On average, cats now live longer than they did, for example, thirty years ago. Advances in the quality of food and healthcare we provide can mean that cats live well past the average of about fourteen years old. What can we do to make sure they stay as healthy as possible?
The subject of vaccination is in the media a great deal these days. Worries over the MMR jab for children and other related issues – such as vaccination and Gulf War syndrome – have made people wary. However, we are looking at the problem from a very privileged position – one in which most cats are not suffering or dying from cat flu or enteritis because of vaccination that has already taken place. Vaccination is vital to the health of our cats, both individually and as a population. Just which vaccines a particular cat has and how often it has them should be looked at for that individual cat and discussed with the vet. Some indoor cats are very unlikely to even come into contact with certain diseases; others which go out are at much higher risk. Providing protection is vital to the health of our cats.
ii) Preventive care – worming and flea treatment
Treating our cats for fleas and worms is becoming easier and easier. Manufacturers are now producing formulations that are simple to administer. Gone are the sprays loathed by all cats, and even tablets (not easy to get into many cats) are being replaced by spot-on treatments that are simply put on to the skin at the back of the neck. Keeping cats parasite-free will help their overall health and well-being.
The choice of cat foods available today can be quite overwhelming. However, there are many very good-quality foods around and they provide a balanced healthy diet for our cats. We need not fiddle around with homemade diets, which can often be deficient in nutrients the cat needs unless owners are very careful about what they are doing. For cats that go outside, there is the opportunity to top up with small prey such as mice, or to nip around the corner and eat the food left out for a neighbouring cat. However, for the totally indoor cat this is not possible and it is therefore even more important for the owner to get the cat’s diet right.
iv) Good veterinary care
Veterinary care for cats is improving all the time. There are now vets who specialise in cat medicine and veterinary practices that are feline-only. Good care is available for cats and it is up to owners to find a feline-friendly practice near them. Referrals to specialists for difficult cases are also a possibility. As with any problem, early investigation and diagnosis should improve the chances of successful treatment.