Cats make great pets and can be a good addition to any household. However, if you own a cat, it’s essential to educate yourself about your cat’s health and make sure that you’re doing everything you can to keep them healthy. Cats, like people, get sick too and require regular medical attention.

This only means that you should learn how to care for your cat and become familiar with the signs and symptoms of some common problems so that you can provide the best possible care. Here are some questions and answers about cat health to get you started on being a good cat owner.

1. Is it necessary to declaw my cat?

In general, this is not a decision to be taken lightly. Declaw is an amputation of the last part of the toe, which causes discomfort.

To avoid scratching behavior, most veterinarians recommend using scratching posts and engaging in as much play with the cat as possible. When given an alternative, cats are less likely to develop the desire to scratch furniture or other valuable surfaces, especially if taught at a young age.

If all else fails and declawing is the only option, make sure to find a proactive veterinarian concerned about peri-operative and post-operative pain management. If you can locate a veterinarian who declaws with a cutting laser, the post-op recovery will be less traumatic, and healing times will be faster.

2. Should I allow my cat to live both inside and outside?

While each family must make their own decision, there are some risks involved in allowing your cat to be an outdoor cat. Contact with infected animals can spread diseases like FIV, and your cat could become prey for coyotes or other animals looking to harm it. Keeping your cat at home may be a better option for ensuring their safety.

3. Do I need to vaccinate my cat?

Rabies, herpes virus, feline leukemia, calicivirus, and panleukopenia are just a few of the diseases that cats should be protected against (herpes, calici, and panleukopenia typically come bundled in one vaccine). Although a commercial FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) is available, the veterinary community has overwhelmingly rejected it as ineffective. Only a licensed veterinarian should create and administer vaccine protocols and vaccines.

4. Why’s my cat coughing up hairballs?

As part of its grooming routine, your cat licks itself. This can result in your cat coughing up hairballs or vomiting up hairballs in some cases. Having your cat’s fur brushed regularly (especially if it’s becoming matted or knotted) and feeding your cat hairball-reducing food can help solve the problem.

5. Why’s my cat spraying urine?

To mark their territory, cats spray urine. While this is common, especially in households with multiple cats, it is not recommended. Reduce or eliminate stress in your cat’s environment, and make sure to thoroughly clean up all marking sprays to prevent future spraying. Avoid using ammonia-based products when cleaning up urine because the ammonia can have a similar odor to urine and trigger your cat to mark again.

Consult a Vet

These are only some of the most often asked questions about cat health. The best way to get answers to your questions about proper cat care and meeting your cat’s health needs is to speak with a licensed veterinarian, either online or in person.