Caring for a Kitten

Kittens can be a wonderful addition to a household, but they come with their own special needs which must be adequately met to ensure health and longevity. As a general outline, some considerations are listed below.

Your kitten should be taken to a veterinarian for a general health check as soon as possible after purchase. They will be able to attend to any illnesses and advise on long term veterinary requirements for your new pet.

All kittens should be microchipped for identification purposes. This is separate to local council registration which may also be required. Some states legislate that all kittens and cats must be microchipped prior to being sold or rehomed. Your veterinarian can check the microchip or implant one if required.

Vaccinations. There are several feline viral illnesses which can be vaccinated against. Your kitten will require several booster vaccinations initially, followed by annual or triennial boosters. Your veterinarian will advise which vaccinations are most suitable to your kittens needs and lifestyle, but at a minimum a F3 vaccination is recommended.

Intestinal worming. Kittens can be infested with intestinal worms before or soon after birth. Worms cause many symptoms including diarrhoea and failure to thrive. Your kitten should be treated with an appropriate all wormer medication dosed on a weight basis every 2 weeks till 12 weeks of age, then every month till 6 months and every 3 months thereafter. Your veterinarian will advise if your kitten requires a different worming schedule.

Fleas are external parasites which cause intense irritation and heavy infestations can lead to anaemia in kittens. It is recommended that a flea treatment program be implemented as soon as possible. Most cats will tolerate the application of a monthly spot-on product, but the manufacturers recommendations must be followed to ensure the kitten is old enough to use the product chosen.

Heartworm is an internal parasite which is spread by mosquitoes and can cause fatal disease. Monthly heartworm treatments are available to prevent heartworm infection.

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Your kitten should be fed several times a day on a high quality commercially prepared kitten food. These diets are specifically formulated to meet the nutrient requirements of growing kittens. Dogs and cats do not have the same nutrient needs and a kitten or cat should not be fed puppy or dog food. They should have access to adequate supplies of fresh water and be fed in durable and easy to clean pet bowls.

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Kittens being kept indoors will need a sturdy, easy to clean litter tray possibly with a privacy cover, and a steady supply of quality cat litter. Kittens may become shy of the litter tray if it is not kept in a very clean state.

All kittens being kept as pets should be considered for desexing. The health benefits and positive effect on wildlife and the stray/feral cat population are all great reasons to desex your kitten, whether male or female. Most veterinarians will perform this surgery around 5-6 months of age.

Two very important but often overlooked routines for ensuring long term health of kittens and cats are dental hygiene and grooming. Although cats are generally fastidious self groomers they may require help with grooming as they age. It is generally easier for a kitten to adjust to this procedure and tolerate it lifelong than for an older cat to suddenly adjust. Regular grooming is recommended and numerous brushes and grooming mitts are available. Part of the regular grooming should also focus on dental hygiene. Again getting a kitten adjusted to this routine is fairly easy and the long term benefits for prevention of dental disease are huge. If teeth cleaning is not possible there are gels which foam up in the mouth and clean the teeth for you. This should be discussed with your veterinarian.

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Kittens should be fitted with a firm but elasticised collar with an identification tag attached. Thus will help in rapid identification if your kitten goes wandering.

Providing warm and soft bedding for your kitten can help establish good sleeping habits and the bedding must be durable and easy to wash to maintain its hygiene levels.

Kittens are naturally curious creatures and usually extremely playful. Provision of a scratching post, climbing post and interesting toys will help keep your kitten entertained and hopefully reduce the risk of inappropriate behaviours such as scratching furniture.

Whenever travelling with your kitten, for example to veterinary appointments, it is essential that your kitten be safely housed in a cat travel case to avoid escape or injury during travel. Kittens sitting on laps in a car or having free range in a car can cause serious accidents to occur

Kittens can bring a lot of excitement and fun to a household. Ensuring some basic procedures are followed can help ensure a healthy and enjoyable life-long relationship with your new pet.

Your veterinarian can advise on other issues pertaining to the ongoing care of your kitten.