Useful facts and information about cats

Cats need grass

Most cats and kittens will eat grass when it is available to them, and cocksfoot grass seems to be favoured. The grass is a natural medicine for relieving bile and sourness. It also acts as an emetic and is the means of inducing the vomiting of hairballs. For those cat owners who live in accommodation without gardens, the grass can easily be grown in pots or boxes. Readers in Britain can obtain sufficient seed for six pots by sending a stamped addressed envelope to the Cats Protection League .

The close season for fleas

Although infestation by fleas and lice is most likely to occur in spring and summer, it can happen at any time during the year.

With the onset of winter and bird migration, and hibernation of squirrels and hedgehogs, fleas normally contracted from grass by cats and dogs tend to become less of a problem. However, fleas do have a remarkable ability to survive, particularly in centrally heated homes, for up to a year, or even longer. Therefore, animals showing evidence of fleas, or their droppings, in their coats, or who scratch persistently, may have become re-infested by fleas living in carpets, skirting boards or armchairs in the home. In such cases, effective treatment is essential; your vet can advise on the best medication.

Too many owners neglect to tackle the problem at once, for it can frequently be resolved by vacuuming all floors, coverings, washing all bedding and by the use of fly killers and insecticidal strips in the places where cats and dogs frequent, or rooms to which they have access.

Some organizations

But forgetting such shortcomings it is a happy thought that there are so many people concerned with the health and well-being of our friend, the Cat. In Britain, for instance, the Cat Action Trust (known as CAT) is exploring ways and means of limiting colonies of stray and semi-wild cats. In Denmark and Israel such cats are given ‘the pill’ in special medicated foods, but because of the risk of side effects and other practical difficulties, CAT has resorted to the more reliable method of trapping and surgical neutering, while another organization, Cats in Industry can be consulted where there is an indigenous wild cat population in foundries and workshops, which they will uplift, neuter and rehome. And there is FAB, not an abbreviation of ‘fabulous’ but of the Feline Advisory Bureau, a worldwide organization which cares entirely for the well-being of the domestic cat and propagates to its members information about illness, disease, and treatment in the feline which had, for many years, suffered as the poor relation of other domestic animal species. It has a comprehensive library relating to cat diseases and, being a registered charity, is happy to give free advice to all enquirers. With such help at their disposal there should be lots of healthy cats, and happy owners, in the future.

Some statistics Cats are increasing in popularity – (a ‘convenient pet’). Ownership: 19.1 per cent of all households in Britain included a cat in 1979 as against 18 per cent in 1975, and 17 per cent in 1966. Population: in 1979 there were 4,892,000 cats as against 4,714,000 in 1975 and

4,200,000 in 1966. Feeding: in 1979,90 per cent of owners fed tinned pet food some of the time.

Feeding Fussy and Fat Cats

Cats are such fussy feeders that once they have developed a taste for one kind of food, they will sometimes almost starve rather than change. That is why it is probably best to feed them on a diet, scientifically prepared and tested specially for cats. But you will always find the awkward cusses who prefer to eat dog food. If it is a good quality food, it won’t do puss any harm.

The fussiness of cats is sometimes encouraged, even started by their owners. If you feed a cat on nothing but fish or meat you must add milk every day, give sterilized bone meal for calcium, meat extract for thiamine, and a teaspoonful of cod liver oil once a week for vitamins A and D. So it certainly is simpler to wean your kitten on to a good branded product which contains all the essential cat nutrients.

Fat cats

Neutered cats sometimes get fat simply because they don’t take so much exercise, and become lazy and lethargic. All cats are rather lazy animals, though they seldom get fat.

If you give your cat starchy foods such as bread and potatoes and similar types of table scraps, cut these out. You can also cut down the quantity of food you give, providing you make sure that the quality, nutritionally, is adequate for health.

You may be giving your cat too much milk, so try cutting this down, making sure the cat has enough to drink, of course, and harden your heart about those table scraps and titbits in between meals. If your cat seems unwell and overweight, do take him to the vet for a check up.

Feeding Adult Cats

An adult cat needs two feeds daily, a light meal in the morning, and its main meal in the evening, which it may eat during the night. Don’t fill the bowl with a day’s food supply expecting the cat to come back to it. This will not only encourage flies, but discourage the cat who is a fastidious feeder and expects, and deserves, to receive his rations in a freshly washed bowl.

The cat is predominantly a flesh-eating animal whose diet should consist mainly of meat or boiled fish. Many cats prefer fish, which ideally should be boned. Not all cats share my own pet’s liking for kipper heads and tails!

