Good advice for cat owners from Haughley & Thurston Vets


Cats, now the most popular pet in Europe and North America, were once described as asocial animals, but this is no longer regarded as true. Although very different from dogs, cats also need human interaction and most importantly, your loving attention.

Keeping your cat indoors or allowing them outdoors?

When you bring a new kitten or cat into your home you'll have to decide whether he or she will live strictly indoors or will be allowed outside. There are advantages and disadvantages in both cases.

Free-roaming cats are prone to more illnesses and have a much shorter life expectancy, as they can be hit by cars, attacked by other animals and exposed to internal and external parasites such as fleas, worms and ear mites.

Conversely, if your cat never ventures outside you must provide him or her with physical and mental stimulation, including interaction with you, exercise, scratching posts and a clean toilet area.

Whatever decision you make, following a few simple guidelines to direct your cat's behaviour can ensure that harmony reigns in your cat-loving household.

Scratching posts for cats

Scratching just comes naturally to cats. An instinctive activity that begins when kittens are five weeks old, scratching allows cats to leave chemical and visual signals that, among other functions, serve as 'messages' to other cats and animals.

However, what's entirely normal for your cat can become a big problem for you if he or she starts scratching your carpets and furniture. If this happens, you can cover or remove the tempting objects, however it's quite likely that an alternative place to scratch will be found.

An easier, more practical solution is to provide your cat with a special scratching place, usually a post, of his/her own. Don't be surprised if find that your kitten or cat may be slightly picky about what kind of scratching post he or she will agree to use.

Finding the right scratching post for your cat

  • Not all commercially available scratching posts are equally attractive to all cats.
  • Posts that some cats might find acceptable have sisal, cardboard, wood or wood composite surfaces.
  • Some cat owners have found that making their own posts, whether from soft logs, tree stumps or a plank of wood covered in material with a longitudinal weave does the trick.
  • The most important characteristics of a post are that it be taller than the cat standing on hind legs, sturdy enough not to tip over and located in a prominent, easily accessible area.
  • A board about 15-20 cm wide by 30-35 cm long attached to a wall can also work well.
  • Whatever its construction, the scratching post or board should not be changed as long as your cat is still using it. The more scratched and awful looking, the more your cat will love and use it - instead of your furniture.

What do cats like to play with?

Make sure your kitten or cat has lots of opportunities for interesting, challenging play that will satisfy natural instincts and provide much-needed activity.

Find toys that bounce or flutter - there are many available - that they can pretend to "chase", "hunt" and "capture". Some cats love to chase moving spots of light, whether they're produced by mirrors or flashlights. A ping-pong ball in a tissue box is one good easy to make toy.

You can also attach a ball of aluminium foil to a long string and tie it to your belt or waist. As you move about, your cat will have a great time interacting with you while trying to "catch" the ball. Just be sure to make the string long enough that kitty doesn't accidentally catch your leg! You should try to have at least one daily, 15-minute interactive play session with your cat, especially if he or she is often left alone.

Looking after your cat's litter tray

Cats are fastidious creatures, so if your cat needs to attend to toileting indoors, providing your cat with a clean, easily accessible toilet area will help minimise any litter problems.

Cats generally prefer unscented, soft-textured fine litter. Some cats like to urinate in one box and defecate in another so the ideal number of litter boxes is one box per cat plus one. Therefore, a two-cat household should have three litter boxes placed on different floors or in different rooms.

Don't put litter boxes next to noisy equipment such as boilers or washing machines - cats prefer the quiet.

Scoop out faecal matter (and urine if you use a clumping litter) daily.

Wash boxes with water and mild detergent once a week if you use non-clumping litter or once a month if you use the clumping type. Going to the toilet outside the box can occur for several different reasons, various medical conditions being the most common.

If you suspect your cat might have such a problem, consult your veterinary surgeon for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Why do cats mark their territory?

Spraying, or urine marking, is a normal behaviour in both cats with intact sexual organs, as well as in neutered cats. In fact, as many as ten per cent of castrated male and five per cent of spayed female adult cats spray regularly.

Spraying is often associated with the presence of other cats (both inside and outside the home) or other stresses, such as changes in the cat's environment, (a new roommate, pet or baby, or perhaps a change in the amount of time the cat is left alone), that can cause anxiety. Spraying may be the way your cat communicates anxiety.

Treatment is available for spraying - just ask your vet for advice.

Bones & Joints

Sadly, joint conditions are common in cats of all ages and breeds and are often the result of your cat’s active lifestyle. Wear and tear takes its toll as cats age and combined with injury and disease can cause pain, swelling, stiffness and reduced mobility. These changes can be subtle and develop over time so it is important that if you notice your cat starts to become less active, you talk to your vet about any symptoms which may be a sign of degenerative joint disease.


Osteoarthritis is a painful degenerative disease of the joints that is common in both humans and pets. The consequences of this disease for the affected pet are reduced joint mobility and pain resulting in lameness or stiffness which can lead to a very much reduced quality of life. It is therefore an important disease to both identify and manage effectively.

How many cats have joint disease?

Joint disease is thought to affect up to 20% of the dog population with around 95% of affected individuals being over 5 years of age. The number of affected cats is more difficult to assess as they exhibit more subtle signs .In one study of cats over 12 years of age, 95% of cats showed x-ray evidence of joint degeneration, suggesting that the number of affected cats appears to be higher than commonly accepted.

What are the signs of joint disease in cats?

So how would you know if your cat might be affected? There may be obvious signs such as lameness and limping but signs can also be non-specific. Watch out for reluctance or reduced ability to jump, decreased jumping height, a stiffness in the gait, changes in activity levels, changes in personality, reduced appetite or even a reduction in grooming habits.

How to care for a cat with joint problems

Your pet's annual health check and booster is an ideal time to discuss with us if you are worried that your cat may be showing some of these signs and discuss whether he or she would benefit from any additional management steps to put the spring back into their step.

Management options for cats with reduced joint health need to be tailored to the individual but effective steps may include one or more of the following:

  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Weight management
  • Environmental modification
  • Modified exercise
  • Physiotherapy
  • Joint support supplements
  • Joint support diet


If your cat no longer jumps up like he or she once did there may be a good reason - osteoarthritis.

A chronic, degenerative joint disease that makes movement difficult and painful, osteoarthritis mainly strikes pets in their middle and senior years. However, younger cats can also be affected.

In fact, studies show that approximately 20% of dogs have the condition, and, whilst cats are less likely to show obvious signs of osteoarthritis, they also suffer from it in large numbers. In one study over a period of 12 years, 95% of cats showed x-ray evidence of joint degeneration, suggesting that the number of affected cats appears to be higher than commonly accepted.

It can be heartbreaking to see your once lively, active cat begin to limp, or notice obvious stiffness when moving around. Signs can often be more subtle and the owner only notices a scruffy coat. There is no cure for osteoarthritis. However, if it is treated promptly, there is a great deal that you and your veterinary surgeon can do to decrease your pet's discomfort and increase his or her mobility.

What are the early warning signs of osteoarthritis in cats?

  • Difficulty in walking, climbing stairs, jumping up or getting in and out of the litter box
  • An overall decrease in activity, especially play
  • Resting more than usual
  • Slowness in getting up from a lying position
  • Failing to groom themselves resulting in a scruffy and even matted coat, especially on the back region
  • eating less, as cats appetite is greatly affected by pain resulting in loss of weight
  • Slow or stiff movements especially after waking up orlying down which improves with movement
  • Stiffness which is worse in cold weather
  • Beginning to limp
  • A swollen joint or joints that are warm to the touch and have a limited or painful range of movement
  • Licking or biting at a joint
  • Personality change - your pet no longer likes to be touched or played with and may even bite when touched

If you notice any of the signs above, don't just think that your cat is "slowing down with age". Take him or her to see your vet! The sooner osteoarthritis is first diagnosed and treated, the better your catÕs quality of life will be.

What causes osteoarthritis in cats?

