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Dear Christopher Cat

We just adopted our first cat from the shelter. As responsible new parents, we want to be prepared in the event of a medical emergency. What advice can you give us?

Christopher Responds

Your question is timed perfectly, because April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month.

First, you’ll need to recognize a problem when you see it.

To do that, you’ll have to know your cat’s normal characteristics.

Feel her heartbeat. Watch her breathing. Raise her lip and observe her normal gum color.

If you suspect she’s having a problem in the future, check these crucial characteristics to determine whether any have changed.

Next, ask your veterinarian about problems to watch for, given your cat’s lifestyle, age and breed.

For example, outdoor cats can develop bite wound abscesses. We senior cats are susceptible to hyperthyroidism.

Heavy cats are prone to diabetes, and diabetic cats are at risk of hypoglycemia, a life-threatening emergency.

Also, familiarize yourself with toxic plants and other cat poisons. See for details.

Learn how to medicate your cat from the two earlier columns we’re sending you. Other readers can request these columns by e-mail or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to us at the address below.

Make a kitty first aid kit and refresh supplies if they expire before you use them.

Finally, post emergency telephone numbers by your phone, or program your telephone with the numbers of your veterinarian, the animal emergency clinic and the national animal poison control center (888-426-4435.)

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