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Cat Advice

We can provide expert advice of caring for your cat or kitten

  • Nutrition
  • Neutering
  • Parasites
  • Vaccinations
  • Worming

Nutrition

Cat's nutritional requirements are very different from those of dogs or humans. They must be fed high levels of easily digestible protein and this protein needs to be meat, because it is the only source of some amino acids (building blocks of protein) essential for felines.

Although cats can make use of carbohydrates (including some sugars), their main source of energy is from protein. Excess and unused carbohydrate will get converted into fat and this is deposited as an energy store, contributing to our “fat cat” population of which we are seeing more and more. Some sugars can also cause problems, e.g. lactose in milk which can cause diarrhoea, and Diabetes (mellitus) is a disease generated by excess carbohydrate consumption.

Cats also have specific vitamin requirements. They need a lot more vitamin A than we do, but too much can lead to severe health problems such as skeletal deformities. On the other hand, cats do not need any vitamin C in their food.

Types of food

Despite many years of domestication, cats are still hunters, and many pet cats would still be perfectly content to live on a diet of mouse. These cats should be regularly wormed, and remember a mouse is worth 30-50kcal to your cat... Most cats like the easy life, however, and prefer to be waited on at their hotel! A good complete diet is the easiest and safest method of feeding for both for dogs and cats and this can be wet, dry or raw. Home-cooking for cats (or dogs) is not easy and cooking destroys some of nutrients which cats need. Table scraps are not nutritionally balanced for long term feeding and can be too high in salt. Some common ingredients can even be toxic to cats, e.g. onion powder (which is often used in instant gravies) can cause severe anaemia.

Wet or dry food?

For cats, we would recommend a very high quality wet diet or raw diet. Cats don’t generally drink enough to keep themselves fully hydrated when on a full dry diet. The good thing about dry food is that it comes in kibbles of various shapes and sizes. Crunching hard kibbles can help to slow down the development of dental disease. Unlike wet food, a dry diet is very concentrated and energy dense which can lead us to feel that we aren’t feeding enough – BEWARE!! As a result some cats (e.g. those with certain urinary problems) should definitely be fed a wet diet. This soft food, however, is not great for helping to keep the teeth clean, so you will need to pay attention to dental hygiene. There are special dental products available (our human-style toothpaste should not be used because cats tend to swallow it and this can cause other health problems).

How often?

Cats should really have many small meals a day rather than one or two big ones. Eating too much food at a time can lead to gastrointestinal problems. In an ideal world, food should always be available for cats to ensure they can eat in many small portions, but many cats are not very active and grazing on tasty high-calorie food can cause weight gain. It is a myth that cats don’t overeat – many do. Automated feeders can be helpful with this. Water should ALWAYS be available. It may appear that your cat never drinks, but this is not true; cats do drink, but they are descendants of a desert animal and can conserve water well. They also drink much more quietly and daintily than dogs and it’s easy to miss. They also love to drink outside from puddles.

Overweight?

Obesity can lead to heart disease, arthritis and diabetes mellitus, just like it can with humans. Overweight cats that stop eating because they are unwell or in pain can also develop very severe liver function problems within a couple of days because of a cat’s metabolic idiosyncrasies. As with people, slim cats generally live much longer then overweight cats. It is therefore important to keep an eye on your cat’s waistline. Cats only become overweight when they take in more calories than they are using, not directly because of spaying or living indoors. Spaying removes some potent hormones and drops the metabolic rate. Similarly, indoor cats need less food, being less active. And as mentioned above, many owners feel that the advised daily amount a cat should eat does not look like much in the bowl. Remember, cat food is concentrated, a little goes a long way, and most feeding guides overestimate what a cat needs. There are numerous ways to reduce your cat’s weight and it is necessary to find one that fits in with your life and suits your cat. In some cases just a reduction of the normal food can be enough if overfeeding were the issue, but in other cases specific diet foods may be recommended, or switching to raw food, which is naturally a high protein low carbohydrate diet that cats were designed to eat, and will encourage a leaner, fitter animal with potentially better oral health! Whichever method you choose, a slow gradual approach is essential to avoid causing liver problems as mentioned above. It is often helpful to enlist the help of one of our veterinary nurses to weigh and measure your cat and to provide guidance on which food to choose and how much to feed. As cats are very individual, the dietary approach and calorie restriction that causes significant weight loss in one cat may not help another cat. Don’t be disheartened, one diet doesn’t fit all. All cats can lose weight one way or another.

