Cat Care

Cats can make excellent companions and are wonderful pets. However, with an average lifespan ranging from 15-20 years, owning a cat is a long-term commitment and their needs must be carefully considered.

Before you bring your cat or kitten home, we suggest you contact your local council and enquire about local regulations regarding such things as night curfews, compulsory containment within a property, desexing and microchipping.

A cat’s housing needs are simple. Whilst they will usually find a corner that suits them best indoors or outdoors, provide them with a basket, box or chair in a place where they feel safe and protected. Increasingly, cat owners are using cat enclosures to provide a safe outdoor area for cats. Placed in a weatherproof area, and these netted enclosures keep them safe from fights with other cats in the neighbourhood and protect local wildlife from cats’ natural hunting instincts.

For indoor cats, it can be a good idea to provide a scratching post to keep their claws in good condition and reduce the chances of your furniture being scratched.

Cats like to be clean at all times. As a result, cats can easily be toilet trained if a litter tray filled with a suitable cat litter is available. The litter tray should be cleaned daily to remove faeces and the litter itself changed frequently. Ensure the litter tray is placed in a quiet and private location. You may even need multiple trays if you have more than one pet cat. A good rule of thumb is one tray for each cat plus one extra.

All cats need to exercise. As cats naturally like climbing and perching themselves up high, trees and fences, for example, provide good opportunities for them if they have outdoor access. Indoor cats, however, will use furniture to climb and perch. Once again, having a scratch pole or indoor cat gym will give an indoor cat an effective alternative. Providing higher perching locations will also give your cats a more enriched environment.

Most cats require grooming assistance from their owners to remove excess hair. This helps in the reduction of furballs/hairballs and matted or tangled fur, which if left, may result in a visit to us. Except at moulting time, short haired cats are able to groom themselves adequately. In contrast, long haired cats require daily grooming by their owners. Furballs or hairballs can cause appetite and weight loss, and in a worst case scenario, result in surgery. During the moulting season daily brushing is essential and food designed specifically to assist with the reduction of hairballs will also help your cat process shed hair. Unlike dogs, you should not need to bathe a cat under normal circumstances.

When it comes to feeding, most cats like to graze, so we recommend offering small amounts often. Young, healthy cats require a high protein and fat diet. There are many formulations of cat food available and we recommend discussing your cat’s individual nutritional needs with us to choose the most suitable formula. Older cats and those with certain medical conditions may require a prescription diet, which we can discuss with you as part of a treatment plan.

Ensure a fresh water bowl is accessible at all times, especially if they have a dry food diet. We recommend that you avoid offering cow's milk for your cat to drink, as this can cause stomach upsets.

Cats require a minimum of one health check per year. Regular visits help us diagnose, treat or even prevent health problems before they become life-threatening. Routine vaccinations, worming and flea control form the basics of feline medical care.  We can also provide additional guidance on nutrition, behaviour, training and life-stage treatments available.

We welcome you to book an appointment with us to discuss how to keep your cat in optimum mental and physical health.

Signs of Illness

Is your cat sick and you don’t know it? Cats are particularly adept at hiding illnesses, especially in the early stages. Learn about the 10 subtle signs of illness in your cat and why discussing these signs with your veterinarian is so important to your cat’s health.

1. Inappropriate Elimination Behaviour

It is important to keep the litter tray clean and to consider recent changes in location or type of litter used. In addition, a cat that is urinating inappropriately may have any number of medical conditions associated with the behaviour, including lower urinary tract disease, kidney disease, urinary tract infection and diabetes mellitus. It can also be a sign of arthritis, which makes it difficult for the cat to get into the litter tray.

Blockage of the urinary tract signals a veterinary emergency. A blockage is treatable, but timing is critical. Once identified, the cat must receive veterinary care as soon as possible. Otherwise, fatal complications could develop. Signs include straining in the litter tray with little or no results, crying when urinating and frequent attempts to urinate.

