KITTENS: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NEW OWNERS
Congratulations on your new kitten! Owning a kitten (or as we like to think, being owned by a cat!) is an extremely rewarding experience, but it is also a big responsibility. This handout will give you the information you need to make some good decisions for your kitten’s health.
Firstly Thank You for choosing Lamington Terrace Veterinary Surgery to help you with your kitten’s health care. If you have any questions relating to your kitten’s health, please feel free to contact the surgery. All of the friendly professional staff is willing and happy to help you.
What type of play behaviour should I expect from a healthy kitten?
It is very important that you provide stimulating play for your kitten, especially during the first week in its new home. Kittens are very curious and you will need to be very careful about small objects such as string, and twist-ties. If swallowed, these can cause life threatening damage to the intestine. Toys should be sturdy enough so that they cannot be broken or swallowed. Our staff can advise you in choosing the safest toys for your kitten.
There are lots of choices of Cat food. What should I feed my kitten?
A good quality diet is extremely important during the growing months of a kitten’s life. Cats are carnivores and many supermarket brand cat foods are cereal based rather than meat based. We recommend premium brand complete diets that are balanced and formulated especially for kittens. This is a simple easy and cost effective way to give your kitten the best possible nutrition.
These foods are available to cover every life stage – kitten, adult, senior – and also for specific types of cats - long haired cats, indoor cats, and also for specific medical problems eg kidney disease, arthritis etc.
Once a kitten is weaned from mum, milk is not required and in fact sometimes causes gastrointestinal upsets. Plenty of clean fresh water is required.
As a kitten, you should feed three times daily until around 4 months of age and then twice daily.
It is a good idea to regularly monitoring of body weight and condition once adulthood is reached. You can bring your kitten (or adult cat) in to the clinic to be weighed and have body condition checked any time for free.
Litter Boxes and Toilet Training
There are many choices of litter for litter boxes. Sand, clay, clumping, non-clumping, recycled paper, lucerne etc etc. Remember it’s your kitten’s opinion that counts most - if they don’t like it, they won’t use it! There are also lots of choices for litter trays or boxes. Be sure that the sides of whatever box you get are not too high for the kitten to get in and out of. One sign that this might be the case is that the kitten is soiling just outside the box, often with spilled litter. Some boxes come with one side that is lower than the others which can be a good choice for a kitten.
Yes it is possible to toilet train a cat!
When should my kitten be vaccinated?
There is a number of highly contagious and potentially fatal diseases that can affect your kitten. Fortunately, vaccines help prevent these diseases. The three essential core vaccines will protect against Feline Calicivirus, Feline Herpesvirus (both cause Cat Flu) and Feline Enteritis. There are additional vaccines such as Feline Immunodeficiency virus (also known as Feline Aids), Feline Chlamydia & Feline Leukaemia Virus which may be necessary depending on your kitten’s individual situation. In order to be effective, a series of three initial vaccines is given. Ideally, they are given at 6 to 8weeks, 12weeks and 16 weeks of age, but this schedule may vary depending on your kitten’s individual needs. At your kitten’s vaccination appointments, he or she will have a full physical check up with the veterinarian and you will have the opportunity to ask lots of questions about your kitten’s care.
Why does my kitten need more than one vaccination?
When the kitten nurses from its mother, it receives a temporary form of immunity through its mother’s milk. This immunity is in the form of proteins called maternal antibodies. For about 24-48 hours after birth, the kitten’s intestines allow absorption of these antibodies directly into the blood stream. This immunity is a great 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. As long as the mother’s antibodies are present, vaccinations do not have a chance to stimulate the kitten’s immune system. The mother’s antibodies interfere by neutralizing the vaccine.
Many factors determine when the kitten will be able to respond to the vaccinations. These include the level of immunity in the mother cat, how much of that antibody has been passed on & absorbed by the kitten, and the number of vaccinations given to the kitten. Since we do not know exactly when an individual kitten will lose this short-term immunity, we give a series of vaccinations. A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate long-term immunity, which is necessary to prevent these diseases. A full series of 3 vaccinations as a kitten gives the best chance of stimulating long term protection.
What about Worms? Do all Kittens have worms?
Intestinal parasites (eg hookworm, roundworm, whipworm and tapeworm) are very common in kittens. We recommend the use of a worming product that is safe and effective against all worms. Our recommended worming program is to administer a wormer at 6 weeks of age then monthly till 6 months of age then every 3 months for life.