Prescription diets

Diet can play an import part in the treatment and management of disease. We may advise that you to change the food or avoid certain products if your cat is ill. This may be easier to do by using a prescription diet, or a raw diet which has no additives. Raw diet must be thoroughly researched so that the diet you choose provides your cat with a balanced and healthy diet (we can help you with this). If you prefer commercially prepared foods, some prescription diets are only available from the vet because their nutrient content can be very different from that of normal food. The diets may look very similar though, and so remember that prescription diets are made to help cats with very specific problems, such as kidney problems or arthritis and they may not be appropriate for a healthy cat; if you have more than one cat, it may be necessary to feed your cats separately. Please contact us for advice if you are unsure about what to feed your individual cat. Any new diet needs to be introduced gradually both for dietary reasons and also to make sure that your cat does not refuse to eat the new food for significant periods of time. Cats can be tricky when we change their food, but there are ways and means with most and we are happy to help.

Neutering

We advise that male cats should be neutered (castrated) unless they are intended for breeding. We perform this operation at about four to six months of age.

Why castrate a male cat?

  • Mature male cats develop a very strong smell to their urine that will permeate their living quarters and is unpleasant. To top that, they also develop the habit of marking his territory by spraying urine on vertical surfaces e.g. walls and curtains. Castration before the age of about 8 months prevents this smell developing, and you and your tom cat can continue to live happily together.
  • Entire tom cats roam and fight with other cats, making them very prone to accidents and injuries / abscesses from fighting. They also pick up infections such as FIV (‘cat AIDS’) or feline leukaemia virus (FeLV). Castration reduces the urge to roam and fight, but will have little effect on the general personality of a cat.
  • Entire male cats father a lot of unwanted kittens.

Are there any problems associated with castrating male cats?

  • There is a very small risk associated with performing any operation under general anaesthesia – this is the case for every operative procedure. Otherwise no health or other problems have been reported due to castration.
  • Castrated cats tend to need fewer calories because of having a lower metabolic rate after losing some very potent hormones, which means there can be a tendency for them to put on weight if you continue to feed them the same amount/diet as before the operation. Being aware of this and feeding them with an eye on their waistline will prevent extra weight gain. There is no automatic increase in weight due to the castration, it all comes down to giving the correct amount of food.

What happens when a male cat is castrated?

The first step in having your tom-cat castrated is to arrange a pre-operative appointment so that we can perform a general health check. This is a free consultation and is done to make sure that he is healthy enough to undergo general anaesthesia and to be sure that both testicles are where they should be. We will then arrange an admission day and appointment time for him. It is very important that he is starved after 9.00pm the night before the surgery and that he has no breakfast that morning. If there is any food in the stomach, he may vomit under the anaesthetic and this is very dangerous. If he has eaten, we will rebook him rather than take a risk.

On the morning of surgery, we will go through an anaesthetic and surgery consent form, which is a legal requirement. We will require your signature to allow us to go ahead with the planned surgery. He will then be admitted.

His operation will take place later in the morning. He will have an anaesthetic and a strong pain killer. The testicles will then be removed. He will be left with two small wounds in the scrotum, which are usually not sutured as they close quickly on their own. After waking up, we will offer him some food and make arrangements for him to be picked up. He may still be a bit woozy, but should be fully awake. He can eat a small light meal at home and should just be allowed to rest. He must not go out overnight, he should stay in the warm, as hypothermia can be an issue for a day or so.

