If you’re a first-time cat owner, you’re bound to have lots of questions. We’ve put together answers to 10 of the most frequently asked questions about how to care for cats.
Yes, they do. Cats should be given their first vaccinations when they are nine weeks old and a second one when they are three months old. This should be followed up with a booster once a year. Vaccinations help to protect your cat from several infectious diseases. These are Cat Flu, Feline Infectious Enteritis and Feline Leukemia Virus.
Vaccinations are especially important if your cat goes outside and comes into contact with other cats, but infection can't be ruled out, even in indoor cats.
In the UK, there are three main types of worms that cats need to be protected from. These are roundworms, tapeworms and lungworms. If cats are not treated for worms early, they can cause serious problems, particularly in kittens and younger cats. Cats should be wormed routinely according to their size and weight. Ask your vet for advice on what worming product to use and how often you should treat your cat for worms. This is likely to be every few months, depending on the treatment you use.
Unless you have a pedigree cat and plan to breed from it, then you should neuter your cat, whether male or female. An unneutered female cat can get pregnant from as young as four months when she is still a kitten herself and can have several litters a year. This is not good for the cat and adds to the number of unwanted kittens which need to be found a home every year. Entire male cats are likely to spray in the house. They also tend to stray and get into fights with other cats. This puts them at risk of catching a disease called FIV, which can be transmitted via cat bites. Neutered cats are far happier and safer and make better pets.
While long-haired cats need to be groomed regularly, this is less important for short-haired cats. However, they still benefit from a regular brush, perhaps weekly, to remove dead hair, keep coats shiny and prevent hairballs. If you have an older cat, they may find it difficult to groom themselves and appreciate some help from you.
Cats enjoy going out and getting fresh air and exercise, and it is natural for them to do so. However, there are a lot of dangers in the modern world, from traffic to poisons. Indoor life is safer, but cats may become bored and frustrated if they can't go out at all. If you have an indoor cat, you will need to make sure they have lots of toys to play with, things to climb and a scratching post. An alternative is to create an escape-proof garden, cat run, or 'catio', which will give your cat the best of both worlds.
The best way is to get recommendations from other pet owners or look online for recommendations. You could also visit some local vets to get a feeling for whether you feel comfortable with them. Check things like surgery times and what the out-of-hours arrangements are, just in case you need to contact your vet in an emergency. Find a vet you are happy with and don't be afraid to change if you are not satisfied.
Cats are very good at disguising the fact that they aren't well, so it does sometimes take a bit of detective work. If your cat is off their food, sits and looks miserable, or vomits or has diarrhoea, these could be signs that they’re not well. You may want to monitor them closely for a while, but if they don't recover within 4-6 hours, you should contact your vet.
Some cats just don't like sitting on laps, which may have been influenced by an experience or upbringing. If your cat doesn't want to sit on your lap, don't try to force them. They may well come around in time, but some cats prefer to just sit near their owners, and never get to be lap cats.
Cats need to sharpen their claws and remove the outside layer. If they can go outside, they will usually use a tree or something similar. But cats don't know the difference between trees and furniture and often find a table leg or armchair to be equally suitable for this purpose. The best way to stop them is to buy lots of cat scratching posts and put them where your cat likes to scratch. Cats often scratch when they’ve woken up, so make sure there’s a scratching post near to where they sleep.
Cats are naturally solitary animals and like to live alone, which means they are often happier than they would be with another cat. However, if you would like to get two cats, it’s best to get them as kittens from the same litter. That way they will have grown up together and are more likely to get on. This is much better - and less stressful than trying to introduce two unrelated cats as adults.