Cat Health FAQs

Catnip

Why does my cat go crazy around catnip?

Catnip is a herb that belongs to the mint family and contains an active ingredient called nepetalactone. This chemical is thought to mimic the effects of a pheromone to cause a variety of behaviours including sniffing, licking and chewing the plant, chin and cheek rubbing, head shaking or rolling and body rubbing. The reaction usually lasts up to 15 minutes and then cannot be evoked again for about an hour after exposure. Not all cats respond to catnip and you have nothing to worry about – catnip isn’t toxic and the effects are short lived.

Cat with lump on back leg

My cat has developed a lump on her back leg. It is soft and watery on top like a blister. It doesn’t seem to be causing her any problems. What is it?

Soft, watery lumps like you described tend to be cysts which are not serious. I would always advise getting it checked out with your vet though.

Drooling cat

Just recently I have noticed our cat has been drooling, is this normal?

Unfortunately, this isn’t normal as cats don’t tend to drool, this may be a symptom of a dental issue – I would monitor her very carefully and if she is drooling constantly or exhibiting any other symptoms of being in pain (off her food, uncharacteristic behaviour) then you should get her checked over by a vet.

How can I tell if my cat’s pregnant

I think my cat is pregnant, how can I tell?

If you think your cat is pregnant you may notice her abdomen swelling/distending and she will begin to lose hair around her nipples which will eventually become more pink and prominent ready for suckling. Your vet will be able to perform an ultrasound scan on your cat to see if she is pregnant approximately 3 weeks. Gestation for a cat usually lasts for approximately 60 days, give or take a day or two either side of this.

Can my cat eat dog food?

My cat likes to eat my dog’s food – is this okay for him to do or should I stop this behaviour?

If your cat is only eating your dog’s food occasionally and is still eating his own food as his staple diet this shouldn’t cause any major problems, at most he may become a little loose with his bowel movements. Cats and dogs do have different dietary requirements, cats for instance NEED the amino acid, Taurine in their diet, as their bodies cannot produce it. If your cat was fed solely dog food, he would become very ill due to taurine deficiency. This can manifest itself as heart disease and blindness (due to retinal degeneration). Your cat should, ideally, stick to his own food.

Cat can’t keep food down

Our beloved family cat cannot seem to keep any food down, she is a moggy with quite a long coat, I have reduced the amount I give her now because of this but she still vomits that back up, even if she only eats a little. She is drinking fine and playing as normal – what do I do?

It sounds very much like your cat may have a fur ball which could be causing an obstruction to the bowel, a very common issue in long-haired cats, the hairball has obviously been caused by your cat grooming herself – this would be one of the simpler explanations as there are many possible reasons for this. I think you need to go and see your vet so that they can give her a proper health check and help diagnose the problem more accurately.

Suitable cat carrier for a long journey

We will soon be moving down South and be taking our two cats with us. The cats hate being in the car – even on the short journey to the vets. Do you know of any large cat carriers that have a litter tray and room for food and water bowls?

From experience we find that cats tend not to want to eat or go to the toilet when travelling. You must however provide water and there are carriers available that have clip on water bowls. If your cats are not drinking from the bowls when the car is moving make sure you stop frequently to give them the opportunity to drink. Resist the temptation to let them out of the carrier as you risk them escaping from the car. Also be aware that if you have your car heater on, the temperature can soon become too hot for cats.

Cat with ear mites

My cat has a brownish coating inside her ears. I thought it was just ear wax but my friend says it may be ear mites. Is she right?

It is difficult to say what the coating is without seeing it. Cats do have ear wax which is normally a creamy/brownish colour. This can be cleaned with ear cleaner. Ear mites are tiny and cannot be seen with the naked eye. They irritate the ear canal and may cause the cat to shake their heads and scratch. Ear mites cause the ear to produce more wax which is often a darker brown and sometimes crusty. This will need cleaning out and an ear mite treatment to get rid of the cause.

Can I feed my cat real food?

I would like to feed my cat on ‘real’ food rather than cat food. I am thinking of meat and fish. Is there any problem with doing this?

This would actually be quite difficult to get right. Cats are carnivores but do not get all the minerals and vitamins they need from meat alone. Cooked fish is deficient in an amino acid – taurine- that cats need to remain healthy. A lack of taurine can cause blindness. Reputable cat food manufacturers ensure that their food contains the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, nutrients, minerals etc .

