Caring for your kitten - vaccinations, worms, fleas, desexing, feeding
Congratulations on the arrival of your new family member. The following information is provided to help you with all the necessary health care your new kitten will require, including check-ups, vaccination, worming, flea control, heartworm prevention, nutrition, dental care, desexing, microchipping, bathing, socialisation and training, toileting, home environment, native fauna and pet insurance.
Regular health check ups are the cornerstone of a preventative health program for your cat in the years ahead. We aim to see most patients at least twice a year. Regular check-ups allow us to catch potential problems early and inform you of the newest and best options in pet medicine pertinent to your individual situation. In the latter years of life these increase in frequency as age related problems become more likely. Every year that passes is 5 or 7 years for your four legged friend, let’s make each one healthy!!
Vaccinations are very important and protect your kitten against infectious and potentially fatal diseases including: Feline enteritis, Cat ‘Flu' and FIV. Find out more about these diseases. The vaccines given will depend on the lifestyle of your kitten. Kittens are vaccinated at certain weeks of age, to give them full immunity and then once every 12 months to maintain this immunity throughout life. Find out more about our vaccination procedure.
We will tailor make a parasite control program for your pet, depending on his/her lifestyle. We recommend a range of products, and will select the most appropriate treatment to suit your pet. The following paragraphs provide general guidelines on parasite control.
Kittens are commonly born with worms which have been transferred from their mothers. It is important to clean up droppings regularly and maintain general hygiene. They should also receive regular doses of intestinal worming treatment, especially while they are young.
Kittens should be wormed:
- every 2 weeks until 12 weeks of age, then
- every month until 6 months of age, then
- every 3 months for life.
Worming preparations are calculated on bodyweight so feel free to use our scales to keep track of your kitten's weight. We can recommend a number of treatment products. Learn more about worms here.
Somehow, fleas always seem to find their bothersome way onto our cats' coats and are a major source of skin problems. They come from any environment where dogs and cats have previously been. Flea eggs are deposited and hatch over a period of time and jump onto the next passing ‘meal ticket' (dog, cat, or even us). Fortunately, there are now some excellent flea control products available which are safe and effective and easy to use. They come in a variety of forms, spot ons, such as "Advantage" and "Advocate" that provide a month's protection against fleas and are water resistant. Read more about fleas here.
Many areas of Melbourne have significant heartworm problems in dogs and unfortunately we are now seeing local cases of this dangerous parasite, which is spread by mosquitoes. This is a very rare problem in cats in our area. For those who are concerned, prevention is by far the best approach to this problem and thankfully relatively simple using "Advocate" spot-on monthly. Click here for more information about heartworm disease.
Kittens in their growth phase require a special diet which differs from that of adult cats. It is particularly important for their growing bones. Your kitten will need growth style diets for 9-10 months. Ask us what is right for your kitten. Kittens should have smaller meals more often, as a guide:
- 6-12 weeks old -- 3-4 feeds daily
- 3-6 months old -- 2-3 feeds daily
- 6 months and adult -- 2 feeds daily
As a starting point for your kitten's diet we recommend using a good quality prepared pet food that is complete and balanced for this stage of life and made out of high quality ingredients, such as "Advance". This can be supplemented with small amounts of fresh food and table scraps (no cooked or small bones, please) and a ready supply of fresh water. Read more about feeding your cat here.
Teeth cleaning and gum massage are very important and probably best achieved by supplying the appropriate things to chew on. Raw chicken wings and necks, raw rabbit bones and beef strips are excellent. Whiskas Dentabits are also useful. Good habits start early in your kitten's life. For cats with problem teeth there is even a specific dental diet "Hills t/d" to encourage oral health. Learn more about dental care here.
If you are not planning to breed from your pet, desexing is recommended as it makes for a more amenable pet. It reduces the likelihood of many unwanted behaviours, some serious diseases and obviously unwanted kittens. The desexing procedure is a day surgery involving a general anaesthetic and surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries or testicles, as appropriate. We recommend that this is done at 5-6 months of age. Read more about desexing here.
Your kitten should be registered with the local council by the time they are 3 months. Some councils offer discounted registration for desexed animals. A tag is supplied for their collar but we suggest more permanent identification is desirable. The best is a microchip which is implanted under the skin of your kitten by injection and includes lifetime registration with a central registry. In addition pet tags with your phone number on them are a good idea for quick return of wandering kitties.
Kittens generally do not require much bathing, however if this becomes desirable make sure you use a mild cat shampoo such as Episoothe or Allergroom. Cat skins are very different to ours. Unless completely necessary do not bathe more than once a week. Click here for tips on bathing your cat.
Kittenhood is a critical time for socialisation particularly between 10 to 20 weeks. While you need to be aware of potential health issues (vaccinations etc) and do this in a controlled way to minimise risk, your kitten needs to experience lots of new situations, especially people and other animals during this time.
Training such as toileting, learning to sit and come can start as soon as you adopt your kitten. They are incredibly responsive and wilful as youngsters. Brief fun lessons (5-10 minutes) tend to be more rewarding and keep a young kitten's attention. Doing this at least twice a day is a good habit to form, for you and your kitten for the rest of their life.
Make sure you provide plenty of praise. Positive reinforcement for good behaviour achieves much better results than old fashioned punishment.
At least one litter tray should be provided for your kitten and changed daily. The tray should be somewhere private and quiet. As cats are fastidiously clean your cat may refuse to use the tray if it is dirty. If you have more than one cat, providing at least one tray each is advisable. Any accidents should be cleaned up with an enzymatic cleaner such as "Bio-Zet" and then traces of smell eliminated using "Bac-to-Nature" spray. Click here to learn more about cat toileting.
At home, your kitten needs somewhere comfortable to sleep, and importantly, day or night access to an area which is protected from hot and cold weather. Providing them with access to drinking water 24 hours a day is also essential. To keep your kitten's bright little mind active, supply a good range of toys such as cat Kongs, cat treats, balls, scratching poles, etc. You can rotate these over a period of a week so they they enjoy the novalty of a ‘fresh' toy. Here are some tips and tricks to entertain your kitten at home.
If you are out and about, have your kitten correctly fitted with a cat harness (cruiser) or use a cat box particularly in the car.
Domestic cats can be predators of native birds, reptiles and mammals as well as vermin. Minimise risk by keeping your cat permanently inside or at least at nights, build a cat enclosure or "floppy fenced" area for outside time, and/or attach bells on opposing sides of the collar.
There are a number of good pet health insurance policies available. It is certainly a good idea to insure your kitten as we can't predict what sort of mischief he/she may get up to in the future. Read more here.
Things to watch out for
If your kitten appears listless, lethargic, off their food, or if you have any concerns about your kitten's well being, please do not hesitate to call us.
Suggested Feline Reading
"Everycat": Dr.Eric Allan