Let Petcetera Take Care of Your New Kitten
General Basics — This portion from Hills Science Diet
Name & Identification
- Choose a short name because it is easier for your kitten to recognize.
- Your kitten’s identification tag should have your name and phone number. Microchipping, a procedure that injects a tiny computer chip with a unique number code just underneath your pet’s skin, is another way to identify you as your kitten’s owner. Microchipping is safe and will last your pet’s lifetime.
Supplies on Hand
- Collar: This should be snug around your kitten’s neck but still allow 1-2 fingers to fit in-between. Adjust it as your kitten grows.
- Food & water dishes: Ceramic and stainless steel are the best materials for dishes.
- Brush and shampoo: Ask the vet what shampoo should be used for your specific kitten.
- Bedding: Place towels and/or blankets in a corner you want your kitten to sleep in.
- Carrier: This should not be much larger than the size your cat will grow into, and placing a towel or blanket inside will make transporting them less stressful.
- Toys: These should be strong and large enough so your kitten cannot chew or swallow them.
- Litter Box: Place this away from your kitten’s food and traffic areas.
- Eyes: Should be bright and clear. Gently wipe any discharge away using cotton soaked in warm water.
- Ears: Should be clean and odorless.
- Nose: Should be clean and without discharge.
- Mouth: Gums should be pink, teeth clean and without tartar, breath should not smell bad, lips free of sores or growths.
- Coat: Should be shiny and clean.
- Weight: Should be able to feel ribs with your fingers when putting your hands down, thumbs on the spine.
- Bathroom habits: If there are any changes in the amount or quality, contact your veterinarian immediately!
It is important to feed your cat the correct food throughout his life in order to maintain good health, vitality and longevity. The right food can reduce the chances of becoming obese, getting diabetes or having organ damage. A balance of nutrients is important. A deficiency or an excess of nutrients can cause health problems.
Kittens’ needs and adult cats’ needs are different, and so kittens should be fed kitten food and cats fed adult cat food. Cats that are 7 years and older should go on a senior diet. Do not feed dog food to your cat; their needs are also different!
If you wish to change your cat’s food, the transition must be done gradually.
Consult the animal clinic about what food would be recommended for your pet.
Kittens “play” because it gives them exercise, develops interaction skills with other animals and allows them to learn how to hunt and attack. Playtime also gives you and your pet time to bond.
Safe toys include socks tied in knots, large balls, toy fishing poles or catnip sewn in a cloth bag. STRING AND BALLS OF YARN ARE DANGEROUS because your pet may swallow these.
Make sure to take time to exercise your adult cat as well!
- Use a pet brush or comb, and brush in the direction of hair growth.
- Long-haired cats should be brushed daily and short-haired cats brushed at least once a week.
- Cats groom themselves everyday, and so they rarely will need a bath.
- Before you begin the bath, comb out mats. Have a rubber mat ready for him to cling to and prevent him from scratching. Next, stick cotton in his ears to keep water out. Use warm water, and quickly work in mild cat shampoo while trying to avoid the eyes. Rinse clean, towel dry, and comb again.
Cleaning Teeth & Ears
- Purchase a dental kit on your next visit to the animal hospital. Toothpaste and toothbrushes are available, as well as dental treats. We will instruct you on how to properly start cleaning your kitten’s teeth. DO NOT USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE.
- Daily brushing is recommended, with an examination every 6 months to a year.
- Consult with the animal hospital about proper ear cleaning solutions. We will instruct you on how to clean the ears. At home, use cotton balls and NEVER SWABSTICKS.
- Clean ears every other week, or as often as needed.
- Only a nail trimmer designed for cats should be used. Ask the animal hospital how to properly trim the nails. This should be done every 2-4 weeks or as often as needed.
- For information on declawing, see below.
- To stop the bad behavior, squirt your kitten with a water bottle or shake a can filled with pennies. This will surprise him, be unpleasant, and interrupt his misbehaving.
- Your kitten should only be free to move around when someone is there to watch him. Not only will leaving him unsupervised be dangerous, but it will also make him think that his naughty undisciplined actions are okay.
