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ADVANCE™ is scientifically formulated to help improve pet health.  Read all the latest articles and news, as well as get tips and advice on puppy, kitten, dog and cat nutrition and health care topics.  Brought to you by the experts at ADVANCE™ premium pet food.

Adult Cat

 

Caring for your cat's claws

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This is an image of a cat sharpening their claws.

Claw care

Your kitten's sharp little claws are amazing.  They help them balance on smooth and slippery surfaces, and give them a good, strong grip when they’re climbing and holding onto things.  It’s important that your kitten’s claws stay in good condition.

Claw care

Your kitten's sharp little claws are amazing.  They help them balance on smooth and slippery surfaces, and give them a good, strong grip when they’re climbing and holding onto things.  

It’s important that your kitten’s claws stay in good condition.

Regular checks

Because your kitten’s claws are protected by special sheaths, they rarely get damaged.  However, it's a good idea to check them regularly to make sure they haven't grown too long.  Outdoor kittens usually keep their claws trim by scratching on trees or fences, but if your kitten lives indoors you may want to check their claws more frequently.

Scratching post

When it comes to caring for your cat’s claws, their scratching post will act as a nail file.  However, your cat is likely to need a nail clip when they get older.  To help get your cat used to that idea, start handling their paws early on so that they'll be more accepting of a trim when the time comes. 

Remember that a scratching post is a great outlet for your cat’s natural scratching behaviour, and it's better for your furniture as well!

Ask your vet

The first time you notice that your kitten’s claws have grown long, you might prefer to take them to the vet.  That way, you can watch how the expert does it, and decide whether you want to carry on trimming your cat’s claws yourself.

How to trim your cat’s claws

If you decide claw trimming is for you, it helps to be well organised.  Make sure you work in good light and find a comfortable place where your cat can be gently restrained.  Use a pet claw trimmer and trim each claw back a little at a time until you get close to the quick, the pink part where the blood supply is.  You can see where this is on white claws, but you’ll need to use your judgement on dark coloured claws.

Be sure to pair this exercise with food treats to ensure a positive association with claw trimming. 

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Grooming your kitten

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Grooming

If your kitten is a long-haired breed, grooming throughout life will be a must.  However, grooming is recommended for all kittens as it's a great way to build on your relationship.  This is because grooming mimics the social bonds between a mother cat and her babies.  It's best if you try to establish good grooming habits early on, and ensure grooming time is a positive one by using positive reinforcement through treats and praise.   

Grooming 

If your kitten is a long-haired breed, grooming throughout life will be a must.  However, grooming is recommended for all kittens as it's a great way to build on your relationship.  This is because grooming mimics the social bonds between a mother cat and her babies. 

It's best if you try to establish good grooming habits early on, and ensure grooming time is a positive one by using positive reinforcement through treats and praise.   

How to groom your kitten

Ideally you've been handling your kitten regularly, so they're comfortable with having their skin and coat touched.  But don't worry if your kitten seems a bit hesitant when you pull out the brush for the first time. 

Let your kitten become accustomed to a brush and comb by letting them have a play with them first.  Stroke your kitten very gently, so they get comfortable with being handled.

Progress to using a comb through the coat moving from head to tail, being particularly gentle around the head.  Check the condition of the coat and skin, and look for signs of fleas or other parasites.  Then brush the fur to remove any dead hair. 

Be sure to move only at a pace that your kitten can handle.  Slowly build up the amount of time you groom your kitten, so that the experience is a positive one for both of you.

Dealing with tangles

Medium to long haired cats can get tangles in their coat.  Gently tease out any tangled hair with your fingers and remove it before you groom your kitten properly.  If you stick to a regular grooming schedule, tangles shouldn’t happen too often. 

If your kitten has got in a bit of a mess, dip a clean cloth in warm water, squeeze it out, and use it to wipe them down.  Don't use soap as it can irritate a kitten’s sensitive skin.  

Wiping the eyes

If needed, you can give your kitten's eyes a very gentle clean by carefully using a cotton ball moistened with warm water.  Use a different swab for each eye.  If you notice any abnormalities or discharge, be sure to have a check-up with your veterinarian. 

With practice and positive reinforcement, grooming can be bonding time you share while you help keep your kitten looking their best.