Please make sure he does not lick his wounds – use the cone of shame if he does, as he can cause himself injury, which may necessitate another anaesthetic and surgical procedure to correct things, and he may introduce infection. We also sometimes advise removing the normal cat litter from the tray for the first two or three days after the operation and replacing it with absorptive paper, such as kitchen towel. Litter can occasionally get stuck to the wounds which would cause him to lick.

We will arrange a free post-operative check for him with the nurse. At that appointment we will check the wounds and advise you whether he needs to remain indoors or if he could be allowed outside. Should anything look unusual or should you be unsure about anything at all before or after the appointment, you should contact us for advice.

Female cats

We advise that female cats that are not definitely intended for breeding should be neutered (spayed) at about 4-6 months of age. At this time they are due to come into season for the first time.

Why spay a female cat?

  • Female cats are very successful at finding mates and as it is not easy to keep cats indoors during their season. They are designed to be either pregnant or feeding kittens during the breeding season. This would put a huge strain on her. Helping her raise her kittens sounds very appealing but it is extremely demanding on time and sometimes finances, and it is often hard to find homes for them.
  • Cats come into season every two to three weeks, especially during spring and summer. They show behavioural changes. Cats in season will rub against both objects and people, roll on the floor and cry or even howl and scream constantly. Sometimes owners rush their cat to the vet thinking that she must be ill or in pain, or have hurt her back. The duration of the season might be several days each time – it is not easy to live with an un-spayed cat!
  • Mating and being around un-castrated fighting tom cats will put a female at risk of injury from cat fights and infections such as feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) and FIV (‘cat AIDS’).
  • Un-neutered female cats tend to have several litters each year, which puts an enormous strain onto their bodies. This means that the life expectancy of such individuals is lower than that of spayed female cats.
  • Mammary tumours (breast cancers) are much more common in unspayed cats, because they have been exposed for much longer to the effects of the hormones which promote their growth. This is a very unpleasant condition and sadly, in cats, the majority of them are malignant.

Are there any problems associated with spaying female cats?

  • There is a very small risk associated with performing any operation under general anaesthesia – this is the case for every operative procedure. Otherwise no health or other problems have been reported due to spaying.
  • Spayed cats tend to need fewer calories, which means there can be a tendency for them to put on weight, because they have a lower metabolic rate after losing some very potent hormones, which means there can be a tendency for them to put on weight if you continue to feed them the same amount/diet as before the operation. Being aware of this and feeding them with an eye on their waistline will prevent extra weight gain. There is no automatic increase in weight due to the spay, it all comes down to giving the correct amount of food.

What happens when a female cat is spayed?

The first step in having your cat spayed is to arrange a pre-operative appointment so that we can perform a general health check. This is a free consultation and is done to make sure that she is healthy enough to undergo general anaesthesia and surgery. We will then arrange an admission day and appointment time for her. It is very important that she is starved after 9.00pm the night before the surgery and that she has no breakfast that morning. If there is any food in the stomach, she may vomit under the anaesthetic and this is very dangerous. If she has eaten, we will rebook her rather than take a risk. On the morning of surgery, we will go through an anaesthetic and surgery consent form, which is a legal requirement. We will require your signature to allow us to go ahead with the planned surgery. Your cat will then be admitted.

Her operation will take place later in the morning. She will have a pre-med and a strong pain killer. She will then be anaesthetised and the uterus and ovaries will be removed through a small incision which is usually made on the flank. In rare cases, especially with certain cat breeds or when a small hernia is present, we will advise that the operation is performed through an incision made on the underside of the tummy rather than the flank. Afterwards the wound is stitched usually with intradermal sutures that are not visible from the outside. After waking up, she will be offered some food and make arrangements for her to be picked up. She may still be a bit woozy, but should be fully awake. She can eat a small light meal at home and should just be allowed to rest. She must not go out overnight but stay in the warm, as hypothermia can be an issue for a day or so. Please make sure she does not lick her wounds – please use the cone of shame, as she can cause herself injury, which may necessitate another anaesthetic and surgical procedure to correct things, and she may introduce infection. We do stock onesies for cats which some owners and cats prefer. We will discuss this with you at admission. The cones are included in the price of the operation, the Onesies are provided at an extra charge which we can inform you of at the time.

