Let’s talk about cats


Maneka Gandhi
Here are a few FAQs on cats and cat care.
Q: Should I keep a male or female cat? I don’t want kittens.
Maneka: Have your cat neutered. It is not true that neutering causes obesity or laziness. I have had my animals neutered and they are exactly the same.  The best time for a female cat’s operation is six months of age, before the first heat. Here pre- and post-operative procedure will have to be followed. Don’t feed the cat 12 hours before surgery. Keep the incision clean afterwards and check for swelling or discharge. Sutures can be removed in a week.  Castration, in which the testicles are removed in a male cat, is a small operation with the cat coming home the same day and should also be done at six months.  If your cat has accidently bred, an estrogen injection – if given within 24 hours of the mating – is usually successful in preventing pregnancy. But estrogen can have toxic side effects. Neutering is really the best.
Q: What are the vaccines that I should give my cat?
Maneka: Feline Panleucopenia or Feline Enteritis Anti-Serum at 7 to 9 weeks and again at 12 weeks; to be repeated every year. Feline Pneumonitis: 12-14 weeks and every six months thereafter. An anti-rabies vaccine at three months, a booster at six months and then every year, is recommended.
Q: My cat scratches a specific chair or claws the curtains or rugs. What should I do to stop it? .
Maneka: Clawing is a way of marking territory. While you cannot stop normal behaviour, you can divert the cat by placing a scratching post – a strong piece of wood placed vertically – near the object being scratched and move the cat’s front legs and claws on the scratching post. Over a period of a few days, the cat will get the message.
Q: What basic grooming does the cat need?
Maneka: You need to brush her regularly, bathe her every month, trim the nails every six months or so and clean the ears weekly.
Q: My cat sometimes sprays small quantities of urine. Why?
Maneka: This is usually done by male cats, even if they are neutered, as a response to a perceived threat. New additions to the house, a furniture change, a new cat, make the surroundings seem unfamiliar and the cat sprays to re-own or re-familiarise himself with his environment.
Q: How do I know when my cat is sick?
Maneka: She becomes less active and withdrawn. Her appetite changes—either increases or decreases. She urinates more or less than normal or exhibits vomiting or diarrhoea.
Q: When do I know when my cat is in pain?
Maneka: Lameness, a stiff neck, tense abdominal muscles and a reluctance to get up or lie down.
Q: What is the cat’s normal temperature?
Maneka: Anything from 101oF to 102.5oF
Q: How do I know if my cat has fever?
Maneka: Believe it or not the cat starts looking sad! This is added to by the ‘lack of appetite’. Some cats shiver, others pant and seek cool places. You will notice an increase in the heart and respiratory rates. Take the cat’s temperature by using a stubby rectal thermometer. Put a little Vaseline on the bulb and slide it gently into the anus after restraining the cat. Leave for two minutes and then read the mercury level. If it is over 105oF, apply ice to the forehead and inner thighs to bring it down. And then take her to the vet.
Q: What is the most common disease that attacks cats?
Maneka: Female enteritis is a highly contagious disease (however, not to humans) with 90 percent mortality in the unvaccinated. It is  characterised by high fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea. It is spread by sick cats, fleas and flies. Treatment is widespread and non-specific like distemper in dogs, with antibiotics, fluids, vitamins, anti-vomiting and anti-diarrhoeal medications and force-feeding. Disinfect the environment to prevent re-contamination.  The most common problems that afflict the cats who come to us are eye and ear ones.
Eye problems: A thick discharge indicates conjunctivitis. Flush the eye gently with clean boiled water. Mild infections can be treated with Neosporin ophthalmic medicine. Sometimes the hair in the inner corners of the eyes or nasal fold hairs irritate the eyes. The nasal fold hairs can be rubbed down with a bit of Vaseline.
Ear problems: If there is a slight redness, some pus, an odour, if the cat is shaking or scratching her ears, the ear is in trouble. In this case, first check out for insect bite or a haematoma—a swelling that contains blood. Clean the part you can see with baby oil and a cotton swab, gently removing the earwax and debris. Use tweezers to remove any insects at the openings of the ear canal. Do not go deep, leave that to a vet.  A bacterial infection can be cleared by antibiotics but if it doesn’t clear up, do a fungus and yeast test. If the infection is chronic, some vets recommend surgery to keep the ear dry. Check weekly for early signs of trouble. Smell the ears regularly. Put cotton in the ears before bathing because soap and moisture may lead to infection.
Q: Any handling tips for cats?
Maneka: Stroke the cat along the hair, not against it. When training your cat, call her name in a high falsetto. That tone, used during feeding and training will be associated with ‘Good’. Scold in the way a mother cat does; pick it up by the scruff of the neck and give her a small shake.
(Visit: www.peopleforanimalsindia.org and for any issues related to animals, contact Shilpa Chaudhary at: 09953313319).