What you need to know about your cat

What you need to know about your cat 39724_Species Booklet_Cats v10.indd 1 24/06/2015 12:36 Do you know the five key things your cat needs to lead...
Author: Mae Heath
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What you need to know about your cat

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Do you know the five key things your cat needs to lead a healthy and happy life? They’re called the five animal welfare needs and the law requires you to provide these for all your pets. These five animal welfare needs are: Environment

Give them a safe, suitable place to live



Feed them the right food for their age, health and lifestyle


Cats are naturally solitary animals and usually prefer to live apart from other cats


Keep your pet in good health and seek vet advice if they’re ill or injured

Allow them to show normal behaviour patterns

This booklet’s full of advice and top tips to help you keep your cat healthy and happy.

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ENVIRONMENT Cats need somewhere comfortable to sleep and rest undisturbed. You should give them constant access to safe hiding places. Cats often feel most secure when they’re high up, so they should be given access to resting places on top of furniture, such as cupboards or shelves. Each cat should have their own food and water bowl, litter tray, cat bed, hiding place, and scratching post. Locate them around your home, so, if you’ve more than one cat, they can choose to avoid each other. You should always provide a spare, so if you’ve two cats, provide three of everything. Cats should be able to exercise every day, which is important for their mental and physical health. If your cat has

limited access to the outside there are many toys available that you can use to encourage your cat to play indoors. Did you know there are many plants that are harmful to cats? A few of the more common ones are: daffodil bulbs, lilies, amaryllis, ivy, hydrangea and foxglove. You can find out more about toxic plants and your cat at pdsa.org.uk/poisonsandhazards


4 Do you have enough litter trays, beds, food and water bowls for each cat plus one extra?

4 Have you spaced these items around the house to reduce competition between cats?

4 Have you provided safe, high- up hiding and resting places?

4 Does your cat have the opportunity to exercise daily, through a variety of activities, such as cat toys and games?

4 Have you checked what plants your cat has access to both indoors and outdoors?

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4 Ask your vet for advice on the correct body shape and weight for your cat. Cats need a complete balanced diet to ensure they receive the correct balance of nutrients. You should feed them based on their age, weight, body shape and health. Most feeding guides are based on an average-sized cat that is moderately active, so, if you’ve a less active cat you need to feed less, compared to one that’s on the move more of the time. Cats of different ages have different nutritional requirements. One of the best ways of ensuring your cat has the right nutrients is to feed it by its ‘life stage’. This means feeding it a different diet when it’s a kitten, adult or senior cat – e.g. kittens need more calories because they’ve so much growing to do.

4 Check your cat is on the correct diet for its age and lifestyle. Cut out treats.

4 Feed a complete, balanced diet; follow packet guidelines and adjust as necessary based on your cat’s weight and body shape.

Cats don’t need treats as part of their diets, however if you do choose to give them the occasional treat you should reduce the amount of food in their main meal accordingly. If your cat is overweight this can lead to health problems such as diabetes. Being overweight will also affect their quality of life and shorten their life expectancy. Did you know cats can’t be vegetarian? They are true carnivores, which means that to stay healthy they’ve to eat certain nutrients that are only found in meat or commercial cat food.

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BEHAVIOUR Cats need to be socialised from a young age, which means gradually introducing them to everyday sights and sounds, and different people. This is one of the most important things for a young kitten to experience. Cats require plenty of opportunity to play and exercise every day. This is especially important for cats with limited outdoor access as it reduces stress and can also reduce the risk of obesity. It keeps them mentally stimulated as well. A cat’s natural instinct is to hunt, so toys that allow them to ‘pounce on’ and ‘kill’ their prey are ideal. Toys like laser pens can leave a cat frustrated as they can’t finish the play with a ‘kill’. If you’re going to use a laser pen, aim it at a toy they can bite and ‘kill’ so they can fully express their natural behaviour.


Using a treat ball filled with your cat’s dry food can be a good way to encourage exercise before feeding. If your cat displays inappropriate behaviour, don’t punish it. Get them checked by your vet, as several medical conditions can cause behaviour changes. Check their environment is suitable for them to be able to display natural behaviour adequately. If you’re still experiencing problems speak to your vet, who may refer you to an accredited behaviour counsellor. You can find local accredited pet behaviour counsellors at the following websites: apbc.org.uk or abtc.org.uk Having your male cat neutered will make him less likely to roam or spray urine in the house. Having your female cat spayed will stop her from ‘calling’ for a mate whenever she’s in season, which can be frustrating for her.

4 Seek professional advice for any problem behaviours. Remember, poor advice from unqualified people may make things worse.

4 Play with your cat using a variety of toys to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.

4 Get your cat neutered to help prevent some problem behaviours.

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COMPANIONSHIP Cats are generally solitary creatures, preferring their own company to that of others. It can be difficult and stressful to introduce a new cat to a household with an existing cat and they may never get on well together. Being forced to live with other unrelated cats is a common cause of chronic stress CHECKLIST and can cause stress-related illnesses such as cystitis. If you’ve more than 4 If you’ve several cats make one cat, make sure you’ve adequate sure they each have places to hiding places so they can get away hide away from each other. from each other if they want to. 4 Think twice before introducing a new cat; cats generally prefer to live alone.