There are many causes of Feline Osteoarthritis, but practically all can be grouped into two main categories:

Abnormal stress on normal joints

  • An injury that damages a joint
  • "Wear and tear": joints are subjected to repeated loads or stress
  • Obesity: an excessive load is put on joints

Normal stress on abnormal joints

  • Developmental defects that alter the shape or stability of a joint
  • Poor limb configuration: bow legs or knock knees can cause an uneven load on a joint
  • Genetic predisposition: some breeds may be more prone to osteoarthritis than others

Hip dysplasia: Normal stresses on a dysplastic (malformed) joint will lead to arthritis. Whatever the specific cause, stress on a joint can begin a destructive cycle of inflammation of the joint area and damage to the cartilage that leads to pain for your pet.

What's the outlook for a cat with osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis may progress very slowly (over several years) or very quickly (you might notice a major change in just a few weeks or months). It all depends on your catÕs age, his or her activity level, the joints involved, and the underlying cause.

Some cat's pain and loss of mobility can be kept to a minimum for long periods of time with a simple regimen of weight control, moderate, regular exercise and the occasional use of anti-inflammatory drugs if flare-ups occur.

For others, severe damage to the joints may occur rapidly and require long-term medication and other therapy. In either case, your veterinary surgeon can determine the best course of treatment for your pet's particular condition.

There is no reason why, with your loving attention and committed care, as well as your veterinary surgeon's guidance, an osteoarthritic cat cannot have a happy, healthy and comfortable life for many years to come.

Treating Osteoarthritis

Weight control for cats

Cats that suffer from chronic pain caused by conditions like osteoarthritis often become inactive, which can result in obesity. Controlling your cat's weight will lighten the load on arthritic joints and make it less difficult to move around. Just as for humans, weight loss for animals involves both a well-balanced, calorie-reduced diet and regular exercise. Ask your veterinary surgeon for advice on the proper diet for your cat.

Cat exercise

Exercise is essential because it contributes to strengthening the muscles that support joints. Moderate amounts of daily, low-impact exercise also improves joint mobility and can help get a lethargic, arthritic pet active again. Cats can profit from play that keeps them moving without excessive jumping.

Consult your veterinary surgeon about what amount and type of exercise would be best for your pet. Also, be aware that your cat's osteoarthritic pain may be more severe at certain times than others. If this is the case, let your pet take a break from his or her exercise routine for a few days, until the painful flare-up subsides.

Anti-inflammatory drugs

Anti-inflammatory drugs combat inflammation in the joints, thus relieving pain, increasing mobility, and protecting the joint from further damage. As joint pain may vary according to the amount of exercise, the weather or season, or for other, unknown factors, your veterinary surgeon may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) as treatment.

Certain pain relief drugs prescribed for humans, such as paracetamol, can be fatal if given to a cat.

NSAIDs have a reputation for causing some serious side effects including bleeding of the gut wall which can prove disasterous.

NEVER give any drugs including pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs designed and/or prescribed for use in humans or other species without proper veterinary advice. Modern preparations of NSAIDs specifically formulated for cats can prove to be especially effective in reducing inflammation and pain to improve mobility. These special cat NSAIDs prescribed by your veterinarian have a significantly reduced risk of side effects if used properly. An arthritic cat which needs long term treatment with NSAIDs should have a blood test to ensure that their kidneys are functioning properly before starting treatment Contact your veterinary surgeon for more information.

Physical therapy

In addition to the above, your veterinary surgeon may also suggest physical therapy, cold or hot packs and baths, massage or acupuncture as well as glucosamine/chondroitin and omega 3 and 6 diet supplements as an aid to maintaining joint health.


Rarely, surgery may also be considered to achieve the best outcome.


Thick and supportive bedding in a warm environment helps to alleviate the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.

Dental Care

With major advances in treating pet diseases, oral disease - most importantly periodontal or gum disease caused by the build-up of plaque and tartar - has become the number-one health problem for cats. It's estimated that without proper dental care 70% of cats will show signs of oral disease by age three. With your help, your cat can have healthy teeth and gums throughout their lives.

How to keep your cat's teeth healthy

To keep your cat's teeth healthy, you simply need to provide them with a few things:

  • A nutritious diet
  • Chew treats
  • Regular brushing at home
  • Yearly dental checkups by a veterinary surgeon

The best food for your cat's teeth

The wrong kinds of food can cause dental distress in pets. Feeding your cat a dry food rather than just a moist, canned one will, through its mild abrasive action on the teeth, help remove the bacterial plaque that can harden into tartar.

Dry food also provides adequate chewing exercise and gum stimulation.

Avoid giving your cat sweets and table scraps as they may also increase plaque and tartar formation.

Your vet may recommend the use of a dental diet, which is a specially formulated dry biscuit designed to reduce plaque and tartar build-up, especially if your cat is prone to dental problems or is a predisposed breed or has a genetic history.

How to brush your cat's teeth

Cats need to have their teeth brushed in order to eliminate the dental plaque that can cause tooth decay and the formation of tartar, which can lead to gum disease.

You should begin a regular, daily brushing routine as soon as you bring your new kitten home. Even older cats can be trained to accept having their teeth brushed.

You simply need to introduce the activity gradually and make the experience a positive one for your cat. Reassure and praise them profusely throughout the process and reward them with a very special treat when it's finished.

  • Step 1: Start by dipping a finger in tuna water or warm water. Rub this finger gently over your cat's gums and one or two teeth. Repeat until your pet seems fairly comfortable with this activity.
  • Step 2: Gradually, introduce a gauze-covered finger and gently scrub the teeth with a circular motion.
  • Step 3: Then, you can begin to use a toothbrush, either an ultra-soft model designed for people (baby tooth-brushes work well for cats) or a special pet tooth-brush or finger brush, which is a rubber finger covering with a small brush built in at its tip.
  • Step 4: Finally, once your pet is used to brushing, introduce the use of cat toothpaste in liquid or paste form. Most of these contain chlorhexidine or stannous fluoride - ask your veterinary surgeon for their recommendations. Don't use human toothpaste, as it can upset your cat's stomach. Your vet may also advise the use of an antiseptic spray or rinse after brushing.

Book your cat a yearly dental check-up

Doing your best to ensure that your cat receives the proper diet and regular brushing at home will help maintain teeth and gums in top condition. To provide optimum dental care at home, you need to start with a clean bill of dental health. That's where your cat's veterinary surgeon comes in.

Your vet will give your pet a thorough examination of the entire oral cavity to determine whether there are any underlying problems and, especially important, tartar buildup. Brushing removes plaque but not tartar,which is a hard mineralised material that can build up on your cats teeth and can only be removed with special dental equipment under anesthesia, as cats do not 'open wide' when you tell them to! After removing the tartar above and below the gum line, your veterinary surgeon will provide you with instructions for home care and follow-up.

Cats aren't great chewers but special diets are available from veterinary surgeons that encourage chewing and will can help remove plaque, and provide stimulation for the gums.

Did you know?

  • Kittens have their first 26 "milk" or deciduous teeth at 2 to 3 weeks of age. Their 30 permanent teeth begin erupting around 3 months.
  • Cats have the fewest teeth of any common domestic mammal.


Diabetes mellitus is a disease in which your cat's pancreas can no longer produce enough of the hormone insulin (type I) or where the body's tissues do not respond to the cat's insulin properly (type II) or a combination of both which is common in cats.

It is estimated that approximately one in 500 dogs and cats in the UK develop the disease per year.

In cats, all ages and sexes can be affected, however older cats are particularly susceptible is the Burmese breed is particularly at risk

What does insulin do?

Every time your cat eats a meal, glucose is absorbed from the intestines and enters the bloodstream. Glucose (sugar) is the essential fuel of the body's cells and is needed for these cells to work and so for the body to function.

As glucose enters the blood, , insulin is released by your cat's pancreas. Insulin allows the glucose to leave the bloodstream and enter cells (for example, liver, kidney, brain and muscle cells) where it can be used for energy and growth.

You can think of insulin as a key that unlocks a door to let glucose into the cells. Insulin lowers blood glucose and allows it to enter cells, where it is used to produce energy.

What happens when your cat has a lack of insulin?

