Caring For Your Adult Cat

People become owners of adult cats for two reasons; either they adopt a cat, or almost as frequently a cat adopts them. It seems that cats have an instinct that leads them to homes where they will be welcome. The usual picture is that a rather hungry looking cat is seen hanging about in the garden. If it is fed its appearances become more frequent, until almost imperceptibly it becomes established as a regular member of the family. It is sometimes rather hard to determine the reason for this movement in the cat population. Some that are obviously hungry and uncared for may have come from bad homes, or they may be unneutered toms who have wandered too far away in search of females and become lost. In other cases it seems that they did not like their original home; perhaps there was a child or dog who made life difficult for them and they simply moved on to find somewhere more to their liking. A cat that has had one good home will usually change owners without too much stress providing that conditions are similar. However, adopting a cat which has been badly treated, or which has been wandering and fending for itself for some time can present problems. Even after years of kindness and regular feeding it may still become terrified if it is shut in a room or if it hears a sudden noise or a strange voice.


It is almost impossible to make a definite rule as to how long a cat should be kept in his new home before it can be considered safe to let him out alone. Much depends on the area and whether there is heavy traffic that may constitute a danger and also on the temperament of the cat; a nervous cat may easily bolt if it is startled and try to return to its original home. If your cat will wear a harness or a collar and lead (as many Siamese do) it is a good plan to walk him round the new garden under supervision, allowing plenty of time for him to inspect and smell everything, before he is given his first taste of freedom.


In the normal healthy cat, hunger is a strong controlling factor, so when you let your new pet outside alone for the first time see that it is just before a mealtime is due. In this way you can be certain that however interesting the outside world may seem he will be strongly motivated to return home. If you live near a busy road do not make the mistake of thinking that your cat will remain safely in the back garden. They are extremely inquisitive animals and inevitably in time their curiosity will cause them to wander further afield and into danger. It may be worth considering constructing a wire netting enclosure in the garden to allow your cat a little freedom and fresh air without risk, as we advise for kittens.


A flat is not the ideal place to keep a cat, unless it has some access to the outside, even if it is only over the roofs for exercise purposes. If it is a case of rescuing a stray it is certainly true that a kind home in a flat is better than no home at all but unfortunately, if conditions are too restricted, cats become bored. It is then that destructive habits such as clawing furniture, or even wallpaper, are likely to be a problem.


At one time it was accepted practice to put the cat out at night - regardless of the weather - but in today's heavy traffic, many owners prefer to keep their pets in. If you feel happier to know that your cat is safely inside at night try to call him each evening at the same time and reward his return with a few cat biscuits or some other treat. This produces what is known as a conditioned reflex that may become so accurate as to make you suspect that your cat has his own little wristwatch!


For cats that persistently come home late, or for those who are always on the wrong side of the door asking to come in, the cat flap may prove to be the answer. This consists of a small flap, just large enough to admit a cat, which is let into one of the lower panels of the house door (these can now be bought pre-fabricated at pet stores and hardware shops). They are certainly a help to owners who have to be away from home for hours at a time and can thus allow their cat some freedom knowing that it will be able to come in if the weather changes. They do have a slight disadvantage that some cats are inclined to invite their less reputable feline friends in as well, although there are more advanced flaps with magnetic locks that recognise small attachments on your cat's collar and only let him in. If your cat is reluctant to use the cat flap at first, try leaving it wedged open for a few days until the cat accepts that it is the normal route of entry. If it is not possible to fit a cat flap in any of your doors it may be worth considering the construction of a cat shelter. This could be a small wooden waterproof 'house' with a cat flap in it, lined with a warm material. While your cat is waiting for you to get home, or if the weather takes a turn for the worse, he will have somewhere warm and dry to shelter.


As soon as your new cat arrives buy him a collar and identification tag. There is always a risk that an adult cat may try to return to his previous home and this is the first place to enquire if he should become lost, assuming the distance is reasonable.


If your new adult cat comes from a friend or a neighbour he will probably be healthy and you will be able to check on any past history of vaccination, neutering, or illness. With a genuine stray a health check may present more problems.


