The Purina Encyclopedia of Cat Care

The Purina Encyclopedia of Cat Care

by Amy Shojai, Ralston Purina Company
Nearly four million households in America keep at least one cat. Now, from the name you've trusted for at least nine lives comes the definitive reference for finding, keeping, and maintaining a healthy, happy pet. The Purina (TM) Encyclopedia of Cat Care is designed to answer all your questions. How do I choose the right cat? What preventive care should I give? Why


Nearly four million households in America keep at least one cat. Now, from the name you've trusted for at least nine lives comes the definitive reference for finding, keeping, and maintaining a healthy, happy pet. The Purina (TM) Encyclopedia of Cat Care is designed to answer all your questions. How do I choose the right cat? What preventive care should I give? Why do cats act the way they do, and what behaviors indicate illness? And perhaps most important, what should I do in an emergency situation? Inside you'll find:

  • An alphabetical, A to Z listing, with 200 entries covering everything from abscesses and hairballs to whiskers and zoonosis
  • Boxed charts that list symptoms for a particular condition, the corresponding home care, the comparative vet treatments, and preventative advice
  • A beautiful color "photo album
  • of forty-one feline breeds with detailed descriptions of each
  • A symptoms/conditions table that helps you identify what ailment might be bothering your cat
  • A comprehensive, easy-to-use index makes quick reference a snap
  • Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of national cat organizations, including animal welfare and information services, veterinary resources, and feline research foundations
  • And much more!

Accessible, yet comprehensive, The Purina Encyclopedia of Cat Care can be used with ease and trust. And doesn't your cat deserve the very best?

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Former veterinary technician Shojai, currently a contributing editor at Cats magazine and author of its monthly "Health Handbook" column, has written a thorough encyclopedia of cat care, behavior, and health. Arranged alphabetically and written for the lay reader, the clear, concise, browsable entries range in length from a paragraph to several pages. Entries on diseases also include a box highlighting symptoms, home care, vet care, and prevention. Capitalized words in an article indicate that there are also entries under those words, and numerous See references direct readers to selected terms or other articles of interest. While providing home-care techniques, Shojai stresses the importance of consulting a veterinarian and clearly marks medical emergency situations. She also gives information about what to do if you can't get to a vet immediately. Appendixes list cat associations, cat breeds with descriptions and photos (not seen), a section of symptoms and associated diseases, animal welfare and information sources, pet services, veterinary resources, and feline research foundations. Recommended for reference and/or circulating collections in public libraries along with the excellent, recently updated The Cornell Book of Cats (Villard, 1997. 2d ed.), a more comprehensive but slightly more technical treatment. (Index not seen.)Sue O'Brien, Downers Grove P.L., Ill.

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Random House Publishing Group
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1 ED
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6.50(w) x 9.59(h) x 1.57(d)

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Administering of Medication

At some point, every cat owner will need to medicate his or her cat. The procedure is a daunting one, since most cats resist being forced to do anything. The sight of their sharp teeth and claws gives even experienced veterinarians pause.

Yet topical treatments such as lotions and creams, oral preparations such as pills or liquids, and even injectable medication can all be given at home, if the owner knows how. Handled correctly, medicating at home can be far less stressful to the cat than trips to the veterinarian's office.

It's helpful to have two people for any procedure--one to restrain the cat, the other to apply the medicine. Using a cat sack, or wrapping the cat in a towel or blanket first, may also be helpful. For some confident owners who have established a trusting relationship with their cats, such restraints may not be necessary (see restraint).

Topical Treatments: Cats generally tolerate skin medications well without restraints, unless the area is quite tender to the touch. But because cats are such unremitting self-groomers, care must be taken that the medication is not licked off. Follow your veterinarian's instructions regarding application. Some medication may be noxious enough to prevent your cat from licking, but don't depend on that. Distract the cat by playing with him, or hold him for fifteen minutes or so until the medication is dry or absorbed.

Medicating ears can usually be done with minimal restraint, unless the ears are extremely sore. Tip the cat's head so that the affected ear opening is directed at the ceiling, and simply drip in the medication. Let gravity movethe medication inside the ear; don't stick anything inside. Typically, after liquids or ointments are applied, you should gently massage the outside base of the ear to spread the medicine. (See also ear mites.)

Eye medication should be administered without actually touching the cat's eye. For liquids, tip the cat's head toward the ceiling and drip the prescribed number of drops into the affected eye. For ointments, gently pull down the lower eyelid and squeeze the medication into the cupped tissue, or simply apply the ointment into the corner of the eye. Then gently close the cat's eyelid to spread the medicine over the eye's surface.