We will arrange a free post-operative check for her with the nurse. At that appointment we will check the wounds and answer any questions you may have. We recommend that she stay in for 10 days in total, as full healing will not have taken place until then.

Should anything look unusual or should you be unsure about anything at all before or after the appointment, you should contact us for advice.

Parasites

All skin parasites usually cause itchy skin and depending on the type and number of parasites involved this can range from an occasional scratch to devastating self-mutilation. Other signs can be bald patches, red patches, spots, scaly skin, crusts and sore patches which are prone to secondary infection with bacteria. This aggravates the situation, causes more itching and soreness and making diagnosis more difficult. Some animals can become generally unwell.

Sometimes there is a typical pattern of itching related to a particular parasite, but usually further tests are necessary to determine the cause. Ticks are an exception – they are very obvious once they have filled with blood.

Fleas

Fleas are the most common skin parasites found on cats and almost every cat which is allowed to go outside will get fleas at some point during his or her lifetime. Adult fleas live on the cat and feed on blood, and each female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day. These eggs are oval and creamy white and fall off the cat into the environment where they develop through 3 life stages and then hatch as an adult flea. It is very important to remember this when treating a flea problem, and to use a household treatment, as this is where the majority of the flea population lives. There is one stage of development which is near-on impossible to kill, which is why it is so hard to get a “clean kill” and we have to persevere for a few months to eradicate the problem. Some animals with fleas are not bothered by them, but others can develop severe irritation, hair loss and inflamed or infected skin.Fleas are easily transmitted from cat to cat or from other animals (e.g. dogs, hedgehogs) to cats, but even more commonly, fleas are picked up from environment, e.g. a house, shed or car where developing fleas are lying in wait. Fleas can also be carried by humans who handle cats, even if the human carrier is not subjected to bites. Humans can get bitten by cat fleas, but treating the cat should be sufficient to prevent this, as the cat is the preferred host.

Treatment: it is best to prevent a flea problem, but if you get a problem, treat it thoroughly as soon as it is noticed. Use a good quality spot-on preparation and also treat the environment (house, shed, car etc) - this is very important. The treatment of all pets should be continued over a period of at least 3 months to ensure all the next flea generations have gone. Pet-shop flea collars, shampoos and powders are not recommended – many of these are actually “flea repellents” and do not kill the flea, and some of the treatments are potentially toxic for your cat if misused or if your cat chews on them. It is important to note that some dog preparations which are perfectly safe in dogs are very dangerous when they are used on cats, and can cause severe or fatal toxic reactions.

‘Sticktight’ flea

In rare cases cats can be affected by the rabbit ‘sticktight’ flea (Spilopsyllus cuniculi), a parasite usually affecting rabbits ears. This flea causes skin lesions on the ear flap (pinna). It lives and feeds in only one place on the skin and does not usually move away when the ears are examined. Only cats who are in contact with wild rabbits, e.g. cats who hunt them, will be affected.

