A-Z of Cat Care

Cats need:

  •  a safe home
  • food
  • fresh water daily
  • a full and clean kitty litter tray
  • litter scooper
  • love and affection
  • a scratching post
  • toys
  • vaccinations
  • flea and worming treatment and tick treatment if you live in a tick infested area
  • vet care when they are not well
  • cat nip (optional)

That’s the basics of caring for a cat. See below for a few other tips that you may find helpful, listed alphabetically.
If you have a question that is not covered here please email us on foster@savingcats.com.au

A

Arriving home

Cats don’t enjoy change so the aim is to try to make the experience as traumatic-free as possible. We would recommend initially setting up a “safe room”. If you have a quiet room in your house you can set the room up in preparation with a kitty litter tray ready, water bowl, a scratching post, toys, comfortable bedding area and a food dish. The cat can stay initially and adjust to a new environment. To get a cat to like its bed sprinkle a bit of cat nip, also known as cat mint, over or in its bed (you can buy this from a pet shop or grow your own – you can also grow cat grass indoors for your cat to munch on).

This is especially important if you have other pets as introducing new pets should be a very gradual process (see also introductions).

A cat should slowly acclimatise to its new environment and any outdoor visits should be supervised initially. We rescued a stray cat recently that had been reported missing 12 months ago! Its owner had moves house and when they cat went out into the yard it had no idea where its home. Often cats will try to make their way back to the home that they know.

C

Claws

Cats claws are their form of defence against predators so if you have an outdoor cat do not clip its nail.

If you have an indoor cat your cat’s claws can be clipped and this is best carried out by a vet or groomer because during clipping you must avoid the quick. If you do wants to clip your cat’s nail then follow the advice in this link http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/ClientED/cat_claws.aspx

A cat scratching post is recommended to save any scratching on furniture.

E

Enclosures

Outdoor enclosures for cats — also known as “catios” — are a great way to let your cats enjoy the outdoors, without exposing them to the potential dangers they would face if allowed to roam freely. Catios range from small enclosures to elaborate screened-in rooms.

Businesses specialise in building cat enclosures but a handyman may do a great job. Professional enclosure creators use mesh that can’t be chewed through by cats.

Enclosure Friendly Plants

Cats will love access to some fresh grasses, plants and herbs. Safe suggestions include:

Grasses and Plants

  • Catnip
  • Centaurea Cyannus
  • Cornflower aka Bachelor’s Buttons
  • Impatiens
  • Mood Orchid
  • Petunias
  • Spider plant
  • Zinnias

Herbs

  • Basil
  • Dill
  • Parsley

F

Fleas

Fleas are the most common external parasite to plague companion animals. They are wingless insects that feed on blood, can jump up to two feet high and make a very comfortable home in your pet’s fur. They can live for as few as 13 days or as long as 12 months—and during that time, can produce millions of offspring. Though there are many species of fleas, the one that most often affects both dogs and cats in North America is the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis.

The best way to tackle the problem is to consult your veterinarian for a flea control program designed specifically for your cat and your cat’s environment—one that treats fleas in all stages of life. There are increasingly effective flea control products available both as prescription and over-the-counter formulas. These formulas often require just one monthly application to the skin to effectively kill adult fleas and prevent egg development. Some of these products are Frontline®, Advantage® or Revolution®. We suggest avoiding the supermarket variety which tend to be less effective.

Food

Kittens need to be fed three times a day and as they get older cats should be fed twice a day (morning and night).

Vets will suggest a quality dry biscuit is all that is required to provide all the nutrients they need. These can be expensive but they are well-balanced.

If your budget is limited you can buy tinned cat food from the supermarket (avoid the really cheap stuff as it is often filled with rubbish).

You can feed your cat  …

See also Recipes.

H

Hazardous Foods and Plants for Cats

Many cats are picky eaters, so they’re less likely than dogs to be attracted to certain human foods. Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware that some foods can be dangerous to cats.

POISENOUS FOODS

Alcoholic Beverages These can cause intoxication, coma, and death.

Baby Food Containing Onion Powder Onions are toxic to cats. If you feed your cat baby food, read the label and make sure it does not contain onion powder. A steady baby food diet will result in nutritional deficiencies in your cat, so save it for treats, or to stimulate appetites in cats that are old or ill.

Bones From Fish, Poultry, Or Other Meat Sources: These can cause obstruction or laceration of the digestive system.

Canned Tuna (For Human Consumption) Fed regularly, it can cause malnutrition, since it lacks proper feline nutrients, including taurine. Also, it can contain mercury, which can be detrimental to your cat’s health over time.

Caffeine (From Chocolate, Coffee, Or Tea) – Caffeine can affect the heart and nervous system and can be toxic.

Chocolate In addition to caffeine, chocolate contains theobromine, a compound that is toxic to pets. Theobromine is also present in cocoa bean mulch.

