The Well Cat Book: The Classic Comprehensive Handbook of Cat Care - Terri McGinnis (1996)
INTRODUCING THE WELL CAT
Cats have a long and obscure history. Over thirty-five million years ago the cat’s first ancestors appeared. It is thought that they originated from a weasellike meat eater that was a member of an animal family called Miacidae (also thought to be the ancestor of, among others, the dog, raccoon, bear, skunk, and hyena). From these first cat ancestors arose two branches of recognizably catlike creatures. One included the saber-toothed cats that eventually became extinct; the other included the ancestors of all the Felidae (cat family) alive today. Exactly when cats became humans’ companions is not known. It is well documented, however, that cats closely resembling those alive today were an important part of the Egyptian culture, where as early as 2500 B.C. they were revered and considered sacred. From Egypt it appears that domestic cats spread to the Far East and Europe and, much later (around the seventeenth century), were imported to North America from Europe. Although the cat was condemned as a symbol of evil during the Middle Ages in Europe and at the time of the witch hunts in North America, for most of history the cat has maintained the position of an important companion to people and a natural means of rodent control.
In fact, cats have gained steadily in popularity and numbers since the eighteenth century. Today in developed countries they seriously compete with dogs for the public’s affection. Over fifty-two million cats reside in the United States alone!
Although cats have been humans’ companions for so long, it is only within the last thirty-five years or so that veterinarians and cat owners have become interested in and able to provide very specialized health care for them. Many pet owners today want to take an active part in preserving and maintaining their cat’s good health. This book is written for them.
The Well Cat Book differs from other books on cat care because it tells you how to understand the signs of illness or injury your cat may develop and how to evaluate those signs in order to begin proper treatment. It resembles its companion book, The Well Dog Book. Both are intended to help you understand what your veterinarian is talking about when he or she discusses your pet’s health, to enable you to treat some illnesses at home, to prevent others, and truly to help your veterinarian get your pet well when an illness is too severe to be treated without professional skills. Think of this book as a kind of paramedic’s manual for cats that will help you treat many problems on your own. It should help you save money wasted in unnecessary veterinary visits without endangering your pet’s health.
For the most part only common health problems affecting cats are covered here. I’ve tried to include the basic things I as a cat owner most wanted to know before I became a veterinarian, and I’ve tried to answer the questions cat owners most often ask me about cat health care. I’ve tried not to oversimplify things, but in many cases technical information I thought the average cat owner would not be likely to use is not included. If you are interested in details of certain subjects, refer to some of the books mentioned in the text or ask your veterinarian for titles of other books that might help you. Use the information in this book to learn how to use your veterinarian as a resource. Remember, however, that the book is not intended as a substitute for visits to the veterinarian, but rather as a supplement to them. Show this book to your veterinarian as a sign that you are interested in taking an active part in maintaining your cat’s health.
You don’t need to buy any specialized equipment to use this book. Your eyes, hands, ears, and nose, and an understanding relationship with your cat are your most important tools. Don’t be afraid to use them. There are more similarities between cats and people than many pet owners realize. As you read, you will probably find out that you know a lot more about “cat medicine” than you think you do.
The best way to use this book is to read it through once from beginning to end. In this way you will learn what is normal for your cat and how to care for a healthy cat, then you will learn the signs that can indicate illness and what you should do about them. With this first reading you will find out which sections of the book you would like to read again and which sections you will only need to refer to if a specific problem arises. When you want to use this book to learn about a specific problem your cat may have, look for the problem in the General Index and in the Index of Signs. To learn how to use these indices.
Anatomy is the place to begin. With this chapter as a guide you will gain a ready familiarity with your cat’s body and learn how to give a physical exam. You may wish to refer back to this section when diagnosing an illness as well.
Preventive Medicine is a general health care chapter covering important aspects of your cat’s daily life. It and the following sections have been designed for easy, frequent reference by the use of subheads.
Diagnostic Medicine is the heart of the book. Be sure to read enough of this chapter to understand how it is organized and how to use the Index of Signs. Then, when your cat shows any sign of illness or injury, use this section as a guide to proper action.
Home Medical Care tells you the basics of home treatment. It includes general nursing procedures and advice on drugs. Since in most cases of illness or injury your cat will have some treatment at home, you may want to become familiar with the information here before beginning to diagnose signs.
Breeding and Reproduction contains facts about the cat’s reproductive cycle. Use it to learn how to prevent or plan pregnancy; how to care for a female before, during, and after birth; and how to care for newborn or orphan kittens.
You, Your Cat, and Your Veterinarian will help you if you don’t yet have a veterinarian or are dissatisfied with your present one. Use it to learn what characteristics good veterinarians share and what you can do to motivate most veterinarians to provide good service.
The body always tries to heal itself. This important fact will help your treatment when your cat is sick. In many cases your cat will not need veterinary aid. Remember, though, that by electing to treat your cat at home, you are taking responsibility for the results. Learn to recognize when the body is losing the battle to heal itself. If you can’t be sure you are really helping your cat, discuss the problem with a doctor of veterinary medicine. Another caution: Medicine is not always black or white. Often there are several equally good ways to approach a health problem. I’ve recommended the approach that works for me; your veterinarian may disagree and get equal success with other methods. Trust your veterinarian and your common sense.