Useful pointers to help keep your cat healthy
Fleas are common, hardy insects which are hard to spot on your pet. They often leave little clumps of black grit droppings, which are a tell tale sign. Some cats harbour fleas without any sign of irritation other than licking, biting and scratching. In others, a single flea bite can result in a severe skin reaction. They lay their eggs in carpets and bedding and become more active in warmer conditions i.e. during the summer or when the central heating is in use. Your vet will advise you on an effective insecticide treatment to keep your pet "flea free". Treatment of your home is also advisable as fleas can live in carpets and soft furnishings.
Grooming is something cats take care of themselves. Long-haired breeds and older cats may need a helping hand to keep their coats clean and tangle free, especially if they are ill. If their coats do become matted, it can become unpleasant for the cat and eventually may result in skin infections. Even though you may think your cat needs no help from you, accustoming them to regular grooming by gently working all over with a brush suitable for the coat is worthwhile. Not only does it help remove loose hairs, it gives you the opportunity to check for lumps and bumps, which may indicate the presence of fleas. If the ears are soiled, wipe them out gently with a dry pad of cotton wool. If the eyes are dirty, bathe each one with a separate piece of moist cotton wool. If the ears or eyes are inflamed or there is a persistent discharge, consult your vet. The majority of cats suffer from some form of periodontal disease at some stage in their lives. This can be prevented by good oral hygiene by brushing of your cats teeth with a toothpaste specially formulated for pets. Ask your vet for details. Claws are important to any cat or kitten. Scratching is one of the ways they keep them in condition. Providing a scratching post will encourage a kitten to avoid your best curtains or furniture, although you will have to involve the kitten in play with it initially. It is unlikely that you will ever need to trim a cat's claws, but if they look overlong and start to curl back on themselves, consult your vet.
Hygiene need not be a problem with a healthy, well cared for cat, provided you observe a few simple precautions:
- Provide them with their own feeding and drinking bowls and wash them separately from the family utensils.
- Don't allow your cat to walk on kitchen surfaces.
- Allow them free access to outside or train them to use a litter tray and refresh it daily.
- Encourage your cat to soil in a particular part of the garden. They like dry sharp sand and will use this in preference to soil. It is very easy to refresh, burying or disposing of the waste safely.
- Cover children's sand pits when they are not being used.
- Never feed your cat uncooked meat or fish and worm it regularly.
- Keep a careful watch on your cat and if you note any signs of illness, get them treated promptly by your vet.
Neutering makes sense, unless you particularly wish to have a litter or show your cat. Male cats which have not been neutered tend to wander for long periods and often return home with wounds from fights. They also mark their territory including "spraying" objects in the home. When neutered, they make better house cats, fight less and tend to live longer. If they are not neutered, female cats will come into season regularly and if they are allowed out, will undoubtedly become pregnant. Your vet will advise you when your cat is mature enough to be neutered, but it can usually be done around the age of 5 - 6 months. It is a routine procedure and recovery is usually very quick.
Sleeping arrangements should be provided well away from the hustle and bustle of the family in a warm, dry and draught free position. Depending on where you live, you may decide to keep your cat indoors, in which case you will need to provide a litter tray which will need to be refreshed daily. There is nothing wrong in keeping cats indoors. However, you should try to provide a stimulating environment, with lots of things to play with and lots of places to hide and sleep. A house cat will also seek a lot of attention from you. Cats can get themselves into danger in the home and you should keep such hazards as trailing electrical cables and cleaning chemicals well out of reach. They will also seek out warm places to sleep and you should always check inside washing machines and tumble dryers before using them.
All kittens and cats must be vaccinated against the 3 main diseases that are a threat to their well being:
- Feline infectious enteritis - affects the gastro-intestinal system
- Feline leukemia - affects the immune system
- Cat flu
After the initial vaccinations it is vital that the yearly booster is administered throughout the pets life.
Worms can cause ill-health and potentially, serious illnesses particularly in young kittens. Your cat should be treated for worms every 6-8 months. Your vet will advise you on an effective worming drug suitable for your cat.