Choosing a Kitten
Although choosing a kitten may appear a much simpler task than choosing a dog there are some important considerations to take into account. Like dogs, the different breeds of cats have different personalities that will affect your interaction with them. Some are playful and more needy of attention, while others seem more aloof and independent. Your lifestyle, type of home you live in and amount of spare time you have may make certian breeds more suitable than others based on their personality and needs alone. It is also wise to remember that even kittens have very sharp claws and may not mix too well with young children in your home. The physical characteristics of a cat, especially their coat length, are also important. Long haired cats do require significant brushing and grooming. While short haired “moggies” tend to be lower maintenance and thrive in the outdoors. You should also keep in mind that certain breeds may have breed associated disease problems that could affect your kitten in the future. Always remember that owning a cat requires responsibility and care to ensure your kitten stays healthy, you remain sane and your furniture remains intact! A good place to start your search after these considerations and some research is the RSPCA.
Socialisation and Play
It is very important to play, handle and interact with your kitten from an early age. Research is beginning to show that the key socialisation period is from 2 to 7 weeks of age. In this period it is essential for kittens to interact positively with a range of people, other pets, visitors and environmental stimuli that they will encounter during their lives. Without these interactions kittens can grow up to be fearful or aggressive and may develop behavioural problems later in life. You should play with your new kitten regularly, handle it frequently and expose it to all kinds of objects, noises and people in a controlled and friendly way. It is a good idea to provide a carpet covered scratching post and litter trays to direct these behaviours towards the correct areas and away from your furniture and floors. Reward your kitten for scratching the post and using the litter tray with praise, interaction and food rewards. Even after the 7 week mark you should continue to expand your kitten’s experiences over its first year of life by gradually introducing it to new sights, sounds, smells and people. Kittens should be supervised whilst outside and ideally be kept inside until after their first vaccination. Time outside can increase after they are fully vaccinated, but should remain supervised until you are confident your kitten can look after itself. You should always keep your cat inside at night as this is when most fights and accidents occur. A well socialised kitten grows into an outgoing happy cat, which is best for the owners and for us when they visit the vet.
Intestinal worms slow the growth of young animals and in severe cases can even result in death. Kittens should be wormed at 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 weeks of age. It is easiest to use a worming syrup in younger animals and switch to worm tablets as they grow. A good quality all wormer should give protection against roundworms, hookworms and tape worms. After 12 weeks of age kittens should be wormed every 3 months for life. We stock the necessary tablets and syrup. We also have a new worming product, called Profender®, that is applied directly to the skin and avoids the stress of giving tablets to your cat.
We recommend that kittens are vaccinated at 8 and 12 weeks of age. We use an F3 vaccine (feline 3) that provides protection against 3 pathogens. These pathogens are Feline Parvo Virus (a disease affecting the immune system), Feline Herpes Virus (a component of ‘Cat Flu’) and Feline Calici Virus (another component of ‘Cat Flu’). There are other vaccinations that we can give your cat that largely depend on its intended lifestyle. The main ones being against 2 viral immune system diseases, Feline Leukemia and FIV (‘Feline AIDS’, a disease spread by cat fights). Please ask us for information on these at your appointment. At the time of each vaccination we also give your kitten a thorough physical examination and discuss with you its needs in early life.
Microchipping and Registration
All new cats need to be registered with the Local Council. As of May 2007 they need to be registered by the time they are 3 months of age, and they need to be microchipped before they can be registered. We recommend that kittens are microchipped at the 12 week vaccination when they are a little bigger and less stressed by the procedure. As well as now being a legal requirement in Wangaratta, having your pet microchipped gives it the best chance of getting home quickly if it is ever lost, anywhere in Australia!
In most cases your kitten will have been weaned onto solid foods and off its mother’s milk by the time they come to your home. We recommend that kittens are fed a mix of wet and dry Kitten Specific commercial food. The pet food companies have undertaken years of research to ensure that their foods contain every nutrient that cats need. As kittens are growing rapidly and expending a lot of energy it is essential that you use a Kitten food, as these are specially formulated to have a higher energy and protein content than adult foods. We recommend that kittens stay on Kitten food until they are fully grown (about 12 months old). It is important to switch to an adult food at this time to avoid any problems with obesity. While your kitten is young you should also introduce them to uncooked (very important) chicken wings so that they learn that these are real food. Feeding uncooked chicken wings a few times a week throughout life provides exercise for teeth and gums and helps to prevent dental disease. Giving Kitten milk occasionally up to 12 weeks of age is acceptable, but refrain from ever giving cow’s milk as many cats are lactose intolerant.
Flea prevention should begin at 12 weeks of age and continue once a month for life. The most effective products are Advantage® and Frontline® as they continue killing fleas for a month from the day of application. They also kill fleas, flea larvae and flea eggs in the kitten’s environment. It is especially important to treat cats in your household because they are usually the most indepependent pet and in their adventures are exposed to more animals and their territories where they can catch the fleas and bring them home. You should also wash the kitten’s bedding every few weeks to leave it clean and free of flea eggs and larvae.
We recommend that all cats that are not going to be breeding animals are desexed at around 6 months of age. Desexing reduces the number of unwanted kittens that are either dumped or surrendered to the RSPCA. In cats it also prevents sexual behaviours that can be very noisy and distracting at night for the owners and the neighbours! Thirdly there are medical benefits. Desexing a female cat entirely removes the potential for ovarian cancer and uterine infections. Desexing a male cat removes the potential for testicular cancer and can reduce aggression therefore avoiding future vet bills associated with cat fights. Desexing operations are performed routinely on all weekdays and in the vast majority of cases animals are able to go home the evening of their surgery. Recovery is very quick and complications are few.