How can I get my cat to use her bed – not ours?

We are trying (in vain) to stop our cat sleeping on our bed and bought her a cat bed which we have put on the floor in our bedroom but she still prefers our bed. How can we get her to use her own bed?

Oh the joys of cat ownership. Putting it bluntly if your cat doesn’t want to use her new bed there isn’t a lot you can do about it. Your bed will be comfy and familiar to her and have your familiar, comforting smells. You could try putting some clothing that you have worn in her bed or possibly some treats to tempt her in but at the end of the day she will make her own mind up about which bed she prefers.

Is it harmful for my cat to eat dog food?

My cat eats the Royal Canin food I put out for my dogs. Will it do her any harm?

Cats have different requirements in terms of vitamins, proteins and nutrients than dogs and good quality pet food, like Royal Canin, is formulated to provide these in the correct proportions. Specifically cats need an amino acid called taurine. If your cat occasionally eats dog food it may cause an upset tummy but no lasting damage but if she eats dog food exclusively she could develop taurine deficiency which can lead to heart problems and blindness.

Male cat spraying in the house

I have a 3 year old, neutered, male cat, who sprays inside the house, I thought neutering may have stopped this.

Spraying is a normal behaviour in cats, and neutering doesn’t always stop this behaviour – in both male and female cats. Spraying (after neutering) is often the result of certain stresses i.e. other cats, changes in environment etc. but could also be medically related. Your vet will be able to rule out any medical problems and provide you with advice to stop this anxious behaviour.

Cat fur loss

My cat  is black but at the base of her tail and on her side she seems to be losing her hair and its going lighter ….any ideas ?

This type of symptom is most commonly associated with an allergic dermatitis, often triggered by fleas. You will need to take him/her to a vet for treatment.

Should a cat on dry food drink more?

My cat has been put on an obesity management dry food and i have noticed him drinking quite a lot more water of late…..is this part of the normal process?

If he has been fed a mainly wet based diet before then it would not be unusual for him to drink more on the dry diet. It would be a good idea to measure how much water he drinks in a 24 hour period and speak to your vet who may want to investigate further.

Cat with heart murmur

My vet has told me that my young cat has a heart murmur. I have read all sorts of things on the internet and now I am totally confused – please help.

Vets grade heart murmurs from 1 to 6. A grade one murmur is hardly detectable and may have no real impact whilst a grade 6 will most likely seriously affect a cat’s activity levels and life expectancy. You need to speak to your vet to find out what grade it is and then they will work with you to manage the condition. They may need to do blood tests to check on the hearts condition or ultrasound/x-Ray the chest to get the best idea of how it may affect your cat.

Cat having difficulty going to the toilet

My cat keeps squatting as if to have a pee and just stares ahead, but nothing happens. Can you tell me what it might be please.

The increase in frequency of urination or trying to urinate is most likely caused by a disease called FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease).

This can be caused by a variety of causes including infections, bladder stones, inflammation and even stress!

Your cat will need to be seen by a vet to check it out. It is particularly important if you have a male cat with these symptoms that you seek advice quickly as some male cats can develop a blockage in the urethra which means they cannot pass any urine at all and this can be fatal if left untreated.

Most cases do respond well to treatment once a specific cause had been identified.

Itchy cat

I put a spot-on flea treatment on my cat every month but recently I noticed that she was scratching a lot. Could she still have fleas and does this mean that the fleas have become immune to the spot-on?

Firstly we would need to check that the itching is being caused by fleas and not another issue such as an allergy. Flea products are very effective at killing fleas but if your cat is in a high flea environment, by which we mean regularly coming into contact with fleas via other cats, bedding etc then constant re-infestation is always going to be an issue. We see a lot of this at this time of year due to flea eggs hatching when central heating systems are switched on .

To resolve this we need to break the flea life cycle and also treat the environment. There are various treatments available. Over the counter spot-on treatments differ in their effectiveness and you may find a prescription only treatment more effective. There are also a number of environmental sprays available, so talk to your vet who will advise on the best products to tackle this issue based on your cat’s lifestyle.

Can I give my cat chips?

We brought fish and chips in on Friday night and our cat was scrounging (as usual). To shut her up we offered her a chip – and to our surprise she loved it. Is it alright to give her chips occasionally as a treat ?

