt.

Tapeworm Segments on Tail



Face your cat head-on and examine the eyes. 'They should be
bright, and the pupils should be of equal size. There should be
little if any tearing at the corners of the eyes, and the nictitating
membrane should not protrude. Gently roll down the lower eyelid
with your thumb; the tissue lining the lid should be pink, not white
or red. Be sure your cat is not squinting with either eye.

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The tissue lining a cat's eyelids should be pink there should be no discharge.


With your cat facing you, gently pull tip on the ear flap and look
at the inner surface and down into the ear canal. The ears should
be clean and light pink in color. Any discharge, redness, swelling,
or odor is abnormal. Do not attempt to clean your cat's ears; probing
into the ear canal can aggravate an ear condition or even cause or infection

Discharge of any sort in a cat's ear is abnormal.

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Mouth and Nose

With your cat facing you, push back the lips to examine the gums and teeth.
The gums should be pink, not white or red, and should show no signs of
swelling. The teeth should be clean, without any brownish tartar. Sniff your
cat's breath; while a cat's breath is never pleasant, a strong, fetid odor is
abnormal and may indicate a problem. Excessive drooling can also be a sign
of oral disease. Unless it is normally colored or marked with color, the nose
should be pink, and there should be no nasal discharge.

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Pulse Rates (resting and healthy) in beats per minute (BPM) Pulse rates for very young animals are usually in the higher ranges and older animals in the lower ranges of those values listed

Kittens         160-240 beats per minute

Adult Cats   140-220 beats per minute

The cat's pulse can be taken either by finding it on the inside of the hind leg near the groin or in the area along the left chest wall just behind where the elbow connects with the body  by holding your hand over your cat's heart.  Inside the hind leg, however, is more accurate.

NOTE: that there is no exact  pulse rate for any cat or any particular breed, size, or age,  under any specific circumstances

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To feel the pulse place your first two fingers on the inside of the thigh near the groin. (Femoral Artery) The best place to feel the heartbeat is behind the left elbow between the third and sixth ribs.

Taking Your Cat's Temperature

A cat's temperature is important information to have before a veterinarian is called. Taking the temperature reading of a cat may seem a formidable task to the uninitiated, but if done calmly, gently, and with confidence, it can become routine. Use a human rectal thermometer (never a thin-walled oral one). Shake it down to at feast 96F and lubricate it with K-Y jelly or petroleum gel. A flexible, electronic digital type is easier to read and safer to use with no fear of breakage and mercury poisoning. The Vicks Comfort-Flex, or B-D Digital Thermometers are fast (60 sec) and accurate to +/- 0.2F. Both are excellent choices and reasonably priced (~$10).

A second person can hold the cat gently on a counter, allowing it to grasp the edge with its front paws, which decreases the opportunity for injury as well as giving the animal a sense of security. The assistant can hold the cat's head comfortably with one hand and the front legs at the elbows (never the feet) with the other. A soft voice in calm conversation with the cat is soothing.

If there is no assistant, stand the cat on a counter and, holding the tail upright with one hand and gently gripping the cat's body with that elbow, insert the thermometer with the other hand.

If the cat resists, it may be necessary to roll-wrap it in a towel. Use a towel large enough to cover all four feet and wrap completely around the cat more than once. Leave the head and the anus exposed.

Place the thermometer with slow and gentle but steady pressure against the anus. Do not hurriedly force the thermometer into the anus or you may injure your cat. At first, there will be firm resistance from the rectal muscles, which will relax with continued gentle pressure. Patience and time are necessary in this maneuver. Insert about one inch and leave for one to two minutes if a glass rectal thermometer is used, or 60 sec (or until you hear a "beep") if you are using a flexible, electronic thermometer.

If it is not possible to get a rectal temperature, a less accurate estimate can be taken by holding the thermometer in the armpit (under foreleg) or in the groin between the hind legs, which are held together for two or three minutes. Do not place a thermometer in a cat's mouth. Absolute disaster will result if the thermometer is placed between the lips and teeth or anywhere in the mouth. Cats bite down on anything placed in their mouths, including a finger. The response is a defense mechanism to destroy a possible threat.

