What is involved in taking on a cat or kitten?
A cat or kitten makes a very worthwhile pet,
providing that he/she is properly cared for. If
you have taken, or are about to take a stray or rescued
feline into your home, then you are actively helping
such organisations as Cats Protection in our work.
Before you take on the responsibility of owning a cat or kitten please think carefully about what it will involve.
cost of feeing and veterinary treatment - including the cost
of vaccinations and neutering.
Making time for play, grooming and companionship
Being prepared to accept that he/she may catch birds or other prey
Ensuring adequate arrangements for when you are away from home
Making sure your cat or kitten will not become a nuisance to neighbours
Kittens are old enough to leave their mother at eight weeks. A pretty, lively kitten can be an attractive proposition. Remember, however, that he or she will become a cat after six months, and will be with you for next 14 years or more. A kitten should be your for life!
Cats Protection advocates the neutering of all cats not required for breeding to keep down the number of strays.
One female cat can, in five years, be responsible for 20,000 descendants and many of these must inevitably become homeless, with a life that offers only misery, hunger and disease.
Both male and female cats can be neutered from six months old (please be guided by your vet). Although general anaesthesia is required for male and female cats to be neutered, this normally only necessitates a day's stay at the surgery. Females normally have stitches that would either need to be checked a few days after surgery, or removed about ten days later.
Neutering promotes a more satisfactory and enjoyable pet. A neutered male should refrain from spraying about the house and leaving an unpleasant smell. He should also be disinclined to wander or to fight. On Humane grounds, a female cat should not be allowed to have a litter before being neutered. A cat only recognises a kitten when it squeals at her the first time she gives birth. The first experience provides the memory so therefore it would seem kinder to spay before the first pregnancy.
Neutering also decreases the risk of acquiring FeLV (Feline Leukaemia Virus) and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus). Both these diseases can be transmitted at the time of mating. FIV is also commonly seen in males that fight a lot (transmission via saliva). Making them less territorial will therefore decrease the risks of disease.
To underline the importance of neutering, Cats Protection runs a scheme to help those in dire financial need to have their cats neutered. Application can be made for a voucher to your local branch - Worcester & District Tel: 01386 751925 - or if you are from another area, contact our Headquarters at Horsham on 01403 221919. A leaflet about neutering is also available, simply contact us for a copy.
Cats can be protected against some of the most serious feline diseases by vaccination, which can start from nine weeks or as soon as an older cat has settled into his/her new home.
The routine vaccinations protect against feline infectious enteritis, cat 'flu and feline leukaemia and there is now a combined vaccine where all three can be given at once. Two doses are given three weeks apart and a yearly booster is essential. Feline infectious enteritis is a very serious and frequently fatal disease causing a variety of symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea and sometimes sudden death. The vaccine gives very good protection. Cat Flu is a common type of viral respiratory disease. It may make the car quiet ill but is rarely fatal unless he/she is very young or old or suffering with another disease that affects the immune system. The vaccine protects against the most common strains of the viruses that cause cat 'flu, the feline herpes and the feline calicivirus. The vaccines are not 100 per cent effective as there are many different strains of 'flu but they are still worthwhile.
Feline Leukaemia is the most common infectious cause of death in young cats and causes problems such as suppression of the immune system and tumours. Vaccination gives a good degree of protection.
There is also a vaccine against the micro-organism chlamydia which causes respiratory symptoms and persistent conjunctivitis. It is not given routinely but may be used in households or catteries where chlamydia is a problem.
Your veterinary surgeon will advise you on the best regime for your cat and will give you a certificate when the course is completed. Keep this in a safe place as all good catteries insist on proof of full vaccination.
Many adult cats suffer from heavy build up of plaque on their teeth which causes them great discomfort when eating and will eventually lead to refusal to eat or loss of teeth. Plaque can be removed by a veterinary surgeon while the cat is under a general anaesthetic. The formation of plaque is best prevented by brushing their teeth daily with specialist antibacterial toothpaste using a cat toothbrush. Do not use human toothpaste as it contains detergents that are not suitable for your cat to swallow. Ask your vet for advice about the best available products. The use of dry diets or special cat chews can also decrease tartar build up. Cats that hunt and eat their prey will often keep their teeth naturally clean.
