One of the very best things you can do to give your cat a long and healthy life is to ensure that he or she is vaccinated against common and serious feline infectious diseases.
Rich with disease-fighting antibodies, a mother’s milk will give her kittens immunity from disease for the first few weeks of their lives. However, after that period it’s up to you – with the help and advice of your veterinary surgeon – to provide that protection.
How do cat vaccines work?
Vaccines contain small quantities of altered or “killed” viruses, bacteria or other disease-causing organisms. When administered, they stimulate your cat’s immune system to produce disease-fighting cells and proteins – or antibodies – to protect again
When should my cat be vaccinated?
Generally, the immunity that a kitten has at birth only lasts for a few weeks. It is then time to begin vaccinating. The first vaccination is usually given in two doses, the first dose at around the age of eight to 10 weeks and the second about three- four weeks later, finishing after 12 weeks’ of age. Thereafter, your cat will require annual ‘booster’ vaccinations for the rest of his or her life to maintain protection. An older cat with an unknown vaccination history will also require two doses to initiate a vaccination course.
Of course, these are only guidelines – your veterinary surgeon will be able to determine the exact schedule that’s right for your cat.
Which vaccinations should my cat receive?
Your cat should be protected against those diseases which are most common, highly contagious, and which cause serious illness or death.
Such diseases include feline panleucopaenia, feline leukaemia and cat ‘flu. Cat flu is a syndrome which can be caused by both feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus. Feline chlamydiosis or Bordetella bronchiseptica (another potential cause of cat ‘flu) vaccination may […]
As a result of advances in veterinary medicine, more knowledgeable care and improved nutrition, cats are now living much longer, healthier lives. But, just as for humans, the passage of time has its effects, and you may begin to notice that your once-frisky feline seems to have slowed down a bit.
Being aware of the natural changes that can occur as your cat becomes older, as well as what you can do to help keep your pet as healthy, active and comfortable as possible, can ensure that you both enjoy this final stage in your cat’s life to the fullest.
How will I know when my cat is getting “old’?
As cats move into the senior phase of their lives, they experience gradual changes that are like those of ageing humans: their coat may lose its colour and lustre, their bodies are not as supple and reflexes not as sharp as they once were. However diseases found more frequently in senior cats can also cause these symptoms, for example an overactive thyroid gland can cause the coat to become dull and the painful condition known as arthritis causes inflexibility and a reluctance to more around or groom.
Hearing, eyesight and the sense of smell may deteriorate and energy levels seem to diminish. In fact, because cats are naturally adaptive in their behaviour, the first signs of ageing are often a subtle general decrease in activity, combined with a tendency to sleep longer and more soundly.
When does a cat enter ‘old’ age?
Such signs may begin to manifest themselves anywhere between the ages of seven and 11. Furthermore, a healthy cat who lives the majority of its life indoors, especially one that has been neutered, will most likely age later than one which has been affected by disease or environmental problems early in life.
Thus, while wild […]
Planning for the arrival of a new kitten
Make sure you’re ready for the arrival of your new kitten by ‘pet proofing’ your home. Have fun choosing a carrier, bed, blanket, litter tray, toys and other supplies before your new kitten enters your house for the first time.
Kitten nutrition and healthcare
You can make a major contribution to your cat’s longevity, happiness and quality of life by providing him/her with good nutrition, loving attention in a safe, clean environment and regular checkups at your veterinary practice.
How to introduce your new kitten to the home
Ensure your new kitten is familiar with the essentials, by introducing them to the food and water bowl and the litter tray. The litter tray and the food/water bowls should not be kept in the same place and ideally there should be 2 litter trays per cat in one house.
With sensitive handling and friendly contact for at least an hour a day, your new kitten should soon be very comfortable with you and the new home. If there are young children in the home, make sure that they are taught that a kitten is not a toy but a living creature who must be treated with gentleness and respect.
Also provide your kitten with lots of opportunities for interesting, challenging play that will satisfy his/her natural instincts. Toys that they can pretend to ‘hunt’ and capture and special posts that can be scratched (instead of your carpets and furniture) will help make your kitten a joy to live with. A kitten should not go outside until they are fully vaccinated as they are susceptible to catching diseases.