A normal temperature in the cat should range between 100.4F and 102.5F, with 105F being a danger sign. Temperatures over 108F can be immediately life-threatening if caused by heatstroke or heat exhaustion (which requires cooling in a cold-water bath). The cat is not as susceptible to brain damage as the human is from extremely high fevers from other causes.

The thermometer should be wiped clean before reading and the results recorded on paper, not left to memory. With the glass thermometer, it is customary to report temperatures to the closest tenth of a degree.  However, a flexible, digital thermometer is highly recommended over glass thermometers.


Subtle Signs of Illness

Cats are notorious for their ability to appear healthy when they are actually sick. How can owners detect illness early? Get in the habit of giving your cat a weekly mini-physical examination, and always be on the lookout for the following, often subtle, signs of illness.

Lethargy or excessive sleepiness

This common sign of sickness is sometimes difficult for owners to recognize, as healthy adult cats may sleep up to 16 or 18 hours a day. Get to know how much sleep is normal for your cat.

Change in appetite or water consumption

Keep track of how much your cat normally eats and drinks so that any variation can be detected easily and early.

Change in grooming behavior

An ill-kempt, oily coat can indicate ill ness. Conversely, cats that groom too often may have a nervous skin condition.

Weight loss

This sign often goes unnoticed, especially in longhaired cats. Owners who regularly groom their cats may notice the ribs and backbone becoming more prominent. Those who regularly weigh their cats are sure to see a change. A sudden loss of one pound in a cat that normally weighs ten pounds is cause for concern.  Subtle weight gains and losses are difficult to notice in a cat you see every day - especially in long-haired cats.   Sudden weight loss is almost always a certain sign of water loss and dehydration which are early symptons of feline diabetes and chronic renal failure, especially if the cat eats primarily dry food. A human pediatric scale is one of the best investments you can make in your cat's health care program.

Change in litter box habits

Cats that start visiting the litter box more frequently, or that repeatedly urinate or defecate outside the box, may be suffering from a disease of the lower urinary tract or large intestine. Cats that strain to urinate may have a urethral obstruction; such cats are in grave danger and need immediate veterinary attention.  Frequent and/or increased urination are typically signs of feline diabetes and chronic renal failure.

Change in behavior

House soiling and aggression are both behavioral problems that can sometimes be prompted by a physical illness.  Hiding, lethargy, and any changes in behavior should prompt an immediate trip to the vet.


You and Your Veterinarian

Your veterinarian will be your ally throughout the life of your cat, someone you'll depend on to help maintain your cat's health from kittenhood through old age. As your cat matures, your veterinarian can serve as both knowledgeable advisor and compassionate friend, helping you to understand how your cat is aging and eventually to come to terms with his death. The following section provide advice on finding and choosing the right veterinarian for you and your cat and on establishing a good working relationship with the veterinarian Also included is a brief overview of what to expect from a routine veterinary examination.

Finding a Veterinarian

Finding and choosing the right veterinarian for your cat is extremely important. But how do you go about it? Cat-owning friends are a good source, and the shelter or person from whom you adopted or purchased your cat may also be able to recommend someone. If you are moving, You can narrow tire search by seeking the advice of your present veterinarian.

You can also contact the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and ask for a referral (tel 800-204-3514 or 505-888-2424); Web site address: 

Some vets even have cat-only practices designed to cater specifically to the needs of' felines, and their offices will not have barking dogs, which can be stressful to cats. Within the last several years, the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners has begun recognizing feline specialists. There are just a few board-certified feline specialists at this time, but the numbers are growing.

In your search for a veterinarian, you may come across different types of practices. Some owners prefer solo practitioners to a group practice because they like the consistency of care and the familiarity that the vet develops with each pet's case. Veterinarians in a group practice regularly consult with one another about their patients and are also able to cover for each other during vacations and other times.

