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At Home New Kitten Care
The addition of a young kitten into your life is a time of great happiness and excitement for the whole family. With this comes a large responsibility to provide the best care for your new kitten, a responsibility which may last 15-20 years! Cats and kittens make excellent pets. They are generally very affectionate and easy to care for and provide hours of entertainment as they play around the house. The simplest of items such as an empty box or screwed up piece of paper can provide them with hours of enjoyment!
New pet owners are often overloaded with advice from many different sources, much of which is often conflicting and confusing. To help you and your new kitten to get off on the right foot, we have discussed the main areas of healthcare for your kitten in the following pages.
All kittens require a course of kitten vaccinations to provide protection against Feline Upper Respiratory Disease (cat flu) and Feline enteritis.
Feline Upper Respiratory Disease is caused by a feline herpes virus +/- calicivirus. Signs of infection include sneezing, runny eyes, nasal discharge, coughing and mouth ulcers. Severely affected cats can suffer dehydration and pneumonia.
Feline Enteritis is also caused by a virus and results in severe, often fatal gastroenteritis. Kittens suffer vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration and often death.
Kittens that are unvaccinated are at risk of developing severe disease and possibly death.
Our vaccination protocol for kittens is as follows:
6-8 weeks – F3 (Feline Upper Respiratory Disease and Feline Enteritis)
12-14 weeks – F3 (as above)
16-18 weeks – F3 (as above)
An annual booster vaccination is needed to maintain immunity in adult cats. This visit always includes a full physical checkup by a Veterinarian.
The virus is transmitted through the saliva of infected cats so fighting is the most common mode of transmission. Therefore any cat that goes outside should be vaccinated against the virus. Signs of the disease commonly include those associated with immunosuppression such as cat bite abscesses, dental disease, mouth infections, weight loss and poor coats. Eventually some cats can die from overwhelming infections.
A new vaccine is now available to protect against this disease. The vaccinations can be given to the kitten with the standard F3 vaccinations. Cats over 6 months of age need a blood test first to see if they are infected. All cats must also be microchipped before having the vaccination.
Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal disease that can affect both dogs and cats. It is caused by a worm that lives in the heart and the major blood vessels in the lung leading to serious heart and lung disease.
Heartworm is transmitted from one animal to another via mosquito. The mosquito bites an infected dog and takes some of it’s blood which is then transmitted to the next dog that it bites, passing on the immature form of the parasite. The immature form of the parasite eventually migrates from the skin and develops into an adult heartworm which is found in the heart and lungs of the infected animal.
The mosquito mode of transmission means that all dogs and cats are at risk, even if they don’t mix with other animals. Heartworm disease is more common in the dog. Disease does occur in the cat but the incidence is far lower.
The GOOD NEWS is that the disease is completely and easily preventable. Puppies and kittens are started on prevention from 8-12 weeks of age and MUST be kept on prevention for life. There are many choices of prevention available right here from the Hospital. Some examples are listed below.
Prevention for kittens and cats
Advocate is a liquid that is applied to the skin at the back of the neck every month. It also provides protection against fleas and both roundworm and hookworm in cats. Its ease of use makes it very popular amongst cat owners who have trouble orally worming their cats!
The three types of intestinal worms that infect kittens and adult cats are roundworm, hookworm and tapeworm.
Roundworm infection is very common and kittens are infected from a very young age from their mother. Infection may cause vomiting, diarrhoea, bloated abdomen and ill thrift.
For this reason, all kittens need to be wormed every 2 weeks until 12 weeks of age, then every 3 months for life. An allwormer such as Popantel, Milbemax, Drontal or Felix plus paste can be used. Advocate is a topical product that treats both roundworm and hookworm as well as heartworm and fleas. The topical mode of application makes it easy to use for all kittens and cats.
Can these worms be passed to humans?
Ingestion of roundworm eggs by humans, particularly children, may result in migration of a worm larvae through the body, which may cause damage and possible blindness. Due to this potential hazard, as well as infection of the dog or cat, regular worming of all dogs, puppies, cats and kittens with an allwormer is essential. In addition, children should be taught to always wash their hands prior to eating.
Fleas continue to be a very common problem in all dogs and cats. Flea bites can be a serious problem for both the animal and human members of the household. Many pets become allergic to the flea bite, leading to flea allergy dermatitis which can have long term, serious consequences for the pet. Signs of the disease include dermatitis, self trauma, hair loss, excessive licking and chewing and depression in severe cases.
As part of the flea’s life cycle, they must bite a pet and ingest some of its blood so that they can lay their eggs. When the flea bites, it injects some of its saliva which is what the animal becomes allergic to. Pets that have flea allergy dermatitis only need to be bitten by one flea to start the whole cycle of dermatitis off again.
The adult flea only makes up 5 % of the total flea population. The rest of the population is made up of eggs, pupae and larvae in the animal’s environment, which are not visible to the naked eye. Therefore if we see only a small number of adult fleas, we know there is likely to be a large infestation already present in the home. Fleas require a warm environment to complete their life cycle which explains why they are more of a problem in the warmer months. However heating our homes during winter ensures year round infestation of our pets and our homes. For this reason, we strongly advise using effective flea control all year round. It is much easier to prevent fleas than get rid of them once you have an infestation.
So what can I do to control fleas on my pet and in my home?
There are several very effective easy to use products available to eliminate fleas on your pet. Most of these products are safe to be started at 8 weeks of age.
Advantage and Advocate are applied to the skin between the shoulder blades once a month and is available for both dogs and cats. Nexgard and Bravecto are oral flea control products that are also available for flea control.
Advocate is a liquid that is applied to the skin between the shoulder blades every month. It also protects against heartworm as well as sarcoptic mange and ear mites in dogs, and intestinal worms in cats
Grooming and Bathing
In general, kittens and cats are good at looking after themselves, regularly grooming their own coats. Long haired cats require regular grooming to prevent knots and matts developing. They are also prone to developing hair balls from ingested hair. It is a good idea to get them used to grooming when they are kittens. Give them rewards and attention to make the grooming a positive experience. Be careful to buy a brush that is gentle on your cat’s skin.
Children and Kittens
Having a cat within the family has been shown to generally have a positive effect on children, improving their self-esteem and sense of responsibility whilst giving them both a playmate and a confidante. It is important however, that all children are taught to treat a new kitten with kindness and respect. A kitten is not a toy and children should never be allowed to treat them as such.
Children need to learn how to handle kittens properly.
- Teach them how to stroke the kitten gently. Toddlers generally ‘pat’, which can hurt the kitten
- Teach them to stroke the top of the head and along the back.
- Although tummies are irresistible when a kitten is rolling and playing, most are quite sensitive about this area and may strike out or bite.
- Don’t let children play in the litter tray… this can have serious consequences for your child’s health
- Your kitten should always be left alone when sleeping, using the litter tray and eating
- Never allow your child to pull a kittens tail
- Hands should be washed after handling the kitten and the litter tray.
- Consider trimming the kitten’s nails to help avoid potential scratches and eye injuries from overzealous kittens