In diabetic cats, the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin, or the insulin that is produced is not working efficiently. Without the action of insulin, glucose is no longer able to leave the bloodstream to be used as energy by the body's cells. Hence, the glucose in the blood will rise to an abnormally high level.

The level could become so high that glucose overflows into the urine and your cat's urine will contain glucose.

The body's cells cannot utilise the glucose they depend upon for energy. In order to compensate for this, other 'abnormal' energy-producing processes begin which do not depend on glucose such as fat break-down. Unfortunately, these processes eventually create toxic by-products that can make your cat very sick.

What are the symptoms of cat diabetes?

Contact your vet if you have any concerns about your cat. Signs to look out for are:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Changes in appetite - initially an increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Deteriorating coat condition
  • Lethargy or lack of energy

How is cat diabetes treated?

Your vet will discuss your cat's treatment options depending on the extent of the diabetes. As well as a consistent and carefully controlled diet, regular injections of insulin should be administered twice daily to help control the condition.

Up to a third of insulin-treated diabetic cats may go into remission and therefore come off treatment altogether.

For further information on diabetes, simply phone your vet to book a pet health check or visit


Learning to recognise when your cat is feeling under the weather and being aware of any signs and symptoms that might signal the early onset of disease are both vital in keeping your pet in peak condition.

Knowing when to call your vet for advice and treatment could also help save your cat’s life in an emergency. Your vet will also be able to advise you on how regular check-ups and vaccination can protect your pet against potentially fatal disease. Diseases and danger signs to be aware of include;

Panleukopenia - a highly contagious viral disease of cats often called feline distemper and is most often fatal in young cats. Cat flu is caused by both Feline Calcivirus and Feline Herpes Virus – both cause upper respiratory tract infections in cats. Feline Chlamydophila (formerly known as Chlamydia) causes conjunctivitis with redness and discharge and is usually treated with antibiotics. Feline Leukaemia virus (FeLV) can suppress the immune system and causes a range of serious illnesses in susceptible cats.

Bordetella Bronchiseptia

If you ever board your cat in a cattery, then it's particularly important to ensure vaccine protection against possible disease risks. 'Cat flu' is one of the biggest risks in a cattery and recent research shows that a bacterium called Bordetella bronchiseptica is responsible for some of these outbreaks. This is a highly contagious disease of the cat's respiratory tract and occurs where cats are in close contact with each other.

Bacterial infections in cats

Bordetella bronchiseptica (Bb) is a bacterium closely related to Bordetella pertussis, the cause of whooping cough in man. It may cause problems either in conjunction with infection due to the cat 'flu viruses (feline herpesvirus or feline calicivirus) or may cause disease entirely in its own right. It can therefore be termed as a 'primary pathogen' in feline upper respiratory tract disease (FURTD).

Is my cat at risk of Bordetella Bronchiseptia?

Some may recognise that the Bordetella bacterium is more commonly associated with dogs and is one of the main causes of kennel cough. But, cats in homes with more than three cats, or in boarding and breeding catteries or rescue shelters are particularly at risk of disease fromthis highly infectious organism. It has also been shown that this disease will spread from dogs to cats and vice versa as well.

Bordetella infections can be extremely serious in young kittens, leading to severe breathing difficulties and rapid death. Reports of the loss of whole litters of kittens to this infection are not uncommon.

How is Bordetella Bronchiseptia spread in cats?

The bacterium is transmitted by saliva and respiratory secretions through direct contact with an infected cat, eg grooming one another, or a contaminated environment, eg sharing food or water bowls as the bacteria can survive in or by aerosol infection through sneezing or coughing In addition, during the stress of mothering, an infected queen can often shed the Bb bacteria, also putting her kittens at risk.

What are the signs and symptoms of Bordetella Bronchiseptia?

Signs include sneezing, snuffling, discharge from the nostrils, swollen glands, depression and fever.

Coughing can also occur in some cats, but it is not as common as with the same infection in dogs. In the very young and weakened, the disease can prove to be very serious indeed and prove rapidly fatal.

Stopping your cat getting Bordetella Bronchiseptia

There is now an improved vaccination regime available which offers broader spectrum prevention of cat 'flu and it is recommended you consider these options if you have a few cats or you are to board your cat in a cattery.

The vaccine offers immunity against Bordetella bronchiseptica for a full 12 months. This means that even if you leave your cat in the cattery more than once during the year, it only requires a single vaccination. It's literally just a few drops of vaccine gently trickled into one nostril and your cat is protected in as little as 72 hours! Ideally your cat should be vaccinated at least two weeks before arrival at the cattery.

What is the treatment for Bordetella bronchiseptica?

If you have more than one cat in the house then the infected cat should be isolated from the others and should be kept indoors at all times. Don't forget this bacteria is highly contagious and can spread rapidly.

Bordetella bronchiseptica is known to infect humans too, especially those with an immune system which is not functioning properly so always ensure that you wear disposable gloves when handling your cat and their belongings and wash your hands immediately after removing the gloves to prevent contamination.

  • Remove any discharge from around your cat's eyes and nose using a warm pad of cotton wool.
  • Tempt your cat to eat with slightly warmed 'wet' food to increase palatability.
  • Food bowls, bedding and litter trays should be washed and cleaned daily.
  • Antibiotics may be required in cases where the symptoms are more severe.

Cat Flu

Cat 'flu remains is still relatively common despite the important contribution made by vaccines. The disease can vary in severity, but kittens are particularly at risk and entire litters have been known to die soon after contracting it.

Which cats are at risk of cat flu?

Cat flu is most commonly seen in situations where cats are kept in large groups such as breeding catteries, rescue centres and feral cat colonies, although it can also be seen in pet cat households.

Cats most at risk include unvaccinated cats, kittens, elderly cats and cats which are immunosuppressed for any reason.

What are the symptoms of cat flu?

Symptoms of cat flu include sneezing, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis (inflammation of the lining of the eyes), discharge from the eyes, loss of appetite, limping in one leg that may then change to another, fever and depression.

Occasionally, mouth and eye ulcers and excessive drooling of saliva may be seen. The very young, very old and immune suppressed cats are more likely to develop severe disease and possibly die as a result of their flu.

What causes cat flu?

Despite the name, the causes of cat flu bears no relation in those of human influenza. Whereas influenza is caused by a single virus, cat 'flu is a syndrome: the signs of this disease may be caused by one or more of several different infectious agents (pathogens).

There are primarily three known primary pathogens, capable of causing cat flu on their own. These are feline herpesvirus (FHV), feline calicivirus (FCV) and the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica. Respiratory disease problems within a household or cattery environment may involve one or moe of these infectious agents.

What is Feline herpesvirus (FHV)?

Although the majority of cats infected make a full recovery from feline herpesvirus, this often takes several weeks and some cats are left with the permanent effects of infection such as recurrent eye problems and chronic rhinitis (inflammation of the nose). Cats with chronic rhinitis are usually well in themselves but have a persistent discharge from the nose. Secondary bacterial infection of damaged tissue can cause chronic conjunctivitis, sinusitis and bronchitis (inflammation of the linings of the eyes, sinuses and air passages).

Antibiotic treatment usually only provides temporary relief of these symptoms as the bug is a virus and not a bacteria.

Herpes carriers may come down with cat 'flu (clinical signs and viral shedding) following potentially stressful events, like staying in a cattery, many months after first catching the disease.

What is Feline calcivirus (FCV)?

Infection with Feline Calcivirus (FCV) usually causes a milder form of cat 'flu with less dramatic nasal discharges. Mouth ulcers are sometimes the only sign of infection with FCV. The ulcers may be present on the tongue, on the roof of the mouth or the nose. Some strains of FCV cause lameness and fever in young kittens. Cats with the infection recover over a few days although they may benefit from pain killers at this time.

Cats carrying FCV shed virus continually with most cats eventually becoming carriers, but some are persistently infected - sometimes this is associated with mouth inflammation (gingivostomatitis).

What is Bordetella Bronchiseptica (Bb)?