Referral hospitals are staffed by board-certified veterinarians with extra training in specific specialties, such as internal medicine, dermatology, or surgery. Referral hospitals typically treat patients referred to them by general practitioners.

Pet health insurance is a fairly recent development. Some policies require owners to use only participating veterinarians; others allow owners to use their veterinarian of choice. When shopping around for pet insurance, check references, read policies carefully, and ask your veterinarian to review any policies you are seriously considering. Make sure you understand the range of services covered. Some, for example, do not cover well-pet visits.

Pet Insurance Companies:


Evaluating a Veterinarian
Once you have narrowed down your choices in veterinarians, arrange to visit the facilities that interest you. Schedule such visits during relatively quiet times, and keep the following factors in mind.

A veterinary clinic should be neat, clean, and well equipped and should not have any unpleasant o ors. The condition of the office an examining rooms will give you a good indication of the conscientiousness of the doctors and staff.

Good communication is important. The doctors and staff should encourage you to ask questions, and they should answer them in an understandable way.  However, some of us want more detailed information about out our cats' health, therefore, a vet should be happy to answer any technical questions you may ask.  Lack of communication is the most common problem in the veterinarian-owner relationship.

Doctors and staff should always treat the pets in their care as gently as possible, even with more fractious patients. Some cats, being the independent creatures they are, may resist a veterinarian's attempts to help them and require firm restraint. However, a vet should never be overly rough or aggressive.

Find out whether there are veterinary specialists or referral centers in the area and if your veterinarian utilizes them. It is impossible to be proficient and up-to-date in all areas of veterinary medicine; a good veterinarian should not be reluctant to seek the advice of other veterinarians or to refer difficult cases to a specialty center if necessary.

When an emergency happens, every second counts. Find out how after-hours emergencies are handled. Some hospitals prefer to attend to their own emergencies, while others may refer them to a special emergency facility in the area.

Don't be afraid to talk about rates, fees, and accepted methods of payment. The veterinarian should be willing to provide running estimates on all services provided.

(See The Veterinary Examination)

Working with Your Veterinarian

Keeping your cat healthy is much easier if you and your veterinarian have a cooperative relationship. Following are some ways that you can help your veterinarian to give your cat the best care possible.

If you have adopted a new cat or kitten, schedule an appointment for a physical examination within twenty-four hours after purchase or adoption. Give the veterinarian as much information as possible about the new cat, including date of birth and medical record.

A kitten needs his first visit to the vet at about six to eight weeks of age. At this time he should be given a complete physical and initial vaccinations (see the vaccination chart). Bring along a fresh stool sample so that your vet can check for internal parasites.

If your cat is sick, use the checklist at right to keep track of all the problems so you won't forget them when you are speaking with the doctor. If the cat has diarrhea or is vomiting, the doctor will want to know whether it happens at certain time of day, and what the cat's normal diet consists of If your cat is urinating outside the box, the veterinarian may ask where specifically the cat is taking her business. Be prepared to discuss how long the problem has been going on and how often it occurs. It's best if the cat's primary caregiver takes her to the veterinarian, especially if she's sick. Otherwise, be sure that whoever brings the cat in has a complete history of the cat's problem and can make prompt decisions about the cat's medical care.

Bring your cat to the veterinarian's office in a carrier,  don't allow your cat to roam free in your car or carry her in your arms. Keep your cat away from other animals and in the carrier unless you are instructed to do otherwise,  until you are in the examination room. Your cat will remain much calmer, safer and  will be easier for your veterinarian to examine.

Bring a paper and pen with you and write down (or have the veterinarian write down) all important information and instructions. If you must administer medication or other treatments at home, make sure you understand how to do so. Ask the veterinarian or a staff member to show you, then have them observe while you perform the procedure to make sure you are doing it correctly.