Your kitten’s first health check
Your new kitten should visit a veterinary surgeon as soon as possible.
The first visit will probably include:
A thorough physical examination to determine his/her state of health.
Check for parasites (fleas, ticks, […]
Many veterinary surgeons believe that spaying or neutering not only helps solve the serious problem of a burgeoning population of unwanted cats but also makes for friendlier, easier-to-live-with pets.
What are the health benefits of neutering a cat?
Spayed female cats are more relaxed, playful and affectionate, while castrated males are calmer and less likely to ‘spray’ or urine-mark their territory, wander away from their home or fight. Plus, sterilisation has health benefits – it minimises the risk of mammary cancer in females and reduces the incidence of prostate problems in males. Reducing the frequency of your cat fighting also means that it is less likely to catch infectious diseases which we cannot vaccinate against, for example FIV.
What does spaying a cat involve?
Spaying removes the uterus and ovaries of a female cat, usually around the age of six months. A major surgical procedure, it is performed under general anaesthesia. Complications are rare and recovery is normally complete within ten days.
What does castrating a cat involve?
Castration, also carried out under general anaesthesia, removes the testicles of a male cat. The small wounds that result usually heal in about a week. Less complicated than spaying, it is often performed when the cat is 6 to 12 months old.
Your cat may one day require surgery. While this can be stressful for both you and your cat, there are a few basic guidelines that you can follow that will make the process as complication-free as possible, and help put your cat on the fast road to recovery.
Whether it is minor or major surgery, your vet will advise you when your cat can resume a normal lifestyle.
Pre-surgery tests for cats
Your veterinary surgeon will do a check-up on your cat before the surgery to determine if there are any pre-existing conditions that may interfere with the surgical procedure.
Make sure your cat is up-to-date with annual vaccinations.
Your veterinary surgeon may suggest a blood test to screen for disease not apparent from a physical exam.
ou may need to administer antibiotics prior to surgery to help control pre-exisiting infection for certain procedures.Speak with your veterinary surgeon to find out what are the restrictions for food and water.
Post-surgical help and advice
Your cat is likely to be weak or groggy after surgery. Do not let him/her get too excited.
Restrain your cat by putting him/her in a carrier when leaving the hospital. This will protect him/her from additional injury.
Provide only small amounts of food and water until your cat readjusts to being at home and is recovering. Too much food and water can lead to upset stomachs or vomiting.
If a special post-surgical diet has been prescribed, follow all instructions carefully.
Limit your cat’s exercise. Climbing stairs, jumping or running may open up sutures or cause nausea.
Make sure the sleeping area is clean, warm and free of draughts.
Your veterinary surgeon may prescribe medication to administer during your cat’s recovery. Follow all label instructions carefully.
Sutures are usually removed approximately 10 days after surgery. Check the area around the incision daily for redness, swelling or drainage. If you detect any irritation, […]
Just as parents ‘childproof” their home, so cat owners should ‘pet-proof’ theirs. Four-legged members of the family are naturally curious and love to explore their environment with their paws, claws and mouths. But they can’t know what is dangerous and what is not… so it’s up to you to make your home a safe haven. These tips can help ensure that your cat enjoys a long, happy and accident-free life at home.
How to cat-proof your house
Screen windows to guard against falls.
Don’t let young cats out on balconies, upper porches or high decks.
Many house plants, including dieffenbachia, elephant ear, spider plants and more are poisonous if eaten. Remove them or put them out of reach in hanging baskets.
Kittens love to chew when they’re teething, so unplug, remove or cover electrical cords.
Don’t leave a room where a fire is lit or a heater is being used unattended.
Plastic bags may be fun to play with, but they can cause suffocation.
Don’t leave small, sharp, easily swallowed objects lying around.
Cotton thread especially attached to a needle and also wool are particular hazards to cats because backward pointing spines in their tongue tend to encourage such items to be swallowed if taken into the mouth.
Never leave ovens or irons on unattended.
Dangerous household chemicals such as bleach and ammonia should be stored out of your catÕs reach.
Close washer and dryer doors – your cat might climb in and become trapped.
Keep toilet lids down – kittens can drown if they fall in.
Cat-proofing your garage
Cats enjoy naps near a warm engine so, before you drive off, honk your horn and make sure your pet is not under or near the car.