This infectious bacterium is more commonly known as the most important cause of canine infectious tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough). However, this bacterium also causes respiratory signs in cats that can be hard to differentiate from cat 'flu caused by viral infections. Bordetella can be a particular threat to young kittens and occasionally whole litters of kittens may be lost to this infection.

Cats that recover from cat flu are often unable to completely eliminate the virus or bacteria from their body and many become 'carriers', able to transmit the disease to other cats for years

How is cat 'flu spread?

Both cat flu viruses and bacteria are relatively sturdy and can survive in the environment for several days. They are spread in several ways; through direct contact with an infected cat showing signs of flu or disease, from direct contact with a contaminated environment for example, clothing, food bowls and other objects and from contact with a cat that is a carrier of cat 'flu - the carrier may or may not be showing signs of disease.

How do you prevent cat flu?

Risks of developing cat flu can be reduced by regular vaccination against FHV, FCV and Bordetella bronchiseptica.

How do you treat cat flu?

If your cat comes down with cat flu then take them to your veterinarian as they will need medical supervision to help with the pain, any eye infections and secondary bacterial infections requiring antibiotics.

Your veterinarian may decide to swab the nose, eyes and mouth to determine which pathogen is involved.

The eyes and nose should be kept clean by wiping with a cotton wool pad dipped in warm water to remove discharge.

Your cat may be reluctant to eat so tempt your cat to eat by offering slightly warmed wet food which is more palatable.

If you have more than one cat in your house then the cat should be isolated and you should wear disposable gloves to prevent contamination.

Feline Clamydophila

Feline Chlamydophila (formerly known as Chlamydia) mainly causes conjunctivitis in the cat. Conjunctivitis may be defined as the inflammation of the delicate membranes or conjunctiva that cover the inner surface of the eyelids and over the white part of the eye (the sclera). However, this infectious organism is not responsible for the full range of signs associated with cat 'flu.

Can my cat catch Feline Chlamydophila?

Infection is relatively common in cats, with up to 30% of cases of chronic conjunctivitis caused by this organism. Although cats of all ages can be infected, disease is seen most commonly seen in young kittens (5 - 12 weeks old) with persistent or recurrent infection.

How is Feline Chlamydophila spread?

Chlamydophila organisms are very fragile and cannot survive for any period of time in the environment. Infection therefore typically occurs through direct contact and disease is more commonly seen where large groups of cats are kept together, such as multi-cat households, breeding catteries and shelters.

What are the signs and symptoms of Feline Chlamydophila?

Clinical signs normally develop within a few days after infection, beginning as a watery discharge from one or both eyes. Due to the discomfort, affected cats may hold their eyes partially closed.

As the disease progresses, severe swelling and reddening of the conjunctiva may be seen and the discharge changes from watery to a thicker yellowish substance. There may also be very mild sneezing and nasal discharge in some cats with a mild fever resulting in lethargy.

If left untreated, the conjunctivitis can often persist for six to eight weeks or longer and cats may continue to shed the organism for many months.

What is the treatment for cats with Chlamydophila?

Chlamydophila infections respond well to a number of different antibiotics. Topical therapy with eye drops or ointment is usually recommended, but this should be combined with systemic (oral) therapy as the organism can be present at sites other than just the eyes. If giving eye drops is difficult, infections will still respond well to oral therapy alone.

Generally, treatment is recommended for a period of four weeks and all cats in the household should be treated (irrespective of whether they are showing clinical signs).

How do I stop my cat getting Chlamydophila?

Vaccines exist to protect cats against Chlamydophila conjunctivitis. These vaccines do not always prevent infection, but are certainly helpful in preventing severe clinical disease. Its use can be recommended in high risk situations, but should not be part of a standard vaccination regime.

Can I catch Chlamydia from my cat?

Humans can be infected with Chlamydia but the organism that infects cats, Chlamydophila felis, is highly adapted to this species. There have been one or two reports that have suggested human conjunctivitis has occurred following contact with a cat harbouring Chlamydophila felis, but the risk appears to be extremely low.

Routine hygiene precautions are recommended when handling and treating infected cats (washing hands after stroking or giving medications, and avoiding close face-to-face contact until the infection has resolved).

Feline Leukaemia

Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) is associated with the occurrence of tumours and anaemia in cats but also causes disease by suppressing the cat's immune system.

This leaves the cat susceptible to a variety of other problems, which may then be more serious as the cat is unable to combat disease effectively. This is similar to the problems seen in man with the AIDS virus and in cats with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).

Is my cat at risk of FeLV?

The FeLV virus cannot survive for long in the environment, so spread of infection between cats is reliant on prolonged close contact. Therefore, infection may be common in environments where there are a large number of cats or where cats go outside and fight. It is estimated that currently 1-2% of cats in this country are infected with FeLV.

In multi-cat households where FeLV is endemic, up to 30% of the cats may be infected. Young cats and particularly kittens are especially vulnerable to becoming infected with FeLV.

As cats get older their susceptibility to infection will decline. Nevertheless, vaccination of older cats is recommended if they are considered 'at risk'.

How is it FeLV spread?

The FeLV virus is spread mainly via the saliva from a persistently infected cat exchanged, for example, by mutual grooming or sharing of food bowls. In addition, the infection can also be caused by biting or contact with urine and faeces containing the virus.

The virus can also pass from a queen to her kittens either in the womb or after the kittens are born, via infected milk.

The majority of cats become infected with the virus entering the body via the mouth or nose.

The virus multiplies at these sites before spreading through the bloodstream to the rest of the body and, in particular, to the bone marrow.

Not all cats which are exposed to the virus become persistently infected. If the cat is able to eliminate the virus, this will occur during the initial stages (4-12 weeks) of infection. Once significant infection of the bone marrow is present, the cat remains infected for the rest of its life.

Signs and symptoms of FeLV

Signs of FeLV infection can take months or years to develop and so infected cats can appear to be totally normal and healthy for quite some time. The first signs of infection may be vague and non-specific because of the huge variety of problems that can occur with FeLV infection. The cat may appear to be slow to recover from minor infections, may be off-colour and have a poor appetite over a period of time or may develop chronic or recurring problems such as diarrhoea.

If tumours develop, the signs seen will depend on the site of the tumour and a variety of different sites may become infected like the chest, kidneys, gut and spinal cord. As the bone marrow is affected the cats ability to produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body, decreases and an anaemia ensues, this results in pale gums and listlessness due to the lack of oxygen.

How is FeLV treated?

There is no treatment to eliminate a FeLV infection, although interferons are now being used in an attempt to eliminate disease in some cases. Treatment must therefore be aimed at maintaining quality of life and managing the effects of infection such as immunosuppression, anaemia and cancer.

How do I prevent my cat getting FeLV?

There are several vaccines on the market to protect your cat against FeLV. Vaccination helps to prevent cats from becoming persistently infected by helping to stimulate a successful immune response.

Unfortunately, no vaccine is likely to be 100% effective at protecting against infection. Vaccination is recommended in situations where cats have a risk of exposure to the virus. This includes cats that go outdoors and all those in contact with potentially infected individuals.


Feline Panleucopaenia is a very serious disease of cats which carries a high risk of mortality especially in young cats and kittens. The virus is very similar to the one that causes parvovirus in dogs and indeed recent parvovirus strains of dogs have been shown to infect cats, however, generally does not cause disease, unlike the potentially fatal consequences in dogs.

Who is at risk of Feline Panleucopaenia?

All unvaccinated animals at at risk of contracting the disease, but young kittens are particularly susceptible.

How is Feline Panleucopaenia spread?

Infected cats pass the virus in their urine and faeces for a maximum of six weeks. The virus persists in the environment for long periods over many months or even years and is resistant to many cleaning products and disinfectants. For these reasons, contact with a contaminated environment is the most likely source of infection. Kittens may also be infected inside the womb by the virus passing across the placenta from their mother, if she is infected while pregnant.

What are the signs and symptoms of Panleucopaenia?

Panleucopaenia causes severe vomiting, anorexia and fever. Sometimes the disease can progress so quickly that a kitten may die before the owner even notices any signs, 'fading kitten syndrome'.