Follow the doctor's instructions carefully, and faithfully return for any recommended follow-up visits. If you don't understand something, ask questions. Veterinarians like to know that pet owners are interested and concerned. If you are uncomfortable speaking with your veterinarian, it may be a good idea to try to find another with whom you can communicate better.

Checklist for Veterinary Visits

Present Medical Problem(s)

If you think your cat might be sick, make a list of the following information so that you can provide your vet with a full account of the cat's condition.

• date of onset
• changes in behavior, appetite, water intake,
  activity level, or litter box habits
• medication(s) the cat was taking before illness
• medication(s) the cat is now taking
• current diet, including any changes

Past Medical Problems

If you are seeing a new veterinarian, either obtain your cat's records from previous care providers or make a list of the following information for all of your cat's past health problems.

• date
• tests administered
• diagnosis
• treatment Also include the cat's complete
  vaccination history and the type and date of any
  surgery the cat has had.

Remember to ask the vet the following questions: What is wrong with my cat? What tests are needed for diagnosis? How will the condition be treated? Are there alternative treatments? Will hospitalization be necessary? What will the cost be? What is the expected outcome? Do you have any literature on this subject?

Finding A Specialist

In some cases, a highly trained specialist may be needed.   A specialist has received additional, intensive, training in one or more areas (called "Specialties") in veterinary medicine and have earned the highly respected title of "Board Certified Diplomate".  A Diplomate/Specialist can serve as your cat's primary care veterinarian or specialist for specific diseases, and also work with your veterinarian on a consultant basis.  Specialists are extremely valuable in diagnosing and treating complicated diseases such as heart disease, cancer and neurological disorders and may very well make the difference between life and death.   

For information about contacting or locating a Board Certified Diplomate/Specialist in the veterinary specialties of Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Neurology and Oncology,  contact one of the below listed organizations:

The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) at (800) 245-9081 or E-mail: or and do a search for an internal medicine Diplomate/Specialist in your area. American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Diplomates are about the best there is.

American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) 530 Church Street, Suite 700, Nashville, Tennessee 37219
Phone 615/254-3687 Fax 615/254-7047
or    and do a search for  Diplomate/Specialist in your area

American College of Veterinary Surgeons 4401 East West Hwy, Suite 205 Bethesda, Maryland 20814-4523
phone: 301-913-9550, ext 1, fax: 301-913-2034  or e-mail  and ask for a referral to a Board Certified Surgeon/Diplomate in your area.

The Veterinary Examination

Your cat Should be given a complete physical examination whenever he goes in for a well-cat visit. Through annual or semi-annual exams, many problems can be detected before they start to cause obvious disease. Some veterinarians prefer taking a complete medical history before even touching the cat , while others prefer to ask questions during the examination. Each veterinarian has his own order for performing an examination-some start by taking the temperature, others by evaluating the coat-but the typical complete physical exam should include at least the components listed below.   We advise a yearly exam for all animals under five years of age and twice yearly after that.  After 10 years of age, we recommend thorough exams, including complete blood and urine tests, three times a year as problems can creep up quickly in an older cat.

Weight loss  in cats can easily go unnoticed, so it's important to have your cat weighed regularly on a sensitive scale- preferably the same one each time

Observation  The veterinarian should make an initial "hands off"' observation of' the cat's demeanor, posture, gait, and general physical condition

Weights and Measures  A physical exam includes a recording of body temperature, weight (using a scale Sensitive enough to register small gains or losses), pulse rate, respiratory rate, and state of hydration

Skin and Coat   The veterinarian should examine the skin and coat on all parts of the body; this includes a thorough evaluation of the mammary area.  The vet should check for parasites as well as for changes in the skin and coat that might warn of illness.

Head and Neck  The vet should palpitate (examines by touch) the neck and throat to evaluate symmetry and to check the salivary glands, lymph nodes, and thyroid gland for nodules or swelling

Face The vet should make an evaluation of facial symmetry by sight and by touch.