Ticks

Several types of tick are found in the UK. Usually they only cause local irritation/infections. However, in some parts of the UK ticks can transmit more serious infectious diseases e.g. Lyme’s disease, and in other countries they commonly transmit a variety of unpleasant infections such as babesiosis. Ticks burrow their mouthparts into the skin, fill their bodies with the cat’s blood and then drop off after a few days. Ticks are a problem from spring to autumn, and especially in late spring and early autumn. Only cats that spend time outside will be affected by ticks. Ticks are found on trees, bushes and in areas of denser vegetation and in the UK where there are wild deer, and they are able to sense when a cat or other animal passes by. They crawl onto the cat and start sucking blood. Ticks are not transmitted from cats to other animals or human beings. Ticks should be removed individually with a tick remover, taking care that the mouthparts are removed in order to avoid causing a nasty skin reaction. All other procedures such as covering the tick in oil, alcohol or glue should never be used because this can leave the tick dying slowly in the skin, and infectious agents can be pumped back out from the tick into the pet. There is a good spot-on which works against ticks, and there is a very effective flea and tick collar which prevents the tick from attaching, so if your cat is prone to these pests, please contact us for advice. Most products in use for dogs are again very toxic for cats, so special products against ticks have to be used for cats. Ticks and harvest mites can affect humans as well as animals. They are not transmitted by cats, but humans will pick them up from the environment in the same way as cats do.

Mites

Mites come in different shapes and sizes. They affect cats less commonly than dogs, again probably because cats groom themselves much more thoroughly.

Scabies

The Sarcoptes mite or ‘fox mite’ causes scabies, which is a very itchy and uncomfortable skin disease. It is common in dogs and only rarely affects cats. Foxes can also be affected by scabies. The mites burrow tunnels through the skin where they live and lay their eggs. Because they actually live inside the skin, they cannot be seen on the outside and brushing and bathing will not remove them. In the early stages of the disease many cats are not itchy, so the problem may not always be immediately apparent to the owner. Later, however, the discomfort becomes extreme. Sarcoptes mites are often transmitted by direct contact. The mites spend their entire life-cycle on affected cats but they can survive for up to 3 weeks away from their host and so cats can be infected even without coming in direct contact with an affected animal.

Notoedres

The Notoedric mange mite is another rare parasite in cats in the UK. It usually affects the head and especially the ears. Notoedres infections are occasionally mistaken for scabies, and infections with this mite are intensely itchy. Hair loss and sore skin are obvious signs of the disease. Later the skin typically becomes covered with greyish scales and crusts. These mites can also affect rabbits and, very rarely, dogs.

Cheyletiella

Cats affected by Cheyletiella mites are most commonly long-haired. Dogs and rabbits can also be affected. The mites live on the surface of the skin and usually spend their entire life on the animal but adult mites can live in the environment for 10 to 14 days.

Affected animals are often have scabby skin, and although most cats have only mild or no itchiness, occasionally severe discomfort develops. Sometimes mites can be seen on the hair (‘walking dandruff’).
Sarcoptes, Notoedres and Cheyletiella mites frequently pass from infected pets to their owners and cause intensely itchy red spots and crusts on human skin. However, after treating the mites on the cat, disease in humans is usually self-limiting and does not require additional treatment.

Demodex

Demodex is a special type of mite which is probably only transmitted during the first hours of life from mother to newborn kittens. It is present in small numbers in the majority of normal cats and usually does not cause any clinical signs. Occasionally, localised scabby itchy spots can appear or cats can develop mild ear infections due to demodex mites. In rare cases the mites can spread over the whole body of affected cats and cause generalised problems. This is almost always a sign of a significant underlying disease which has reduced the function of the immune system – a normal immune system would keep the mites in check. Although a generalised Demodex infection usually causes less severe skin disease in cats than in dogs, the prognosis is always guarded and further diagnostic tests are necessary to identify any underlying disease process. The treatment of generalised cases can be difficult and frustrating. Animals affected by Demodex are often not as itchy as may be expected with other types of mite infestation. The Demodex mite is not transmitted from cats to humans, although humans have their own version of demodex infection.

Harvest mites

Harvest mites are generally only a problem in summer and early autumn. Mite larvae are found mainly on the feet (especially between the toes), but also on the legs, occasionally the head/ears and the tummy of affected cats. They feed for several days and then leave the animal. Infested cats can show signs ranging from no symptoms at all to intense itching. Larvae are often visible as small orange/red patches on the skin. Itchiness may persist for a while after the mites have gone.

