Are You Protecting Your Cat's Health?
We all want our pets to live healthy lives, but are we as informed as we should be? Take this quiz to see how you measure up.
1. I schedule basic veterinary checkups for my adult cat:
a. Once a year
b. Twice a year
c. When needed
Optimal answer: b. Twice a year
Although annual visits are a good start, twice-yearly exams are your best insurance against hidden diseases, says Dr. Ernie Ward, a veterinarian based in North Carolina. "I also recommend checking your pet's blood test and urinalysis once a year in patients over 7 years old," he says.
2. I treat my cat with over-the-counter medicines (e.g., painkillers):
a. As soon as symptoms appear
b. Only in emergencies
Optimal answer: c. Never
The No. 1 cat poison is human medication. "Simple human drugs, like acetaminophen, can be fatal to cats," says Dr. Patricia Joyce, an emergency veterinarian in New York City. Keep your pills to yourself.
3. I check my cat's ears:
a. Once a year
b. Every few months
c. Every few weeks
Optimal answer: c. Every few weeks
Ear infections are preventable with careful monitoring. "If the earflap is red and inflamed; if the canal is narrow, has a heavy buildup of debris or is smelly; or if touching your cat's ears is painful; you have a problem that needs to be addressed," says Dr. Bernadine Cruz, a veterinarian in California.
4. My cat gets its teeth cleaned:
a. Once a year
b. Twice a year
c. Every five years
Optimal answer: a. Once a year
Annual cleanings are recommended, but Dr. Katy Johnson Nelson, a Virginia-based veterinarian, says some cats need more. "Just like some people have more cavities, some cats have significantly more severe dental disease than others. Your veterinarian will be able to determine how often they need those teeth cleaned," she says. Between cleanings, brush your cat's teeth at least weekly.
5. I bring my cat for vaccine renewal:
a. Yearly or sooner
b. Every three years
c. Every five years
Optimal answer: a. or b. Yearly or sooner, or every three years
Core vaccinations are given every three years, others last a year or less. Discuss this with your veterinarian and know the schedule for each vaccine.
6. I enrich my cat's environment by:
a. Leaving toys out
b. Creating a window perch
c. Dedicating part of a room to my cat, with toys and structures
Optimal answer: c. Dedicating part of a room to my cat, with toys and structures
"Even though cats can be elusive, dedicating a part of the room to them -- with toys, perches and attention -- is essential to making them feel part of the home," says Nelson. This simple step can help prevent behavior problems and unwanted pounds, and it can even prevent disease.
7. I exercise my cat:
c. Seriously? Exercise my cat?
Optimal answer: a. Daily
To keep your cat lean and healthy, and to prevent many behavioral problems, daily exercise is key. "Two to three five-minute play periods using interactive toys, laser pointers, dancing feathers or whatever your cat enjoys is just as important as nightly chin-scratches," says Ward.
8. I let my cat roam outside:
b. All the time
c. Only when I go out
Optimal answer: a. Never
"Today's outdoor environment poses many dangers for cats," says Ward. "Whether being struck by a car, attacked by a dog or poisoned by trash, it's always better to keep your kitty indoors." Cruz recommends a microchip implant, just in case.
9. My cat's food bowl is made of:
Optimal answer: b. or c. Ceramic or metal
"Plastic is associated with allergies, ulceration of the lips and chin acne," says Nelson. Plastic is also more likely to retain bacteria.
Eight to nine correct:
Congratulations! You are doing a great job of safeguarding your cat against medical problems. But remember that as your cat ages, you'll need to adapt too. Maintain a close relationship with your vet and your cat will live a long, happy life.
Five to seven correct:
Looks like you've got a decent foundation when it comes to safeguarding your cat against medical problems, but there's room for improvement. Go back over your incorrect answers and take action on them!
Zero to four correct:
Oh no! We're sorry to say it, but at 50 percent or less, you scored an F. You've got some work to do when it comes to safeguarding your cat against medical problems.
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