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Yearly Examination

Cats should be examined by a veterinarian once a year to help them stay healthy.

  • Getting information about the cat’s health since its last examination.

  • Weighing

  • Listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope.

  • Palpation of the abdomen and lymph nodes.

  • Examination of the skin and coat.

  • Examination of the eyes.

  • Examination of the ears.

  • Vaccinations when needed.

The yearly examination should include:

Outdoor cats are at great risk. Apart from the dangers of abuse, fighting with other cats and cars, outdoor cats face the threat of several deadly diseases. Viral leukemia (FELV), Feline Immunodeficiency virus (FIV, "cat AIDS") and Feline Infectious Peritonitis. (FIP) are surprisingly common among populations of outdoor cats in this country. In some areas, as many as 25% of all cats on the street carry the leukemia virus. Rabies virus (Lyssavirus) is now more common among cats than dogs in the U.S. Intact males (those which have not been neutered) are at the greatest risk because they will fight – coming into saliva-to-blood and blood-to blood contact with other males.


Strictly indoor cats are largely shielded from the aforementioned threats. However, there is always the chance that an indoor cat will get outside. An unvaccinated cat in this situation is at great risk. Also, it is not uncommon for feral cats to sneak into a housecat’s house – or just say "hello" through a window screen – when the opportunity arises. Most feline viruses are fragile and require the contact of bodily fluids to be transmitted. It is still possible, however, to bring a virus into a house on shoes, clothing or skin. The best protection you can give any cat is vaccinations.


As discussed on the dog page, vaccination protocols have changed for cats as well.   The core vaccines for cats include immunization against Panleukopenia (feline distemper), Rhinotracheitis and Calicicvirus (feline upper respiratory viruses), and Rabies.  Feline Leukemia vaccine is a core vaccine for all cats that live outside full or part-time, or those living inside but with exposure to outside cats.  Noncore vaccines include the FIP, Giardia, Feline Immmunodeficiency Virus, Dermatophytosis and Bordetella vaccines.


Kittens should begin vaccinations at 8 weeks of age with a combination vaccine called  FVRCP (Feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleulopenia).  Boosters are given at 12 and 16 weeks of age, one year later and then every one to three years depending on your pet’s exposure level.  Rabies vaccination is given at 4 months of age, repeated one year later, and then every three years.  Feline leukemia vaccine is first given when your kitten is around 9 weeks of age, with a booster vaccine given 3 weeks later.  This vaccine is given one year later, and then every one to three years depending on your pet’s exposure level.

Vaccination Guidelines

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Outdoor cats – or cats which eat mice – should have a stool sample checked for parasites annually.

Spaying and Neutering Guidelines

Inappropriate Urination

All cats not intended for breeding should be spayed or neutered. In 7 years, one cat and her young can produce 420,000 kittens.  We recommend that all female kittens be spayed between 4 and 6 months of age, prior to her first heat cycle.  Male kittens should be neutered around the same age to reduce the likelihood of inappropriate urination (spraying).

When a cat starts to urinate out of the litter box, he or she is doing this for one of two reasons:  Lower urinary tract infection or behavioral (spraying).  To determine the difference, an appointment with your veterinarian is important. A urinalysis should be performed to determine if any physiological reason exists for this problem.  If infection or another problem is not found, then the cause most likely is behavioral (spraying).

'Spraying is a cat's way of marking territory.'

Many cat owners confuse urine spraying with urinating though they are quite different. Urine spraying is a normal, innate territory marking behavior that has nothing to do with your cat's sanitation.

Most common in non-neutered males and multi-cat households, the spraying of urine on vertical surfaces like drapes and furniture is his way of identifying 'his' property or covering the scent of other cats.


Here are a few suggestions for controlling spraying:


Have your cat neutered

Neuter your cat before he is 6 months old. In addition to the many other good reasons to have your cat neutered, more than 90% of cats will not start spraying if they are neutered before the behavior begins.


Restrict the view of the outdoors

If your cat sees another cat, his natural response will be to mark his territory - your home. Move furniture away from windows, pull the drapes, or cover the lower portion of your window.


Foster a positive relationship between your cats

Cats that get along are not competitive and are far less likely to spray. Play with them together and give each one equal attention. Have them eat and sleep together. Encourage them to groom each other by wiping them down with a damp cloth.


Keep to the routine

Change often causes spraying. Feed at the same time each day and keep his food, litter box, and bed in their respective places. When people visit, put your cat in a separate room (particularly if your visitors have cats of their own and may carry in their scent).


