Caring For Your Cat
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.
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. Many 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 befrienders 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 encouragement 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
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 at www.vet2pet.co.uk or from all good bookshops.
Goodbye, Dear Friend
By Virginia Ironside
Published by Robson
Price £6.99. Available from all good bookshops.
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. We offer ultrasonic examination from four weeks on wards for £. (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.
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.
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 Royal Canin, 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.
Aging 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 aging 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 minimize 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 aging, 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.
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 full comprehensive clinical examination normally carried out by your Veterinary Surgeon and is 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.
As a useful guide and reminder, click here to view a checklist which you can print off and take with you on any visit to your Vet.