KITTEN’S FIRST YEAR
• Litter Training & Behaviour
• Parasite Control
• Spay & Neuter
• Microchip Identification
• Pet Insurance
Litter box training, providing activity, and how to avoid kitty scratching the new leather couch.
With any new kitten, there is a period of time when you need to learn how your pet reacts to their environment, and when they need to learn how to live with you. Behavioural problems, such as biting, destructive scratching, and inappropriate elimination are common reason why cats are abandoned or given up. Fortunately, most problem behaviour can be avoided by starting with proper training techniques at an early age, by being consistent, and by having everyone in the family get involved in training.
Litter box training is usually easy for cats, with most adapting very quickly to the toileting. However, some kittens, given the opportunity, will soil in plant pots or in hidden basement areas if they resemble litter areas. Cover plant pots with foil or rocks, and block off areas of dirt floors. Offer one more litter box than the number of cats in the household, and place them in well-ventilated areas, away from loud furnace motors or similar distractions.
Although convenient, we do not recommend using covered litter boxes, as this causes the cats to inhale very dusty air from their litter, contributing to airway problems such as asthma. Cats that defecate or urinate outside of litter boxes may dislike the type of litter used, so try using different types. Litter should be cleaned daily, as cats soon learn to avoid soiled litter.
Clumping litter helps one to remove urine and feces without having to change the whole litter, but a complete litter change should be done weekly, and the litter box cleaned and disinfected before refilling. Make sure to wash your hands after handling litter and litter
Scratching and biting at people can be due to fear, aggression, or from excessive play behaviour. A cat’s nails and teeth can inflict deep and often infected wounds, so it is important to reduce that risk. Learn to clip kitty’s nails regularly, usually every 4 to 6 weeks, and monitor children closely when handling or petting cats to make sure that they are not distressing the pet. Signs that the cat is becoming upset are low growls, flicking of the tail, flat or pinned ears, and attempts to move away. Teach children to be gentle and stroke the fur in its natural direction.
In order to deal with cats that scratch at furniture, it is important to realize that scratching is a normal behaviour for cats. Cats have scent glands in their pads and cheeks, and will marksareas with this odour. This has a calming effect on cats, provides pleasure, and also helps with removing older nail tissue. Rather than preventing scratching of inanimate objects, we recommend offering a scratching post in an area that the cat seems to prefer. You may have to experiment with different types of material fixed onto a vertical or horizontal post to see which one the kitten uses the most. Try bark, roughened wood, carpet or other fabrics. Special scents called pheromones are available to spray on these areas to encourage their use.
To deter the kitten from scratching at valuable furniture, place double- sided sticky tape on the vertical arms, or wherever the kitten seems to be scratching. You can also spray a citrus scent or other noxious but harmless substance on the surfaces, or spray water at the kitten when it tries to scratch. Always provide an alternate, acceptable scratching area.
What to feed Garfield
There are hundreds of choices of cat foods available for your new kitten. Sorting through the myriad diets can be challenging, especially as so much emphasis is placed on marketing the food. Whatever resonates with us in terms of what we think constitutes good nutrition will likely show up on the exterior of the food bag. Plus, there are so many myths about what cats should eat. Fortunately, most foods available likely provide the basic needs of pets, but only a handful of companies actually conduct nutritional research to prove the quality of their foods.
While not the only companies providing excellent nutrition, diets such as Royal Canin, Hill's and Purina have been backed by veterinarians for many years due to extensive research involved in the formulation of these diets.
These companies have created diets to manage many health problems, from obesity to diabetes, to urinary tract disease, to arthritis and joint disease. We now have a tremendous understanding of the role of good nutrition on health problems,and by extension, the role of good nutrition in promoting good health. While we do not advocate any one company, premium foods from these companies are backed by years of research and can be trusted to offer great products. Safety of food sources is of paramount concern for companies making cat food, as we saw with the melamine scare a few years ago.
