Older Cat Care
Ante/Postnatal Queen Care
Preventative Health Checks
Working with your Veterinary Surgeon, preventative healthcare far outweighs curative treatments. Preventative care helps in terms of a higher quality of life for your pet and significant financial savings, long term, for you. Many Veterinary Practices offer free healthcare clinics and advice to support your best friend, from cradle to grave. Please contact your practice for details.
A full comprehensive clinical examination normally carried out by your Veterinary Surgeon and included as part of the cost in your cat's annual vaccination. Your Vet will also perform an examination, when you take your cat for a consultation on any other issue or concern with their health.
A number of our feline friends do not enjoy a visit to their practice at any time and if you have a grave concern, please speak to your Vet Practice before you go. Please try not to be too concerned, your vet is specialised in handling cats and catering for their needs, they are expects in remaining calm and controlled to give your cat a pleasant and less stressful visit. A number of relaxation techniques are used by Vets to calm your cat.
Your Vet will use this examination to look for signs of ill health such as infections, the presence of parasites or identify the nature of any lumps or bumps. They will also take the opportunity to identify potential problems, which may need treatment or further investigations now to prevent them from developing into something more serious or life threatening for your animal. The ideal result of this examination is when the Vet can give your Pet a clean bill of health and advise you on the appropriate care to maintain their healthy status.
This time is also an ideal opportunity for you to ask your Vet or Veterinary nurse any questions relating to your cats health or lifestyle, such as, nutrition, worming, flea control training and weight control.
Likewise, it is always worthwhile to take in a fresh specimen of urine in a clean container, for your vet to check. If your cat is over 7 years of age, you may want to consider taking them for a health check more frequently than once a year, at vaccination time.
Kitten Care Guide
Congratulations on the arrival of your new Kitten.
Welcoming her home
Bringing home a new kitten is always an exciting event- after all you are welcoming a new member of the family.
At first she will feel a little strange in the new surroundings. You can help her feel at home by making sure that there is food on her arrival and a warm place for her to rest and sleep. The best choice is to have a carrier when you collect the kitten and use that as her bed. A good alternative to begin with is a cardboard box on it's side with a blanket inside. This makes a secure, snug bed for the young kitten. At the beginning a quiet and restful environment is essential to make you kitten feel at home.
Your Veterinary Practice will be glad to give you some advice on nutrition and how important it is to establish good feeding habits, training, vaccination, worming and other measures of preventative healthcare (Please see the other section on the website for further information in these areas.)
It is a good idea to restrict your kitten to one room at first. If it is one with an open fireplace, place a guard around it- timid kittens have been known to bolt up the chimney. Likewise, make sure all of the windows and doors are shut on her arrival, you do not want to risk losing her. Preparing for her arrival as you would a new baby is useful. Do provide your kitten with a toy. A rubber ball or imitation mouse will help her to play and exercise. Please do not allow her to play with wool or string as these can be swallowed and become lodged in her intestines. See below for details of ordering our’ special introductory kitten starter kit’.
Surprisingly, Cats are very clean animals and will readily take to using a litter tray indoors. Tip: If she is unsure of cat litter, start by putting uncontaminated earth from the garden into the tray, the gradually over ten days, placing an increasing amount of cat litter mixed with the earth. Later on putting a cat flap in the door will encourage your growing kitten to ’go’ outside. In patrolling her new territory, she will give herself plenty of exercise. A kitten’s sense of fun and seemingly need to play endlessly are vital for her development so too is a visit to your Veterinary Practice. It is important to make an early appointment. Your kitten will then become familiar with the practice and the support staff and must receive her first vaccination, as she is susceptible to several contagious diseases. Your Veterinary Surgeon will advise on the interval for "booster vaccination".
Do ask the Vet, but regular grooming and stroking is essential, it not only removes dirt and dead hair but also helps prevent skin irritation, you will naturally be forming a strong bond together.
Click here for detailed information about worming
Just as with skin irritation, intestinal parasites are one of the commonest problems of kitten hood. The Veterinary Practice will advice on worming and a control programme- click on ‘worming’ above to obtain more in depth information. Modern de-worming medicines from the Veterinary Surgeon are effective and gentle.
Your growing kitten loves to play and exercise. They will often exercise themselves through hunting and exploration. Your kitten should also start to wear an identification tag with your name and telephone on it as soon as you bring him home. It may also an idea to consider microchipping, as an effective and permanent form of identification at your kittens first vaccination Click here to find out more about microchipping
Click here for detailed information about nutrition for your healthy cat
Cats have not been as intensively bred as many dog breeds, so their anatomy is more "as Nature intended". Consequently they have few inherited physical problems. A sound and properly balanced diet will give her all of the protein, calcium and nutrients necessary to fuel her playful exercise. Moderate exercise and a good feeding program will combine to help muscle development, prevent obesity and maintain vitality. The Veterinary Practice will advise you on the most appropriate diet for your growing kitten.
Cats are natural carnivores and have special requirements for protein, fat and vitamin sources compared to other animals including dogs. However, a kitten’s nutritional needs are different from that of an adult cat and must be met by the small quantity of highly digestible food that the tiny kitten can accommodate. Rapid growth and development of bones, muscles and internal organs means that the diet is especially important during kitten hood. A kitten’s nutritional needs are also different from those of an adult cat because kittens need relatively more energy, calcium and phosphorus than a grown animal. They are after all building a skeleton. However Nutritionalist's such as experts at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, believe that excess levels of nutrients can be harmful over time. The right balance is crucial to avoid unnecessary excesses of nutrients such as vitamins, sodium and magnesium. Excess levels of magnesium for example can increase the risk of crystal formation in the urinary tract. Excess levels of sodium are unnecessary and may predispose to hypertension. A good start is so important in helping your cat lead a long and healthy life.
Caring For The Older Cat
Ageing is not a diseases it is a natural normal life process. It is however, accompanied by wear and tear on the body. Today with the advances in Veterinary medicine, improvements in nutrition, vaccination and our own understanding of excellence in pet ownership and medical care, our cats are living longer.