- Remove your kitten from areas that he should not be freely jumping on. Put him in an area that is approved and has become a familiar spot.
- Double-sided tape put on areas off-limits may also help.
- Some other devices on the market include pads that give a soft shock when touched, and a spray that is emitted when triggered by movement. Ask your vet about these and other options.
Not Using the Litter Box Correctly
- Your kitten may feel that the litter is dirty, the box is not large enough, or the location is not right for urinating or defecating. Make the appropriate changes. Also, if you have more than one cat, you may want to have a litter box for each cat.
- If your cat is straining, only urinates a small amount, frequently is going to the bathroom, or has bloody urine, he may be sick and needs to go to the vet! He could be very sick, and if the urethra becomes blocked, death could result.
- Go to declawing.
Kitty-proofing your home
Kittens are naturally inquisitive, which means they may get into dangerous situations. By taking some precautions, your kitten will be able to act on his healthy curiosity while staying away from injury.
That’s shocking: Young animals love to chew when they are teething. Electrical cords should be tacked to the wall or wound up, or use a pet-repellent spray. Keep blind and curtain cords out of your kitten’s reach also.
They’d die for some chocolate: Chocolate is toxic to our pets because it contains theobromine and caffeine, which are powerful stimulants that their bodies cannot handle. Sweets, cakes, and cookies can also upset a young animal’s gastrointestinal tract and lead to diarrhea and vomiting.
Threatening treats: Never give turkey, chicken, or rib bones as a treat. They can splinter and cause serious injury.
Cleaning killers: Keep all dangerous chemicals locked up. Cleaning agents, bleach, ammonia, disinfectants, drain cleaner, oven cleaner, paint, gasoline, and rat poison are just a few to lock up.
Check the antifreeze: Antifreeze is attractive to pets because of its sweet taste and odor and very small amounts can cause serious illness in cats. Keep it locked up and wipe any spills. Window-washing solution also contains antifreeze.
Cozy up: Engine warmth is a great place for an outdoor cat to take a nap, so make sure you honk your horn when getting ready to use your vehicle! Also, always use a fireplace screen to keep them out of the fireplace or wood stove.
A dip tip: Keep covers on hot tubs and swimming pools. Also keep your toilet lids down. Kittens and young puppies can fall in and not be able to get out.
Pretty poisonous: Household plants may be pretty, but if chewed on by your pet, can be deadly as well. Poisonous plants include amaryllis, azaleas, boxwood, daffodils, dieffenbachia, elephant ear, eucalyptus, foxglove, hydrangea, ivy, Jerusalem Cherry, lilies (all kinds), oleander, philodendrons, plant bulbs, pyracantha, spider plants, and tomato plants (leaves and stems).
‘Tis the season: Mistletoe and poinsettias are also poisonous! In addition, keep Christmas tree tinsel and Easter grass out of reach.
Keep off the grass: If you treat your lawn with chemicals, keep pets away.
It fit yesterday: Kittens grow rapidly, so make sure you adjust collars and harnesses to accommodate your pet’s growth.
It’s not a toy: Do not leave plastic bags out. Kittens love to bat a bag around, but bags can cause suffocation.
Odds and ends: Keep materials that could be swallowed out of reach. Some things include string, sewing supplies, balloons, dental floss, rubber bands and other office supplies, twist-ties, and yes, even pantyhose. What goes in, must come out – often by way of surgery.
Bathroom advice: Keep bathroom supplies, such as cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, and pills away from your pet.
NEVER GIVE YOUR CAT ANY HUMAN MEDICATION WITHOUT CONSULTING A VET FIRST.
Inquisitive: By nature, cats are very curious. Curiosity is clearly seen in kitten behavior, but even older cats will surprise you when all of a sudden they become very interested in something. Their inquisitive behavior is often entertaining; however it may lead them into a dangerous situation. To avoid danger and yet be able to enjoy watching your cat’s curiosity, follow our tips above for kitty-proofing your home (which can be applied to adult cats as well).
