Basics of kitten care
A new kitten is usually a welcome addition to a household. With their playful antics and easy upkeep, they are a joy to be around. To help you keep your kitten healthy, we have highlighted some important basic care notes for your information.
Keeping your cat indoors is the single best thing you can do to keep your pet healthy. If a kitten never goes outside, it doesn’t even know what it’s missing. Although obesity is more common in indoor cats, regular use of cat toys and attention to proper nutrition will provide adequate exercise and keep them in shape. The lifespan of an indoor cat is 14-16 years versus 3-5 years for an outdoor cat. Outdoor cats fall prey to dangers including stray cats and dogs, cars and disease. Roaming causes many cats to be lost and never found. If you must let your cat outside, allow it to be outside only under supervision.
Kittens require a much higher level of protein than adult cats. They also have increased requirements for many vitamins and minerals. Providing your kitten with a high-quality premium kitten food will insure that its fast growing needs are met. Foods such as Science Diet Growth and Iams kitten food are excellent choices, which most kittens really like.
Housebreaking kittens is usually unnecessary because most kittens readily take to their litter box. However, it is very important to make the litter box a safe and quiet place for your kitten, as many cats will develop behavior problems later in life if they do not feel secure when using the litterbox. Keep the litter box in a quiet and out-of-the-way location. It is recommended to not put the box near the laundry room, as the sounds of the washer and dryer can be unsettling. Keep the box very clean, scooping out eliminations daily, and use one brand of litter. Many cats prefer a sand-like litter over the more common clay gravel types. You should have at least one litter box per cat plus one, and they should be distributed on each level of the home.
It is natural and normal for kittens to scratch. A good scratching post should have a sturdy post of sufficient height to allow the cat to really stretch out. It should be covered with a material unlike carpet or the furniture already in the home. Sisal rope and heavy canvas will allow the cat to drag its claws. Once the post is well shredded, leave it alone, the cat has it just the way he wants it. If a scratching post or other suitable item is not made available, the kitten will use carpeting, furniture, drapes and anything else around. Most kittens readily use a scratching post if one is provided. Be sure to show the kitten the post whenever it scratches something inappropriate. Their claws will become very sharp in a short time, so be sure to keep them clipped.
Kittens should be provided with appropriate cat toys. Toys should be of the light, moveable variety such as Feline Flyer (a flexible stick with a weighted feather attached), fishing pole type cat toys, foam balls, furry mice, and other enticing objects. In addition, creating an inviting environment with paper bags to hide in, ping pong balls in the tub to roll around, Cat Dancer toy to jump at, and feeder toys for cats to enjoy will allow them the opportunity to practice their skills when you are not around. Catnip is well received by about half of all cats. Be sure toys are not small enough to be ingested and all toys with strings should only be used when the owner is interacting with the cat. Be sure to keep all rubber bands, ribbons, shoelaces, dental floss, thread and other linear objects away from them. Kittens should never be allowed to scratch or bite on human hands or feet.
Most kittens and cats will groom themselves and do not require frequent bathing by their owner. If a cat needs a bath, be sure to use a gentle pet shampoo such as Allergroom. If a cat has long hair or grooms excessively, hairballs may be a problem. Brushing them daily and giving a palatable laxative such as Laxatone a few times a week will help alleviate hairballs. Trim all claws every 3-4 weeks with a cat nail clipper. Cat nails are white, clip only the tips, avoiding the pink “quick” where the nail’s blood supply and nerve are located.
Your kitten needs to complete a series of vaccinations to be protected against these common infectious diseases: distemper (panleukopenia), calicivirus, and rhinotracheitis. It is important to vaccinate your cat against these viruses because you can bring them home on your clothes and shoes. Rabies vaccination is given at 12 weeks of age, 1 year of age and then annually with a Purevax vaccine.
Feline leukemia virus is a fatal disease that cats acquire from other infected cats. There is no treatment for this devastating disease. It is quite prevalent in the stray population. We recommend routine blood testing of all cats for this virus and all cats that go outdoors or come in contact with other cats should also be vaccinated against this deadly killer.
All kittens should be spayed or neutered at 6 months of age. Unspayed females run a high risk of malignant breast cancer and pyometra (a serious infection of the uterus). Unneutered males may spray urine in the house and are much more likely to get out of the house in search of other cats.
If you have any further questions on kitten care, please call our office.