When is my cat considered to be elderly?
Life expectancy in cats ranges from breed to breed, genetic influences, lifestyle and surprisingly; we should start to manage the ageing process in our cats earlier than we once thought. As described above, wear and tear and the bodies deceasing ability to repair itself, accompany ageing. However it is not all bad news, because we now understand when the ageing process starts to affect our cat’s health, we can start to minimise the progressive deterioration and maintain or improve our cat’s quality of life.
As a general rule an elderly preventative medicine regime could begin at the following stage: Cats - 7 years
What can I do to help my ageing cat?
Fortunately, we can assist our cat through his golden years in many ways, and it is much easier to care for the older cat than the older human. Below is a list of tips you may wish to follow for your older cat:
Respect, by all members of the family including other pets and children, do not allow them to bother your older cat, her patience may be wearing thin and she could become less tolerant as she gets older.If your cats sight and hearing is deteriorating, do stick to her normal routine, do not move furniture around and keep her feeding routine to a regular time and place each day.
Regular exercise is important to maintain bone strength and muscle tone, however your cat may have a locomotive problem such as arthritis, degenerative joint disease or just have difficulty on standing up, if this is the case you may have to adjust limit her access outside. Speak to the vet, who will advise you.
Be understanding of them if they do fail to respond to you, hear you, or have little accidents.
Keep their bedding comfortable or warm, if they are used to sleeping outside on hard concrete surfaces, consider bringing them indoors on softer bedding, they are more prone to developing sores, or hard callous on their joints such as elbows or hocks, these can become extremely painful or ulcerated.
Keep them clean and groomed more regularly, as they may have difficulties in grooming themselves. It is also an ideal time to notice any changes or abnormalities.
Keep their nails; trimmed short, you may have to have them clipped more regularly.
Preventative health care programmes
You have the opportunity to work with the Veterinary Surgeon, to establish a preventative health care programme for your cat, properly applied, a preventative health care programme can lessen existing problems of ageing, slow or prevent disease processes and add high-quality years to your cats life.
Preventative health care measures
Measures we can take ourselves to support our cats in their older years are:
Take him or her for a regular check up at the Veterinary Practice, at least twice a year.
Keep their vaccinations up to date, their immune response starts to decline in later years, so up keep of vaccinations are just as important as early on in their lives.
Regular teeth cleaning, scaling and polishing, to help prevent against bad breath and dental disease - See dental care It is also useful to use the following checklist to monitor any changes in your cat’s health status. Take this along to the Veterinary Surgeon with a urine sample when you attend any appointment, to assist them in the programme.
Nutrition for the older cat
Nutrition plays a vital part of the process of preventative health and commercially produced foods contain more than the adequate levels of all of the essential nutrients needed by normal cats. In fact cats, fed commercial foods are consuming anywhere between three to five times their daily protein requirement, three times the daily calcium requirement and phosphorus requirement and ten times the daily requirement of salt. The older cat, on the other hand would benefit from a diet with reduced levels of protein, calcium, phosphorus and sodium. This kind of diet may be helpful in the onset of clinical diseases common in older pets. Also keep a close eye on your cats weight, as cats grow older they are more prone to weight gain due to a reduction in exercise and their ability to metabolise energy is reduced. Speak to the Vet who will advise you on the correct food for your cat at her stage of life.
Antenatal and Postnatal care of the Queen
When you discover your queen is pregnant, there is a lot of excitement tinged with concerns about how she should be cared for during and after the kittening (giving birth).
A queen is normally pregnant (gestation period) for about 65 days from the day of mating, however it may vary from 58days or as long as 72days. Quite often breed variations will have an influence on the length of gestation (Speak to the Veterinary Surgeon, who will advise you)
Pregnancy can be detected by expect and careful palpation of the abdomen from about four to five weeks after mating. Many Veterinary Practices also offer ultrasonic examination from about four and a half weeks. (Ask the Veterinary Surgeon for advice)
Your queen may show signs of pregnancy in the first month after mating; she may appear a little less active or may vomit. In lean cats, it may be noticeable to see abdominal enlargement from about six weeks onwards, especially those who are pregnant for the first time and those with large litters.
The following advice is to be used as a general guide only and if in doubt seek the advice of the Veterinary Surgeon, It is also recommended to obtain further in depth advice about the management of the pregnant cat. See our list of recommended reading for further information.
Care of the queen
Tender loving care is required as normal, it is important to allow her a normal exercise regime throughout the pregnancy and should not be restricted.
It is advisable to worm your queen a month before her due date; this will help to reduce the risk of passing on worms to her kittens. - (Speak to the Veterinary Surgeon who will advise you on the most appropriate treatment for your queen)
A change of diet during pregnancy and lactation (Producing milk for her kittens) should need to be observed, to support the queens increased requirements for energy, protein, calcium and phosphorus to support the growing kittens inside her and replace the nourishment she requires to feed her kittens. A queen’s energy requirement goes up from two to four times as much during pregnancy and lactation. The queen is unable to consume two to four times as much food, so a very energy dense food is required, There are premium brands available, which provide more energy in a smaller amount of food, do that the queen does not need to eat huge quantities. (The Veterinary Surgeon will advise you)
Preparation for labour / kittening
About two weeks before your queen is due to kitten, it may be advisable to separate her from the other animals in the household (unless this will be too distressing for her) and provide her with an area, which she will have peace, quite and warm, she is most likely to find this area herself! A kittening box can be provided (this can be a large cardboard box, with a lid for added privacy) where it can be screened off if necessary. The ideal temperature in the room should be about 72° F (22 °C). On one side of the box, cut away a hole large enough for her to climb in and out. As mentioned earlier, your queen, may be very keen to find her own "nesting" area, if there are areas in the house, you would prefer her not to give birth in, restrict her entry into them. Provide the queen with plenty of bedding, newspaper is ideal, so that the queen can tear it up and it can be easily replaces when soiled.
At least ten days before the queen is due, it may be a good idea to visit the Vet for a health check and who will advise you on the impending birth.
