Do you have any suggestions for helping cats live long lives?
I just adopted an approximately eight-week-old Tabby kitten with long hair from the pound. I took him to the vet, and she said he was in good health. I want him to live a long life. Do you have any suggestions for helping cats to live a long time?
Cedar Rapids, IA
There are several steps that you can take throughout your pet's life to help keep him healthy and happy. In pets, as in people, the key to good health and long life is prevention of health problems when possible, and early detection of problems that are not preventable. The information in this column applies to both cats and dogs.
You have already taken the first step, by having the vet evaluate your pet. With her, you can determine an appropriate schedule for vaccinating your cat against dangerous diseases. As well, you can determine whether your pet needs protection against parasites such as fleas, intestinal worms, and heartworm. Avoiding these preventable health issues is a vital part of keeping your pet well.
I recommend that you select a high quality pet food for your kitten to ensure his nutritional needs are met. Feeding dry food slows the onset of dental disease.
Speaking of dental disease, it is by far the most common health problem I see in both cats and dogs. If you keep your pet's mouth healthy, he will be happier and he will live longer. Although feeding dry food helps reduce dental problems, the most effective preventive method is to brush your pet's teeth at home. Do not use human toothpaste in pets, and remember that your vet should check your pet's teeth regularly to ensure that problems have not developed. Also, dog owners should be careful about letting their pets chew on tennis balls, bones, rocks, or pine cones. These items can cause dental wear or broken teeth.
If you want your cat to live the longest possible life, he should not go outside. Cats who go outdoors may get lost, and they are at risk for feline leukemia, feline AIDS, cat fight injuries, and trauma due to dogs, cars, and wild animals.
After your pet is full grown, take care to ensure that he does not become overweight. Overweight cats are at increased risk of diabetes, premature kidney failure, and arthritis. Overweight dogs may suffer from arthritis and debilitating mobility problems. In the worst cases, some dogs may require euthanasia because they can no longer walk.
Finally, have your pet checked once or twice each year by a veterinarian. The vet can answer questions, offer advice, and check for any developing health problems so that they can be dealt with before they cause serious damage.