The disease may initially be mistaken for foreign bodies stuck in the gut or poisoning. Kittens deteriorate very quickly because once they stop eating and drinking, they become severely dehydrated.

Older cats tend to show less severe signs and, if queens are infected whilst they are pregnant, they often show no signs of illness. The unborn kittens, however, can be infected inside the womb and this may lead to their death 'in-utero' or damage to their developing brains.

What is the treatment for Panleucopaenia?

Treatment of cats with Panleucopaenia is typically supportive often including intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Without intensive nursing, many cats can die from the effects of the disease.

What are the recovery rates from Panleucopaenia?

Cats that survive more than five days without developing complications have a better chance of recovery although frequently it takes several weeks for this to occur. If a cat recovers from panleucopaenia, it is highly unlikely that they will catch the disease again.

How do I prevent my cat getting Panleucopaenia?

Most cat vaccines on the UK market includes panleucopaenia as one of the diseases it protects against and is recommended for all cats as part of their regular healthcare. Boosters are required to maintain immunity and it is particularly important that queens are up-to-date before any planned breeding. One of the vaccines on the UK market has been shown to cross protect against the canine Parvo strains that can cause panleucopaenia and prevent shedding of the virus from the cat which can then infect dogs.

Ear & Eye Conditions

Your cat’s ears and eyes can easily become infected and it is important to recognise any changes and talk to your vet to care for your cat’s sight and hearing. Bacterial and viral eye infections are quite common in cats and so if your cat starts rubbing his or her eyes or there is redness or discharge talk to your vet as they can both be the signs of an infection that needs treatment. Eye problems can also be a sign of more serious underlying problems especially in older cats.

Ear problems are also common in cats whether caused by mites, bacterial infection, polyps or even tumours.

Ear Care

You should check your cat's ears regularly to ensure they stay healthy. Clean, odour-free, pale pink ears with a minimal accumulation of wax are indications of healthy ears.

What are the signs of ear disease?

Signs to look out for include:

  • Unpleasant odour
  • Excessive scratching and pawing of the ear and head
  • Sensitivity to touch, often resulting in pain
  • Constant tilting/shaking of the head to one side
  • Black or yellowish discharge
  • Redness or swelling of the ear flap or canal
  • Changes in behaviour such as listlessness, depression or irritability
  • Accumulation of dark brown wax
  • Loss of balance or hearing and disorientation
  • Bleeding or discharge resembling coffee grinds

Otitis Externa in cats

An infection of the external ear canal and Otitis Media, the middle ear, is usually caused by ear mites, bacteria or yeast. Other potential causes include injury, debris, polyps, tumours or foreign objects lodged in the ear canal.

When seeking treatment of an ear infection you should act quickly. If your cat has an ear infection, he or she may be in considerable discomfort. Medicated ear drops designed for topical use contain a variety of ingredients.

Antibiotics are used for bacterial infections while antifungals are administered for yeast. The anti-inflammatory, usually a steroid, will reduce pain, swelling and redness.

Your veterinary surgeon will determine this during your visit and suggest the best course of action.

How do ear mites affect cats?

Ear mites are common parasites that are highly contagious, often contracted by pet- to-pet contact. The most common sign of ear mites is excessive itching. Ear mites create dark, crumbly debris that look like coffee grinds.

Ear flap haematoma

A haematoma of the ear flap means blood has accumulated in the ear flap (pinna) due to vigorous head shaking, scratching or trauma to the ear area result in damage to the blood vessels. This may be due to an underlying inflammatory condition either related to the ear or elsewhere on the body. Fleas are always an important consideration in such cases, often set off by infection, mites, fleas or debris.

Deafness in cats

Deafness in cats is usually brought on by age, trauma, loud noise or infection and can also be hereditary or congenital. Once diagnosed, clinical deafness is unfortunately, a lifelong condition. Domestic cats with a white coat and blue eyes are more prone deafness.

How do I prevent cat ear problems?

Regularly checking your cats ears for signs of redness, odour or excessive discharge and taking them to a veterinarian for prompt treatment if this occurs is the best measure to prevent ear problems from getting worse.

How to administer ear drops or ointment to cats

  • Read the label instructions carefully for correct dosage
  • Gently pull the ear flap over the head, squeeze out the desired amount and apply it to the lowest part of the ear canal
  • Gently massage the ear area to help work the medication deeper into the ear canal

Eye Care

A healthy cat's eyes should be clear and bright, without any discharge, and the whites of the eyes should be exactly that - white.

Common signs symptoms of eye problems in cats

  • Redness of the conjunctiva (inside membrane of eyelids)
  • Matter 'stuck' on the surface or in the corners of the eye
  • Cloudiness within the eyeball
  • A dull eye surface
  • The 'third eyelid', which is like a curtain of pink, coming across the eye
  • Excessive tearing or unusual discharges
  • Tear-stained fur around the eyes

Eye tests used to diagnose eye problems in cats

  • Fluorescein stain to identify the presence of corneal ulcers or defects in the eye surface
  • Schirmer Tear Test to determine the level of tear production
  • Ocular pressure to detect glaucoma
  • Ophthalmoscope to see in the eye chamber

Common cat eye conditions

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the membrane that covers the inner lining of the eyelids. This inflammation may extend to involve the white of the eye. It may be caused by allergies or by bacterial, fungal or viral infections. In fact, recurrent or chronic conjunctivitis in cats is often the result of herpes viral infections which can return - again and again. It can be contagious, so keep an infected cat away from others.

Corneal Ulceration can occur when the shiny surface of the cornea is scratched or damaged. Again erosion and ulceration, also known as a keratitis, can be associated with a herpesvirus infection of the cornea.

Epiphora occurs if your cat's eyes constantly "weep",due to an increased tear production or the normal tear flow through the tear duct is blocked. The fur around the eyes becomes "stained"due to the constant wetting effect which is often the sign that owners notice more often as a consequence of the problem.

Cataracts & Glaucoma. Cats, just like humans, can have these serious eye diseases. Cataracts, which cloud the lens inside the eye can sometimes be seen in elderly cats. A thorough evaluation by your veterinary surgeon is necessary as surgery is the only treatment. Glaucoma stems from too much pressure being exerted upon the eye's interior as a result of a decrease in the amount of fluid draining from it. This increased pressure can damage the sensitive retina inside the eye which can lead to blindness.

How to give your cat eye drops

  • Remove any discharge from around the eye with a cotton ball moistened with warm water
  • Hold your cat sideways on your lap or place him or her on a table at a comfortable height (you may want someone to help restrain your cat if you choose the second option)
  • See the instructions on the bottle for dosage. Shake if necessary
  • Use one hand to hold the bottle between thumb and index while using the other to support the cat's head
  • Tilt the head back and, to prevent blinking, use your free fingers to hold the eyelids open
  • Hold the bottle of drops close to the eye but DON'T touch the eye's surface
  • Squeeze the drops onto the eye and once the drops are in, release the head
  • Your cat will blink, spreading the medication over the eye's surface

How to apply your cat's eye ointment

  • Remove any discharge from around the eye with a cotton ball moistened with warm water
  • Hold your cat sideways on your lap or place him/her on a table at a comfortable height (you may want someone to help restrain your cat if you choose the second option)
  • Check the instructions on the tube for dosage
  • Gently pull back upper and lower eyelids
  • Hold the tube parallel to the lower eyelid, squeeze out the ointment onto the edge of the eyelid
  • Massage upper and lower eyelids together to spread the medication
  • Release the head and let your cat blink

Fleas & Ticks

How to treat fleas

Fleas can cause a lot of discomfort and more serious health problems.

Flea bites may go unnoticed on some pets, cause slight irritation in others and produce extensive itching, red lesions, hair loss and even ulcers or defects in the surface of the skin in those animals with flea allergy dermatitis, which is the result of extreme sensitivity to flea saliva.

Severe flea infestations can cause anaemia and even death, especially in puppies. Fleas can also transmit several diseases and parasites,such as tapeworm.

