Cat Health Month: Advice from a Vet

February is Cat Health Month and last week, PAWS NY hosted an Instagram Live conversation with Dr. Angela Hildenbrand from Downtown Veterinary Medical Hospitals / West Village Veterinary Hospital, one of PAWS NY’s partners, all about cat health. Watch the full video on Instagram or keep reading for some of the highlights.

A screenshot from the Cat Health Instagram Live with PAWS NY and Dr. Hildenbrand, who is holding a black cat in this image.

PAWS NY: What advice do you have for getting cats into their carriers for a trip to the vet?

Dr. Hildenbrand: For most cats, their home is their sanctuary; it is safe there. This way, when they see the carrier come out, they’re like, “I know this means I’m leaving and it’s not going to be fun.” I tell people to take the carrier out well in advance, even days before your appointment. The cat will get used to it being there, they may even sleep in it. You can use treats to lure them into the carrier too.

If you’re really having a hard time getting them into the carrier, then you can talk to your vet about getting medication beforehand so you can help get them into the carrier. Talk about it with your vet personally because they might have other recommendations that are more specific.

Also, carriers that have multiple ways of going in—like top down or from the front—are easier on owners because some cats don’t like one way or the other. Carriers that have more ways to open can be easier as well.

PAWS NY: What are the most important things for cat guardians to understand about cat health?

Dr. Hildenbrand: Cats are notorious for not telling us when they are hurt until its very late. One way you can combat that is by getting to know your cat and knowing what their normal is. By knowing their normal, then you know when they are not acting like themselves. You can see the signs early on and know when to bring them to your vet.

Also having them get annual check-ups, especially as they get older, is important, because it can help us identify problems earlier. We can do screening and bloodwork, so we have a good point of reference for the future if anything happens.

PAWS NY: What tips do you have about cat grooming?

Dr. Hildenbrand: Cats are very good about maintaining themselves, typically. People ask me, “should I bathe my cat?” I usually say no. Cats are very good about grooming themselves. If you have a larger cat who might be a little overweight and can’t groom properly and reach areas. Longer-haired cats can get matted, so those are some areas where you can help with grooming. You can try to see if the cat likes to be brushed; some cats love it and some cats hate it.

In terms of getting their nails trimmed, if you can start them early with that, it’s the easier thing to do. Lots of positive reinforcement. Give them treats and Churu to give them positive reinforcement for getting their nails done. If they’re not really open to it, you can go in steps: positive reinforcement for showing them the nail trimmer, then touching their foot, and so on. It might take some time, but you can get there. Monitor that and make sure their nails aren’t growing into their paw pads. And you can always go to a groomer or vet to get help if nothing is working.

PAWS NY: What about advice for giving a cat medication?

Dr. Hildenbrand: It usually depends on what the medication is. I think the less hands on you can be with a cat, the better. Once they decide they aren’t into something, you don’t have a lot of wiggle room. If you can give it in a very benign way, like food or a Churu, that’s the way to go. Pill pockets or a soft cover to just cover it up. If it’s a powder, you can sprinkle it into food.

If you’re having trouble giving medication, you can also work with your vet. Sometimes there are ways for us to give it in a different form. People usually know what works for giving medication to their cat, so then you can go from there.

We hope this advice is helpful! Watch the full video here and DM us with any additional cat health questions!