The information on this page will give you a brief summary of how to look after your cat at various stages in its life, from kitten to senior cat. However if you have any concerns about the health of your cat, please make an appointment to see the vet or vet nurse for individual advice. Mintlaw Vets is the holder of a Gold Award for Cat Friendly Clinic, awarded by the International Society for Feline Medicine.
So you've chosen your new kitten, bought all the necessary beds, blankets, carrier and toys, and kitten-proofed your home. But what now? Your kitten relies on you to provide it with the best environment, nutrition and health checks to make sure they have a long and healthy life.
Your new kitten should have a health check as soon as possible. This visit will include a thorough physical examination of eyes, ears etc to ensure she is healthy. Treatment/prevention may be given for parasites, ie worms and fleas, and your kitten may also have his first vaccination. The vet will discuss diet and care with you.
Once you have your kitten home, sensitive handling and friendly contact every day will soon help your kitten to settle in and feel at home. Young children should be taught that a kitten is not a toy and must be treated with gentleness and respect. Your cat should also be given lots of opportunities for interesting and challenging play to satisfy his natural instincts. 'Hunting' toys and scratching posts will please your kitten (and save your furniture too!) Allow your kitten to become accustomed to the cat carrier by leaving it out at all times so your kitten has access to it. Throw in a cosy blanket, some toys or a treat to encourage your kitten's natural curiosity!
CARING FOR YOUR CAT
Throughout your cat's life, he needs a clean and warm sleeping area. If you have other pets in the house such as dogs, a safe place, preferably high up, will provide a quiet escape to get away. Fresh water should be available at all times, and a healthy diet is essential. A good quality commercial food which is suited to your cat's age and lifestyle is ideal. Feeding dry food rather than wet can help maintain good dental health in your cat.
Ensure that litter trays are cleaned daily and kept away from sleeping areas and food/water bowls to prevent toileting problems. Always have a spare litter tray for indoor cats and have at least one tray per cat in your home.
You should regularly check your cat's mouth, ears and eyes. Any loose teeth, redness, swelling, discharge or bad odour should be noted and your vet contacted if necessary.
Regular vaccinations are one of the best things you can do for your cat, and ensure he is vaccinated against some serious infectious diseases. Your kitten will have immunity from his mother for the first few weeks of life, but after that, it's up to you and your vet to provide the protection. Cats are usually given their first vaccine at 9 weeks of age, with the second vaccine 3 weeks later. After that, your cat will require yearly 'boosters' to maintain the protection.
Cats are usually vaccinated against:
Feline Herpes Virus (Cat Flu)
This is a upper respiratory tract infection, which is easily transmitted between cats, and causes fever, loss of appetite, sneezing and discharge from the eyes and nose and coughing. Kittens in particular are affected, although any unprotected cat can be affected, and available treatment is limited. Even cats who recover remain carriers and some have recurrent health problems (particularly in the eyes) for life.
This is another major cause of upper respiratory tract infection (cat flu). It is widespread and very contagious, with affected cats suffering from respiratory signs such as conjunctivitis and sneezing, fever, ulcers on the tongue and sometimes lameness. Illness can be mild to severe. Again treatment can be difficult and recovered cats are still infectious for a considerable number of months and sometimes lifelong, as well as experiencing chronic sneezing and runny eyes. Long term gum disease has also been linked to this virus.
The virus which causes this disease is extremely hardy and can survive in the environment for up to a year outside a cat's body. This disease is potentially fatal and can cause listlessness, diarrhoea, vomiting, severe dehydration and fever. The vaccine is extremely effective in preventing this disease, as again treatment is difficult and recovered cats can spread the disease to other unvaccinated animals for several months afterwards.
Feline Leukaemia (FeLV)
Infection with FeLV can cause many serious health problems for your cat including cancers such as lymphoma, serious anaemia and secondary infections due to an impaired immune system. Cats infected with the virus may show no signs for months but is still capable of infecting others. Testing is available to determine whether your cat is infected with the virus. If your cat is not yet infected but is likely to come into contact with cats who may be, vaccination is highly recommended.
There are other vaccines which are occasionally given to cats, including Feline and Chlamydiosis and Rabies, but these are not given routinely.
The best thing you can do to look after your adult cat is neutering. Unneutered male cats are prone to wandering and also are very territorial, meaning they are more likely to be involved in an accident or get into a fight. They also tend to mark their territory by spraying. We recommend the your male cat is castrated at about 6 months of age.
Female cats in season can make lots of noise, and the obvious benefit of having your female cat neutered is no kittens! Again, this is normally done at about 6 months of age, and is better to be done before you let your cat outside.
If your cat goes outside, microchipping can help reunite you if he wanders off.
COMMON HEALTH PROBLEMS
Cats can suffer from a variety of common problems, but some of these are easily preventable with proper care.
Obesity affects cats just as it does humans. As cats get older, they require less calorie intake and feeding should be adjusted accordingly. Feeding the appropriate amount of a good quality cat food which is appropriate to your cats age and environment is important in maintaining a healthy body weight. Mintlaw Vets run FREE nurse led weight clinics to help you keep an eye on your cat's weight.
Diabetes is very common in middle aged and older cats. Symptoms can include increased thirst and hunger, urination, losing weight and poor coat condition. If any of these symptoms relate to your cat, please contact your vet so that she can have a thorough check. Diabetes can be easily treated with insulin injections and you can minimise the risk of your cat becoming diabetic by ensuring he is not overweight.
Arthritis can range from mild to severe, causing pain, stiffness and lameness. Anti-inflammatory medication can help, as can glucosamine supplements, which are available from your vet.
Dental problems are common in older cats, and can make eating painful. Feeding a dry food from a young age can help to prevent dental problems, but your vet will check your cat's teeth if you think there are any problems, and also at their yearly health check and vaccination. In cases of severe dental problems, a dental procedure may need to be carried out under anaesthetic to remove any rotten or broken teeth and to clean the remaining teeth.
Parasites are common in cats, and are easily prevented or treated using the proper medication. Cats should be wormed regularly, especially if they are outside cats who are hunters, and more often if there are small children in the house. Preventative treatment for fleas and ticks should also be applied regularly.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is common in adult cats, especially those that are overweight, neutered, living an indoor only lifestyle and experiencing stress. You can help to avoid it by feeding your cat wet food and managing her weight and stress levels. It can present as cystitis or a urinary blockage. If your cat repeatedly visits the litter tray without passing urine, this is an emergency. Contact your vet immediately.
Many plants including lillies and christmas cactus are poisonous to cats. Antifreeze is another extremely toxic substance to cats and should be kept well out of the way.
YOUR SENIOR CAT
As your cat gets older you may start to notice that he is 'slowing down' a bit and getting less agile than he was. You may notice coat changes and changes in behaviour. While most of these can be down to ageing, regular vet check ups will ensure that there is no underlying health issue causing them, and any unusual signs should always be checked by your vet. It is also important to carry on vaccinating your cat, especially if he is an outside cat.
A senior diet will be more suitable for your cat now, as it is more appropriate for his nutritional needs.
Regular vaccinations will help your cat
to stay healthy and happy
Kittens suffering from cat flu
Urinary problems are common in adult cats
Obesity in cats can affect their
health and quality of life