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If your new cat seems listless, ill, or unable to eat, consult a Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible. If you are unable to pay the fees of a private Veterinary Surgeon, look out for a clinic run by the PDSA, RSPCA, Blue Cross, or other welfare organisations, where you can obtain advice or help either free or at little cost. Sneezing and sore or runny nose and eyes may indicate flu, or catarrhal infection (chronic sinusitis). Shaking the head, scratching the ears, or bare skin behind the ears may indicate an ear mite infection. Poor coat or bare patches in the fur may indicate the presence of fleas or other parasites. Using one of our Flea and Tick products should correct this. You can also fit a Flea Collar to provide continued protection, but if you have used a spray or powder, you must first wait the number of days specified on the label before fitting a collar. If the skin condition does not respond to your first aid measures quite quickly, consult a Veterinary Surgeon who will advise you if other treatment is required. Unneutered male cats are often covered with wounds, scratches, or even abscesses as a result of fighting. If your newly adopted tom is to become a family pet it is best to have him neutered or he may wander away again to re-join the ranks of the homeless cats. Cats that have been living wild and eating mice and other rodents are often infested with roundworm or tapeworm. A routine dosing with one of our worming products, is a wise precaution.


In the case of a male cat your Veterinary Surgeon will be able to tell you if he has been neutered if you are unsure, but in the case of the female it is not always possible to be certain. In many cases young female cats which are straying are found to be in kitten and the new owner may find that they have suddenly a large family to care for. However, since kittens are not always easy to find homes for it is as well to have the newcomer neutered (spayed) as soon as possible. If your new cat comes from a good home you will probably find that it has been immunised against viral enteritis, cat flu and feline leukaemia virus but it may require booster injections. In the case of a stray it is unlikely to have received any protection of this kind and it is best to consult your Veterinary Surgeon to decide when vaccination should be carried out.


Establishing a code of behaviour can present problems with an adult cat but it is important if he is to fit in as a member of the new family. For the first week at least it is probably best to confine the cat to one room, preferably the kitchen. Provide him with his own comfortable bed and he will have no excuse to sleep on yours. If it is placed in a quiet warm spot he will soon settle and feel at home. If there are dogs and children in the house a raised shelf may allow the newcomer more security and peace of mind. It may be a good idea to pin a notice on the kitchen door saying 'Cat within - please close doors' to remind everyone in the house. It will almost certainly be necessary to put a litter tray down for the first few days and this can present problems at first for an older cat that has been trained to go out. However, if the box or tray is put in a quiet corner of the room and the cat is left undisturbed the situation will usually resolve without too much trouble. Some adult cats may prefer peat or soil in their litter trays before being introduced gradually to normal cat litter. If you do not intend your cat to sit on the chairs you must be firm and persistent about this from the start but try to avoid shouting or frightening him. He may have come from a home where standards were very different and will find it hard to understand new rules and commands.


Unfortunately, an adult cat may have acquired bad habits that can be hard to deal with. As far as most owners are concerned, scratching or sharpening claws on furniture is the most serious. See that your cat has as much freedom and exercise outside as possible. Provide him with an indoor scratching post for times when he must stay in. See that the claws are kept reasonably short - but if all these measures prove ineffective simply resolve to see that he is never left unsupervised in any room where damage may be done. If it proves impossible to reform your cat completely, at least you can keep damage to a minimum. Cats that are dirty in the house present a serious problem. As a species they normally tend to be almost obsessively clean and modest in their habits, but if as a result of illness, change of home, or some emotional stress, their training breaks down, the situation may be difficult to remedy. Consult your Veterinary Surgeon to check if there is any physical cause for the behaviour. If this is not the case, consider installing a cat door to allow easy access to the outside, see that there is always a clean litter tray available and resign yourself to confining the cat to one room only in the house, where the minimum of damage will result. Killing birds, while it cannot strictly be called a bad habit since it is a normal instinct for cats, can be very upsetting for bird lovers. The most effective way to deal with this is to put a bell on the collar. After all, a civilised well-fed cat is killing purely for pleasure and to prevent this as far as possible is not unreasonable or unkind. Unfortunately, even very well fed cats are inclined to steal if they get the opportunity. See that, as is never allowed to jump onto tables or work surfaces. If he attempts to do so clap your hands sharply and say 'No'. This is in the cat's own interests as well since each year many cats suffer burns as a result of jumping onto hot electric cooker plates, or dislodging pans of hot food.


