Kitten Care

Congratulations on your new addition !

Read below to find out what to do

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Vaccinations

To provide protection against potentially fatal infections such a feline infectious enteritis, feline influenza and feline leukaemia, kittens need to be vaccinated. The first injection in the course is given at 9 weeks of age, and a second injection is given 3-4 weeks after the 1st. The kitten should be kept away from other cats and stay indoors for at least 7 days after the second injection to ensure maximum protection. To keep up the level of protection provided by vaccination, adult cats require annual boosters.

Feeding

When you first take a kitten home, feed it on the same food it has been used to. A sudden change of diet combined with the stress of adapting to a new home can cause stomach upsets and diarrhoea. Once settled in to your home, we recommend feeding a complete biscuit diet such as Purina ProPlan Kitten (free samples available from the practice) This diet has been developed by Veterinarians to keep your kitten in top shape and minimise problems and visits to us! 

Kittens have small stomachs and have to be fed little and often. It can be very difficult to put together a home made diet which provides all the nutrients required by growing kittens - it is a great deal easier to feed a good quality veterinary diet and spend the time playing with your kitten instead! There are foods which have been specially formulated for kittens because they have different nutritional needs to the fully grown cat. All good diets have a feeding guide on the side; read and follow the feeding instructions carefully and call us if you need advice.

Kittens aged 8-12 weeks need four meals a day, 3-6 months three meals, and kittens over 6 months old require two meals. It is a myth to think that cats need to have food available all the time. Cats will overeat and being overweight can can increase the likelihood of a number of serious health conditions.

Worms

Worms can cause illness in kittens, as well as older cats.. Kittens should be wormed at 4-6 weeks and then every month until they are 4 months old. After this worming they should be treated with an 'all wormer' every 3 months for life (although avid hunters may need to be wormed more frequently). We recommend using a safe and effective 'all wormer' such as Milbemax tablets or Profender Spot-on. 

Fleas

Fleas can jump 200 times their own height! They are also the culprit for the majority of allergies and skin problems we see in cats at the practice. Flea dirt can usually be seen as small brown specks particularly around the neck and base of the tail. When placed on damp cotton wool 'flea dirt' slowly dissolves producing bloody streaks.

For effective control, adult fleas on the kitten must be killed and re-infestation from the environment prevented. Traditional flea preparations - sprays, shampoos and collars - can contain substances that are potentially toxic to kittens and may not be very effective. We recommend Stronghold 'spot on' as it is very safe and highly effective at preventing fleas on your kitten and also around your house.

Other animals in the house will also have to be treated. If you have seen fleas or having been bitten by them yourself, then you should take further steps to eliminate infestation. Your kittens bedding should be washed or replaced. You should also treat your carpet and soft furnishings with a safe veterinary grade flea spray such as Indorex.

Some pet shop flea products for dogs can be extremely toxic to cats, even if not applied to them directly. We strongly advise against the use of these products at all in a household with cats.

Neutering

Each year many unwanted cats and kittens have to be put to sleep or are left to fend for themselves because there are not enough homes to go around. Neutering your cat ensures that you do not contribute to this problem.

A male cat can be castrated from 4 months of age. Neutering will reduce the likelihood that he will spray indoors to mark his territory. He will also spend less time roaming in search of mates and thus has less of a chance of being run over by a car or getting into fights. Cats which are bitten and scratched in fights are more likely to be at risk from infectious diseases.

A female kitten needs to be spayed to prevent unwanted kittens. This can be undertaken by a vet from 4 months of age. She does not need to have a litter before she is spayed. Spaying has no harmful effects and removes the stress on both you and your cat brought on by calling (the loud mewing which female cats make to attract a mate), pregnancy, birth and the care and re-homing of kittens.

Microchipping

Your kitten can be microchipped at any age . A microchip is an implant which is injected under the skin between the shoulder blades. If your kitten is lost, a rescue centre or Vet will scan them to see if they have a microchip. If they are microchipped, a unique number will register on the scanner which is also registered on one of two UK databases. These databases will have your details on them so that you can be called immediately if your cat has been found! Microchips cost around £20 to insert, but are included in the price of our kitten club.

Insurance

Please refer to our separate info page 'Help with insurance' on Insurance to help you along.

We do not recommend any particular insurance however we are able to provide 4 weeks free insurance through PetPlan which should allow you time to do some research. Please read through the insurance leaflet included which shows you what to look for with insurance companies.

Toilet Training

Cats are very fussy about their toilet habits and kittens will usually have learnt to use a litter tray by copying their mother. You may just need to show your new kitten where the litter tray is and place it on the tray on waking up from a sleep and after meals, or when the kitten is sniffing, scratching or beginning to crouch and looks as if it is about to go!

