Cat Care Tips

Feeding Your Cat

Feed approximately 1/2 to 2/3 cup dry food total per day. This will vary a bit depending on breed, age of pet, type of food, but is a ballpark estimate as I find many food manufacturer's overestimate "how much to feed" on the bag label. In addition, feed 1/4 to 1/2 cn (standard 5.5 oz can) in a separate dish per day. Feedings can be divided into 2-3 small meals per day. For example 1/4 to 1/3 cup dry twice daily. If there are multiple cats in the house, measure and feed accordingly. For dry food, there are numerous quality brands available. T/D diet by Hills (manufacturers of Science Diet) is a larger, harder kibble that helps slow plaque and tartar buildup. You may want to incorporate a blend of T/D with your cat's dry food. Dry food is composed of primarily carbohydrate coated with fat to make it appealing to cats. Fed "free choice" most indoor only, spayed and neutered cats tend to over consume and become overweight, thus predisposed to obesity related diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease later on. This is why I recommend meal feeding set amounts. By offering canned food daily, we actually feel the cat's cravings to overeat carbohydrate-rich dry food is reduced, as cats require higher protein in their diet than other species, which the canned food tends to provide. In addition, the extra moisture in canned food may help in preventing or slowing the onset of kidney disease later in life.

For indoor only cats especially, it is helpful to offer "kitty grass" regularly-rinse it off first, allow cat to nibble it, and replace it when necessary. This may help prevent your kitty from chewing on inappropriate plants and household items, contains folic acid, and is a good source of fiber, helping with hairballs and digestion.

Due to the current trend of spaying and neutering at very early ages, I generally recommend transitioning kittens to adult food at about 6 months of age. This is due to the metabolic and hormonal changes that occur, affecting the appetite and body fat accumulation (both increase) and metabolic rate (decreases). Since kitten food is more calorically dense than adult cat food, transitioning earlier may help to prevent obesity in the mature cat.

If changing your cat's diet for any reason, it is best to gradually transition to the new diet over the course of 1-2 weeks. This may help to prevent the development of urinary crystals, or gastrointestinal problems.


Preventative Care for your Cat

FVRCP stands for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (a respiratory infection), Calicivirus (also a respiratory-related disease) and Panleukopenia (feline distemper). We generally begin a vaccine series on healthy kittens at 6-8 weeks of age, following up with booster vaccinations for a total series of 2-3 boosters (depending on the vaccine and on the kitten's age when starting the series), each given at 3-4 week intervals. These upper respiratory and other viral infections are extremely contagious and can be carried via clothing by owners even to indoor only cats. Our vaccination schedule for adult cats will vary according to risk, from 1 to 3 year intervals for boosters, or in some instances, checking immunity levels with blood testing (a "titer" test).

In addition, we recommend testing all cats and kittens for FELV (feline leukemia virus), and FIV (feline immunosuppressive virus). This can be included with a more comprehensive blood test known as a junior wellness profile at the time of your cat's annual exam. For indoor/outdoor cats, we do recommend vaccinating for FELV and rabies as well as for FVRCP.

Any time your cat or kitten is experiencing vomiting or diarrhea or inappetence, as well as part of its routine annual wellness exam, it is recommended that you bring in a stool sample for us to send out for an intestinal parasite exam. You will not necessarily see worms in the stool as the eggs and some parasites are microscopic. You may see tapeworms, which appear similar to grains of rice and may be dried out or wiggling and glistening. If you see these, let us know so that we can provide appropriate treatment-both deworming for tapeworms, and flea control as your cat acquires tapeworms from eating fleas. I will recommend routine broad spectrum deworming for new kittens in addition to sending a stool sample to the lab.

Flea control is important. We will not always see live fleas on cats because they are so fastidious about eating fleas during the grooming process, which is why cats are so prone to tapeworm infestations! But black "specks" in the cat's fur or bedding, and an itchy cat, are both indications that fleas are definitely present! We currently offer Advantage, Frontline, Vectra, and Revolution. I prefer to reserve Revolution topical for mange and ear mite infestations. Vectra, Advantage, and Frontline topicals are applied monthly for adult flea control (and in some cases, ticks). It is not adequate to use these products once or twice as the flea life cycle from egg to adult is approximately 6 months and the products only control adult fleas. They must be used consistently in conjunction with environmental control in order to achieve results.

Finally, during your cat's annual exam, we will recommend additional laboratory testing or treatment depending on its history and exam findings. These may include blood counts, chemistry testing including liver values, kidney values, blood sugar levels, thyroid testing and urinalysis.

Behavior and Training for your Cat & Kitten

Congratulations if you are the owner of a new kitten! I hope these tips will help provide you with some guidelines. If you are the owner of an adult cat with some possible behavior problems, these guidelines, as well as complete physical examination and laboratory workup to rule out disease as an underlying cause of certain problems (such as not using the litter box) will also be recommended.

Kittens require a lot of time and attention! Indoor only kittens may do better in households with another kitten or an adult cat as a mentor. It is important to gradually introduce a new kitten or cat to an existing cat or cats in the house. Also, vaccinations and negative FELV/FIV testing should be current. Do not introduce a sick kitten to a healthy adult cat and vice versa!

Expect your new kitten to use its claws. You can try to discourage it from clawing furniture and drapes with negative reinforcement-shaking a can or jar filled with coins, squirting with strategically located water bottles, clapping hands loudly, etc. Encourage your kitten/cat to use scratching posts and toys by having them in desirable locations (i.e.: next to a sunny window, not closed in the laundry room or next to the litter box). Sprinkle the scratching posts and toys with dry catnip-this may help! You can also help show your kitten how to use the post by placing the kitten there after removing from furniture or drapes, and pushing/massaging its little paws on the post to stimulate the movement.

We discourage declawing kittens as we feel the scratching/clawing problem will diminish with maturity and training. However, occasionally owners will feel they have no alternative and if there is no other option, then I will discuss this option with you.

It is recommended that your household have at least 1 litter box available per cat. The litter box should be located in an area that is easily accessible, but not high traffic (i.e.: not in a laundry room or bathroom if the door is often closed, and not in a hallway by the front door). I recommend clay or clumping, preferably unscented litter. I do not recommend crystalline or synthetic types of litter. Your cat may prefer either open or closed litter boxes, and using the largest size available for a given area will encourage its use. Scoop it daily and completely empty and clean the box, and change the litter weekly. If your cat is starting to urinate or defecate outside of its box, we will first recommend an exam and possible laboratory testing to rule out an underlying medical condition. In addition, I may have you change the location or type of litter box, use a different or previous type of litter, add another litter box (especially if there is another cat in the house), use pheromone type treatments, such as Feliway for stress reduction, et al.

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