Independent: Almost all felines are solitary creatures. This is quite opposite of dogs, who form social hierarchies. Once you have established yourself as the “head of the pack,” your dog will strive for your approval and want companionship. Cats, on the other hand, are independent and do not have this social hierarchy and so they do not always want your affection. Even so, this does not mean your cat will never want attention from you! As many cats enjoy being held, taking naps on their owner’s laps, or purring at the touch of a hand have shown, cats can be quite sociable.
Unpredictable: We occasionally get phone calls from concerned owners about their seemingly lazy cat’s sudden sporadic wildness. This unpredictable burst of energy does not mean they are sick; rather it is quite natural for felines. In the wild, cats rest a large portion of the day to save up their energy so that when prey wanders in their vicinity, they are able to work hard to get it. So, if suddenly your cat wants to play and is chasing and batting at things, simply take the opportunity to enjoy it. Another way in which feline behavior is unpredictable is when addressing a new member of the family. If you get another cat, a gradual 2-4 week introduction is recommended. During this time, keep the cats in separate areas of the house. After some time, rub the cats with a blanket and then put the blankets in the other’s area. This will get them used to the other’s scent. If you get a dog, a gradual introduction of one week should be sufficient. Please note that even after the old and new members get used to each other, they may only tolerate each other. Some cats do, however, become quite friendly.
Polyestrus: Cats do not have a regular heat cycle; instead they have several heat cycles throughout the year. They will go through a time when they are reproductively ready, and if the females do not become pregnant they will go through another heat cycle a short time later. This will usually occur until the female does become pregnant. The males will become sexually responsive when they sense a nearby female is in heat, and thereafter many unpleasant behaviors will begin. Intact males will often mark by spraying EXTREMELY unpleasant smelling urine (some females will also mark by spraying). Males will become restless, aggressive, and noisy. Females will also become restless and noisy. If your cat is not spayed or neutered, you will experience these behaviors often. For information on spaying and neutering, see below.
- Feline Distemper
- Feline Leukemia
- required in the city of Grand Forks every 2 years
- GFAFB requires it every year
- Go to Immunizations and Our Services links to learn more.
Other Health Concerns
- Intestinal Parasites
- Bring in a stool sample.
- Fleas & Ticks
- Ear Mites
- Go to Parasites link to learn more.
FIP – Feline Infectious Peritontitis
- FIP is a slowly progressive, fatal disease caused by an uncommon RNA virus. It can cause fluid buildup in body cavities or can result in small abscesses on body organs. Your pet becomes infected when it comes into contact with contaminated feces or by the oral/nasal route.
- Risk factors include young cats.
- Symptoms are at the beginning of infection not obvious, but may include mild diarrhea, fever and lethargy. Only days to months later do the more characteristic signs appear, which may include fluctuating fever, weight loss, anorexia and sometimes jaundice in a later stage.
- Presently, there is no vaccine on the market recommended by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP).
FIV – Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
- FIV is caused by a retrovirus, and is quite similar to HIV in human AIDS, although FIV has not been shown to infect humans. It is found in saliva, and so is transmitted through bite wounds.
- Risk factors include male cats. They are almost three times as likely as other cats to get FIV due to their aggressiveness.
- Presently, there is no vaccine on the market recommended by the AAFP. The only way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure to FIV-infected cats.
FLUTD – Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease
- This occurs when crystals form in the urinary tract. They are painful and can block passage of urine. This is of special concern in male cats, who can die without immediate treatment due to urinary obstruction.
- Risk factors include the type of food eaten, lack of exercise, reduced water intake, a dirty litter box, obesity, and gender.
- Possible symptoms include: change in amount or quality of urine (including bloody urine); straining to urinate; passing urine frequently in small amounts; urinating outside of the litter box; restlessness; and not eating.
- If any of these symptoms occur, see your vet IMMEDIATELY!
- This occurs when there is a lack of insulin, which is a hormone needed to regulate blood sugar.
- Risk factors include gender (neutered males are at a greater risk), obesity, age (the greatest number of cases occurs around 8 years old), and hormonal changes.
- Possible symptoms include increased thirst and increased urination, weakness and change in appetite, depression, and vomiting.