Citrus Oil Extracts Can cause vomiting.

Dog Food Accidental ingestion of dog food won’t cause a problem. Repeated feeding may result in malnutrition and heart disease.

Fat Trimmings: Can cause pancreatitis and contribute to obesity.

Grapes and Raisins Contain an unknown toxin which damages the kidneys.

Human Vitamin Supplements Containing Iron Can damage the lining of the digestive system and be toxic to the other organs including the liver and kidneys.

Large Amounts Of Liver Can cause Vitamin A toxicity, which affects muscles and bones.

Macadamia Nuts Contain an unknown toxin which can affect the digestive and nervous systems.

Marijuana Can depress the nervous system and cause vomiting and heart rate changes.

Milk And Other Dairy Products Some adult cats do not have sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose in milk. This can result in diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset.

Mushrooms Some contain toxins that affect multiple systems in the body, cause shock, and result in death.

Onions And Garlic (Raw, Cooked, Or Powder) These contain sulfoxides and disulfides, which can damage red blood cells and cause anemia. Cats are more susceptible than dogs.

Persimmons Persimmon seeds can cause intestinal obstruction and enteritis.

Potato, Rhubarb And Tomato Leaves And Stems, Green Tomatoes Or Potatoes These foods are members of the family of plants which includes the Deadly Nightshade, and contain the poisonous alkaloid Glycoalkaloid Solanine, which can cause violent lower gastrointestinal problems.

Raw Eggs Contain the enzyme avidin, which decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin). This can lead to skin and hair coat problems. Raw eggs may contain Salmonella.

Raw Fish Can result in a thiamine deficiency leading to loss of appetite, seizures, and death.

Salt If eaten in large quantities it may lead to electrolyte imbalances.

Sugar-Laden Foods Can lead to obesity, dental problems, and diabetes mellitus.

Tobacco Ingesting nicotine can result in rapid heart beat, collapse, coma, and death.

Yeast Dough Can expand and produce gas in the digestive system, causing pain and rupture of the stomach or intestines.

String Although it’s not a food, string and objects like tinsel, thread, dental floss and rubber bands are often swallowed by cats, requiring emergency treatment. If you see a piece of string or tinsel in your cat’s anus, don’t pull it out! You could cause serious harm to the gastrointestinal tract. Take your cat to the vet immediately.

POISENOUS PLANTS

If you do nothing more than ban Lilies and Poinsettias from your house, you’ll be much closer to preventing your cat from plant poisoning. These two seasonal plants are common holiday additions to many households, but should be banned permanently from homes with pets.

Here’s a list of plants that are toxic to cats and the symptoms of poisoning:

AmaryllisVomiting and diarrhea

Azalea Incoordination, trembling, collapse

Cactus Punctures skin which can become infected

Caladium Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shaking head, difficulty breathing

Creeping Charlies Vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, cramps

Dieffenbachia Central nervous system problems

Ivy Vomiting, diarrhoea, excitable behaviour

Lilies Kidney failure

Mistletoe Vomiting, diarrhea, blistering in the mouth, difficulty breathing

Philodendron Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shaking head, difficulty breathing

Poinsettia Vomiting, diarrhea, blistering in the mouth, difficulty breathing

Contact you vet ASAP is you suspect poisoning has occurred.

Hair

People can complain about cat hair. As nearly anyone who has cats can tell you, cat hair is a nuisance. It sticks to carpets and fabrics and vacuuming doesn’t always get rid of it all. If you have cats hair also floats, settling down onto just about everything you own.

If you brush your cat regularly – and you should – you will notice that sometimes it produces very little hair, and other times it produces handfuls. You are simply witnessing changes in the rate of shedding. Using the right tools, daily or weekly brushing can detangle mats, remove dead undercoat, lift away excess dander, and add shine

Remember that your cat’s coat is a reflection of what she eats. You’ll be surprised what a difference you’ll see if you insist on feeding your cat a premium brand food. Nutrition rich foods containing Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids that help soften skin and reduce excess shedding.

I

Introductions to other pets

This needs to be a slow and gradual process.

If you have dogs make sure they are cat friendly before you introduce a cat or kitten as their instinct may be to hurt or kill them.

K

Kitty Litter 

We encourage cat owners to keep their cats indoors but of course the decision is yours.

Cats are very clean animals and like to dig in kitty litter or dirt to do their business. They will then cover it over. It would be wise to scoop the litter pan twice daily. Otherwise, the house will smell bad.

If you have an indoor dog it will be interested in your cats litter box! Make sure it is in a place where it would be out of the reach of babies, young children, and other animals like dogs.