When a stray cat is taken in, it is as a rule, hungry and will gratefully eat any food that it is offered. However, there is a natural tendency on the part of the owner to make up for past deprivation by feeding to capacity with the result that the once hungry cat becomes choosy and starts to refuse foods that it previously enjoyed. In many cases this sets up a cycle in which the owner searches for new and interesting foods which the cat at first enjoys and then, as it becomes satiated, rejects. In desperation the owner may buy vitamin pills or consult a Veterinary Surgeon to induce the supposedly under-nourished cat to eat normal. Certainly no-one would wish that cats should go hungry and this kind of rather obsessional behaviour on the part of cat owners is usually a harmless foible. On the other hand, there really is no need to create a faddy and demanding monster out of a perfectly normal cat. It is not even necessary to supply changes in the diet (although all cats enjoy an occasional treat of leftover meat or game in their food). If a good high protein canned or packaged food is supplied in the correct amounts, a normal healthy cat will eat and enjoy its food every day. Variety does not seem to be a requirement. If your cat seems listless and rejects his food, or if he has difficulty in chewing or swallowing, you should consult a Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible, but if your healthy, lively cat starts to reject his meals the answer lies in your own hands. Reduce the amount given at each meal drastically until the appetite returns and check that he is not obtaining food elsewhere, e.g. from a neighbour.


In the wild state, the cat would have lived entirely on the small rodents or birds that he was able to kill. These supplied not only the protein, fat, vitamins and minerals that he required, but also the greater part of the fluid content of the diet. In the civilised world the cat still has a very high dietary requirement of protein and, unlike the dog, he is not able to substitute carbohydrate for this to any great extent without losing condition. He also has a higher fat requirement than the dog and fat added to prepared cat foods greatly increases the palatability. The normal adult cat will find his needs for vitamins and minerals are supplied adequately in a balanced diet (as suggested below) but for the pregnant or lactating cat, or for the growing kitten, or following illness, a supplement may be advisable.


Over the last forty years there has been an almost revolutionary change in the feeding of cats - mainly for the better. Where previously most cats were fed a diet of meat scraps, lights, or white fish (often deficient in protein and vitamins), nowadays the great proportion are fed on pre packaged manufactured foods. While these are not necessarily better than good quality meat and fish, they have been carefully formulated to provide a balanced meal for the average cat, they are readily available, easy to store and prepare, and probably overall are a lot cheaper than any equivalent food.


Meat and offal of all kinds can be fed (cooked or raw), although it should be remembered that lights (lungs) are low in protein value and should not be given as a total diet. Liver is rich in Vitamin A; a vitamin that the cat is not able to synthesise and which is essential for good health. It makes a good addition to the diet if given once a week. However, some vitamins in excess can cause harm and an exclusive diet of liver can rapidly lead to severe disorders in the skeletal system. Rabbit and game of all kinds are very popular with cats and are ideal for tempting the appetite of a sick cat. Fish is a useful food, though if white fish is used as the only food it can lead to vitamin deficiency. It is best prepared in a pressure cooker and the softened bones provide a good source of minerals for the pregnant cat. Canned fish such as pilchards or sardines have a good food value and surprisingly many cats seem to enjoy the tomato sauce as well, but they should not be fed exclusively. Cheese is a good source of protein and is well accepted by most cats. Vegetable protein (Soya, etc) can be used only as a partial substitute for animal protein in the diet. On no account should any attempt be made to feed a cat a 'vegetarian' diet. The cat is able to synthesise its own supply of vitamin C and green vegetables are not necessary in the diet, although as many owners will have noticed, some cats like to eat grass, while others have even more exotic tastes and enjoy cucumber and other vegetables without any ill effects. Cats enjoy bones to eat almost as much as dogs and since they are more careful and fastidious feeders and do not bolt their food, they suffer much less from the results of swallowing sharp or indigestible fragments. However, large bones can become wedged in the mouth or throat so they should be avoided if possible. Carbohydrates (bread, non-meat biscuit meal) are not a normal constituent of the cat's diet but small amounts can be added to the food, providing that it also contains an adequate amount of protein.


