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Cat Care

CAT CARE

YOUR NEW KITTEN

Getting a kitten is an exciting time but there are certain essentials you will need to know to ensure your new kitten remains fit and healthy.

Even if your kitten has been vaccinated you should still bring he/she in to have a full vet check. As well as the vet being able to identify any health issues, it will also help your kitten get used to being in the veterinary surgery.

The 365 Care Plan
Healthy pets need ongoing care and attention, and no matter what age your cat, the 365 Care Plan is designed to meet your pet’s needs, at an affordable price. Because Oakhill Veterinary Centre puts an emphasis on preventative health care, we have developed the 365 Care Plan to ensure that your pet is protected against preventable diseases, providing annual vaccinations, parasite control and general health checks.

IMPROVING YOUR CAT'S INDOOR ENVIRONMENT
Cats use and rely on their environment in a different way from other animals. The inside of the home should be
considered the ‘core’ of the cat’s territory. This is somewhere that the cat expects to feel safe and where it can eat, drink and rest in privacy away from potential enemies. Cats also make more use of three-dimensional space than people or dogs; they are keen to climb up high to vantage points where they feel safe.



It is important to provide cats with a home environment that meets their needs, especially in mulit-cat households, residential areas that are over-populated with cats or when cats do not have outdoor access. Otherwise, there is a significant risk of frustration, stress and behavioural problems, such as aggression, house-soiling or urine marking.

In almost all cases, it is preferable to give cats outdoor access but, when this is impossible for some reason, it is even more important that the indoor environment provides all the cat’s needs



RECOGNISING INDICATORS OF STRESS


Stressed cats are often hard to spot because, in most cases they becomes quiet and introverted when they are unhappy. Typical signs of stress include:

  • Excessive grooming: This may results in bald or sore patches.
  • Lack of activity: Cats that stop playing become reluctant to move about or eat. When in close proximity to each
    other, the cats may move very slowly as they are frightened of being attacked or chased.
  • Hiding: The cat spends most of its time hiding in the same place and will not come out to feed or interact.
  • Ease of startle: The cat is very jumpy and will startle at sudden movements or sounds.
  • Wariness or fighting around resources: The cat seems hesitant to approach cat-doors, food or latrines. When they are in these locations they may seem very nervous. Hissing and spitting may be seen when other cats approach.



A household full of very passive cats that seem to spend all their time sitting still and watching each other probably indicates a very high level of stress.
The cat’s basic needs are for:

  • Space: Including access to height.
  • An abundance of resources: Food, water, latrines, resting places.Opportunities to perform normal behaviour: Hunting, clawing etc.
  • Opportunities to perform normal behaviour: Hunting, clawing etc.
  • Privacy

MULTICAT HOUSEHOLDS

DO CATS LIKE TO LIVE ALONE?
If you have a single, happy cat that has outdoor access and plenty of toys and resting places in the home, there is no reason to provide other cats as playmates. It is important to remember that cats are solitary hunters and they do not need to associate with other cats to survive. This means that cats can live alone perfectly happily. Provided that they have a sufficient supply of safe territory, food, shelter and affection from the owners, they will survive very well.

Your cat is free to associate with cats outside and, if it is a sociable individual, it can find friends there. If, however, it is not of a sociable disposition then it can avoid other cats. Some cats definitely prefer to have their own home, without other cats in it, so it is important to think carefully before getting another cat.

WHEN IS IT BEST NOT TO HAVE SEVERAL CATS?
Some urban areas have a very high population density of cats and adding extra ones may cause tension and stress. Your own cats may not be able to carve out their own territory and could end up living indoors because they are too stressed to go outside.

If you intend to keep several cats indoors, without outside access, this can also cause problems. You will need to adapt the house to provide the cats with space and a whole host of resources and activities to save them from becoming bored or stressed by the absence of privacy from other cats.

IS IT BEST TO TAKE ON TWO CATS AT THE SAME TIME?
In the wild, cats do form their own communities which are made up of groups of related females. Cats are very intolerant of outsiders and are less likely to live happily with a cat to which there are not related. So if you want two cats to live together, it is best to get them as littermates. If you are unable to get two littermates, you can raise very young kittens as if they were from the same litter, provided that you take them on at a very early age; that is, before they are 7 weeks old.

INTRODUCING A NEW CAT INTO A HOUSEHOLD
If you do decide to take on an adult cat or older kitten as an additional cat in a multi-cat household, then you must introduce a new cat very carefully.

WHAT KIND OF CAT MAKES A GOOD SECOND OR ADDITIONAL CAT?
Research has shown that resident adult cats are more likely to accept the introduction of a new cat if it is significantly younger than them. They are far more intolerant of same-aged or older ‘new’ cats. Research also suggests that resident cats are more likely to tolerate a new cat of the opposite rather than the same sex and that, in cases of same sex pairs, two males are slightly more likely to be compatible than two females. Some older cats do feel intimidated by kittens as they may feel unable to stand up to physical play. Getting two young kittens reduces the pressure on the older cat because the kittens can play together.

REPLACING A HOUSEMATE AFTER AN ACCIDENT OR ILLNESS
Friendships between cats are unique and individual and they cannot be replaced by bringing in a new cat. If a pair of littermates has been raised together, their bond is particularly unlikely to be replaced. The remaining cat may experience genuine grief and may search for and call out to the missing sibling. Grieving can go on for a period of several months and is not a good time to introduce another cat. Hostility to a new cat may be very intense. If a new cat is introduced after grieving is over, then the bond is unlikely ever to be as strong as between the previous pair.

SUCCESSFUL INTEGRATION OF NEW CATS
Apart from introducing the new cat correctly, it is important to make sure that the cats have enough key resources so that they feel comfortable to co-exist without competition. The provision of feeding sites for one or two cats will not be enough when a third of fourth cat is introduced, as each cat needs its own share of feeding, resting, drinking and latrine sites. Much like people, cats get along best when they have their own privacy and the amount of indoor space available may not satisfy this need. Greater access to height, with cat furniture, shelves and places to climb, will allow the cats a greater amount of usable space, even though the floor area of the house is unchanged.

Adapted from ‘Behaviour Problems in Small Animals’ by Jon Bowen and Sarah Heath