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Kitten Care 101

We’ve created a question and answer guide of our most commonly asked kitten  questions:

Check out the newly released kitten care guide by Royal Canin.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NEW KITTEN OWNERS

We would like to congratulate you on the acquisition of your new kitten. Kitten care is a very important part of owning a kitten. Owning a cat can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it also carries with it quite a bit of responsibility. We hope this document will give you the information needed to make some good decisions regarding your kitten.

First let us say that we are grateful that you have chosen us to help you with your kitten care and the health of your new kitten. If you have questions concerning any subject related to your kitten’s health, please feel free to call our hospital. Either one of the technicians or one of the doctors will be happy to help you.

How should I introduce my new kitten to its new environment?

A cat is naturally inclined to investigate its new surroundings. It is suggested that the cat’s area of exploration be limited initially so that these natural tendencies do not create an unmanageable task. After confining the cat to one room for the first few days, you should slowly allow access to other areas of the home.

How should I introduce my new kitten to my other cat?

Most kittens receive a hostile reception from other household pets, especially from another cat. The other cat usually sees no need for a kitten in the household, and these feelings are reinforced if it perceives that special favoritism is being shown the kitten. The existing cat must not feel that it is necessary to compete for food or for attention. The new kitten should have its own food and food bowl, and it should not be permitted to eat from the other cat’s bowl. Although it is natural to spend time holding and cuddling the kitten, the existing cat will quickly sense that it is being neglected. The new kitten needs lots of love and attention, but the existing cat should not be slighted. In fact, the transition will be smoother if the existing cat is given more attention than normal.

For the first week, keep the cats away from each other.  The kitten should stay in a bedroom, and the cats can sniff each other under the door.    In a few days, put the existing cat in the bedroom and let the kitten have the house.  That way, they get used to each other without seeing each other.  Do not leave them alone together until you have done a few supervised introductions.

 

What type of playing should I expect from a kitten?

Stimulating play is important during the first week. Stalking and pouncing are important play behaviors in kittens and have an important role in proper muscular development. If given a sufficient outlet for these behaviors with toys, your kitten will be less likely to use family members for these activities. The best toys are lightweight and movable. These include wads of paper, small balls, and string or ribbon. Kittens should always be supervised when playing with string or ribbons to avoid swallowing them. Any other toy that is small enough to be swallowed should also be avoided.  Above all remember, HANDS ARE NOT TOYS!

 

When should my kitten be vaccinated?

There are many diseases that are fatal to cats. Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent many of these by the use of very effective vaccines. In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of injections. Ideally, they are given at about 6-8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, but this schedule may vary somewhat depending on several factors.

When the kitten nurses its mother, it receives a temporary form of immunity through its mother’s milk. This immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the kitten’s life, but, at some point, this immunity fails and the kitten must be able to make its own long-lasting immunity. Vaccinations are used for this purpose.

Many factors determine when the kitten will be able to respond to the vaccines. These include the level of immunity in the mother cat, how much of the antibody has been absorbed, and the number of vaccines given the kitten. Since we do not know when an individual kitten will lose the short-term immunity, we give a series of vaccinations. We hope that at least two of these will fall in the window of time when the kitten has lost the immunity from its mother but has not yet been exposed to disease. A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate the long-term immunity which is so important.

Rabies vaccine is an exception to this, since one injection given at the proper time is enough to produce long-term immunity.

Do all kittens have worms?

Intestinal parasites are common in kittens. Kittens can become infected with parasites almost as soon as they are born. For example, the most important source of roundworm infection in kittens is the mother’s milk. The microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually help us to determine the presence of intestinal parasites. We recommend this exam for all kittens, if we can get a stool sample. Please bring one at your earliest convenience. Even if we do not get a stool sample, we recommend the use of a broad spectrum deworming product that is safe and effective against almost all of the common worms of the cat. It is given now and repeated in about 3-4 weeks, because the deworming medication only kills the adult worms. Within 3-4 weeks the larval stages will have become adults and will need to be treated. Cats remain susceptible to reinfection with hookworms and roundworms. Periodic deworming throughout the cat’s life may be recommended for cats that go outdoors.

There are lots of choices of cat foods. What should I feed my kitten?

Cats are obligate carnivores.  This means, that unlike humans and dogs, cats must have a diet primarily composed of animal protein to be healthy.  Most commercial kibbled food is way too high in carbohydrates for cats which contributes to obesity, diabetes, dental disease and arthritis.  The most important thing when picking a food for your kitten is to find one with real ingredients and that is higher in protein.  We recommend Royal Canin, and this is what we feed our cats.  EVO and ORIJEN are other good choices.  Talk to us about your kitten and her needs as every pet is different.

How do I insure that my kitten is well socialized?

