If you are acquiring a new cat, a first visit to the veterinarian will be welcome to verify its good health and to get many tips on how to live well with your pet. On this occasion, identification, vaccination and sterilization will surely be offered to you. But is it really essential?
Why should I have my cat identified?
The first reason is simple: because it is mandatory. Indeed, you must legally have your cat chipped or tattooed from the age of 7 months, if he was born after January 1st 2012. Identification is also mandatory if you give or sell your cat (this obligation is not respected by individuals who usually give unidentified kittens), or if you want to vaccinate it against rabies.
On the other hand, the identification will be of a precious help in case of loss. All identified cats are registered in a national file (the “national identification file for domestic carnivores” or “i-cad”), which is accessible to shelters and veterinarians. This allows them to quickly retrieve your contact information from the chip number or tattoo. To do this, don’t forget to update them when you change your address, for example. Finally, the identification certifies that you are the owner of your cat. If your cat is not identified and someone finds it, it is fully entitled to have it identified with its name, and thus become its official owner.
Chip or tattoo?
Identification can be done by microchip or tattoo.
The tattoo, which requires general anesthesia, is done inside the ear. In order to avoid putting the cat to sleep just to tattoo it, it is often done at the same time as a surgical operation such as sterilization.
When it is done at the time of sterilization for example, the price of the tattoo is approximately equivalent to that of the chip. It is still recognized today in France. While some owners deplore its lack of estheticism, others find it more interesting to put a mark on their animal that is visible to all. However, it is important to keep in mind that tattoos can fade over time until they become illegible, and that eventually it may be necessary to redo it, or to supplement it with a microchip (both methods can be perfectly combined). On the other hand, if your cat is not an easy character, the reading of a tattoo in the hollow of the ear will not necessarily be obvious.
For globetrotters, on the other hand, the chip is the best solution. Indeed, since July 3, 2011, it is indeed the microchip that is required to travel with your pet, including within the European Union.
It is placed without anesthesia, just under the skin in the neck area on the left. The size of a grain of rice, it is totally invisible. It can sometimes be slightly painful but is very fast. The chip is read by a reader available to veterinarians and shelters. The chip is read by a reader available to veterinarians and shelters. All you have to do is walk around the neck area with the reader, and the chip emits its signal. This is a unique identification number, specific to your cat, composed of 15 digits. The first three digits indicate the country of origin (250 for France). Permanent and tamper-proof, the microchip has many advantages.
What is the purpose of the vaccination?
Vaccination is an indispensable tool in the fight against diseases in cats. Depending on the case, it can protect against an infection or alleviate its symptoms.
It may be required in certain contexts (mating, exhibitions). The fact that a cat lives exclusively in an apartment does not make vaccination superfluous. Even if your cat is not accustomed to going outdoors, it may meet other cats in the course of its life during a visit to the veterinarian, a hospitalization, or if you need to keep it in a foster care facility from time to time.
Vaccine injections are given according to a precise schedule, which depends on the vaccine used, but also on your pet and its lifestyle. As a general rule, this vaccination schedule starts between 8 and 12 weeks of age. It consists of two injections one month apart, followed by annual booster shots. This should be seen as an opportunity to see the veterinarian at least once during the year, to have a check-up, and to ask any questions you may have.
Cats are vaccinated against the following diseases:
-Calicivirus: First cause of coryza in cats, calicivirus is frequently encountered. In case of infection, vaccination will help to alleviate the symptoms.
-Infectious Rhinotracheitis: It is the second cause of coryza in cats. This virus is widespread in cats and is transmitted through close contact.
-Panleukopenia (Typhus): Panleukopenia is a very serious disease, often fatal in young cats. Although quite rare, it still occurs regularly in places where cats gather (kennels, veterinary clinics). Vaccination reduces the intensity of symptoms and the risk of death.
Depending on the case, vaccination against leukosis and rabies can be added:
- Leucosis: this is a retrovirus, extremely contagious. The transmission is done by contact with an infected cat, via saliva. Once contaminated, the cat can eliminate the virus, or keep it for life. Vaccination helps prevent permanent infection.
-Rage: this vaccination is only mandatory if you wish to travel abroad or in Guyana with your cat. On the other hand, it is recommended for everyone. Indeed, although France is now rabies-free, cases of rabies imported from non-free areas, such as Morocco, are regularly detected. In the same way, your cat while hunting may encounter some bats in which the absence of rabies can never be guaranteed. This disease, which is very rare in France, nevertheless remains inevitably fatal when transmitted to humans.
What is the interest of sterilization?
Sterilization is often requested by owners of male cats. Carried out around the age of 6 months, it is a quick and perfectly controlled intervention by your veterinarian. The cat recovers very quickly, but it is still a surgical procedure under general anesthesia which can therefore involve risks.
Castration is reputed to make cats less vagrant and therefore less prone to accidents and fights with other cats. They would then be less likely to contract FIV and leucosis, diseases generally transmitted by bite. Be careful, however, these behavioral changes are only observed if castration is performed early. In fact, once the cat has acquired certain habits, it will not get rid of them so easily… On the other hand, sterilized male cats tend to develop more frequently diseases of the lower urinary tract, especially stones which, if they become lodged in the urethra, prevent the cat from urinating. The cat then positions itself to urinate, meows, or even urinates a few drops tinged with blood. It is then an emergency. The prevention of these stones requires weight control and an adapted diet.
The surgical sterilization of females, called oophorectomy, is a slightly more cumbersome and therefore more expensive operation. However, it remains a very frequent operation. Its advantage is considerable from a medical point of view: indeed, performed early, it reduces by more than 90% the risk of mammary tumors generally malignant in the cat… It also avoids heat and its share of behaviors sometimes painful for the owner (untimely meowing, attraction of male cats in the neighborhood…). On the other hand, this act is definitive, and deprives the cat of any possibility of having kittens. Contrary to many preconceived ideas, the fact of not having kittens has no impact on the health and well-being of the cat.
Finally, be aware that there are also temporary contraceptive methods available. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on this subject.
For both males and females, sterilization deprives the cat of its sexual functions, which are very costly in energy. Therefore, to avoid weight gain, it is imperative to reduce your cat’s energy intake by switching to a range of specific foods for sterilized cats.
Sterilization is therefore an act that must be considered, which has advantages and disadvantages. The decision is yours, and must be adapted to each individual case. Do not hesitate to ask your veterinarian for advice.