Kitten and Cat FAQ
When should my cat be vaccinated?
There are many diseases that are fatal to cats. Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent many of these by the use of very effective vaccines. In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of injections. They are usually given at 9 and 12 weeks of age and cover cat ‘flu, infectious enteritis, and feline leukemia virus. Annual booster vaccinations are necessary to keep your cat protected.
Why does my cat need more than one vaccination?
When the kitten is suckling from its mother, it receives a temporary form of immunity through the mother's milk. This immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the kitten’s life, but at some point this immunity falls and we need to vaccinate your kitten to offer long-lasting protection. As long as the mother's antibodies are present, vaccinations do not have such a good chance to stimulate the kitten’s immune system. Since we do not know exactly when each kitten will lose his or her initial immunity, we give two vaccinations. A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate sufficient long-term immunity which is so important for the kitten’s protection.
Why should I have my cat neutered?
Neutering, or castration, offers a number of advantages, especially if performed at an early age (6-9 months). Following puberty (at about 8-9 months of age) the male cat develops a number of often undesirable behavioural changes. He will become territorial and start to mark areas, often in the house, by spraying urine, which will by now have developed a particularly strong (and difficult to remove) odour. He will start to enlarge his territory by straying ever farther from the house, particularly at night. It is for this reason that many cats involved in road traffic accidents are un-neutered males. By increasing his territory he will come into contact with other cats and so fight for dominance. Inflicted fight wounds can result in severe infections and abscesses. Diseases such as FIV and FeLV - which can cause AIDS like syndromes and cancers in cats - are often spread during fights. These diseases are especially prevalent in un-vaccinated and un-neutered tomcats. Finally, but not least, neutering prevents the siring of often unwanted litters.
The longer a tomcat is left to spray and fight, the less likely it is that neutering will stop it.
Neutering, or spaying, in female cats also offers several advantages. Most obviously, it will prevent unplanned litters. Once puberty is reached (on average at around 7 months old) the queen will be “calling” for approximately 1 week in every 2-3 until she is mated. During calling she may display unsociable behaviour, which is often manifest as loud and persistent crying, and frequent rubbing and rolling on the floor. Such behaviour and her scent will attract pestering tomcats from miles around. This will all be eliminated by neutering. Finally, spaying will remove the risk of uterine infection, and may reduce the future risk of breast cancer developing.
There is no health advantage for letting your cat have a litter or a heat period before she is neutered.
What adverse affects might neutering have on my cat?
In the vast majority of cases no adverse affects are noted following neutering. However, some neutered animals have a tendency to put on a bit of weight. Such pets require a balanced diet and should not be over-fed.
In certain cats, notably Siamese, the hair that grows back over an operation site may be noticeably darker, due to a difference in the skin temperature. This darker patch may grow out with the following moult as the hair is replaced.
Can I trim my cat or kitten’s sharp claws?
Kittens have very sharp claws. They can be trimmed with nail scissors or with clippers made for cats. However if you remove too much nail, you will cut the quick and cause bleeding and pain. It is usually possible to see the quick as a pink line running through the nail. It is useful to have a men's shaving styptic pencil available so that if you inadvertently cut the quick you can stop the bleeding without causing pain or discomfort to the kitten. If in doubt, please consult us and we will show you exactly how to trim the nails.
Do all kittens have worms?
Intestinal parasites are common in kittens. Kittens can become infected with parasites before they are born or later through their mother's milk. If we look at their faeces through a microcsope we can usually tell whether there are parasites present or not. Modern deworming preparations are safe and effective and we recommend their use at two week intervals, from two weeks of age. It is important that the medication is repeated since it is usually only the adult worms that are killed. Within 3-4 weeks, the larval stages will have matured and will need to be treated.
Round worms pose a small but definite and potentially extremely serious risk to children. It is therefore good practice to regularly administer deworming preparations to your cat throughout its life. Today combined preparations, eradicating roundworms and tapeworms as well as other worms, are available and can be administered as tablets, liquids, or granules which can be mixed in the food.
We recommend that all adult cats are wormed at least four times a year and more frequently if in contact with young children.
Tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasite in adult cats but also occur in kittens. Kittens infected with tapeworms will pass small segments of the worms in their faeces. The segments are white in colour and look like grains of rice. They are about 3 mm (1/8 in) long and may be seen crawling on the surface of the faeces. They may also stick to the hair under the tail. If that occurs, they will dry out, shrink to about half their size, and become golden in colour.
Tapeworm segments do not pass every day or in every faeces sample. Inspection of several consecutive bowel movements may be needed to find them. We may examine a faeces sample in our laboratory and not find them, then you may find them the next day. If you find them at any time, please let us know and we will provide the appropriate eradication drug.
What are ear mites?
Ear mites (Otodectes cyanotis) are tiny parasites that live in the ear canal of cats (and dogs). The most common sign of ear mite infection is scratching and shaking of the ears. Sometimes the ears will appear dirty because of a black material in the ear canal; this material is sometimes shaken out. The instrument we use for examining the ear canals, an otoscope, has the necessary magnification to allow us to see the mites. Sometimes, we can find the mites by taking a small amount of the black material from the ear canal and examining it with a microscope. Ear mites spend most of their time within the ear canal although they can be found on the face, around the ears, and sometimes around the base of the cat’s tail, since cats curl up with their head near their rump. Transmission is by direct contact between animals and the mites can be transmitted between cats and dogs. Ear mites are common in litters of kittens if the mother is infected.
Ear infections may also cause the production of a dark discharge in the ear canals. It is important that we examine your kitten to be sure the black material is due to ear mites and not infection. We cannot just dispense medication without having the opportunity to make an accurate diagnosis.