Oral Treatments: Oral medications come as liquids, pastes, or pills. Liquids and pastes are the easiest to use, and often employ squeeze bottles, eyedroppers, or syringe applicators to squirt the medication into the cat's mouth. Insert the tip of the applicator between the cat's lips in the corner of his mouth, tip his head back, and deposit the medicine into his cheek. Watch to make sure he swallows and doesn't spit it out.

You may need to gently hold the cat's mouth closed with one hand and watch his throat until you see him swallow. Licking his nose is often a signal that he has swallowed. Most oral preparations are flavored to appeal to the cat and are readily taken. Some paste medications, particularly those that are specifically for hairballs, can simply be spread on the cat's paw for him to lick off and swallow through grooming.

Pilling a cat involves opening the cat's mouth, placing the capsule or tablet on the back of his tongue, closing his mouth, and inducing him to swallow. You may want to use a cat bag or other restraint for this maneuver, although sometimes it's easier without. Try kneeling on the floor with the cat between your legs facing out, so he can't squirm away.

Place the palm of your left hand over the cat's head so that your thumb is on one side of the cat's head and your middle finger is on the other and they fit behind the cat's upper canine (long) tooth on each side. Then tilt the cat's head back so he's looking at the ceiling. Gently press the cat's lips against his teeth to encourage him to open his mouth. (Note: Pressing one finger against the roof of your cat's mouth will also induce him to open wide. In addition, you can use a finger from your other hand to gently press down on his lower teeth and prop the mouth open.) Then quickly drop the pill as far back on his tongue as possible. Hold his mouth closed and stroke his throat until you see him swallow.

You may choose to use a pill syringe, available at most pet-supply stores, rather than risk your fingers when pilling your cat. Ask your veterinarian to demonstrate its use, though, so that you don't risk damag-ing the back of your cat's throat.

If pills are problematic, you may succeed by hiding the medication in a veterinarian-approved treat. Mixing medicine with food in the bowl isn't a good idea, because the cat won't get the full effect unless every bite is eaten. Hiding a pill in a hunk of cheese doesn't work well either, since most cats will eat the cheese and leave the pill behind.

Unless the medication is a time-release treatment that's supposed to dissolve slowly, the pill can be crushed and mixed into a strong-tasting treat. Powder the pill with the bowl of a spoon, mix into one or two bites of a strong-smelling canned food, and feed to the cat. Offer it before meals to make sure every bit is eaten.

Always give your cat positive attention following successful medication. Praise him, play with him, and if approved by your veterinarian, offer a tasty food reward so the next time will go even more smoothly.


Perhaps because people don't readily recognize feline signs of affection, cats have an undeserved reputation as aloof, solitary creatures. Cats communicate their moods, emotions, and desires in a variety of often subtle signs. And affection is, after all, a two-way street. The cat who is offered little interaction will return that indifference, while the beloved feline showered with attention blossoms into a loving pet. But as cats are also individuals, they do show distinct personalities.

Cats show affection to other cats--and even to dogs or other pets--by sleeping together and grooming each other. They indulge in subtle body contact, like bumping hips as they pass in the room. Affectionate cats share food, and enjoy playing together.

Cats show affection to humans in many of the same ways. They want to sleep on the pillow next to your face, or they groom your hair.

Often, cats will solicit owners to play. Affectionate cats twine around ankles; offer head bumps, purrs, and trills; and knead with their paws to express contentment.

Some researchers are reluctant to say that animals experience the same emotions as people. And in fact, there is no way to know exactly what cats are feeling. But from every indication, cats can and do become every bit as fond of us as we are of them.


Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is a common pain reliever for humans. Although it has a place in home veterinary use for dogs, aspirin can kill your cat. Aspirin is broken down more slowly in cats than in people, so the drug stays in the cat's system longer--for days rather than hours. Giving your five-pound cat one adult aspirin tablet is roughly equivalent to a person taking thirty pills. Aspirin dosage in cats may be prescribed by a veterinarian in certain instances, but must be carefully regulated to avoid a fatal overdose.

Signs of aspirin toxicity include dehydration, loss of appetite,
salivation, hyperactivity or depression, incoordination, vomiting, and diarrhea. The vomit and/or diarrhea often contains blood from gastrointestinal bleeding. If you know or suspect your cat has swallowed
aspirin, seek prompt veterinary attention. Treatment is aimed at supporting the cat with fluids and administering drugs to help the kidneys get rid of the aspirin.


Loss of appetite, drooling, dehydration, hyperactivity or depression, blood in vomit and/or diarrhea, drunken behavior

Induce vomiting if within 2 hours of ingestion

Fluid therapy, drugs to stimulate elimination of drug, pumping stomach, inducing vomiting



Feline asthma is breathing distress that results from a sudden narrowing of the airways. The condition is thought to be caused by an allergen, but identifying it is difficult because it can be a single or multiple-component allergen.

