Cats

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Choosing a Kitten

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Vaccination

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Toilet Training you Cat

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Neuter and Spey

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Nutrition Cat

 

Choosing a Kitten

 

Cats are essentially different to dogs in that though very sociable, they often prefer time off alone. There is the misconception that cats are totally aloof and independent of companionship, whether of other animals or humans. Most cats love to give off that impression, and we all know of a cat or two whose only response to your call is to stare off into the distance, then very deliberately walk away. But do not let that deceive you.

Cats love companionship, and love a pat and cuddle, and even talking to! Of course the way they express their need for company is shown very differently from that of a dog, and often only on their terms. Most cats I know detest being suddenly yanked off the floor and smothered in arms, faces and bodies and retaliate by dragging those needle-sharp claws on any and every part they can reach!

So understanding how a cat expresses its love can help you as its owner to love it according to its need, and thus save yourself a clawing or two.

A lot of people are allergic to cats so make sure you check with the whole family, or person that you might be purchasing or adopting a cat for.

Guidelines to Choosing a Kitten/Cat

1. A kitten needs its mother and her milk for at least 6-8 weeks, therefore you must make sure your kitten is no less than 6-8 weeks old before purchasing it. Some unscrupulous people can try to pass it off as being of age, but always check with a veterinary professional if you are unsure.

Be suspicious if you notice that the kitten/s are very small, have their eyes still closed, or do not have teeth yet. Most kittens will start exploring their environment and playing with their littermates by the time they are 6 weeks old. So beware of the ones that are still very clumsy and appear to have not found their feet.

2. Observe a litter or collection of kittens from a distance, so they don’t notice you. You will notice that some are playing by themselves, or with each other; some others will be sitting by themselves; others perhaps sleeping or eating.

As they move around the enclosure, observe how they interact with each other. Do they swipe playfully at each other as they pass by, do they show any aggression when sharing the same water or food bowl? Are they grooming themselves or each other? These are all tell-tale signs that indicate the personality and character of each individual.

Beware of the ones that refuse to share a bowl or toy with another kitten, and who take play-fighting a little too far. You can tell that when the other kitten retreats quickly with a fearful meow. These can turn out to be bullies when they grow up, so do not choose these types of characters unless you are willing to put in the time to train and tame them. Also be careful when introducing these types of kittens into a multi-cat or animal home, or a home with small children.

3. Now stand close enough to the enclosure so that the kittens see you. Notice which ones stop their own activity to come and investigate. The ones that totally ignore you are probably not people-cats, meaning cats who love people as their companions. The ones who come up to you and are curious, enjoy a good pat and ask for more will most likely make a good companion.

4. Head to Toe
- Examine the kitten’s face. Make sure the eyes and nostrils are clean, ie there isn’t any excessive discharge. The eyes are bright and attentive. Gently open it’s mouth and visualize the hard palate (roof of the mouth), making sure it is solid with no fissure or gap. Depending how old your kitten is when being inspected, there should be several teeth present and they should be well aligned and the gums a rosy pink.

- Examine it’s ears, making sure you can see the canals on either side, and that there are no strange growths or abnormalities.

- Gently but firmly run your hands down the kitten’s neck, shoulders, back and rump, checking to see that there are no sore spots. Also run your hands up against the grain of the fur to check the skin, making sure there are no red spots, or dry scaly lesions that may indicate ectoparasitic or fungal infections.

- Visualise the anal region, and check to see that you can see the anus as some kittens can be born without one. Also check the genitalia to see that it appears normal, and is present.

- Lift each foot up and check to see that there are no raw patches, or scaly lesions on its feet, and in between its toes, which again may indicate the presence of external parasites such as mites or fleas, or fungal dermatitis.

If you’re happy with all you’ve seen, then you’re well on your way to owning a happy, healthy and loving pet.

Getting along with the other pet

It can be almost impossible to predict whether your current pet at home, be it a dog or cat, will get along with your new one. There have been stories told of old pets that have been written off as being totally anti-social, grumpy and territorial, warming up and embracing a new animal into its home.

And there are stories where the most perfect little angel in your current dog or cat, turns absolutely demonic when the new animal is introduced.

However, through personal observation, the female animal almost always manages to subdue the male, be it young or old, new or current. Funny how the animal kingdom is so consistent in that aspect.

