As a cat owner you can have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of your companion by undertaking routine preventive healthcare at all stages of their life - from kittenhood through to old age. This offers the best chance of preventing problems arising or, at least, maximising the detection of any illnesses early on. The following information is provided to help you with all the necessary health care your new cat will require, including vaccination, desexing, worming, flea control, heartworm prevention, nutrition, dental care and microchipping.
Some feline diseases are very serious and sometimes fatal even with treatment. You can prevent your cat from contracting these diseases by vaccinating throughout life.
When should you vaccinate?
With our recommended regime, kittens receive their first vaccination at 8 weeks of age. This is temporary and needs to be followed up with another one at 12 weeks. In some cases a 16 week vaccine may be required. A kitten can safely go outside ten days after the final vaccination. To maintain immunity, all adult cats require annual boosters.
What do you need to vaccinate against?
- Feline Leukaemia Virus – by attacking the immune system this virus makes cats more susceptible to infection and illness as well as prone to developing certain cancers. Symptoms are non-specific including weight loss, lethargy, and poor health. A blood test can detect if a cat is infected, however there is no treatment for this fatal virus.
- Feline Enteritis – Onset of this disease is very rapid and can often be fatal. Symptoms include high temperature, loss of appetite, depression, vomiting and diarrhoea.
- Chlamydophila - previously known as Chlamydia, primarily causes conjunctivitis in young kittens aged 5-9 months.
- Feline Respiratory Disease – also known as the 'cat flu', causes sneezing, coughing, eye and nose discharge, loss of appetite and sometimes ulcers on the tongue. This can lead to severe dehydration and debilitation which can be fatal.
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) – This blood borne viral infection causes Feline AIDS which is potentially fatal. Vaccination is available and will be recommended by our veterinarians if your cat is considered to be at risk. The virus interferes with the immune system, and initial symptoms such as fever, sores, lesions and diarrhoea progress to severe chronic infections as the immune system is overcome. There is no treatment or cure for the virus itself.
As well as reducing the number of unwanted kittens, desexing prevents pets from roaming, fighting, spraying and night prowling, which are particularly common behaviours in males. Cats can be desexed at any age however the optimum time for desexing is 5-6 months of age when a cat is approaching sexual maturity but before the first 'heat' in females. However, it is never too late to desex your cat.
What does desexing involve?
In both females and males desexing is a day procedure performed under general anaesthesia. This means your cat will be admitted first thing in the morning and discharged in the evening of the same day. The procedure itself involves removal of the ovaries and uterus in females and the testicles in males. Learn more about desexing here.
The most common intestinal worms affecting cats in Australia are roundworm, hookworm, and tapeworm. Worms are a common cause of ill health in pets and can result in a loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea.
To protect your cat, common worms can be easily controlled with a routine worming treatment. Kittens need to be wormed every two weeks until twelve weeks of age, then monthly until six months of age. After six months all cats need to be wormed every three months for effective protection. Read more about worms and your cat.
If there are fleas about, they will find a way onto your cat's coat and soon invade your home too. There are excellent flea control products available that are safe, effective and easy to use. These are administered in a variety of ways. Use flea control products specifically designed for cats. Some common flea control products made for dogs are extremely toxic in cats! Our veterinary healthcare team can provide you with more detailed information about effective flea control and you can also read more about fleas here.
Mosquitoes spread heartworm when they bite. A cat affected by heartworm will have an infestation of long thin worms (up to 30cm in length!) lodged in the heart and vessels that feed on surrounding blood. There is no approved treatment for feline heartworm disease so prevention is essential to give your cat the best chance of a long and healthy life. Learn more about heartworm disease here.
How do I protect my cat from heartworm?
Prevention is possible using a monthly 'spot-on' on the skin. Kittens should be started on prevention from 12 weeks of age.
As cats grow and develop through life their dietary needs change. While kittens need high energy foods containing appropriate amounts of nutrients to support their rapid growth, older cats experience changes that affect how they digest and use certain nutrients. The most convenient and reliable way to provide a balanced, palatable diet is to feed high quality prepared cat food both canned and dry. Ask us for more information about a nutrition program for your kitten or cat. You can also read more about feeding your cat here.
When is the best time to feed your cat?
Cats often prefer to eat several small meals (at room temperature) per day but will do equally as well if fed one meal at the same time each day.
Always provide clean water for your cat. Milk is unnecessary and may cause diarrhoea in lactose intolerant cats.
Just as in humans, the main cause of gum disease is build-up of plaque due to poor oral hygiene. A well balanced diet including raw chicken wings and necks, rabbit bones, specifically formulated dental bones, regular dental check-ups and brushing will assist in maintaining good dental health. Learn more about dental care including dental disease and dental diets.
Attach a personalised tag including your phone number on your cat’s collar. This is a handy way for neighbours to easily contact you if they are concerned about your cat.
Microchipping is a permanent form of identification. Inserting a microchip is like a vaccination, it only takes a few moments. The procedure is very safe and your pet will feel little pain. Once done, your pet's details, and your contact address and phone numbers are entered on a national database.
If your pet is ever lost, a ranger or veterinarian anywhere in Australia can scan your cat for the microchip and access your contact details by contacting the national database.
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.