Eyes  The vet should examine the eyes including checking pupil size, response to light, clarity, color, and condition of tissues; checking the eyelids for swelling, squinting, and discoloration; and looking for masses. An ophthalmoscope should be used to view the inside of the eye.

Nose  The nose should be examined for swelling, discharge, and color

Ears  The ears should examined for discharge, odors, masses, color, and pain. The ear canal should be examined with an otoscope; if a thorough ear examination is necessary, the cat may have to be sedated.

Mouth  The vet should examine the lips and mouth for tooth and gum health - includes an open-mouth check for foreign bodies, growths, disease, or gum discoloration.

Limbs  The paws and limbs should be examined for symmetry, muscle tone, and joint flexibility, and painful areas or swelling. The lymph nodes should be palpated for enlargement.

Chest  Examination of the chest includes palpation for symmetry, a chest auscultation (listening with a stethoscope) to evaluate heart and lung sounds, and sometimes a chest percussion (sharp taps on the chest to detect areas of increased or decreased resonance).

Blood Pressure  Years ago checking a cat's blood pressure was almost unheard of.  However, due to advancements in technology, its now possible to check a cat's blood pressure easily and noninvasively.  Hypertension in cats is now known to perpetuate kidney failure and blindness.   Blood pressure monitoring should be a part of your cat's health care program.

Abdomen The vet should palpitate all parts of the cat's abdomen to evaluate internal organs.

Rear End  Examination of the pelvis, back, and tail includes palpation for symmetry, swelling, pain, and flexibility. The rectal and external genital area is also inspected.

VACCINATIONS should be given every three years after the initial series and one year booster for panleukopenia (Feline Distemper), Rhinotracheitis, and Calicivirus.  However, the panleukopenia vaccine is probably good for life after the first year booster.  The Feline Leukemia Virus vaccine should be given only to cats with a realistic risk of exposure and development of disease. Rabies vaccinations are mandated by indivudual state laws.  A vaccine is also available for feline infectious peritonitis (FIP); however, due to questionable efficacy and safety of this vaccine, the FIP vaccine is not recommended for any cat by the Academy of Feline Medicine Advisory Panel on Feline Vaccines.  Show animals have greater exposure risks, but even in your own yard cats can and do become infected.  Many of these viruses are airborne or are easily transported on clothes, feet and by insects and birds. These vaccines are usually given in conjunction with the yearly exam, and some veterinarians may advise additional boosters in high-risk areas or for certain breeds. Kittens need a series of boosters initially starting at 6-8 weeks of age to establish their own immunity to these diseases. There are those who believe that cats need all vaccines on a yearly basis.  It is our opinion and that of the Academy of Feline Medicine Advisory Panel on Feline Vaccines that cats should be vaccinated only against those pathogens for which they have a realistic risk of exposure and subsequent development of disease.

Important Tests

A complete blood chemistry (chem screen) test, a Complete Blood Count (CBC), complete urinalysis (multistix, SpGr, Sed) and fecal analysis for internal parasites and to determine organ function and for early detection of disease, should also be part of a thorough exam. Because cats do indeed age at an accelerated rate, and because cats usually do not show signs of illness until the disease has progressed to the point where they can no longer conceal it, the frequency of feline examination is more than that of humans.  Blood and urine samples should be collected at the same time because together, blood and urine tests offer a more accurate assessment of kidney function than either test alone.

If you have a male cat, periodic urinalysis for the detection of crystals and urine pH should be performed in addition to the regularly scheduled exams. Male cats can become plugged or blocked suddenly. Blocking constitutes a true urologic emergency.   Cats that become blocked can die from acute renal failure and/or severe damage of the urinary bladder. Urinalysis can detect early signs of potential blocking and therefore,  possibly avoid a life-threatening situation.