Meat can be given cooked, or raw, according to preference, but start as you mean to go on. The cat weaned on cooked meat may well turn his nose up when his dinner is served raw! Whatever you do, make sure that the meat is minced, or chopped into small pieces, as cats’ teeth are designed for tearing rather than chewing; they also have a small mouth.

And if you don’t want your cat to leave home, it’s advisable to vary his menu. A weekly treat of lightly cooked liver or boiled rabbit will be appreciated; so will horse flesh, tripe and hearts. Some cats enjoy milky foods such as cereal and rice puddings and the occasional cat has a sweet tooth.

Always leave a fresh supply of water for your cat. Some enjoy a saucer of weak tea. My own Siamese is thoroughly spoilt and receives the cream from the top of the milk. If I don’t bring the milk in before he gets to it I find the bottle top deftly hooked off and the cream sunk to a questionable level! There are cat owners who say that cats need only water, others who insist that a saucerful of milk be given each day. I should leave it up to the cat!

Cat lovers will do everything for their pets, but there is one thing many of them do not know and that is how to feed them correctly. A survey by the Pedigree Petfoods Education Centre recently showed that the majority of cat keepers hadn’t a clue how much food they should give their pets, even if they knew what to feed them on. If you feed your cat on scraps from the dining table and the odd saucer of milk he may survive, but he certainly won’t be getting the balanced diet that he needs to keep him in good health.

Nowadays a very large proportion of pet owners feed their pets on specially selected canned, or dry foods, which have been scientifically prepared to contain all the nutritional requirements of the animal, proving a boon to the busy owners who may not have much time to spend in the kitchen, but still want to do the very best for their cat.

You have the choice of giving a fully grown cat a handy sized can, roughly 182-189g (6te-63/40z) of a branded meaty product; half this portion again if he’s a big cat and goes in for a lot of exertion. Or you can offer a meat and liver in gravy product, or a complete cat food containing energy food as well as meat, fish or liver. There are also convenient soft, moist cat foods which provide a balanced diet, and complete, ‘dry’ feeds which may be moistened with water, or milk, if the owner wishes. If you feed a complete, dry feed, do ensure that your cat has an ample supply of drinking water or milk.

By feeding good branded products you can be certain that your cat is getting all the minerals and vitamins – including the all-important thiamine -needed for perfect health.

These foods are better balanced and more complete diets that many human beings get. They not only meet your cat’s nutritional requirements but have been tested to meet a cat’s ‘taste’ in flavour and texture.

A question asked by many cat lovers is – can you give a cat bread and vegetables as well as cat food? Yes, you can add a little bread or breakfast cereal to meaty products, but you don’t really need to. And remember, a cat cannot take in a lot of starchy foods or roughage in the shape of green vegetables.

Water intake and the feeding of cats and dogs

While pet owners take great care over the feeding of their pets, they are possibly less conscientious about a pet’s drinking needs. ‘Should any water be given, together with the meal?’ or, ‘Doesn’t my pet drink to much if it has free access to water?’ are typical and frequent questions. They indicate a lack of knowledge not only on the amount of water needed, but also on the role of this key ingredient.

To be able to answer this type of consumer question in a serious manner, a series of tests on the water intake of cats and dogs were conducted by the Animal Studies Centre of Pedigree Petfoods Ltd. In these tests commercially available pet food products with varying moisture levels were offered to pets. The ad libitum water intake (water drunk at will) and the amount of urine produced were recorded.

Table 1 demonstrates clearly that during this test the dogs operated a careful control over their water balance. The less water they obtained with their food, the more water they drank. They did it so well that the total water intake with all five foods was very similar. The results of a similar experiment with cats were then compared to the results with the dogs (Table 2).

In contrast to the dogs, the total intake of cats decreased with a lowered level of food moisture, although the amount of fresh water they drank increased dramatically. How then, could the cats finally control their water balance when they did not take sufficient water on a dry diet? An answer to this question may be seen in table 3.

With decreasing food moisture and lowered total water intake per day the urine volume per day also decreases. This suggests that the cat, having been a desert animal originally, controls its water balance not by water intake, but by adjusting its urine output appropriately.

Fresh water should be available at all times to cats and dogs. They will not drink too much at any one time if they can drink whenever they wish.