Pilling

There are three ways to get your cat to take a pill.  The first is to try and hide it in food or a treat.  But, most cats are too smart for that.  The second is to use your fingers to place the pill in your cats mouth and then close their mouth to get them to swallow.  Easier said than done.  The third involves using a pill popper, which you can generally obtain at All Feline or most major pet stores.  This minimizes your risk of getting bitten and it gets the pill farther back in the throat, but the pill can still be spit out or regurgitated by many cats.  So, keep reading for more detail about each method, and if you try everything and the pills are just not going down, don’t give up, call us, and we can discuss alternative ways of medicating your cats that do not involve pills.

R

Recipes

Check out some recipes so you can make your own cat food and treats. http://catrecipes.com/

S

Scratching Post

If cats don’t have a scratching post they might resort to your sofa! If you don’t want to buy one, try using a cardboard box (they love cardboard boxes).

T

Teeth

Try to encourage your cat to eat chicken necks or wings which are safe and clean the cat’s teeth. If this doesn’t work cat’s can clean their teeth chewing grass or by chewing raw bones (never give your cat cooked bones). Here is a link on the top 10 tips to keep your cat’s teeth clean. http://www.petmd.com/cat/slideshows/grooming/top-ten-tips-on-how-to-keep-your-cats-teeth-clean

Ticks

Tick Paralysis is the single greatest risk to the life of your cat if you live in a known tick area.

Paralysis Ticks (Ixodes holocyclus) are external parasites that suck the blood from their host animal and it’s their salivary glands that produce the toxin that affects the nervous system of the host. They bury their mouth parts with backward pointing barbs into the host, making removal difficult and leaving a deep characteristic “crater” at the bite site.

Once paralysis occurs, the animal can easily die unless it is treated quickly with anti-tick serum injected by a vet. Once the paralysis tick is removed or killed, you can expect your pet to deteriorate for at least 24 hours while the toxin in the saliva at the bite diffuses into its system. After administration of the anti-tick serum there is a delay of 6-8 hours before it starts to work. It still takes 48 hours for the toxin to be removed, so your pet can continue to deteriorate during this time. Full recovery can take up to 3 weeks, especially the subclinical effects on your pet’s heart. Death is usually due to respiratoty paralysis, respiratory exhaustion or pulmonary oedema caused by the failing heart. Paralysis ticks can lead to an animal requiring a tracheotomy, oxygen therapy and even ventilation, and sadly some victims of these ticks do not recover.

V

Vaccinations

We recommend kittens receive their first vaccination at eight weeks of age. This is temporary and needs to be followed up with another one at 12 weeks. In some cases a 16 week vaccine may be required. A kitten can safely go outside ten days after the final vaccination. To maintain immunity, all adult cats require annual boosters.

Vaccinations cover

  • Feline Leukaemia Virus – by attacking the immune system this virus makes cats more susceptible to infection and illness as well as prone to developing certain cancers. Symptoms are non-specific including weight loss, lethargy, and poor health. A blood test can detect if a cat is infected, however there is no treatment for this fatal virus.
  • Feline Enteritis – Onset of this disease is very rapid and can often be fatal. Symptoms include high temperature, loss of appetite, depression, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Chlamydophila –  previously known as Chlamydia, primarily causes conjunctivitis in young kittens aged 5-9 months.
  • Feline Respiratory Disease – also known as the ‘cat flu’, causes sneezing, coughing, eye and nose discharge, loss of appetite and sometimes ulcers on the tongue. This can lead to severe dehydration and debilitation which can be fatal.
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) – This blood borne viral infection causes Feline AIDS which is potentially fatal. Vaccination is available and will be recommended by our veterinarians if your cat is considered to be at risk. The virus interferes with the immune system, and initial symptoms such as fever, sores, lesions and diarrhoea progress to severe chronic infections as the immune system is overcome. There is no treatment or cure for the virus itself.

Vets

Yes. Just as with humans, animals need to have preventive health care to keep them healthy and happy. Cats age differently to humans, so it is important for them to have a check up at least once a year. This is the same as us only visiting the doctor every five years or so.

Visiting your vet once a year means that they can check your pet for early signs of disease, make sure their teeth, skin, eyes and ears are healthy, update life-saving vaccinations and keep an eye out for problems as your pet gets older.

W

Water

Cats need fresh water all the time and can get dehydrated easily. Make sure to provide a fresh bowl of water everyday.

Worms

Many domestic cats, whether they live inside or outdoors, are prone to getting intestinal parasites, also known as worms. The three most common types of worms seen in cats are tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms.

Kittens can contract worms through their mother or other kittens in a litter. Grown cats can contract worms by ingesting feces, or by coming in contact with mice or other rodents that host intestinal parasites.

Although many cats will not display symptoms of these parasites, there are ways to check your feline to determine if worms are present so you can seek veterinary treatment. Some flea treatments kill worms as well but not the three types of worms mentioned. You can buy inexpensive worming tablets from your vet which cover three types of worms. You will need to know the weight of your kitten and can so proper dosage is given.

V

Vets