Pet FAQS: Answering care questions about your cat

Have you recently welcomed a new cat into your family? Do you need advice on whether you should neuter your cat or are wondering why it keeps bringing mice home? Sainsbury’s Bank is here to help. We’ve compiled the most commonly asked pet questions with answers from our team of vets, so you can keep your cat purring.

Cats make affectionate and loving pets and owning a cat can be very rewarding. Being a responsible cat owner is about providing your cat with everything they need to live a happy and healthy life. Here are some tips on caring for your cat.

1. Provide a safe and comfortable space for your cat

Cats are social animals. However, they are also very independent and need to have a space of their own where they feel safe. Make sure your cat has a bed or somewhere quiet to hide and sleep, away from the buzz of the family home. To have a happy cat, you must make sure that they are warm, safe, dry and clean.

2. Ensure you provide clean water and fresh food

You must make sure you clean your cat’s food and water bowls daily. Cats can be particular about cleanliness due to their strong sense of smell, so make sure their water bowl is cleaned daily, and that fresh water is available throughout the day. Fresh cat food shouldn't be left out for more than a day, as food that's sitting for too long can harbour bacteria and could make your cat unwell.

3. Spaying or neutering

As a responsible pet owner, it is recommended to spay or neuter your cat, especially if it goes outside. This not only protects cats from having unexpected pregnancies but reduces the spreading of disease and makes male cats less likely to fight or stray.

4. Feed your cat an appropriate diet

Cats are known to be fussy eaters, and some can refuse to eat certain brands of cat food. However, many 'human foods' are toxic to cats – such as grapes and chocolate, so avoid feeding your cat any of your scraps or unhealthy treats. Your vet may recommend diet changes according to the nutritional needs of your cat based on size, age, level of activity and breed.

5. Make sure your cat gets adequate exercise

Cats are hunters by nature and require exercise and stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Give them lots of play time by encouraging daily activity with toys, especially if your cat likes to stay indoors. If your cat doesn’t have enough exercise, they could be at risk of becoming overweight. Obesity can significantly reduce a cats quality of life, so keep them fit. Offer them cat towers and scratching posts to encourage them to jump, play and be active.

6. Look after their health

To keep your cat healthy and happy, make sure you get them checked by a vet regularly and keep their vaccinations up to date. How regularly you should visit your vet will depend on your cat's age, health and breed. Your vet will be able to advise on how often your cat will need a check-up. If you need to put your cat into a cattery it is essential to have a record of their vaccinations. If your cat appears ill, in pain or shows signs of unusual behaviour, its best to seek advice from your vet immediately. Your cat may require urgent treatment.

7. Coat, claws and teeth

While cats do self-groom, regular brushing and maintenance are essential to keep them healthy. This also helps you bond with your cat and gives you the chance to check for any signs of illness. Matted or dirty hair can cause cats distress and even pain. Certain breeds of cats will require more grooming than others but they all need their coats to be brushed weekly. Keep your cat's nails well-trimmed and have their teeth checked regularly. Your vet can do this or give you advice on how to do this.

8. Microchipping

Microchipping involves implanting a microchip that is around the size of a grain of rice, under the pet’s skin between the shoulder blades. The chip has a unique serial number which can be read by a scanner. Microchipping your cat and keeping details up-to-date means you're more likely to be reunited if they get lost, stray or are taken by someone.

Although microchipping is legally required for dogs it’s not currently compulsory for cats. Even if your cat stays indoors, it's encouraged to get them chipped for peace of mind in case they sneak out of an open window.

Giving your cat the best care and attention can depend on its breed. Use our Pawfect Care tool to learn all about your cat's breed and their quirks and needs.

Whether your cat stays indoors or has outside access, a litter box is essential for any cat owner. Cats have an instinct to dig and bury when they go to the toilet, meaning litter training is usually quite simple. There are, however, a few things to consider when encouraging your cat to use their litter tray:

Keep the tray clean

Cats have sensitive noses so you should clean their litter tray daily. If you don’t do this they may stop using the tray altogether and look for somewhere else to go to the toilet. The tray should be cleaned with hot water and a mild disinfectant or soap at least once a week. You should also replace the litter every few days.

Tray and litter

Cats tend to develop a preference for certain types of litter. If your cat does not show interest in using the tray, you may need to try a few different types of litter. It’s available in many varieties including recycled paper, wool, silica and sand. There are lots of different litter trays from simple boxes to enclosed bins with lids. You’ll need to find one which suits your cat, this could depend on their size and age. If you own more than one cat, make sure you get several litter trays as they don’t usually like to share them.

Where is the best place to put your cat’s litter tray?

You should put your cat’s litter tray in a quiet part of the house, preferably against a wall so your cat feels safe when using it. Don’t put it near their food or water bowls. If you have more than one cat, it's a good idea to keep the trays in different rooms.

Cat litter disposal

Use biodegradable bags for your cats’ waste and put them in your general waste bin. You can buy compostable litters if you have a compost bin in your garden; however, you can’t compost the solid waste. Don’t flush any litter or solids down the toilet, as this could cause blockages and even pollute water systems with bacteria. Check with your local council or waste management companies if you're concerned about disposing of your litter properly.

Vaccinations help to protect your cat from severe infectious diseases such as feline flu, infectious enteritis and feline leukaemia virus. Vaccinating your kitten is an essential thing to do in your first few weeks as a cat owner.

Your cat should be given worm and flea boosters every few months; your vet will be able to provide you with a record of treatments. Booster vaccinations every year will help keep your cat protected, especially if they have outdoor access.

Prices vary but for the first round of injections for your kitten, expect to pay an average of £63.30. The average price* of a booster vaccination is £43.70.