TABLE 1. Effect of various food types on the water intake of dogs

Food type

Canned

Mixture of canned product & biscuit Semi-moist (1) Semi-moist (2) Dry

 

Mean water

Mean amount

Mean total

Moisture

intake via

of water

of water

level in %

food (ml)

drunk (ml)

intake (ml)

73-1

1353

825

2178

64-5

924

1367

2291

20-9

133

2107

2240

15-2

77

2021

2098

91

48

1894

1942

TABLE 2. Effect of various food types on the water intake of cats

Food type

Mean water Mean amount Mean total
Moisture intake via of water of water

level in % food (ml) drunk (ml) intake (ml)

Canned

83-6

240

26

266

Semi-moist

29-5

22

198

220

Dry

7-4

5

179

184

TABLE 3. Dependency of urine volume on food type in cats

Food type

Moisture Total water intake Urine volume

level in % per day (ml) per day (ml)

Canned

83-6

266

194

Semi-moist

29-5

220

162

Dry

7-4

184

132

100 ml is equivalent to 4 fl oz or 14 pint.

Feeding cats and kittens

A cat needs extra food when having kittens to provide for the growth of the young before birth, and for milk production afterwards. During early pregnancy, your cat will need only a little extra food, but she will need progressively more (about one and a half times the usual quantity), during the later stages.

A nursing mother may need up to three times her usual amount of nutrients when her kittens are three to four weeks old. It is important, therefore, that she is fed increased amounts of food and that the proportion of energy and protein-rich foods are increased accordingly. It may be necessary to feed her several times daily to ensure an adequate intake. It is wise to give her as much milk as she will drink, provided she can digest it properly.

It is a good idea to provide variety to encourage a greater food consumption; to feed branded cat foods with a high nutrient content and also cheese and a little cooked egg or cooked fresh meat such as liver.

Continue this extra feeding until the kittens are weaned, then gradually cut back on the extras until the queen is eating her normal food again. The condition of the mother is the best guide. Watch for signs of weight loss or gain, and adjust her diet accordingly.

Kittens

Because they are growing, young animals need large amounts of protein to make muscle, also calcium and phosphorus to make bone, as well as an ample supply of other minerals and vitamins. Plenty of good quality canned or dry food should be given. Eggs and milk can be added, but remember to have drinking water available always. Solid food should be offered to a kitten as soon as it is four weeks old, for it may not then be getting sufficient nourishment from its mother’s milk.

Weaned kittens should be fed at least three times a day. All good branded cat foods are suitable for feeding to kittens and can be used with confidence as a convenient and nourishing food. Alternatively, you may like to wean initially with some lightly cooked minced beef.

When feeding three meals a day the morning and evening feed should consist of about 45 g of a complete or all-meat cat food. For one of the three meals, preferably midday, give one or two teaspoons of a dry baby food, such as Farex, Complan or baby rice, mixed with evaporated milk, or powdered milk plus water. With another meal, give a pinch of yeast extract, such as Marmite or Vegemite, or half a yeast tablet, such as Kitzyme.

Kittens grow rapidly, and as they grow so their need for food will increase. The amounts suggested are only a guide. Do not stint a hungry kitten. A playful young puss is bound to have an appetite to match!

Although weaning the kittens from their mum at an early age, by gradual feeding of solids, don’t allow them to go to their new homes until they are about eight weeks of age. Maybe they are feeding and playing happily and independently, but the kitten who leaves the nest too young could well develop into a weakling, be prone to disease, and develop intestinal infection. The mother cat, funnily enough, like her prey the bird, has much to teach her young in the way of hunting and survival before they leave her for ever. Don’t deprive her, or her offspring of this schooling.

Orphan and premature kittens

The best way to feed orphaned or premature kittens is to use a commercial artificial food such as Lactol (generally intended for puppies, but equally good for cats), Cimicat or Ostermilk. In an emergency other foods, based on fresh, or dried cows’ milk, can be used.

For a short time only, fresh cows’ milk may be used. This is not too rich for kittens in the way that it would be for human babies; in fact it does not contain enough protein or fat. Because of this, cows’ milk by itself should not be used for longer than is necessary.

Cows’ milk can be made suitable for longer use by adding cream, or butter, and egg yolk as below: 1 cup fresh cows’ milk xk cup fresh full cream or

1 teaspoon of butter % of an egg yolk 1 drop cod liver oil Warm and beat in the cream and egg.

Another substitute, which may be used for kittens, is babies’ full cream powdered milk (such as Ostermilk) reconstituted at twice the recommended rate for babies.

Newly-born kittens should be given a milk feed every two hours. When the kitten is four weeks old, it should be offered a little solid canned food, and by this time the milk feeds should have been reduced to three to four during the day and one at night.

During the next three to four weeks more solid food should be introduced and the regular milk feeding eliminated, though milk of course may still be offered to drink in the normal way.