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7 Ways to Protect Your Cat's Health

Summer is almost over, but certain risks are present year 'round. While it's less likely for your cat to pick up fleas and other parasites after hot weather has ended, some are persistent throughout the year, especially if you live in warmer climates. Even in cold areas, where snow and ice make life uncomfortable for us, the cold sends insects and other pests into hiding, but not necessarily to die. Lying dormant through the winter, they simply reappear in warmer weather... even warm days in the winter.

By taking the following precautions, you can reduce your cat's risk for becoming infected, infested, or terminally ill from the effects of some parasites.

1. Keep the litter box clean. Not just "clean," but CLEAN. Scoop it more than once a day if more than one cat is using it. The rule of thumb is to have one box per cat, but it's also useful to have litter pans in strategic locations so no one is stuck with a full bladder when they're on the wrong side of a door when the urge hits.

2. Wash your hands after this task, to prevent accidental spreading of infectious material that might be in the box. Some of the parasites that infect cats can also spread to people and other pets in your home, such as hookworms, roundworms, and some bacteria.

3. Prevent your cat from hunting mice or other rodents, if possible. Cats who are allowed outdoors are most at risk, though sometimes mice can enter our living spaces and even indoor cats may instinctively wish to catch and eat them. The risk is that rodents often carry fleas and ingesting them causes tapeworm infections.

4. Never let your cat come into contact with the feces of other pets. This is one reason to keep all litter boxes clean. You don't want Cat A stepping into a box Cat B just used and picking up some fecal residue on their paws. They will clean themselves by licking it off. You also don't want them stepping in the dog's business in the yard, so take care of that, too.

5. Keep an eye on your pet to be aware of any changes in behavior, appearance or habits. If they have ear mites, for example, they may scratch their heads or necks a lot, sometimes drawing blood. Some parasites, such as hookworms, will cause the cat's stools to be quite dark. Tapeworms leave tiny white segments that resemble grains of rice in their fur, under their tails. Others, such as round worms, can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Brush or massage your cat daily to get a feel for the condition of their fur and skin. Check for ticks, fleas, and sores.

6. Keep your veterinarian's phone number handy, and take your cat in whenever you spot signs of potentially serious health problems.

7. Take your cat in to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated as required in your area, and to get a professional, clean bill of health for the coming season. Have your cat tested for diseases or parasites that are common where you live, too, such as heartworms and giardia. Treatment is effective only if you catch it soon enough.

Enjoy your feline companions to the fullest by taking care of their needs as fully as you can.

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