The queen can be offered a drink and food before she rests. Most newborn kittens will suck straight away, or within half an hour. It is important for the kittens to suck the colostrums during the first one or two days of life to provide the maternal antibodies from the mother. As with human babies, during the first week the kittens will suck around every two hours gradually increasing to every four hours. The queen will normally lick and care for her kittens and it is important to keep the temperature of the surroundings at least 70°F. (21°C)
Her normal exercise can be resumed as and when your queen shows a desire and feeding of an appropriate energy dense diet is advisable until the kittens are fully weaned.
Again, it is advisable to obtain a health check from the Veterinary Surgeon following the birth and or the following problems are observed.
Signs to watch for
Mastitis - this is where there is inflammation and infection of the mammary glands, the mammary glands usually feel hot, hard and are painful for the queen on touching or when the kittens suckle, sometimes they can form an abscess. Consult the Vet immediately, if you notice any changes in the mammary glands.
Eclampsia - Also known as milk fever, puerperal tetany - is where the queens calcium level in her blood drops to a dangerously low level, she may show signs of restlessness, loss of appetite, she may then begin to walk stiffly and stagger, eventually she may develop a high temperature, muscle spasms and convulsions.Prompt veterinary treatment is required to reverse these signs.
The appropriate diet such as the one described above, can play an important part in preventing the onset of this disease.
If a foul smelling discharge or bleeding is noticed before, during and after the birth.
There was any kind of problem during the delivery.
The kittens appear cold, listless, cries continuously or will not suckle from their mother.
The queen does not eat or drink within 24 hours of giving birth.
Bereavement help and support
The death of all pets in any circumstances is a tragic loss and the subsequent grieving which we can feel is very real and painful. Euthanasia, which is unique to animals brings with it, not only the choices to bring about the ease of your pets suffering, but sometimes a whole raft of different feelings and emotions, which many of us find difficulty in comprehending.
We are also often unaware of the choices that we have, when it comes to burying or cremating our pet. Veterinary practices offer a range of support, information and services when it comes to caring for you and your pet at the end of their life. If you do not feel able to talk at length with the Vet, ask to speak to one of the Veterinary nurses in the practice who will be only too pleased to help and support you before, during and after your pets death.
There is also an excellent charitable organisation called The Pet Bereavement Support Service, which was launched in 1994, it has so far helped over 4000 pet owners of all ages and all walks of life. Losing a pet of any kind can be very painful and each telephone call is treated with sensitivity and compassion. The telephone befreinders receive calls in their own homes. They are volunteers of all ages and backgrounds and have completed a six month supervised correspondences training programme. They offer a "listening ear" and give time, patience and encourage met to bereaved pet owners, as they work through their loss. Telephone 0800 096 6606
Sometimes it helps to share our feelings with someone who knows from personnel experience how distressing the loss of a pet can be, whether it is a hamster or a Great Dane. Telephone daily from 8.30am - 5.30pm (with an answer phone outside these hours) to speak to someone who will listen with compassion and without judgement.
Death of an Animal Friend
This booklet is helpful for anyone faced with the loss of his or her pet. Produced by the society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) Price £2.50. Available from: SCAS, 10b Leny Rd, Callender, FK17 8BA
Absent Friend - By Laura and Martyn Lee
This is an instructive book looking at how to cope when the relationship with the pet is broken. Published by Henston, Price £4.50. Available through the Veterinary Surgeon, Vet2pet superstore, or from all good bookshops.
Goodbye, Dear Friend - By Virginia Ironside
Published by Robson, Price £6.99. Available from all good bookshops.
What should I do if I need to put my cat into a cattery?
Firstly, plan your cat's stay well in advance. Catteries become booked up very early, particularly if you need to use them during the peak holiday season. If you want your cat to stay in a good establishment, then booking early is important. Call as many catteries as possible so that you have a wide choice. If you know any cat owners, ask them if they know of any good places for your cat to stay. You could also ask the vet or breeder for any recommendations.
Although all UK premises are governed by the Animal Boarding Establishments Act of 1963, this act is quite vague in its requirements, so that premises vary considerably in standard.
What should I ask the owner of the cattery?
Will they let you visit their establishment before your cat is booked in?
You should always do this by appointment, as it is unfair to expect a busy cattery to show you around whenever you feel like visiting.
How much will it will cost to keep your cat there?
How much exercise will they get?
Are they exercised in a run?
What are the animals fed and can you bring your own cat-food? It is best that cats' diets are not changed since this coupled with the stress of being somewhere new could cause a digestive upset.
How big are the sleeping quarters?
Will your cat will have access to an outdoor run?
What does the cattery want to know from you:
Do they insist on all cats being vaccinated? Will they want to see your vaccination certificate? Remember that if they are not strict about this then there is risk of transmission of diseases between animals.
You will need to know whether or not your cat will have physical contact with other animals. Whilst it is a good idea for cats that live together to be housed together, from a veterinary viewpoint it is a very bad idea to house animals from separate households together, since one animal may harbour diseases that can be passed to another. An example is the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), which is potentially fatal, and can be passed from one cat to another. There is no FIV vaccine so you cannot protect your cat.
What would the cattery do if your cat became ill during its stay?
Are they covered by an insurance policy? How often do they have a really good look at the animals? Would they notice if your cat was unwell?
If your cat is on any medication then you will need to ask whether or not the staff will be happy to administer this. It is unreasonable to expect them to treat an animal without prior warning.
Even the best of places can lose an animal. Although this is something that does not often happen, you should ask what they would do if this occurred. Do they have a sensible set of steps that they would follow to try to recover the animal, or do they seem rather disorganised and unsure of what they would do?
If I visit the cattery before sending my cat there, what should I look for?
The cats' living area should be airy and spacious, although the sleeping quarters need not be large since many animals prefer a smaller cosy area to sleep in. Is it warm enough? What sort of heating do they use? The premises should be clean and regularly disinfected. What sort of bedding is being used? Does it look clean? Look at the food preparation area: are there facilities for sterilising the food-bowls? How much attention do the animals receive? Many cats are inappetent when left at catteries: a bit of extra attention can help a lot with this.
