When you get a new cat it is really important to get them registered with a vet to ensure it is kept in the best health. At WestPort Vets we offer a free health check for all new kittens.

It is just as important to book an appointment for older cats so they can have a check up and the vet can advise on the best care for your furry friend. The most important things to remember are vaccinations, preventive treatment for parasites, microchipping, insurance and neutering.

Prevention

Vaccinations

Our practice policy is to vaccinate against Cat Flu and Enteritis. We would, however, strongly recommend vaccination against Feline Leukaemia (FeLV) if your cat goes outside. We can start vaccinations for your kitten from 9 weeks old, with the second injection 3-4 weeks after the first. Annual boosters are needed to keep the immunity reliably high.

Virtually all catteries will insist that your cat is fully vaccinated every year before admittance. Cats can also be vaccinated against Rabies for international travel.

Cats that are not 100% fit and well will not respond reliably to vaccination, so each patient is given a thorough health check by the vet before the booster is given. Every illness is best treated as early as possible, so the annual health check is just as important for your pet as the booster vaccination.

Our Friends of Westport scheme is designed to cover all of your pet’s preventative healthcare needs, including vaccinations and flea and worming treatment, as well as discounts on anything else needed for their care.

Parasites (worms, fleas)

Regular treatments stop your cat suffering from worms, fleas and other Parasites. It is important to chose the treatment from your vet who will be able to recommend the most appropriate medications for you situation. Also  these treatments have been clinically proven to be safer and more effective than ‘over the counter’ versions bought at pet shops and supermarkets.

Fleas cause itching, chewing and licking, and the skin may look red and inflamed. If you notice any of these signs please make an appointment to see one of our experienced vets. If your cat has fleas it is essential that you not only treat your cat but also your home and other pets.

WestPort Vets recommend that all kittens are wormed every month until they are 6 months old. Cats from the age of 6 months should be wormed every 3 months throughout their life.

Microchipping

WestPort Vets strongly recommend microchipping your cat. Often a microchip is the only way to contact a cat’s owner if it is stolen or lost. It is a very simple procedure where the tiny chip is placed under your cats skin between the shoulder blades. The chip contains a unique ID number which is registered on a national database and matched to your contact details. The chip is read by a special scanner and now your cat is permanently identified.

Cat Life Stages

Kitten (Birth to 6 months)

From birth, kittens have a reasonably well developed sense of smell and is the main sense for the first 2 weeks of life. Hearing becomes more established by 3-4 weeks of age, but the first responses to sound are at around 5 days old. Sight is the last sense to develop with the kitten’s eyes remaining closed for the first 7-10 days. Most kittens are able to stand and by 10 days old and can walk by 2-3 weeks of age.

Kittens will want to play from a young age and allowing the kittens access to suitable toys allows them to develop normal predatory behaviour, play sequences and prevent play biting from occurring.

Kittens should be gradually and positively acclimatised to human handling and company.. This can include; children, other animals, other people, transporting in the car/carrier, and grooming. Positive reinforcement is crucial at this stage and treats/food can be used as rewards. And interactive or negative punishment should be avoided at all costs. The sensitive period for kittens is between 2-7 weeks.

Vaccinations can be started whilst a young kitten and neutering can happen from 4-6 months old.

Adult Cats

Cats in this age group become more socially mature and weight gain is more likely in this age group as they are less likely to play as they did as a young kitten!  Routines and habits are established and your cat knows what it likes and dislikes. During this time it is important to consider neutering (if not already done so when a kitten) and keeping on top of yearly vaccinations. Good dental health is also important so a dental routine should be established.

Mature Cats (7-10 years old)

Many cats in this age group continue to look youthful and be playful. In this age group, there is an increasing risk from older cat age-related problems arising. Diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer. Like all life stages it is important to monitor your cat for any signs of pain or discomfort. Have you noticed any subtle changes in your cat’s routine? Are they hesitant to jump up or less playful than usual? If so, it can be helpful to have a check over with the vet to ensure we are doing all we can to help support them as they get older!

Senior and Geriatric Cats (11-15+ years old)

Senior cats are sadly more prone to more health conditions at this life stage which makes regular vet checks super helpful and important. At this age can also suffer with senile dementia – which results in the cat becoming confused, withdrawn and more vocal.

Older cats spend less time grooming so the coat may be in poor condition and nails can be long and overgrown. Keeping a good grooming routine can help your cat feel more comfortable and help them keep their coat in good condition.  Dental problems can often be seen so if you notice your cat is showing signs of dental pain or problems then please let us know.

The cat’s senses won’t be as good as they were when the cat was younger. Appetite may be reduced due to a lack of smell which may make it difficult for the cat to gain and maintain weight. Feeding smelly foods or warming food up can make the food smell stronger and help the cat find the bowl! Eyesight may not be as sharp and the cat may become disorientated in the home. Food and water bowls should be in low and easy to reach places to ensure the cat can get to them comfortably. The cat may also become deaf and not as responsive to sound as before.