The Socialization Period for cats is between 6 and 18 weeks of age. During that time, the kitten is very impressionable to social influences. If it has good experiences with men, women, children, dogs, other cats, etc., it is likely to accept them throughout life. If the experiences are absent or unpleasant, it may become apprehensive or adverse to any of them. Therefore, during the period of socialization, we encourage you to expose your cat to as many types of social events and influences as possible.

What can be done about fleas on my kitten?

Fleas do not stay on your kitten all of their time. Occasionally, they will jump off and seek another host. Therefore, it is important to kill fleas on your new kitten before they can become established in your house. Many of the flea control products that are safe on adult cats are not safe for kittens less than four months of age. Be sure that any flea product you use is labeled safe for kittens.  A bath can also help get fleas off of a kitten as well as a good grooming with a fine toothed comb.  Talk to us about safe available flea treatment.

Can I trim my kitten’s sharp toenails?

Kittens have very sharp toenails. They can be trimmed with your regular fingernail clippers or with nail trimmers made for dogs and cats. If you take too much off the nail, you will get into the quick; bleeding and pain will occur. If this happens, neither you nor your cat will want to do this again. Therefore, a few points are helpful:

  1. If your cat has clear or white nails, you can see the pink of the quick through the nail. Avoid the pink area, and you should be out of the quick.
  2. If your cat has black nails, you will not be able to see the quick so only cut 1/32″ (1 mm) of the nail at a time until the cat begins to get sensitive. The sensitivity will usually occur before you are into the blood vessel. With black nails, it is likely that you will get too close on at least one nail.
  3. If your cat has some clear and some black nails, use the average clear nail as a guide for cutting the black ones.
  4. When cutting nails, use sharp trimmers. Dull trimmers tend to crush the nail and cause pain even if you are not in the quick.
  5. You should always have styptic powder available. This is sold in pet stores under several trade names, but it will be labeled for use in trimming nails.

What are ear mites?

Ear mites are tiny insect-like parasites that live in the ear canal of cats (and dogs). The most common sign of ear mite infection is scratching of the ears. Sometimes the ears will appear dirty because of a black material in the ear canal; this material is sometimes shaken out.

Why should I have my female cat spayed?

Spaying offers several advantages. The female’s heat periods result in about 2-3 weeks of obnoxious behavior. This can be quite annoying if your cat is kept indoors. Male cats are attracted from blocks away and, in fact, seem to come out of the woodwork. They seem to go over, around, and through many doors. Your cat will have a heat period about every 2-3 weeks until she is bred.

Spaying is a complete ovariohysterectomy; the removal of the uterus and the ovaries. Therefore, heat periods no longer occur. In many cases, despite your best efforts, the female will become pregnant; spaying prevents unplanned litters of kittens.

It has been proven that as the female dog gets older, there is a significant incidence of breast cancer and uterine infections if she has not been spayed. Spaying before she has any heat periods will virtually eliminate the chances of either. There is mounting evidence to believe that this is also true of cats. If you do not plan to breed your cat, we strongly recommend that she be spayed before her first heat period. This can be done anytime after she is six months old.

Why should I have my male cat neutered?

Neutering offers several advantages. Male cats go through a significant personality change when they mature. They become very possessive of their territory and mark it with their urine to ward off other cats. The tom cat’s urine develops a very strong odor that will be almost impossible to remove from your house. They also try to constantly enlarge their territory which means one fight after another. Fighting results in severe infections and abscesses and often engenders rage in your neighbors. We strongly urge you to have your cat neutered at about six to nine months of age. If he should begin to spray his urine before that time, he should be neutered immediately. The longer he sprays or fights, the less likely neutering is to stop it.

 

My kitten is already becoming destructive. What can be done?

First of all, have you provided your kitten with someplace appropriate to scratch and rewarded her for using it?  If not, start there.  S0me cats prefer rope, some carpet, and some cardboard.  Buy a variety and see what your cat prefers.  You can make your couch less desirable with double sided sticky tape in the mean time.  When your kitten uses her post, give her a treat or put some cat nip on the post.  Soon, she won’t want to scratch your furniture.

Second, keep your cats claws trimmed.  If this does not work, try SOFT PAWS which are nail caps that are glued to each claw.  This prevents destruction and lasts for a few weeks to months.

Declawing is NOT recommended.  To declaw a cat is to remove the tip of each toe at the last joint; it is not just removing the claw.   This can be painful and sometimes results in lifelong discomfort.  It may also increase the propensity to bite.  Please talk to us about alternatives before making this decision.

Can you recommend something for pet identification?

The latest in pet retrieval is microchipping. This tiny device is implanted with a needle so the process is much like simply getting an injection. Our scanner can detect these chips; humane societies and animal shelters across the country also have scanners. A national registry permits the return of microchipped pets throughout the United States and Canada. We strongly recommend it.

Is there pet insurance?

Pet insurance certainly exists, and has been found wonderful by many of our patients. It even now covers well-care, and therefore is very cost effective. Ask us for a brochure.

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