What should I do when I have decided on a cattery?
Book your cat in quickly! You will probably be expected to pay a non-returnable deposit, so you must be absolutely sure that this is the cattery for your cat. When you take your cat there, bring its own blanket or cushion as this will smell of your home and provide comfort to your cat. Also if he or she has any toys then bring them too. Be sure to give the establishment a contact telephone number, or if this is not possible, the number of a relative or friend who will take responsibility for your cat should anything happen to it. Also, you should give them the name, address and telephone number of your veterinary surgeon. Remember to take your vaccination certificate, as they should demand to see it before admitting your cat.
Nutrition for your healthy cat
No one can say how long an individual cat will live. But she is your cat, your faithful friend; you obviously want to have her with you as long as possible.
It has been recognised by Veterinary Surgeons for some time that nutrition can play an important part in maintaining your cat’s health and vitality. Certain nutrient changes are needed throughout your cat’s life, what is right for a kitten can be harmful to the older cat.
Cats are natural carnivores so require a very special and different diet to that of other animals such as high levels of top quality protein and food enriched in taurine an essential amino acid found in muscle meat only. Excess levels of magnesium are also required in all cats’ diets to help prevent a number of urinary tract problems, which cats can develop.
There are a number of specially formulated premium foods, which have been specially formulated, to ensure health growth and keep her healthy at each stage of her life. An example of the Veterinary formulated diets is Hill’s Science Plan. Our Veterinary Surgeon will be able to give you the advice of the appropriate diet for your kitten or cat. For a long time Vets and nutritionist’s have been recommending to feed a commercially produced food, especially a premium food rather than home made diets, which unless carefully formulated can be potentially harmful for your cat.
Kittensclick here for information on kitten care
As a general guide, kittens require more: Calcium and phosphorus to help build strong bones; protein to help develop strong muscles, more calories for increased energy expenditure and fatty acids for a healthy coat, and a diet enriched with taurine an essential amino acid for cats. Kittens require more of these nutrients, than mature cats do.
The Pregnant and Nursing Queen
Should be fed a diet almost identical to the kittens diet as she is providing so much of the nourishment for the kittens at this time, energy rich formulation will help to maintain her own body weight.
The Adult Cat
Control of excessive nutrients is vital for an adult cat, so reducing the levels of nutrients than those of a kitten is vital. Carefully controlled levels of fatty acids for a healthy glossy coat, high-quality protein to maintain muscles, and sensible levels of calcium and phosphorus for strong bones and teeth. Excess levels of sodium and phosphorus should be controlled. It is also essential to avoid excess levels of magnesium, which can contribute to urinary tract problems, such as crystals or stones. These can be a very distressing and potentially a life threatening condition.
The Less Active or Weight Prone Cat
Being overweight puts potentially dangerous stress on every bone, muscle and organ, including the heart in your cat’s body.
A specially formulated fibre rich, calorie reduced diet is essential to help prevent obesity in some cats. Some cats are genetically predisposed to becoming overweight, and some neutered animals are also at risk from becoming obese.
Feeding an appropriate ‘light’ diet will help your cat to feel full and satisfied and reduce the intake of calories at the same time, this will keep your cat, happy and healthy and stop you from feeding guilty about reducing the quantity of foods given. The other benefit is it also maintains all of the other essential nutrients required by an adult cat.
The Senior/Older Cat.
Click here for information about senior cat care
As cats get older, the kidney function often declines. An excessive intake of phosphorus can lead to further kidney damage, and too much salt can contribute to higher blood pressure, which may make heart or kidney problems worse. An increased level of fibre to prevent constipation is also beneficial. Some new diets which are easy to chew and gentle on your older cat’s teeth and gums are also available.
A carefully controlled diet in all of these nutrients is required for the older cat, to help keep your companion as long possible.
General feeding guide
When switching your cat to any new food, gradually introduce it over a 5-day period. Mix it with your cat’s former food, gradually increasing the proportion until only the new food is being fed.
You can tell if your cat is the ideal weight when you can feel, but not see his ribs. To be sure of his ideal weight consult the Veterinary Surgery.
Keep fresh water available at all times.
If you are switching from a canned food to a /dry food, expect your pet to drink a lot more water, most commercially produced tinned food is made up of over 80%, which provides a large amount of drinking water for your cat.
The best way to measure the quality of a pet food is to measure what goes in compared to what is passed out. Many inexpensive pet food, provide a lot of filler’s which may make it look good value, but a lot of the food is not utilised by the animal and there is more to clean up afterwards.
If your pet refuses to eat for more than 48 hours, discuss the problem with our Veterinary Surgeon immediately
If you are feeding a premium or commercially prepared pet food, it is not necessary to give any additional supplements; in fact this may do more harm than good.
Most feeding guides on pet food are to be used as a guide only. Our Veterinary Surgery will advise you on the most appropriate amount for your cat
Therapeutic nutrition for your cat
We have over time; become used to advances in medicine for ourselves and in changes in Veterinary medicine for our animals, new drugs for treatment and the management of diseases, new types of surgical procedures. An area which has become significant in it’s area of research in Veterinary medicine is: Therapeutic nutrition, In fact therapeutic nutrition for cats is known to have been researched as far back as 1948 in the United States by a Vet called Dr Mark Morris. He created the first Prescription Diet product, registered trademark of Hill’s Pet Nutrition. Since then therapeutic Nutrition has grown to be an important component of Veterinary Medicine with innovative products that give sick and disease prone dogs and cats nutritional support during and after therapy
Therapeutic Diets are only available through the Veterinary Surgeon and it is important that they are involved in the selection and monitoring of the diet, disease and your cat, so that the best prognosis can be achieved.