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Gum disease in cats

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This is an image of a vet examining a cat.

The stats

70% of cats aged over 3 years have some form of gum disease, yet less than 10% of pet parents realise their pet has a dental health issue.  By establishing a good oral health routine from a young age, your cat can avoid becoming part of this statistic. 

 

The stats

70% of cats aged over 3 years have some form of gum disease, yet less than 10% of pet parents realise their pet has a dental health issue.  

By establishing a good oral health routine from a young age, your cat can avoid becoming part of this statistic. 

Teething

Kittens start losing their temporary teeth (also known as milk teeth) between 3½ and 4 months of age.  These are replaced by a set of adult teeth. The milk teeth usually fall out easily, but during this time a kitten may have sore gums and eat a bit less than usual.  By the time your kitten is 6 to 7 months old, they should have all of their permanent teeth. 

Gum disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is common in cats, so start dental care while your kitten is young.  

Plaque can form on the teeth which contains bacteria and leads to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums).  Plaque can then mineralise to form tartar which leads to bad breath and gum recession.  If left untreated, this painful condition can eventually lead to tooth loss and even systemic disease such as organ failure. 

Tooth brushing

Prevention is better than cure, and the most effective way to prevent tartar deposits is to brush your cat’s teeth daily.  

Step 1: Start with pet toothpaste

Sit your cat in your lap or a favourite resting place.  Using washed hands, apply a small strip of specially designed pet toothpaste to your finger and allow your cat to lick it off.  Repeat a few times.  Pet toothpaste comes in a variety of different pet enticing flavours.  Never use human toothpaste as it’s toxic to pets.

Step 2: Now get your cat accustomed to having their mouth and teeth touched

Apply pet toothpaste to your clean finger, lift your cat’s lip and smear the pet toothpaste on the teeth and gums.  Start slowly progressing only as far into the mouth as your cat is comfortable. Be gentle and patient and use lots of positive reinforcement (treats, verbal praise).  

Step 3: Progress to using a finger-brush and then a cat toothbrush

Prepare the brush with pet toothpaste and gently brush to clean the outside surfaces of the teeth and gums.  Many pets won’t allow you to brush the inside surfaces of the teeth.

Step 4: Toothbrush the back teeth

Be sure to brush the back teeth as they tend to quickly build up tartar.  Progress only at a pace your cat is comfortable, and keep up the positive reward based training.

Gradually increase the amount of time you spend brushing your cat’s teeth.  Ideally, toothbrushing should be done every day.

Additional help

Specially designed dental dry food such as ADVANCE™ Dental Cat can be offered when your cat becomes an adult.  Dental treats such as Feline GREENIES™ can be used daily, and fed from 1 year of age.  These products are designed to help reduce plaque and tartar accumulation.  They can be especially helpful for pets who won't allow their teeth to be brushed.  

Follow these tips, to keep your cat’s pearly whites in top shape!

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Make playtime awesome!

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Prioritise play

Playtime is an essential daily activity for all kittens, especially those that live indoors.  Here we offer some great playtime ideas to keep your feline buddy entertained.

Prioritise play

Playtime is an essential daily activity for all kittens, especially those that live indoors.

Play helps a kitten condition their muscles and joints which supports physical health.  It also provides much needed mental stimulation helping a kitten keep their mind sharp. 

When you get involved in playtime, you both get to share wonderful bonding time as well as the opportunity to create precious memories.  By stimulating their hunting instinct, your kitten won't be able to resist joining in by pouncing and jumping. 

 

Great playtime ideas

• Playful kittens adore anything that you can make move, twitch or disappear out of sight! 

• Toys with feathers or anything on a string will bring out your kitten's natural hunting instincts:

Watch as your kitten stalks and pounces, but beware of those sharp little claws!  Be sure to let your kitten catch their 'prey' now and then, otherwise playtime will lead to a build-up of frustration.  This can be an issue particularly with laser style cat toys.  To combat this, ensure your play session ends by allowing your cat to hunt and catch an actual, physical toy. 

• Other toys a cat will love include catnip mice and sacks, bouncy balls and balls filled with toys

• Treat dispensing toys are great and can also be used by cats.  Be sure to account for this food in your cat's daily ration and let your cat 'play' for their meal. 

