Advice and resources for cat owners

Our owner's area has been specifically created for cat owners and features expert advice around how best to take care of your cat. From nutrition guides, information about common health problems to everything you need to know about parasite control – you can find it here.

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Periodontal disease in cats

Periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases that affects cats and is pretty easy to spot and prevent. It can become a  severe disease in untreated cases, and cause irreversible damage to your cat’s teeth so it’s good to be aware of the symptoms and consult your vet if you are at all concerned.   What is periodontal disease? Periodontal disease is the inflammation of the structures of the mouth as a result of a bacterial infection. This disease has several stages and is extremely preventable! The first stage is merely a build-up of sticky plaque on the teeth and the development of tartar deposits(also known as calculus), as well as inflamed gums. Plaque and tartar are conditions we can suffer from too, and tartar is fairly easy to spot on your cat’s teeth as it is yellow or brown in color. It can appear first on the back molars and if left untreated can cause gingivitis (gum disease). Gingivitis is where the gums are in state of permanent inflammation due to the bacterial build-up on the teeth. If no action is taken the disease can then become full blown periodontal disease, which will cause irreversible damage. At this stage in the disease you cat’s teeth can start to come loose. When this happens spaces form under the teeth, creating a breeding ground for more bacteria. This can lead to bone loss, tooth loss, tissue destruction in the gums and the build-up of pus in the cavities between the gums and teeth. In extreme cases the weakening of the jaw can result in a jaw fracture from a surprisingly small amount of pressure. The final stage is considered to be severe periodontis, marked by bone or tooth loss in the animal. In this case, there is at least a 50% loss of attachment in the affected teeth, and the gum tissue is usually receding and exposing the roots of the teeth.   What makes this a common health issue in cats? Your cat may be more susceptible to periodontal disease if they are:  An older cat. This disease is more frequently found in older cats. It is also more commonly found in cats with the calicivirus, FIV, or  feline leukemia virus. Genetically predisposed to gum disease. Some cats, such as the Oriental short-hair and Siamese cats are genetically more likely to develop periodontal disease, regardless of life stage. This is also true of some purebred cats, showing that genetics can play a role too. Eating a diet that puts them at risk. Hard kibble is generally better than soft food at keeping plaque from accumulating. There are also special diets available that are designed to assist with dental health and prevent the formation of plaque. Longer haired or groom themselves a lot. The accumulation of hair around teeth can lead to more plaque forming on teeth.   How can I spot signs of periodontal disease? It’s quite unusual for pet owners to notice early signs of gum disease in their cat, and usually by the time it is noticeable the disease can be quite advanced. As the disease in its late stages is almost irreversible, it is important to get your cat’s teeth checked at least once every 6 months by your vet. You can look for signs of the disease between veterinarian visits, so it is caught as early as possible. Watch out for signs such as:  Swollen or reddened gums, that may or may not bleed easily, especially at the back of the mouth yellow or brown teeth and loose or missing teeth Smelly breath A loss of appetite or trouble eating and weight loss Pawing at the face Stomach or intestinal issues Drooling Difficulty chewing or eating Irritability or depression Pus around the teeth A sensitive mouth   How can you prevent periodontal disease? The best way to combat gum disease is to fight to prevent it in the first place. Visiting your veterinarian for regular checks and building good habits early on could save you and your furry friend no end of woe down the line!   Visit your local veterinary practice regularly Get regular checks. Some practices offer a professional dental cleaning service so talk to your local practice about how to arrange a session for your cat. This can involve multiple procedures to improve dental health, so be sure to speak to your practise about the specific issues facing your pet and the options available. Examples include: Inspect, clean and polish your cat’s teeth under sedation Prescribing antibiotics for diseased gums Dentistry work under anaesthetic to remove diseased teeth and repair damage These sorts of procedures will also usually involve a process of aftercare and your dedication to this aftercare process will be crucial for the continuing health of your cat.   Brush your cat’s teeth If you veterinarian recommends it, you may want to try to brush your cat’s teeth at home. While many may think that brushing your cat’s teeth may be uncomfortable for your cat, they can enjoy it as a new form of attention. If your cat does not enjoy it, ensure your vet inspects you cats teeth regularly and get them to clean their teeth under sedation. This is less stressful for your cat and will ensure the vet can do a thorough inspection and clean and give you full advice on how to manage the condition in the future.   Food It is possible to purchase cat food and treats that have been specifically formulated to help fight dental disease and if needed your vet will be able to advise you on what to buy.