Different health problems require different forms of nutritional support. Amazingly researchers at Hill’s Pet Nutrition were the first to recognise the link between successful therapy and supportive nutrition, years before researchers in human medicine reached the same conclusions
A variety of formulas are available to support your cat including:
Adverse reactions to foods
Gastro intestinal disease
Urolithiasis (bladder stones)
Urinary Tract disease
Pre and post surgical conditions.
If your cat is diagnosed as having a disease or nutrition related disorder, it is comforting to know that, in many cases, a change in diet really can help to manage and control the problem.
Help with switching your cats food
If the Vet has recommended a change in your cat’s food and he has been a creature of habit, you may need some help in switching to a new way of eating.
Gradually introduce the new food over a 5-10 day period, unless instructed otherwise by the Veterinary Surgeon. Mix the new diet with your cat’s former food, gradually increasing the proportion until only the new food is being fed.
Do not supplement your cat’s new food unless instructed otherwise by the Veterinary Surgeon. Do not feed treats, snacks, table scraps, leftovers, or any food other than that which the Veterinary Surgeon recommends.
Keep a clean bowl of fresh water available at all times.
If your cat has trouble giving up his familiar food
Warm canned food to body temperature (but not any hotter), before feeding.
Hand feed the new diet for the first few days.
If your cat refuses to eat for more than 24 hours, discuss the problem with the Veterinary Surgeon immediately.
If you are still experiencing difficulties, please discuss these with the Veterinary Surgeon.
A large range of safe, efficacious, vaccines are now available to vaccinate your kitten and adult cat against the three major infectious diseases, which they can potentially suffer from, including:
Feline Panleucopaenia (feline infectious enteritis, feline parvovirus)
Feline Respiratory Disease (cat flu): Feline rhinnotracheitis virus infection, (FVR) and Feline calicivirus (FCV).
Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)
Some commonly asked questions about Vaccination:
What is immunity?
Immunity to disease simply means that an individual (animal or person) is highly resistant to the threat of a particular disease. A fully vaccinated cat, provided that it has responded to vaccinations, should be capable of withstanding normal exposure to those diseases against which it has been vaccinated. It is possible for immunity to develop in a non-vaccinated animal, but for this to happen, the animal must first encounter the disease and then survive the encounter. For the potentially life-threatening diseases that we routinely vaccinate against, this is not a serious option.
So immunity does not just happen and yet in many ways nothing could be more natural....
Maternally Derived Antibody (MDA)
Nature has equipped the queen with the ability to pass on some of her own immunity (in the form of antibodies) before and shortly after giving birth (these are called Maternally Derived Antibodies) Whilst some of this immunity passes across the placenta to the young in the later stages of pregnancy, most is passed on in the first milk, known as colostrums. It is important that kittens suck early because MDA levels in the colostrums are at their highest at the time of birth. Furthermore, the newly born kitten is only able to make best use of MDA at this time; the ability to absorb antibodies directly from the gut into the bloodstream is lost.
So if all goes well the young kitten will have received adequate "natural" maternal immunity from their mother to enable it to resist disease for a period of some weeks. However, the extent of the protection depends on the immune status of the queen (as she cannot pass on what she does not have) and how quickly and how well the kittens have sucked.
In turn, the immune status of the mother is nowadays highly dependent on whether she has been properly vaccinated up to date. The better protected the queen, the more opportunity she has of passing good levels of immunity to her offspring.
How long does "natural" maternal immunity last?
Some kitten's levels of MDA vary from kitten to kitten, even in the same litter. MDA is also know as "passive" immunity, (which you may be familiar with) it is not actively produced by the kitten, thus it decays over a period of some weeks.
It is possible to predict the point where the kitten is no longer protected, by a blood test, but this is not practicable, on a routine basis. Fortunately, thanks to the cooperation of may owners, a leading pharmaceutical company in the UK called Intervet has researched, (with the assistance of independent laboratories) and examined around 3,000 cats to help to establish the timings of MDA decay for various diseases.
It is important to understand these timings because:
It provides a guide to the "average" age at which a kitten is no longer protected by the queens immunity and is therefore at risk.
It gives an indication of the best time to start the vaccination course.
How do Vaccines Work?
Vaccines work by stimulating the body to produce it’s own defence against infection. One of the key components of this "defence" is antibody. Whilst MDA protects the young kitten, MDA can actually interfere with successful vaccination. This is because, although a vaccine is a modified harmless form of the disease, it is seen by MDA as an invader. MDA therefore assumes it’s protective role and neutralises the vaccine.
Only when MDA falls to a moderate to low level, will the kitten respond to vaccination and Only when MDA falls to a moderate to low level, will the kitten respond to vaccination and produce it’s own ("active") antibody levels.
When to give the first vaccination?
In general the earliest age for vaccination of kittens is around 9 weeks.
It is important to note that the primary course always consists of two or more vaccinations. This is because:
Timing for effective vaccination varies from puppy to puppy (because of unknown MDA levels)
Some vaccines, such as Leptosproisis need to be administered twice in order to achieve high enough level of immunity.
Based upon local experience, your Veterinary Surgeon will advise you on the best schedule to adopt, but the aim will always be to provide your pet with the best possible protection.
Why give regular boosters?
As MDA in the kitten declines, so too does the protection produced as a result of vaccination, only more slowly as this is "active" immunity.
A cats "active" immunity can be topped up in two ways:
By exposure to disease.
By means of a booster vaccination.
The first, goes without saying is an impractical way of ensuring continued immunity, especially nowadays.
Vaccines today, are very effective and have a remarkably high safety record, millions of doses are used annually in the UK alone. The use of live, modified vaccines in particular have brought about levels of disease control, against for example Canine Parvovirus, that would have been almost undreamt of a little more than a decade ago.
Because of the incidence of these diseases has fallen as a direct result of widespread use of efficacious vaccines, the chances of an adult cat encountering them have also been reduced. Paradoxically, this is a dangerous situation for the pet which has not had a booster on a regular basis, because of the cat has not met all of the diseases on a regular basis, it may be unprotected. Sooner or later an encounter with a massive disease challenge could prove fatal.
What if my cat’s booster has lapsed?
