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Caring for your Cat

Some helpful info and insights

Whether you’ve owned a cat before or this is your very first feline friend, we’re on hand to offer all the help and essential healthcare services you’ll need.

Vaccines

Why I should vaccinate my cat?

Kittens are as prone to viral disease as puppies. Vaccinations are essential to protect your pet cat against the following diseases:

Cat Flu:

Cat flu viruses (Calicivirus and Herpes virus) cause runny eyes and sneezing. They are very easily transferable to all cats in a household and neighbouring cats, as infected cats become carriers.

Despite widespread vaccination, cat flu is a common disease in cats of all ages. But it tends to be particularly severe in young and old cats.

Indicators of cat flu are similar to those of colds and flu in people. Depending on the flu type, the major signs are inflammation of the lining around the eye (conjunctivitis) and nose (rhinitis). This causes a clear discharge from the nose and eyes, which becomes thickened and purulent as the disease progresses due to secondary bacterial infection. Cats tend to be dull and depressed with a raised temperature and sneezing, and are reluctant to eat. Coughing is also a feature in some cases. Rarely, the virus will cause skin lesions and invade the lungs, causing pneumonia.

Without treatment, symptoms usually resolve in 2-3 weeks but some cats are left with a chronic, intermittent nasal discharge or eye disease. In multi-cat households, vaccination alone may not be sufficient to control the problem. In these households, isolation and quarantine is also required. Disinfection, while an important part of disease control generally, is of limited value in respiratory virus control, as most cats become infected by aerosol droplets sneezed or coughed out by infected cats.

Nothing can be done to change the carrier status of your cat. It’s therefore important that your cat doesn’t come into contact with particularly susceptible cats (unvaccinated cats, kittens, old cats, cats with other diseases, or cats receiving immunosuppressive treatments). All cats that have had FHV-1 infection should be assumed carriers.

Feline Infectious Enteritis:

Feline Infectious Enteritis (FIE), also known as Feline Panleukopenia, Feline Parvovirus (FPV) and Feline Distemper, is an extremely serious, highly contagious viral disease that’s similar to the human HIV virus. It results in immunosuppression, dental disease, non-healing infected wounds and eventual death.

Unvaccinated cats can easily be infected by stray cats – one scratch can be enough. Symptoms usually appear within 10 days after infection and can then lead to death within 3 to 5 days. The disease is spread through contact with an infected cat, its bowls/trays/toys and can also be carried by humans on their clothes and footwear, which has had contact with the infected cat, its bowls/ trays/toys or a living area that may be contaminated with the disease.

The main symptoms of Feline Infectious Enteritis are high fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, depression, low appetite, abdominal pain and severe dehydration, which can lead to death. The virus can enter the bloodstream, travel to the bone marrow and lymph glands, leading to a decrease in white blood cells and causing septicaemia, which is fatal.

Kittens are highly vulnerable to Feline Infectious Enteritis, as their immune systems are underdeveloped and they most often die. Intensive veterinary treatment can be given to adult cats, consisting of rehydration, antibiotics, blood transfusions and vitamin supplements. Any infected cat must be placed in strict isolation and protective clothing must be worn, hands washed thoroughly after handling, etc. to avoid the spread of the disease.

Feline Leukaemia:

Feline Leukaemia virus (FeLV) is a significant viral cat infection, the effects of which are similar to Feline Infectious Enteritis. Fortunately, with very good vaccines available against FeLV, the disease is now much less commonly encountered in the UK.

Infection is most common in stray cats and colonies of cats where there is close contact between individuals. As its name implies, FeLV is able to cause neoplasia (cancer) of the white blood cells (leukaemia). But in addition, the virus may also cause the development of solid tumours (lymphomas) at various sites in the body. FeLV also commonly causes anaemia by destroying red blood cells in the circulation, or by causing diseases within the bone marrow.