Use a pet repellent

If your cat repeatedly sprays in one spot, spray it with a product designed to keep pets away by leaving an odor they prefer not to be around (but is OK for you).


Clean sprayed areas thoroughly

Clean up requires special products which will remove the urine odor. Use products that have natural enzymes to actually devour odor-causing bacteria instead of just covering up the scent.

Please note: If your cat urinates outside of his litterbox, you should call your veterinarian immediately. He may have a urinary tract infection (cystitis) that needs to be treated as soon as possible.


Reduce anxiety

There is a product called 'Feliway,' which was designed to help reduce anxiety in cats, and thus decrease spraying. Feliway contains pheromones like those normally found on a cat's face and chin. Pheromones are chemicals which are used to communicate with other members of the same species. You may notice your cat rubs her face and chin on vertical surfaces. She is leaving a scent there which contains these pheromones. The pheromones from the face have a calming effect on other cats. When Feliway is sprayed onto multiple vertical surfaces which your cat may spray, the cat receives this calming effect, and in many cases, spraying will be reduced.

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Did you Know?


Cats should never be given aspirin or any other medication without a veterinarian's prescription. Cat's bodies process chemicals very differently than people do. A drug like aspirin which lasts in the human body for less than a day, lasts in the feline body for as much as week, making overdose likely. Non-aspirin pain relievers suchs as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Motrin) are extremely toxic to cats.

Scratching On Furniture

Cats 'scratch' on items for two reasons. The reason we think of most often is to sharpen their claws. But scratching also serves another purpose. When scratching on items such as furniture or scratching posts, cats are also leaving scent from the sweat glands on the pads of their paws and between the pads. The scent left behind says, 'I was here, and this is my territory.' Once their scent is on an object, they often return to the object and apply their scent again.

We can use this information to our advantage when trying to get a cat to use a scratching post. If we can get a cat's scent on the post (put a little catnip on the post to get the cat to scratch), the cat will likely come back to the post to replenish his scent. Similarly, it is helpful to remove the cat's scent from objects the cat has been scratching on but we wish he wasn't.


If you have a cat that scratches carpeting and furniture, here is what we recommend:


Get a scratching post

You cannot prevent your cat from scratching, but you can train her to scratch only in certain areas. A scratching post or even furniture with scratching areas will give your cat the alternative place to scratch. Cats scratch most frequently right after waking so it is critical that the scratching post is convenient to where they spend much of their time.


Try different kinds of scratching posts

Some cats prefer real wood posts and will not touch rope sisal posts. Others prefer cardboard, and still others, carpeted posts. Find out which kind your cat prefers and then spray with a catnip spray or keep a catnip toy nearby.


Clean with an enzyme odor remover

If your cat has already scratched your furniture, use an enzyme cleaner to eliminate the cat's scent which it will return to. Then spray daily with one of the products designed to keep pets away by leaving an odor they prefer not to be around (but is OK for you). Citronella sprays are a good first start.


Positive reinforcement and praise

Finally, show your cat how to use her scratching post and praise or give your kitty special treats when she is using her furniture instead of yours.

Like most training, the earlier you start, the better. Remember though, kittens younger than six months generally do not respond to catnip as well as adults do. You may need to try other incentives.

Ear Mites

There are several types of mites that can invade the ear canals of cats, kittens, dogs, and puppies. The same mite can affect both cats and dogs. In the kitten and puppy, the most common ear mite is Otodectes cynotis. Regardless of the mite species involved, we usually refer to mites of the ear canal simply as ear mites. Contrary to popular belief, however, is the fact that ear mites can live anywhere on the animal's body.


Ear mites are extremely contagious. They can be passed from the mother animal to her offspring. Additionally, the mites are easily spread to other pets within the household including cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, mice, ferrets, etc. Humans are not affected.

Kittens and puppies with ear mites will scratch around their ears and/or shake their heads. The amount of scratching and shaking depends on the severity of the mite infestation. With more advanced infestations, the ear canals will bleed and either fresh or dried blood will appear inside the canal. Dried blood resembles coffee grounds. If you peer into your pet's ears and notice a build-up of a material that looks like coffee grounds, then your pet probably has ear mites, although a bacterial and/or yeast infection is also a possibility.


Ear mites are very common, but still serious. Left untreated, they severely damage the ear canals and eardrum and can cause permanent hearing loss.

If mites spread out of the ears to other areas of the body, the animal may or may not scratch the area.

If you suspect your pet has ear mites, do not treat without a diagnosis from your veterinarian.  Several other ear infections can produce the same symptoms as do ear mites.  Once your veterinarian determines the cause of the ear problem, then the appropriate treatment can be instituted.