HEARTWORM TESTING AND MONTHLY PREVENTION is advised in a few areas during spring and summer months. Some of the more moist and warmer areas require treatment for nine months or even the entire year. Although heartworm disease is relatively rare in the cat, only one mosquito bite is needed to transmit the illness. Indoor only cats are also at risk. A simple blood test and monthly pill, and recently a new topical heartworm prevention medication has become available (Revolution), can easily prevent your cat from becoming infected. Often animals will harbor this disease until irreparable heart and organ damage has occurred, and only then will the cat even appear ill. At this point there is treatment but it is quite intensive and cannot reverse the heart damage which has already occurred. (See: Heartworm Disease Section)

FLEAS AND TICKS can attack any animal in any home including  the cleanest pet in the cleanest homes. Fleas and ticks can transmit internal parasites and other diseases that can be fatal.  There are pills or a liquid preparation that can prevent fleas (and possibly ticks) and can be given once a month. Special repellent collars, sprays and topicals are also now available, discuss these options with your veterinarian.   Treatment of the home is usually necessary although in heavily infested cases, home treatment may be necessary.


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WORMING in general is not advisable unless specific parasites have been identified. Over the counter wormers on sale today often are non-specific and usually old drugs used decades ago. Most (if not all) over-the-counter wormers are poorly active and even toxic in some cases. Modern wormers available only through veterinarians are far safer when administered to handle a specific parasite, and are nearly 100% effective. In some cases, when your veterinarian has identified a continuous problem in your area, a regular worming program may be necessary and appropriate under their direction. Some veterinarians may worm all kittens as another preventative measure.  Do not use over-the-counter wormers. Deaths have been reported from their use.


PROPER DIET is one of the most important health tips we can give you. Many diets are commercially available and a detailed discussion can be found in Feline Nutrition.  It is advised that a premium, protein-  fat-rich,  carbohydrate poor food  preferably lower in calories and higher in fiber be used for most adult cats. Some cats have special medical needs for which specific formulations are also available. These special diets are available through your veterinarian. While there is probably no one perfect food, your veterinarian can discuss the many choices on the market and help you choose the best for your cat.

Homemade Diets

Formulating your own cat food is a difficult and time consuming process. Also, the nutrients in the formula may not be available in the right quantities and proportions to be beneficial to your cat. Therefore, it is usually recommended that the cat owner use a commercial, nutritionally balanced product, unless a veterinarian recommends a recipe for a home-formulated ration. he amount fed is based on caloric content, quality of nutrients, and the cat's special dietary needs. Meat scraps from the table and specialty cat treats can be fed from time to time but should not be a steady diet for your cat. Those treats often lack the proper proportion of basic nutrients a cat requires to maintain its health. A rule of thumb is not to let treats exceed 10 to 15 percent of the cat's daily diet. Although raw meat is an excellent source of many nutrients, it is not recommended as food for cats, because it is a potential vehicle for toxoplasmosis. Also, salmonellosis can occur from contaminated meat and spoiled meat harbors various bacteria that can upset the digestive system.

Pregnant and nursing cats, although they do have special needs, often can do well without supplementation if a high quality diet is fed from the onset of pregnancy.


MICROCHIP IDENTIFICATION: is a newer, more universal method of animal identification. The value of identification that cannot be lost or altered cannot be overstated. Most animal hospitals, humane shelters and other animal organizations scan lost cats for the presence of microchips. This type of identification, while not a guarantee of safety, greatly protects your valuable friend if he or she ever becomes separated from you. Microchips can be easily inserted during any routine visit. They are usually placed under the skin in the area between the shoulder blades near the spine. The chips can occasionally migrate but have never proven to be of any health risk to any cat, being totally inert. The useful life of the chip is equal to the life of any cat.


SPAYING AND NEUTERING .  In females, spaying will help prevent most breast cancers, the second most common cancer found in female cats.  Spaying will also help prevent most ovarian and uterine tumors, heat cycles, aggressive behaviors and the desire to stray and roam away from home.  In males, neutering helps prevent spraying, prostate enlargement and cancers, anal and rectal tumors,  aggressive behaviors and the desire to roam and fight which can easily result in deadly, infectious viral diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline Leukemia, and Feline Infectious Peritonitis; all of which are fatal disease for which there are no cures.  There is no vaccine for FIV, and the vaccine for and FeLV is not 100% effective, and  the vaccine for FIP is questionable.