Adult fleas are wingless insects, generally smaller than a sesame seed, who feed on the blood of animals. Their proportionately enlarged back pair of legs gives them an extraordinary jumping ability. Hanging on to your pet's fur with their claws, their needle-like mouth parts bite through the skin to suck up blood. Once fleas find their host they do not generally jump off.

If one flea finds your dog or cat an attractive food source, you can be sure that other fleas will, too. They mate, with females laying 30-50 eggs per day. These eggs will drop to the ground within 8 hours and, as soon as 2 days later, flea larvae will hatch and like to hide in dark places on the ground, in carpets or upholstery.

After about a week of feeding on adult flea droppings, crumbs, flakes of skin, etc., the larvae spin cocoons to become pupae. The pupae can remain in this stage for very long periods of time and are resistant to any form of treatment.

A week or so later the adult flea develops inside the pupa and is ready to emerge when the timing is right to continue the cycle. When a dog or cat walks by the flea inside the cocoon, the vibrations from the paws on the ground and the carbon dioxide in the breath causes the adult to emerge and leap onto the cat or dog.

The cycle - which can take as little as 12 days or as long as 180 days or even more - can then begin again.

How to get rid of fleas

The best way to control flea problems is to prevent them from happening in the first place - prevention is better than cure! Fortunately, developments in veterinary parasite control in recent years have made the twofold goal of eliminating fleas on pets and preventing further infestations much easier to achieve.

The ideal flea treatment will control the adult population of fleas as well as the immature stages too, including eggs and larvae. Remember that the pupae are resistant to ALL flea products and can survive in the environment for a very long time, meaning that you have to perservere with treatment if you want to eliminate this environmental burden.

Available for both dogs and cats, new insecticides and insect growth regulators in easy-to-use topical or oral forms not only eliminate any existing fleas, but also work long-term to prevent future infestations. This is accomplished either by killing the parasites before they can reproduce or by preventing their eggs from developing into normal adult fleas. Consult your veterinary surgeon for advice about the proper product for your pet as these vary considerably in efficacy and the ways in which they work.

Furthermore, thorough daily vacuuming of high-traffic areas and frequent washing of your pet's bedding at hot temperatures will also go a long way in reducing the flea population in your home.

Flea treatments come in a range of formulations, these include once-a-month topical treatments, sprays, powders, dips, shampoos, collars,and oral or injectable medication. Once again, you should ask your veterinary surgeon for advice about what the most appropriate product is for your pet.

And remember, it is perfectly normal to see live fleas on a pet after a topical treatment, spray, shampoo, collar, etc. is applied. Many believe that this means the product is not working, but the fleas have to fully absorb the product before they will be affected, which may take from a few hours to a few days depending on what you use.

Flea facts

  • Worldwide, there are about 3,000 different types of fleas, but the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is the most common to be found on cats and dogs
  • Adult fleas can jump 600 times an hour. Each jump, in terms of the flea's size, is the equivalent of a person clearing a 50-storey building
  • Once fleas have jumped onto your cat or dog they rarely jump off to another host ie another cat, dog or you

General Care

Caring for your cat

Our cats are important to us and we want to do the very best to keep them happy and healthy. As well as the pleasure of having a feline friend in your life, cat ownership brings responsibilities and if you are thinking of buying a new cat, you should weigh up the time and commitment involved. Cats, like other pets, are protected under the law within the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which means that anyone caring for a cat, even temporarily, has a duty to care for him or her properly. The Act covers the five welfare needs of our animals, which are the:

  • Need for a suitable environment
  • Need for a suitable diet
  • Need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • Need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals
  • And the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

When is the best time to start caring for your ageing cat? 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 eight 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.

Keeping your cat healthy 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 life-stage and lifestyle of your cat) and of course loving attention

Common Problems

Obesity in cats

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 facilitating weight loss are available which modify ingredients with for example increased fibre, fatty acids and vitamins while decreasing sodium, protein and fat.

Feline diabetes

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.

Arthritis in cats

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

Susceptibility to the cold is more likely as your cat ages. There can be a range of explanations. Providing an additional a heat source near where the cat sleeps and adequate shelter outdoors in inclement weather if the cat can't easily access indoors

Teeth problems in cats

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 Êat bay.

Constipation in cats

Constipation may 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 your cat

In ageing cats, 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 Cats with recurrent infections

Regular infections and/or other health problems may indicate an impaired immune system. Take your cat in to your vet's for a check-up. Your veterinary surgeon may suggest a test for Feline Leukaemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.

Increased thirst in cats

This can be 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.

Cat's decreased sense of smell

A loss or decreased sense of small 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.


Just like you, your cat is going to get sick occasionally and you may come home from the veterinary surgeons with some medication to administer. Learning how to do it right will make the process easier both for you and your cat.

Always follow the instructions given by your veterinary surgeon. Be sure to administer the full amount of medication over the number of days instructed by your veterinary surgeon.

Giving pills, tablets and capsules to your cat

  • Step 1: Place the pill between the thumb and index finger of one hand. Hold the top of the cat's head and grasp the cheekbones with the thumb and index finger of the other hand.
  • Step 2: Tilt the head back until the cat's eyes are facing upward. Usually the cat's jaw will drop open on its own. If not, apply a little pressure on the lower jaw with your middle finger. Bring the pill to the cat's mouth.
  • Step 3: Keep your middle finger over the small incisor teeth to keep jaw open. Deposit the pill as far back on the tongue as possible. Immediately close the mouth.
  • Step 4: Gently stroke the throat or blow on the nose to encourage swallowing. Work fast to avoid being bitten.

Pilling devices

Should you wish, you can use a pilling device to avoid placing your fingers into your cat's mouth. It is a plastic tube resembling a syringe used to deposit the pill.

  • Place the pill at the end of the device.
  • Hold the device like a syringe between your index and middle fingers, using your thumb to push the plunger.
  • Tilt your cat's head back until his/her eyes are facing upward. Usually the cat's jaw will drop open on its own. If not, apply a little pressure on the lower jaw with your middle finger.
  • Place the device over the base of the tongue.
  • Push the plunger to deposit the pill as far back on the tongue as possible.

Administering liquids and syrups to your cat

Before starting

Read the label for the proper dosage and, if instructed, shake the contents of the bottle. Fill a syringe or dropper with the medication.

  • Hold the top of the cat's head and grasp the cheekbones with the thumb and index finger of the other hand
  • Tilt the head back until the cat's eyes are facing upward.
  • Usually the cat's jaw will drop open on its own. If not, apply a little pressure on the lower jaw with your middle finger
  • Drop the liquid into the cat's mouth

Helpful hints

  • Always read the label instructions carefully
  • Ask your veterinary surgeon if the medication can be given with food or must be given on an empty stomach
  • Place the cat on a table with a non - slip surface
  • When administering medication stay calm - your pet can sense if you are nervous making it more difficult to apply the treatment
  • Always praise and reward your pet with a treat


Cat-proofing Your Home

Just as parents 'childproof'' their home, so cat owners should 'pet-proof' theirs. Four-legged members of the family are naturally curious and love to explore their environment with their paws, claws and mouths. But they can't know what is dangerous and what is not, so it's up to you to make your home a safe haven. These tips can help ensure that your cat enjoys a long, happy and accident-free life at home.

How to cat-proof your house

  • Screen windows to guard against falls.
  • Don't let young cats out on balconies, upper porches or high decks.
  • Many house plants, including dieffenbachia, elephant ear, spider plants and more are poisonous if eaten. Remove them or put them out of reach in hanging baskets.
  • Kittens love to chew when they're teething, so unplug, remove or cover electrical cords.
  • Don't leave a room where a fire is lit or a heater is being used unattended.
  • Plastic bags may be fun to play with, but they can cause suffocation.
  • Don't leave small, sharp, easily swallowed objects lying around.
  • Cotton thread especially attached to a needle and also wool are particular hazards to cats because backward pointing spines in their tongue tend to encourage such items to be swallowed if taken into the mouth.
  • Never leave ovens or irons on unattended.
  • Dangerous household chemicals such as bleach and ammonia should be stored out of your catÕs reach.
  • Close washer and dryer doors - your cat might climb in and become trapped.
  • Keep toilet lids down - kittens can drown if they fall in.

