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Your new cat will give you a lifetime of loyalty, affection and love. You owe it to him to make sure he spends that time healthy and comfortable. Cats today live longer than ever before - 15 years or more. Are you ready and willing to meet his medical needs? Here's what it takes.

Let's Get Physical

Your cat will need to visit the veterinarian several times for kitten exams and vaccinations, and he'll need an annual exam throughout adulthood. As he ages, your veterinarian may recommend more frequent checkups.

If your pet becomes ill, your vet can use past examinations and tests as a baseline to gauge his condition. Regular exams also help the doctor detect and treat potential problems before they erupt into full-blown medical crises.

Why Vaccinate?

You'd never intentionally expose your pet to a deadly disease, but that's just the risk you take if you opt not to complete the kitten vaccination series. Like children, kittens need a complete immunization series to be fully protected from serious diseases. Many veterinarians offer reasonably priced kitten health care plans that include examinations, fecal tests and vaccinations.

Adult cats need annual boosters as well. Your veterinarian can recommend a tailored vaccination plan to meet your cat's unique health needs.

To Spay or Not to Spay

Spaying or neutering your cat is one of the healthiest gifts you can offer your pet. These procedures reduce or eliminate your pet's chances of developing several forms of cancer and other deadly diseases.

Cats are also protected against unplanned pregnancies, and they won't roam far and wide in search of companionship. And spaying or neutering cats minimizes behavior problems like spraying, which makes them a lot easier to get along with.

Wise Feeding

Nutritious foods help your cat maintain his ideal weight and provide essential nutrients for your growing kitten, active adult or aging senior pet. Feeding high-quality diets that are suited to your cat's life stage can help ensure optimum growth, healthy skin and hair coat, a strong immune system, and good overall health.

Healthy Teeth are Happy Teeth

Good dental care is as important for pets as it is for people. Most veterinarians strongly recommend a home dental care routine and regular professional cleanings. Clean mouths are less likely to develop gum disease, which can introduce bacteria into your pet's bloodstream.

Many cats also develop cavities along the gum line that can be very painful. A cat suffering from a toothache won't eat well or feel like playing - and dental complications can lead quickly to other health problems if left unchecked.

Keep Parasites Away

Parasites come in lots of forms - heartworms, intestinal parasites, fleas, ticks and mites all can infest your pet. And they can wreak havoc on your pet's body; heartworm infection can be deadly.

That's why all cats need regular exams and ongoing heartworm, intestinal parasite, and flea prevention programs. Discuss your options with your veterinarian.

Happy Golden Years

When he gets to be around 8, your cat may start undergoing physical changes: hair coat changes from decreased grooming, digestive difficulties, weight gain, reduced energy and behavioral changes. Regular examinations help monitor his general physical condition, and additional diagnostic tests can track how well his organs function during his golden years.

Before you bring home a new pet, make sure you're committed to meeting his health care needs. He'll repay you with a lifetime of love.