Why you should neuter your cat
Female cats come into 'heat' at least every three weeks. They are restless, meow loudly and roll around, appearing as if in pain. Drugs to suppress heat are available but there is a risk of side effects. Recurrent heats may distress your pet and for this reason alone, spaying (which stops them) is desirable. In addition, it prevents womb infections later on in life and reduces the risk of breast cancer. A cat does not need to have a litter first. The operation is best done at around five to six months of age, although it can safely be done younger or older and can also be performed on cats in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Male cats should also be neutered at five to six months. Otherwise they are at risk of contracting the cat form of AIDS (FIV) from fighting and are more likely to spray, including in the house (tom cat urine has a strong smell) and behave aggressively. In both cases the operation is straightforward and your pet will usually return home from the clinic the same day. Female cats will have a patch of hair shaved, either on the flank or the belly. Recovery is rapid, usually by the next day, although females may have to wear an Elizabethan collar for a few days to prevent interference with the wound. See your vet if your kitten seems to be in poor health after the operation. In some breeds (for example Siamese) shaved hair may grow back a darker colour, but this returns to normal in time.
Most cats get fleas at some point. They are common in summer but can be hard to spot as they spend little time on the animal. Even if you have no other pets, fleas can be picked up outside. Routine treatment is recommended, especially for an itchy animal, and is best obtained from the vet as most pet shop and supermarket products, including collars and powders, are less effective. Never use a flea product for dogs on a cat, as they can be poisonous. Your vet may suggest a product that also kills ear mites and some intestinal worms too. Treatment of nursing mothers and young kittens is especially important, as they are vulnerable to serious anemia from flea bites. Ask the vet for a product that is safe for kittens. As well as your cat, your home and all other pets also need to be treated for fleas. Vacuum the house first as the vibration stimulates the hatching of flea eggs. When treating, pay particular attention to dark crevices, such as down the sides of chair cushions and around skirting boards, as fleas crawl away from light to breed.
All cats should be vaccinated
Vaccination can prevent illness in your pet, but no vaccination can be guaranteed to work in every animal. It doesn't work if the animal is already infected. Cats can be vaccinated against killer diseases such as infectious enteritis and leukemia and against flu, which is not usually a killer but can be serious (although, as in people, not every strain is covered). Kittens need two injections, usually three to four weeks apart and then annual boosters. Consult the vet as soon as you obtain a new pet. If you don't know if your pet has been vaccinated, it doesn't hurt to repeat the course.
Are there any side effects?
Your cat may get a slight cold or fever following vaccination. Sometimes a lump will appear at the injection site. If this lump persists, or develops at any time in the future consult your vet. Serious allergic reactions to vaccination are extremely rare and happen immediately afterwards.
Kittens need worming against roundworm every two to four weeks until six months old. Adult cats should be wormed two to four times a year and when they are feeding kittens. Treatment for tapeworms should be given twice yearly. Some tapeworms which look like grains of rice in the feces are caught from fleas, so flea treatment is also necessary. A single tablet for all worms can be purchased from your vet. With pet shop products, dosefor the correct bodyweight and check which worms they control. Toxoplasma is a microscopic parasite, which lives in the bowel and can be present in cat feces. Infection cannot be prevented, though discouraging your cat from hunting and not feeding it raw meat can reduce the chance. It can be harmful to pregnant women, but is usually caught from handling or eating raw meat. However, contact with cat feces should also be avoided