You will need a litter tray which can be filled with litter available from us or pet shops. . The tray should be placed on newspaper to catch any litter pushed over the side during digging - a large tray will prevent such problems. If you intend to let your kitten out to use the garden in the future then a simple open tray will suffice for the few weeks involved. If you intend the cat to continue to use the tray then you may want to purchase one of the covered types with a lid which gives the cat more privacy, stops smells from escaping and prevents mess with the litter. Place the tray in a quiet accessible corner where your kitten will not be disturbed. Make sure that the litter tray is not next to food and water bowls. The kitten may be reluctant to use the litter tray if it is too close to its food. The litter tray must be kept clean and emptied regularly. Some disinfectants (like Dettol) which go cloudy in water are toxic to cats, so use only hot water and detergent when cleaning out the tray or ensure you use a cat-friendly disinfectant which has been diluted as the manufacturer recommends and the tray rinsed thoroughly before use.

If your kitten is inclined to mess elsewhere in the house, confine it to one room with a litter tray until the kitten learns to use it regularly. Place the kitten on the litter tray a short time after it has eaten or when it is sniffing, scratching, beginning to crouch and generally showing signs of looking for a suitable corner to use as a toilet.

If the kitten is reluctant to use the tray it could be because:

It is not clean enough - empty it more often

It is not big enough - it should be big enough for an adult cat to turn around in and to use more than once without getting dirty

You have cleaned it out with a chemical that is too strong smelling

It is too near the bed or food bowls

The kitten does not like the texture of the litter you have chosen - revert to the type it has used before. When your kitten starts to go outside more often, gradually move the litter tray towards the door. A few handfuls of cat litter from the tray spread onto well dug soil in the garden will encourage the kitten to dig there. Do not remove the litter tray from indoors until your kitten has started using the garden.

Going outside

Your kitten should not be allowed outside until at least a week after it has finished its first course of vaccinations at about 13 - 14 weeks old (depending on the vaccine). Ideally, cats should be kept indoors until they are neutered to minimise the risk of accidental matings.

Choose a dry day (if possible) and a quiet time and accompany your kitten outside, allowing it to explore the new environment. Continue to accompany the kitten until it is used to your garden and can find its way back to the house without difficulty. Cats like to come and go as they please. A cat flap allows them to do this. If you fit a cat flap you may not need a litter tray indoors when the kitten grows up. You can teach your kitten to use a cat flap by propping it open initially and enticing it through with food. Gradually close it down so the kitten learns to push the flap. If you already own a cat be aware that the kitten may watch and learn and let itself outside before you are ready - kittens learn quickly by watching other cats.

To prevent neighbourhood cats from coming into your house, you can buy a cat flap which will only open for your cat. The flap is operated by magnetic or electronic keys on your cat's collar, or by the microchip.

It's also a very good idea to get your cat used to the carrier they will be coming into the vet in . Try and leave it out with a nice blanket and some toys and treats in there so they think of it as a special hiding place rather than a trip to the Vets !

Cat collars

When your kitten becomes older (over 6 months old) you may like to fit a collar on so that he has some form of identification or to carry a magnet or 'key' to an electronic cat flap . Collars must be fitted carefully - kittens are very active and inquisitive while growing up and can easily get the collar hooked on a tree branch or fence or the kitten can get its front leg caught up in the collar and injuries can occur. 'Snap open' collars will reduce the likelihood of the cat becoming entangled should a problem occur. For a young, rapidly growing cat you will need to remember to check the collar's fit (you should be able to get one or two fingers under the collar) and increase its size accordingly. Flea collars are not the best way to deal with flea problems and can be an added danger to curious kittens intent on climbing or squeezing into small spaces where they may get caught up.

Hazards in the home

Kittens are very inquisitive creatures and will investigate small, dark places which they can crawl into. For this reason, should your kitten go missing for any length of time, you should look in cupboards, wardrobes, outside sheds etc in case it has accidentally been shut in or got stuck. Keep the washing machine and tumble dryer door shut when not in use and check them before putting the clothes in.If your kitten is a plant nibbler then remove any plants which may be poisonous, for example Dieffenbachia (dumb cane), Poinsettia, lillies, Christmas Cherry, Castor Oil plant, Avocado plant, rubber plant and ivy. Most cats will not touch such plants but kittens may be more inquisitive. If you live in a flat above ground level or have a house with several storeys keep the windows shut to ensure that kittens do not fall out. Outdoors keep garden chemicals stored safely and take care if using slug bait or chemicals on the garden itself - some types can be very toxic to animals.

Entertainment

Kittens are very playful. Give them an assortment of toys and scratching posts to keep them occupied and exercised - these need not be expensive - every kitten loves a cardboard box to play in. Play is also a good way for you to get to know and trust each other. 

Grooming

It is a good idea to accustom your kitten to being groomed from an early age, particularly if it has a long coat. A long-haired cat needs daily attention to keep fur free of tangles. Grooming removes excess loose hairs which can cause fur balls to build up in the stomach. Combing and brushing will help remove these hairs and it is usually appreciated by the cat, provided it has been accustomed to grooming early in life. Grooming also gives you a chance to keep a close eye on your cat, asses its health and help to develop the bond between you. Always be gentle and make grooming a rewarding and pleasant experience.

Finally if you have any further questions, don't be a stranger! Call any of us to discuss any concerns or questions you have. We provide our own 24 hour emergency service so you know who will be getting at the end of the line!