Therefore, if you are intending to introduce a new animal into your home, discuss this with an animal behaviourist or veterinarian first and they will be able to give you tips on how to prepare your current animal for the ‘intrusion’.

Whatever you do, make sure you are always there to supervise in the first week or two, and always make the introduction slowly, preferably in neutral territory e.g. someone else’s home or the vet centre. Also be prepared to intervene less either animal gets too aggressive, but always make sure you protect yourself, and do not put yourself in the line of fire.

Also familiarize yourself with how animals relate to and get to know one another. Often a couple of hisses and swipes are normal, and are just how cats talk to each other, and establish contact.

True Pet Ownership

Many cats that are abandoned are cats that come from owners who did not make the effort to understand the relationship required between a cat and his owner/s, and who have lacked the proper knowledge in acquiring an appropriate pet that they can handle.

With some effort, you can prevent yourself from falling into this category, and harming an animal’s life in the process.

Any pet is a living creature and deserves the best care and attention, and we need to understand and grasp the severity of adopting an animal into our care. Animals cannot tell us what they need, and therefore it takes a very committed, conscientious and caring owner to decipher their needs and meet them. If you feel you or the person you may be purchasing the animal for is not ready for such a high commitment, it would be wiser to hold off on the acquisition till you have thought this through thoroughly.

And if this is something you truly wish to experience to the fullest, learning to care for and love another being, then congratulations on finding your newest family member! It’s all fun from here!  

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Cat Vaccination

 

Vaccinations

  • Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus)
  • Feline panleukopaenia (parvovirus)
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (Feline AIDS)
  • Feline Leukaemia Virus
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus (coronavirus)

Kittens:

First vaccination should be given at 10-12 weeks, and then at 14-16 weeks of age. 2 shots of FVRCP at 4 week intervals.

Adults:

Non-vaccinated adults should be given 2 F4 injections 3-4 weeks apart, then booster vaccinations are to be given no less than 2 years apart.

Those with a vaccination history are given booster vaccination shots annually.

FELINE UPPER RESPIRATORY INFECTION (FURI) aka Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis

What causes it?

Feline herpesvirus (FHV) and feline calicivirus causes up to 90% of feline upper respiratory infections. Other pathogens include Bordetella bronchiseptica, Chlamydophila felis and Mycoplasmas.

How can my cat catch it?

FURI is spread through contact with actively infected cats, carrier cats and fomites. The most likely to be affected are the young, immunosuppressed and stressed.

How can I tell if my cat has it?

Fever, sneezing, clear or purulent discharge from nostrils, conjunctivitis, discharge from eyes, excess salivation, coughing, poor appetite and dehydration.

Ulceration in the mouth and eyes can sometimes be seen too.

How do we treat it?

Disease is mostly self-limiting, however can progress into bacterial pneumonia. Therefore supportive and anti-infective therapy is recommended.

Prevention by vaccination is the best option for FHV and FCV. The efficacy of vaccines against Bordetella and chlamydia however, is less predictable.

FELINE PANLEUKOPAENIA (feline parvovirus)

What causes it?

This is caused by a parvovirus that is different from the one that causes a similar disease in dogs.

How can my cat catch it?

A cat can be infected by ingesting food or water contaminated with faeces from an infected cat.

How can I tell if my cat has it?

The severity of signs of disease depends on the individual, however in most cases, cats first present with anorexia, depression with severe vomiting, followed by diarrhoea with marked dehydration.

Blood tests done by the vet can also show a generalized suppression of white blood cells.

How do we treat it?

Treatment is largely supportive and consists of trying to maintain hydration status and preventing secondary opportunistic bacterial infections from establishing.

In the very young or immunocompromised, this disease can be fatal and has a grave prognosis even if given the best supportive care possible.

The best prevention is therefore vaccinating your kitten as recommended by your vet, and also giving booster vaccinations annually.

FELINE LEUKAEMIA

What causes it?

A retrovirus called the Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV).

How can my cat catch it?

Cats primarily get infected by casual contact with infected cats, especially whenever saliva or nasal fluids are exchanged. E.g. grooming, licking and sharing of food and water. The virus does not survive well in the environment and therefore faeces, urine and aerosol spread is unlikely.

Spread from mother to foetus or kitten through the milk, and veneral transfer is less likely.

Infection is most common in young to middle aged outdoor male cats.

How can I tell if my cat has it?