In road accidents, if you have to move a cat from a dangerous road, lay a coat or blanket down, insert both hands under the cat and slide him/her onto to coat; pick up the edges of the coat and lower him/her into a large cardboard box or other suitable container and seek veterinary advice. With scalds and burns due to fire, hot fat, boiling water and acid, use plenty of running cold water. This will reduce pain and shock, but do not expect co-operation from your cat! If concerned about minor burns and scalds and , in more serious cases, seek veterinary advice at once. For more information please see our leaflet on First Aid, for your copy please contact us.
A healthy cat has bright, dry eyes, a nose clear of discharge but not dry or cracked, lips free from saliva and glossy, clean fur.
Always consult your vet if you are concerned about your cat's health. Your vet is the expert and is there to help and advise.
Most cats suffer from roundworms at some time in their lives and although you may not see them, it does not mean that they are not present. Six-monthly treatment for roundworms is advisable for adult cats, two-weekly treatment for kittens from one to six months of age.
Tapeworms , if present, will be noticeable, as segments are passed in faeces and can be seen clinging to the cat's trousers. When dry, the segments are cream coloured and resemble small grains of rice. Treatment for all types of worms is available from veterinary surgeries.
Ticks can be removed with tweezers, specialist hook tick removers, or killed by applying an insecticide safe for use on cats. It is important to remove the mouthparts which are embedded in the cats skin. The tweezers or hook must be applied underneath the tick's swollen body and the tick gripped firmly. It is then removed by a twisting action like undoing a screw. Do not pull it straight off as this often leaves the mouthparts embedded and infection can occur. It is normally advisable to kill them using a flea product safe for use on cats and then either remove them or leave them to fall off of their own accord. Coating ticks with Vaseline is a useful hint when dealing with ticks around the face. It blocks the breathing pore and the tick will fall off after a day or two. It has also been recommended to use surgical spirit or methylated spirit which is applied to the tick to aid release of the mouthparts.
Even cats in the best circles may pick up fleas when outside the house. To eliminate fleas, not only the cat must be treated but the whole house - for example skirting boards, carpets, base of curtains and furniture, as well as the cat's bedding. The best products are available from veterinary surgeons and it is worth asking their advice regarding the most suitable anti-flea control for both your pets and the house.
An infected cat or kitten will scratch his ears, shake his head and even damage the skin on his ears and temples. Ear mites live on dead skin, inside the ear. Brown wax will be seen in the outer ear. Your veterinary surgeon will prescribe ear drops and who you how to treat your cat.
For more information on parasites see our leaflet "Cat Parasites", for your copy simply contact us.
Your cat should remain perfectly healthy on the better quality
cat foods, but at your discretion and dependent on your lifestyle,
you could perhaps give a fresh food meal of meat or fish, but not
too often. Both tinned and high-quality complete dried food
give the best balance of minerals, vitamins and other nutrients
and should therefore be the basis of your cat's diet.
However, do not let your cat dictate to you just which brand or
flavour he will eat. Remember, a normal cat will not starve
himself and a faddy cat is made, not born. Present a variety
of brands and flavours, interspersed once or twice a week with a
little fresh food such as boiled fish or chicken, ensuring all
bones are removed, and serve in its own juice, which cats
love. Perhaps once a week, oily fish could be given as this
is very good for the elimination of fur balls. Most cats
also like a softly-boiled egg if they are introduced to it as
kittens but it must be stressed that the egg (and indeed chicken)
must be cooked to eliminate the risk of salmonella
poisoning. Most cats are also partial to a little cheese,
which could be given as a treat. Fresh water should be
available at all times.
