Kitten Care

KITTEN CARE

 

Introducing a kitten to your family is exciting and rewarding. The information provided below can help you prepare and ensure your kittens arrival is a comfortable  transition for everyone involved. If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact our vet hospital where our staff will be happy to help with all your queries.

Preparing for Kitten's Arrival

Kittens are especially curious and will find access to the smallest and most inconspicuous places around your home. It is very important to kitten proof your home to avoid accidents.

Ensure all harmful substances are stored securely including chemicals, medications, cleaning products and insect/rodent poisons; child locks can be used if necessary. All forms of string, wool, electrical cord, elastic/hair bands, curtain/blind cords, sewing cotton & needles etc. can cause serious harm to kittens. Check that your house plants are not toxic to your kitten, for example lillies are highly toxic to all age cats. Make sure all family members keep the doors to washing machines, dryers and toilets closed to avoid accidents in household appliances.

A summary of your kittens requirements are below:

  • Transport - A secure cat carrier is recommended for car travel, trips to the vet, moving house and in case of emergencies. Plastic carriers are available in various sizes at pet supply stores. Take your kitten in their carrier on short trips and make this fun. Familiarity with car travel is essential to avoid anxiety as an adult.
  • Food & water bowls – Ceramic bowls are superior to plastic as they do not scratch as easily and can be more thoroughly cleaned.
  • Bedding – Provide your kitten with soft comfortable bedding in a basket or hiding/sleeping hole, this gives your kitten its own safe place to go and if there are other animals in your family; putting the kittens’ basket in an elevated place will provide an escape if needed.
  • Litter tray & litter – It is essential to provide your kitten with an easily accessible litter tray, more information on house training is detailed below.
  • Scratching Pole – It is normal behaviour to condition claws and mark territory by scratching, providing a cat scratch post will direct scratching onto an acceptable object and help avoid furniture damage.
  • Toys – Kittens are naturally drawn to small, moving objects. Playing will keep kittens stimulated so provide several toys; these can be rotated to prevent boredom. Avoid toys with small, detachable parts which can be chewed or swallowed.

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Vaccination

All kittens need vaccination against serious diseases such as Feline Enteritis and Cat Flu. The first vaccination injection can be given at 6 – 8wks of age when maternal antibody levels have dropped, the second booster is given at 10-12 weeks of age, and the third at 14-16 weeks. 

Vaccinations are then given annually, along with a general health check. If you are planning on letting your cat outside you should consider vaccination against Feline Aids (FIV). This vaccine is strongly recommended for as the virus is spread through contact with other cats. Your vet will provide more information about this disease and the required vaccination protocol.

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Worming

Kittens can be more susceptible to intestinal worm infestation than adult cats. Therefore regular worming is needed to maintain good health. Kittens should be wormed every 2 weeks until 3 months of age, then once a month until 6 months of age, and then once every 3 months for their adult life.

Our vet hospital recommends an allwormer such as Milbemax or Profender, which kills all intestinal worms including roundworm, hookworm and tapeworm (and heartworm in cats over 2kg). Supermarket brands should be used with caution as they may not provide protection against all of these worms.

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Flea Control

Flea control should start as soon as your kitten arrives to prevent any existing fleas from growing into a large infestation. Flea treatment should continue all year round as fleas are active even in cooler months, and most commonly pets catch fleas from the environment. Fleas rarely jump from pet to pet. Large numbers of fleas on a small kitten can have serious health implications.

Products such as Frontline, Revolution and Advantage are extremely effective flea control; our vet hospital can advise which is best suited to your kitten. Flea wash or flea collars are not recommended as they are ineffective, and can cause toxicity and fur loss.

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Identification and Registration

Microchipping is a legal requirement for the registration of all cats in Victoria. Local council registration is required at 3 months of age. For more information please visit City of Boroondara or City of Whitehorse website.

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Desexing

Desexing is generally recommended at 5 months of age. The procedure is performed under anaesthesia, with a follow up of regular pain relief. Desexing has many advantages for your kitten including prevention of unwanted pregnancy and a possible reduction in hormone related behaviours such as inappropriate urination, fighting, roaming and wandering.

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Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended as soon as your kitten arrives. It can provide great peace of mind knowing that medical expenses will be covered if your kitten becomes ill or has an accident and should definitely be considered if your cat will go outside. Some policies cover for preventative treatment such as annual vaccination. It is best not to wait until there is a problem before considering cover, insurance companies will not insure for pre-existing conditions once they are diagnosed.

There are now many different providers of pet insurance and it is worth checking with your own insurance company as you may receive a discount. There are also many different levels of coverage and it is best to compare each by visiting the websites to find cover to suit you and your kitten. Some examples are below:

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Toilet Training

Kittens will usually take well to using litter trays, and with a few hints you can set your kitten up to win, and reduce the chance of any house training problems.

