CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR NEW KITTEN
Your kitten will bring a great deal of fun and happiness into your life. Cats and kittens are wonderful companions. They will give you love, affection and friendship but they need you to take responsibility for keeping them fit, healthy and happy.
Before your kitten comes home
Kitten proof your home:
- Prevent falls – securely screen all windows and keep kittens off balconies and decks.
- Store poisons safely, and keep drugs safe – including aspirin and paracetamol.
- Remove poisonous house plants, such as amaryllis, English ivy, holly, philodendron, azalea, rhododendron, daffodil, daphne, foxglove, bleeding heart, potato plants, iris ivy, oleander, rubber plant, tobacco, tulip, clematis, morning glory and weeping fig. Lilies cause renal failure and are very common in flower arrangements.
- Store plastic bags where kittens can’t get inside them and suffocate.
- Pack away sewing supplies (needles, pins, buttons) and any loose screws, nails, staples, etc. Cats are attracted to string and thread and may swallow needle as well as cotton.
- Train yourself to check the kitten is not in the fridge, oven, washer, clothes dryer or cupboard before you close the door. Keep the toilet lid down.
- Beware of Christmas tree ornaments, tinsel, glass baubles, lights etc, as cats find these things very attractive and they can be very dangerous.
- Beware of electric cords; your cat may chew them and could be electrocuted. Hot stoves – beware: cats can jump and hot plates may still be hot even after turned off.
Your kitten should have had its first vaccination, been wormed and microchipped before you take him or her home. You can safely adopt a kitten from 8 weeks of age. At 6-8 weeks of age, kittens should have been weaned and should be eating three meals a day.
First 48 hours
You should take your kitten to the vet for a health check within the first 48 hours. At this time make sure any questions you have are answered including feeding, toileting, behaviour, worming, vaccination, desexing. This check is important – if your kitten has a contagious disease or has been born with a problem that will need a lot of care and money, you want to know early.
- Dog food is not suitable for cats. Cats have a high requirement for protein and specific needs for taurine, niacin, Vitamin A, arachidonic acid and arginine.
- Meat and offal may be fed – but they are not enough on their own – and should not make up more than ¼ of the diet. Too much meat or offal (liver, kidney, heart) will cause bone problems. Meat that has not been through an abattoir may have worms, cysts (particular risk are hydatids in the liver of any animal particularly pig), or disease, and should therefore be thoroughly cooked. Meat from a butcher may safely be fed raw.
- Vegetables – should be less than ¼ of diet and are not necessary for cats.
- Raw fish contains an enzyme, thiaminase, which destroys vitamin B, so fish is best cooked.
- Raw egg white contains an enzyme which destroys biotin, so egg whites should be cooked. Egg yolks may be cooked or raw.
- Tinned cat food is nutritionally the best food for your cat but, as it is soft, it is best to also give something for the teeth.
- Premium dry cat food is nutritionally good, but may cause urinary tract problems, particularly in male cats. Better brands are Iams, Eukanuba and Hills.
- Do not feed cooked bones – raw bones are fine; chicken necks and wings are best.
- It is a good idea to add a teaspoon of oil (olive, fish, canola, sunflower, safflower etc) twice a week to food to help cats cope with fur balls.
- Keep clean fresh water available at all times.
- Many cats get nasty diarrhoea with cow’s milk so only use lactose free milk and remember that water is more important than milk after weaning.
- Do not feed chocolate, onions, tomatoes, cow’s milk, chilli or curry sauces.
If your cat has fleas, do something about it. If you find black specks in your cat’s coat this is flea dirt; white specks may be flea eggs.
Suitable treatments are:
- An injection every six months
- Spray: Frontline is extremely effective. Spray on every month.
- A spot on back of neck – either Topspot or Advantage are effective, applied monthly.
- Flea powders are not very effective.
- Bathing and rinsing are not effective, and results do not last for more than a few days.
If you find fleas it is a good idea to treat the house. Vacuum first then spray with an insecticide underneath the furniture, then bomb the house. It is desirable to treat the yard as well with Coopex diluted in a watering can.
- Ticks– Ixodes holocyclus, the paralysis tick, is a common problem in our area after rain, from October to April, but can be all year. Often the first sign in a cat is being unable to stand. Earlier warning signs are: not eating, a change in the voice, or weakness in the back legs. Treatment involves injections of tick anti-serum, and is very successful. Get to the vet as soon as possible.
- Snakes – Brown, Red-Bellied Black Snakes, Tiger Snakes and Death Adders live in our area. They are all venomous and very dangerous. Avoid snakes if possible; don’t try to kill the snake. It is not necessary to identify the snake. Treatment is expensive but usually successful. Get to the vet as soon as possible.
- Spiders – Spider bites cause pain and local swelling but fatalities are very rare. Funnel web spiders do not poison cats or dogs (only people).
- Bees, wasps and ants – May cause painful strings and swelling. Any swelling around the throat is serious and may affect breathing, and therefore needs a prompt visit to the vet.
Cats should be vaccinated once a year against 3 diseases – feline enteritis (Panleucopaenia), feline calicivirus and rhinotracheitis (cat flu). Cats that go outside or are used for breeding or showing should have additional feline leukaemia and feline aids vaccinations. The risk of leukaemia and aids is much higher when in contact with other cats. The programme of vaccinations for kittens is:
- 6-8 Weeks – F4 Vaccine for cat flu and enteritis
- 12-14 weeks F6 (F3 or F4 if the cat doesn’t go outside)
- 16-18 weeks F6
- Yearly F4
Chlamydia vaccine is advised for young and breeding cats, and cats that are boarding. Chlamydia causes conjunctivitis and respiratory infections. A yearly check up is very important to detect problems early so that they can be treated. Annual vaccinations are necessary to boost your pet’s immunity to these life-threatening diseases.
Kittens should be wormed at 4 weeks, 8 weeks and 12 weeks of age, then every three months till 1 year of age. Adult cats should be wormed every 6 months. Suitable products are Drontal (for cats). Felex paste or Delquantel paste treats roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms. Cats may get lungworm or heartworm but this is rare and special treatment is required. A monthly preventative tablet is available if your cat is at risk.
Cats need to chew to keep teeth and gums healthy. Suggested foods are:
- Cat dry biscuits
- Long strips of meat (raw)
- Raw bones (chicken wings or necks are good)
- Rawhide chews
- Cooked bones should be large (eg: T-bones) and should only be left with the cat for 5 minutes.
Cats reach puberty very early – at about 4 to 5 months of age. They can be desexed as soon as they are over 1Kg body weight. Desexing is usually done at 4 to 5 months of age before they have to be registered (6 months). This is day surgery. They come in to hospital in the morning and go home the same day. They recover very quickly. It is responsible ownership to have your cat desexed. Female cats come into call every 2 to 3 weeks if not desexed and will try to escape to breed. Female un-desexed cats suffer from a hightened rate of cystic ovaries. Male un-desexed cats will often spray; they have strong smelling urine and get into fights. Many diseases are spread this way.
Cats are usually very careful about what they eat. However, if poison gets onto their fur they will lick it off, so be careful and make sure all household and garden chemicals are stored safely. Be warned that snail-bait and rat-bait may be attractive to cats. Many insecticides that are suitable for dogs can be toxic to cats – so read the label carefully before use. Cats can pick up poison by walking through it then cleaning their feet. DO NOT THINK A CAT IS A SMALL DOG.
Panadol and aspirin are very toxic to cats. Do not give human medicines to cats. CATS ARE NOT LITTLE PEOPLE.
Cats come in season early, at about four months of age. At this time the behaviour of female cats change. They may yowl, roll and writhe on the floor and try to get out. They will come on season (heat) about every three weeks until they become pregnant or are desexed. Male cats will urinate to identify their territory, caterwaul, become aggressive to other cats and travel long distances if they get out. Responsible pet ownership must include practising birth control, and the best and safest way for this is to have your cat desexed.
If you plan to breed from your cat then you need to be responsible about it. Make sure you are aware of the costs involved in time, money and emotional stress. Pregnancy and birth may be natural, but this does not mean they are easy or trouble free. Your pet should be healthy, ideally an adult or at least well grown, and vaccinated, wormed and flea free. There are absolutely no advantages to your cat in becoming a mother – there are risks. She should have a good temperament and also good genes, health and conformation. Ideally, choose a mate with desirable characteristics. Both animals involved should have been declared clear of Feline Aids, Feline Leukaemia and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) as a result of blood tests before a cat is mated.
Stray / Lost Pets
Many thousands of cats go missing each year. Fifty thousand cats are euthanased every year in Australia (healthy, normal cats who have no known owner). It makes sense to make your cat identifiable. Either provide a collar and tag (with your phone number) or even safer (as it can’t be lost or removed) have your cat microchipped. A microchip is inserted under the skin by your vet with a needle. It is a safe and almost painless procedure (the cats don’t mind – only the owners).
It is a good idea to register your cat. You can choose to register it with the council (cost $100 for entire or $35.00 desexed, for lifetime registration) or with the Australian wide AAR (Cost $15.00 lifetime) which is available 24 hours 7 days (unlike council hours).
Cats and Public Health
There are some diseases that can be spread from cats to people. They are rarely a problem with healthy cats and healthy people.
- Toxoplasmosis– Pregnant women should not clean cat litter trays unless they wear gloves to avoid the possibility of toxoplasma (from a cat with diarrhoea) affecting their unborn child. However this is extremely rare and you are more at risk from under cooked meat.
- Ringworm – This is a fungal disease of the skin and can be transferred from any animal to another. It causes red inflamed sores and hair loss, but is easily treated.
- Worms– Do not eat your cat’s faeces and you won’t get worms. The big risk is when cats use children’s sandpits as a toilet.
- Cat scratches/bites – All wounds should be cleaned to prevent infection.
- Mites, lice & fleas – Mites and lice prefer animals to humans and are unlikely to be a problem. However fleas will bite people.
Abscesses – When there is any break in the skin there may be small, deep puncture wounds which can fester under the skin even after the surface skin has healed, and in cats they tend to turn into abscesses. A wound that seems minor can often become a serious problem over a few days, so all wounds need to be treated adequately.
Bloody Urine– Many cats are prone to lower urinary tract disease (cystitis). Bloody urine should not be ignored nor should straining to pass urine or inappropriate urination (eg: urinating in sink or bath). Male cats have a small penis that can become blocked, and this can be life threatening. Diet does have a role in this disease – please talk to the vet or nurse.
Furball– All cats can develop furballs (not just long haired cats). Hair is not digestible and accumulates in the stomach and causes irritation of the stomach lining which often leads to vomiting. The occasional ejection of a hairball by vomiting is a normal and natural way for a cat to deal with this problem. Although rare, it is possible for a hairball to obstruct the bowel, requiring surgical removal. To minimise the problem of furballs groom your cat regularly, particularly when it is moulting. Add fat (butter or margarine) or oil (any edible oil eg: olive, canola, sunflower) to your cat’s food. Cats can tolerate large quantities of fat (up to 50% of their diet). It is not advisable to force liquid oil (especially paraffin oil) into your cat’s mouth, as this will frequently cause gagging and aspiration of oil into the lungs. You can, however, give oil capsules (eg: fish oil, cod liver oil and evening primrose oil) or give furball preparations (eg: Fulax) at least once a week.