A number of serious health conditions that affect cats can be managed nutritionally. Some cats produce crystals in their urine that may lead to a urinary obstruction. Left untreated,this is a very painful and life-threatening condition. Good diets for cats will prevent this condition by helping to produce an acidic urine low in crystals. Obesity is the most common nutritionally managed disease affecting cats, particularly those who live mostly indoors. We advocate controlled feedings by providing a fixed amount of high quality food at meal times, and removing the food between meals. Cats that gain too much weight can be more easily restricted on the amount fed, or the owner can feed a lower calorie food for obesity-prone cats.
Parasite control for your kitten
Many parasites have the ability to infect cats, with kittens being the most susceptible. Intestinal parasites include the common roundworms and hookworms, but kittens may also be infected with Coccidia and Giardia. Intestinal parasites may cause weight loss, diarrhea, blood loss, and vomiting, although many cats may seem healthy with only intermittent gastrointestinal signs. External parasites include fleas, ear and skin mites, lice, and ticks. Although rare in cats, the dog Heartworm, transmitted through mosquitoes, can sometimes also cause infections.
Roundworms have a particularly stubborn life cycle in cats. The microscopic eggs hatch following ingestion, and the larvae burrow through the intestinal wall and travel through body tissue for a period of time, an event known as Visceral Larval Migrans. Eventually these tiny parasites emerge back into the intestines, grow into adult spaghetti-like worms, and breed, releasing eggs back into the environment. Dewormers only work in the gut, so it is important to continue to administer them every 2 weeks until the kitten is 3 months of age, then once a month until the kitten is 6 months of age, as the larvae emerge back into the intestine.
Roundworms can be acquired from infected soil, or from eating infected birds. Tapeworms can be transmitted by ingesting infected fleas or rodents.
Fleas can be a problem at any time of the year if your kitten meets another animal with fleas. Adult fleas spend their entire life cycle on the animal, but will lay 20 to 30 eggs a day following a blood meal. The eggs fall off the cat and lodge in cracks and crevices, around
baseboards, and outside. Within several weeks, if the conditions are right, the eggs will hatch into larvae, transform into pupae, and eventually emerge as young adult fleas looking for a warm pet to call their own. Fleas can cause intense itching, skin diseases, and can even transmit diseases. In our region, most flea problems peak in late summer and fall as the numbers of eggs build up in the environment.
Currently, we can prevent many intestinal parasites and fleas with safe and effective medications. Having a stool sample checked in all kittens, and in older outdoor cats allows us to identify parasites before they become a problem. Some parasites can also infect people, especially children and those with lowered immune systems.
Vaccines for kittens
All kittens need vaccination to protect them against infectious diseases. All kittens should be vaccinated against Panleukopenia,
Herpesvirus, Calicivirus, and Rabies. These diseases are highly contagious, can be fatal, and in the case of Rabies, of public health concern. In addition, we recommend Feline Leukemia Virus vaccination for all kittens, and then to those adult cats who live in multi-cat households or go outside.
We review your kitten’s lifestyle, previous vaccines, and consider his age, breed, and health status before determining what vaccines to recommend. Most kittens receive vaccines between 2 and 4 months of age, again a year later, and then through life at an interval determined by the vaccine.
Panleukopenia, Herpesvirus/Calicivirus are given every three years to adult cats, whereas Rabies and Feline Leukemia Virus vaccines require annual administration.While reactions to vaccines do occasionally occur, the vaccines we recommend and the schedule we advise are designed to minimize the risk while helping to protect your cat.
Although not obvious, indoor cats also require vaccines. Panleukopenia, Herpes, and Caliciviruses can be transmitted by aerosols or by contact with infected hands or materials. If a cat requires hospitalization, there is a risk of exposure, and an owner handling a cat outside the home can transmit the viruses to pets in the home. Although risk is low for indoor cats, bats are a high risk species for Rabies transmission and have been known to fly into people’s homes. Due to the public health risks with Rabies, a broad policy for vaccinating all cats and dogs is in place.
Spay & Neuter
If you do not plan to breed your cat, you should seriously consider spaying her or neutering him. British Columbia has an overabundance of cats that need homes, so adding to the number doesn’t help. We discourage the breeding of cats just to experience the “joys of birth”, as interesting as it is. Serious, responsible breeders invest a significant amount of money and time on breeding to reduce genetic problems and to promote positive conformational traits.Unless you intend to make a career from breeding, you should consider the risks of not having your pet spayed or neutered.
