Here's to your Maine Coon Cat's Health!

A healthy Maine Coon cat can live a long life. Stick to these tips to learn how.

By Elaine Wexler-Mitchell, DVM

Printer Friendly
Maine Coon Cat Health
Follow these tips to keeping your Maine Coon cat healthy for a long life together.

A Beautiful Smile
Dental health has become an important part of cat ownership and part of total health care. Kittens get two sets of teeth, just like humans do. A kitten's baby (deciduous) teeth come through at about 4 weeks of age, then fall out and are replaced by permanent, adult teeth around 4 to 61/2 months of age. Several factors contribute to dental health in cats including diet, genetics, viruses, bacteria, and the shape of the mouth and bite.

Training a kitten to accept home dental care is fairly easy if you start when it's young. A variety of products help keep a cat's teeth clean, including toothbrushes and special toothpaste, oral rinses, dental wipes, dental treats and dental diets. You need to decide what you're willing to do and what your cat will allow. Ask your veterinarian about the products available for home dental care and what might work best for you and your kitten.

To start brushing your Maine Coon kitten's teeth, choose a brush (toothbrush style or finger brush) and gently run it along the teeth at the gum line. Try this several times without using toothpaste. If your kitten is keen to this procedure, add the feline toothpaste. Feline toothpaste is designed to be swallowed and not rinsed out. Never use human toothpaste for your cat. Whether you choose brushing, rinsing or wipes, daily kitten dental care is fabulous, but twice weekly is more practical.

If you get off to a good start with your Maine Coon's teeth and gums, you can reduce the frequency of professional dental cleanings by your vet. Some adult cats need their teeth cleaned every year; others only need professional cleanings a couple of times in a lifetime. Your veterinarian should examine your Maine Coon's teeth during every visit and keep you updated on its need for care.

Professional cleaning requires your cat to be under general anesthesia for many reasons. Your vet and the veterinary technician need to probe the teeth to assess them, which can be painful. Dental X-rays cannot be positioned and taken without anesthesia. These films show the veterinarian what's going on below the gum line and also show any fractures or misalignment of the tooth crowns. Scaling involves sharp instruments that can damage the gums if the patient is not kept perfectly still. Teeth are hand scaled and ultrasonically scaled to complete the cleaning. Finally, if extractions are needed, your cat needs to be completely anesthetized. Salvaging damaged cat teeth is very difficult, so extraction is often the best treatment. To finish the dental cleaning, teeth are polished and rinsed with an antiseptic.

Bad teeth and gums cause chronic pain, but surprisingly, most cats with advanced dental disease eat normally. Owners often don't realize how bad their cat's teeth are until after the dentistry is completed and the mouth has healed. It's common for owners to say their cat is acting years younger once periodontal and dental disease is treated. This is a good incentive to stay on top of your Maine Coon's dental health throughout its life.

Fleas and Ticks
Technology is winning the battle against fleas and ticks — there are many safe options to protect your cat. Many of the dips, collars, sprays and powders that were used in the past to fight these pests are now obsolete due to the introduction of monthly spot-on products, which are extremely effective.

Cats are very sensitive to certain chemicals, though, so be careful with your choices. Some “natural” products are toxic to cats in certain doses. Always use flea-and-tick control products according to label directions, and never use products intended for dogs on your cat—products labeled for use on dogs only are toxic to cats. Only treat kittens with products labeled specifically for kittens.

Controlling fleas and ticks is important because these blood-sucking parasites have the ability to cause or transmit disease. Cats that ingest fleas while grooming themselves can develop tapeworms. A severe flea infestation by itself could cause anemia in a cat or kitten due to severe blood loss. Fleas and ticks can transmit blood parasites. Ehrlichiosis, babesiosis and Lyme disease are other diseases passed by ticks.

If your Maine Coon stays indoors and you don't have any other pets in the home that go outdoors, flea-and-tick control may not be a concern, but even indoor cats can pick up fleas if windows are left open or if these creatures hitchhike in on your clothing.

To screen your cat for fleas use a flea comb. Flea combs have metal teeth that are so close together that they trap fleas and flea dirt when combed through the cat's hair. Flea dirt is actually flea excrement, and it looks like tiny, black, peppery flecks. If you see this material it means fleas have been on your cat. It's rare for cats to have ticks unless they go outdoors in areas where ticks are present.

A flea bath with a kitten-safe shampoo will kill the fleas on your kitten, but once the shampoo is rinsed off, fleas can jump back on. A complete flea-control program includes using a topical product that offer residual protection on the cat for up to four weeks, and ridding fleas from your home (if the infestation was severe).

If you find a tick on your cat, the best thing to do is to pull it off with a pair of tweezers. Always be sure to remove the tick's head.

Best Behavior
Your kitten should be litterbox trained by the time it comes home, so if you notice any issues with litterbox usage, be sure to discuss them with your veterinarian during the kitten's first visit. You want your kitten to start off with good habits, and problem behaviors are most easily changed if they're addressed right away.

Kittens bite and scratch a bit when they play, but if these behaviors are getting out of hand, your vet can give you suggestions on control. Don't use your hands or feet to play roughly with your kitten. Give you kitten toys it can bite and kick instead of your hands.

Good Nutrition
Kittens exposed to a variety of foods at a young age tend to be less finicky. Canned foods tend to have higher protein and water contents, which are beneficial to our carnivorous cats. Dry food feeding makes life easy and helps keep the teeth clean. A combination of quality canned and dry food is a good solution. Feed your Maine Coon kitten food until your vet recommends switching to an adult diet. If your Maine Coon has foul smelling or soft stools, diet could be the culprit. Discuss your kitten's diet and feeding regimen with your veterinarian.

Looking Good
Maine Coons have beautiful coats with lots of hair, so proper grooming needs to start early. Combs often work better than brushes to keep the coat in good shape. Nail trimming will help prevent damage from scratching. The nails can be trimmed every few weeks. If you are unsure about doing it yourself, ask your vet to show you how to properly trim your kitten's nails.

Healthy and Happy
After reading all of this information, your head is probably swimming, but don't be overwhelmed. Being informed actually makes owning a Maine Coon easier because you know what you need to do. The first year of your kitten's life involves several visits to the veterinarian and decisions on a few health maintenance procedures. During each subsequent year, an annual veterinary exam is highly recommended so you can get an objective assessment of your cat's health.

Your cat's lifestyle will dictate its vaccination schedule and needs for grooming, dental care and parasite control. Build a great relationship with a veterinarian you trust, and work to keep your cat healthy throughout its life. Good health leads to increased longevity and quality of life for your Maine Coon.  t

Elaine Wexler-Mitchell, D.V.M., is the owner of The Cat Care Clinic, a feline-exclusive veterinary practice in Orange, California. In 1995, Dr. Wexler-Mitchell was board certified in feline practice. She is the former president of the Academy of Feline Medicine and was on the board of the American Association of Feline Practitioners for six years. Dr. Wexler-Mitchell has been a writer and editor for CAT FANCY magazine since 1993. She has written three books: The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Healthy Cat (Alpha, 1999), Guide to a Healthy Cat (Howell, 2003) and Ask the Vet for Cats (BowTie Press, 2004).
Printer Friendly

 Give us your opinion on
Here's to your Maine Coon Cat's Health!

Submit a Comment   Join Club
Earn 1,000 points! What's this?


Top Products

ADS BY GOOGLE