As a cat owner, looking after the health and wellbeing of your cat is your greatest responsibility. Just like with humans, it is best to practice good preventative healthcare. Appropriate vaccinations, good nutrition, mental stimulation and an annual visit to the vet will help your cat stay healthy and happy.
Vaccinations and parasite treatment
Regular parasite treatment and keeping vaccinations up to date are an important part of routine health care and will keep your cat protected throughout its life.
Vaccinations for cats can be divided into two groups: core vaccinations and optional vaccinations. The core vaccinations are required by all cats no matter their age, habits or the environment in which they live. Core vaccines protect against commonly occurring life-threatening diseases that have a global distribution. Optional vaccinations are required based on the likelihood of a particular cat contracting the disease. This is inﬂuenced by the lifestyle of the cat, the environment and the geographic location of where they live.
In Australia, it is recommended that cats receive a core vaccination (F3), which protects against three common diseases: feline panleukopenia, feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus. This core vaccination can be received as a course for kittens as well as previously unvaccinated adult cats.
All vaccines require regular boosters to ensure continued protection. Your veterinarian can inform you how often booster shots are required.
Cats are strict carnivores and require a well-balanced diet to stay healthy. Do not feed your cat dog food or a vegetarian diet as these lack essential nutrients. A balance of wet and dry food is recommended, as wet food will assist in adequate hydration and dry food is good for oral health. Dry food is also suitable to put in feeding puzzles which stimulate the natural feeding behaviour of cats, provides entertainment, and helps prevent obesity.
Cats prefer to eat 4-5 small meals during the day/night as this mimics their natural hunting pattern. Regular smaller meals will also help prevent urinary tract problems. Always have fresh water available for your cat to drink.
The amount of food your cat requires will depend on their age, size and activity level. You should be careful not to overfeed or underfeed and your vet can help you determine the best diet based on your cat’s circumstances.
Some cats can become fussy eaters if they are fed the same type of food over a long period and they could miss out on essential nutrients. Consider offering variety, including new and different foods.
Some human foods can be toxic for cats. Do not feed your cat any of the following: alcohol, onions, garlic, chocolate, coffee or caffeine products, avocado, bread dough, grapes, sultanas (including in Christmas cakes etc), nuts, fruit stones or ‘pits’ (e.g. mango seeds, apricot stones), fruit seeds, corncobs, tomatoes or mushrooms. Note: This list does not include every substance that is toxic to cats and it is recommended that you ask your vet for a complete list.
Grooming your cat has many benefits. It will remove loose hairs and prevent the occurrence of hairballs, promote a healthy and shiny coat, prevent the fur from matting, and it will strengthen the bond between you and your cat.
Grooming should be an enjoyable experience for your cat. Start the grooming session when your cat is relaxed and keep the sessions short while your cat is getting used to them. Short-haired cats will only need grooming once a week, while medium and long-haired cats will require grooming every few days to prevent their coat from matting.
During grooming you can carry out a basic examination of your cat’s general health. While your cat is relaxed you can inspect their body for any injuries, parasites or bald spots, examine the nose, ears and eyes for any build up, and carefully open the mouth to check the teeth.
These regular health checks and any changes in behaviour or appetite can give you an early warning that your cat might have an illness. An annual visit to the veterinarian is also recommended to keep your cat in the best physical shape possible.
Cats make amazing companions, however over the course of their lives, and as circumstances change, your cat may develop some behaviours that need to be managed. It can be disheartening and overwhelming, but that’s not to say those problems can’t be solved.
The first step is to figure out what is causing the change in behaviour. Cats can change their behaviour for a number of reasons such as illness, lack of basic provisions, boredom or a change in their environment. Firstly, rule out any medical issues with a trip to the vet. Cats can’t tell us if they are experiencing any pain and acting out can be their way to alert us.
Once any medical issues have been ruled out it is time to consider other causes. We have created a booklet about the five most common behavioural issues in cats and how to solve them. If your cat is scratching the furniture, inappropriately toileting, aggressive towards you or another cat, meowing excessively or surfing the countertops, this booklet will provide you with some handy tips so you can try to solve these problems.
If you have ruled out medical issues and tried the suggested tips in the booklet, and your cat is still exhibiting behavioural issues, you could consider contacting a professional animal behaviour consultant for more help.