New Kitten Guide
You have selected a wonderful pet. Cats are playful, easily house trained, naturally clean, require little grooming or training, and usually adapt beautifully to indoor living. Cats are great fun and make good companions. However, they are totally dependent on you for affection as well as physical and medical care.
Upon entering your home, your kitten is going to require some extra special attention in the first few days. Ongoing care and attention will help your kitten grow into a happy, healthy cat.
We realize that new kitten owners have many concerns. So we have put together this Kitten Care Guide to get you off to a good start. Included are basic tips on healthcare, feeding, litter training, and grooming. Please note that with this guide, we have only touched briefly on some subjects.
For further information on anything concerning your kitten, please contact our hospital.
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You should schedule a visit to the vet by 6 to 8 weeks of age. On your first visit, the veterinarian will give your kitten a general examination to make sure s/he is healthy. The doctor will check his/her teeth, ears, eyes, and listen to the heart and lungs. At this point, it is your opportunity to ask questions you may have about your new kitten.
Your kitten will be given initial vaccinations and also be put on a deworming program at the time of the first visit. This is important to protect your pet against internal parasites.
When kittens are born, their immune systems are not mature enough to make antibodies until approximately 8 to 12 weeks of age. Nature provides for temporary immunity in the form of colostrum, which is very rich in antibodies. Kittens which fail to suckle colostrum from their mother in the first few days of life, will be extremely susceptible to diseases until their own immune systems mature and they can make their own antibodies. We assume that a healthy kitten did get its mother's colostrum. Now at the age of 8 weeks, it is our responsibility to protect our new pet by putting him or her on a vaccination schedule. Vaccinations are safe and effective agents that protect your kitten from major viral and bacterial diseases.
The above vaccinations give protection against:
Rhinotracheitis: This is an extremely contagious viral disease which strikes the upper respiratory tract and has symptoms similar to a human cold. The affected cat usually has nose and eye discharge, sneezing, fever, and won't eat.
Calicivirus: This contagious viral disease affects the upper respiratory tract of cats and causes similar signs to Rhinotracheitis. It may also be accompanied by multiple ulcerations of the mouth.
Panleukopenia: A highly contagious viral disease of cats that can be fatal. Affected cats have a high fever, do not eat or drink, and are very depressed. They also show signs of vomiting and diarrhea.
Feline Leukemia: This virus causes depression, loss of appetite, weight loss, and anemia; it interferes with the cat's immune system and causes various chronic debilitating diseases and cancer.
Rabies: Rabies is a fatal viral disease that affects all warm-blooded animals including man. Because this disease can be transmitted by saliva from cats to people, vaccinating your cat also protects your family.
A kitten grows rapidly for the first few months and needs extra, yet balanced, sources of nutrients during this growth phase. Excesses, deficiencies, and imbalances of certain dietary nutrients can predispose your kitten to many problems such as diseases of the central nervous system, heart, kidney, and bones. Excess calories consumed by growing kittens will stimulate the formation of excessive numbers of fat cells and lead to obesity in adulthood.
The following tips will get you off to a good start. Click the topic to quickly go to that section; click your browser back button to return to this list:
Kittens should be weaned at 4 to 6 weeks to a diet specifically designed for growing kittens. Kittens should not be weaned on baby foods, cow's milk, or other human foods.
The diets we recommend are scientifically designed and tested to promote health, vitality and longevity. Optimal nutrition contributes to the health and well-being of your pet and can help reduce the likelihood of illness and disease. If a dry food is selected, it may be advisable to moisten the dry food with warm water for a period of time while your kitten is very young. We recommend feeding some canned food to accustom your kitten to both types of food. Your cat's nutritional requirements may never be more demanding then when it is a kitten. Therefore, it is essential that you choose a high quality food that is nutritionally complete and balanced for optimum nutrition during this critical growth stage.
