Congratulations on the arrival of your new kitten! Here are a few tips and suggestions on ways towards owning a happy and healthy kitten and towards leading your pet into adulthood.
In order to gain maximum immunity, but with the fewest visits to the surgery, here at Twickenham Veterinary Surgery we are advising to vaccinate kittens at nine and 14 weeks and to give the first year booster within 12 months of the 14 week vaccination. Thereafter, your cat will need a yearly health review and the vet shall decide on a case-to-case basis what vaccinations your cat requires.
We recommend that only cats that go outdoors need the FeLV (feline leukaemia virus) vaccine, as it can only be spread through direct contact (fighting, grooming, mating), but that all cats - even those that live indoors - receive the cat flu and enteritis vaccines (as these viruses can be carried into your home on shoes and clothing). Even with vaccination, your cat can still catch cat flu as there are so many strains that it is impossible to vaccinate against all of them. However, the symptoms in vaccinated cats tend to be much less severe and reputable catteries will require this vaccination before boarding your cat.
Kittens are born with a burden of intestinal worms as they are transmitted through the placenta and mother’s milk. Using an efficacious wormer on a regular dosing schedule should ensure elimination of the parasites that can cause intestinal blockage and malnutrition in kittens. We can discuss your kitten’s worming needs at the first vaccination; generally we advise worming every two weeks up to 12 weeks of age, then every month thereafter to reduce the burden of Toxocara Cati in the environment, as this can cause blindness in children.
Some kittens may come with unwanted guests in their coat. Fleas can be transmitted from the mother, other pets or from the environment. We can apply a Prescription licensed spot on treatment for your kitten to safely and effectively kill fleas. Fleas also carry worm eggs, so we will most likely advise worming at the same time.
Here at Twickenham Veterinary Surgery, we recommend that all cats are microchipped. This involves implanting a small silicone chip as small as a grain of rice under the skin at the back of the neck. This chip contains a number that can be read by a special scanner and when it is implanted, we will take all your contact details, which get sent to a central database. If your cat goes missing and is handed in to a vet or rescue centre, they will be able to contact you and reunite you with your cat.
Microchipping is also the first step towards getting your cat on the Pets Passport Scheme. The microchip can be implanted at any time but it is best to do it with the second vaccination (before your cat goes outside) or when your cat is being neutered (whilst under anaesthetic). The chip is for life and does not need to be repeated, but if you move, you must inform the microchip people of your new address and contact details, otherwise you won’t be able to be contacted if your cat goes missing.
Getting your kitten started on a good, balanced kitten food means that you will be getting him or her off to a flying start nutritionally speaking! We recommend the Royal Canin kitten food which is designed for the different stages in your cat’s life. Some cats prefer wet food or a mix of wet and dried. We can discuss your kitten’s nutritional needs at vaccination. It is important when introducing a new diet to your kitten that you do it gradually to avoid any tummy upsets. Please ask us for advice if you are not sure how to do this, our experienced nurses will be happy to help you.
We recommend that you neuter your kitten at four to five months of age. For male cats, castration reduces the chances of undesirable behaviour such as urine spraying, roaming and fighting. Fighting can lead to many health problems; your cat may develop nasty abscesses from another cat’s bite or, at worst, could contract the FIV virus.
Females come into season every three weeks, traditionally from March to November, and this can be very noisy as they call and attract males to your home. Also, un-spayed females can develop potentially life-threatening pyometra, ovarian and uterine cancer, mastitis and mammary tumours. There are many cats at rehoming centres that need good homes, so please think carefully before adding to the cat population.
The most susceptible time in a kitten’s life to experience and react to situations is between two and nine weeks. So a good time to get your kitten used to being in their travel box and in the car is during this time; just putting your kitten in their travel box or having it open in the house so they can wander in and out can make it a more pleasant and less frightening place for future travel. It may help to feed your kitten in the travel box and sitting in the car with the engine running whilst reassuring your kitten and feeding treats should also help to make journeys less stressful for your kitten and you. Also, try to get as many visitors of different ages around to meet your kitten to make him or her more sociable.
It is important (and fun!) to engage your kitten in play. Although there are many toys available in the shops, it is not necessary to spend a fortune on toys; kittens like the simple things in life! A cork on a string, a piece of scrunched up foil or paper, or a thick ribbon on a stick are all great toys in the eyes of a cat. Just be sure to check that there are no bits that can be bitten off and swallowed. Playtime is a fun and important part of the interaction between you and your kitten. Encouraging play will reinforce your bond and can help to keep your kitten active and healthy.
This is very much an individual choice. If cats go outdoors, then it is difficult to prevent them from coming to harm. Insurance can be very helpful if your cat develops an ongoing condition, such as renal failure, diabetes or hyperthyroidism, or if your cat sustains any injuries to the legs or pelvis and needs referral to a specialist.
There are many insurance companies and policies available; you need to decide whether you want the peace of mind of having your cat insured or whether you would be able to pay a large bill if your cat needed to be referred.
Routine procedures and vaccinations will not be covered by insurance and it is too late to take out a policy once your cat develops a particular condition. Cost is often a limiting factor in deciding a particular treatment regime; having insurance can often take this factor out of the equation, so that everything possible is done without having the stress of worrying about what it will cost. Having said this, many people prefer to pay the amount a policy would cost into a separate bank account so that they have something to fall back on if their cat’s veterinary bills become quite high. The choice is yours!
Whatever you do, choose a policy which suits your needs and always read the small print. We have several leaflets on insurance at the surgery and are happy to give you advice, but the final decision is yours.
Most importantly: Enjoy your kitten! Just like children, they grow up far too fast...