Caring for a Kitten
Kittens are furry, friendly little balls of fluff and it is wonderful welcoming a new kitten in to your home. It is however, very important that you look at the best care for your new addition.
The first step in protecting your kitty from dangerous diseases is to vaccinate. The minimum vaccinations should include feline calicivirus, feline herpes virus and feline panleukopenia virus. This helps protect them against potentially fatal diseases. Vaccinations should be done at 10 weeks, and 14 weeks. Adult cats should also be vaccinated annually against calicivirus and feline herpes virus and every 3 years against panleukopenia . In some areas, if the cats are at low risk, the vet may recommend all the vaccines only be given every 3 years after their one year old vaccination. Discuss with your vet which vaccines would be recommended based on your cat’s habits and where you live.
Kittens can become sick and even die due to intestinal worms. Kittens should be dewormed every 2 weeks until they are 12 weeks old, then every month until 6 months of age. Thereafter they should be dewormed every 3 to 6 months for the rest of their life. There are many different methods of treating worms including tablets, pastes, topical liquids as well as flea control drops that contain a partial wormer. Heartworm is a potentially fatal parasite that can be transmitted by mosquito bites or by other pets. While heartworm is less common in cats than dogs, prevention is optional but recommended. Medications available include topical and oral heartworm medications. Speak to your vet about the recommended treatment specifically for cats.
Desexing reduces the instances of spraying, wandering and fighting in cats. It also prevents unwanted litters and often the development of behavioural problems in adult cats. Desexing also helps reduce the incidence of infections such as pyometra and certain cancers. Cats that are desexed are likely to live longer than those that aren’t. It is recommended that cats are desexed around 6 months of age.
The cat would be brought in on the morning of the surgery, having not eaten since the previous evening. The procedure is completed under general anaesthesia. The cat will usually be allowed to go home the same day or the following day depending on its general health after surgery.
Fleas and ticks
Fleas can cause allergic reactions and dermatitis in cats without you ever actually seeing the fleas. Flea treatments should be used every month to control and prevent flea infestations. Use a flea treatment specially formulated for cats as dog medications may be toxic in some cases. Rather prevent ticks through the use of spot-on treatments and sprays formulated for use on cats. Check your cat regularly for lumps on the skin which may be ticks, especially if they are exploring in long grass on farms. Ticks are usually found on the ears, head and neck but could be anywhere on the body. Symptoms of tick paralysis includes fast or laboured breathing, grunting, coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, weakness, vomiting, instability in the legs and a change in the cats meowing sound or a lack of sound.
Cats and kittens can be microchipped, both as a permanent form of identification, and to allow use of microchip-controlled cat doors and feeders. The chip is placed between the shoulder blades and under the skin of the neck. Vets and shelters scan this area when animals are brought in to obtain a serial number which is linked back to the owner of the cat. The serial number is registered in a nationwide database to help your pet be reunited with you no matter where it is found. You need to ensure that you keep your details up to date so you can be called if your pet is found. If you are not sure of whether your kitten is chipped or not, you can ask your vet to scan and check.
Behaviour and Training
Cats are far less responsive to behavioural training than dogs and generally prefer to do their own thing. You will however, with some perseverance, be able to teach your cat to use a litter tray, not use the couch as a scratching post and even to stay off the counters. Cats should not be punished for natural behaviour. Provide alternatives such as environmental enrichment and toys to encourage your cat to explore and enjoy the home while reducing unwanted behaviour. That being said, not all cats are the same and some may need professional advice to reduce unacceptable behaviours.
Toilet training is usually uneventful with kittens often training themselves. Start off by using the same litter as was used by the pet shop, breeder or shelter. You can mix in your preferred litter gradually if you want to change it, so you kitten gets used to the new textures and smells. There should always be 1 litter tray per cat plus 1 extra in the house. Keep them away from sleeping and feeding areas. Clean the trays at least once or twice per day. If trays are badly situated or not cleaned often enough, the kitten may end up eliminating in inappropriate places in the house.
Nutrition and diet
Premium kitten foods are made from quality ingredients and contain all the necessary nutrients for a growing kitten. Brands do vary in quality, but the premium brands usually offer the best all round nutrition to meet the pet’s dietary requirements. The label of the food purchased should advise on the size of the serving based on age and size. If you change brands, make the change gradually over 4-5 days to prevent intestinal issues. A lean, muscular physique is optimal for your cat. Speak to your vet about how to maintain the best possible body weight and condition for your cat.
If you go away on holiday, it is important to ensure your kittens comfort and safety while you are away. Some solutions include a pet sitter that can care for your cat in your home or have a family member or friend check in on your cat and do the day to day cleaning, feeding and so forth. You can also research catteries in your area that may be suitable to take care of your furball while you are gone.
There is a vast improvement in the choices for the care and treatment of injured or sick cats but they cost can be quite high. There is no government funding for pet care and you have to foot the entire bill. A pet insurance can help alleviate some of the stress by reimbursing up to 80% of the cost of the care. There are a number of different policies available. Choose one that suits your needs and your pocket.