Tapeworms are one of the most common intestinal parasites of cats. Kittens become infected with them when they swallow fleas: the eggs of the tapeworm live inside the flea. Another type of tape worm comes from hunting small lizards and geckos. Tapeworm infections can occur in as little as 2 weeks.
There are several worming products available that are safe for kittens and cats eg tablets, pastes, “spot-on” products. Ask us which is best for your kitten.
What can be done about fleas on my kitten?
The fleas found on your kitten are only about 5% of the problem: the other 95% is in the environment- flea eggs, larvae and pupae. Therefore, it is important to kill the fleas on your new kitten before they can become established in your household. Many of the flea control products that are safe for use on adult cats are NOT safe on kittens and many dog flea products are DEADLY to cats. Be sure that any flea product you use is labelled safe for kittens. Please ask us if you are unsure. It’s really important to choose the right product.
When treating your new kitten for fleas, it is important to ensure that all other animals in the household are also being treated for fleas.
What about ticks?
Paralysis ticks are deadly to cats. Small kittens can become seriously affected very quickly. Many of the tick preventative products suitable for dogs are poisonous to cats and should not be used. There are very few products that are safe for kittens. Please ask us for the best product to use. Regardless of what tick prevention product you use for your kitten, we strongly recommend thorough daily tick searches as part of the prevention program. We can show you how to do this effectively.
When and Why should I have my kitten de-sexed?
De-sexing your kitten offers many advantages. Unless you are a registered breeder, de-sexing is an important part of responsible pet ownership. Most importantly, de-sexing prevents more unwanted kittens ending up dumped in animal refuges or being euthanased. Once your kitten is fully mature sexually (which can be as early as 4-5 months of age), it can become an ongoing cycle of pregnancy, feeding, pregnancy etc for female cats and will cause male cats to wander the neighbourhood searching for mates. Male cats fight with others and often develop abscesses and possibly Feline Aids from fighting.
The surgery to de-sex your kitten (termed “Spey” for females and “Castration or Neuter” for males) is ideally performed between 4 and 6 months of age.
The most widely recommended pet identification device is the microchip. This tiny device is implanted under the skin between the shoulder blades with a needle much like administering an injection. A microchip scanner can detect these chips: Veterinary clinics, pounds and animal shelters across the country are equipped with these scanners. A national registry assists in the identification and return of microchipped pets throughout Australia.
So if your kitten has microchip identification and you keep your contact information current you can be assured that he or she will be safely returned to you if lost and picked up by pound or handed in to a veterinary clinic.
We recommend this procedure be done during your pets de-sexing operation or earlier at the vaccination appointment.
Sunshine Coast Regional Council now requires that all cats are registered. Register your kitten at 12 weeks of age. It is free for kittens aged between 12 weeks and 6 months. An annual renewal will be issued by council. Reduced fees are available for desexed and microchipped cats. There is more information on council’s website www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au – look under Laws & Permits tab for “Animal Regulations”
We highly recommend pet health insurance for your kitten. These days the advances in technology for pet health care is amazing and in many cases equivalent to the human field. This technology is expensive and the cost of pet health care is increasing. There are many excellent insurance plans to cover the costs associated with accident and illness. Good quality veterinary care is expensive and having pet health insurance means that the most that you will pay for any accident or illness costs is around $100.
The earlier you take out pet insurance the better as any pre-existing illnesses will not be covered.
Protect the Wildlife!
As you would be aware, some cats are born hunters while others are couch potatoes! It is important that your cat does not contribute to destruction of wildlife. We recommend desexing, keeping your cat indoors at night or having an outdoor cat enclosure and using bells on collars.
Ongoing Good Health
Your cat ages at about 6 years to one of our years. A lot can change with their health in 6 years! A 7 year old cat is essentially the equivalent of a 42 year old human! This is why a yearly check up is really important – hopefully to get the “all clear” but if there is a problem, we can pick it up early and early detection usually means we can fix or manage the problem optimally. Your cat’s requirements will change as the stage of life changes – we have included a Life Stage Recommendation Chart to guide you .
If you have any questions, please ask us. We are here to help. Once again, Thank You for allowing us to play a small part in your cat’s long healthy life!