It is wise to take an interest in feline health, but always think about your information source. Remember, there are lots of old wives tales about cat health! If in doubt, ask your vet and never give human medicines to pets.
Simple measures, such as checking for any ear discharge, attending to dental care and feeling for external lumps, are an important part of routine healthcare. Annual health checks, which can be done at vaccination time, are strongly recommended and are particularly important for cats over eight years old. Keep your cat trim and in shape – obesity can reduce life expectancy. Keeping your cat indoors at night can help to reduce the risk of road accidents. Daily grooming is particularly important for long-haired cats to avoid matting but is beneficial to all cats, and provides an opportunity to examine your pet. Start by doing a little at a time, and try to do areas such as the belly, under the tail and around the hindlegs.
Reduce stress – cats can be easily upset by noise, or harassment by other cats or animals. You can help by making sure that your cat has plenty of “retreats”, such as a “one cat sized” shelf up high, or a box to get into. Make sure that other cats cannot enter your home. You can now get cat flaps that can read a microchip and ensure that only the resident cat gains entry. If you have more than one cat, provide several feeding places, water bowls and litter trays. However, you will need to consult your vet about other important healthcare measures for your pet.
Why you should neuter your cat
Too many kittens grow up to be unwanted cats, and there are also health reasons for your cat. Female cats come “on heat” at least every three weeks. During this stage they are restless, may miaow loudly and roll around, appearing to be in pain. Drugs to suppress heat are available but there is a risk of side effects. Recurrent heats may distress your pet, but they can be stopped by spaying. In addition, spaying prevents womb infections later in life and reduces the risk of breast cancer. A cat does not need to have had a litter first. The operation is usually done at around five to six months of age, although it can safely be done younger or older, and can also be performed on cats in early pregnancy.
Male cats should also be neutered at five to six months in order to minimise the risk of contracting the cat form of incurable disease AIDS (FIV) from fighting. Cats that have not been neutered are also more likely to spray in the house (which smells strongly) and behave aggressively.
In both cases the operation is straightforward and your pet will usually return home the same day. Female cats have a patch of hair shaved, either on the flank or the belly.
Recovery is rapid – usually by the next day, although females may have to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent interference with the wound for a few days. See your vet if your kitten seems poorly after the operation. In some breeds (such as Siamese) shaved hair may grow back a darker colour, but this returns to normal in time.