Updated: Apr 16, 2020
Times have changed.
Gone are the days, when pet care is just about providing food, water, a shelter and perhaps a yearly ‘jab’.
Our Singapore feral feline community has sparked off great fervent deliberation, never seen in the past. The feral cat care-givers are uniting, stepping forward and letting their voices be heard.
We are now witnessing the metamorphosis of a new era, where the old must fade and the new must emerge - even for your kitties.
So what is a seamless health regime for your cats in this bright, new epoch?
Without a doubt, it is about the acceptance of an intimate collaboration and the creation of a cohesive support system, between the primary care-givers and the veterinary professionals, to conceive a comprehensive guardianship over the furry critters.
By now, we are all well aware of the need for routine vaccinations*, deworming and external parasite preventions for our feline mates. However, the knowledge of these medical standards must integrate with the understanding of the correct protocols, so that we no longer condone the unnecessary and dangerous practices.
• All cats should be examined by a vet before administration of any vaccine. Sick cats, cats with chronic diseases or compromised immune systems should not be vaccinated until they have recovered or stabilized.
• Senior cats (7 years and above) may not need an annual booster, but this decision should be made after a thorough discussion with your vet.
• All cats should have a physical examination by a vet at least once a year even if you and your vet have decided to forgo the annual vaccination. This yearly visits should be the time to discuss the cats’ behavioural or lifestyle changes and your concerns, so that the cats’ medical plans can be revised and tailored to their ongoing changes.
• Kittens under six weeks should not be vaccinated, except in special circumstances. All vaccinations should be done at the appropriate time to fully benefit the recipients.
• Inappropriate vaccination can cause stillbirths in pregnant queens, deaths in kittens and sick animals.
• Owners should understand that the vaccine given is not a “protect from all” miracle drug that will prevent all diseases, cure all ailments and revive the sick.
• Medication to rid your cats of internal parasites such as intestinal worms can be given monthly, every three or six months or even yearly, depending on the lifestyle of your cats.
• Preventative medication such as fipronil or selamectin should be administered to protect your cats from the excruciating pain, itch and irritation caused by the external parasites.
Contrary to popular beliefs, animals have distinct, individual personalities and preferences very much like us. Therefore, cats will have their own penchant when it comes to the type of food they like.
There are many different types of food available in the market currently. Choosing the correct type of food includes deciding on a commercial or home cooked formula; the physical form and consistency; the nutritional factors available and the reasons behind the choices; catering to the cats’ desires and providing a gastronomic stimulation at the same time.
All recipes for home cooked diet should be carefully scrutinized to ensure that all ingredients are readily available and all nutrients included, preventing malnutrition. This option should be abandoned if there is the slightest doubt about the bioavailability of the ingredients to the cats because long term undernourishment is a serious life threatening, health condition.
Cats can be finicky eaters. They can develop food preferences early in their lives, thus providing an assortment of food will encourage a more receptive attitude towards novel food (especially if there is a need to convert to veterinary prescriptive diets). Change of food should be done slowly, with a 50%-50% ratio over a minimum period of one week, to reduce the risk of gastro-intestinal reaction due to sudden diet modification.
Excessive feeding can result in obesity that is detrimental to your cats’ health. Obesity can result in a large diversity of diseases like diabetes, pancreatitis and liver problem. Do not encourage overeating that is associated with boredom, but stimulate your cats mentally with games and a range of activities so that they are not preoccupied with food.
Water intake is very important in cats because chronic, low grade dehydration can eventually lead to recurring urinary system problems, formation of uroliths, kidney stress and issues. Owners should provide fresh, clean water for their cats at all times and monitor for sudden increase or decrease of water intake^.
Veterinary contributions can include:
• An annual physical assessment and discussion
• An annual or bi-annual blood test
• Faecal analysis
• Urine analysis
These are rational arrangements for your vet to monitor your cats’ internal health and detect any early impairment so as to do the necessary rectification or stabilization.
You can set up your own weekly check list to help provide important feedback to your vet, for example:
• Eyes – they should not have excessive yellow or greenish discharge; are swollen, red, squinting, unresponsive to light source.
• Ears – they should be relatively clean, with no sour smell.
• Mouth – no salivation, blood, pain, bad breath; teeth are not yellow and rotten; gums are not red and with ulcers.
• Stomach – no pain should be apparent when the cat is being carried.
• Fur/ Skin – no bald patches, redness on the skin, offensive odour, white flakes that stuck to the fur, no insects that are jumping in or out between the fur.
• Nails – they are not overly long, sharp and curled towards the digit pads.
• Stride/ Gait – the cat is walking normally without a limp; able to jump up and down a table easily.
• Faeces – it should be firm, well formed and not sticky or soft
• Urine – it should be translucent, slightly yellowish and clump the litter into a small fist size.
Routine home maintenance should include:
• Regular baths – weekly to monthly, depending on the cats’ tolerance to water.
• Ear cleaning – once a week for maintenance.
• Nail trimming – to prevent ingrown nails.
• Fur combing and trimming – especially for long fur cats in hot and humid Singapore.
• Supplements – antioxidants can help rectify the signs of aging in the body.
• Daily cleaning and a change of litter – everyone should have the right to enjoy the use of a clean toilet, cats that do not urinate regularly due to a dirty toilet can develop urinary tract infection.
• Preventing contact between your cats and other animals with no clinical or medical history - cleaning and disinfecting yourself after contact with these animals is also essential to prevent spread of contagious diseases.
Last of all, the mental and emotional stability of the cats must not be overlooked.
Although cats are highly independent beings and may harbour a need for a large personal space, they are also sentient beings that enjoy close bonding and quality time, especially with their human companions.
An optimal emotional status will breed a positive outlook, which will ensure that the cats are more resilient towards diseases, promote rapid recovery and built a confident character.
Hence, time set for daily interactions - such as massages, a short game of “catch the laser beam” or even just holding the cat while watching the evening news - can enhance the cats’ sense of well being.
Health management is a system of preventive measures that take the whole animal into consideration. The totality of the system should include social, with respect to relationships with others in the group; psychological and environmental factors that affect health, including adequate nutrition, exercise, housing; freedom from crowding, boredom and from physical or psychological harassment or cruelty.
A good health management for your cats is not only about getting the best food, litter, shampoo, groomer or vet. It should be about being consistently in touch with your cats, both physically and emotionally.
*The vaccine routinely used in Singapore consists of the following -:
Feline Panleukopenia Virus Vaccine, Feline Calicivirus, Rhinotracheitis and Chlamydophila felis.
Panleukopenia is particularly vicious that spread rapidly, with a high mortality rate, especially in younger cats. Calicivirus and Rhinotracheitis cause the majority of upper respiratory infections in cats. Calicivirus and can be spread by "carrier" cats for years after all clinical signs have subsided. Severe rhinotracheitis reportedly kills 70% of infected kittens and can also result in permanent neurological damage. Chlamydophila vaccination is used as part of a control regime for cats in multiple-cats environments where infections are a possibility or when clinical history of the cat is unknown.
^ For a cat that is 5kg, the calculation is as follows:
Total water intake = 5kg x 60 = 300ml per day (The minimum average requirement is calculated at 60ml/ kg / day).
Loss of water through evaporation = 0.03 x 500 = 15ml (The minimum average evaporation rate of water in Singapore’s climate is 3%)
If a 500ml water dish is used, the water that remains in the dish at the end of the day is
= 500 – 300 – 15 = 185ml