It is not a good idea to give cats ‘human’ food as it can cause problems in the digestive system. Lots of human food contains too much salt which is bad for all of us. Cat food is formulated to provide the right amount of nutrients.

Tapeworm

My cat has something in her stools. They are white and look like grains of rice – and they are alive. What are they ?

What you are seeing are tapeworms. Tapeworms do not always look like long worms. A suitable worm treatment will solve the problem. Most vet surgeries will provide free advice on a suitable preventative protocol to stop the problem recurring.

Fitting cat

We have a cat that we took in as a stray about 7 years ago. Recently she had a couple of ‘fits’. She suddenly goes rigid for a minute or so and her eyes go wild looking and then it passes. What could it be ?

This sounds like it is brain related and could be epilepsy, inflammation or even a brain tumour. I suggest you visit your vet who will be able to do a series of tests to diagnose the cause. If you can video an episode on your mobile phone to show to your vet it would be helpful.

Cat with septic lump

A couple of months ago I noticed a lump on my cat’s shoulder which had gone septic. I assume he has been in a fight (again!). I bathed it with cotton wool and warm water and it went away. It has come back again but he doesn’t seem to be in any pain. How should I treat it ?

When you initially cleaned up the wound and got rid of the pus the lump may have disappeared  but if you did not get rid of the infection totally the lump and pus will return. You need to take your cat to your vet who will probably prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection. If it has turned into an abscess it may need surgically draining.

Diabetic cat

My cat has been diagnosed with diabetes and will now need a daily insulin injection for the rest of her life. Is it possible to treat the cause of diabetes rather than control the disease?

Nobody knows for sure what the causes of diabetes are. There are also a number of contributory factors such as genetics, weight, other diseases etc but not always. For whatever reason your cat is not producing enough of the hormone ‘insulin’ and the only way to balance this is with regular insulin injections.

Can my cat play with knitting wool?

Is it safe for my cat to play with my knitting wool ?

No. It is relatively common to see intestinal injuries as a result of cats ingesting wool or string. It would be much better to get her a good quality cat toy.

Cat doesn’t like being stroked

Our 7 year old cat is showing odd behaviour when we stroke her at the bottom of her back by her tail. She dips her back down and turns her head up and towards her tail and sometimes hisses. There isn’t anything visible – what could it be ?

This could be a skin problem, possibly secondary to a flea allergy or overgrooming which could be stress related. Other causes of this behaviour could be a cat bite abscess or even arthritis. You need to have her checked over by a vet to find the cause of the behaviour.

Cat with sunburnt ears

My cat’s ears became pink and inflamed after he had sat out in the sun. I am assuming it was sunburn. Is it OK to use human sunblock and aftersun on animals?

It sounds like it could well be sunburn, which isn’t uncommon in cats. Try to find a sunblock specifically for animals but if that isn’t possible use one designed for children as your cat may attempt to groom to get rid of it. For patches that are sunburnt you can use Sudocreme or an Aloe Vera gel to soothe the inflammation.

Cat with cut on ear

My cat gets into fights and seems to always get his ears cut which then go septic. I use cotton wool and warm salt water to bathe them and it seems to do the trick. Am I doing the right thing ?

Cats do scrap and if the wounds are not deep then cleaning them as you have described will help. If there is pus present or the cat is unwell then antibiotics and pain relief may need to be prescribed.

Cat not using litter tray

My cat usually comes in to use her litter tray when she wants to go to the toilet but recently she has been crying to go out and isn’t using her tray. Is it just that she has grasped the concept of toileting outside ?

Firstly you need to be sure that when she goes outside she is going to the toilet and everything is alright. Assuming it is, and she is not constipated, then yes it may be that she has found that she prefers to toilet outside.

Cat with watery eye

My cat has a watery right eye. It doesn’t appear sore but is very watery. Do I need to worry ?

If the eye does not appear sore or inflamed it could just be a ‘chill’ in the eye. Otherwise it could be caused by an infection or by a blocked tear duct. If your cat seems otherwise OK just keep a check on it and if the problem persists then have it checked out by your vet.

Cat insurance

What should I be looking for in an insurance policy for a cat ?

