Kitten Care

By Dr. Aimee Castor

City Cat Mobile Vet Service

Citycatmobilevet.com


FeLV/FIV 


It is recommended that all kittens are tested for Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).  FeLV and FIV infections are a major cause of death in cats.  Surveys show that up to 15% of sick cats are infected with one or both of the viruses.  Even cats that appear to be healthy, may harbor infection and spread the viruses to other cats.  In some cats, signs of disease may not become obvious until weeks or even years after they are first infected with FeLV or FIV.  There is no cure for either of these diseases.  Cats contract FeLV and FIV from other cats: FELV via direct contact and FIV via bites.  Kittens born from infected mothers may be infected as well.  

Vaccines


Starting at 6 to 8 weeks of age, kittens need to be vaccinated at least twice, every 3 to 4 weeks with FVCRP.  A rabies vaccine is also needed and may be given as early as 12 weeks of age, however, many veterinarians elect to give rabies vaccines later at 16 weeks or when the kitten is spayed or neutered.  We consider FVCRP and rabies vaccines important for all cats.  The Leukemia vaccine is recommended for outside cats.  After the initial kitten vaccines, cats should be vaccinated on a yearly basis.  We use only non-adjuvated vaccines which do not cause fibrosarcoma in cats.


Parasites


Intestinal parasites are common in kittens.  Just because you don’t see parasites in the stool, does not mean your kitten does not have them.  Wormer is typically given 2 or 3 times, 10 to 14 days apart, and sending a stool sample to the lab 2 weeks after the last dose to check for parasites is recommended.  The lab will look at the stool sample under a microscope for the microscopic parasite eggs.  There is not one wormer that eliminates all parasites.  Many parasites are contagious to humans so wash your hands well before eating.


Ear mites


If your kitten has dark brown discharge in his or her ears it may be due to ear mites.  Ear mites are microscopic, spread from cat to cat, and are extremely itchy.  These mites can be easily treated with medication.


Spaying and Neutering


It is recommended that all kittens are spayed or neutered.  Most veterinarians recommend that this surgical procedure is done at 6 months.


Reasons to spay or neuter your kitten:

  • There are millions of perfectly adoptable cats and kittens that are euthanized every year by the Humane Society and other groups due to pet overpopulation problems in the U.S.
  • In male cats it prevents spraying in the house, fights with other cats, and wandering.
  • In female cats it also prevents spraying, wandering, dystocias, pyometras, and breast cancer.  The old wives' tale that it is best for cats to have a litter of kittens before spaying them is not true.

Flea Prevention


Fleas are a major problem in Washington State and kittens can die from anemia caused by fleas.  The best flea preventative products are Advantage, Frontline, and Revolution.  All 3 of these are spot on flea control and are very effective.  The only time that these products have failed to work is when they have not been applied correctly, or when the environment is infested with fleas and adequate environmental control has not been instituted.  These products must be applied at least every 4 weeks.  Less frequent applications may enable fleas to re-infest your cat so make sure to keep on top of the flea control.  Mark it on your calendar so that you do not forget.  Shampoo decreases the effectiveness of spot on flea control so if you feel the need to bathe your cat, do it 24 hours before applying the flea control and avoid further baths until you apply the next dose.  


Dental Care


Brushing your kittens teeth at least twice a week can prevent dental disease.  Some kittens resist brushing but most eventually accept it, especially if you start when your kitten is young.  


Go to http://partnersah.vet.cornell.edu/pet/fhc/brushing_teeth for more information.


Keeping Track of Your Cat


Pet tags or microchips are encouraged.  


Cat Food 


Cats are true carnivores. They consume animal flesh to meet their nutritional needs because they are unable to synthesize the necessary amino acids and fatty acids from other food sources. Most dry foods bear little resemblance to the diet of a carnivore because they are too high in carbohydrates, and not high enough in protein.


Cats and kittens should be fed a diet that is at least 45% protein and less than 10% carbohydrates.  Almost all dry foods are low in protein and high in carbohydrates.  At present, there is only one dry diet that has adequately low carbohydrates and high protein and that is Evo for Cats and Kittens. Canned foods are often better for weight loss due to the fact that almost all of them have higher protein to carbohydrate ratios. 


I recommend that kittens are fed free choice, meaning that dry food is left out at all times.  Small spoons of canned food can be fed two to four times a day to ensure that your kitten is accustomed to eating canned food as well.  


Scratching


Is your kitten destroying the furniture?  There are a couple ways to prevent this:  The easiest way is to purchase a scratching post.  The taller the scratching post, the better.  Encourage your kitten to use the post by playing with him or her on the post.  Rubbing cat nip into the scratching post may help attract the kitten to it as well.  Another way to prevent kittens from ruining furniture is to use Soft Paws which are rubber tips that that you apply to the end of each nail.  They can be purchased at pet stores, some vet clinics, or online.  Clipping nails will also help.  When clipping your cat’s nails you can use clippers specially designed for cats or even human nail clippers.  Make sure you don’t clip into the quick (the pink area) because it can be painful.  http://partnersah.vet.cornell.edu/pet/fhc/trimming_claws 



Litter Boxes


Litter boxes should be at least 2 1/2 times the length of your cat.  Commercial boxes are too small.  Large uncovered plastic storage containers with a small door cut out to allow for easy access is the best.  It is recommended that for every cat you have, you provide 1 litter box, plus one additional litter box.  So if you have 2 cats, you need 3 litter boxes, and for 3 cats, you need 4 litter boxes and so on.  This is especially important if there is inappropriate urination problems in your household.  Litter boxes should be placed at different locations throughout the house.  Clean the litter box at least once daily and wash it with soap and water at least once a week.  If the box contains an odor that does not wash out, replace the box.  Most cats prefer fine grained litter but you may want to let your cat choose by providing an assortment of litters and ultimately selecting the one he or she likes best. 


Introducing a New Kitten to Other Cats


An older male or female cat will usually accept a new kitten.  Introduce them slowly.  Do not leave them alone together until you are sure they will get along.  Never force your adult cat to like the new kitten, let him or her do it on his own, slowly.   

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