If you have forgotten to take your cat back for a booster, seek advice and guidance from your vet straight away, as the longer the delay, the more at risk your cat will be. The added benefit of regular boosters, are the preventative health checks given by your Vet at the time of vaccination. It also gives you the opportunity to discuss any concerns about your pets well being.
If you have any further concerns about vaccination, speak to your Veterinary Surgeon or visit: www.noah.demon.co.uk, which is The National Office of Animal Health. They have two briefing documents available of dog and cat vaccinations.
Cats - Worming
Can a healthy Cat get worms?
Frankly, it may not always be easy to tell when a cat has worms. In severe cases, of course symptoms are obvious. It may cause vomiting, diarrhoea and or constipation with potentially serious consequences. In addition, they may weaken your cat’s immune system, making it more susceptible to infection.In a mild infestation, you may simply not know, and this is one case where you can remain unaware.
How could my cat get worms? The short answer is all too easily. Even the most cared for, well fed, happy and healthy cat can become infested with worms.
Even though you cannot see them, other cats may have left behind worm eggs and larvae, where they leave their droppings. These eggs and larvae can remain infectious for months, even years. These can be picked up on your cat’s coat, muzzle or paws and are ingested during grooming. In this way, worms can then infect your cat, home and garden.
Both Roundworms and Tapeworms can be picked up from a hunting cat’s prey; mice, for example often carry infective larval stages. By far the most common tapeworm is acquired by swallowing infected fleas while grooming.
Types of Worms There are a dozen different species of roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms, which may infect the cat in the UK. Fortunately there are very effective ways to control these and minimize the spread of infection.
Roundworms - The life cycle
The term roundworm also includes, hookworms and whipworms. It is helpful to look at the different lifecycles.
The relatively common one is Toxocara Cati.
Cats can pick up roundworms by eating mice and from the environment.
Adult worms in the intestines produce eggs
Roundworms can lay dormant in the mammary tissues of the queen and be activated during pregnancy.
Transfer of worm larvae to the kittens as they feed on the mother’s milk can take place.
A nursing queen may be re-infecting the pups while cleaning them.
Roundworm eggs are great survivors; they can remain infective for several years.
The Tapeworm - The life cycle
Unlike the roundworm, the tapeworm requires a third party called an intermediate host, to develop in before infecting your cat The two tapeworms found commonly are The Taenia species and the Flea tapeworm Dipylidium caninum
6 out of 10 cats in the UK have worms at any one time.
Some types of tapeworm can grow up to 5metres in length
Tapeworms look like strings of rather flattened rice grains.
Dipylidium caninum has a small head, which attaches itself to the wall of the small
intestine, with hooks and suckers a long segmented body, which grows continuously.
The oldest segments, containing the eggs are shed one or more at a time. It is these segments that we commonly see passing out of the anus. These segments can contain many thousands of eggs.
There are many preparations available sold on the market, we recommends routinely worming your kitten and adult cat with the most effective preparations, which are sold by the Veterinary Surgeon. It is only by working with the Veterinary Surgeon that the correct advice, preparation, dosage and routine can be given to your cat.
However effective the wormer recommended by the Vet, it cannot prevent re-infestation. There are a number of steps we can take to reduce the spread of worms, including:
Effective flea control on the animal and in the home, to help reduce the transmission of the Flea Tapeworm.
Careful, daily, disposal of cat litter.
Wash your children’s hands after playing with kittens and cats.
Avoidance of raw offal or unsterilised pet food.
Fleas Ctenocephalides species (Cats)
Fleas can potentially pose a very real threat to your cats’s health and the well being of your family. Few creatures can inflict more misery, ounce for ounce, than fleas. A flea infestation at one time or another has affected many dog and cat households. These tiny, almost invisible pests are much more than an annoyance. They make life miserable by disrupting your household with a vicious cycle of biting and scratching, and can cause flea allergy dermatitis in some cats.
Where do fleas hide?
Fleas hop onto your cat to feed on his/her blood; they then lay their eggs, which can be up to 50 a day. The eggs are not very sticky, so they quickly fall off your pet. The fleas and their eggs can be found in a number of flea friendly locations, such as:
The animals’ own bedding
These areas should be treated, when treating your cat for fleas.
The fleas life cycle
The life cycle of a common flea can last as little as three weeks, depending on the temperature and humidity of their surroundings. It is little wonder that with the introduction of fitted carpets and central heating to a lot of homes, the flea problem has increased over the years.
For more information, please contact the Veterinary Surgery for advice.
The Egg Stage
A female flea lays as many as 50 eggs per day, they quickly fall off your cat and hatch in two to five days. A female flea lays around 2,000 eggs in his lifetime.
The Laval Stage
After hatching, the larvae head toward dark places around your home and feed on "flea dirt" - Excrement of the partially digested blood of your cat. The larvae grow; moult twice, the spin cocoons, where they grow into pupae.
The Pupa Stage
The length of this stage averages 8 to 9 days. Depending on weather conditions, population explosions typically occur five to six weeks after the weather starts to warm up.
The Adult Stage
The adults emerge from their cocoons when they detect heat, vibrations and exhaled carbon dioxide indicating that there is a host nearby. Once they hop onto a host, the adults mate and begin the life cycle all over again. The entire life cycle can be as short as three to four weeks.
Identifying flea infestation - The warning signs:
Black specks on your cat or his/her bedding could be flea dirt. Which are the faeces of partially digested blood from you cat, excreted by the adult fleas. They can often be found around the neck area and the base of the cats tail.
There are two easy ways to check for flea dirt:
Using a metal flea comb, available form the Veterinary Practice. Run the comb over your cat, making sure the comb reaches the cats skin through the coat. If there are black specks on the comb they may be flea dirt.
Place a white paper towel beneath your cat and rub your hands across the fur. If black specks appear on the towel, they may be flea dirt.
With both of these methods, to confirm if the specks are flea dirt. Place the specks on a white piece of paper, sprinkle a few drops of water on the specks and if after a couple of minutes a reddish, brown stain is seen in the water. It will indicate that the dirt contains, partially digested blood from your cat. This is flea dirt.
