SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Responsible cat ownership

Desexing, vaccinations, parasite treatment and regular vet visits are an essential part of responsible cat ownership and play an important role in keeping your cat or kitten healthy.

Download our full Cat and Kitten Care Brochure (PDF)


SPCA advocates for all companion cats, dogs, and other companion animals as deemed appropriate, to be desexed before selling or rehoming, except registered breeding animals. Desexing is an important component of population control and has welfare benefits for the desexed animal. We recommend that all cats, dogs, rabbits, and other companion animals are desexed as early as possible in accordance with veterinary advice.

Read more about the benefits of desexing here.


Vaccinations play an important role in protecting your cat from preventable diseases that are still quite prevalent in the community. Initially, a primary course of injections is given, followed by yearly booster vaccinations. If you aren't sure whether your cat is up to date with vaccinations we recommend talking to your veterinarian.


Flea prevention and treatment are an essential part of responsible animal ownership. Fleas tend to become more of a problem in warm weather, but can be present year-round and can spread to your home if not addressed.

How do I tell if my cat has fleas?

  • Your cat may be itching and scratching a lot or grooming excessively.
  • You may see fleas or flea dirt in your cat’s coat.
  • Some cats may not itch or scratch, especially with small numbers of fleas, so it is important to check regularly for fleas and flea dirt in your cat’s coat.

If you think your cat has fleas, we recommend speaking to your veterinarian who can recommend a product that is right for your animal.


Tapeworms and roundworms are some of the most common intestinal parasites seen in cats. If present in large numbers, worms can cause life-threatening problems, particularly in young kittens and older cats with compromised health. However, in cats and kittens with small numbers of worms there may be no obvious signs of infection. Some types of worms can also be spread to humans. General good hygiene will help prevent this but it is important that your cat is also given preventative worm treatment regularly.

Common signs of intestinal worms:

  • Pot-bellied appearance
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Depressed appetite
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Poor growth.

Skin issues

Skin issues are often caused by fleas, allergies and/or sometimes diet. Signs of skin problems include itching, hair loss or thinning, bald patches, red skin, lumps/bumps in the skin and/or sores. It is important to seek veterinary advice if your cat has a skin problem as there are many varied causes and treatments will only be effective if targeting the right problem.


Cats can have a variety of problems with their mouth and teeth that may cause them pain, discomfort and/or difficulty eating; these include:

  • broken teeth
  • neck lesions (where the hard outer coating of the tooth is resorbed or eaten away exposing the sensitive underlying tissue and causing a lot of pain)
  • a buildup of tartar on the teeth
  • gum inflammation and tooth decay.

Signs that there may be a problem include:

  • smelly breath
  • obvious tartar on the teeth or gum inflammation
  • a broken tooth that you can see
  • and/or reduced appetite or difficulty eating (for example, the cat may drop food or appear reluctant to eat or uncomfortable when eating).

Remember that many cats can have very severe dental disease without showing obvious signs and while continuing to eat. It is important that you have your cat checked by your veterinarian at least once a year, one of the many things that the veterinarian will check are the cat’s teeth and mouth; this means that problems can be picked up early and addressed, which will save your cat from suffering. If you suspect there is a problem with your cat’s mouth or teeth, please take the cat to your veterinarian for a checkup as soon as possible because dental disease is very painful and can also cause other problems within the body.


Although it is not common, cats can suffer from ear inflammation and infection. There are many potential causes, including ear mites, allergies, bacterial and yeast infections, trauma and foreign bodies. All of these conditions can be very irritating and/or painful. An ear problem may cause your cat to shake his/her head, carry the head at a different angle (usually angled down to the side of the affected ear) and may even cause some loss of balance, the cat may scratch at the affected ear and there may be discharge, inflammation and a nasty smell from the ear. If you notice any of these clinical signs please seek prompt veterinary treatment as ear problems are painful and can cause permanent ear damage.


Regular grooming is a good way to calmly interact with your cat and can also help you to detect health concerns (for example, you might notice a lump under the skin that should be checked). Even cats with short coats need grooming, and cats with long coats need very regular grooming. Suitable brushes and combs are available from pet shops or your veterinary clinic. Some cats will also need their nails clipped, particularly older or less active cats. It is good to start this from a young age so that the cat becomes used to grooming and nail clipping and is not afraid or upset by it; this makes the process much easier!

Regular vet visits

It is important to take your cat to the veterinarian for a check-up at least once a year to allow for early detection of health problems. Contact your veterinarian promptly if you are concerned about the health or well-being of your cat. Cats often hide signs of illness, or show only subtle signs, so it is important to pay close attention to any changes in their behaviour or general health (such as weight loss or gain, and changes in drinking or eating, coat quality, and energy levels), as well as more obvious signs like vomiting, diarrhea or coughing. NEVER give a cat human medicine (e.g. Panadol), as our medications can be harmful or even fatal to cats.

Pet Insurance

The SPCA highly recommends getting pet insurance to cover the costs of unexpected illnesses and emergencies. When your cat is sick or injured, it is a stressful time. Veterinary care can be expensive and you want what is best for your cat.

We recommend SPCA Pet Insurance, which offers a great range of insurance plans and is a brand you can trust. Go online to spcapetinsurance.co.nz for more information.

Your cat’s microchip

It is essential to keep the microchip details up-to-date if you move house or your contact numbers change. The SPCA receives many lost cats who we cannot reunite with their owner because the microchip details have not been updated.

Update your microchip details at: www.animalregister.co.nz

Lost cats

If your cat is missing visit our lost animal page for advice.

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