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The canned foods (meat, fish, rabbit, etc) which are prepared by leading manufacturers are carefully and scientifically formulated to supply a total food for a normal cat and they can provide very satisfactory and trouble-free method of feeding throughout a cat's life. Care of course should be taken, as with any canned food, to see that once it is opened it is not exposed to contamination and it is better if part of a tin has been refrigerated to allow it to return to room temperature before feeding.


The semi-moist types of food are a relatively recent addition to the cat's menu and they are a more concentrated food. It should be remembered that fresh foods contain over 90% of water, so if a semi-moist food is introduced, it is important to see that the cat is receiving sufficient additional fluid in the diet in the form of milk or preferably water. However, this type of food seems to be very palatable and well accepted by cats. It is particularly easy to store and use.


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This is a food with a high protein and fat content that most cats enjoy very much. However, it is more concentrated and has an even lower fluid content than the semi-moist food and suffers from the same disadvantages. It is therefore essential to ensure that a ready supply of clean fresh water is available at all times for your cat to drink.


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Milk is an important food for the young kitten and, while it is not necessary for the adult cat, it is obvious that many of them enjoy it. Fresh milk is a useful food in convalescence and for the lactating female with a litter to feed. Occasionally, intolerance to lactose in cow's milk is seen in some cats and it seems that it may cause digestive disorders, especially in Siamese cats. However, contrary to the old wives' tale, cow's milk is not a source of roundworms. Although, as we have seen, many cats drink very little water, it is important to see that it is always available, especially in hot weather, or when feeding a dry food with a low moisture content. On some occasions, cats develop a particular liking for running water and prefer to drink from a running tap.


It is not possible to lay down definite rules on feeding, since even within the species, conditions of life and dietary requirements can vary. For instance, the young growing cat requires proportionally much more food than the mature adult does. However, as a general guide, most adult cats require between five to eight ounces (150 to 250 grammes) daily of a high protein food, according to weight. In practice this works out as half a tin of cat food twice daily for the average small cat (with milk as well if wanted). The larger cat requires the same amount with the addition of a small quantity of cat biscuit, or household fish or meat scraps if they are available. Remember, of course, that if your particular cat does not appear to make satisfactory progress it is essential to visit your Veterinary Surgeon for guidance suited to the individual case.


In the wild state the cat would probably have eaten only once in 24 hours but under home conditions most owners find it more satisfactory to divide the meal and feed twice, while for young kittens or pregnant cats at least three meals daily are necessary. Food should not be left down all day and in particular biscuits should not be left to be nibbled as well. This is a certain way to ruin an appetite and to produce an obese cat. If a meal is not finished at once it should be picked up and nothing further offered until the next mealtime. Overeating is just as harmful for cats as it is for humans and makes them prematurely old. By giving your cat a well balanced diet without excess you will increase his chances of a long, active, and healthy life.


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While grooming dogs is accepted as a normal part of ownership there is a tendency for owners to assume that cats need no attention at all. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Some shorthaired cats do keep themselves very trim, with constant licking and grooming, but during the moulting season even they are unable to cope with the enormous amounts of hair which is either shed onto the carpets and furniture or, worse still, swallowed. Persians and other longhaired cats require very much more attention and must be regarded as a Teeth time-absorbing hobby. In the wild state it is probable that cats had one heavy moult during the hot summer months and then grew a new coat for the winter. Today, with the increase in central heating most owners will agree that moulting seems to take place throughout the year. Regular grooming is essential - for smooth haired cats it should be carried out weekly, and for long coats three times weekly or, if they are to be kept in show condition, daily.