4 Ensure your cat gets appropriate care and attention when you’re on holiday, preferably from a trusted neighbour or a family member coming to your house.

Don’t forget about your cat when planning a holiday; ideally you’ll find somebody trusted who can come into your home to feed the cat so their routine is disturbed as little as possible. Did you know if you do want two cats you are better getting litter mates at the same time, as they’re more likely to get on with each other? But remember the more cats you have the more space and money you need for their requirements and care.

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HEALTH Vaccinations Vaccinations give protection for your cat and peace of mind for you. They protect your cat against diseases which can cause pain, distress and are often fatal. They also prevent diseases from being passed onto other animals.

Your cat should receive a primary vaccination course early in life, followed by ‘booster’ vaccinations throughout their life. The primary vaccination course for cats varies with the type of vaccine used. The first vaccine can sometimes be given as young as eight to nine weeks of age, with the second usually given two to four weeks later. Booster vaccinations are needed as the body’s immune response gradually fades over time. They’re often given every year, depending on the vaccine. Ask your vet when it’s best to vaccinate your cat.

How do vaccines protect your cat? Vaccines contain a harmless form of the virus or bacterium that causes a particular disease. They stimulate your cat’s immune system in a safe way. If your cat then comes into contact with the disease for real, its immune system ‘remembers’ how it dealt with the vaccine, so it can fight the disease. Which diseases do vaccines protect against? • Cat flu • Feline chlamydia • Feline infectious enteritis • Feline leukaemia virus.

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What is neutering? Neutering is an operation carried out by a vet. In male animals, the testicles are removed – this is called ‘castration’. In female animals, the ovaries and the uterus (womb) are removed – this is called ‘spaying’.

Why do it? Neutering stops cats from having unwanted kittens and, in female cats, prevents certain illnesses, such as cancer of the ovaries or womb, or pyometra (an infection of the womb which can be fatal). Neutering can make male cats less likely to fight; this can then reduce their chances of getting feline AIDS (FIV), which is spread by bites and scratches. Neutered male cats are also less likely to wander off, which can reduce their chances of getting hit by a car, and they’re less likely to spray urine in the house.


4 Ensure your cat is registered with a vet.

4 Ask your vet about neutering your kitten at four months old.

4 Older cats can also be safely

Did you know neutering should usually be done at four months of age and your female cat doesn’t need to have a litter before she is spayed? There are hundreds of thousands of unwanted animals in need of homes. Neutering stops your pet from accidentally adding to this problem by preventing unwanted litters.

neutered – consider the many health benefits of getting this done.

4 Keep your cats indoors until they’ve been neutered.

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Preventing parasites – fleas, ticks and worms How do I know if my cat’s got fleas, ticks or worms? Signs include: • Fur loss • Inflamed (reddened) skin • Scratching, biting or licking more than normal • Pot-bellied appearance • Vomiting and diarrhoea. My cat’s showing some of these signs – what should I do? • Take your cat to see your vet. • If your cat has fleas it’s important to treat your home, your cat and any other dogs and cats you own. Ask your vet to recommend safe and effective products to use.

4 Check when you last treated your cat for fleas, ticks and worms and seek advice from your vet about suitable and safe treatments.

4 Never apply a flea treatment meant for a dog to your cat.

4 Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and never exceed the recommended dose.

Did you know, every year vets see cats that have been accidentally poisoned by their owners using a flea treatment meant for dogs? Sadly, in some cases, this can prove fatal.

Cats should be regularly treated for fleas and worms – speak to your vet or vet nurse for further advice. Preventive parasite treatments include sprays, tablets, injections and ‘spot-on’ preparations. Treatments available ‘over the counter’ (for example, from pet shops and supermarkets) may not be as effective as those available from your vet – so bear this in mind if you want your pet to be properly protected.

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Microchipping Many pets go missing every year and, sadly, many are never reunited with their owners. But there’s a simple solution. Identifying your cat with a microchip gives a greater chance of being reunited with your cat should they get lost. A microchip is a harmless radio chip about the size of a grain of rice and is injected under the skin of your cat in the same way as a routine vaccination. Speak to your vet or vet nurse for further advice on getting your cat microchipped.

Dental care Looking after your cats’ teeth is just as important as looking after our own. Regular tooth brushing from kittenhood, using pet toothpaste, is the best way to keep their teeth clean and healthy. For a demonstration on how to brush your cat’s teeth, visit pdsa.org.uk/ pethealthvideos


4 Is your cat microchipped?

There are specially designed foods, toys and chews available to help keep your cats’ teeth clean. While these can help, regular tooth brushing is the best way to keep their teeth clean and healthy.

4 Are your contact details up to date with the database for your cat’s microchip?

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Pet insurance At PDSA we recommend you take out pet insurance to ensure you’re able to cover unplanned vet bills should the worst happen. You might have thought about routine costs, such as vaccinations. But out-ofthe-ordinary expenses can easily happen. Costs can rise rapidly, especially if your cat needs to stay in the Pet Hospital. Shop around for the best policy for you. There are plenty of good options available, including PDSA’s own Pet Insurance. 

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For more information on the five animal welfare needs or further advice on looking after your cat, visit: pdsa.org.uk/cats

pdsa.org.uk Registered charity nos. 208217 & SC037585 © The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals 05/15

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