  • Ensure the litter tray is easily accessible, do not place in a high traffic area (cats prefer privacy) and put the tray in a separate area to your kittens’ food bowl.
  • Try different types of litter to find one that your kitten prefers, avoid clumping litters with very small kittens or dusty litter if your cat has a respiratory condition.
  • It is very important to keep the tray clean, cats do not like to use dirty litter trays. Scoop out waste at least once or twice daily.
  • Encourage your kitten to use the litter by placing them in the tray about 10-15 minutes after meals, and use plenty of praise when the tray is used.
  • If you have more than one cat, then a tray for each is needed, do not place the trays side by side as one cat may stop the other accessing a tray.
  • If your kitten does have an accident, avoid reprimanding. Simply continue to encourage your kitten to the tray and use positive praise. Kittens do not have full bladder control and may still have the occasional accident up to 5-6 months of age. You can find cleaners to use on urine stains at our vet hospital or pet supply stores.

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Diet

Feeding your kitten a well balanced diet is vital for lifelong health and growth. It is recommended to feed a premium kitten/cat food such as Science Hills. These are available at our vet hospital or good pet supply stores.

A premium brand will deliver all your kittens’ nutritional requirements in a high quality, palatable food. While premium foods are more expensive initially, the amount needed to deliver energy and nutrients is less than with cheaper brands; therefore the cost per serve is similar. Premium brands undertake extensive research to develop optimal foods, which are easily digested. Home made meals do not contain all the nutrients required by growing kittens or adult cats.

Any changes in diet should be gradual over 5-7 days, as switching foods suddenly can cause stomach upsets. Up to 12 weeks of age your kitten can be fed 4 times daily, allow them to eat as much as they are comfortable with at this stage. Up to 16 weeks of age feeds can be reduced to 3 times daily and after this two meals a day is normal. Adequate fresh water must always be accessible to your kitten.

To help with teething and give variety you can also introduce raw chicken wings or necks; these will also assist in maintaining good dental health. Cooked bones should never be offered as they can splinter and lodge in the gastrointestinal tract.

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Scratching

Scratching is natural behaviour for all kittens and cats, it is used to mark territory, stretch the feet and condition claws. Providing your kitten with a scratching post will allow this normal behaviour without destruction of furniture.

Cat scratch posts are available in various materials; choose a rough texture such as hessian, rope, sisal, carpet or wood. Make sure the post is heavy so it doesn’t fall over and make it an interactive, fun place to be for your kitten. Providing a post, which also incorporates a perch can also encourage your kitten to climb and placing toys and food rewards on the perch will make it a positive experience. Place the post in a position near a window or in the sun and your kitten will be able to survey their territory.

If you find your kitten scratching on furniture, placing plastic or aluminium foil over particular pieces of furniture can make it unappealing for your kitten. Other suggestions include double sided tape, a product called ‘Sticky Paws’ is available at pet supply stores, or long range water pistols can be used but make sure your cat does not see you as they may associate you with the water.

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Grooming

Daily handling will help bonding and allow you to check your kittens’ ears, mouth and paws. Making handling a positive experience from a young age will help your cat accept nail clipping, medication and grooming without distress for the rest of their life.

Use praise and keep handling sessions short so your kitten always enjoys this time. Practice giving medications by gently opening your kittens’ mouth and placing a small tasty treat on their tongue.

Cats are very clean animals and will groom themselves constantly, shorter hair will require less grooming by you. Medium and long hair cats will need daily brushing to prevent matting, and starting at a young age is highly recommended. If matting develops it often needs to be clipped out, sometimes under sedation, so brushing will avoid this. Self grooming also means your cat ingests a lot of hair; this creates ‘fur balls’ and may pass through their intestinal tract or your cat my vomit to expel the hair. Cats sometimes eat grass to help with this process; if your cat stays indoors a pot of cat grass may help.

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Indoor and Outdoor Cats

Due to the many dangers of letting your cat outside, many people now keep their cat inside, particularly in built up areas. If your kitten is kept inside from a young age and all their needs are met, they will be perfectly happy and healthy indoors.

The dangers of allowing cats to go outside include fights with other cats, the risk of being hit by a car, dog attack, contracting diseases or parasites and even theft (especially if your cat is pure bred). Council regulations also require your cat to always be back inside from dusk until dawn. Our native wildlife is under constant threat from introduced species and this includes cats.

Consider some of suggestions below to keep an indoor cat happy:

  • Cat enclosures give your cat the best of both worlds, inside and out. They are available in many different styles and several companies specialise in made to measure enclosures. A screened off porch area can also provide the same access to fresh air and a view of the garden.
  • Using tunnels and hiding holes give your cat area’s to explore inside. Spread toys through out the house for your cat to find – paper bags, boxes, mice, corks etc.
  • Make time each day just for your cat and give your undivided attention, use this time for play and handling.
  • Window perches can also be installed to give your cat a view of the world whilst enjoying fresh air and sunshine through a secure screen.
  • Some people train their kitten to walk on a harness and lead. If your cat enjoys this, make sure walks are away from roads and dogs, a quiet time of the day is best.
  • A cat tree can provide a place to scratch, perch and climb. This could be put inside your cat enclosure or in a large stable pot on a secure porch.
  • Cats love to smell and chew certain plants. Potted catnip, cat mint and other cat friendly plants are a way to bring the garden inside.
  • If you are in the position to bring two cats into your family this is a great way to ensure your cat is never bored and always has company. Discuss with your vet the best options for your household.

Having a kitten is a rewarding and fun experience. Enjoy!

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