Cat-proofing your garage

  • Cats enjoy naps near a warm engine so, before you drive off, honk your horn and make sure your pet is not under or near the car.
  • Cats like the smell and taste of antifreeze but ingestion is likely to prove fatal. Tightly cover containers and wipe up any spills.
  • Paint, fuel and other dangerous chemicals should be stored out of reach.

Cat-proofing your garden

  • Some outdoor plants, like ivy and oleander, can be poisonous to cats.
  • Keep cats away from lawns and gardens treated with chemicals.
  • Store garden tools and chemicals securely. Keep garden sheds locked.
  • Cover pools and ponds - your cat might fall in and not be able to get out.

Avoiding cat-astrophes

  • Many objects used as cat toys - wool, string, rubber bands, aluminium foil - can be extremely harmful if swallowed.
  • Cats love to sleep in warm, dark places, so keep drawers and cupboards closed.
  • A cat looks adorable with a ribbon tied around its neck, but it could get caught and choke your pet. Make sure collars are not too tight or two loose- both can be dangerous. One finger should fit under the collar comfortably. If in doubt ask your vet.

Keeping your cat safe at Chirstmas time

  • Tinsel and icicles, Christmas tree lights and glass ornaments will be sure to tempt your catÕs curiosity - but all could be harmful if chewed or swallowed.
  • Poinsettia, holly and mistletoe are poisonous to your cat.


Your cat may one day require surgery. While this can be stressful for both you and your cat, there are a few basic guidelines that you can follow that will make the process as complication-free as possible, and help put your cat on the fast road to recovery.

Whether it is minor or major surgery, your vet will advise you when your cat can resume a normal lifestyle.

Pre-surgery tests for cats

  • Your veterinary surgeon will do a check-up on your cat before the surgery to determine if there are any pre-existing conditions that may interfere with the surgical procedure.
  • Make sure your cat is up-to-date with annual vaccinations.
  • Your veterinary surgeon may suggest a blood test to screen for disease not apparent from a physical exam.
  • ou may need to administer antibiotics prior to surgery to help control pre-exisiting infection for certain procedures.Speak with your veterinary surgeon to find out what are the restrictions for food and water.

Post-surgical help and advice

  • Your cat is likely to be weak or groggy after surgery. Do not let him/her get too excited.
  • Restrain your cat by putting him/her in a carrier when leaving the hospital. This will protect him/her from additional injury.
  • Provide only small amounts of food and water until your cat readjusts to being at home and is recovering. Too much food and water can lead to upset stomachs or vomiting.
  • If a special post-surgical diet has been prescribed, follow all instructions carefully.
  • Limit your cat's exercise. Climbing stairs, jumping or running may open up sutures or cause nausea.
  • Make sure the sleeping area is clean, warm and free of draughts.
  • Your veterinary surgeon may prescribe medication to administer during your cat's recovery. Follow all label instructions carefully.
  • Sutures are usually removed approximately 10 days after surgery. Check the area around the incision daily for redness, swelling or drainage. If you detect any irritation, contact your veterinary surgeon immediately.
  • Try to keep your cat from licking or chewing on the wound. If this is difficult to do, you might want to provide a physical barrier like a bandage or tee-shirt, or by placing an 'Elizabethan collar' around the head.


Planning for the arrival of a new kitten

Make sure you're ready for the arrival of your new kitten by 'pet proofing' your home. Have fun choosing a carrier, bed, blanket, litter tray, toys and other supplies before your new kitten enters your house for the first time.

Kitten nutrition and healthcare

You can make a major contribution to your cat'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.

How to introduce your new kitten to the home

Ensure your new kitten is familiar with the essentials, by introducing them to the food and water bowl and the litter tray. The litter tray and the food/water bowls should not be kept in the same place and ideally there should be 2 litter trays per cat in one house.

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 kitten with lots of opportunities for interesting, challenging play that will satisfy his/her 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. A kitten should not go outside until they are fully vaccinated as they are susceptible to catching diseases.

Your kitten's first 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 neutering and the best time to do this
  • A discussion about microchipping your kitten before it goes outside

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.

When should you neuter 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.

Cat spaying

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. In general kittens recover very quickly after this procedure and are up and about in no time.

Cat castration

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 less than six months old. The earlier the procedure the less likely that secondary male characteristics such as spraying and fighting become learnt and therefore difficult or impossible to undo.

Older Cats

As a result of advances in veterinary medicine, more knowledgeable care and improved nutrition, cats are now living much longer, healthier lives. But, just as for humans, the passage of time has its effects, and you may begin to notice that your once-frisky feline seems to have slowed down a bit.

Being aware of the natural changes that can occur as your cat becomes older, as well as what you can do to help keep your pet as healthy, active and comfortable as possible, can ensure that you both enjoy this final stage in your cat's life to the fullest.

How will I know when my cat is getting 'old'?

As cats move into the senior phase of their lives, they experience gradual changes that are like those of ageing humans: their coat may lose its colour and lustre, their bodies are not as supple and reflexes not as sharp as they once were. However diseases found more frequently in senior cats can also cause these symptoms, for example an overactive thyroid gland can cause the coat to become dull and the painful condition known as arthritis causes inflexibility and a reluctance to more around or groom.

Hearing, eyesight and the sense of smell may deteriorate and energy levels seem to diminish. In fact, because cats are naturally adaptive in their behaviour, the first signs of ageing are often a subtle general decrease in activity, combined with a tendency to sleep longer and more soundly.

When does a cat enter 'old' age?

Such signs may begin to manifest themselves anywhere between the ages of seven and 11. Furthermore, a healthy cat who lives the majority of its life indoors, especially one that has been neutered, will most likely age later than one which has been affected by disease or environmental problems early in life.

Thus, while wild or feral tomcats have an average life span of only three years, a castrated male house cat that is well cared for can live happily and healthily into late teens or, in exceptional cases, his early twenties. Again, as with humans, the ageing process will vary with the individual. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to judge when it's time to consider your cat a "senior".

Twice yearly check-ups for senior cats

As your cat ages, regular check-ups at the vet become more important than ever. In fact, at this stage of your pet's life, it is recommended that they receive a thorough examination every six months, as adult cats can age as much as four years (in human terms) within the period of one calendar year.

Besides the usual complete physical examination, your veterinary surgeon may conduct a simple urine and blood test. This will enable your vet to diagnose diseases in the early stages that do not yet show and can be treated before they get worse. Usually, the sooner treatment is given the better the outcome for the cat.

Monitoring your older cat's health

Most importantly, you should tell your veterinary surgeon about any noticeable change in your cat's physical condition or behaviour, for example eating or drinking more or eating less, urinating more frequently, not grooming themselves as often,.changes in their coat, not responding to usual commands or signals.

A good way to know if your cat is drinking more is to measure their water intake per day and tell your vet. Make sure your cat doesn't go outside or drink from the toilet if you are going to measure!

A problem that you may assume is simply related to your cat's advanced age may actually be the result of a treatable medical condition. For example, your cat's lack of interest in exercise or play may not stem from the normal decrease in energy that comes with age, but be due to the stiffness and pain that results from arthritis - a condition that can be managed with the proper treatment.

Regular checkups can thus help your veterinary surgeon work out a suitable preventative health programme for your pet and catch any disorders sufficiently early to provide effective treatment. Working together, you can both ensure that your cat's senior years will be healthy and happy ones.

What's the right diet for an older cat?

As he or she ages, your cat's nutritional needs may also change. You may find that, although your pet is eating less, he/she still puts on weight. This could be due to a slowdown of metabolism or a decrease in activity.

Excess weight can cause and/or aggravate many feline medical conditions, including diabetes, heart, respiratory, skin and joint problems. To help a larger cat lose weight, try feeding smaller quantities of food or gradually switch to a diet that is lower in calories. Your veterinary surgery is the best place to get advice on dieting and many clinics offer free services such as weight loss clinics run by fully qualified nurses.