General signs such as chronic weight loss, poor condition, vomiting and diarrhoea show up in the initial stages. The disease can present in many ways due to the many organs this virus attacks, and the opportunistic bacterial infections that can establish.

How do we treat it?

This disease has a very poor prognosis due to the high potential for complications to develop. Treatment would mainly consist of symptomatic care and support with fluids, anti-infective agents, anti-vomiting drugs and careful nutrition.

FELINE IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS (FIV)

What causes it?

Another virus from the retrovirus family called the feline immunodeficiency virus.

How can my cat catch it?

This virus is most often spread through aggressive biting behaviour and hence is seen commonly in older outdoor male cats. This can also be spread venerally through the semen, and from mother to foetus through the placenta.

How can I tell if my cat has it?

This disease often starts off with a non-specific fever, and generalized enlarged lymph nodes. This can then be followed by inapettance, weight loss and depression. Other signs that may present include diarrhoea, anaemia, eye inflammation, kidney failure or inflammation and nervous disorders.

How do we treat it?

The primary focus of any treatment is to eradicate any concurrent infections or problems with the recommended anti-infectives. If these cannot be treated successfully, then the prognosis for this patient is very poor.

Prevention by keeping cats indoors, and vaccinating them at the recommended times is the best cure.

FELINE INFECTIOUS PERITONITIS

What causes it?

This is caused by a coronavirus called feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV).

How can my cat catch it?

This coronavirus is highly contagious and is shed mainly in the faeces and therefore is easily spread from cat to cat in a multi-cat household or cattery. It is rarely shed in the saliva.

How can I tell if my cat has it?

A cat with this virus will have a fever with vomiting and diarrhoea that then seems to go away uneventfully or with medical treatment.

If the infected cat then has an episode of immunosuppresion, e.g. highly stressful situations, pregnancy or a concurrent infection with an immunosuppressive virus like Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, then other signs can manifest.

These signs depend largely on the strain of the virus, and how poor the animal¡¦s immune system is.

They can include weight loss, difficulty breathing, swollen abdomen, jaundice, eye problems and neurological problems.

How do we treat it?

Depending on the type of FIP, the prognosis can vary from poor to grave. Treatment is mostly symptomatic and supportive with anti-infective agents and immunomodulators.

Therefore vaccination is the best option for prevention.

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Toilet Training- Cats

 

Most cats instinctively know where their toilet is. The important thing is to show them where it is once they enter their new home, and to be consistent with the type of litter you use. If a cat were to dislike the litter material, it will often jump into the litter tray, scratch around, then jump out and poo next to the tray. Or it will just poo next to the tray without hopping in first. If so, then you will have to experiment with different materials until you find one that it prefers.

For little kittens who do not know where to poo, it is important to catch them before they do it on the couch or bed or carpet. Therefore, initial training can include placing your kitten in the litter tray, make sure it is one with a lowered end short enough for a kitten to walk in and out easily, after meals. Since it is a habit of most animals to defaecate and urinate after eating, it is the most appropriate time to start your kitten’s training.

Once the kitten has eaten, bring it to the litter tray, and keep it there until it passes urine or faeces. During this time, do not talk to it or interact with it. Every time it walks off the tray, pick it up and place it back on.

When it has done its business, praise it and pat it very lovingly, using phrases like “good boy” etc.

Keep repeating this training over the next few days. Eventually the kitten will learn that the tray is a toilet, and will gravitate to it every time it needs to go.

During the initial training period, whenever you spot the kitten displaying its I-need-to-poo signs like sniffing on the ground, scratching at the carpet or squatting, run over, pick it up quickly but gently and transfer it over to the litter tray. At times like these, the kitten will most likely be shocked and not proceed to poo or pee immediately, so keep it on the newspaper as before until it does.

You will find that the kitten will learn very quickly where the toilet is.

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Neuter and Spey- Cat

 

MALE

What is it?

The act of neutering a tom is called ‘castration’. Involves the surgical removal of the testicles, which are the main organs that produce testosterone.

Testosterone is the hormone that is responsible for the development of male physical characteristics such as enlargement and maturation of the prostate, penis and broadening of the face; and it also develops male personality traits such as the need to procreate, hunt, wander and establish territory.

Why do it?

Young male entire cats seem prone to developing crystals in their urine, leading to lower urinary tract infections (LUTI).

FEMALE

What is it?