Your cat may exhibit nervous or annoyed behaviour coupled with excessive scratching and or grooming, your cat may even start to bite himself, which not only confirms the presence of fleas, but also may indicate that the presence of fleas may be affecting your cats health. (See ailments below)
AilmentsFleas may affect your cat in the following ways:
Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)
When a flea bites your cat, it deposits a small amount of saliva into the skin. Your cat can develop FAD in reaction to this saliva, which causes severe itching. The condition can cause excessive, scratching, biting, redness, soreness and even hair loss and scabby regions especially over the cats, neck, back, and the base of the tail. You and your family may also suffer from flea bites.
This may occur in young, older or ill cats if too many fleas suck their blood. The symptoms of anaemia include pale gums, weakness and lethargy in your pet.
Treatment and prevention
There are many flea treatments sold today, but not all of them can be effective or appropriate for your cat, and although it may appear to be cheaper, you may end up spending more in the long run. Today however, products sold by Veterinary Practices to treat flea infestation are extremely effective and safe, (if the manufacturers instructions are followed). There are a number of presentations available including: Sprays, spot-on’s or oral treatments.
Consult the Veterinary Practice with regard to the best treatment for your cat. Only 5% of the flea population will be on your cat, so separate environmental treatment of wherever your cat has been is also vital in preventing re-infestation.
Other preventative methods, include:
Vacuuming frequently, wherever your cat has been, especially around any carpeted area of the home, in your car and in around your cats bedding and your bedding, if he sleeps with you. This will help to clean up as many immature fleas (eggs, larvae and pupae) as possible. Also treating your vacuum cleaner’s nozzle, dispose frequently of the bag or treat inside the cleaner with environmental treatments.
Washing your cats bedding, blanket and other washable items frequently in the hottest water cycle available.
Neutering your Tom or Queen
Neutering is routinely performed by many Veterinary Surgeons on a daily basis. The decision as to whether to have your tom castrated or your queen spayed should be carefully considered and discussed with our Veterinary Surgeon. Below we give you some guidelines as to what the procedure involves and some of the points to consider during the decision process. Our Veterinary Practice will advise you on the most appropriate time for this to be done.
Castration for cats
This is considered to be a form of contraception for male cats, unlike oestrus control in the queen.It is a permanent procedure, so should not be undertaken if you wish to mate from your Tom. It involves a general anaesthetic and is a sterile surgical procedure performed by the Veterinary Surgeon and assisted by Veterinary nurses.
Reasons for Castration
To make the Tom sterile, so he cannot father kittens
To stop adult tom cats from roaming after queens, territorial fighting or spraying/marking with urine.
The procedure involves complete excision and removal of the testicles from the scrotal sac. The scrotum is left behind and will naturally look a lot smaller after the operation. There may be some swelling in the scrotum immediately post operatively. If this persists, please consult the Veterinary Surgeon.
If you are planning to have your dog castrated for behavioural reason, it is worth considering that sometimes the problems may disappear overnight. Sometimes the traits are as a result of learned behaviour and because of this, they may not subside for a few months.
Please note: Castrated tomcats may have an increased tendency to gain weight, so it may be worth considering a "lighter" diet. Please discuss this with the Veterinary Practice.
Spaying your Queen
If you are not considering breeding from your queen you may want to consider having her spayed. It is not true to say, allow your queen one litter before spaying, there are literally thousands of unwanted kittens born each year, and destroyed, so spaying is the kindest and most sensible thing to do. This is considered to be a form of contraception and oestrus control. Again this is a permanent procedure and it involves a general anaesthetic. This is also a sterile surgical procedure performed by the Veterinary Surgeon and assisted by Veterinary nurses.
Reasons for Spaying
To make the queen sterile, so she cannot have kittens To increase the enjoyment of owning a queen by preventing her from "calling" during the oestrus season.
Unlike human sterilisation in women, most Vets perform a complete ovariohysterectomy in the queen, which means removal of the womb and the ovaries. This is because the hormones produced to trigger pregnancy and oestrus is excreted from the ovaries. Your queen may be left with a small scar along her side of her tummy, which should not be seen after the fur grows back. Please note: Spayed queens may have an increased tendency to gain weight, so it may be worth considering a "lighter" diet. Please discuss this with the Veterinary Practice.
Cats - Microchip Identification
When we bring a new cat into the family, we love and care for them the same way as all of the other members of the family and the love and fear we feel for them is no different. So if your cat was lost, strayed or worse still stolen, and your pet was not identified it would be very difficult to trace you and be returned.
There are different ways of identification such as collars and tags or tattooing. Unfortunately both of these methods have their drawbacks. Collars can become lost and tattooing is a painful process, which over time becomes illegible. However a quick, simple, permanent process is now available, which is no more stressful, than a routine vaccination.
What is Micro chipping?
Micro chipping is an up to date electronic technology, which is a tiny microchip containing a unique 15 digit code. This code will be linked to your Pets details for life on a database. The database is accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and it can identify your animal, the your name, address and telephone to ensure you and your cat can be reunited in the shortest time possible.
A special scanner is then used by a number of authorities to read the microchip, including:
How does it work?
Your cat will attend your Veterinary Surgery for the micro chipping implantation to take place the same way as you would for a normal vaccination.
The Microchip is injected under the loose skin at the back of the neck. It is usually no bigger than a gain of rice. Your Veterinary Surgery will then fill in all of your details and send it to the database for life. For more information, please contact your Veterinary Surgery for advice.
Dental Health - Cat
We all understand that to maintain healthy teeth and gums, a combination of daily brushing and regular visits to the dentist is essential. The same is true for our cats. Research shows that more than 70% of cats show some signs of gum disease by the age of five. So it is really important that your pet receives both professional dental care form the Veterinary Surgeon and care from you at home.
