Four Things Your Vet Wishes You Knew About Cat Care
Cats have always been seen as the low-maintenance pet of choice - whereasdogs need lots of attention and exercise, all cats really need is food, water, a clean place to poop and the occasional tummy rub!
However, according to veterinary professionals this is not the case at all, and good cat care is much more sophisticated and demanding than many pet owners realise. To make things worse, there are whole industries out there that are built around exploiting cat owners' ignorance to make money from ineffective, and sometimes harmful, pet products.
We caught up with Felicity (not her real name) a veterinary professional who works with one of London's biggest vet companies so she could give us the low down on the common mistakes she sees countless cat owners make.
- Supermarket Flea Collars
If there's one common motif you'll see popping up time and again in this article it is this: People are willing to spend lots of money on their pets because they love them, and there is no shortage of companies out there that are more than willing to exploit that affection.
Supermarket flea collars are probably the most common example of this. According to Felicity, "supermarket flea collars simply don't work. They're essentially a strip of material which has had some insecticide sprayed on it."
Not only is this insecticide rarely strong enough to do any lasting damage to flea colonies, but the active ingredient in many non-prescription flea collars is Tetrachlorvinphos, which has been associated with a range of health problems such as hair loss and skin irritation. Some medical research has also indicated that it might be a carcinogen.
The only collars which are actually effective are modern, prescription only collars. "Prescription flea collars are much stronger and are subject to medical testing and licencing, which makes them much safer than the supermarket alternatives which don't have to pass such rigorous testing. As well as this, prescription flea collars are medicated, so that the pesticides are absorbed through the cat's skin and the lipid layer under the skin, so it essentially circulates around the entire cat."
- Not Picking Up On Cat Stress
Felicity told us: "Everyone always think cats are so nonchalant and chilled, but the reality is that they are little balls of stress. Cats love their routine so something as trivial as builders coming around, or a house move, or the addition of a new pet can flip their whole world upside down."
Stress in cats can have serious consequences such as heart problems and stress induced cystitis, so it is very important that cat owners are aware of cat stress and its indicators. Be on the lookout for tell-tale signs of stress such as:
However, things like house moves and having a baby are pretty much inevitable, so what can you do to offset the stress your cat might be feeling in these sorts of situations?
- Uncharacteristically destructive or aggressive behaviour.
- Lots of territorial marking.
- Stress scratching.
Pheromone therapy isone of the best ways to help ease your cat's stress. Pheromones are basically airborne hormones, which cats use to mark their territoryso that they can come back to marked objects and feel reassured that there no other cats or dangerous animals are threatening their home.
Products like Feliway are synthetic copies ofthese pheromones, which you can use to calm and reassure your cat during stressful periods such as house moves or events when lots of people visit your house. According to Felicity, pheromone treatment "is sort of the cat equivalent of a nice cup of tea and a chat with your mum!"
You can buy Feliway at most vet practises and pet stores, but it is often cheaper to buy it online or through discount stores.
- Understand Pet Insurance
Felicity says: "You're 3 times more likely to claim on pet insurance than any other kind, such as house, or car. Animals are biological, so things can and will go wrong, no matter how well you look after your cat."
The costs of accidents and illnesses can be huge, and while the average vet cost per incident is £300, chronic conditions like arthritis can cost many thousands over the course of your cat's life. Therefore, every responsible pet owner should have pet insurance.
However, the kind of cover you get is very important, too. Time limited plans only cover 12 months per condition, so on-going illnesses such as diabetes, kidney problems and other things that cats pick up as they age will not be covered after the 1st year. Felicity added: "No insurance company will cover a pre-existingcondition, so, if your cat got arthritis at 10 and lived to be 20, a time limited policy will only cover 1 year of the condition, meaning that you'll have to foot the bill for 9 years' worth of medication and treatment."
On the other hand, a lifetime policy means that as long as you keep up the payments and don't cancel or change insurer mid-condition, they'll pay out year after year.
This is why it is so important that you don't change insurance providers, as although it may be tempting to switch to a lower premium, it means that any pre-existing conditions won't be covered. According to Felicity: "Insurance companies will jump on any health problems, so if your cat had an upset stomach 2 years ago, the new company might turn around and say we're going to disregard the whole digestive system."
Felicity added "Be careful when choosing an insurer and always read the small print. Don't be tempted by low premiums - you get what you pay for and there is always a reason why the cost is so low! Finally, it sounds obvious, but get insurance before something goes wrong, as almost all insurance periods have a qualifying period of around 14 days from your 1st payment when it doesn't cover you."
- Be Aware of What You're Feeding Your Cat
Many cheaper cat food brands are essentially junk food for cats. They are full of badly processed, poor quality protein sources and full of fat and calories.
"The problem is, they taste great" Felicity added, "which makes the cat eat even more, which means you feed it more, which means you buy more!" These foods contribute to serious medical conditions and obesity. For male cats, these foods can change the PH of their urine, so that they develop microscopic crystals in their bladders which build up and cause urethral blockages. If left untreated, this can cause ruptured bladders.
As well as this, poor quality cat food can cause gastric problems. Cheaper brands regularly switch protein sources to find the cheapest suppliers. One week they might be buying from a farm in Wales, the next a farm in New Zealand, which can cause food intolerances.
Non-prescription veterinary diets are more expensive than cheap brands, but hugely reduce the risk of your cat developing gastric problems, as the companies spend millions and years researching their products in conjunction with veterinary scientists to find the exact constituents of these foods.For example, many veterinary exclusive foods include Struvite Oxalate Complex, which specifically prevents the urine PH changes and bladder blockages caused by cheaper food.