As well as making sure your cat lives a happy and fulfilling life, you will want to make sure your cat is vaccinated against disease, regularly treated against parasites, seen by a vet when ill or injured, probably microchipped and most likely neutered. An annual health check is an important and easy way of making sure your cat stays fit and well.
General cat maintenance
Taking your cat to the vets
Travelling can be stressful for cats, so buy a robust carrier that your cat can turn around and stretch in but that is no larger than twice your cat's adult size as smaller spaces can help cats to feel secure. Leave the carrier out and open for a few days, somewhere your cat can easily access it. Put in the carrier a blanket with your cat's scent on and some of your pet's favourite treats and toys at the back of the carrier. Spraying with feliway can also help. If you leave the carrier out like this for a few days, your cat will more than likely choose to investigate and not be scared of the carrier itself.
There are three basic types of cat carrier: cardboard, soft fabric or hard. A resourceful cat can break through a cardboard carrier and it is no use in the wet, but is suitable for a quick one off trip. A soft carrier is usually made from a nylon fabric, with a hard base. They have ventilation at all sides and usually a large flap on the top for loading/unloading and are generally easy to fold and store. Hard carriers are generally plastic, making them easy to clean and to strap securely into your car, with ventilation on all sides. Top opening baskets are easiest for getting your cat in and out.
If your cat normally panics when being put in the carrier try to get him in safely at the first try. Have the carrier close by out of sight. Wrap him in a thick towel and pop him and the towel in quickly.
Secure the carrier in the footwell behind the front seat or strap in using the seat belt. Drive carefully and refrain from loud alarming music! Talk quietly and reassuringly and avoid rushing.
If your cat is particularly worried by travelling a product like Feliway may help. Feliway mimics the cat's natural facial pheromones to create a state of familiarity and security.
Once at the vets, keep the carrier covered in the waiting room and away from other animals. If your cat is particularly nervous one of our cat only clinics would ensure they don't see or hear any dogs whilst waiting!
If you are worried about how your cat may react in the consulting room please let us know. The vet may ask a nurse to assist with handling or administering medications.
As much care needs to be taken with the homeward journey. If you have other cats at home the strange smells of the surgery or absence from home can make cats anxious and there can be aggression between them. Careful reintroduction may be needed.
Giving cats medication
Some medications are specially developed to be palatable to cats, so it's worth trying to see if your cat will voluntarily eat a palatable pill or if they will eat it if it's wrapped in a small amount of chicken or butter. If you have a powder medication to mix into their food, wait until your cat is hungry and mix it into a small amount of food to make sure all the powder is eaten before putting down the rest of their meal. Cats can be extremely adept at not taking tablets or powders and are naturally suspicious of the smell of many medications, so if you have a battle on your hands click here to see if the leaflet from the Feline Advisory Bureau helps.
Kittens are typically vaccinated at 9 and 12 weeks. Booster vaccinations are required annually to keep your pet protected and evidence of up to date vaccinations is usually a requirement if your cat goes to stay at a cattery.
Your cat needs vaccinating against feline infectious enteritis (Feline panleucopaenia), feline calicivirus, feline herpes virus (feline viral rhintracheitis) and may need vaccinating against feline leukemia virus.
Neutering can help reduce the huge number of unwanted pets, prevent illnesses and reduce some undesirable behaviours. It prevents your female cat coming into season (which can be noisy and usually occurs every 3 weeks) and prevents the risk of uterus infections and cancers. It also prevents her having an unplanned pregnancy, which could involve health problems as well as leaving you with the responsibility of finding suitable homes for her kittens. Neutering prevents the risk of testicular cancer in male cats and may reduce behaviours like urine marking and roaming.
Cats can be neutered from the age of 6 months. The operation should be straightforward - it is carried out under general anaesthetic and animals usually recover quickly.
A microchip is a safe and permanent way of identifying your cat, meaning that you can be reunited if they ever go missing. A microchip no bigger than a grain of rice is inserted under the skin of your cat between the shoulder blades. The pain of this being done is no worse than an injection and once the microchip is inserted your cat will not be aware of it. When a special scanner is held over the shoulder area of a microchipped cat it can read the unique identification number of that chip, which is linked on a national database to your contact details. Vets, dog wardens and animal charities normally have a scanner and will always check for a microchip if a cat is brought to them as a stray.
The two most common types of intestinal worms that cats get are tapeworms and roundworms. Tapeworms are generally transmitted to cats by fleas and by hunting infected mice. Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasites in cats and especially kittens, eggs from these worms can remain infective in the environment for a long time.
Kittens should be wormed frequently for roundworms and adult cats should be treated regularly for both roundworms and tapeworms. We are happy to advise on how frequently and which worming treatment would best suit your cat.
