Healthy for life
Congratulations - you have a new kitten!
You've anticipated the new arrival by 'kitten proofing' your home and had lots of fun choosing the carrier, bed, blanket, toys and other supplies they will need. This adorable little bundle of fluff is sure to bring you much joy. In return, you can make a major contribution to your pet's longevity, happiness and quality of life by providing him/her with good nutrition, loving attention in a safe, clean environment and regular checkups at your veterinary practice.
Neutering your kitten
Many veterinary surgeons believe that spaying or neutering not only helps solve the serious problem of a burgeoning population of unwanted cats but also makes for friendlier, easier-to-live-with pets. Spayed female cats are more relaxed, playful and affectionate, while castrated males are calmer and less likely to 'spray' or urine-mark their territory, wander away from their home or fight. Plus, sterilisation has health benefits - it minimizes the risk of mammary cancer in females and reduces the incidence of prostate problems in males.
Spaying removes the uterus and ovaries of a female cat, usually prior to the age of six months and before they come into heat for the first time. A major surgical procedure, it is performed under general anaesthesia. Complications are rare and recovery is normally complete within ten days.
Castration, also carried out under general anaesthesia, removes the testicles of a male cat. The small wounds that result usually heal in about a week. Less complicated than spaying, it is often performed when the cat is 6 to 12 months old.
Your kitten's basic health check
Your new kitten should visit a veterinary surgeon as soon as possible. The first visit will probably include:
- A thorough physical examination to determine his/her state of health.
- Check for parasites (fleas, ticks, lice, ear mites, worms).
- Initial vaccination and/or a discussion of the types of vaccinations your kitten needs and when they should be scheduled.
- Discussion about whether your kitten should be neutered and when.
This first health check will give your veterinary surgeon the information he/she needs to advise you on your kitten's immediate diet and care. Plus, it will create a "knowledge base" from which, on subsequent checkups throughout your cat's life, he/she can better evaluate, monitor and manage your pet's health.
Make your new kitten feel at home
With sensitive handling and friendly contact for at least an hour a day, your new kitten should soon be very comfortable with you and the new home. If there are young children in the home, make sure that they are taught that a kitten is not a toy but a living creature who must be treated with gentleness and respect. Also provide your pet with lots of opportunities for interesting, challenging play that will satisfy natural instincts. Toys that they can pretend to 'hunt' and capture and special posts that can be scratched (instead of your carpets and furniture) will help make your kitten a joy to live with.
Your Geriatric Cat
When is the best time to start caring for your ageing pet? When they are a kitten. Starting off your cat's life with good nutrition, scheduled veterinary appointments and a happy home life sets the blueprint for a high quality of life in older years. Most cats are considered geriatric by the age of 8 to 10. Much like humans, time takes its toll on vital organ functions as your cat ages. Cats are more subtle than dogs in showing you when they are sick or in pain. Paying attention to your cat's behaviour will make detecting problems easier and help them live healthy lives well into their teens.
What you can do at home
- Check your cat's mouth, eyes or ears regularly. Inspect for loose teeth, redness, swelling, discharge or bad odour.
- Keep your pet's sleeping area clean and warm.
- Make fresh water available at all times.
- Maintain a regime of proper nutrition (based on a good quality commercial diet. appropriate to the lifestage and lifestyle of your cat) and of course loving attention.
How old is your cat?
|If your cat is...||In human terms, that's|
|1 month||5-6 months|
|2 months||9-10 months|
|3 months||2-3 years|
|4 months||5-6 years|
|5 months||8-9 years|
|6 months||14 years|
|7 months||15 years|
|8 months||16 years|
|1 year||18 years|
|2 years||25 years|
|3 years||30 years|
|4 years||35 years|
|5 years||38-40 years|
|6 years||42-44 years|
|7 years||45 years|
|8 years||48 years|
|9 years||55 years|
|10 years||60 years|
|11 years||62 years|
|12 years||65 years|
|13 years||68 years|
|14 years||72 years|
|15 years||74 years|
|16 years||76 years|
|17 years||78 years|
Obesity is a big health risk to pets as it is to humans. An older cat is a less active cat, so adjustments to your pet's diet to reduce caloric intake are imperative. This will relieve pressure on the joints as well as manage the risks of a range of diseases as well as making a massive difference to an overweight cat's quality of life. A range of diets faciliotating weight loss are available which modify ingredients with for example increased fibre, fatty acids and vitamins while decreasing sodium, protein and fat.
Diabetes is common especially in middle-aged or older cats. It is a disease in which your cat's pancreas can no longer produce enough of the hormone insulin or where the body becomes insensitive to the cats own insulin. More information can be found by clicking on the Diabetes section link on the right.
Arthritis severity can range from slight stiffness and lameness, difficulty in rising to inability to exercise without pain and ultimately debilitation. Keeping animals as comfortable as possible is vital.You may detect this problem when he/she becomes less attentive about grooming and litter box habits. These signs may also indicate the slowing down of cognitive functions. Anti-inflammatory medication can help relieve the pain. Your veterinary surgeon will prescribe any necessary medication.
Intolerance to cold temperatures is more likely as cats age. There can be a range of explanations. Providing an additional heat source near where the cat sleeps and adequate shelter outdoors in inclement weather if the cat cant easily access indoors
Dental problems can make eating painful but also may indicate long-standing viral problems, bacterial infection or rarely tumours. Cats are very sensitive to oral pain. Some hard diets may be helpful in encouraging chewing but are not appropriate if cats suffer significant oral pain. In a cooperative cat regular daily brushing and cleaning the teeth will help keep tartar and some forms of gum disease at bay.
Constipationmay point to colon problems or hairballs. A diet that is easily digestible and rich in nutrients is essential and specific advice on suitable commercial diets should be sought from the practice.
Skin or coat changes in ageing cats mean the skin loses elasticity, making your pet more susceptible to injury while the fur can thin develop scurf or dandruff and become dry, dull or oily over time. This may occur as part of ageing but can also reflect underlying skin, metabolic or hormone problems. Veterinary advice should always be sought should such a change be noted. Regular grooming to prevent matting and improve coat lustre, and essential fatty acid supplements are highly beneficial
Recurrent infections and/or other health problems may indicate an impaired immune system. Bring your cat in for a check-up. Your veterinary surgeon may suggest a test for Feline Leukaemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.
Increased thirst is a possible sign of diabetes, kidney failure or hyperthyroidism to name 3 common causes. Your veterinary surgeon will investigate with blood and urine tests to help determine the cause and provide appropriate advice on treatment.
Decreased sense of smell may be one cause that reduces your cat's appetite. Warming moist food can help but always consult your veterinary surgeon should you notice an ongoing change in appetite- it is an important clue that all may not be well. . Ask your veterinary surgeon about foods formulated for geriatric cats.