Wednesday, 3 May 2017

‘Is it ok to give my cat milk?’ and other veterinary FAQs

In our latest Facebook Q&A, vet Dr Sarah Elliott answered live questions from cat owners. Here are just some of the topics discussed:

Question: Is it ok to give my cats ordinary milk? They prefer it to water.

Answer: Many cats are lactose-intolerant and while a little milk may not hurt, it may cause diarrhoea. Also milk contains a few extra calories which they may not need. It is better to feed a complete balanced diet and offer water, to avoid extra weight gain or any diarrhoea.

Cat drinking from bowl of water
Cats should be given fresh water. Photo by macinate via / Creative Commons
Question: Why does my cat keep losing the fur on his back legs? It’s not fleas or mange.

Answer: Stress may play a factor, but it is far more common for cats to loss hair because of over-grooming due to an itch. They often itch and over-groom in secret which can make it seem like the hair is just falling out on its own. Fleas are by far the most common cause of itching and many cats have an allergy to fleas which makes things even worse, and in these cases you may never actually see the fleas that set off the itching. It's important to get your cat on regular monthly flea treatment and your vet can advise on an effective eradication plan.

Sometimes, other allergies may be underlying the hair loss and food trials to rule out a food allergy may be recommended by your vet. Treatment is usually about managing the condition rather than curing it. Adding an omega 3 and 6 supplement may help to improve the skin. And always remember to make flea control your first priority! Our Itchy cats and skin disorders leaflet may be of help.

Question: How can a find a good cattery in my area please?

Answer: International Cat Care used to inspect catteries, back when they were known as the Feline Advisory Bureau. Unfortunately they no longer carry out inspections but they do keep a list of catteries, which can be found here.

Question: My cat was being sick so we've changed her diet, however now she has really bad dandruff. Is dandruff on cats a bad sign?

Answer: Adding an omega 3 and 6 supplement may help to improve the skin – chat to your vet about what is available, as you will want one that is compatible with her new diet. She might need a bit of help with grooming, so brushing daily will help in shifting dead hair and skin. Most cats have a degree of dandruff – but when they are grooming themselves regularly we might not always notice it.

Question: At what age should I get my kitten spayed? And when is it ok to use Frontline flea treatment?

Answer: Cats should be spayed (uterus and ovaries removed) before they are four months old, to prevent any unwanted litters. You can find vets who are signed up to the Kitten Neutering Database here:

Frontline spray can be used on kittens from as young as two days old, and I'd recommend getting this from your vet when using it in a kitten younger that’s seven to eight weeks old, as the dosing instructions are different to using it on an adult cat. Kittens over seven weeks old can have other types of spot on flea treatment, some of which include a wormer. We'd normally start worming kittens from seven weeks old. Have a read of our leaflet, Fleas and other parasites.

White kitten
Kittens should be neutered by four months of age
Question: My cat has a skin tag on the back of her neck. It has grown a lot in the past two weeks. Should I be worried about it?

Answer: It may be best to have the lump investigated by your vet, as waiting until the lump gets bigger may mean it starts to cause discomfort. If the lump does turn out to require removal, it will become more difficult to do so the bigger it becomes. Your vet may suggest taking a small sample from the lump to send away for analysis before deciding whether it is benign and safe to leave or malignant and should be removed. This is usually a relatively painless procedure for the cat and involves putting a needle into the lump to obtain a sample of cells. Hopefully it will turn out to be nothing to worry about.

Veterinary note: Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For more advice, please visit

Consult your vet if you have a specific concern about your cat.

Would you like to ask one of Cats Protection's feline experts a question? Don't miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: chat with Behaviourist Nicky Trevorrow on 18 May; or vet Dr Sarah Elliott on 1 June. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2pm. See you there!

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