Toxic food for pets

Cats are curious by nature, and unlike dogs, can easily explore those harder to reach places around the home. However, it may surprise you to learn that some foods which are perfectly safe for humans to eat could harm your cat’s health and some could even prove fatal. It’s important to know which foods should be safely stored away in kitty-proof containers and cabinets as well as the symptoms to look out for if your cat has eaten something they shouldn’t.   Alcohol Just like in humans, alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, causing your cat to become drowsy and disorientated. Alcohol is absorbed by a cat’s body much quicker than a human’s, and if your cat is exposed to higher levels of alcohol, they may suffer from alcohol poisoning and experience vomiting, dehydration, breathing problems and loss of consciousness. Alcohol isn’t just found in beer, wine and liquor; some foods, cough syrups, perfumes and even mouthwashes can all contain alcohol, so be sure to keep all these items well out of reach.     Avocado Avocados contain a toxin called persin, which is found in the leaves, the pit and bark, as well as the fruit. Persin is poisonous to cats in large doses can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Kittens and senior cats are likely to be affected more by persin toxicity, so be sure to give your veterinarian a call if you think your cat has consumed any.   Bones and fat trimmings Fat trimmings from meat can cause the level of lipids in your cat’s blood to rise, which leads to a condition called pancreatitis. This condition causes your cat’s pancreas to start digesting its own tissue and can be fatal in the long run. Cooked bones, such as chicken bones, are not only a choking hazard, but they can splinter easily and can damage your cat’s teeth, tongue or mouth, and even puncture their digestive tract, so it’s best to avoid feeding scraps like these to your cat.   Chocolate As most pet owners know, chocolate is a big no-no for cats and dogs. It can cause vomiting and diarrhea, or more serious issues such as heart problems, seizures and even death. The toxin found in chocolate, theobromine, is more concentrated in dark chocolate and cocoa powder, but it’s important to get in touch with your veterinarian for advice if you think your cat has consumed any type of chocolate, no matter how small the amount.   Coffee Coffee contains caffeine, which can be fatal to cats in high doses. The symptoms of caffeine poisoning include increased heart rate, restlessness and vomiting, and in more serious cases, your cat may even collapse or experience seizures. Energy drinks, tea, cold and flu medicines and coffee-flavored products can also contain just as much caffeine as your morning coffee, so be sure to get in touch with your veterinarian for your advice if you believe your cat has ingested something containing caffeine.   Grapes, raisins and currants Grapes, raisins and currants are dangerous to cats, even in small quantities, and the toxins found in these fruits can even cause kidney failure. If your cat has accidently eaten grapes or raisins, or you suspect they may have, then look out for signs of lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration and get in touch with your veterinarian for advice. Remember that foods such as mince pies, hot cross buns and fruit cake all contain dried fruits such as raisins and sultanas, so be sure to keep them well out of reach.   Liver Feeding your cat too much liver can cause them to develop a vitamin A toxicity. The long-term effects of this condition include deformed bones, bone growths on the elbows and spine, and osteoporosis. In extreme cases, it can even lead to death, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and eliminate liver from your cat’s diet entirely.   Milk and cream Believe it or not, most cats are lactose-intolerant, meaning they struggle to digest dairy products and, as a result, can suffer from an upset stomach and diarrhea. Higher fat foods, such as cream, contain less lactose, which means your cat is less likely to experience an adverse reaction after drinking cream than if they had consumed low-fat milk. While the occasional saucer of cream shouldn’t do any harm, it’s best to keep treats like these to a minimum or purchase some lactose free milk as an alternative.   Onions and garlic Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives are all poisonous to cats, and are equally dangerous in all forms, including raw, cooked, dried or powdered. The toxins found in these plants can cause damage to your cat’s red blood cells, which can lead to anemia, organ damage and, in extreme cases, even death. Look out for signs of weakness, lethargy, dark colored urine and occasional vomiting and diarrhea, as any of these symptoms could be an indication of garlic/onion toxicity.   Raw fish, meat and eggs While many pet owners believe raw diets are beneficial to their pet’s health, raw eggs, meat and fish contain bacteria which causes food poisoning. Bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli are common in raw eggs, while raw fish such as salmon, trout and sturgeon contain parasites which cause “fish disease” or “salmon poisoning”. If your cat experiences symptoms including fever, vomiting and enlarged lymph nodes, consult your veterinarian straight away.   Tuna While tuna-flavored cat food is perfectly safe for your cat to eat, canned tuna contains high levels of mercury, which can be poisonous to your cat in large doses. Tuna is also high in unsaturated fats, which can cause your cat to develop a vitamin E deficiency. This leads to a painful condition known as “yellow fat disease”, which is when fatty tissue in your cat’s body becomes inflamed.   Xylitol Xylitol is a sweetener which is commonly found in foods such as candy, sugar-free gum, baked goods, toothpastes and diet foods, and it’s extremely toxic to cats. Xylitol affects your cat’s blood sugar levels and can even cause liver failure. The symptoms of xylitol toxicity include vomiting, weakness, lack of coordination and seizures. Liver failure can occur within a matter of days, so seek help from your veterinarian straight way if you think you cat has eaten something containing xylitol.   No matter how cautious you and your family are and how much you cat-proof your home, there’s always a chance your cat may end up eating something they shouldn’t. If you think your cat may have swallowed something toxic, call your veterinarian for advice or get in touch with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center or Pet Poison Helpline as soon as possible.

Health Advice