In this article, we discuss some of the most important points when it comes to owning a cat. If you have any additional concerns, please contact any of our three locations. You may also wish to take a look at our Nurse Clinics.
To prevent distressing and potentially life-threatening illnesses, we recommend vaccinating your cat yearly.
If your cat has not had a vaccination in the past, or it has lapsed by more than 3 months on its booster, then we suggest you restart the course to provide the best protection. The vaccine we recommend for cats covers the following infectious diseases:
- Various viruses that can cause ‘Cat Flu’. This is easily spread from other infected cats. It is particularly serious in young kittens and causes sneezing, a blocked nose, breathing difficulties, and eye and mouth ulcers (like human cold sores). One of the causes of Cat Flu (a herpes virus) remains latent and can reactivate at any age, causing recurrent disease
- Feline Panleukopenia (also known as feline parvovirus). Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration and the disease is usually fatal or may result in serious deformities in kittens that survive
- Feline Leukaemia Virus. It is spread between cats via the saliva, by close contact such as grooming, fighting, mating and sharing food/water bowls. There is no effective treatment so the only way to protect your cat is to vaccinate
- Feline leukaemia virus can affect all parts of the body and can lead to multiple problems including tumours, anaemia and eventually death.
For cats we recommend using the Broadline spot-on. It is applied every month to the skin on the back of your cat’s neck.
It is important to make sure other animals can’t lick the product, so it’s best to apply at night time or before feeding. Broadline also protects against ticks, roundworms, tapeworms, and hook worm
Other options for flea prevention if Broadline is not appropriate include:
- Stronghold spot-on monthly – very similar but does not protect against ticks or tapeworm. However is does protect against biting lice and ear mites
- Advocate spot-on monthly – very similar to Stronghold
- Seresto collar – kills adult fleas and prevents ticks from attaching. Lasts for 8 months and is ideal to use during tick season (Spring until Autumn) provided your cat will tolerate wearing a collar
- Program injection every 6 months – breaks the flea life-cycle by preventing eggs from hatching, but does not kill adult fleas
- Comfortis tablet monthly – kills all stages of the flea life cycle. Easy in greedy cats
Hopefully using an effective prescription-strength flea product regularly will prevent a flea infestation occurring. However, if you do have problems, the quickest way to get rid of them is to treat ALL the animals in the house (particularly cats, which are often the source of the problem) and treat the house itself.
We recommend an environmental spray, such as RIP or Indorex, which kills adult fleas for up to 2 months, and prevents reinfestation for up to 12 months. How you use the spray is very important; here are some guidelines:
- Take all animals out of the house before spraying
- Vacuum everywhere thoroughly, including carpets, sofas, animal beds, skirting boards etc. This will remove a lot of the flea eggs and the warmth and vibration from the vacuum encourage eggs to hatch, making them more susceptible to being killed by the spray. Vacuuming also fluffs up the fibres of soft furnishings, which allows the spray to penetrate better
- Spray the Indorex or RIP spray everywhere according to manufacturer’s instructions, paying particular attention to areas the pets spend a lot of time e.g. their beds, rugs, around the sofas etc
- Leave the mist to settle for at least half an hour
- Hoover again a few hours later and then on a daily basis if possible to pick up the flea eggs and larvae as they die.
The important thing when dealing with fleas is to be persistent! Their life cycle can be up to a year long, with eggs living in the carpets etc. for long periods of time. Vacuuming, regularly using flea treatment on all your pets and treating the house at the first sign of flea-trouble is the only way to prevent fleas from becoming a problem.
We recommend a good quality, complete, dry, cat food from brands such as Arden Grange, Burns, James Wellbeloved, Meowing Heads, Eden, Royal Canin or Hills.
This is by no means an exhaustive list – there are lots of good brands of cat food. The main things to look for are natural ingredients, no additives or colourants, and adequate protein content. You can add a small amount of wet food into their diet but if you can get them eating just dry food it is better for their teeth. It’s also cheaper, more hygienic and more convenient to be on a complete dry food!
There are some medical conditions (such as kidney or urinary problems) where a wet food may be more appropriate – one or our Veterinary Surgeons would be happy to discuss this with you. We do not recommend a home-made diet (either raw or cooked) for cats because their nutritional requirements are much more specific than dogs or humans and it is very difficult to formulate an appropriately balanced feline diet at home.
We recommend twice daily feeding throughout adulthood, or alternatively leave a measured amount of food down for them to eat throughout the day; this usually only works in single cat households otherwise the chances are one cat will be greedier and eat everything! It is not ideal to leave wet food down during the warmer months as old food will attract flies and become unpalatable.
