For kittens and newly adopted cats with an unknown history of medical care, it is prudent to administer prophylactic treatment for parasites with broad-spectrum products efficacious against heartworms, intestinal parasites, and fleas.17,120,121 This approach will eliminate existing infections, as well as decrease the risk of further infestation and subsequent associated clinical problems. Canine and feline housemates may be at risk of transmission of infectious parasites including roundworm and fleas and therefore should be treated in synchronicity with newly acquired kittens or cats. Preventing cats’ access to gardens and children’s play sand areas will, combined with parasite prophylaxis, decrease environmental contamination with infectious and zoonotic agents such as hookworms and Toxoplasma gondii.33
Routine, regular use of broad-spectrum products is likely to be beneficial for the majority of pet cats, regardless of lifestyle. Certain outdoor lifestyles, geographic location, and whether a cat spends time away from the home (travel, boarding facilities, groomer, etc.) may increase the existing risk of parasitic infection. Thus, recommendations for prevention and control should reflect knowledge of the risks and benefits for the individual cat. Fecal examinations, when appropriate, may diagnose specific infections and guide therapy; however, negative testing does not rule out infection. Ectoparasite prevention will lower the risk of cutaneous and systemic diseases.120 As tick populations increase in number and expand geographically, the prevention of tick infestations in cats is becoming increasingly important. Ticks may act as vectors of feline diseases such as rickettsial infection and hemotropic mycoplasmosis, and cats may act as transport hosts of infected ticks to humans.122,123 There has been an upward trend in heartworm incidence reported by veterinarians over the past 3 years in the United States.124 Prevention of heartworm infection, and subsequent feline HARD or heartworm disease, is preferable, as diagnosis is challenging at best and treatment difficult because of the inherent risks associated with therapy.125
Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., CareCredit, Dechra Veterinary Products, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc., Merck Animal Health, and Zoetis Petcare supported the development of the 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines and resources through an educational grant to AAHA.