Fleas are an external parasite. Flea bites make your cat (and you) uncomfortable and itchy. Your cat may be hypersensitive to flea saliva and suffer an allergic reaction and young or frail cats may be weakened by the fleas feeding on their blood. Flea larvae can also become infected with tapeworm eggs, so your cat could become infected with intestinal tapeworms by ingesting a flea while grooming. If your cat has fleas you should also treat it for worms.
The vast majority of flea eggs and larvae live in the environment (commonly soft furnishings in your home) so if your cat gets fleas you will need to treat your home as well. Treating your cat for fleas as a preventative measure can save a lot of effort trying to kill fleas that have set up home in your home! Contact us for advice on the best flea treatment for your cat.
Ticks are parasites that have special mouth parts and saliva to allow them to attach themselves to a host and feed on their blood for several days. As well as being uncomfortable and irritating to your pet, they can carry and transmit other diseases to their host animal. Unfed ticks are tiny, but can swell up to the size of a pea after a few days' feeding. Ticks must be carefully removed to avoid leaving the mouth parts behind buried in your cat's skin. Talk to your vet about prevention or removal of ticks.
It may well be worth insuring your cat in case of an accident or illness resulting in unexpected vets bills. Many pet insurance policies will also pay for complimentary therapies like physiotherapy or acupuncture that are recommended by your vet and some costs relating to finding your cat if they go missing.
Some cat diseases
Osteoarthritis is very common in older cats but signs in cats can be hard to spot as cats instinctively hide any pain or other sign of weakness. As the owner, you know your cat best and are the most likely person to be able to spot any indications that your cat is suffering chronic pain. See the Spot the Signs campaign website for more information: www.spotcatpain.co.uk.
Roughly 1 in 500 cats are estimated to suffer from diabetes. If your cat urinates frequently, drinks a lot of water and is losing weight despite eating more than usual it is worth asking the vet to check for diabetes (or other health problems that may have the same symptoms). More information can be found here: www.pet-diabetes.co.uk.
A cat that is 20% over its ideal body weight is classed as obese. The ideal body weight for a cat depends on breed, age, and other factors. Obesity puts your cat at a higher risk of other health problems such as type 2 diabetes, under confidence and anxiety or problems grooming properly potentially leading to discomfort and skin infections. Pre-existing heart and lung disease, and arthritis, are aggravated by obesity.
Please get in touch if you are worried about your pets weight. Our qualified nurses Gemma or kelly will be happy to help. We also recommend a book called “Caring for an overweight cat” which is available from www.catprofessional.com
Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD)
FLUTD is a general term given to a collection of conditions that affect the bladder or urethra in cats. It is most common in middle aged, overweight cats which have little outdoor access, don't exercise much, use an indoor litter box and eat a dry diet. In the majority of cases, no underlying cause can be found. It is known that stress can be a trigger for these problems in cats. Sometimes male cats become unable to urinate necessitating emergency treatment.
If your cat is a sufferer, the problem will probably re-occur several times during their life. Before the onset of an episode you may notice your cat show mild signs such as increased grooming of the hind-end, or aggression initiated by your cat, possibly due to increasing pain. Reassuring your cat more, feeding wet food or use of Feliway when you spot these behaviour changes or when a stressful situation is about to occur (such as a trip to the vets or builders in the home) may help to reduce the severity and duration of the episode, or prevent it from occurring altogether. Increasing your cat's water intake can help a lot in managing FLUTD. There are many ways this can be done including adding water to food, using different types of water bowls, water fountains or ice cubes.
If this is a problem your cat suffers from, click here to go to the Feline Advisory Bureau information sheet on FLUTD.
Overactive thyroid glands are a very common problem in older cats, it is rarely seen in cats that are less than 7 years old. Noticeable symptoms include weight loss (usually accompanied with an increased appetite), increased thirst, restlessness, irritability, an unkempt coat and sometime mild vomiting or diarrhoea. Thyroid hormones affect almost all of the organs in the body, so this disease can lead to many secondary conditions. Your vet can diagnose thyroid disease with a blood test.
This condition can be controlled with medication or cured with either surgery to remove the affected parts of the thyroid glands or radioactive iodine therapy. Your vet will explain the best treatment for your cat.
This is the failure of the cat's kidneys and is also very common in older cats. It's normally a progressive condition. You may notice your cat eating less, losing weight, drinking more water than usual and urinating more than is usual or seeming low in energy or depressed and they may well be dehydrated. Your vet can diagnose kidney disease by analysing blood and urine samples.
Kidney failure cannot be cured, but support and treatment can slow down the progression of the disease increasing the length and quality of life for the affected cat. Your vet may recommend a prescription diet and perhaps medication.
If you are worried your cat may be showing any signs of kidney disease, please book an appointment. An early diagnosis can make a big difference for your cat. More information can be found on the fabcats website or www.catprofessional.com