Female cats have seasonal periods of heats, or times when they can breed, usually during winter and spring, at which time they will attract any males in the vicinity. Unexpected breeding account for many of the cats surrendered to shelters and humane societies. Intact female cats are at a significantly higher risk for life-threatening infections of the uterus called pyometra,and also for mammary cancer. Intact male cats may have a greater urge to “wander”, particularly if they sense a female in heat. Aggression between male cats can be a problem, as can excessive urine marking behaviour. Spaying and neutering is usually performed at 6 months of age. Spaying a female cat involves an abdominal surgery to remove her uterus and ovaries. She will not have any more heats and cannot develop infections of the uterus afterwards.
Neutering the male cat involves removal of both testicles. Both procedures are performed under full anesthesia, and the pets go home the same day as the surgery. We strongly recommend a pre-anesthetic blood test the week prior to surgery to assess kidney and liver functions, blood volume, as well as sugar and protein levels, all of which are important for a safe anesthesia. Pets are placed on intravenous fluids through a catheter in their front legs during the surgery to help maintain their blood pressure and keep them well hydrated. With Constant monitoring of their heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, and oxygen levels, wehelp to ensure a safe anesthetic procedure.
Following surgery, we advise pet owners to keep their cats quiet if possible. The sutures are absorbable, and buried below the skin, so there is no need for them to be removed once the healing has occurred.
Please ask if you have further questions regarding anesthesia or surgery for your kitten.
While most pet owners will hopefully never have to worry about a missing pet, the reality is that many cats go astray every year in Vancouver. Even the least expected wanderer may suddenly disappear. Cats are natural roamers and, even though they have an instinctive way of finding their way back home, they may be chased or scared away from the area.Identification in any form is essential to help reunite lost pets with their owners.
Tags on collars remain the first and most visible method to provide a contact number or name, but unfortunately, once the collar has come off, only the pet can tell you where she came from –and most can’t talk! Cats are notorious for losing collars. Since the introduction of microchip technology for pet identification, many pets that would have previously become lost have been reunited quickly and efficiently with their owners.
Microchips, with rare exceptions,work throughout the life of the pet, do not fade with time, and do not fall off.The microchip is the size of a grain of rice, and is inserted under the skin, over the shoulders of the kitten at any age, by a needle only slightly larger than that used for vaccines.
To“read” the microchip, a scanner is waved over the cat and the number encoded to that particular chip is displayed on the scanner’s screen. Each chip is registered to an owner, soonce the microchip number is found, all we need to do is call up the database to find the owner.
The databases are maintained 24/7 and microchips placed in British Columbia can be read by scanners across Canada and the US, thanks to standardization of chip technologies.We highly recommend a microchip for any household cat, even those whose risk of wandering seems low. You never know when your pet may stray!
Pet Insurance: peace of mind for those unexpected
Currently, a number of companies offer comprehensive pet insurance in Canada, for example, Petsecure, Pet Care, and Trupanion. In addition, the Canadian Automobile Association, HBC,President’s Choice Financial, and Purina offer Petsecure Insurance under their own branding.
Pet insurance provides coverage for accidents and illnesses to cats of all ages and breeds. Some policies also provide coverage for routine health care, such as vaccination, dental care and parasite control.
How much you can expect to pay for monthly premiums for your new kitten depends on how comprehensive the coverage you need. Insurance premiums also can vary based on the level of co-insurance provided. For example, a company may require the owner to pay 20% of veterinary fees, while the insurance will cover the remaining 80%. All companies provide free insurance for a month, and we strongly recommend taking advantage of this offer while you decide whether to use pet insurance long term.
Generally speaking, insurance is a great value in the first year or two of a cat’s life, when they are most likely to have accidents or ingest things they are not supposed to. In addition, a cat with genetic susceptibilities to skin problems such as allergies, and to congenital problems may have life-long health problems for which insurance can be of great benefit.
While not immune to health problems, middle-aged cats will likely need less insurance, but there is increased need for veterinary care with advancing age. Having insurance in place before problems such as cancer, heart disease, or arthritis develop can provide peace of mind for both short and long-term care.