Kitten and cat health

Kitten and cat health

In this section we'll look at: 

  • The ideal health care for your kitten or cat 
  • Registering your cat with a vet 
  • Cat vaccinations 
  • Parasites – fleas and worms 
  • Neutering your cat 
  • Health care 
  • Pet insurance 
  • Grooming 
  • Microchipping 
  • Pedigree cat health 
  • Research
The ideal health care for your kitten or cat

The ideal health care for your kitten or cat

  • PDSA recommends that cats are neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, insured and registered with a vet. 
  • Neutering is important at a young age to prevent unwanted kittens, serious illnesses and potentially fatal diseases.
  • Microchipping your cat increases the chance of you being reunited with it, should it stray. 
  • We also recommend that cats have regular treatments to prevent parasites such as fleas and worms. 
  • Groom your cat regularly. Check for signs of illness every day.
Registering your cat with a vet

Registering your cat with a vet

When you get a new cat, you should register with a local veterinary practice straight away. Make an appointment as soon as you can for a check-up. Your vet can then devise a care programme for your cat. Write a list of the questions you want to ask, so everything can be covered.
  • You can register your cat with a PDSA Pet Hospital or practice if you are eligible and live within a PDSA catchment area. 
  • You can apply for PDSA support through a Special Request if you are eligible but live outside a PDSA catchment area. 
  • Find out today if PDSA can help you by visiting our Eligibility page.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations

Vaccinations protect your cat against diseases which can cause pain, distress and are often fatal.

They prevent diseases from being passed onto other animals. All of which gives you peace of mind.

How do vaccines protect your cat? Vaccines contain a harmless form of the virus or bacterium that causes a particular disease. They stimulate your cat’s immune system in a safe way. If your cat then comes in to contact with the disease for real, its immune system “remembers” how it dealt with the vaccine, so it can fight the disease.

Your cat should receive a ‘primary’ vaccination course early in life, followed by ‘booster’ vaccinations throughout its life. 

The primary vaccination course for cats varies with the type of vaccine used. The first vaccine can sometimes be given as young as nine weeks of age, with the second usually given three to four weeks later.

Booster vaccinations are needed as the body’s immune response gradually fades over time. They are often given every year, depending on the vaccine.

Ask your vet when it is best to vaccinate your kitten or cat.

When can my kitten start to meet other animals?

Very soon. Kittens need to be vaccinated as soon as possible: your vet will advise you how long you then have to wait before it can start to mix with other animals. This socialisation of your kitten is essential for its normal development whilst it’s very young.

Which diseases do vaccines protect against?

  • Cat flu
  • Feline chlamydia
  • Feline infectious enteritis
  • Feline leukaemia virus
Parasites

Parasites

  • Give cats regular treatments to stop them suffering from worms and fleas. 
  • Help your cat to help you. Protect your cat from worms as they can also harm you.
  • Ask your vet for advice about which products to use and how often to use them.
Should I use flea and worm treatments bought from the pet shop?

No, it’s best not to. Choose flea and worm treatments from veterinary practices or pharmacies as they are clinically proven to be safer and more effective than ‘over-the-counter’ versions bought from pet shops and supermarkets. Ask your vet about which products work and which ones don’t.

NEVER use a dog flea treatment on cats, as this can be fatal. 
  • This is due to permethrin – a highly toxic insecticide found in some products. Some owners are also mistakenly failing to follow the on-packet guidance relating to dosage. 
  • Cats can be poisoned through contact with dogs in the same household who have been recently treated with flea spot-on products containing permethrin. 
  • Choose a dog flea treatment that doesn’t contain permethrin if you have both cats and dogs in your home. 
  • Prevent accidental poisoning. If you do use a flea treatment containing permethrin on your dog, keep it away from cats completely for 72 hours so there is no risk of cross-contamination.

How do I know if my cat’s got fleas?

Fleas can cause itching, chewing and licking. The skin may become red and inflamed. Fleas are also part of a tapeworm’s life cycle. You might see fleas on your cat – although this is quite uncommon. Or you might see small dark flecks – flea “dirt” – in the fur and on the skin. If you see any of these signs, take your cat to see your vet. 