Harvest mites most commonly live in areas of well-drained ground with heavy vegetation, so the larvae will infest cats that frequent such areas. Even though the individual larvae do not stay long on the cat, it is possible for cats to be infested on a regular basis when they often go to the areas where the mites are found.

Lice

Infestation with lice is actually rare in cats. Cats have different lice from humans and they cannot be transmitted to humans, and human lice will not live on cats. The entire life-cycle of lice is completed on the cat within 3 weeks. Signs range from no symptoms at all to severe skin disease, with the empty egg cases (nits) attached to the hairs as the giveaway sign.

Most affected animals are presented with a dry scruffy looking coat, some hair loss and varying degrees of itchiness. Lice are transmitted by direct contact or by grooming a cat with a contaminated brush or comb. Louse infestations are more common when many cats are together in a relatively small space, such as a cattery, a rescue centre or even at a cat show. Lice can be treated with most of the spot-on preparations that are used to treat or prevent fleas. Treatment of the environment is not necessary, although grooming equipment (combs, brushes etc.) should be thoroughly cleaned.

Vaccinations

Several serious infectious diseases of cats can be prevented by vaccination. Immunity to disease develops either after exposure to the natural disease or after being given a vaccine – a very weak or dead form of the infection. Allowing a cat to develop immunity by natural exposure to dangerous infections such as feline enteritis runs the risk of her contracting severe illness or death. We advise vaccination of cats against serious diseases. This immune protection wears off over time and so booster vaccinations are necessary to ensure continued protection. In addition, some insurance policies are made null and void if vaccinations aren’t current – read the small print.

Which diseases do we vaccinate against?

Herpesvirus and calicivirus disease (‘Cat flu’)

Feline herpesvirus and calicivirus are responsible for the majority of cases of cat flu. Clinical signs include fever and lack of appetite, respiratory problems (sneezing, nasal discharge, coughing and even pneumonia), eye problems, mouth ulcers and, rarely, skin or joint involvement. In kittens or elderly cats or cats with other health problems the disease can be fatal. Although most patients survive, cat flu frequently becomes chronic leading to the disease “appearing” each time their immunity is suppressed e.g. by other illness or stress. These cats also continue to spread the virus, infecting other cats.

Feline infectious enteritis (feline panleukopenia)

This virus causes a severe and often fatal disease with symptoms of severe vomiting and diarrhoea. In cats which do survive, recovery is often very slow. When young or unborn kittens are infected via the mother, permanent brain damage is usually seen, and gives rise to “wobbler” kittens. The virus itself is very resistant and can survive for several months in the environment – it can therefore be transmitted without direct contact between cats. In fact, an indoor cat in a high-rise block was proven to have caught the virus because it was taken up into the apartment on someone’s shoe…

Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)

Infected cats may carry the virus for several years without showing any sign of disease. Ultimately, these chronically-infected cats will develop fatal disease. Infection does not necessarily lead to leukaemia as the name would suggest, but more often to a variety of diseases resulting from failure of the immune system.
Feline leukaemia virus can only be transmitted via passing of body fluids through contact with another cat, so indoor cats do not need the vaccine if it is certain they will have no contact with outdoor cats. Bear in mind that one foray outside and one fight for an unvaccinated cat could be enough to pick up the virus. One in three cats who contracts the virus will develop the disease.

As cats can carry this disease for several years before developing any problems, various blood tests have been designed to detect either the antibody or the virus itself. Unfortunately, not one single test is 100% conclusive and they have to be interpreted in the light of your cat’s history and physical condition. A positive test on a sick cat may be thought of as conclusive; on a healthy cat it would lead to repeat tests a few months later, and this cat may seroconvert to become negative. A negative test on a healthy cat or a sick cat would suggest a negative result in both cases.