Both procedures are better-performed around six months of age, and before the first heat cycle in females, but can be done at any age to provide these beneficial effects.  The personality of the pet is not altered, but rather, the cat becomes less wild and a more socially acceptable creature.  Allowing a  female have a litter or to allow animals to mate does not improve the animal's personality.  Breeding animals are usually less social than  spayed/neutered animals.

cancers Preventable by Spaying/Neutering


OVARIAN CYSTADENOMA   cystic tumor, often benign but can grow to a moderate size. Possible cure with ovariohysterectomy. Also preventable by spaying.

EPITHELIAL (i.e., carcinoma),  and sex-cord stromal (i.e., granulosa cell tumor, Sertoli-Leydig cell tumor, thecoma, and luteoma) tumors.   Preventable by spaying

OVARIAN ADENOCARCINOMA:  malignant tumor of the ovary. Can be prevented by spaying female cats.

GERM CELL TUMOR: include dysgerminomas and teratomas, tumors from embryonic-type tissues in the ovaries. Uncommon, can be moderately malignant. Ovariohysterectomy, chemotherapy and radiation will be needed for a cure. Preventable by spaying.

UTERINE LEIOMYOMA: the most common uterine tumor found in female cats. This tumor originates from smooth muscle within the uterus, and is usually benign. Usually no outward symptoms are visible.  Ovariohysterectomy usually produces a complete cure. . Preventable with spaying except in very rare circumstances.

UTERINE LEIOMYOSARCOMA: malignant cousin to leiomyoma, will invade and spread inside the abdomen, often before diagnosis. Can cause notable abdominal enlargement among other symptoms. Ovariohysterectomy and chemotherapy poorly effective. Preventable with spaying except in very rare circumstances.

UTERINE FIBROSARCOMA:  very invasive malignant cancer, more common in other areas besides the uterus. Can be treated if caught early but often it will have already invaded other tissues (metastasize)   before diagnosis. Ovariohysterectomy and chemotherapy are possible but mostly ineffective if metastasis has occurred. . Preventable with spaying except in very rare circumstances.

UTERINE ENDOMETRIAL ADENOCARCINOMA: A very common uterine tumor, usually occuring in old cats. This tumor will metastasize but will remain inside of the uterine body to make complete removal possible if caught early. This tumor can metastasize to lungs, heart, abdominal organs and the brain. Preventable by spaying.

MAMMARY GLAND NEOPLASIA: the third most common type of tumor in female cats comprising as many as 20% of all tumors the queen may have. Can be almost completely prevented by spaying before the first heat as these tumors are highly hormone dependent. Cats spayed after 2.5 years of age have a risk or incident rate 7 times higher than cats spayed before the first cycle. Most tumors occur in cats 9-11 years of age and are found primarily in the breasts closer to the tail.


SERTOLI CELL TUMOR: usually small and benign but can grow very large as part of a retained testicle. Can produce estrogen, which is the most severe effect of the tumor, causing liver and bone marrow damage. Often curable if caught early or chemotherapy may be needed.  In cats with high estrogen levels surgery can be risky. Neutering is preventative.


PROSTATIC ADENOCARCINOMA: malignant tumor,  seen more often in cats that have not been neutered. This tumor causes enlargement of the prostate gland; prostate gland enlargement will often be quite irregular.  Also, this tumor can cause urinary tract blockage, weakness, pain, bleeding from the penis, and weight loss. Spreads to areas inside the pelvis and sometimes other organs. There is no treatment effective towards a cure but neutering may slow growth of the mass. This tumor is rarely seen in castrated males, neutering considered preventative.


Main Subject Index

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