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Cats provide constant companionship and rich rewards, but owners too often fail keep their furry friends healthy with regular maintenance and check-ups. Arlene Kim, a veterinarian with Johns Creek Veterinary Clinic in north Atlanta, speaks below about how to keep your little buddy living long and strong in Atlanta.

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Annual exams and vaccinations as needed
It’s that time of year again, but your cat isn’t sick. Why not just skip the trying annual visit. “Don’t,” said Kim. “It’s imperative to have a vet examine your cat at least once a year because we can uncover illnesses before they become serious.” Veterinarians are trained to detect subtle sicknesses in cats. They will listen to your cat’s heart to detect murmurs. Increased lung sounds may indicate early illness. Eyes, ears and teeth should be checked for diseases and defects. “It’s also important to keep vaccinations up to date,” said Kim. Vaccination is economical protection against a number of costly and deadly diseases, including rabies, feline leukemia and distemper. Regular exams and vaccinations are the best way to make sure your cat can go the long haul with you.

Heartworm protection and flea treatments
Heartworms are serious and sometimes fatal for cats, and Atlanta’s mosquito population means area pets are more susceptible to infestation. Infection is spread by mosquitoes and has been reported in all 50 states, according to the Humane Society. Heartworm prevention is easy, cheap and should be given to all cats, even if they stay indoors. The cost of treating heartworms can run more than $1,000, but prevention costs as little as $5 per month. Ask your veterinarian for a prescription at your annual visit. In addition, it’s equally important to protect your cat against flea infestations. Unchecked fleas can be fatal to cats, but are especially dangerous to kittens. To prevent fleas, cat owners should follow a regular treatment regime.

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Keep kitty indoors
Atlanta’s heat and humidity opens outdoor pets up for myriad problems, from dehydration to tick infestation. Vets and cat experts agree keeping your kitty indoors will lead to a healthier and longer life. When cats are allowed free access to the outdoors, they can contract dangerous diseases and are susceptible to attacks from other animals. More importantly, indoor cats will not be run over by cars. According to Earth Caretaker, every year, motorized vehicles kill more cats than U.S. animal shelters’ euthanasia. If you keep your cat inside, be sure to provide it with a clean litter box, plenty of toys and room to play freely.

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Maintain a healthy weight
Vets often treat overweight cats for diabetes, hepatic lipidosis and even arthritis. To help your cat maintain an appropriate weight, vets recommend a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. Instead of free access to food 24/7, vets recommend feed cats two to four small portions daily. A cat’s meal should be about one-twenty-fifth the size of a human meal. That comes to about .6-1.0 ounces of food per meal. Look for cat food that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Vets also advise owners of overweight cats to stop feeding their feline friends treats entirely because they’re high in sugar and aren’t necessary.

Don’t forget about dental health
Cats are meat eaters, so dental defects can cause huge, painful problems. That’s why it’s important to have your vet look over your cat’s teeth and gums at every check-up. Dental disease is the largest single cause of health problems in cats. Treatment for the disease includes costly antibiotics, dental cleaning and extraction in extreme cases. Daily brushing, regular home examination, a well-balanced diet and a regular veterinary exam help prevent painful dental disease.

Dr. Arlene Kim of Johns Creek Veterinary Clinic provided the above advice.

Jackie Kass is a freelance writer from Atlanta with more than twenty years of writing experience. Her work can be found at

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