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Mistake 3: Delaying Care continued...

The flaw in a wait-and-see attitude is cats’ adeptness at hiding illness to protect themselves from predators. So although you may think a health problem has resolved, you could find a week later that it's progressed to a full-blown emergency.

If you clearly see there's a problem -- your cat is limping, for example, or has her head cocked at an angle -- always call your vet.

Other signs that your feline friend may be ill include:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea, both of which can quickly lead to life-threatening dehydration
  • Changes in grooming
  • Sleeping much more than usual
  • Sneezing
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in urination or defecation
  • Lameness
  • Panting
  • Refusing food or water


Mistake 4: Skipping Parasite Control

Fleas are the bane of cats worldwide and by far the most common external parasite they face. And they’re more than just an itchy irritation. For cats with flea allergies, an infestation can lead to inflammation, severe itching, and hair loss. Kittens can die of anemia if severely infested with fleas. To double the annoyance, it takes just one swallowed flea to lead to tapeworms.

Tapeworms are the most common internal parasite in cats but not the only one. Though heartworms are often thought of as an issue for dogs, they can also plague cats. There is no treatment for heartworm infection in cats, so prevention is key.

Keeping a lid on problem parasites isn't just for your cat. McGeorge says, "Some intestinal parasites can be transmitted to people."  Children and immune-compromised adults are at increased risk.

Along with fleas and tapeworms, ear mites, hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and ticks also can trouble cats. Talk with your vet to decide the most effective treatment to control the problem parasites in your area.

Mistake 5: Not Microchipping

Cats can be real homebodies, soaking up the sun on a windowsill or snoozing the day away in the garden. Yet they are still among the 10 million pets lost in the United States every year.

Of the millions of cats that end up in shelters, less than 2% are returned to owners, according to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy. Most cats that are reunited with their human families are able to be because they have identifying tags, tattoos, or microchips.

It's important to realize that even indoor cats can escape or be inadvertently let out of the house, McGeorge says. Cats are also much more prone than dogs to losing collars with ID, so microchipping is a better bet for getting your cat back home if she is lost.

About the size of a grain of rice, microchips take seconds to insert under the skin between your pet's shoulder blades and last forever because they don’t use a battery. The chip is activated only when a scanner is passed over it, transmitting its ID number to the scanner.

A microchip is only useful, however, if you keep your contact information up to date with the microchip registry of the company that made the chip. Your vet will give you all the information you need to keep your pet's registration current.

Pet Health and Nutrition Advice

Veterinarian Will Draper gives tips on the best nutrition and health care for your dog or cat.
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