Congratulations on your new kitten! We have put together a few useful tips and information to help you in the first few months with your new family member. Please do not hesitate to call or drop into the clinic if you have any questions or issues that you would like to discuss - we are always happy to help to try and stop small problems becoming big ones.
Kittens should be vaccinated with an 'F3' vaccine against feline herpes virus and calicivirus (cat flu viruses) and feline panleukopaenia (feline parvovirus). Vaccinations are given at 6-8 weeks, 12-14 weeks and 16-18 weeks. Even indoor cats should receive this core vaccine as feline panleukopaenia may be transported on feet. For cats to be admitted to a cattery they will need to be vaccinated. Boosters are given yearly.
In addition to the F3 vaccine, we recommend cats that will be roaming outdoors be vaccinated against FIV, the feline AIDS virus. FIV is spread through cat bites and the prevalence in Victoria is estimated at around 1 in 5 cats. Male cats that are more likely to get into fights are particularly at risk.
Cats can suffer from roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms. Kittens will be born with roundworms as they are infected from the mother while she is pregnant. The worms also infect the kitten through the mother's milk. Large numbers of worms can be dangerous for kittens and cause stunted growth and diarrhoea. Importantly, roundworms can cause serious disease in humans, particularly children. The larvae can migrate through the body and can cause ocular larval migrans (larvae in the eye) or visceral larval migrans (larvae in the liver or other organs). Kittens should be wormed every 2 weeks up until 12 weeks of age, then monthly until 6 months of age. After 6 months of age your cat should be wormed every 3 months if going outdoors and every 6 months if indoors (as some worm eggs will be carried in on your feet). We recommend using a good quality all-wormer such as Drontal or Milbemax. For cats that are difficult to pill Advocate and Revolution are monthly spot-on products that treat most worms and fleas and Profender, which is a spot-on all-wormer.
We recommend spot-on treatments such as Frontline, Revolution or Advocate to control fleas. We have not found the spot-on preparations sold in supermarkets or fleas collars to be effective. Supermarket spot-on preparations for dogs are extremely toxic to cats and often fatal. All cats that go outdoors should be treated for fleas. Cats are very good at carrying fleas without showing obvious signs (because they groom themselves fleas or flea dirt are often not found) and large numbers can build up in your carpets, bedding etc leading to a sudden explosion in flea numbers.
Kittens form very strong taste preferences at a young age and if not exposed to a food during the first few months of life will often refuse to eat it at a later date. We recommend a premium quality balanced kitten food such as Advance, Hills or Iams be fed. Raw beef strips, chicken necks or chicken wings should be offered at least weekly to maintain dental health. In general we recommend dry food, however some conditions will require a wet food to be fed, therefore it is a good idea to expose kittens to wet food at a young age to prevent them rejecting it at a later date.
Cats should have access to clean, fresh water at all times, particularly if fed a dry food. Some cats prefer not to drink out of metallic or plastic bowls and prefer ceramic bowls. Others may prefer running water - pet fountains are available that re-circulate and filter water for these cats.
All cats that are not being kept for breeding should be desexed at 5-6 months of age. In males desexing reduces roaming, fighting and urine spraying. In females desexing prevents unwanted litters and greatly reduces the risk of breast cancer. Female cats are seasonally polyoestrous, meaning that they continue coming into season until they are mated.
We recommend all cats are microchipped as a permanent form of identification. Your cat will need to be microchipped in order to be registered with the council. Microchipping involves the implantation of a rice-grain sized chip with a unique number on it that relates to your details on a database. It is important to change your details on the database if you move house! We can implant microchips at desexing while your pet is under anaesthetic or in the consult room.
Poisonous or dangerous items around the house
- Lilies are extremely toxic to cats. Even tiny amounts of any part of the plant can cause kidney failure. Cats have been poisoned by accidentally licking the pollen off their fur after brushing against the flowers.
- Paracetomol (Panadol) and ibuprofen (Neurofen) are very toxic to cats and even small doses can result in death. Many other human medications are also toxic to cats.
- Rat poison causes the blood to stop clotting and can be fatal. Cats may be poisoned by eating rats that have eaten the poison.
- Snail and slug baits are also toxic (even those marketed as safe for pets) although generally cats are more sensible than dogs and will not eat it.
It is important to encourage proper play behavior in your kitten from the start. It is very easy to let a small kitten play roughly with your hand and bite and kick - this will not be good behavior when he or she is fully grown!
Litter training in kittens is generally very easy. As a general rule there should be one tray per cat plus one extra. Avoid placing trays in high-traffic areas or near things that may make sudden loud noises eg washing machines as cats that are given a fright while using their tray may refuse to use it again.