Preventing obesity is very important in cats as health consequences can be very severe. As a practice, we are seeing a higher incidence of diabetes, osteoarthritis and heart problems in obese cats, which are all serious diseases that can be very expensive to treat, can shorten your cats life and can easily be prevented by losing weight! Also, in male cats urinary blockages are far more likely to occur in overweight cats so prevention is key! If you are concerned about your cat’s weight, why not book in with one of our nurses for a free weight clinic?
Don’t feel you always have to feed your cat from a bowl; there are many interactive games that involve food so that the cat has to work for it.Just a simple feeding ball or flicking their biscuits across the floor will entertain your cat no end and provide exercise.
There are many types of intestinal worms, including tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Tapeworms and roundworms are by far the most important and common of these.
If using Broadline for flea treatment, it will also cover tapeworms, roundworms and hookworms. Some of the other flea treatments (eg. Stronghold and Advocate) are also effective against some of the intestinal worms, but not all of them. Therefore, unless you are using Broadline, we still recommend using an additional worming treatment to target these with one of the treatments below:
- Drontal tablets every 3 months – covers roundworms and tapeworms
- Milbemax tablets every 3 months – covers roundworms and tapeworms
- Profender spot-on every 3 months – covers roundworms and tapeworms
- Panacur paste or granules every 3 months – cover roundworms and tapeworms
Visit www.itsajungle.co.uk for more information on parasites and how to prevent them.
We generally neuter male and female kittens from 3-6 months of age. There are many health benefits to neutering but the main reasons are to prevent unwanted pregnancies and urine-spraying indoors.
If you live in an area with many other cats we recommend neutering your kitten before letting them outside to avoid pregnancies. Also, entire male cats are much more likely to fight with other cats causing injuries and spreading diseases such as Feline Leukaemia Virus, which is potentially fatal.
The myth of ‘every female cat should have at least one litter’ is complete nonsense; not only do you run the risk of complications potentially requiring an emergency caesarean, but rescue centres are full to the brim of unwanted cats. There are not enough homes out there as it is, so adding another litter of kittens to the equation is irresponsible.
One un-neutered female cat could be responsible for 20,000 descendants over 5 years (according to Cats Protection).
We advise that cats should wear a quick release collar, which pulls apart if the cat gets stuck and will allow them to escape should they become entangled whilst climbing.
A small tag attached to the collar can be engraved with text on both sides – even our smallest tags have enough space for your name, address and phone number. Please ask at reception if you would like to order a tag.
In addition, we strongly recommend getting your cat microchipped. This involves inserting a small chip (about the size of a grain of rice) into the scruff of your cat’s neck. Once chipped your details will be held in a national database so should your cat ever get lost, they can be scanned and traced back to you via your contact details. Therefore it is very important to keep your contact details up to date with the database company.
We strongly recommend insurance for your cat. There are a wide range of policies on the market nowadays and it’s tempting to go for the cheapest option, however, this may not offer the cover you need when your pet is ill.
You don’t want to be worrying about whether insurance will cover the treatment or not when you’re already worried about your cat’s health. Important things to look out for when doing your research include:
- Lifelong cover of every condition. For example, should your cat develop arthritis, diabetes or thyroid problems they will need treatment for the rest of their life, not just for a year
- The maximum limit of cover should be as high as possible. Some policies have a limit of £1000 or £2000 – this amount really isn’t going to last long should your cat need on-going treatment for problems such as arthritis, or a one-off major operation such as fracture repair or spinal surgery. Therefore it is preferable to find a policy that will either offer unlimited cover or a high maximum (e.g. £5000-7000) for the life of your cat
- Once you have taken out an insurance policy it is advisable to stick with that company on-going (rather than changing companies yearly looking for the best deal like you would with car insurance). This is because once your cat has suffered from a condition if you should then change companies they will exclude this condition meaning they will not pay out for any treatment towards it
- If cost is an issue there are many optional extras that can be opted out of when arranging the insurance cover, such as money towards posters should your pet go missing. These are largely unnecessary and increase the premium without increasing the level of veterinary cover.
According to FSA regulations, we are not allowed to recommend any particular insurance company. However, we are allowed to tell you our experience in claiming from different companies. In our experience, some are very easy to deal with and pay out with no fuss most of the time; others will find any tiny reason not to pay. Speak to one of our vets or nurses for more advice and see our insurance tips for advice on how to make the most of having insurance.