This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Health. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your cat or kitten has the right veterinary care to be healthy.
Just like you have a family doctor that you see when you are unwell, your cat needs their own doctor too – a veterinarian is an animal doctor.
It’s a good idea for your family to find out which veterinarian they plan on using before you get your cat or kitten. Ask your friends that are cat owners which veterinarians they recommend. If possible, visit the clinic beforehand and look around. Ask yourself: Is the waiting area clean? Are the staff helpful? You should also find out the opening hours and if they handle emergencies after hours.
Once you get a new cat or kitten, your family should register him or her with your chosen local veterinary clinic straight away. Make an appointment as soon as you can for a check-up. Your vet can then create a care programme for your cat or kitten. It is helpful to write a list of the questions you want to ask so everything can be covered.
One of the easiest ways to ensure your cat is healthy is to make sure your cat gets vaccinated - vaccinations ensure that they are protected against diseases.
Vaccinations protect animals against diseases that can cause pain and distress and that are often deadly.
Getting your cat vaccinated against preventable diseases is a vital part of responsible pet care. By vaccinating your cat, your family can have peace of mind knowing your cat is well protected.
A vaccination works by introducing small amounts of the bugs which cause the diseases to your cat’s immune system. This causes your cat’s immune system to create antibodies. This means that if your cat meets any of the diseases for real, his immune system will know how to deal with them, therefore protecting him.
Your cat should receive a ‘primary’ vaccination course early in life, followed by ‘booster’ vaccinations throughout their life.
Your veterinarian will tell your family the vaccinations that are needed for your cat and will remind you when your cat’s yearly booster injection is needed – another reason why your cat must be registered with a veterinarian.
People often think a trip to the vet as something only needed when your cat becomes unwell, however it is also important to remember that annual health checks are important for your cat’s wellbeing. These annual checks are a great way to detect any small problems before they become more serious.
During this 15 - 20-minute appointment, your veterinarian will carefully examine your cat’s entire body – from the tips of his ears, the pads on his paws, to the top of his tail! Your veterinarian will also discuss any concerns you have regarding your pet’s health, diet and behaviour.
All cats and kittens adopted from SPCA will already have been spayed or neutered. There are already more cats than there are good homes for them, so please don't let your cat have kittens!
If your family or friends have a cat or kitten that is not spayed or neutered, encourage them to speak with their veterinarian and have their cats spayed or neutered as soon as possible. Explain that before they know it, they could have a litter of kittens that they’ll need to find homes for. Finding a loving, responsible home for each kitten isn’t always that easy! What’s more, if those kittens don’t get spayed or neutered, they will have kittens too – meaning more loving, responsible, forever homes will need to be found.
If your cat ever shows any signs of injury or ill health, an adult must take them to their veterinarian immediately. If it is late at night or on the weekend and your vet is closed, there are awesome after hour clinics available for emergencies. If you find a cat that shows signs of sickness or injury, get an adult to contact your local SPCA immediately.
Remember to always find an adult before you approach any cat that appears sick or injured – even your own cat. Cats may respond differently because they are in pain.
Looking after our cats’ teeth is just as important as looking after our own!
Kittens have their first 26 “baby” teeth at 2 to 3 weeks of age. They start getting their 30 permanent “adult” teeth at around 5-6 months.
Even if the only thing your cat hunts is his food bowl and toys, he still needs clean, sharp teeth and healthy gums. Damage to the tongue, teeth, mouth and gums can lead to many health risks for cats. These issues can be prevented with regular vet check-ups and following the home dental care advice given to your family by your cat’s veterinarian.
At SPCA, we recommend your family take out pet insurance to save thousands of dollars should something happen to your cat.
While most cat owners will have worked out vet costs, such as vaccinations and worming, it is the out-of-the-ordinary expenses that can catch you out. For example, you could spend thousands of dollars on treatment for a road accident. Taking out pet insurance helps you budget for the unexpected.
Cats are naturally equipped with the tools they need to groom themselves – their barbed, velcro like tongue to lick, paws they moisten with saliva and use like a washcloth, and teeth to dig out tougher dirt. Due to this, they don't usually need a bath - nor do they usually want one!
On rare occasions such as if your cat gets very dirty or gets too close to something it shouldn't (toxic sprays or oils, for example), or for medical reasons, an adult may have to give them a lukewarm bath. The adult washing your cat should only use a specialist cat or kitten shampoo, recommended by your vet. Never use human soaps and shampoos on a cat as these are unsuitable for cat hair and skin.
Don’t forget to dry your cat with a nice soft towel and keep them in a warm room until they are dry.
When it comes to grooming, you should definitely brush or comb your cat regularly. This keeps their coat clean, reduces shedding and cuts down on hairballs and matting. Grooming your cat can also increase the bond between you and your cat and it is a good opportunity to check for wounds, hair loss and inflammation. Also, look out for ticks and flea dirt (black specks of dried blood) left behind by fleas.
Handling your cat properly is an important part of their health as it can help minimise the risk of accident/injury.
All cats are individuals and therefore, some will prefer to only be handled when it's essential - like a trip to the veterinarian. They will need to be properly handled and placed safely inside their carrier to do so.
Always ask an adult for help when handling your cat. When picking up your cat, you need to be sure that you are doing so securely, but also gently. Your cat's weight will need to be supported, so ensure you're safely picking them up under both their around their chest and front legs, as well as their bottom and back legs.
This will help your cat to feel safe and secure.