The whole philosophy of raising a kitten is similar to that of bringing up children. Getting a new kitten and raising it into a well-mannered and well-adjusted cat is an amazing experience. However, looking after cats and kittens can seem a little daunting especially for first time parents.
To help you be a more responsible and devoted cat parent, we have compiled a list of 10 important tips on how to take care of your feline baby.
1.Vaccines – enforcing your kitten’s defense lines
Young kittens need to be vaccinated against several highly contagious and extremely dangerous viral diseases such as:
- feline immunodeficience
- feline leukemia
- calici virus
Unvaccinated kittens and cats succumb to the mentioned diseases at extremely high rates. Usually the first vaccine is administered when the kitten is around 8 weeks old and then boosters are given every few weeks until it is 16 weeks old.
The exact vaccination protocol (timing and included pathogens) depends on two important factors: the area where you live and which diseases are present in that area.
As a new cat parent it is normal to be unfamiliar with those protocols. Therefore, you need to talk to your trusted vet and make a vaccination strategy. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, your vet may suggest some additional vaccines. In other cases, depending on the incidence of certain diseases, the vet may suggest eliminating certain vaccines.
Useful tip: Keep in mind that vaccines are important for adult cats too. Although, diseases are more frequent among young kittens, grown cats can also become infected. However, in adult cats the mortality rates are lower than in young kittens.
2. Nutrition is both the brick and the mortar of health
The ideal cat food depends on several factors such as your cat’s age, gender, breed, body composition, neutering status, temperament, activity levels and taste preferences.
Perhaps the most important factor is the cat’s age. It is important to never buy kitten food for a cat and the other way around. Different developmental stages require different nutrients and in different amounts.
Cats are usually fed ,,ad libidum’’ which means their food bowl is always full and left at their disposal. However, when it comes to cat that are voracious eaters this practice should be avoided. Unfortunately obesity is a growing issue among the feline population. More and more cats are obese, thus increasing their risk of developing obesity related disease like diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular issues and certain types of cancer.
Useful tip: It is important to understand that certain human foods should not be given to cats. When creating your cat’s menu avoid milk, table scraps, certain fruits such as grapes and raisins, certain vegetables such as garlic and onion and chocolate.
3. Internal parasites and how to avoid them
Cats are extremely prone to acquiring intestinal parasites (more popularly known as worms) such as Roundworms, Tapeworms, Hookworms and Whipworms.
Some types of worms can be passed by the mother to the young kittens through the placenta or through the milk. However, the majority of worms are transmitted through feces. Namely, cats get worms by ingesting feces from infected cats.
The presence of worms is a potentially life-threatening issue that causes symptoms like:
- intermittent vomiting
- profuse diarrhea (blood may be present)
- enlarged tummy
- pale gums
- poor coat quality.
If left untreated, the condition progresses and more serious signs become apparent. Those signs include anemia, intestinal blockage or prolapsed rectum.
The biggest problem is that cats infested with worms are usually asymptomatic. The symptoms start becoming obvious when the infestation is already too severe. In such times, the cat’s life is already in danger and the treatment options are either limited or inefficient. Bottom line, preventing worm-related issues is a much better alternative to treating them. Just have your cat regularly dewormed.
Useful tip: Having your cat regularly dewormed is important for your health too because certain types of worms can be transmitted to people, particularly children.
4. Fleas and how to avoid them
Although small and barely noticeable, these pesky little parasites can cause a great deal of problems. Based on the severity of the infestation, those problems can range from mild skin irritations to life-threatening diseases.
Contrary to popular belief, house cats can get fleas just like outdoor cats can. Strictly indoors cats get fleas through other indoor-outdoor pets, from opened windows and from your clothes.
Fortunately, flea issues can be easily prevented. Depending on where you live it is advisable to use anti-flea products all year round or at least during the flea season.
Useful tip: It should be well-accented that anti-flea products formulated for dogs must not be used on cats.
5. Getting rid of those nasty hairballs
As previously stated, cats groom themselves a lot. The unwanted but definitely expected outcome of that grooming routine is the formation of hairballs. Hairballs are particularly common in long-haired cat breeds.
Sadly, hairballs are nasty to clean and even nastier for your cat to get rid of them. What is more, if resent in a larger number, hairballs can cause life-threatening problems such as intestinal blockage.
If your cat has hairball issues it will manifest the following signs and symptoms:
- lack of appetite
- constipation or diarrhea.