In many cats, FeLV infection results in a profound suppression of the immune system, leading to increased susceptibility to a wide range of secondary infections that would not cause a problem in normal healthy cats. A variety of clinical signs of chronic and/or recurrent disease develop in these cats, and there may be a progressive deterioration in their condition over time.

The virus is fragile and cannot survive longer than a few hours outside the cat in the environment, so direct contact between cats is the way in which infection is transmitted. A cat that is permanently infected with FeLV sheds a large quantity of the virus in saliva, as well as other body secretions and excretions, such as urine and faeces. However, FeLV is not a highly contagious virus, and so it generally takes a prolonged period of close contact between cats, involving activities such as mutual grooming and sharing of litter trays and food bowls, for sufficient exposure to the virus to allow transmission to a susceptible cat.

Neutering

What is neutering?

Neutering female cats is also referred to as spaying. It involves the removal of the ovaries and uterus. Neutering males is also referred to as castration. It involves the removal of the cat’s testes.

Why should I neuter my cat?

  • Neutering cats helps reduce the spread of infectious diseases like Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.
  • Neutering your cat prevents unwanted kittens.

What happens when my cat comes in to be neutered?

The nurse will see you on the morning of the operation to admit your cat for the day. They'll make sure your cat has been well recently and is fine to have the operation, and also check that we have the correct contact information for you. We ask that your cat is fed before 8pm the night before the operation and has no breakfast, so they don’t vomit/regurgitate when under the anaesthetic. They can have water at all times as normal.

Once the nurse has admitted your cat, they will be taken to their kennel room, made comfortable with padded bedding and given lots of fuss and encouragement to try to reassure them. There will also be a nurse in the kennel area during recovery to look after your cat.

The vet who’ll perform the operation will examine your cat prior to giving them an injection of a mild sedative to help keep them calm and ease the induction of anaesthesia. Your pet will also be given an injection for pain relief. Once your cat is nicely sleepy, the nurse and vet will lead or carry them into the prep room to place an intravenous catheter. They will always talk to the animal throughout to try to put him or her at ease.

Throughout the general anaesthetic and on recovery, your cat will be monitored by the nurse. Once awake, they will be returned to their bed to be looked after by the kennel nurse, who makes sure they’re warm and cosy and comfortable. When they’re fully awake, a small meal is offered.

When you collect your cat to take them home that evening, they may be wearing an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from licking the surgical wound and be delivered to you with a tin or sachet of a light, palatable food that’s easy on the stomach. The nurse will go through the required post-operative care in the discharge appointment with you – feeding, exercise and administration of pain relief medication, for example.

We may request a 3-day post-op check-up with the nurse to ensure your cat is doing well, is happy and comfortable, and that his or her wound is healing nicely.

Worms & Fleas

Worms are parasites found in the gut of your cat. Roundworms look like pieces of string, tapeworms like grains of rice. While few pets actually pass live worms, most excrete eggs, which are too small to be seen with the naked eye. These eggs can lay dormant in the environment for up to three years, waiting for an unsuspecting child to touch the ground and then put their fingers into their mouth. The most likely places for this to occur would be playgrounds and parks. Another common source is your cat's coat, particularly around its bottom.

Worm eggs and larvae are picked up from the ground where infected faeces have been left. During grooming, your cat ingests these eggs or larvae. Hunting cats are particularly at risk – small mammals and birds are a common source of tapeworms.

There are a variety of treatments available on the market for both fleas and worms. Our advice to you is to use a veterinary specific product. This is because a large proportion of treatments that are available in pet shops and supermarkets only have a limited effect. In some cases, they can even cause serious side effects. All flea and worm treatments from your vets are licensed and are a lot more effective – making them much better value for money in the long run!

If you’re unsure about which product you need, please speak to any of our Pet Healthcare Nurses, who’ll be able to advise you or even administer the treatment for you.

Cat fleas – the facts!