Most kittens are initially fed 4 times daily until 3 months of age. After three months of age, it is best to feed your cat a measured, daily allotment divided into two or three meals. To select the amount of food required for each meal, consult the feeding guides provided by the pet food manufacturer or those calculated by your veterinarian. The amount of food recommended in the manufacturers feeding guides should only be used as a guideline. Each individual pet needs to be monitored and fed appropriately to achieve an optimal body weight. If you have more than one kitten or cat, it is best to feed each cat a measured portion in his or her own dish. If your kittens or cats are significantly different in body weight (one heavy, one light), try feeding a specific amount of food to both, with an "extra" small meal for the thinner kitten or cat. NEVER reduce your kitten's or cat's caloric intake by more than 20%.
Additions of any human food will cause an imbalance of nutrients in your cat's diet and could be detrimental. It is particularly important to avoid feeding raw fish, raw eggs, and large amounts of liver or small bones. Table foods not only cause nutritional imbalances but also may contribute to bad eating habits, nutritional deficiencies, and obesity.
Sudden changes in diet can cause digestive disturbances such as diarrhea. Even when changing from one high quality diet to another, gradually increase the proportions of the new diet and decrease the old one, over a one-week period. Be sure your kitten is eating the new food. Do not let your kitten go without eating for more than 48 hours.
The diets formulated for dogs and cats are significantly different. It is dangerous to feed your cat dog food. Cats require specific nutrients, which are not included in dog foods. In addition, cats require significantly more protein.
This is particularly important for cats, as most cats tend to drink more if the water is fresh, clean or moving (i.e. dripping from the tap). If you live in an area where water has a significant odor or taste (chlorine, iron, sulfur, etc.), you may want to consider giving your cat bottled water (cats are more sensitive to odors and tastes than we are!).
You should give your kitten regular checkups to make sure all is well. Get your kitten used to being handled; it should accept stroking and grooming, and a thorough once over as part of its daily routine. Once every week or so, take a good look at your kitten's eyes, ears, mouth, nails, skin and coat. It is important to find problems early, before they become serious. If you notice anything unusual, be sure to consult your veterinarian.
Check your kitten's eyes for :
A kitten with an infected eye will rub it a lot. Should you notice any of the above conditions please contact your veterinarian immediately; we do not recommend treating the eye unless it has been examined by a veterinarian. Cleaning around the eye with a cotton ball soaked in warm water is recommended.
Check ears for:
Your kitten will scratch at its ears or shake its head frequently if its ears are dirty, infected or have ear mites. Healthy ears are pale pink; clean looking, and odor free. A gentle cleaning periodically will help ears remain healthy. Moisten a cotton ball with either water or a veterinary ear cleaning solution. Clean only the reachable external areas. DO NOT PROBE INTO THE EAR.
At 4 to 6 months your kitten will lose its baby teeth and adult ones will come in. Cats have 30 permanent adult teeth. Examine the mouth for any:
Pets, like people, need regular dental care. Dental disease is one of the most common health problems in pets, yet it can easily be prevented. Cats require frequent brushing and regular dental check-ups in order to prevent tartar, cavities, abscessed teeth, and bad breath. It is important to start brushing your kitten's teeth early in life, so that it becomes accustomed to the procedure. Special animal toothpaste and toothbrushes are available. Do not use human toothpastes as they contain foaming agents that may upset your kitten's stomach. Regular preventive care at home can help save you money and keep your pet healthy. Click pet dental care for more information.
All pets require regular cleaning with an ultrasonic scaler done by your veterinarian. Untreated dental disease can cause bad breath, bleeding gums, loose or rotting teeth, and tooth loss. If periodontal disease progresses far enough, it can even cause heart, liver, or kidney disease.
Kitten's nails can become very sharp. Therefore, to avoid any unwanted scratches or climbing, it is recommended that you clip your kitten's nails frequently. Hold the paw firmly and clip a little at a time - don't try to take the whole tip off at once. Be careful not to cut into the "quick", the sensitive flesh underneath the nail. Should you accidentally cut too far and bleeding occurs, use baby powder or flour to help stop the bleeding (it can take a while!).
