Cats are in many respects very rewarding animals to treat. They have great recuperative powers after surgery and even the most complicated wounds heal very quickly. Anatomically there is little variation within the breeds and they suffer a few of the genetic problems that have become established in certain breeds of the dog by injudicious breeding.
One of the main problems that occurs in cats is the risk of applying medications to the skin of the cat. The grooming process involving licking of almost the entire surface of the body ensures that the animal swallows any medication within a short time of application.
Insecticides must be very carefully chosen for use in the cat. Make sure one is chosen that is clearly marked as being safe for use in the cat. If you have any doubt, find out the active ingredients of the preparation and ask your veterinary surgeon.
Some cats cannot tolerate flea collars. They may suffer a local skin reaction to the collar itself or they may have a particular sensitivity to the active chemical. If you have not used a flea collar on your cat before, observe it carefully for the first few days after applying it.
Skin irritations are marked by constant scratching and rubbing of the neck and quite quickly, in sensitive animals, a red weeping area circumscribing the neck may be seen. Sensitivity to the actual insecticide may take the form of sudden depression, rapid breathing and salivating.
Some simple medications applied to the skin may cause complications. Gentian violet is quite commonly applied to various skin infections or wounds. The cat invariably licks the area and transfers the dye into its mouth. Ulcerations of the tip of the tongue often result, causing the animal to salivate freely; it often refuses food and may have a very unpleasant smell associated with its mouth.
Cats’ fur often becomes soaked in oil when they lie under motor cars or even fall in discarded sump oil. Removing the oil without further irritating the skin is quite a problem. Some practitioners advocate powdering liberally with talcum powder to absorb the excess oil and then washing repeatedly in a warm detergent solution.
Paint is another problem frequently encountered. Oily paints can be softened by applying margarine or vegetable oil, then washing with a mild detergent. Avoid using turpentine as this is highly irritant to the cat’s skin and will damage the tongue if licked.
Frequently a cat is presented to a veterinary surgeon suddenly refusing to walk or, if forced, takes very small, painful steps. Examination of the feet reveals blistering of the pads of the feet and a severe inflammation of the skin between the pads. Irritant chemicals causing this include petrol, turpentine, acids used to clean bricks and paint strippers. Similar damage is seen when a cat jumps onto a stove hot plate.
Owners occasionally report that they thought their pet had a cold and that they had given it aspirin. Fortunately, it is rare that the animal was dosed for very long as aspirin must be regarded in the cat as a poison. Even as little as one tablet daily for two to three days can cause liver damage, and higher dosages can bring about acute vomiting, irreversible liver damage and depression of the blood-forming elements within the bone marrow.
Antihistamines and some tranquilizers and narcotics often cause abnormal responses in the cat and should not be given without veterinary advice.