Choose a suitable place for grooming, if possible a utility room, outhouse, or garage to avoid the nuisance of flying hairs in the house. Check that all doors and windows are securely shut and place your cat on a table of comfortable height with a non-slip surface if possible. You will need: A fine-toothed, strong steel comb and a brush (a strong nylon hairbrush is ideal). A pair of blunt-ended scissors and nail clippers. Eye Lotion and Ear Cleaner or similar plus cotton wool to remove any discharge from eyes and ears and a grooming aid. Start with the comb first to remove any tangles. A grooming spray will help ease a comb through matted hair. Work down from the head, under the chin and behind the ears, then down the back and tail. 'Finally, turn the cat on his back and groom underneath. Then follow with brushing to remove the loose and dead hair. In a shorthaired cat this is quite a simple process as a rule, but with a longhaired cat (especially in the moulting season) if the coat has been neglected, there may be not only tangles but thick felt-like matts, especially behind the ears, at the base of the spine, and under the abdomen, which can be extremely difficult to remove. The best method of dealing with this problem is to raise the matted lumps of hair away from the skin gently with the comb and try and tease them apart. If this fails, cut the underlying hair using blunt-ended scissors (taking great care not to cut the cat in the process). This will, of course, for a while, leave unsightly bare patches, but the hair grows again very quickly and the comfort and well-being of the cat are of much more importance than his appearance. It need hardly be said that, unless the cat is a very placid one, this task requires two people, so try to get a friend to help. Removing severe tangles can prove very painful for the cat and very difficult for the owner. If it really seems insurmountable consult your Veterinary Surgeon. He may be willing to arrange for your cat to be groomed and de-matted under sedation (and then resolve never to allow your pet to get into such a condition again).


Check for any signs of fleas and apply an insecticidal dusting powder or spray if necessary. Check ears for waxy deposits that may indicate the presence of ear mites, and wipe ears with ear cleaner. Check eyes for any discharge. Tear staining can be a problem on white cats. Cut away any badly stained hair and wipe clean with tear stain remover. Check the mouth not only for bad teeth that may need attention but also for heavy tartar deposits that often form around the teeth. Regular toothbrushing will prevent dental problems from developing and should begin at as young an age as possible. 80% of cats over the age of 3 years are said to have dental problems, so it is important to get into the habit of brushing your cats teeth once a week. The nails of cats do not, as a rule, need regular trimming if the cat has the opportunity to get out and climb trees. However, in cases where they are inclined to tear at the furniture it may help to trim just the very tip of the nails with nail clippers. The nail contains a strong nerve and blood supply so it is important to understand that it is only the dead horny tip that is to be cut. If you feel uncertain about the amount to take off, ask your Veterinary Surgeon or animal welfare clinic to show you. The presence of tapeworms may sometimes be detected by dried-up segments, rather like grains of rice, adhering to the fur in the anal region.


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Cats tend to object to bathing even more than dogs and it is not, as a rule, necessary to bath them if grooming is carried out regularly, except in the case of show cats, or white cats. However, if bathed from kittenhood the procedure is far less troublesome. Always use a shampoo specifically designed for cats. Cats can be 'dry' cleaned by dusting a little Baby Talcum Powder into the coat and then thoroughly brushing out. Remember that powder left in the coat may lead to disqualification from cat shows. Grooming will not be an ordeal if it is carried out at least weekly. After the more difficult work of brushing and combing take a little time to stroke your cat and tell him how handsome he looks. He will appreciate it.


The general advice given in this chapter on Cat Care applies to all pets but if a cat is to be entered for shows it is essential that its coat should be kept in good condition all year round. There can be no question of resorting to scissors to remove tangles; tangles must not be allowed to form. However, it is a pity to make a cat a house prisoner simply in the interest of his appearance and many breeders feel that cats which live in centrally heated homes really need the contact with the cold outside world to produce a thick and glossy coat. For shorthaired cats follow the routine suggested earlier in the chapter and simply finish by polishing the coat by smoothing over (in the natural direction of the hair) with a soft duster or by using a grooming aid such as grooming spray. Longhaired cats require more attention and it is essential to be certain that the grooming is thorough and that no knots are left anywhere in the coat. Light-coloured coats may benefit from a bath and this is best carried out two to three days before a show. Use lukewarm water and a special cat shampoo. Be sure to rinse very thoroughly (a spray tap fitting is a great help) and see that the cat is kept in a warm, even temperature while drying. If the cat is fairly placid, use an electric hairdryer to bring up a fluffy coat. In the case of a longhaired cat, the final brushing out should be against the natural direction of the coat to produce a really fluffy effect. The majority of cats settle well, but occasionally seem to miss their 'home comforts', but in general little harm will come of this. Due to the possible disease risks when lots of cats are brought together under one roof most catteries will, quite rightly, insist on all cats being vaccinated against flu and enteritis before being admitted.


