Some Diseases of Cats

A good veterinarian is of primary importance to any pet owner. Cat owners should choose a veterinarian who is interested in cats and has treated them successfully. Call a veterinarian at once for advice if a cat seems ill; never try to diagnose a disease or treat the animal yourself.

The most widespread and serious infectious disease of cats is panleucopenia--often called cat distemper, viral enteritis, or cat typhoid. Its onset is sudden and severe, with depression, fever, loss of appetite, and vomiting of yellow fluid. Every cat should be immunized to protect it. The first vaccination is usually given when the animal is about ten weeks old, and boosters should be given annually.

Upper respiratory infections are exceedingly common, and the best-known are pneumonitis and rhinotracheitis. Symptoms resemble those of the common cold in humans and distemper in dogs. The cat's "colds," however, cannot be passed on to humans or dogs although they are highly infectious for other cats.

Rabies is an invariably fatal viral disease. It is transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal. Rabies has become established among the wild animals in many parts of the world. A cat that roams outdoors in an area where rabies occurs may be bitten by a rabid animal. It is therefore advisable that all cats in such areas be given preventive vaccinations.

A cat that swallows large amounts of fur while grooming may develop fur balls or hair balls. Occasionally these may cause ulcers or completely obstruct the digestive tract. Prevention, in the form of frequent combing and brushing, is best. If fur balls occur in spite of grooming, the animal may be given a teaspoonful of mineral oil in its food or a dab of petroleum jelly on its paws twice a week.

Bite wounds may become infected and cause serious problems. Contrary to popular belief, the cat cannot heal the wound by licking it. It is better to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Many apparently normal cats have tiny mineral crystals in their urine. For reasons not yet fully understood, these crystals often clump together to form sandlike particles or small stones which may cause irritation or obstruction of the urinary passages. A urinary obstruction is a grave emergency and must be treated immediately by a veterinarian.

Ear irritations are most often caused by mites, which are tiny parasites about as large as the point of a pin. The insides of the ears look as though they are filled with a dry brown dirt. The cat shakes its head often and may scratch the outside of the ears and neck persistently. A few drops of any mild oil massaged into the ear canal suffocates the mites and loosens the dirt, which may then be removed with cotton-tipped sticks.

Any cat may have fleas. These small jumping insects live in the cat's fur and suck blood through the animal's skin. Products for treatment are readily available, but use only a preparation labeled safe for cats, and use it strictly as directed.

Worms are a common intestinal parasite of cats. An owner should never try to worm a cat without the advice of a veterinarian. There are several different types of worms, each requiring a different kind of drug for control.

Ringworm, a fungous skin disease, is probably the only infection that is clearly and commonly passed from cat to man. Simple sanitary measures such as keeping pets off the table and washing the hands after handling a cat eliminate most possible risks.

Cats may be poisoned by a variety of substances. They may eat poisonous plants--which include rhododendron, hyacinth, poinsettia, and ivy. Waxes, cleaning fluids, disinfectants, detergents, and mothballs may be toxic or irritating. Antifreeze, weed killers, insecticides, and rodent poisons are outdoor hazards. Cats react adversely to many chemicals and drugs, such as aspirin or iodine, that are safe for humans or other animals. They should never be given medicines not labeled safe for cats or prescribed by a veterinarian.

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