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Ask the vet: Top tips for cat parents

Q: Every professional has a list of things they wish their clients knew. What's your Top Ten list for cat parents?

A: Here's my Top Ten, starting with a simple courtesy and ending with the most crucial:

10. Please show up on time for your veterinarian appointment. If you're late, you'll get less of your vet’s time or be asked to reschedule. Note: Adopting a new cat can be an exciting time for your family, so be sure to make the most of your cat’s first trip to the veterinarian with these tips.

9. Bring your cat in a carrier, because without one, your cat could startle and jump from your arms. Ideally, your carrier should have top and side openings, and the top should be secured with large clips, not individual screws, so the hospital staff can easily remove it. Line the carrier with a towel and spray the towel with the pheromone Feliway (if your cat is nervous).

8. Save money on vet bills by preventing disease. Sterilize your cat to reduce the risk of mammary cancer, uterine infection and spraying. Vaccinate to save money on disease treatment. Prevent heartworms, intestinal worms, fleas and other parasites, rather than treat the problems they cause.

7. It's not normal for a cat to regularly throw up hairballs. Research shows flavored petroleum jelly doesn't relieve hairballs or move hair along the gastrointestinal tract. To this end, veterinarians have a saying: Hairballs aren't caused by a grease deficiency. See your vet to identify the cause of your cat's vomiting and start effective therapy.

6. Pay attention to your cat’s litter box habits. If your cat drinks excessively or the litter box contains more urine clumps than usual, your kitty may be developing diabetes, kidney disease, or another problem. Make an appointment with your veterinarian.

5. Dental care is important. Without it, bacteria in the gums travel to the kidneys, liver and heart, where they establish infections. For a list of diets, treats, and other products recommended by veterinary dentists to decrease plaque and tartar visit

4. Pet food bags advise you to feed more than is healthy, presumably because manufacturers' calculations are based on the needs of animals that haven't been sterilized and therefore have higher metabolic rates. Don't let your cat get fat, because overweight cats are more likely to develop diabetes, arthritis, and other disorders.

3. Some plants, human foods and medications are toxic to cats. Examples are lilies, garlic and acetaminophen (Tylenol). When it doubt, ask your veterinarian. Note: We all want our cats to be kept safe and healthy, especially from the hazards in our homes. Learn about the most common hazards for indoor cats.

2. Environmental enrichment keeps your cat happy and actually decreases risk of disease. Note: Cat toys aren’t all for fun. Did you know cat toys can help stimulate a cat’s natural instincts and help them lose weight? Here are some everyday practical cat toy ideas.

1. Most important of all, a cat lasts a lifetime. Your kitty is not a disposable commodity to relinquish when you get bored. Cherish your cat forever, and your cat will return your love many times over.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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