Cats like the smell and taste of antifreeze but ingestion is likely to prove fatal. Tightly cover containers and wipe up any spills.
Paint, fuel and other dangerous chemicals should […]
Just like you, your cat is going to get sick occasionally and you may come home from the veterinary surgeons with some medication to administer. Learning how to do it right will make the process easier both for you and your cat.
Always follow the instructions given by your veterinary surgeon. Be sure to administer the full amount of medication over the number of days instructed by your veterinary surgeon.
Giving pills, tablets and capsules to your cat
Place the pill between the thumb and index finger of one hand.
Hold the top of the cat’s head and grasp the cheekbones with the thumb and index finger of the other hand.
Tilt the head back until the cat’s eyes are facing upward.
Usually the cat’s jaw will drop open on its own. If not, apply a little pressure on the lower jaw with your middle finger.
Bring the pill to the cat’s mouth.
Keep your middle finger over the small incisor teeth to keep jaw open.
Deposit the pill as far back on the tongue as possible.
Immediately close the mouth.
Gently stroke the throat or blow on the nose to encourage swallowing.
Work fast to avoid being bitten.
Should you wish, you can use a pilling device to avoid placing your fingers into your cat’s mouth. It is a plastic tube resembling a syringe used to deposit the pill.
Place the pill at the end of the device.
Hold the device like a syringe between your index and middle fingers, using your thumb to push the plunger.
Tilt your cat’s head back until his/her eyes are facing upward. Usually the cat’s jaw will drop open on its own. If not, apply a little pressure on the lower jaw with your middle finger.
Place the device over the base of the tongue.
Push the plunger to deposit the pill as far back […]
Here’s a useful chart to work out your cat’s age in human terms as a guide to better understanding their healthcare needs
If your cat is:
In human terms, that’s
Monitoring your cat’s health and well-being is important to ensure they live a long and happy life. Here are some common health problems to look out for.
Obesity in cats
Obesity is a big health risk to pets as it is to humans. An older cat is a less active cat, so adjustments to your pet’s diet to reduce caloric intake are imperative. This will relieve pressure on the joints as well as manage the risks of a range of diseases as well as making a massive difference to an overweight cat’s quality of life. A range of diets facilitating weight loss are available which modify ingredients with for example increased fibre, fatty acids and vitamins while decreasing sodium, protein and fat.
Diabetes is common especially in middle-aged or older cats. It is a disease in which your cat’s pancreas can no longer produce enough of the hormone insulin or where the body becomes insensitive to the cats own insulin.
Arthritis in cats
Arthritis severity can range from slight stiffness and lameness, difficulty in rising to inability to exercise without pain and ultimately debilitation. Keeping animals as comfortable as possible is vital.
You may detect this problem when he/she becomes less attentive about grooming and litter box habits. These signs may also indicate the slowing down of cognitive functions. Anti-inflammatory medication can help relieve the pain. Your veterinary surgeon will prescribe any necessary medication.
Intolerance to cold temperatures
Susceptibility to the cold is more likely as your cat ages. There can be a range of explanations. Providing an additional a heat source near where the cat sleeps and adequate shelter outdoors in inclement weather if the cat can’t easily access indoors
Teeth problems in cats
Dental problems can make eating painful but also may indicate long-standing viral problems, bacterial infection or rarely tumours. Cats are very sensitive to oral […]
When is the best time to start caring for your ageing cat? When they are a kitten! Starting off your cat’s life with good nutrition, scheduled veterinary appointments and a happy home life sets the blueprint for a high quality of life in older years. Most cats are considered geriatric by the age of eight to 10.
Much like humans, time takes its toll on vital organ functions as your cat ages. Cats are more subtle than dogs in showing you when they are sick or in pain. Paying attention to your cat’s behaviour will make detecting problems easier and help them live healthy lives well into their teens.
Keeping your cat healthy at home
Check your cat’s mouth, eyes or ears regularly. Inspect for loose teeth, redness, swelling, discharge or bad odour
Keep your pet’s sleeping area clean and warm
Make fresh water available at all times
Maintain a regime of proper nutrition (based on a good quality commercial diet. appropriate to the life-stage and lifestyle of your cat) and of course loving attention