Bringing Your Cat to the Vet

We understand this can be a stressful time for owners as getting your cat in the box and travelling in the car may not be the most pleasant of experiences for all those involved. At Westport Vets, we try and help to minimise stress and anxiety before each and every visit to ensure the overall experience is as positive as possible. Here are some helpful tips to try out at home:

Selecting an appropriate carrier

Good cat carriers have:

  • A top/roof opening
  • The ability to remove the top half of the carrier
  • Slats on the side for air flow and to help the cat feel enclosed
  • Been built from sturdy plastic to allow easy cleaning and prevents the cat escaping

Carriers that are made from fabric or the ‘back-pack’ style can be stressful for cats as they are not a rigid structure or provide the cat with nowhere to hide when inside.

Carrier Training

  • Get the cat familiar with the carrier at home
  • The carrier should make an appearance a few days before the vet trip or be kept out permanently and be used as a bed or part of the furniture
  • Feeding the cat in the carrier can help build a positive association between the cat and the carrier
  • Any negative experiences should be avoided at all times
  • Avoid forcing your cat into the carrier – this will result in negative associations

Step 1: Have the carrier in the home environment with the door removed

Have a familiar blanket outside of the carrier and reward your cat every time they approach the blanket near the carrier

Step 2: Over many sessions, gradually place the blanket in the bottom half of the carrier. The roof should be removed to make it feel less enclosed.

Positive rewards should be given when the cat is relaxed and showing no sign of stress

Step 3: The roof can be added onto the carrier – if the cat is showing signs of fear, then stop and spend more time on the previous step

If the cat is happy sitting in the carrier for 3-5 minutes – you can begin to close the door

Positive rewards each time the door is closed!

Step 4: Once the cat is happy with the door closed – you can begin to move the carrier

Make small movements up and down before building up to lifting and walking with the carrier

Travelling with Cats

  • Covering the carrier with a towel sprayed in pheromone spray can be comforting
  • The carrier should be securely placed in the car – ideally in the footwell
  • Never travel with the cat loose in the car
  • The safest and quickest route should be made to the veterinary practice

For more help and information, please speak to a member of the team who would be more than happy to offer you more tips and advice. Alternatively, please visit the International Cat Care website where you can find lots of helpful information and videos.

Ways we can help you at home!

The International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) has a huge amount of resources available to help owners at home with commonly asked questions and problems. Listed below are some useful links to further information on commonly asked questions we hear within the veterinary practice:

Guide to cat insurance: click here for more information.

Letting your cat outside for the first time: click here for more information.

Taking your cat to and from the vet (helpful things to consider to make the experience less stressful): click here for more information.

How to give your cat a tablet: click here for more information and video.

How to give ear drops: click here for more information and video.

How to give eye drops: click here for more information and video.

How to brush your cat’s teeth: click here for more information and video.

Trimming your cat’s claws: click here for more information and video.

Resources

It is important to have multiple and a variety of different resources in your home to keep your cat happy and healthy!

Food and Water Bowls

Food and water bowls should be placed separately in different areas of the house that are easy to reach. They should be placed in areas that are quiet and not in a high traffic area. Cats prefer bowls to be ceramic compared to plastic but they will still eat and use from them! The bowls should be shallow enough to ensure their whiskers are not crushed or impacted when they are eating and drinking. Bowls should be cleaned regularly and plenty of fresh water should be available at all times. Some cats may also like drinking from running water and pet water fountains can be purchased for your home. A dripping tap may also be preferred by your cat!

Litter Trays

The recommended rule with litter trays is 1 tray per cat plus an extra one. Litter trays should be easily accessible for your cat to get in and out of comfortably. The litter type you choose should ideally be fine and similar to sand. Scented litter should be avoided as well as litter tray liners as cats can get their claws stuck in them when trying to dig and bury. Clumping cat litter should be avoided with young kittens as they may be tempted to try and eat the litter when becoming familiar with it. Litter trays should be checked multiple times throughout the day and cleaned out at least twice a day. When cleaning out the litter tray, it is important to use pet safe cleaning products and nothing that is overly fragranced.

Bedding and Safe Spaces

Each cat has its own preferences, some prefer igloo beds and others prefer sitting on a pile of clean washing! It is important to ensure there are plenty of warm and safe spaces for your cat to rest and relax in. This can be both up high and on the ground. As cat’s get older, they may prefer warmer and easier to reach spots so it is important to keep this in mind.

Scratching Posts

Scratching posts are important for cats to maintain their claws and to scent mark in their environment. Scratching posts can be both vertical and horizontal but it is important that the posts or boxes are large enough to allow the cat to fully scratch out. In other words – the bigger the cat, the bigger the scratching post! Having multiple around your home also provides different opportunities to express normal behaviours and minimise the chances of them scratching on unwanted furnishings.

Toys

A variety of cat toys should be available to your cat to allow them the opportunity to express normal behaviours. Wand toys allow hunting and stalking behaviour as they can mimic birds when used in the air and small mammals when dragged along the floor. Balls can be chased and played with by themselves and some softer toys can be used biting and kicking. Catnip can also be used in moderation although some cats may not be as affected by the smell as others! Laser pens/toys can be quite frustrating for some cats as they are not able to catch anything successfully from this type of play so if using them it is important to reward your cat afterwards with another toy or a treat!

Your pet’s health is important.
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