PROPERLY CARING FOR YOUR NEW KITTEN
1. Feed a high quality food designed for kittens till 9-12 months of age. This diet will ensure adequate calorie and protein intake. Young kittens do best with three feedings daily, while older cats can be fed once or twice a day. We prefer dry food because this helps prevent dental tartar buildup. Self feeding is not recommended. By allowing the cat to run out of food before each meal they will bond to you and become a more appreciative and affectionate pet. A cup of dry food per 10# body weight is all a kitten needs daily, or another method is what they can eat in 15-20 minutes twice a day. There is a lot of controversy about the ash in foods causing bladder stones and urination problems in cats. It is not the ash content, but instead it is the percentage of the mineral called magnesium (only a very small part of ash) and the food’s ability to cause a urine acidity of less than 6.3 that will prevent the feline urological syndrome (FUS). Less than 1/3 of the commercial diets prevent FUS. We have more information on this problem if you are interested.
2. Spaying or castrating your cat is recommended at 4-6 months of age. We prefer to wait until their permanent canine teeth are in at 5-6 months, if possible. A neutered animal lives longer than an intact pet. Besides the obvious advantage of preventing unwanted litters, spaying your female cat will decrease the chance of developing mammary cancer, and avoid the roaming and other strange behavior seen while she is in heat. Neutering a male cat at a young age, helps prevent roaming, fighting and spraying urine to mark their territory both indoors and outside. The average indoor, neutered cat will live 5 years longer than the cat left to roam outside.
3. If you decide to have your cat declawed, this surgery is often done at the same time they are neutered. A very destructive kitten that cannot be managed by clipping her toenails can be declawed as early as 4 months of age. To teach her to use only a scratching post, you should start this procedure at an early age. Declawing studies in the 1980’s and 1990’s have shown that behavioral problems are not associated with this surgery, as compared to earlier beliefs; newer studies have the same results.
4. Do not allow a pet to start a habit that you do not want them to have when they are grown. Raising pets is like raising children. Kittens are cute when they wrestle and nip in play; but grown cats can easily play too rough. One effective tool for discouraging bad habits is a spray bottle of water. This can be used to squirt the kitten as she climbs the curtains, claws the furniture, etc. This method is often so effective that the kitten won’t repeat the behavior even when you are not present.
5. Most kittens are readily trained to a litter box. It is helpful to confine a young kitten in a small area with the litter box until she learns where it is. If you have any problems with a cat not using their litter box, please contact us for further information. A kitten less than 6 to 8 weeks old is not expected to be fully house trained.
Preferably cats should be kept indoors, especially in the early morning when baby birds are learning how to fly. If your cat stays outdoors at night, we recommend pulling up their food bowl at noon and later feeding them at a specific time at night, such as before your bedtime.
6. A kitten should be vaccinated against the various diseases, as recommended by the veterinarian. We recommend starting vaccinations at 8-9 weeks and the last one at 16 weeks of age. A typical schedule is 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. At times, depending upon the age of cat and exposure to diseases, we will later recommend vaccines every 1-3 years. Distemper, calici virus, rhinotracheitis, chlamydia, leukemia, feline infectious peritonitis and rabies are all advised. A stool sample to check for parasites is recommended. Cats can have ascarids, a type of parasite which can affect children. Please call us if you are concerned about this zoonotic disease. Children should not be allowed to play in the litter box or in sand boxes where animals can defecate.
7. A cat wearing a collar can be a controversial subject. We have never seen a cat hung in a tree, yet hundreds of cats a year are lost. An identification collar or tag is advised. We prefer that the collar be loose enough to come off, or to use one of the expandable collars that also can come off if the cat’s collar is caught. When an animal is anesthetized, such as for neutering, this is a very convenient time to consider a microchip identification implant.
8. We recommend that you comb your cat weekly. If you have a long haired cat, then twice a week grooming is indicated. Long hair cats have a tendency to develop hair mats and hairballs. The mats can cause skin infections to develop, as the thick mat doesn’t let water dry off as it should. Once a mat develops, we advise the mat to be clipped from the cat. Hairballs develop within the cat’s stomach, and cause the cat to periodically vomit and gag. We have hairball medicine that we recommend for cats that are prone to this problem.
9. We recommend cat carriers for all our patients. It is not inhumane to place your cat in one of these carriers. The carrier protects your pet from other cats and dogs, jumping out the car window when traveling or getting loose and lost. Most cats calm down after they realize they are secure and safe. Some cats do require the fiberglass kennels that are needed for airline travel or long distance traveling. Some kittens only require the inexpensive cardboard carriers for the annual trip to the veterinarian or groomer.
If you do not have a rectal thermometer please ask us for one and how to use it. You can take a pet’s temperature if you are worried that they may be sick.
Should you have any problems with your cat, please call. We can help with behavioral issues before the annoyance becomes a problem.
The Staff at the Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic