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Daily Feline Health

Ask the Experts

Pet Health Q&A

Ask the Pet Health Expert!

Dr. Mark Verdino

Everybody wants what's best for their feline friends, but not everyone knows that they can easily improve their cat's health with basic maintenance.

The experts at North Shore Animal League America offer this advice to help keep your feline happy and healthy.

Oral Hygiene

The best way to maintain your cat's oral health is to brush his teeth. This can be a challenging task, but well worth it. You will need to find a small, feline toothbrush that will reach all the small parts of his mouth and use special feline toothpaste. The best time to instill a dental hygiene regimen is when your feline is a kitten. He'll get used to the oral routine, making cleanings easier and you can prevent problems before they start. If your cat's teeth are discolored, stained or if his mouth has an unpleasant odor, he may have dental disease and should be seen by your veterinarian. If his teeth are painful, loose, or if he has tartar or gingivitis, he will most likely need a professional cleaning. See your veterinarian for more information.

Claw Trimming

Keeping your cat's nails trimmed isn't just for aesthetics. Indoor cats don't have the pavement or tree-climbing to naturally trim their claws, so it's important to give them the occasional manicure. This will not only help your cat avoid pulling out a claw on different surfaces around the house, but will also keep your furniture intact should they decide to take manicure-matters into their own paws.

The most important thing to know when it comes to trimming your cat's claws is the anatomy of the claw. At the base of the claw (the cuticle position of a human nail), is the quick. The quick is the adherent connective tissue that underlies the nail. It is pink in color and should never be cut, as it will cause your pet pain and bleeding. Claw-trimming should be done when your cat is calm and relaxed, and it's important to have the proper claw-trimming tools for safety, ease and speed. Gently squeeze your cat's paw to extend the claw and quickly but not rushed, clip the claw past the quick. If your cat struggles to get away, wait till he is calm again and then proceed. Forcing a claw-trimming is only asking for troubles, so it is best to only do it when you can – even if you can only trim one or two claws a day.


Dogs aren't the only pets that need grooming. Though a cat will naturally groom herself, a little human intervention doesn't hurt – especially if your cat has a long-haired coat. Long-haired coats, depending on the breed of cat, can require weekly to monthly baths and daily combing. Some coats produce more grease than others and cats who have allergies can greatly benefit from bath time. Short-haired coats, however, need very little grooming.

No matter what type of cat you have, attention should be given to their ears and eyes. Eye matter can cause problems, so if you notice that your cat gets a lot of "sleep" in her eyes, it's best to keep them clean. To clean your cat's eyes, dip a cotton ball or washcloth in warm water and gently wipe the eye area, never making direct contact with the eyeball.

Regular ear care is widely overlooked. Many people refrain from cleaning their cat's ears because they are afraid to hurt their pet in the process. However, weekly maintenance can stop bigger problems before they start. Gently look into your cat's ear for dirt, mites redness and discharge. Light brown wax is normal, but if you see black or red wax or debris, contact your veterinarian immediately. Ear-cleaning pads are easily accessible now and are great ear-cleaning tools. Just swab the area on your cat until clean (or until your cat tells you it's time to stop). Cleaning the ears of an unhappy or agitated cat will be impossible for you and stressful for her.

Cabin Fever

It's no secret that cats are extremely curious animals. Their heightened senses and inquisitive nature can make them somewhat mischievous. Even the most domestic cat has wild instincts. They like to hunt and explore and are virtually fearless. Indoor cats have more of a challenge to stay stimulated. Without the stimulations in nature to keep them busy, indoor cats can get stressed, feel bored and become overweight. For good mental and physical health, keep your cat stimulated. Easy and affordable things such as toys, catnip and play can help keep his stress and weight down while keeping him fully entertained. You can even adopt a feline friend for him, as cats are great in pairs!

Cat-proofing your home can be difficult, as cats are curious creatures; but basic safety precautions such as not leaving harmful items like chemicals or poisonous plants in your cat's reach are easy, and can keep your pet from getting hurt or in a jam. A common misconception is that string is a good cat toy. You should never give your cat string to play with. If he ingests it, the string can wrap around his intestines and cause serious illness or even death. Provide your feline an interesting environment, and you'll have one happy cat on your hands.

In Conclusion...

With regular maintenance, your cat can stay in top physical and mental health. By paying more attention to your feline's daily behaviors and wellbeing, you will be more aware should he exhibit signs of illness or distress. For a happy cat, keep him groomed and make your home a safe, fun and interesting environment. Most importantly, reward good behavior with his favorite treat. When you save his favorite treat for grooming time, your cat will learn to love it.


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