Flea bites to cats cause discomfort and irritation, and can lead to skin infections. Fleas can also bite you and your family, as well as causing health problems for your pet, including transmitting tapeworms! It’s important to treat not only the affected pet, but all pets in the household. Fleas spend a lot of time living in soft furnishings, such as your carpets, sofa, curtains and bedding. It’s just as important to treat your house with a household spray that will kill any eggs and larvae. These products can also be picked up from your local surgery.

With mild infestation, your cat may still appear healthy. However, a heavy worm burden can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, weight loss and can weaken your cat’s immune system, making it more susceptible to infection. Roundworm eggs can cause blindness in children.

Diet

Selecting the correct diet for your cat can be a struggle because pet shops, supermarkets and vet clinics stock various types, brands and qualities of foods. But we’re always happy to offer advice…

There are a few things to consider when selecting pet food – and price or convenience may not be the most important reason for purchasing a particular brand of pet food. 

 

Diet Types:

  • Dry diets – These are commonly referred to as biscuits, which are medium quality and are baked. Many owners are attracted to the colours and shapes of the biscuits, but your pet doesn’t really see or taste any difference. Kibbles are the best dry food to choose as they are made to suit different jaw sizes, different stages of life and are highly digestible. This means that less waste is produced, as your cat will digest all of the nutrients and ingredients in the kibble. It is also a great advantage to dental health.

  • Wet food – A large number of wet foods are not a complete diet and should be fed alongside another type of food to give your cat the correct amount of nutrition. As wet food is around 70% water, this can cause more waste material to be produced. 

  • Homemade diets – This is very involved for the owner and means making and cooking the appropriate food from a recipe. This can be a problem, as nutritional imbalance can occur if all the elements are not there. 

 

Diet Quality:

The quality of your cat’s diet is rated by many factors. Pet food is typically broken down into three categories:

  • Economy foods – these are the bottom end of the scale in terms of price and quality. The appeal to your cat, as well as its ability to digest the food, will be low and there are no added extras in term of beneficial ingredients. These foods are cereal based and the feeding volumes will be very high to meet your cat’s energy needs. 

  • Premium foods – This is the middle ground for pet foods and is more commonly found in supermarkets and sometimes pet shops. The packaging is very attractive and the food inside is of a reasonable standard. Care needs to be taken when selecting a diet, as colours and preservatives in these foods can cause hyperactivity in some animals. 

  • Super premium foods – This is the best money can buy and the manufacturer uses all the best ingredients to produce this food. All the ingredients are very easy for your cat to digest as well as having a high level of attraction as a foodstuff. As everything is so digestible, the feeding amounts of these foods are much less than other foods, so in the long term they can save you money. These foods are normally found in pet stores and veterinary clinics. They are normally tailored to the size and stage of life your cat is at, as well as being fixed in formula. This means that all batches of the products are made the same and from the same ingredients – so there’ll be no digestive upsets when you switch from one bag to another. 

 

Flavour:

There is a misconception that pets become bored with foods if they are fed the same thing day in, day out. Some pet foods have acknowledged this and market foods in different flavours. This can be very misleading, as to be called that flavour, that particular ingredient only has to make up around 4% of the food. This means that three packs of food all labelled as a different flavour can contain the same primary ingredients. Pets do not choose foods on flavour – cats only have around 500 taste buds (humans have 9,000). This means that they choose foods according to texture and smell. Cats need protein in their diets and cannot live without a certain percentage of their food being made up of meat-based products. They would not naturally eat fish in the wild, so this is also marketed at owners rather than the pet.

 

A Note on Neutering! 

Once your cat is neutered, it will require 1/3 fewer calories than before the operation. If you’re not aware of this, it can often lead to obesity after surgery. This can be prevented with careful food management or by introducing a special neutered diet. These diets are perfectly tailored to prevent weight gain along with maintaining a decent amount of food for your cat so the amount of food does not need to be reduced. There are also products that promote correct growth as some animals are still growing at the time of neutering. We stock various neutered diets at your local surgery, so please ask for advice if you’re interested.

Practice information

Wolverhampton

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