Cats like to eat a little grass and, if none is available in a garden, grow a pot of cocksfoot grass in your house. Cocksfoot seed and leaflets about feeding are available from us, simply contact us.
A kitten of eight weeks old should be fed at least four meals a day. The meals should be spread out throughout the day for example 7.00am, 1.00pm, 6.00pm and 10.00pm. If the food is not eaten within ten minutes then it is best to take it away until the next meal time. If tinned food is being used, a fresh supply should be presented each time. Remember kittens are like babies. Good hygiene need to be maintained. It is also possible to allow kittens to graze (having food available all the time) but it is better to use dry kitten food for this type of feeding. Use good quality commercial tinned or dry kitten food. Cat food is not suitable due to the different requirements for energy, protein and other nutrients. Cow's milk will cause diarrhoea in some cats and kittens and is best not given. There are specialised cats' milk powders available through veterinary surgeons if you have to give it to very young kittens. However, if they are eating kitten food this is not necessary. At six months old, if your kitten is well grown, the number of meals may be gradually reduced to two a day, usually given about 12 hours apart.
Cats are great preservers of energy and spend about two-thirds of their lives asleep. Provide a basket or cardboard box, raised from the floor to exclude draughts, and line it with a small blanket. Give a kitten a chance to sleep for a good deal of the day. Remember, he is a young animal, not a toy, and children should be taught to respect him as such and allow him to sleep.
Cats are naturally clean animals but a new kitten needs to be shown what is required. Provide a litter tray, filled with commercial cat litter. Keep it in the same place, easily accessible to the kitten and well away from his food area and make sure it is cleaned regularly. Take the kitten to the tray after meals and on waking up from sleep. If there is access to a garden, introduce him to it gradually and he will soon learn to make his own toilet arrangements.
It is best to hold your cat or kitten with one hand under his chest and with the rest of his weight supported by your other hand. Kittens particularly should be handled gently as their bones are very fragile.
Daily grooming of your cat is advised, especially for long-haired cats. Brushing and combing will remove loose hair, dirt and dust and the occasional flea that he may pick up. Grooming also helps to prevent fur balls, which can be harmful and form in the cat's stomach when her constantly licks loose fur. Daily grooming also ensures time devoted exclusively to your cat, which is important with today's frantic pace of life. Your cat can be forgotten amidst the many other demands on your time.
All cats need exercise to keep your fit. A scratching post is a good investment to protect your furniture but it needs to be tall enough to allow your cat a full stretch. Alternately, you might bring in a log or make a scratching board to help your cat to keep his claws sharpened. This will assist him to flex his muscles and to shed old claw sheaths. Scratching posts also enable the cat to mark his territory as a scent is deposited (undetectable by humans) through his claws. This makes him feel at home and usually stops the need for him to do this on the furniture. Toys, such as table tennis balls, cat mint mice or a cotton reel, are usually acceptable and keep him active.
Fresh air and sunshine are necessary to us all and, if your cat or kitten is confined to a flat without an enclosed balcony, fit a wire frame into onto window to admit air and sunshine without the risk of him falling from a height. It is unsafe to allow cats out on narrow ledges or open roofs several floors above the street. Many animals are injured and killed every year through lunging at a bird or butterfly and missing their footing. It is not true that a cat will always land on his feet.
White cats are very susceptible to the harmful rays of the sun and should be kept out of it as much as possible, especially during the hours when it is most damaging. Sun block (factor 25+) can be used on areas of pink skin. The ear flaps and strip of thin haired skin between the ears and the eyes are particularly vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancers.
Cats should never be shut out at night. Apart from the callousness of picking him up from a warm, comfortable snooze on the hearthrug and putting him out in the cold, there are the risks of road accidents. Most road accidents involving cats take place during the hours of darkness. Keep your cat safely in at night and provide him with a litter tray.
The information given here is just a brief look at some of the topics involved in cat care. We have comprehensive booklets and leaflets available on all aspects of cat welfare, please see our Cat Leaflets page for a list of what is available.