Sometimes we have to run two or three tests to be sure of the diagnosis, sometimes 3-6 months apart. Whilst vaccinating an already infected cat would do no harm, it could not protect the cat from developing this disease and would therefore be unnecessary and may give us a false sense of security. In practice, most owners opt for vaccination, in the knowledge that, should their cat be infected already, he may show signs later in life. Not all will, though. Some cats do manage to rid themselves of the virus. High risk animals include stray cats, and kittens from rescue shelters that may not have already been tested or vaccinated.

When should kittens be vaccinated?

Current advice from our vaccine manufacturer is that kittens need two vaccinations given 3-4 weeks apart. The first vaccination is usually given when the kitten is 9 weeks old, followed by the second at 12 weeks. Full protection should start about 7 to 10 days after the second vaccination has been given. The timing of these vaccinations is a balance between a desire to get the kittens vaccinated early, so that they can go out and socialise, and whether the vaccine will work properly (older kittens tend to get better immunity from the vaccine).

Kittens receive maternal antibodies from their mother. This immunity starts to reduce at about 6 weeks of age, but it may still be protecting the kitten until it is 12 weeks old. Unfortunately, if this immunity is still protecting the kitten when we vaccinate, mum’s antibodies will prevent the vaccine from stimulating the kitten’s own immune system. From trial data, we know when the vaccines are most likely to begin working to create an immune response successfully. Vaccines given later lead to a better response, but we also could be leaving our kittens exposed to the real diseases without mum’s antibodies and without an immunity induced by vaccination.

Our vaccination recommendations for kittens:

  • Initial course of 2 injections 3-4 weeks apart
  • The first vaccine no earlier than 9 weeks of age
  • The second vaccine no earlier than 12 weeks of age

How often should a cat be vaccinated?

The basic answer is that a cat should be vaccinated again when the level of protection starts to wear off. This can be different for each cat and also depends on the type of vaccine used. This time period is set by manufacturers to ensure that the level of protection stays high.

Why is a health check necessary before vaccination?

An annual health check plays a vital role in the process of vaccination. It is important that the cat is healthy at the time of vaccination and that the immune system is working properly and not focussed on another illness/issue. If we find cause for concern, the vaccine will be postponed and we will either treat the problem we find or we will advise further tests to find out what is going on, if a diagnosis is not possible just on clinical exam. Only after we have sorted out the problem will we ask you to come again to have your cat vaccinated. A half-yearly health check, between vaccinations, is also recommended especially for our oldies.

Can something go wrong after vaccination?

These days vaccination is a very safe procedure and problems rarely encountered. Unusual reactions (‘vaccine reactions’) are very rarely reported and the risk of illness from one of the diseases is far greater than the risk of a vaccine reaction. Occasionally a small skin lump appears at the site of the vaccination, but this usually disappears within a few days. If a lump appears and does not go away in a few days (5-10) please notify us and we will make an appointment for this to be checked as soon as possible.

Is regular vaccination still recommended?

We strongly recommend regular vaccination. We still treat cats with the diseases mentioned above. The outcome of these infections can be very serious or fatal and can be avoided by regular vaccination.

Worming

What types of worms can affect cats?

Roundworms resemble white pieces of string and can be up to 15 cm long. Affected cats usually have one of two types of roundworms, Toxocara and Toxascaris. Roundworms are rarely seen because they stay in the intestines and are only very rarely shed. If roundworms are passed in faeces or vomited up, it usually means that there are huge numbers of worms present in the intestines. Tape worms are long flat worms made up of many small segments and grow to a length of 50 cm. Tapeworms constantly shed segments filled with eggs that can often be seen in faeces and then resemble small – and occasionally mobile – grains of rice.

Lung worms do not live in the intestines, but usually in bronchi (the airways in the lungs). Lungworms are not a common problem in cats in the UK.

How cats get worms?

