Cat Healthcare: Home Health Care Guide

Cat home healthcare has several basic steps including regular check-ups, lab work, and overall veterinary care, which are essential components of cat health care. This also includes health plans for senior cats, vaccination, grooming, dental care, parasite control, and maintaining a safe environment.

There are seven basic steps for taking care of your cat:

  1. Veterinary Care such as vaccinations
  2. Protecting your cat from parasites such as fleas
  3. Care for cat gums and teeth
  4. Diet and grooming
  5. Providing a safe environment and poisoning prevention

Veterinary Care

The frequency of veterinary visits needed depends on how cats age as they age much more quickly than humans do. This influences the need for frequent exams and preventative care to keep your cat healthy. Routine health care, including veterinary care, proper nutrition, parasite prevention, and regular check-ups, is essential:

  • Kittens: Every 3 to 4 weeks until your kitten is 4 months old.
  • Adults up to age 8: 1x per year
  • Adults 8 years+: 1x or more per year depending on the needs of your cat.

Signs of an illness such as changes in normal behavior should cause you to seek veterinary care. Typical signs of illness include:

  • lethargy or acting tired
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • discharge from the eyes, ears or nose
  • hair loss
  • itchy skin
  • changes in the way your cat moves

See more urgent cat healthcare issues that require immediate care.

Vaccination Schedule

When kittens are born, they receive antibodies from their mother's milk, providing temporary protection against diseases.expand_more However, these maternal antibodies also interfere with vaccine effectiveness.expand_more As kittens grow, their maternal antibodies gradually wane, making them susceptible to infections. To ensure protection, multiple vaccinations are administered at specific intervals to coincide with decreasing maternal antibody levels.

The typical vaccination schedule for kittens starts with the initial doses between 10 and 14 weeks of age, followed by a booster shot at one year old. Most core vaccines require boosters every three years, but rabies vaccination frequency can vary depending on local regulations and the specific vaccine used.

Core Feline Vaccines:

  • Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia):

    Cause: Feline Panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper, is caused by the feline parvovirus.

    Symptoms: This highly contagious and potentially fatal disease affects the gastrointestinal tract, bone marrow, and immune system. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and severe dehydration. It can also lead to a significant drop in white blood cells, making cats more susceptible to secondary infection.

    Vaccine Effectiveness: The vaccine offers excellent protection against the feline parvovirus. Although rare cases of mild illness can still occur in vaccinated cats, the severity and duration of the disease are greatly reduced. Vaccination is crucial for preventing this deadly disease, especially in kittens and outdoor cats.
  • Feline Herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1) and Feline Calicivirus (FCV):

    Cause: FHV-1 and FCV are the primary viruses responsible for feline upper respiratory infections.

    Symptoms:FHV-1: This virus causes feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), leading to symptoms such as sneezing, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, and eye ulcers.FCV: This virus can cause oral ulcers, gingivitis, sneezing, nasal discharge, and in severe cases, pneumonia.Vaccine

    Effectiveness: Vaccination may not entirely prevent infection with FHV-1 and FCV, but it significantly reduces the severity of symptoms and the duration of illness. Vaccinated cats usually experience milder symptoms and a faster recovery if they do contract these viruses. The FVRCP vaccine, which includes protection against FPV, FHV-1, and FCV, is typically administered to cats.
  • Rabies:

    Cause: Rabies is a deadly viral disease transmitted through bites from infected animals. It affects the central nervous system.Symptoms:

    Symptoms of rabies include changes in behavior, aggression, paralysis, excessive salivation, and eventually death. Rabies is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans.Vaccine

    Effectiveness: Vaccination against rabies is crucial for protecting both cats and humans. The rabies vaccine is highly effective in preventing the disease. Although there is a minimal risk of vaccine-associated sarcomas (a type of tumor), discussing options like non-adjuvanted vaccines with your veterinarian can help minimize this risk. Rabies vaccination is often required by law for cats, particularly those that go outdoors.

  • Non-core Feline Vaccines:

      Your cat's lifestyle, risk factors, and overall health determine the necessity of non-core vaccines.