2. Changes in Interaction

Cats are social animals, they enjoy interaction with their human family and often with other pets. Changes in those interactions may signal problems such as disease, fear or anxiety. They may also signal pain, which can cause aggression. For example, a cat may attack an individual who causes it pain, such as a person combing over a cat’s arthritic hips or brushing a diseased tooth.

3. Changes in Activity

A decrease or increase in activity can be a sign of a medical condition. As cats age, there is an increased risk of arthritis. Discomfort from systemic illnesses can lead to a decrease in activity. It’s important to understand cats don’t usually slow down just because they are old.  An increase in activity may be a sign of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). Changes in activity warrant a visit to your veterinarian.

4. Changes in Sleeping Habits

The key to differentiating abnormal lethargy from normal napping is knowing your cat’s sleeping patterns. The average adult cat may spend 16 to 18 hours per day sleeping. This is normal, but much of that sleeping is “catnapping.” The cat should respond quickly to usual stimuli, such as the owner walking into the room or cat food being prepared. If your cat is sleeping more than usual or has discomfort lying down and getting up, this may be a sign of underlying disease.

5. Changes in Food and Water Consumption

Contrary to popular belief, most cats are not fussy eaters. Look for changes, such as a decrease or an increase in consumption and how the cat chews its food. Decreased food intake can be a sign of several disorders, ranging from poor dental health to cancer. Increased food consumption can be caused by diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism or other health problems.

Changes in water consumption may be more difficult to observe, especially in cats that spend time outdoors or drink from toilets and sinks. Increased water intake can be an early indicator of thyroid problems, kidney disease, diabetes or other conditions.

If food and water intake is questionable, clients can measure the food and water given, and then measure what remains after 24 hours to get a more accurate picture of actual consumption.

6. Unexplained Weight Loss or Gain

A change in weight does not necessarily correlate with a change in appetite. Cats with hyperthyroidism or diabetes mellitus can lose weight despite good appetites. Many other diseases cause both appetite and weight loss. If your cat goes to the food bowl and then backs away from it without eating, nausea may be the source.

Weight changes often go unnoticed because of a cat’s thick coat. You can assess body condition by feeling gently along the ribs. The ribs should be easily felt but not prominent.

On the other hand, obesity has become a serious health concern in cats, with increased risk of diabetes mellitus, joint disease and other problems. Cat owners can purchase small pet scales to chart weight at home. Take the cat to the veterinarian if there are any unplanned changes in weight.

7. Changes in Grooming

Typically, cats are fastidious groomers. Note whether your cat’s coat is clean and free of matting. Patches of hair loss or a greasy or matted appearance can signal an underlying disease. Also watch to see if your cat has difficulty grooming. A decrease in grooming behaviour can indicate fear, anxiety, obesity or other illness. An increase in grooming may be a sign of a skin problem.

8. Signs of Stress

Boredom and sudden lifestyle changes are common causes of stress in cats. Stressed cats may spend less time grooming and interacting, or they may spend more time awake and scanning their environment, hide more, withdraw and exhibit signs of depression. They could also change their eating patterns. These same signs may indicate a medical condition. It is important to rule out medical problems first and then address the stress. Because the social organisation of cats is different from that of people and dogs, changes in family, such as adding a new pet, should be done gradually. Please contact your veterinary clinic for information on how to successfully make changes in your household.

9. Changes in Vocalisation

An increase in vocalisation or howling is more common in older cats and is often seen with some underlying conditions such as hyperthyroidism or high blood pressure. Many cats also vocalise more if they are in pain or anxious. If you note a change in vocalisation, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out medical problems and to obtain suggestions for minimising or eliminating the behaviour.

10. Bad Breath

It is important to have your cats teeth checked at every veterinary visit to help prevent dental disease or to start treatment of problems. One of the early indicators of an oral problem is bad breath. Regular home teeth brushing and veterinary dental care prevent bad breath, pain, tooth loss and spread of infection to other organs.