Useful tip: Hairball issues can be if not avoided at least minimized by sticking to the below listed tricks:
- groom your cat regularly (this eliminates loose hairs and reduces the chances of hairballs development)
- use special ‘’hairball formula’’ cat food
- use specifically designed products that promote better hairball dissolution or expulsion
- discourage excessive self-grooming.
6. Spay/neuter – to do it or not
Unless you want your cat to have is offspring, it is advisable to have it spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering prolongs your cat’s life mainly by decreasing the risk of developing certain medical issues. Plus, when in heat, house cats are particularly vocal and turn into escape artists. Not to mention their demonstrations of unwanted sexual behavior (humping and urine marking). Cats in heat are more aggressive, get in fights and risk severe injuries. Last but not least, the population of stray cats is on the rise. By spaying and neutering you help decrease the number of strays.
Useful tip: Female kittens should be spayed before their first menstrual cycle, preferably when 6 months old. On the flip side, males can be neutered at any point of their lives.
7. The importance of socialization
Raising a well-mannered and well-behaved cat is impossible without proper socialization. Socialization with people is important for raising your playful and mischievous kitty into confident, curious and playful adult cat. The more people your kitten meets, the more comfortable and social it will get. Frequent interactions with unknown people and children will help your kitten overcome its natural fear of strangers.
You also need to make sure your kitten meets other kittens and cats, new dogs or smaller rodents.
Last but not least, kittens benefit greatly from exposure to new and interesting experiences (such as unfamiliar sounds and intriguing smells).
Useful tip: The socialization should start from the earliest age possible and should be quite extensive. If you do not have enough time for this challenging step, there are kinder-gardens and teaching classes for young kittens.
8. Using the litter box
When it comes to bathroom habits and rituals, such as picking the ideal toilet place, cats are extremely picky. Fortunately, most cats like doing their businesses in litter boxes. Which to be honest is great for cat parents. All you need to do is buy a high-quality litter box and let your clean and self-sufficient cat do its business. Once your cat is finished you will simply scoop the poop.
A cat considers her litter box as her own personal space and it must meet her standards. Not yours. Even though from human perspective, any box is good enough, cats do not share the same point of view. Picky, witty and independent, cats now what they like. You can purchase the best litter box, but it will not serve for anything, if your cat prefers using flower pots as toilet. Simply put, the best litter box for your cat is the one your cat approves of.
The same rule applies to the type of litter as well. Most litters are made of clay, but recycled paper and silica-based crystals are also common. Some litters even contain dirt since this material is known for stimulating the cat’s natural instincts.
Useful tip: The litter box must be cleaned regularly (on a daily basis). If you forget to dispose the litter properly, it will start giving off strong odor and eventually repel your cat from using it.
9. Introduction with other cats
It is no secret that every cat wishes it is the only cat in the family, getting all the delicious treats, receiving undivided attention and enjoying spoiling massages. Leaving aside the cat’s indulging preferences one must accept the fact that cats are naturally territorial and greedy creatures, with aversion to changes. They are very particular about marking their own turfs and possessions and are usually not very friendly with new arrivals. Cats live by a strict social pecking and respect hierarchy. Therefore a rule-breaking newcomer is likely to be put in its place and swiftly informed that he is unwelcome.
Useful tip: If you notice that one cat is harassing the other or is constantly aggressive, consult with your vet about calming medications or seek professional assistance from a trained feline behaviorist. Ultimately some personalities do not fit and if there is no other solution, you may have to consider rehoming the new arrival.
10. Brushing, bathing and grooming
It is only logical to ask whether cats need grooming. We all know that cats not only groom themselves but they are also very strict about their hygiene habits. Nevertheless, from time to time cats do require some grooming assistance.
Cats need to be brushed and bathed. How often depends on the fur type. Generally speaking, to avoid coat matting and quality loss, long-haired cats need frequent brushing. Bathing is not something your cat will need on a daily basis but that does not mean you should neglect this part of the grooming protocol. Keep in mind that part of the grooming process is taking care of the eyes, ears, paws, nails and teeth.
Useful tip: It is advisable to start grooming your cat while still a kitten. Youngsters do not need actual grooming but are more adaptable and if the kitten learns how to behave during a grooming session while young, you will not have any issues once it gets older. I know this first hand since grooming my 2-year old adopted cat requires the presence of an anesthesiologist.
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