The cover should obviously include veterinary treatment. The best policies offer life-term cover where if your cat was to develop a long term health problem they will continue to cover the condition after 12 months. Check the wording carefully as this is not the case with all policies. Other things to look for in your policy are money to help for advertising if your cat gets lost or additional benefits e.g cattery fees if you have to be hospitalised etc

Is my cat pregnant?

How do I know if my cat is pregnant ?

A pregnant cat will show abdominal distension and, eventually, hairloss around the nipples, which become more pink and prominent. If in doubt, a vet may be able to feel or scan for kittens at about 3 to 3 1/2 weeks. Pregnancy lasts about 63 days, with a little variation each side of this. When she is due, the female cat or queen will usually seek out somewhere secluded, and will usually ignore boxes and beds made up for her. Best to let her settle, then shred some newspaper or kitchen towel for a nest around her

Do cats or dogs make better pets?

Do cats or dogs make better pets?

It all depends on your life style, personality and what role you want a pet to play in your life.

A pet is just like having a child. If you are a working individual that won’t have the time to exercise a dog morning and night and ideally have somebody to at least let them out at lunchtime then a cat may be better. Dogs are usually more interactive and social animals and are a great reason to get out and keep fit too.

Some cats like Siamese are more ‘people’ orientated and can be more dog-like in their desire to interact with people like dogs do.

To bring another species into it:- It’s horses for courses!

How long do kittens stay with their mum?

How long do kittens need to stay with their mother?

No kitten should be adopted and taken from the mother before 8-9 weeks, at a minimum, but 12 weeks is much better, as long as they are getting plenty of attention and socialization with people.

Kittens will be able to begin eating some solid food at about 4 weeks of age, but that does not mean they can be taken from their mother. They will continue to nurse up to 12 weeks, and occasionally even longer. Kittens which are taken from their mother sooner sometimes develop a behavior called “wool sucking”: they will suck and chew on fabric, your neck or hand, clothing, and pillows.

Why does my cat have watery eyes?

My cat has watery eyes, why ?

There are many causes of unusual eye discharges and my best advice would be to have your cat checked out by a vet. Often the watery eyes can be a symptom of another problem (respiratory, viral, injury, glaucoma, distichia, conjunctivitis etc ) and needs to be considered in conjunction with other symptoms – lethargy, loss of appetite etc.

Can cat fleas be passed on to humans?

My cat sleeps on my daughters bed – is this OK ? Can cat fleas be passed on to humans ?

Cat fleas will not live on humans but if present can bite humans which can cause discomfort. There are a number of preventative flea treatments available for cats and also environmental sprays which can be used in the soft furnishings around you home which may contain the eggs and larvae of the fleas.

Can cats and dogs eat each others food?

I have a cat and two dogs. It doesn’t matter where or when I put the food out they eat each others. Is it harmful ?

Cat and Dog food is produced specifically to give the right types of nutrients and the right balance of proteins, vitamins and fat for each species. Dog food lacks a substance called Taurine – an amino acid that is essential for cats. Dogs love cat food but as cat food is much higher in calories it is sure to cause obesity if dogs consume it over a period of time. Dogs can also sometimes suffer from gastrointestinal upset if they eat cat food.

How will neutering affect my cat

I am thinking of getting my cat neutered but a friend said hers got fat and lazy after it was neutered. Will this happen to mine and if so is there any alternative method of birth control – tablets etc ?

A cats metabolism can slow down after neutering but this can be counteracted by feeding your cat with a reduced calorie diet and ensuring it gets enough exercise. Neutering will also help to stop cats straying and make them less likely to fight

Limping cat

My 10 year old cat has started limping on his front left leg. He doesn’t seem in pain and doesn’t mind me touching the leg. The leg isn’t swollen. Does the vet have any suggestions. ? 

Pets don’t always show pain in the same way that we do, but changes in habit can be indicative of pain. In a senior cat the most likely cause is arthritis. Try an over the counter pet joint supplement such as glucosamine and he doesn’t show signs of improvement get him checked out.

Car sick cat

We take our cat to our caravan in Wales and she is always car sick. Is there anything we can give her ?

The sickness may be brought on by stress so if you take your cat in a carrier try to get him/her used to a carrier first by using it as a bed for example and then introduce your cat to short car journeys. There are pheromone based products available which can be used to reduce stress levels in cats which may help.

How long should I wait to get my pregnant cat neutered

My cat has just given birth to kittens. How long should I wait before having her neutered ?

