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Ask the Cat-Care Expert

Cat questions? We turned to veterinarian consultant at the Feline Health Center at Cornell, Dr. Paul Maza, for the answers to the most frequently asked questions.

While spaying or neutering can prevent unwanted pregnancies, there are also health benefits: the prevention of some cancers, uterine infections in females and prostate disease in males. And do it early—ideally between two and six months old.

Every cat should get vaccines for rabies, herpes virus, calicivirus and panleukopenia, which can help prevent everything from eye and respiratory problems to bone marrow disease.

The rabies vaccination is often given to kittens at four months, 12 months and then every three years. Other vaccines are given every few weeks (when the kitten is four months old). These vaccines are continued at 12 months and then every three years.

Talk to your vet about whether or not your cat has a greater chance of exposure to certain diseases. Depending on that answer, you may want to consider non-core vaccines like feline leukemia virus.

Cats can live very long lives. But as they age, they may be more prone to certain diseases. Keep an eye out for symptoms of kidney problems, arthritis and cancer and be sure to take your pet in for regular checkups.

Many people continue to use the same food as their cat’s shelter or breeder. Canned food helps cats stay hydrated. But some cats just prefer dry food. More importantly: people food is usually not appropriate for cats.

Be careful. As they age, most cats (and dogs) develop a kind of lactose intolerance. They lose the enzyme necessary to help them digest lactose, a sugar present in milk. (Kittens, of course, have this enzyme so they can digest their mother’s milk.)

Ask the Cat-Care Expert

The World Allergy Organization advises pet owners to reduce their exposure to pet allergens by keeping pets out of bedrooms, and vacuuming frequently, including mattresses, upholstery, and carpets.