Caring for your cat - vaccinations, fleas, worms, feeding, general care
Congratulations on the arrival of your new family member. The following information is provided to help you with all the necessary health care your new cat will require, including check ups, vaccination, desexing, worming, fleas, heartworm prevention, nutrition, dental care, microchipping, bathing, socialisation, house training, home environment, fauna, pet insurance and travelling.
Regular health check ups are the cornerstone of a preventative health program for your cat in the years ahead. We aim to see most patients at least twice a year. Regular check-ups allow us to catch potential problems early and inform you of the newest and best options in pet medicine pertinent to your individual situation. In the latter years of life these increase in frequency as age related problems become more likely. Every year that passes is 5 or 7 years for your four legged friend, let’s make each one healthy!!
Vaccinations are very important and protect your cat against infectious and potentially fatal diseases including: Feline enteritis, Cat ‘Flu’ and FIV. Learn more about cat diseases here.
The vaccines given will depend on the lifestyle of your cat. Cats are vaccinated every 12 months to maintain full immunity throughout life. Find out about our vaccination procedure.
We will tailor make a parasite control program for your individual pet, depending on his/her lifestyle and choosing amongst a number of excellent products now available. The following are some general guidelines.
Gastrointestinal worms can affect cats, dogs and humans. Unlike fleas they are not easily seen on a pet. Your cat can obtain worms in many ways, by eating uncooked meats, rodents, through the skin or by ingesting eggs via grooming or eating the wrong things. It is particularly important to ensure general hygiene measures are taken such as cleaning litter trays regularly. You can protect your whole family including you and your children by worming your cat on a regular basis. The amount of worming preparation given, is based on their weight. Please feel free to use our scales to measure your cat’s weight. We can recommend a number of treatment products. Read more about worming here.
Somehow, fleas always seem to find their bothersome way onto our cats and are a major source of skin problems. They come from any environment where dogs and cats have previously been. Flea eggs are deposited and hatch over a period of time and jump onto the next passing ‘meal ticket’ (dog, cat or even us). There are now some excellent flea control products available which are safe, effective and easy to use. They come in a variety of forms, such as spot-ons like “Advantage” and “Advocate” which are water resistant and provide monthly protection.
Many areas of Melbourne have significant heartworm problems in dogs and unfortunately we are now seeing local cases of this dangerous parasite, which is spread by mosquitoes. This is a very rare problem in cats in our area. For those who are concerned, prevention is by far the best approach to this problem and thankfully relatively simple using “Advocate” monthly spot-on. Read more about heartworm disease here.
As a starting point for your cat’s diet we recommend using a good quality prepared pet food. Pet food that is complete and balanced for each life stage and that is made out of high quality ingredients. Like us, cats do require more nutrients, minerals and vitamins in their diet than just raw meat. A cat’s food requirements depend on a number of factors such as breed, age, sex and activity level.
Many cats are lactose intolerant, unless advised by your vet please do not feed your cat milk.
Teeth cleaning and gum massage are very important and probably best achieved by supplying the appropriate things to chew on.
For cats with problem teeth there is a specific dental diet "Hill's t/d" to encourage oral health. Beef strips are helpful if your cat will chew on them. “Whiskas Dentabits” are also useful. Avoid feeding your cat bones.
Your cat should be registered with your local council. Some councils offer discounted registration for desexed and/or microchipped pets. A cat tag is also supplied for their collar but we recommend a more permanent form of identification. The best is a microchip which is implanted under the skin of your cat by injection and registered for life with a central registry. It is still a good idea to attach a tag with your phone number on it for quick return by your neighbours.
Cat skins are very different to ours and generally do not require bathing, however if it is desirable use a mild cat shampoo such as “Episoothe” or “Allergroom”. Here are some tips on bathing your cat.
Many believe that cats are not sociable creatures, and are also impossible to train. Neither of these beliefs are completely true. There are three main types of cat personalities, the ‘timid’ cat (very dependant), the ‘devoted’ cat and the ‘independent’ cat. Each of these will respond quite differently to socialisation. Most cats are however happy to live in a multi-cat household.
Training of cats is possible, although it may take a little more time, patience and perseverance than with a dog. Training such as toileting, learning to sit, come and fetch can start at any age, although will be easier if started at a young age. Brief fun lessons (5-10 mins) tend to be more rewarding for your cat’s short attention span. Doing this at least twice a day is a good habit to form for you and your cat for the rest of their life. Make sure you provide plenty of praise. Positive reinforcement, via pats or treats achieves better results than old fashioned punishment.
Cats can become creatures of habit and have a tendency to develop behavioural problems when household situations change. By having a well socialized and trained cat you can avoid this potential problem. However, if a problem does arise there are several options to address these issues, such as further training, cat psychologists and in some cases medications. If you are concerned about your cat’s behaviour don’t hesitate to ask our team for further advice.
We recommend one litter tray per cat in your house plus a spare! Each tray should be changed daily and placed somewhere private and quiet. Hooded litter trays are more desirable as they provide privacy and let out less smell! As cats are fastidiously clean your cat may refuse to use the tray if it is dirty. Any accidents should be cleaned up with an enzymatic cleaner such as “Bio-Zet” and then traces of the smell eliminated using “Bac to Nature” (neutralizer) spray. Do not clean with Ammonium or chlorine based products as these can encourage your cat to go back to the same unwanted place again! Find out more about cat toileting here.
At home, your cat needs somewhere comfortable to sleep, and importantly, day or night access to somewhere protected from the weather so they do not get too hot or cold. They must always have access to fresh drinking water. To keep your cat’s bright little mind active, supply a good range of toys such as cat Kongs, cat treats, balls, scratching poles etc. You can rotate them over a period of a week so they are ‘fresh’. If you are out and about, fit a car harness (cruiser) or use a cat box, particularly for car travel.
Domestic cats are sometimes predators. In the city most of their prey is vermin or feral species. You can minimise risk by keeping your cat permanently inside or at least at nights. Build a cat enclosure or ‘floppy fenced’ area for outside time, and/or attach bells on opposing side of the collar. For more information on enclosures, please ask our team.
There are a number of good insurance policies available. Insurance is a great idea because we can never predict what sort of mischief your cat may get up to in the future. Insure your cat as young as possible and they will be insured for more medical conditions as they grow older. Please ask us for more information.
Things to watch out for
If your cat appears listless, lethargic, off their food, changes their drinking, eating or toileting habits, or is sneezing, coughing, vomiting or has diarrhoea that is severe or persists it is a concern. We would prefer to receive a call from you informing us of any changes in your cat’s behaviour or health, rather than you wait too long.
Kittens - sleeping, feeding, house, training and play for new family addition
If you are thinking about a new addition to your family or have already welcomed home a new kitten we recommend visiting our article on Caring for a Kitten. In this article we discuss the essential things you can do help your new kitten feel right at home.
Suggested feline reading
- “Everycat” Dr. Eric Allan
- “Cat Confidential” Vicky Halls