Neutering is when you castrate a male cat (removal of the testes) and spaying the female is when you remove their ovaries and uterus. If you’re not planning to breed your pet, vets recommend having your kitten neutered when they reach sexual maturity at around four months of age.

Once neutered, your cat won’t be able to breed kittens. In the UK, many unwanted cats and kittens are looking for loving homes, and neutering your cat is a responsible step to reducing this problem.

Neutering also reduces the spread of disease and the likelihood of male cats getting into fights. It also limits behavioural issues such as marking their territory and wandering off where they are at risk of getting lost.

Training your cat to use a cat flap can be made simpler with a few tricks.

To start with, hold the cat flap door open and entice them to go through it by holding a treat on the other side. Repeat this to show them that they can pass through the door both ways. With a little encouragement, they should pick this up quite quickly; however, some cats can be quite stubborn. It's important to show patience, so the process isn't stressful for your cat.

Next, teach your cat to push the flap open. You can try propping the flap open a little bit, so your cat can see through to the other side. Encourage your cat with rewards and praise, and eventually, they will master the art of pushing the flap open. You can buy cat flaps that will only open with a microchip or magnet that you place on your cat's collar.

Cats are natural hunters and are very in touch with their survival and prey instincts. If your cat has outdoor access, it may bring home small animals, such as mice, either dead or alive.

In the wild, mother cats bring dead prey to their kittens, to teach them how to eat and hunt. Experts believe that this instinct to share hunt and provide for their 'family' is what makes cats bring us 'presents'.

While it can be a bit upsetting or even startling to find dead animals on your doorstep, it's important not to scold your cat for this behaviour.

Instead, try redirecting their hunting instinct into play, to satisfy their desire to catch prey. Feather wands, moving toys, toy mice and laser pens can be used to stimulate their prey instinct.

Another thing you can do is attach a bell onto your cat's collar, to alert any animals or birds that your cat is stalking them. This can help as cats can have a negative effect on local wildlife populations, especially small songbirds.

Looking for ways to keep your cat happy and entertained? Cats are complex and intelligent creatures that require lots of attention, love and understanding. There are plenty of things you can do to improve your pet's quality of life; here are a few tips:

1. Playtime

Cats are instinctive hunters and love nothing more than chasing, catching and playing with toys. While they are more independent than dogs, cats depend on human interaction for their socialisation, especially if they spend the majority of their time indoors. Encouraging exercise and making time to play with your cat is essential to keep them stimulated. It will also help to strengthen your bond with your cat.

2. Give them space

Create an area in your home that your cat can escape to when they want space. Cats like to retreat to somewhere up high or secluded from time to time, and this is key to keeping your cat happy. Cat climbing posts are great additions to the home and allow your cat to get a bird's eye view of the house while feeling safe.

3. Improve their surroundings

Cats can become bored easily, which can lead to destructive behaviour and even health issues. Whether you have an indoor or outdoor cat, keep them happy by adding a few environmental improvements to their surroundings once in a while. Cats love climbing and jumping, so provide them with cat trees or mounted wall shelves to perch on. A simple cardboard box with a few holes cut out of it can make a fun hiding place for a cat. You could also buy some specialised cat grass so they can enjoy nibbling on the plant safely.

Cats use purring as a method of communication. It often means they are content and relaxed, or in some cases as a way to keep calm when they are stressed.

Kittens use purring as a way to communicate with their mothers. Experts** have found that the low-frequency vibrations of a cat's purr can help ease their breathing, heal injuries and even alleviate pain.

If you are stroking your cat and it appears relaxed, with a still tail and eyes half-closed, your pet is likely telling you it's enjoying your company.

If you're travelling with your cat in a car or on public transport, ensure there is plenty of ventilation and that fresh drinking water is readily available. Some cats find travelling quite stressful, so start off by taking shorter trips to get them used to it before setting off on lengthy journeys. Make sure your cat has the opportunity to use a litter tray if possible. When travelling with a cat, one of the safest and stress-free ways to ensure they are secure is by using a cat carrier. The carrier will prevent your cat from roaming around the vehicle and distracting the driver. Cat carriers will make sure your pet is safe and secure. If your pet travels in the front of the car, make sure you deactivate the passenger airbags. If you have an accident airbags can be dangerous for pets.

If you're planning on travelling abroad with your cat, ensure you're fully prepared. If possible, it may be better for your cat to be left with a family member or trusted cat sitter.

Your pet has to meet specific requirements when travelling across EU countries or returning to the UK from another EU or non-EU listed country. The process can be fairly lengthy, to get started read our full guide to travelling with pets here.

Ensure your cat is healthy to travel and that it has all the necessary vaccinations. In addition to being microchipped, ensure your pet is wearing an ID collar with your full contact details and holiday address on it.



Vet Assistance - whenever you need it

Our 24/7 vet advice helpline is available to all Sainsbury’s Bank Pet Insurance customers. If your cat is feeling a little under the weather, our dedicated team of vet nurses can help.

The team are also there to help with any questions you might have about your cat’s health or wellbeing. This includes advice on nutrition, vaccinations and pregnancy.

If your pet becomes very unwell, has collapsed, is unconscious or has been involved in a serious accident, you should contact an emergency vet immediately.

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Pawfect care for your cat

Give your feline friend the care they deserve. Use our breed selector tool to find your cat and learn how to help them lead a healthy and happy life.

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Still looking for your pawfect pet?

We’re here to help you find your forever furry friend. Just complete eight easy questions to find your pawfect cat match. Purr-fect.

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References

*https://www.nimblefins.co.uk/average-cost-kitten-cat-vaccinations
**https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/cats-purr-why-do-animal-noise-species-pet-reason-a8133581.html