To neuter a female animal is to ‘spey’ it. The medical term is ‘ovariohysterectomy’.

This is because this procedure involves the surgical removal of both ovaries and the entire uterus.

Removing the ovaries causes a marked decrease in the production of oestrogen, which is the main hormone responsible for the development of the oestrus cycle (equivalent of the human menstrual cycle) and mammary gland development; amongst other functions.

This allows a queen to reproduce and breed.

Why do it?

I’m sure everyone has heard a female cat in heat. They yowl, prowl, cry and screech at all times of the day, and night! This is because felines have a oestrus cycle that continues to cycle over and over again until ovulation occurs. Ovulation is the release of an egg from the ovary. And cats are induced ovulators, meaning they need a male to impregnate them in order for ovulation to happen.This can only occur in a cat if she is mated several times. If not she will continue to be in heat for a long time.

This is not only frustrating and embarrassing for the owner, but it is also dangerous for the queen as she can easily develop infections or cysts in her uterus and ovaries if it is allowed to continue unmated.

Why shouldn’t we do it?

Cats are not as prone to developing urinary incontinence as dogs are (see above). There are no serious adverse effects of speying a queen, except that with an ovariohysterectomy, a cat’s metabolism slows down markedly and they then tend to become obese and this can lead to other health issues like diabetes.

To spey or not to spey

Diseases and problems caused by not speying your pet are generally untreatable, and fatal. Problems caused by a slowing of her metabolic rate can be prevented with good nutrition and a healthy, active lifestyle.

Hence speying your cat will guarantee protection against certain diseases, and therefore encourage a good, healthy and happy life for her, and you.

When should you do it?

Female cats should be speyed no younger than 5 months, and before their first heat. The average window of time between physical maturation and the first oestrus is between 5 and 8 months.

Hence the average age at which a female can be neutered is 6 months.

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Nutrition Cat

 

What to feed your new kitten

Most kittens come into their human family when they’re at least 10 to 12 weeks of age. By this time, they are fully weaned off their mother’s milk and can eat solids.

Anyone who has had kittens knows how quickly they can grow. In fact they almost double their size in a matter of weeks! Therefore, it is good to feed your kitten a good and balanced diet that has all the nutritional goodness it needs to grow with.

When choosing the right food for your new kitten, be sure to check the ingredient list and its analysis that should be found at the back of every packet or can.

Most pet-food companies use the nutrient requirement tables published by the Association of American feed Control Officials (AAFCO) as the standard to follow. This is the pre-eminent authority for specifying the nutrient requirements of dogs and cats, in the USA, Japan, Australia and Europe.

When you purchase food for your cat, make sure you turn the packet around and check to see it contains the right percentages of nutrients as stated below.

The 1999 AAFCO Minimum Nutrient Profiles for Cat Foods indicates the following for the growing cat:

Nutrient Growth & Reproduction

Protein 30.0%

Fat 9.0%

Calcium 1.0%

Phosphorous 0.8%

There are commercially available diets that provide the correct amounts, and the correct types of nutrients that a growing cat needs. Many of these products have a very strong scientific backing. Kindly consult your veterinarian on the good brands of dog food available here in Singapore.

Can I feed my kitten milk?

Lactose is the sugar contained in milk. Many animals, cats and dogs, and even humans, lack the specific enzyme lactase, which is required to digest this sugar. Those that cannot digest it end up having the runs.

Therefore, whether you should feed your kitten milk is really dependant on his or her digestive system. It is a very high source of nutrients, and cats love it! So it can be tempting to supply milk to your kitten.

What you can do, is to trial your kitten on some cows’ milk, diluting it down at least 3:1 (water:milk) and giving no more than a few tablespoonfuls. Monitor your kitten’s litter tray that day closely. If you notice his/her poo being softer or runnier than usual, this can indicate intolerance to lactose. If his/her poo remains normal- firm and well formed, then your cat is probably well equipped to digest this sugar.

Nutrient Queen’s milk/ Cow’s milk/ Goat’s milk

Moisture % 81.5/ 87.6/ 87

Dry Matter % 18.5/ 12.4/ 13.0

Protein % 8.1/ 3.3/ 3.3

Fat % 5.1/ 3.8/ 4.5

Lactose % 6.9/ 4.7/ 4.0

Energy kJ/100g 443/ 276/ 293

Ash % 3.5/ 5.3/ 6.2

Calcium % 0.28/ 0.12/ 0.13

Feeding Dogs and Cats for Life by Legrand-Defretin and Munday 1981

There are also milk-replacers available through your veterinarian, which is low in lactose and high in all the other essential nutrients.