  1. Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV): This virus suppresses the immune system, increasing vulnerability to other infections. The FeLV vaccine is recommended for cats that go outdoors, live in multi-cat households, or have contact with FeLV-positive cats.
  2. Chlamydiosis: This bacterial infection affects the eyes and respiratory system. While it can be treated with antibiotics, vaccination is beneficial in environments with high infection risk, such as shelters and multi-cat homes.
  3. Bordetella bronchiseptica: This bacterium can lead to respiratory infections. Vaccination is particularly useful for cats in shelters, boarding facilities, or households with frequent introduction of new cats.
  4. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV): Similar to HIV in humans, FIV can weaken a cat's immune system. The FIV vaccine is controversial and not commonly recommended, but it may be considered for cats at high risk of exposure.
  5. Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP): This virus is difficult to diagnose and often fatal. The FIP vaccine is generally not recommended due to its limited efficacy and the fact that it is only effective before exposure.
  6. Giardia: This vaccine can help prevent Giardia infections, which cause gastrointestinal issues. It's typically recommended for cats in high-risk environments, such as shelters.

Discuss these options with your veterinarian to tailor a vaccination plan that best suits your cat's specific needs.

Parasite Prevention

Parasite control is an important part of cat home health care. Cats are susceptible to several parasites including:

  • Roundworms - from contact with feces
  • Hookworms - from contact with feces
  • Tapeworms - from contact with feces
  • Heartworms (from mosquitoe bites)
  • Mites (ear, mange) and Fleas - from the environment or other animals

Outdoor cats are at a higher risk of infestation with parasites and infectious diseases, making regular check-ups even more crucial.

Even indoor cats are not immune to parasites and require regular check-ups to ensure they remain healthy.

Cats get parasites from:

  • Their mother while in the womb
  • Eggs that are in feces
  • Other animals or hosts

These conditions can be diagnosed by your veterinarian who will examine stool (feces) samples looking for eggs.

Dental Health

Care of your cat's teeth is crucial for maintaining a cat’s dental health, requiring regular dental cleanings and checkups to prevent dental disease and avoid plaque buildup.

Grooming and Nutrition

As we all know, it is important to groom your cat regularly to maintain their health and well-being. Long haired cats require brushing to remove loose hair. Short hair cats can usually care for themselves unless they are ill.

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for cats to prevent obesity and reduce the risk of various health issues. A balanced diet and regular exercise are key to achieving this.

Ear cleaning is also essential for cats and should be part of routine veterinary care or after getting a lesson from your vet.

Cats do not need baths like dogs do. See our guide on cat hair care.


Just like children, cats should not be able to access any household cleaning or poisonous products. Also avoid keeping any human medications on counter tops. If your cat is outside avoid any area where there might be antifreeze on the ground.

Maintaining a safe environment throughout a cat’s life stages is crucial to prevent poisoning and ensure a healthy cat’s life.

There are also many varieties of plants that are poisonous to cats. This list includes:

  • Amaryllis
  • Autumn Crocus
  • Castor Bean
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Cyclamen
  • English Ivy
  • Kalanchoe
  • Lilies
  • Marijuana
  • Oleander
  • Peace Lily
  • Pothos
  • Sago Palm
  • Schefflera
  • Tulip/Narcissus bulbs
  • Yew

If you suspect poisoning immediately call your veterinarian or call the ASPCA poison control center at (888) 426-4435. There is a $60 fee for this service.

Neutered Cat Spaying

At age 6 or 7 all male cats should be neutered if they are not going to be breeding. Neutering a cat helps prevent overpopulation and reduces the risk of health issues such as testicular cancer and certain infections. Females of the same age should be spayed to prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce the risk of ovarian cysts, uterine infections, and mammary tumors. Spaying a female cat also prevents unwanted litters and reduces the discomfort of living with an intact female cat in heat.

Additionally, it is important to continue flea and tick prevention for adult female cats to avoid potential infestations and health issues.

References for Cat Home  HeathCare

Feline Vaccination Protocols
Richard B. Ford, DVM, MS, Dipl ACVIM
Professor of Medicine
North Carolina State University

Infectious Disease Prevention Change is in the Wind
Richard B. Ford
Professor of Medicine, NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine

For The Love of Cats - For more general information on cat home care. Comprehensive cat website, concentrating on cat behavior, Cat Whispering, working with  cats, training, taming feral cats and raising kittens.Gifts for cat lovers and supplies for cats. Lotsof pictures.