• Consider cutting a hole in a cardboard box, and see how your kitten enjoys playing and hiding in it.

• A cardboard tube will give you and your kitten endless entertainment, especially if something pops out of the end!

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Indoor or outdoor cat?

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Lifestyle choice

Will your kitten be an indoor cat, outdoor cat or perhaps a mixture of the two?  Here we take a look at the various pros and cons of each living arrangement.

Lifestyle choice

Will your kitten be an indoor cat, outdoor cat or perhaps a mixture of the two? 

Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons for indoor and outdoor living.

Territory

Firstly, let’s define what is meant by a cat’s 'territory'. 

In the wild, a cat's territory is usually divided into a home range, and then extending beyond that, a hunting range. 

For domestic cats, a kitten's home range is your home.  So for indoor cats, their largest range extends to the boundary of where you will let them venture.  For outdoor cats, their territory is determined by a number of things such as the territories of other cats and the availability of resources such as food.  Your cat's territory can sometimes be surprisingly large!

Outdoor living

Pros:

• Plenty of ways to exercise such as climbing, scratching and hunting

• Lots of mental stimulation such as exploring and watching the world go by

• Opportunity to establish their own territory and patrol it

Cons:

• Hazards and dangers in the outside world such as other cats, dogs, cars etc

• May get into fights with other cats and be at risk of injury, as well as disease such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

• May be frightened by weather events such as thunderstorms and become lost

If you’re going to let your cat roam outside, make sure they’ve been microchipped and are equipped with identification such as an elasticated collar with a name tag.  Check with your council to see if there are cat curfews in place.

Thunderstorms, fireworks and loud parties can all be scary for a little kitten.  If you know events like these are happening in your area, keep your feline friend safe and secure inside. 

Indoor living

Pros:

• You are more able to control the environment, which technically should mean it's safer

However, the home harbours its own hazards for curious kittens such as fireplaces and chimneys, unsecured windows and household appliances such as washing machines and tumble driers.  Make sure you check such places regularly and keep them closed when not in use. 

Cons:

• Harder to get exercise, so indoor cats are at risk of obesity and are less mentally stimulated - so you'll need to provide the entertainment! 

Ensure your kitten has plenty of toys (rotated regularly) a scratching post and climbing equipment.  The general rule for the number of litter trays you’ll need is one extra to the number of cats in the house.  So for a single cat home, you’ll need 2 litter trays.

Best of both worlds

If you’d like your kitten to experience a mix of indoor and outdoor living, consider installing a cat enclosure at home.  That way your cat gets some exposure to the outside world, while staying safe.

You can also train your kitten to walk on a harness.

By considering each type of living arrangement, you can make the choice that will best suit you and your cat.

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Hunting behaviour in cats

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This is an image of a cat stalking.

Capable hunter

Your cute and adorable kitten was born to be a formidable hunter.  Stalking and catching prey is a big part of your kitten's natural behaviour.  If your kitten has access to the outside world, there’s a good chance that your feline friend will sometimes bring prey items home.

Capable hunter

Your cute and adorable kitten was born to be a formidable hunter. 

Stalking and catching prey is a big part of your kitten's natural behaviour, and kittens start to perfect these skills early on when playing with their littermates.

In the wild, mothers bring their kittens dead prey to eat.  As their kittens start to get a bit older, mum starts bringing home live prey instead.  This helps the kittens learn how to hunt and kill, setting them up with the survival skills they'll need when they're on their own.

Why is my cat leaving 'presents' on the door step? 

While your kitten can rely on you for their next meal, their instincts run deep.

If your kitten has access to the outside world, there’s a good chance that your feline friend will sometimes bring prey items home.  You might find these on the door step and be tempted to think you're being offered little 'presents'.

However, the main reason your kitten brings prey back home is actually to finish off the hunt.  When a cat first catches their prey, they grab it anywhere on its body they can.  However, to kill it, they need to bite its neck.  Your kitten can’t let go of their prey to do this, because there's no pack to stand guard.

So rather than adjusting their grip in the place where they caught their prey, your kitten carries it back home instead.  That way, if the prey should happen to escape, your kitten has a home ground advantage, and will be much more confident about catching it again.

