Routine Health Care for Cats
Cats should be vaccinated against potentially fatal diseases, and receive regular preventive treatments for parasites such as fleas and worms. Cats should also be regularly groomed and checked daily for signs of illness.
Vaccination protects your cat against various diseases which can cause pain, distress and often death. Most diseases that affect cats are viral and do not respond well to medication. Where treatments are available, they can be expensive and in some circumstances even prove unsuccessful. For these and other reasons, prevention of diseases through vaccination is strongly advised.
As well as safeguarding your own pet, vaccination also prevents diseases from being passed onto other animals.
Vaccines contain a harmless form of the virus or bacterium that causes a particular disease. They work by stimulating the body's immune system in a safe way. If the cat then actually comes into contact with the disease, the immune system 'remembers' what it did to deal with the vaccine, so can fight the disease. This protects the cat.
Vaccinations are initially given at a number of set intervals, as recommended by your vet. Thereafter, annual booster vaccinations provide protection for the life of your pet.
Kittens should be vaccinated before they mix with other animals. It is essential for their normal development that they are allowed to socialise with other animals while they are very young, so get them vaccinated as soon as possible.
Vaccinations protect against the following common cat diseases:
- Feline Enteritis
- Feline Respiratory Disease (Cat Flu)
- Feline Leukaemia (FeLV)
- Feline AIDS
Parasites – fleas and worms
Cats should be given regular treatments to prevent them from suffering from fleas and worms.
Ask your vet for advice about which worming products to use and how often to use them. Note that worms can also be harmful to cat owners, which is another reason why it's important to prevent them. For more information, see the page on zoonoses – from animals to humans.
Fleas can cause itching, chewing and licking. The skin may become red and inflamed. You might see fleas on your cat, or you might see small dark flecks (flea 'dirt') in the fur and on the skin.
If your cat has fleas it's important to treat the house, your cat and all other pets in the household. Your vet can recommend safe and effective products to use.
Never use a dog flea treatment on cats, as this can be fatal.
All cats need regular grooming, but long-haired cats need more coat care than short-haired cats.
A long-haired cat should be combed and brushed once a day while a cat with short hair will usually only need brushing twice a week. Get a brush and comb that are suited to the hair type of your cat.
Checking for signs of ill health
You should check your cat each day for any signs of illness. These might include the following:
- Sickness or diarrhoea
- Significant weight change (in either direction) over a short period
- Loss of appetite
- Drinking much more or less than normal
- Lack of energy/sleeping more than usual
- Unusual swellings
- Skin conditions
- Unusual bleeding
- Signs of pain, such as sensitivity to touch
- Runny eyes or nose
- Changes in behaviour
If you are worried about the health of your cat, contact your local vet.