Most cats are basically healthy creatures. But almost every one will experience some kind of health problem, big or small, in its lifetime. The good news is that you can prevent some of these illnesses from occurring, and minimize the harm that other maladies cause.
On these pages you'll find a brief rundown of some common cat health problems, with advice on what to do if they affect your pet.
If your cat has an allergy, you can't cure it, but you can give her some relief by identifying the cause and eliminating it from your pet's environment. There are four main types of pet allergies:
1. Contact allergy: The animal's skin is irritated by something that touches it, such as a wool blanket or a flea collar.
- Symptoms: Itching, hair loss, thickened or discolored skin, possible odor.
- What to do: Identify the cause by removing different materials that touch the irritated area, one by one, and noticing whether the symptoms clear up. Keep the offending material away from your pet's skin in the future.
2. Food allergy: The cat develops an allergy to something in its food, often an animal protein.
- Symptoms: Digestive disorders, itching, or respiratory problems.
- What to do: Consult your vet. He or she may put your pet on a special hypoallergenic diet, or a series of such diets, until you find one that doesn't cause an allergic reaction. While each diet is being tested, make sure your cat eats only those foods included in the prescribed diet -- no treats or table leftovers.
3. Inhalant allergy: The animal is allergic to substances in the air, whether from outdoors (such as pollen) or indoors (such as dust, mold, and mildew).
- Symptoms: Severe itching, possible hair loss from scratching.
- What to do: If your cat is allowed outdoors and is sensitive to pollen, keep it indoors during hay-fever season. If your cat is irritated by indoor allergens, running an air purifier may ease symptoms. This may also help cut down on the outdoor allergens that enter through window screens and get tracked in on clothing and shoes.
4. Flea allergy: The cat is allergic to proteins in the saliva of fleas, which come into contact with the cat's skin when these tiny insects bite.
- Symptoms: Severe itching.
- What to do: Get rid of the fleas (see page 3.)
Continued on page 2: Arthritis