We all want to know what it means to be raising a healthy cat. Cats are stoic by nature, and even in their worst of times, we can’t always tell if something is wrong with them. While this strong personality is something we admire about our feline friends, it’s also something to consider when we’re doing everything we can to raise a healthy cat. After all, we want what’s best for our cats so that they can fully enjoy their lives, and we can enjoy our lives with them beside us.
As a Maine Coon Breeder, it’s my ultimate goal to produce nothing less than a healthy, happy and well socialized Maine Coon kitten. A lot of breeders say that, but what does that actually mean? It starts with the kittens having healthy parents. Sometimes, illnesses in cats don’t rear their heads until later in the cats’ life.
Genetic illnesses and anomalies can be passed down from the parents of the kittens, only to cause problems later. So for me, having healthy kittens REALLY means using healthy PARENTS in my breeding program.
I’ve seen many health issues, complications, and even deaths occur in my community. With each new case that I see, I spend countless hours researching and learning about what MAY have caused these problems and what I can do (if anything) to avoid them.
While it’s almost impossible to avoid viral outbreaks and health issues, it’s not impossible to stay educated on how to best prevent these issues, and try to avoid problems in kittens.
I invited Dr. Jennifer Vencil from Shoreline Veterinary Hospital over for a short interview about raising a healthy cat. We discuss several important topics in this 19-minute video, of which you’ll find informative.
What’s Normal in a Healthy Cat
- Eyes: Should be bright and clear. Report any discharge to your veterinarian.
- Ears: Should be clean and free of discharge, odor, and redness. Untreated ear problems are painful and can cause hearing loss.
- Mouth: Should smell fresh. Gums should be pink. Teeth should be free of tartar or plaque. The mouth and lips should be free of sores or growths.
- Coat: Should be shiny and clean, free of mats, free from dandruff. Maine Coon cats do shed fur, so regular grooming is required.
- Weight: Active cats are rarely overweight. Ask your veterinarian for advice on providing the right cat food to maintain your cat’s healthy weight.
What’s NOT Normal in a Cat
- Diarrhea: This common ailment can be caused by many factors including bacteria, viruses, internal parasites, toxic substances, too much food, or psychological upsets. Call your veterinarian if stools are bloody, if there is a large volume of watery stools, if your cat is thin or potbellied, or if diarrhea continues for more than 24 hours.
- Constipation: Like diarrhea, constipation can be caused by many factors, including ingesting substances such as hair, bones, or foreign materials, or because of disease or insufficient water intake. Your veterinarian may recommend blood tests, radiographs, or perform other tests to find the cause.
- Vomiting: It is not uncommon for a cat to vomit occasionally, but frequent or persistent vomiting is not normal. Call your veterinarian if vomiting occurs more than five times in a few hours, large volumes are vomited, vomit contains blood, or is accompanied by diarrhea or abdominal pain.
- Abnormal Urination: Straining to urinate or bloody urine may indicate a painful infection of the urinary tract. Contact your veterinarian immediately.
- Watery Eyes: Could be a Sign of Stress or an Upper Respiratory Infection. Contact your Veterinarian.
- Litter Box Habits: Report any changes in litter box habits such as frequency or consistency of your cat’s urine or stool to your veterinarian immediately.
What Causes Stress in Cats
- Too many cats sharing space. This occurs in multi-cat households when cats feel like they must compete for food, water, clean litter box space, scratching posts, or time with their humans.
- Inadequate territory. If a cat doesn’t feel like the master of a piece of territory, he might become stressed. This is usually the case when he doesn’t have a good scratching post to mark, or there are other cats in the home that bully him out of space.
- Changes in the household: Cats are sensitive to change, and it can stress them out. Keep this in mind when new people or pets are being added to the household. Even the smallest of changes can stress a cat out, like moving furniture around or moving into a new home.
- Remodeling or other noisy events in the home. Most cats are not fond of loud noises, so remodeling projects, loud parties, and other noises can cause them stress.
- Veterinary, grooming, or kennel visits. Traveling in the car, being in an unknown space, and being handled by strangers can all work together to result in stress for some cats. Choose a vet for your Maine Coon that understands cats to the fullest.
- Boredom. Cats that are bored and don’t have an outlet for their energy can become stressed.
- Travel: Kitties aren’t particularly fond of traveling in a car or a plane, even if it is just to visit the vet.
Signs of Stress in Cats
Although cats are stoic in nature, they certainly give you signs that they are experiencing stress.
Here’s a list of the top 10 Things that indicate your cat might be under stress.
- Urinating Outside of the Litter box. Cats that do this are trying to tell you something.
- Diarrhea or Constipation
- Excessive Grooming: Licking themselves raw or bald is a clear sign of distress.
- Excessive Scratching.
- Excessive Vocalization
- Decrease in Appetite
- Sleeping More than Usual
- Acting Aggressively Toward Other Household Pets
- Acting Aggressively Toward You
Up to 90% of cats are carrying the Feline Herpes Virus. Stress can trigger a flare-up of the virus, and present with symptoms of upper respiratory infection. If you sense any signs of stress in your cat, please see your veterinarian.
We’ve covered some of the health issues that a cat may face. This article isn’t meant to scare you or discourage you from adding a beautiful friend to your life. It’s really meant to bring awareness to the cat community about how to identify potential Maine Coon health issues, and what you can do to prevent them.
It’s rewarding to know you are raising a healthy cat! There’s another article that you might like called “How to Care for a Maine Coon“. Be sure to check that out for some standard tips on care for your friend. It applies to any cat, not just a Coonie. 🙂
There are certain things we can do to get the full life expectancy of a Maine Coon. The most important is to educate ourselves. We need to be able to understand the cat, the breed, their behavior, and their basic needs in life. If you’re new to the Maine Coon breed, here are some recommended products for your cat.