If your kitten turns up on the doorstep carrying something they've caught, remember that your little hunter is simply following their natural instincts.  They're finishing off their hunt in a place where they feel safe, and won’t be disturbed by other predators. 

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Urine marking in cats

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Communication

In the wild, cats are mostly solitary, they rarely meet with other cats.  However, they still need ways to communicate effectively with each other.  Urine marking, or spraying, is one clever they can exchange information.

Communication

In the wild, cats are mostly solitary, they rarely meet with other cats.  However, they still need ways to communicate effectively with each other, such as to establish territory or indicate a willingness to mate.  Cats also try to avoid conflict. 

One communication method they use is via a system of scent-based ‘signposts’ using urine marking or spraying.  

Your kitten or cat may display urine marking behaviour too, and what's more, these signposts are continually refreshed to keep them up to date.

Spraying or a litter tray problem?

It’s important to work out if your cat is urine marking or having an issue with using their litter tray.  Remember that cats who urine mark will also urinate in their litter trays.  However, there are some clues to look for to help you work out what’s going on.

Vertical surfaces

Urine marking usually occurs on vertical surfaces.  A cat about to spray tends to back up to a vertical object such as a wall and displays an erect body posture with tail pointing straight up in the air.  Urine is then sprayed onto the vertical surface.  It’s not uncommon to see the cat’s tail and even their whole body twitch while they’re spraying.

Volume

The amount of urine that a cat releases for marking purposes is usually less than the amount they void when urinating in their litter tray.

Smell

As marking is a form of communication for cats, sprayed urine is particularly strong smelling.  This is because it contains chemicals including pheromones that help to convey additional information.

What should I do if my cat is spraying?

In some cases, urine marking can be a sign that your kitten or cat is feeling insecure, perhaps believing their territory is under threat.  If you’re having to deal with unwanted wee, don’t worry – there are lots of things you can do to help prevent it:

• Have your cat desexed to reduce their desire to urine mark.  Desexed cats of either gender can still spray, but entire male cats tend to do it the most

• Avoid using ammonia and chlorine cleaners as these smell similar to cat urine and may actually encourage marking behaviour

• Try not to clean up the wee while your cat is around as disrupting the scent might make them more stressed

• Clean the affected area with a 10% solution of biological washing powder, and spray it with an alcohol such as surgical spirit

• Soon after you’ve cleaned the area, encourage your cat to play there as this will help them feel more secure

If the problem continues, talk to your veterinarian for further advice.

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Biting and scratching in kittens

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This is an image of two kittens playing.

Natural born hunter

Kittens begin to develop play behaviour at an early age, and this includes mastering the use of their sharp teeth and claws!  Here we take a look at the basis for these play behaviours, and what you can do if your kitten’s play is a little overzealous!

Natural born hunter

Kittens begin to develop play behaviour at an early age, and this includes mastering the use of their sharp teeth and claws! 

Young kittens love to stalk, chase and pounce.  They also wrestle, bite and scratch their littermates and mother - all in the name of fun.  This behaviour is helping the kitten learn the hunting behaviours that used to be essential for survival.  Luckily, your kitten can now depend on you for their next meal, but their instincts run deep!  In fact, your kitten's instinct to hunt is so strong that they'll do it even when they aren’t hungry. 

Bite inhibition

Kittens learn to inhibit any overly aggressive behaviour while they are still with their littermates and mother.  If play is too rough, a sibling or mum will let the offending kitten know by way of a growl or a well-placed swipe, and play might stop.  Through this process, kittens learn to control aggressive behaviour.

Proper socialisation

Socialisation helps a kitten learn how to interact appropriately with humans and other animals.  Kittens who are poorly socialised or handled roughly by people may develop behaviours that are aggressive and don’t learn to control their biting intensity.

Help!  My kitten is biting and scratching me

While your kitten is young, all those little bites and scratches are really just playfulness.  But if you find your kitten is coming on a bit too strong, try interrupting the game and ignoring them for a while. 

If your kitten bites you, make a short sharp yelping sound.  At the same time withdraw your attention from your kitten and ignore it.  This shows your kitten that when they bite, the fun and play stops.  When your kitten is calm, gently praise and reward them. 

