As a follow-up to my post on dogs, here is an overview of the routine treatments typically recommended for cats.
Cats are first vaccinated between 8 and 10 weeks old, with a booster at 12 months and an annual booster each year after that. This vaccination protects against:
- Feline infectious enteritis (aka distemper or panleukopaenia)
- Feline herpes virus (aka viral rhintracheitis), a cause of cat flu.
- Feline calicivirus, another cause of cat flu.
- Feline leukaemia virus.
You may have heard of FIV or “cat HIV”, properly called Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. FIV affects around 4% of cats in the UK. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or reliable treatment but many FIV-positive cats do live normal lives: you can find out more in this Cats’ Protection information booklet.
Roundworms and tapeworms can both affect cats, who will need antihelmetic preparations to avoid parasite infestation. Worming products can usually be administered by the owner without veterinary help as a tablet, paste or spot-on treatment, although some can be given via injection. Due to the wide range of products with varying efficacy and the different combinations of parasites they target it’s best to get advice from your vet during annual check-ups on which product to choose, even if you give it to your pet at home.
International Cat Care suggests treating kittens from when they are 6 weeks old until 16 weeks old with fortnightly roundworm protection. In adult cats treatment is usually required every 2-3 months with a product effective against both tapeworms and roundworms. This may vary for particular drugs or cats however, so once again veterinary advice is very useful.
Fleas can not only infest your cat but also your home, using soft furnishings and carpets as part of their life cycle. Again there are several types of treatment including powders, spot-on applications, collars, tablets and sprays. Collars and powders are often considered less effective whilst spot-on treatments can vary widely in quality. Some products target the entire lifecycle of the flea and others only interrupt it. As you can choosing a flea treatment or wormer gets complicated quickly and to state the obvious: ask your vet for help!
You may also need to treat your home for fleas if they have moved in to breed. Vets can supply products to help with this and these can be effective for many months. However, if you have outdoor pets there is always the possibility they will bring more fleas home.
It is highly recommended to microchip your cat. Although the law only covers microchipping of dogs and horses, it is arguably just as important for cats so that lost pets can be reunited with their owners. Even house cats could go missing if they escaped or accidentally got outside.
Most vets also recommend neutering cats (and dogs) to avoid unwanted pregnancies and territorial behaviour such as scent spraying in tom cats. Although the idea of having your own kittens is lovely, there are far too many cats without forever homes waiting in shelters. Neutering prevents any more joining them and if you desperately need a kitten fix, you can always foster or volunteer to care for some! The RSPCA have a leaflet about the “cat crisis” any why neutering is so important at the bottom of this page.
Declawing is sometimes brought up in terms of cat care and is not recommended by good vets; in fact, it’s been illegal in the UK for the past decade. It may sound innocuous but it involves the removal of both the claws and the bones they attach to (the distal phalanges) via a process called onychectomy – essentially amputating the tip of the cat’s toes. Besides being a painful procedure it also prevents cats from carrying our natural behaviours such as scratching, climbing and self-defence. You can find out more at declawing.com.
The RSPCA have published a poster on the most common health problems in cats, which can help owners learn about which symptoms to watch out for. Annual check-ups with the vet can help to identify any problems and of course if you have any concerns about your cat, a check-up at the vets is always a good idea.
Common cat illnesses – An infographic funded by the RSPCA
Thanks for reading and please check back next week!
***Please note I am not a vet and this post does not constitute veterinary advice, merely a summary of my reading and work experience.***