A cat can get pregnant as soon as eight weeks after giving birth so we would recommend having her neutered as soon as she has stopped producing milk.

Kitten with blood in her poo

I have a 9 week old kitten who has just had her first vaccination. I have noticed that she has some fresh bright red blood in her poo. Her poo is soft so I don’t think she is constipated. What could be causing this?

The vaccinations given to animals are a small dose of the actual disease that the vaccine is designed to prevent. By injecting the pet with this vaccine it stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies which will help to ward off the disease in the future. Initially when an animal is vaccinated it can cause the animal to be ‘poorly’ for a couple of days and exhibit the symptoms you describe. If the symptoms continues for more than a couple of days have your pet checked out as it could just be co-incidence that it has occurred following a vaccination.

Can I introduce another cat?

I have a 4 year old male cat and I am thinking of getting another cat to keep him company when I am at work. Should I get a male or a female ? – and how can I be sure that they will get on with each other ?

Cats, by nature are territorial and un-neutered males will have more problems sharing with other males. A neutered female would make a better companion and it may help to establish individual territories for each cat with their own beds and feeding bowls

Cat fur balls

I think our beloved family cat suffers from fur balls. She grooms a lot and is often sick for days at a time. She is a moggy with quite a long coat– what do I do?

It sounds very much like your cat may have a fur ball which could be causing an obstruction to the bowel, a very common issue in long-haired cats, the hairball has obviously been caused by your cat grooming herself – firstly you need to make sure there is not an underlying problem that causes excessive grooming. I would also suggest that you groom your cat on a daily basis to remove any loose fur.

Cat with bald patches on their legs

My cat has bald patches on her back legs. I don’t know if she is nibbling there and pulling the fur out. Should I be worried ?

There are a few common reasons this could happen including poor nutrition, fungal infections, allergies or parasites. If the skin is crusty, scabby or inflamed it is more likely to be an infection which can be treated by a vet. If the skin is normal it could be fleas so make sure your cat’s flea treatment is up to date. Cats can sometimes exhibit an obsessive compulsive behaviour such as over grooming a particular area and this can be down to stress. If so see your vet as there are steps you can take to help this.

Can my cat play with knitting wool?

Is it safe for my cat to play with my knitting wool ?

No. It is relatively common to see intestinal injuries as a result of cats ingesting wool or string. It would be much better to get her a good quality cat toy.

Cat doesn’t like being stroked

Our 7 year old cat is showing odd behaviour when we stroke her at the bottom of her back by her tail. She dips her back down and turns her head up and towards her tail and sometimes hisses. There isn’t anything visible – what could it be ?

This could be a skin problem, possibly secondary to a flea allergy or overgrooming which could be stress related. Other causes of this behaviour could be a cat bite abscess or even arthritis. You need to have her checked over by a vet to find the cause of the behaviour.

How to tell if a cat is neutered

A female stray cat has ‘adopted’ us. We are happy to have her as a member of the family but we don’t want her getting pregnant. Is a vet able to tell if she has been spayed ?

Before you ‘adopt’ the cat make sure she doesn’t belong to anyone else as she won’t be the first cat to have two homes! Ask around the local area and take her to the local vet to see if she is microchipped. Vets can do blood tests to measure hormone levels which can indicate if she still has her ovaries, they could shave a patch of fur to check for a spay scar or perform minor surgery to check if a uterus is present

Mad cat behaviour

Our cat sometimes just goes mad, tearing around the place, running up the stairs and attacking the furniture. Is this normal behaviour or is there something wrong with her ?

This sort of behaviour is pretty common in cats and is nothing to be worried about. It is often described as ‘having a mad 1/2 hour’
It is important to provide your cat with toys to play with and good sturdy scratching posts to give them an outlet for their normal behaviour.

How to stop my cat sleeping on my bed

We are trying (in vain) to stop our cat sleeping on our bed and bought her a cat bed which we have put on the floor in our bedroom but she still prefers our bed. How can we get her to use her own bed?

Oh the joys of cat ownership. Putting it bluntly if your cat doesn’t want to use her new bed there isn’t a lot you can do about it. Your bed will be comfy and familiar to her and have your familiar, comforting smells. You could try putting some clothing that you have worn in her bed or possibly some treats to tempt her in but at the end of the day she will make her own mind up about which bed she prefers.

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