What to feed your adult cat

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their primary source of protein must come from animal meat. They have much higher requirement for protein. They are unable to retain the essential amino acids in their tissues therefore we have to compensate through supplementing their diets with the correct levels, and types of proteins.

Nutrient Adult

Protein 26.0%

Fat 9.0%

Calcium 0.6%

Phosphorous 0.5%

Cats must have a nutrient called taurine in their diet, and this does not occur in plants. If a cat is deficient in it, it can go blind or develop heart problems. Therefore no cat can be a pure vegan.

Vitamin A, which is a very important nutrient for the development and maintenance of tissues in the bones, skin and retina, is found in carotenoids. These are found in plants. Cats do not have the correct enzyme required to obtain Vitamin A from carotenoids and therefore must have it supplemented to them in their diets.

As you can see, these pets have very specific nutritional needs, and so must be fed diets that are properly and accurately balanced. Most foods that come from reputable companies such as Royal Canin Waltham and Hill Science can be trusted to provide such diets.

Canned or Dry or Home-Cooked?

As a general rule, dry foods are more concentrated, and therefore one has to eat less in order to achieve the daily requirement of nutrients. However, these also tend to be less palatable and so cats may refuse to eat this alone. Fresh water should be available throughout the day due to the low amounts of moisture present in dry food.

Canned food tends to be more palatable but as mentioned above, tend to be less concentrated and therefore a cat that weighs 5kg, will have to eat over 350g of canned food a day, as opposed to 85g of dry, in order to achieve its daily energy requirement.

These foods can obviously be mixed together, and the best combination is probably 2/3 dry to 1/3 canned. However, just make sure that the basic requirements are met.

There has been controversy regarding dry versus canned food for cats. Until recently, dry food was recommended most often for cats. However, recent research in feline nutrition has shown that due to the high levels of carbohydrates in dry food (>45%), this may pre-dispose certain cats to becoming overweight and developing diabetes.

A cat’s normal diet in the wild usually consists of small mammals and birds, which comprises a rough 45% of protein, 45% of fat, and only 4-5% carbohydrates. So you can see how a 10-fold increase in carbohydrates can be bad for your cat.

Canned food however, is typically much lower in carbohydrate content (about 10%). Therefore some veterinary nutritionists are recommending that cats, especially those with a tendency toward obesity, be fed a canned diet with a protein, fat, and carbohydrate content as close as possible to a 'wild' diet.

Home cooked diets are good for certain circumstances, e.g. urinary calculi or kidney failure. However because it is difficult to ascertain the nutritional content in the food you buy and cook, it is close to impossible to know if you are meeting your pet’s nutritional needs. Home cooked food tends to be low in calcium and some vitamins. Therefore, if your pet, for some health reason, requires home cooked food, then make sure you supplement its diet with vitamins and minerals.

Because cats are prone to getting kidney and urinary diseases, it is best that you supply them with a constant source of fresh water, even if they eat mostly canned food, which are 80% moisture.

Protecting your cat’s dental hygiene

Cats in the wild prey on small mammals and birds. Gnawing on their skeletons helps clean their teeth by scrapping off excess plaque or food.

Therefore, the domestic cat who doesn’t hunt, can develop dental problems unless his/her human companion knows how to provide the proper care.

Bones are good substitutes, however care must be taken when feeding them to your pet.

Most cats unlike dogs, are careful eaters, and tend to gnaw gently at the meat on the bone. However, if they are a little too eager, they can ingest shards of bone that can then cause problems like gastrointestinal blockage or constipation.

Therefore, bones should be given to them raw as cooking bones makes them shatter more easily. If you so wish, quickly dousing the bone in hot boiling water can just cook the meat, and kill of any excess bacteria, whilst leaving the bone raw and chewy.

Choose bones that are less likely to shatter on impact, like drumsticks or vertebrae. Chicken wing bones are very thin and may not be good for your cat.

There are also other cleaning implements like snacks such as ‘Dentabites’ from Whiskas or ‘t/d’ from Hill’s. These biscuits are simply made in such a way as to provide a physical brushing action whenever the animal bites into it.

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