Cat flu and feline enteritis are two very serious, and often fatal, viral diseases of cats. They can be prevented very successfully by vaccination. See that your young kitten is vaccinated and remember that booster injections are necessary, especially before sending your pet into a boarding cattery. Your own Veterinary Surgeon will advise you. Young cats settle better in catteries than older ones, so if it is going to be necessary to leave your pet from time to time, try to establish the habit early and accustom him to the occasional absence from home.


This can be difficult if you are new to the area. Personal recommendation by another cat owner helps, but failing this you can easily find a kennel or cattery online or from the local newspaper. Well before your holiday is due, visit and satisfy yourself that the place is clean, secure, and well run. Don't leave things until the last minute when it is too late to change your mind.


Cages should be clean, large enough for comfort, and well ventilated. Warmth - heated catteries are essential in winter and owners must be prepared to pay for the extra costs. Cats that are used to living in centrally heated houses suffer considerably if they are put in unheated cages. Exercise runs - if there is not an exercise run attached to each cage there should be an exercise area where the cat can be put out each day. There should be someone living on the premises by night as well as by day in case of fire. Above all, the proprietor should be a person who really cares and understands cats. Without this, the most modern and efficient cattery will not be a success. Book well ahead - good catteries may become fully booked in the holiday season. Licensed kennels and catteries are inspected and licensed by the local authorities, so if you really feel that a particular cattery was dirty or gave unsatisfactory care it is worth reporting. Vaccination certificates are usually required, so check with your Veterinary Surgeon if your cat is due for a booster injection. Ask if you may take your cat's own bed - it will smell like home and may help him feel less homesick. Food - ask if your cat may have the food he is used to - or take a supply in for him. Weight - don't blame the cattery owner if your cat has lost weight when you collect him. It is most unlikely that he has been short of food but unfortunately some cats fret in catteries and refuse to eat. In these cases it is kinder to make arrangements for the cat to stay in his own home if he has been particularly unhappy. No real cat lover will enjoy a holiday knowing that his or her pet is unhappy or neglected. Transport - always use a strong and reliable cat box or basket when transporting your cat. A frightened cat will often struggle to get out - and nothing could be worse than losing your cat in a strange place.


Traditional wicker cat baskets are satisfactory as long as the fastenings remain secure. They have the advantage that they are made of natural fibre and have good ventilation but they are difficult to disinfect if it should become necessary following an infectious illness. Fibre-glass boxes are strong and can be washed out easily and disinfected but it is important to be certain that the ventilation holes are adequate, especially for larger cats, if they are to be kept in them for any length of time. Wire mesh or metal cages are strong and provide ample ventilation but because they are so open they provide no sense of security to the cat if a strange person (or dog) should approach. There are also a wide variety of plastic cat homes available. For those cats that travel infrequently, or for short journeys, the cardboard cat boxes sold by the various welfare organisations are useful. But be warned, they will not hold a large and frightened cat!


If possible travel with your pet. In a train you will, as a rule, be allowed to keep a cat in the carriage providing he is in a proper cat box or basket. It is a sensible plan to line the base of the basket with a sheet of polythene, covered by several layers of newspaper, in case of unexpected accidents. If your cat is of a nervous disposition, try a herbal calming agent. These may need to be administered upto three hours prior to travel, for best effect.