Other cats have entirely the opposite problem - they lose weight as they age, sometimes as the result of kidney disease, overactive thyroid glands,known as hyperthyroidism, but also conditions such as heart disease, dental issues and diabetes. Appetite can be reduced or increased in these conditions. In either case, ask your veterinary surgeon for advice about your pet's individual nutritional requirements.

Spaying & Neutering

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.

What are the health benefits of neutering a cat?

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 minimises the risk of mammary cancer in females and reduces the incidence of prostate problems in males. Reducing the frequency of your cat fighting also means that it is less likely to catch infectious diseases which we cannot vaccinate against, for example FIV.

What does spaying a cat involve?

Spaying removes the uterus and ovaries of a female cat, usually around the age of six months. A major surgical procedure, it is performed under general anaesthesia. Complications are rare and recovery is normally complete within ten days.

What does castrating a cat involve?

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.


One of the very best things you can do to give your cat a long and healthy life is to ensure that he or she is vaccinated against common and serious feline infectious diseases.

Rich with disease-fighting antibodies, a mother's milk will give her kittens immunity from disease for the first few weeks of their lives. However, after that period it's up to you - with the help and advice of your veterinary surgeon - to provide that protection.

How do cat vaccines work?

Vaccines contain small quantities of altered or "killed" viruses, bacteria or other disease-causing organisms. When administered, they stimulate your cat's immune system to produce disease-fighting cells and proteins - or antibodies - to protect against disease.

When should my cat be vaccinated?

Generally, the immunity that a kitten has at birth only lasts for a few weeks. It is then time to begin vaccinating. The first vaccination is usually given in two doses, the first dose at around the age of eight to 10 weeks and the second about three- four weeks later, finishing after 12 weeks' of age. Thereafter, your cat will require annual 'booster' vaccinations for the rest of his or her life to maintain protection. An older cat with an unknown vaccination history will also require two doses to initiate a vaccination course.

Of course, these are only guidelines - your veterinary surgeon will be able to determine the exact schedule that's right for your cat.

Which vaccinations should my cat receive?

Your cat should be protected against those diseases which are most common, highly contagious, and which cause serious illness or death.

Such diseases include feline panleucopaenia, feline leukaemia and cat flu. Cat flu is a syndrome which can be caused by both feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus. Feline chlamydiosis or Bordetella bronchiseptica (another potential cause of cat flu) vaccination may also be recommended, based on your veterinary surgeon's evaluation of the risks posed by such factors as your cat's age, particular environment and lifestyle.

If your cat is travelling abroad then a rabies vaccination will be required and this may need to be done many months in advance of the anticipated travel date for some countries, such as Australia.

What can I get my cat vaccinated against?

Feline herpesvirus
Just as with the human common cold, the virus that causes this upper respiratory-tract infection (cat 'flu') is easily transmitted from one cat to another, so vaccination is imperative if your pet will come in contact with other cats. Its symptoms may take the form of fever, loss of appetite, sneezing, eye and nasal discharges and coughing.

Kittens are particularly affected, but this disease can be dangerous in any unprotected cat, as effective treatment is limited. Even if a cat recovers, it will remain a carrier and in some cases can have recurrent health problems (and particulary in relation to the eyes) for life.

Feline Calicivirus
This virus is another major cause of upper respiratory-tract infection (cat 'flu) in cats. Widespread and highly contagious, its signs are variable and can include respiratory signs such as conjunctivitis and sneezing but fever, ulcers on the tongue and sometimes a 'shifting' lameness can occur sometimes without respiratory signs. Illness can range from mild to severe, depending on the strain of virus present. Once again, treatment of this disease can be difficult.

Even if recovery does take place, a cat who has had the virus cat can continue to infect other animals for a considerable period of weeks or months, and sometimes lifelong, as well as experience chronic sneezing and runny eyes. Some cats exposed to this virus may develop s life-long gum disease which in some cases is so severe will necessitate removal of most of the teeth as it cannot be easily treated. Vaccination is therefore tremendously important to help prevent infection.

Feline Panleucopaenia
This potentially fatal disease is caused by a virus so resistant it can survive for a year or more outside a cat's body, on its own in the environment. Signs include: listlessness, diarrhoea, vomiting, severe dehydration and fever, like parvovirus in dogs.

Certain feline panleucopenia vaccines also protect cats from catching the 'dog' version known as 'canine parvovirus'. Although canine parvovirus does not cause the same horrible symptoms in cats, a cat that is not protected against feline panleucopenia virus will transmit the virus in their faeces and potentially give it to unvaccinated dogs which can kill them. Therefore it is very important to protect your cat against this disease as it will also protect dogs from getting parvovirus.

Happily, the vaccine itself is very effective in preventing the disease, as treatment is very difficult and, even if recovery takes place for a period of several weeks, a cat that has recovered can still spread the disease to other, unvaccinated animals.

Feline Leukaemia (FeLV)
Infection with the Feline Leukaemia Virus can result in a multitude of serious health problems: from anaemia, certain types of cancer to secondary problems caused by a deficient immune system and to complicate matters these problems may not show up for a very long time after infection After initial exposure to the virus, a cat may show no signs of its presence for months, if not years, and in this time it may infect other cats through the transmission of the virus in saliva, for example through sharing food and water bowls or biting.

If your cat is not protected and you are concerned that it may be infected then testing is available to determine its FeLV status Ie if he or she has been infected. In order to ensure your cat is protected against this potentially fatal disease which is easily transmitted by infected cats, vaccination is recommended for all cats that go outdoors, even if itÕs just in the garden.

What other vaccinations could my cat need?
After evaluating your cat's particular situation and risk factors, your veterinary surgeon may also recommend vaccination against other infectious diseases.

Feline Chlamydioses
This bacterial disease is the most common cause of conjunctivitis in cats. It is very contagious, especially in young kittens kept in groups and the infection rate can be very high in such environments. It causes a local infection of the mucous membranes of the eyes but may also lead to some mild respiratory signs. Chlamydiosis can be transmitted to humans by direct contact to cause typically conjunctivitis although this is rare.

Treatment involves long courses of appropriate antibiotics, therefore vaccination is the preferred method for prevention for those cats at risk.

This incurable viral disease affects the central nervous system of almost all mammals, including humans if infected. It is spread through contact with the saliva of infected animals through bites or any break in the skin. Though not present in the UK, this disease occurs widely throughout many other countries of the world.

It is one of the requirements for the Pet Travel Scheme that all dogs, cats, and ferrets are vaccinated against rabies if travelling abroad.

How effective is vaccination?

Like any drug treatment or surgical procedure, vaccinations cannot be 100% guaranteed to protect against disease. However, used in conjunction with proper nutrition, good pet management and hygienic conditions, vaccination is clearly your pet's best defence against serious and common infectious disease.

Plus, when you consider what treating a serious illness can cost you in money and distress as well as the and your beloved cat in terms of both money and distress, and even death prevention through vaccination is extremely cost-effective.

Finally, when you consider the amount of money, distress and pain that NOT vaccinating can cost you and your cat and could even result in death the only sensible option is to give the best possible protection by vaccinating.

Practice information

Haughley Surgery

  • Mon
    8:30am - 6:30pm
  • Tue
    8:30am - 6:30pm
  • Wed
    8:30am - 6:30pm
  • Thu
    8:30am - 6:30pm
  • Fri
    8:30am - 6:30pm
  • Sat
    8:30am - 11:30am
  • Sun

Emergency Details

Please call:

01449 673366

Find us here:

63 Old Street Haughley Stowmarket IP14 3NT
get directions with Google Maps

Please call this number for emergencies:

01449 673366

Thurston Surgery

  • Mon
    8:30am - 6:30pm
  • Tue
    8:30am - 6:30pm
  • Wed
    8:30am - 6:30pm
  • Thu
    8:30am - 6:30pm
  • Fri
    8:30am - 6:30pm
  • Sat
    12:00pm - 3:00pm
  • Sun

Emergency Details

Please call:

01359 232200

Find us here:

58 Barton Road Thurston IP31 3PD
get directions with Google Maps

Please call this number for emergencies:

01359 232200