The Importance of Preventative Care
During each check up your dentist thoroughly cleans your teeth and removes plaque, which can build up causing serious oral problems. Plaque forms naturally and continuously on teeth and gums and is the cause of bad breath, which is an early symptom of poor oral health. If the plaque is left untreated, inflamed gums or "gingivitis" can result. In time, this disease can lead to periodontitis (which is disease of the tissues which support and attach the tooth) and tooth loss. That is why it is important to start a preventative dental care programme with the Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible.
Try this three simple step programme for your new kitten and cat.
Step one: Professional examination
An effective programme of dental care begins with a visit to your Veterinary Surgeon who will assess your pet’s oral health and may recommend cleaning, polishing and other preventative measure.
Step two: Home care
Plaque should be removed mechanically everyday and until recently daily brushing of your cat’s teeth is the most effective way to do this. It is best to start this as early on in your cat’s routine as possible. There are many specialised toothbrushes and cat toothpaste available to assist you in this routine (It is advised not to use human toothpaste as this can potentially detrimental to your cats health). Fortunately, there are now special daily diets available which provide the same dental benefits as weekly brushing such as Hill’s Prescription Diet feline t/d*, which actually clean teeth and freshen breath on every bite. Please consult the Veterinary Surgeon for advice on all of these procedures.
Step three: Regular Check-ups
Just as people need to see their dentist regularly, cats also need regular check-ups. At each oral examination, the Veterinary Surgeon will look for any signs of plaque build up and gum disease.
Administration Of Drugs By Injection
Will I have to administer injections to my cat?
As a cat owner you will rarely have to inject your own cat. Most conditions are treated with tablets, capsules, fluids, creams and ointments or drops. The vet will often start a course of treatment by injecting a drug though. The only condition in which you, as an owner, will be required to inject your own cat on a regular basis is Diabetes Mellitus.
Injections can be given by different routes. You will normally be trained, by a member of the veterinary practice, to inject your own cat by the 'subcutaneous' route, which means the drug is administered under the skin through the needle. The injection can be given in several areas on the body but the most common one is in the neck or scruff of the cat. It is done by lifting a fold of skin lightly from the underlying tissue with one hand, while holding the syringe, like a pencil, in the other hand. The needle is directed towards the skin fold under an angle of approximately 45*. The needle is pushed through the skin by putting pressure on the syringe barrel rather than the plunger itself. After the needle has penetrated the skin, the plunger is depressed to empty the syringe. The whole syringe is then withdrawn and the area of application is rubbed lightly.
The injection should not be painful to the cat. The tissue under the skin is not very sensitive and the needles used are very sharp and thin. Most cats will not notice the injection at all. Sometimes you can take the cat's mind off the injection by giving some food at the same time. Ask the vet if this is possible in your cat's case. You may have to ask someone to hold the cat while you give the injection.
Administration Of Liquid Medicine
How do I administer a liquid medicine to my cat?
Some drugs now come as liquids that can be given by mouth rather than as tablets or capsules. Examples are some antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or treatment for urinary incontinence.
Some liquids can be mixed with food. If you do this, make sure that the cat has eaten all of the medication. It is best to give the liquid medication in a small amount of food and only give the remainder if the cat has eaten all the food with the drug in it.
If your cat will not eat its food with the medication mixed in, you can apply the drug directly into the mouth of your cat. To do this, the easiest way is to use a syringe, which you can get from the vet. Draw up the required dose from the bottle, approach your cat from behind, gently hold your cats head around the tops of the ears and place the nozzle of the syringe in between the lips of the cat from the side while holding the cat's head steady and slightly lifted upwards. Gently squirt the medication into the mouth and if necessary rub the cat's throat to induce swallowing. Have someone help you if the cat does not hold its head still.
Administration Of Tablets
How do I administer tablets to my cat?
Most drug companies nowadays prepare tablets in a palatable form and are readily taken by the majority of cats. However, sometimes it takes a bit more convincing to get your cat to take its medicine! There are several ways in which you can do this.
Hiding the tablet in something nice often works. You can use soft cat treats with holes in them for example, or some tinned cat food or pate. Soft cheese or peanut butter may work for some cats. Check, if necessary, whether this type of food is suitable for your cat.
If all this fails, you will have to actually push the tablets into your cat's mouth. To do this, you place one hand over the muzzle and gently introduce your thumb and forefinger into the mouth by pushing the lips inwards just behind the canine teeth. You can even try to put some pressure onto the hard palate as this will help to keep the mouth opened. The other hand is then used to further open the mouth by pushing the lower jaw down and putting the tablet as far into the mouth or throat as possible. After closing the mouth, gently stroke the throat to induce swallowing. In some cases it may be advisable to give some water afterwards to help the cat to swallow.
Some tablets can be crushed and put into food. The vet can tell you if this is possible with the tablets supplied. There are special tablet crushers available to this purpose. If you have not got access to these, you can crush a tablet with the back of a spoon for instance.
Application Of Creams, Ointments And Lotions
How do I apply creams, ointments and lotions?
All of the above can be used for the purpose of administering drugs to the surface of the skin. Some cats may object to the application of creams etc. if the skin is very sensitive or painful. Have somebody hold the cat if he is likely to object or escape! In some cases you are advised to wear gloves when handling the medication. It is important that you take this advice to heart!
In general these medications are applied by gently spreading the cream onto the skin. Some need massaging into the skin, others do not. Try to always apply these forms of medication to a dry skin.
What if my cat keeps licking them?
If your cat tends to lick the area of application there are several things you can try. Firstly, apply the cream just before giving the cat its food or just before taking him for a walk. This way, he will have something else on its mind then licking the cream off! Secondly, you can try fitting an Elizabethan/buster collar to your cat to prevent the cat reaching the treated area of skin. Not all cats will be happy wearing these collars, but most accept it quite quickly. Thirdly, you can cover the skin with a bandage or boot if it is a foot. This is not always failsafe and it is not easy to apply a bandage without making it too tight or too loose. If the affected area of skin is on the body of the cat you may try putting an old T-shirt on your cat. Finally, in some cases the only solution is to muzzle the cat while the cream takes effect.