Cat care tips

Pets
The health of your cat is important, so here are a few tips to help keep them happy.
woman caring for her cat
Cats are fairly low-maintenance compared to dogs, but they still have basic needs that need to be met. 

Keeping them safe

Most cats would roam the neighbourhood if given the opportunity. This puts them at risk of getting into fights, getting lost or getting run over by cars, as well as the risk to native animals.

Most vets recommend keeping cats inside (or in a contained enclosure outside) as much as possible, and especially at night.

Feeding

Cats are "obligate carnivores" which means they need animal proteins to survive. This usually comes from a diet rich in meat.

A balanced diet for your cat may include fresh raw meat, complemented by premium cat food that is appropriate for their age group. We recommend you talk to your vet for advice on what to feed your cat.

Grooming

  • Claws. Cats' claws may require regular trimming, especially if they’re inside most of the time. This can be done during a vet visit, or your vet may teach you to trim their claws yourself. Do not attempt to cut your cat’s claws without instruction as you can cause pain or infection, potentially to both of you.
  • Coat. Most cats will enjoy being brushed regularly. This will help prevent problems with hairballs (especially common among long-haired cats), with the added benefit of reducing the amount of fur on your clothes and furniture!
  • Teeth. Keeping your cat’s teeth clean can help prevent expensive dental work. You can try gently brushing their teeth yourself with a cat toothbrush/toothpaste (if they’ll let you!). Otherwise, some foods contain special ingredients to help keep their teeth and gums healthy.

Worming, fleas and ticks

Queensland’s tropical environment is perfect for fleas and ticks, so it’s essential that you check your cats regularly if they go outside. Ticks are especially prevalent in spring (September-November).

Tick collars and some liquid medications can help defend your cat against ticks. You can also help prevent fleas and/or ticks from making a home in your yard by keeping it free from excessive bushes and long grass.

Learn how to identify ticks and call your vet immediately if you suspect your cat has a paralysis tick. Find out more about Ticks.

Vet checks

Taking your cat to the vet once a year (or more regularly for senior cats) helps to keep their injections up to date and identify any potential, developing issues.

If you suspect something might be wrong with your cat, visiting the vet early could help prevent a much bigger issue later.

To help keep vet costs down, consider insurance for your cat.

Why do cats scratch?

While it can be bothersome to owners, cats scratch for many different reasons. Scratching is a healthy, instinctual behaviour that owners should encourage. Here are just some of the reasons scratching helps our feline friends.

Exercise

Think of cats scratching like we think of yoga. While scratching, a cat will stretch their entire body from fingertip, or claw, down. It’s relaxing and is good for their overall health.

Grooming

When a cat scratches, they’re sharpening their claws and helping to remove their nail sheath. This is a good hygiene practice that helps prevent damage or ingrown claws.

Instinct

Cats have scent markers in between the pads of their paws. When they scratch, your cat’s leaving behind their scent to show others they’re in this area.

Mind games

Cats scratch to cause micro-tears to furniture, letting other cats know they’ve been around. They’ll also scratch to relieve stress.

How to stop cats from scratching

You can stop cats from scratching furniture by directing your pet to a scratch-friendly location and making the furniture less appealing.

  • Buy a scratching post. Cat posts come in all sizes and materials. If your cat doesn’t like the post they have, try another one. Change the size and try a different material like rope or carpet. Cat posts come both horizontal and vertical so keep trying until you find one they like. Place the scratching post near the place your cat’s been scratching furniture.
  • Place double sided tape or products like sticky paws over the places they’ve been scratching. Your cat won't like the feeling of the tape on their claws.
  • If your cat's scratching under the bed buy a bed skirt to cover up the base and apply tape here too.

Trim your cats nails or take them to a groomer for a manicure.

Above all, remember that cats scratching is a natural, instinctual behaviour. If your cat's excessively scratching it could be worth contacting your vet who could find out if your cat's stressed or has claw damage.

Food choices and your cat

Cats have an entirely different metabolism to both humans and dogs. This means the foods we enjoy, and even ones we can feed the dog, can often have a severe impact on your cat. Understanding which foods are dangerous for your cat can put your mind at ease and ensure your pet has a healthy and balanced diet.

While cats are often able to instinctively walk away from foods that will cause them harm, there are foods that you should be aware can be dangerous for your cat.

Foods that are harmful for cats

  • Avocado
  • Bones: cooked or small pieces of raw bone
  • Bread dough
  • Chocolate, coffee or caffeine products
  • Fatty trimmings
  • Fish constantly
  • Fruit stones (pits)
  • Garlic
  • Grapes, raisins, sultanas or currants
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes

Canned tuna

Canned tuna is fine in moderation, and should be a treat rather than a regular meal.

Tuna cans designed for humans can have additional preservatives which can be harmful to your cat.

Artificial sweeteners

Foods containing artificial sweeteners should be avoided.

Like dogs, artificial sweeteners and foods that contain them can be dangerous to your cat. Artificial sweeteners often contain Xylitol which triggers a sudden release of insulin in your cat which can bring on hyperglycaemia—high blood sugar levels. Symptoms can include vomiting, dizziness and, in extreme cases, seizures.

Dinner leftovers and bones

Small, cooked bones often found in human foods can be a choking hazard for cats.

It might seem like an easy option to scrape dinner leftovers into the cat's bowl, but it's not always a good idea. Human foods are often cooked in oil and contain high levels of fats which can cause digestive issues and stomach upsets for your cat.

Dog food and cats

Dog food won't harm your cat if eaten occasionally, but in general it should be avoided.

If you have both a dog and cat it might be easy to sometimes feed your cat some dog food. Cats need different nutrients to dogs so it's best to stick to a diet advised by your vet.

Yeast dough

All raw yeast dough should be avoided.

Raw yeast and cats are a bad mix. When digested raw, yeast will rise similarly to how it does in the oven. This can cause abdominal discomfort for cats and can lead to organ damage. The toxins released during the process are also problematic and can lead to a stomach upset.

Treats

We all love to treat our pets but these should be kept to a minimum for cats as it can easily cause them to put on weight or cause blood sugar issues. When you do give your cat a treat, ensure that it's small and only occasionally.

No lilies for me please!

Lilies are a popular flower in Australia, but did you know they’re toxic to cats?

All parts of a lily can cause kidney failure if eaten by a cat, so the safest option is to never have them in your home.

Immediate action if your cat is sick

Contact a vet if your cat is having a reaction to something it has eaten.

It's important to give your vet as much information as possible about what your cat has eaten, how much it has eaten, and when the reaction started.

Treatment and prevention

The best treatment is often prevention. To avoid unnecessary trips to the vet and to keep you cat healthy, stick to a diet outlined by your vet to meet the nutrients your cat requires.

An occasional treat here or there shouldn't cause any harm but remember that cats have a very different digestive system to us and other animals.

Related topics

Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.