- If these symptoms appear, see your vet. We will be able to determine if your cat is diabetic and if necessary provide the proper treatment regime. It is harder to control blood glucose levels in cats than dogs, but with proper nutrition, exercise, and insulin amounts, your cat will most likely improve.
Spaying & Neutering
A complete ovariohysterectomy (removal of ovaries and uterus) is recommended at approximately 6 months of age (before her first heat cycle).
- no risk of ovarian or uterine cancer
- no risk of life-threatening uterine infections
- great reduction of mammary cancer (if done prior to first heat cycle)
- eliminating unwanted heats and unpleasant behaviors
- helping control the pet population
Due to hormonal changes after spaying, she may increase her appetite and gain weight. However, this can easily be controlled by adjusting the type or amount of food given.
Neutering (removal of the testicles) is recommended at 6 months of age (or sooner if he is starting to mark by spraying).
- greatly reducing cancer and/or abnormal aggression in cats with retained testicle(s)
- reducing the need to mark by spraying urine
- reducing the desire to roam
- reducing aggressiveness
- helping control the pet population
General Nail Information
Cat nails are unique because almost all cats are able to retract them. Claws are important because they aid in feeding, grooming, and territorial marking. The motions are also a form of exercise. The claw can be visualized as an onion with layers – as the claw grows, the older layers on the outside are shed and sharper, younger layers are thus revealed. In order to shed these layers, the cat must scratch a surface (contrary to popular belief, the cat is not scratching to sharpen its nails).
Periodic trimming of the sharp tips will prevent serious injury to others and damage to your property. A veterinarian can do this or show you how to trim them at home. This should be done every 2-4 weeks.
Scratch posts: If your cat has already become destructive, place a scratch post directly over the inappropriate location. You may need to try several different types of scratch posts and positions. Make sure the post is long enough so your cat can stretch out fully. Placing a toy from the top or sprinkling catnip on the surface may encourage your cat to use the scratch post.
Plastic tips: These blunt tips are glued to each individual claw, so even if the cat goes through the motions of scratching, the effects are minimized. Depending on the cat’s temperament, the plastic tips may come off the same day they are applied, or last as long as a few weeks. This procedure often requires sedation, therefore reapplication may be impractical and not without risk.
Along with the nail, declawing also involves surgical removal of the last joint of each toe. Each tiny incision is then closed with surgical glue, and the paws are bandaged overnight. Declawing is performed when the animal is completely anesthetized, and so no pain is felt during the procedure. After surgery, an injection of pain medication is given.
For the first ten days after surgery, your cat will be quite tender, and when jumping may occasionally hold up a paw for 1 to 2 months afterwards. Cats 1 year of age and older and heavier cats will have a harder time adjusting. If swelling occurs or your cat seems very painful, a vet should check for signs of infection.
Declawing is usually performed when the cat is spayed or neutered, around 6 months of age. This avoids additional anesthetic. If necessary, we will declaw as early as 4 months old.
Although all four feet can be declawed, it is not recommended. Also, keep in mind that a declawed cat is at a disadvantage to defend itself when outdoors and would be safer kept inside!
Behavioral Effects of Declawing
There is no evidence that declawing a cat will make it more aggressive or more apt to bite. Also, it may still go through the scratching motions.
Declawing eliminates the unpleasant results of scratching; it does not treat scratching and biting due to aggressiveness! A cat that is aggressive before declawing will still be aggressive afterwards. If your cat is overly aggressive, the type of aggression must be diagnosed and circumstances that cause the aggressiveness must be identified. Your decision on whether or not to declaw a destructive cat should be based on your own needs and the long-term welfare of your cat. Whatever approach you choose, the kindest one is the option that allows you and your pet to enjoy each other for many years to come.
The material on this website is intended to give clients some ideas on how to care best for their pets. It is NOT intended to take the place of visiting an animal hospital. Remember, your animal hospital has well-trained staff with an educational background and personal experience necessary to answer any question you may have. Your pet is unique, and only when your bring him to your veterinarian will you know what behavior strategies, immunizations, and treatments will be best for him.