Make sure that you are consistent in how you interact with your kitten.  Don't allow your kitten to play roughly with you so that you aren't encouraging biting and scratching behaviour.  

Be mindful of the signals you (and others) send if you do play wrestle with your kitten.  Don't let them nip or scratch you just because they're cute and small.  They will grow and get bigger and stronger!  It’s a good idea to encourage your kitten to wrestle with a toy, rather than you. 

Thankfully, most kittens grow out of the aggressive stage and develop into lovely natured cats, more interested to smooch than to bite you.

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What your cat's tail is telling you

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This is an image of a cat walking.

Tail Talk

Would you like to know what your kitten is really thinking?  Well, there's a way to get inside your kitten's head and that's by becoming aware of their body language.  Here we'll take a look at what your kitten's tail movements can tell you about how they're feeling. 

Tail Talk

Would you like to know what your kitten is really thinking? 

Well, there's a way to get inside your kitten's head and that's by becoming aware of their body language.  In fact, your kitten's busy little tail is one of their most effective ways to communicate their mood.

Here’s our guide to what your kitten’s tail is telling you:

• Tail held high – your kitten is feeling happy and confident

• Wiggling at the base or tip – your kitten is saying a friendly “hello”

• Curled under their body – your kitten is feeling submissive

• Curled around another cat's tail or human legs - your kitten is being friendly

• Fluffed to more than twice its size – your kitten is scared, threatened and defensive  (if your kitten is also displaying an arched back, hair standing on end and unfurled claws then you should give them some space!)

• Rapid flicking – your kitten is agitated

• Wagging – your kitten is irritated (note that this is the opposite of a dog’s wagging tail!)

• Thumping – your kitten is highly frustrated, and may even attack

• Slowly twitching tail tip – your kitten is curious or excited (you’ll often see this when they're crouching)

So keep your eye on your kitten's tail.  You'll start to notice a wide repertoire of tail movements, and get to know you're kitten on a whole new level!

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Scratching behaviour in cats

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Scratching

Scratching is a normal feline behaviour that serves a range of important functions for a cat.  However, in the interest of a happy co-existence with your kitty, it’s important that this behaviour is directed onto appropriate surfaces.  Training is best started early on in kittenhood.  Read on for tips to help save your furniture.

Why do cats scratch?

Scratching is a normal feline behaviour. 

It’s used to groom nails, for marking territory (both visual as well as scent signals) and to help cats stretch and condition their muscles.  Most cats have 5 claws on each front leg and 4 claws on each hind leg, for a grand total of 18 claws.

Given that scratching serves a range of functions for a cat, it’s not a behaviour that can be stopped.  It is however a behaviour that needs to be directed onto appropriate surfaces.  Your kitten needs you to help them understand what is okay to scratch and what isn’t.  The effort you put in will be a life saver for your furniture and other valuables.

What do cats like to scratch?

In general, cats are attracted to textured surfaces and items they can sink their claws into.  However, different cats prefer different scratching surfaces, so initially you might like to offer a range of surfaces and see what your kitty is fond of.  Common materials to try are sisal rope, cardboard, carpet, rough fabrics and wood. 

Cats will often have a scratch after they wake from a nap and when they want to mark their territory.  They also like to scratch when they’re excited about something.

How do I prevent my cat scratching the furniture?

Ideally begin training to use the scratching post while your cat is young.  Supply both vertical and horizontal surfaces covered with your cat’s preferred material.  Make the scratching surfaces desirable by placing catnip or treats on them and train your cat by encouraging them with a toy held part way up, and reward the cat for using it.

If the cat prefers another material, such as the couch, attempt to get an appropriate item covered in a similar material.

Never punish your kitten or cat if you see them scratching an item they shouldn’t, as this will only teach them that scratching the item while you are around is scary.  Your cat will likely continue to scratch it when you are gone.

A better method is to cover the inappropriate item in double sided sticky tape or another material such as plastic which makes the item aversive at all times.  Meanwhile, positively reinforce the cat with praise and treats when they scratch the appropriate item.

Nail care can also help reduce inappropriate scratching.  Pair nail trims with positive reinforcement eg treats to create a positive association for your cat.

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