Worm eggs or larvae are taken up either by licking, grooming or by ingesting small prey, so outdoor and hunting cats will always have more worms than indoor cats. Often eggs or larvae can survive on the ground for weeks or months, some can be transported by air and some larvae can move actively, so even by wandering into a sunny spot in the garden your cat may pick up worms. Some worm eggs are quite sticky and can stick to the coat or even to clothes or human skin and then be transferred to the cat. Tapeworms and lungworms usually have a complicated life cycle and require an ‘intermediate host’ (another species of animal) that the worm lives in for part of its lifecycle. When a cat eats all or part of this intermediate host, the worm larvae then settle in the bowel system and mature. In the case of tapeworms, such intermediate hosts can be fleas or small prey animals like rodents. Cats infested with fleas and hunting cats are at risk of acquiring tapeworms. Intermediate hosts for lungworms are slugs and snails and whilst cats are unlikely to eat them, they can be infected when hunting e.g. birds that have eaten small slugs or snails.

Most of the worms live in cat’s intestines, but there are always some that are hidden away in other organs or tissues and stay inactive for long periods. These inactive stages are not reached by any worming product, and as they can become active at anytime during the animal’s life, a cat can suddenly have worms even if there has been no chance of new infection e.g. in cats that only live indoors. Such inactive worm stages become particularly activated when a queen is pregnant. They then move into the mammary glands and kittens will become infected by feeding from their mother. This makes it important to treat young kittens frequently against worms. No matter how diligent breeders or previous carers have been – kittens will almost always have some roundworms.

What are the clinical signs of worms in cats?

Light infestations of worms usually cause no clinical signs at all, especially in grown-up cats – as a result the owner of an infected cat may feel absolutely positive that their cat does not have any worms. Heavy worm infestations can cause severe clinical signs and may be dangerous for kittens. Kittens can present with a pot belly, slow growth, vomiting and diarrhoea, a rectal prolapse or even a fatal blockage of their bowels. Cats of any age with heavy worm burdens can show weight loss, poor coat quality, vomiting and diarrhoea, pneumonia and other respiratory problems, and occasionally problems in other organs.

Can humans get worms from pets?

Toxocara roundworms from dogs can infect humans but rarely cause severe disease. Whilst there is no clear evidence to show that the cat forms of roundworm cause disease in humans, they may still pose a potential problem. In humans the worms do not mature as they do in dogs and cats, and instead the larvae wander through various organs. Liver problems, epileptic seizures and blindness are among the (rarely) reported clinical signs in humans affected by Toxocara infection. Children and people with a compromised immune system are most commonly affected. Children are more susceptible to infection given their propensity to play in (and sometimes eat) contaminated soil. Treatment may or may not be curative and problems such as blindness in children can be permanent.

Occasionally humans are diagnosed with a cat tapeworm. This usually happens to children who have swallowed a cat flea and, while it is certainly a hygiene issue, it can be readily treated.

We obviously recommend regular worming to ensure that your cat stays healthy, but another important reason for recommending frequent worming of pets is to protect your family and other people in the community from worm-related health problems.

What can be done to prevent problems?

The best way to prevent worm related health problems both in cats and human beings is regular worming of your cats and diligent removal of cat faeces from the environment. Modern worming products available at your veterinary surgery have been tested for efficacy and safety to the pet. We recommend that kittens are wormed at 2, 5, 8 and 12 weeks of age, and then monthly until they are 6 months old. The mother should be wormed at the same time as the kittens until they are weaned. Adult cats should be wormed at least every three months. Hunting cats or cats with close contact to small children or adults with inefficient immune systems can safely be wormed on a monthly basis. Tablets are commonly used, but if giving a tablet is a problem in your cat, effective spot-on products are also available. We will be happy to advise you on the most appropriate product for your cat.

Practice information

Portchester Vets

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  • 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 - 12:00pm
  • Sun
    Closed
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147-149 White Hart Lane Portchester Fareham Hampshire PO16 9AY
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