I think my cat’s got fleas – what should I do?
  • Take your cat to see your vet. 
  • If your cat has fleas it’s important to treat your home, your cat and all your other pets. Ask your vet to recommend safe and effective products to use. 
  • Treat your home with an effective household spray after vacuuming. This helps kill flea larvae and eggs which can carry on living in places like carpets and rugs. 
  • Pay particular attention to areas where your cat spends time, as well as warm areas such as near to radiators. 

Don’t forget: as well as thinking about fleas, it is important that your cat follows the worming regime recommended by your vet.
Neutering
Health care

Health care

You should check your cat each day for any signs of illness. These might include the following:

  • Sickness or diarrhoea
  • Significant weight change – either up or down – 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
  • Limping
  • Coughing
  • Unusual bleeding
  • Signs of pain, such as sensitivity to touch
  • Runny eyes or nose

Be alert to any change in your cat’s behaviour as this could point to the possibility of illness.

What should I do if I think my cat is ill?

It’s always best to contact your local veterinary practice.

Pet Insurance

Pet Insurance

At PDSA we recommend you take out pet insurance to save thousands of pounds should the worst happen. While most cat owners will have considered routine costs, such as vaccinations and worming, it is the out-of-the-ordinary expenses that can catch you out. You could spend thousands of pounds on treatment for a road accident. So taking out pet insurance helps you budget for the unexpected. Third-party insurance is included in most policies. This is essential to avoid large payments should your cat cause an accident.

Shop around for the best policy for you. There are plenty of organisations whose pet insurance has built-in third party insurance – including PDSA's own Pet Insurance.
Grooming

Grooming

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.

  • All cats need regular grooming. 
  • Long-haired cats need more coat care than short-haired cats.
  • Comb and brush a long-haired cat once a day.
  • Brush a short-haired cat twice a week. 
  • Buy a brush and comb that are suited to your cat’s hair type.
Microchipping

Microchipping

PDSA vets strongly recommend microchipping. If your cat becomes lost, microchipping greatly increases both the chances and speed of you being reunited.

How does microchipping work for your cat? A microchip is a tiny radio chip, about the size of a grain of rice, injected under your cat’s skin between its shoulder blades. If found, your cat can be scanned and the chip can be read. It contains a unique identification number, logged on a national database, which can be matched against your contact details, so you can be reunited with your cat. The chip is made of non-reactive material so doesn’t cause your cat any problems throughout its life.
Pedigree cat health

Pedigree cat health

It’s understandably very upsetting for all cat owners when their cat develops health problems. There are some breeds of cat that are more prone to certain health and medical conditions which can cause them pain and distress. Owners often wish they had known what problems their breed was prone to have. 

If you’re thinking about getting a pedigree cat, or want to know more, visit our cat breeds pages where we’ve put together breed profiles about each breed of cat to help give you all the information you need. These include their possible health problems with an explanation about each condition. If you want more detailed information, your vet can discuss any concerns you have and give you more information.

Research

Research

The PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report

Since 2011, we’ve surveyed over 53,000 pet owners, veterinary professionals and children, giving us a huge insight into the wellbeing of pets in the UK. Here are the findings for cats and their health care. 
You can read our full PAW Report here.

Overview

Although there have been general improvements across all aspects of preventive care amongst cats, there are still many not having their health needs met.

Key findings from our most recent report:
 
Over 2.8 million cats are not vaccinated, making them susceptible to potentially fatal diseases.

  • 92% of cat owners have had their cat neutered. This is considerably higher than for dogs and rabbits. 
  • Of the 8% of cats that aren’t neutered the top reason given by their owners is that they have not thought about it (24%)
  • 74% of cats have been vaccinated with a primary course and 59% with their boosters. 
  • 78% have been wormed and 83% treated for fleas at some point.
  • 38% of cats are not microchipped, that’s over 4.2 million cats who are less likely to be reunited with their owner if they go missing.
  • 16% of cats – around 1.7 million – haven’t been registered with a vet. The top reason given by cat owners for this was that they felt they could ‘just turn up’ at the vets (45%)
  • 18% of owners only brush their cat monthly – 20% of owners say they never brush or groom their cat. Grooming reinforces the bond between you and your cat; it keeps your cat’s coat in good coat condition and lets you check for signs of fleas and other problems.

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