If it is absolutely necessary to send a cat by train unaccompanied, choose a passenger train and notify the recipient to be on the platform to meet it. Use a strong wooden box, which is secure but with adequate ventilation. Line the box with several layers of newspaper and add a blanket for comfort and warmth. See that the box is marked 'Live Cat' or 'Kitten' and that the address of the sender and recipient are quite clearly visible. Unfortunately, even with the most careful arrangements, delays and misdirections occur, but in this way you can be told whether the cat has reached his destination safely. If you have to send a cat by train unaccompanied, it would be wise to contact your local Station Master and clarify the position. Although the first car journey may prove rather alarming, many cats become quite seasoned car travellers. However, it is essential for driver safety that they should be confined to a basket during the journey. If it is necessary to send a cat unaccompanied by sea or air it is best to consult one of the firms which specialise in this work. They will be able to provide a secure and suitable box and will advise you of the regulations governing travel.


When taking your cat out of the United Kingdom you will require a certificate of health given by a Veterinary Surgeon within a few days of leaving. Rabies In addition, some countries require your cat to be vaccinated against rabies, or require you to produce a certificate showing that your pet is free from diseases. In some countries there is a short quarantine period on arrival, but because the United Kingdom is free from rabies most places will admit British cats at once. It really is important to find out all these details about the country concerned as soon as possible. Your Veterinary Surgeon will often be able to help you find out what is required. Failure to do this may involve you in considerable delay, or heartbreak, if you find that you are unable to take your pet with you.


UK quarantine regulations have now been phased out. In place is the 'Pet Travel Scheme' which enables cats and dogs coming from European Union Countries, and other countries which are part of the scheme, to enter the UK without quarantine. The system will also cover UK resident cats and dogs that have been abroad temporarily in those countries. Pets from countries which are not part of the scheme will continue to be subject to quarantine. For further information on UK quarantine and the new regulations contact the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (or if in Scotland the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland).


With better feeding and medical care the family cat is becoming very long lived. Ages of sixteen and seventeen are by no means uncommon and with very little extra care and attention old age can be a very pleasant and contented time. Proprietary canned cat foods may still be given and they are particularly suitable for those elderly cats who have lost some or all of their teeth. However, elderly appetites can be capricious and the time for indulgence has arrived, so it may be advisable to try fresh foods such as rabbit, fish, or mince from time to time to maintain a high protein level and add interest to the diet. In cases where specific illness has been diagnosed (such as kidney disease) your own Veterinary Surgeon will advise you as to the foods which are most suitable for your pet, and will probably supply you with a specifically prepared prescription diet. Adequate rest and warm surroundings are of great importance in the case of the elderly cat. In winter particularly, old cats may seem to sleep for almost all of 24 hours, if they can find a cosy place in an airing cupboard or near a radiator, and in the summer they will select the sunniest spots in the garden for dozing. However, in spite of this they will suddenly surprise you by playing like a kitten with a toy or a piece of string.


Teeth can be a common cause of discomfort and loss of appetite. If your Veterinary Surgeon advises extractions you will find, as a rule, that it produces a great improvement in general well being. Hard healthy gums are of much more use for eating than bad teeth. As the joints become stiffer, cats may be unable to sharpen their own claws and may have difficulty in retracting them when they become caught in cloth. Regular trimming of the overgrown tips of the nails will help minimise this problem. Some elderly cats suffer from a severe type of constipation, largely as a result of loss of tone in the bowel, although it may also be due to the lack of proper exercise, or to swallowing large quantities of hair in the moulting season. Including liver in the diet (raw or cooked) once or twice weekly will usually have a natural laxative effect. Hairball Paste may be given regularly to assist the passage of fur balls. If these first aid measures prove ineffective, it is best to consult a Veterinary Surgeon for further advice. Unfortunately, some elderly cats may lose control of their bladder and bowels and however much you love your pet this can make life very difficult. It is, of course, useless and unkind to blame the animals, this is something they cannot help. Consult your Veterinary Surgeon who will tell you if any medical help can be given, or if you can expect any improvement in the condition.


In cases where a cat is suffering from a painful and incurable condition, or when your Veterinary Surgeon advises that life cannot be prolonged with kindness, euthanasia should be considered.

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