Potential triggers include substances that often cause other types of allergic reactions, like inhaled pollens, molds, perfume, smoke, even cat litter dust. Asthmatic cats often seem to suffer from other allergies, but they may also react to air pollution, stress, exercise, or simple changes in the temperature. Usually, the trigger remains a mystery, but if it can be identified and avoided, asthmatic attacks can be eliminated.

When the triggering event occurs, an asthmatic will have a reaction within minutes. (Asthmatic cats have the same symptoms as people with asthma.) Muscles and glandular structures surrounding the
lower airways--the bronchials--seem more developed in asthmatics, which means the size of the airways is probably smaller in these cats. The trigger prompts muscles to forcibly contract, which closes down the passageways like a fist.

At the same time, inflammatory cells flood the area to try to neutralize the mysterious trigger. But inflammation causes swelling, which narrows the passageways even further. On top of this, local glands in the lungs release great amounts of mucus to soothe the inflammation, but this acts to clog the little breathing space that remains. The cat is probably left feeling like he's breathing through a straw.

Early signs, like breathing a little fast or showing increased effort in breathing, are so subtle they can easily be missed. Some cats may cough or wheeze, but often the first sign is a full-blown asthma attack. Gasping, panting, and openmouthed breathing are very dangerous signs in cats; get the cat to a veterinarian immediately.

The incidence of feline asthma isn't known, but experts agree it's fairly common. Siamese and Burmese cats seem to be affected more often than other cats, and although the condition affects cats of all ages, it's usually seen for the first time in a two- to four-year-old cat. Asthmatics seem to have a more difficult time during the spring and fall, when pollen and mold counts are high.

Diagnosis is based on signs, clinical tests, and response to treatment. X-rays of asthmatic lungs may show thickened bronchials, but sometimes the lungs appear normal. A tracheal wash may offer clues. This procedure takes a sample of the fluid in the airways to look for inflammatory cells. And if treatment for asthma in these cats offers relief, it's presumed that the cat is asthmatic.

Frequently, allergic cats are sensitive to more than one allergen, and each cat has an individual allergy threshold; below the threshold, a cat remains symptom-free. If an asthmatic cat's condition is aggravated by a combination of things, eliminating some of them may help relieve the signs.

Treatment is aimed at reducing inflammation and opening up the lungs with medication so the cat can breathe. Anti-inflammatory drugs like corticosteroids are the mainstay of feline asthma treatment.

Historically, asthmatic cats have been given low doses of steroids only for a couple of days to control immediate problems. Recent studies have shown that these cats often suffer ongoing airway inflammation, even when they aren't showing clear signs of the disease. Some veterinarians now recommend long-term high-dose steroid therapy to manage the disease. Once diagnosed with asthma, cats generally stay on medication for the rest of their lives. Even if the asthma's well controlled, an acute asthma attack can happen at any time and can be fatal.

Inhalers that human asthma sufferers use aren't practical for cats, but pills or injectable brochodilators that open the airways are available. In emergency situations, the cat may require oxygen therapy and other drugs to help relax the muscles so the cat can breathe more easily. Owners may be taught by their veterinarian to give the cat an injectable bronchodilator at home should there be an emergency.

Asthma cannot be cured, but it can be managed. It's helpful to eliminate or reduce anything that might bring on an attack, such as dust or stressful conditions. A humidifier may make breathing for your cat easier.

In most species, including dogs and people, a compound called histamine plays an important role in allergies. Histamine triggers certain inflammatory reactions, and antihistamine drugs help relieve these symptoms. Antihistamines, however, don't seem to work in cats.

Many of the symptoms of asthma in cats are instead prompted by a compound called serotonin, which is released by specialized immune cells in response to the presence of the triggering substance. In the same way that antihistamine drugs block the effect of allergy symptoms in people, drugs that block serotonin may reduce or even prevent asthma signs in certain cats. Some veterinarians are now using antiserotonin drugs such as cyproheptadine as a preventive in feline asthma.


SYMPTOMS: Gasping, panting, wheezing, loss of consciousness


VET CARE: Steroids, oxygen therapy, bronchodilating drugs

PREVENTION: Reduce triggers such as dust or stress, use humidifier

Meet the Author

Amy D. Shojai is a veterinary technician and an authority on pet health and behavior. She was a contributing editor to Cat Fancy for five years, and currently writes the monthly "Health Handbook"  column for Cats Magazine, where she is a contributing editor. She is the founder and president of the international Cat Writers' Association, and is a member of the Dog Writers' Association of America. She has written several books, including The Cat Companion and The Dog Companion, and won numerous pet writing awards. She lives in Sherman, Texas.

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