Don’t try and clip all the nails at one sitting. Clip a few nails when your kitten is quiet to help accustom them to the procedure. If you have never trimmed a kitten's nails before, have your veterinarian show you how. Pet nail clippers or human clippers are better to use than scissors.
Provide your kitten with a scratching post and every time s/he attempts to claw your furniture tell him/her "NO" and encourage him/her to use the post. Try toys and catnip spray to entice your kitten to use the post. A water spray bottle is a great tool to discourage your kitten from destroying your couch or drapes. A quick squirt when the inappropriate behavior starts and then re-directing the kitten to its post will quickly teach him/her where scratching is and is not permitted.
Watch for any changes in your kitten's skin and hair coat:
A healthy coat is a sign of a healthy pet. Regularly running your hand over the kitten's body is also a good way to determine if there are any lumps, swollen joints, or painful areas. Should you notice any changes please contact your vet. Grooming should begin at an early age so that the kitten gets accustomed to the procedure. If your kitten gets dirty, wipe its fur with a wet cloth. NEVER use paint thinners or gasoline to remove paint, grease or tar from the hair of a cat because the agents will burn the cat's sensitive skin. To remove these materials, dissolve the grease or tar with vegetable oil and shampoo.
Cats are by nature very clean animals. House training is generally very easily accomplished if you follow a few recommendations.
1. For the first few days your kitten should be confined to a small room or the bathroom (preferably where you plan to keep the litter pan in the future). Its bed, food, and water dishes should also be placed in the room. The new kitten will appreciate this quiet space, and the confinement will greatly assist house training. After several days, the kitten should be using its litter pan regularly and can be let out of the room to independently explore its new home.
2. It is generally recommended that you select a litter that does not have any deodorant, particularly during house training. Place about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of litter in the pan. During the training period, place a little soiled litter in with the fresh litter. The soiled litter is a powerful stimulus for the kitten to use the new litter. Clean the litter box frequently; if it becomes too dirty your kitten may stop using it and soil elsewhere in the house.
3. Dump or scoop out the soiled litter, wash the pan with water and replace the litter. The pan should be made of a material that is easily cleaned but never wash it with soap. If the pan smells of soap residue or deodorants, your kitten will be discouraged from using it.
4. Place the pan in a quiet private location that is not in a blind alley, like a closet. It seems that cats like to toilet in a spot they can escape from in many directions. If you have a large multi-story house, it is advisable to have litter pans in separate areas of the house. If you have more than one cat, it is advisable to have one more litter box than the number of cats in the household, placed at various locations throughout the home.
5. If your kitten soils outside the litter pan be sure not to punish him/her, even if you catch your kitten in the act. Cats that are punished only become fearful of the owner and besides, discipline will not correct the problem.
If a trained cat has an accident in the house, check to see if the pan has been cleaned properly and that the bowel movement and urine are normal.
If your kitten is not litter trained within a few days or the bowel movements are not normal, contact your vet. If at any time after the kitten is trained it should have an accident outside the litter pan, please contact your vet.
If you are not planning to breed your cat, we strongly recommend that you have your female cat spayed and/or your male cat neutered. Cats become sexually mature around six months of age, therefore, at this time we recommend spaying or neutering. This will help ensure you get a good night's sleep (cats in heat yowl!), and will reduce the incidence of cats spraying urine in and around your house.
The surgery is performed under sterile operating room conditions, with the animal under a general anesthetic. It involves the removal of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus through an abdominal incision. After the operation, the female will not come into heat, and will have neither the interest nor capacity to breed.
There is NO ADVANTAGE in waiting for the female to have a heat cycle or a litter before being spayed. Spaying prevents unwanted heat cycles, reproductive diseases, and unwanted pregnancies. Apart from sexual activity, spaying has no effect on the female's temperament.
This procedure involves the removal of the testicles through a small incision made on the scrotal sack, with the cat under a general anesthetic. This eliminates the source of sperm and male hormone. Neutered male cats are less likely to roam, fight with other cats, or spray urine in the house. It does not change the cat's personality, reduce, or prevent unwanted aggressive behavior to people. Neutering does reduce the offensive odor of "tom cat urine".