Congratulations on your kitten! This is a very exciting time for the family and can bring with it both joy and sometimes challenges. This information is to try to answer some of the questions that you may have. Many of these things will be reviewed with you but you may also have other questions that you would like to ask. Feel free to ask us at Cape Coral Pet Vet any questions that you may have.
Inappropriate urination, or peeing outside the litter box, is the number one reason for cats to be surrendered to animal shelters. It is therefore, important to make sure you try to prevent these problems.
It is recommended to use the biggest uncovered litter box possible. As a rule you should have 1 litter box per cat plus 1. It is recommended to avoid liners. Boxes should be placed in an area where the pet has privacy and is not frightened by other animals in the house. The boxes should be scooped at least once daily and cleaned with mild soap and water monthly.
In the wild cats would be eating a high protein, high moisture content, meat-based diet with a moderate level of fat and low carbohydrates. Cats need to consume water with their food since they do not have a very strong thirst drive. This is most comparable to canned food which contains 70-75% water (dry food contains 7-10% water). It is recommended to feed a canned diet with a high protein level and low carbohydrate level (less than 7%). It is preferred to have the protein from land dwelling animals- rabbit, poultry, lamb etc. since this is most similar to what they would eat in the wild.
Keeping a cat well hydrated and at an optimal weight will help with diabetes, kidney problems and cystitis. Food contents can be found at www.binkyspage.tripod.com/canfood.html more information can be found at www.catinfo.com.
Indoor vs Outdoor
The indoor lifestyle can cause some cats to become more sedentary and we need to be careful to monitor their weight.
Kittens deciduous (baby) teeth first erupt between 2-4 weeks of age. The permanent (adult) teeth start erupting between 3-4 months of age. Cats have 26 deciduous and 30 permanent teeth.
Daily brushing of your cats’ teeth is the best way to prevent dental disease. Cat toothpaste should be used along with a regular or finger toothbrush. Brushing should be started at a young age to get the kitten used to it.
Since daily brushing is often hard for owners to accomplish water additives (breathalyzer) is available. Oragel take home kits are also available as a barrier that can be applied to the teeth once a week to prevent build up.
Once gingivitis is noticed on the teeth it is time for a dental cleaning. This will involves removing of the plaque below and above the gum line, full mouth dental radiographs to evaluate the roots and probing of the teeth. Sometimes dental disease has progressed to where extractions or root canals are necessary. Good dental health will also make the pet more comfortable and avoid pain.
Spaying (female) or Neutering (male)?
You may not be ready to decide at this early stage whether you want to spay or neuter. Or maybe you have already decided. There are both pro’s and con’s to spaying or neutering.
Pet overpopulation is a huge problem in the United States. According to the Humane Society of the United States approximately 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized every year in the US because there aren’t enough homes for them. This includes mixed breeds, designer breed and pure breeds of dogs and cats. This is about 1 animal euthanized every 8 seconds. It is the leading cause of death for dogs and cats in this country. Spaying and neutering is a proven way to reduce pet overpopulation. Even one litter of puppies and kittens takes away from the homes available for the shelter animals.
Think about it- just allow two cats and their surviving offspring to breed for 10 years. In that time, you’ll produce 80,399,780 cats (this assumes two litters per year and 2.8 surviving kittens per litter).
- Male: The normal behavior of an intact male cat does not make them suitable as house pets. Breeding behavior of these cats is aggressive and the odor of the urine is very distinct and strong. There are no real health conditions that are shown to increase or decrease with neutering a male cat. It is also helpful in preventing unwanted kittens and help with the pet overpopulation. It is therefore recommended that all male cats that are not going to be breed be neutered.
- Female: The benefits of spaying a female cat include decreasing chance of mammary (breast) cancer, ovarian or uterine tumors and pyometra (infection of the uterus). It also prevents unwanted litters and helps decrease the pet overpopulation.
- Mammary tumors (breast tumors) is the third most common tumor of female cats, 90% of these tumors are malignant adenocarcinomas (cancer). The incidence (chance) of this happening increases with each estrus (heat) cycle.
- Spaying a female increases her chances of developing FIC (feline idiopathic cystitis), diabetes and obesity. The incidence (how frequently it occurs) is 0.6% for FIC and 0.5% for diabetes.
- The positives of spaying a female cat is outweighed by the negatives and the recommendation is to spay her as early in their life as possible- preferably before their first heat cycle.
All cats have a natural tendency to scratch. When we keep cats indoors we need to provide them with appropriate scratching posts to fill this need. While some cats like to scratch horizontally others prefer vertical scratching posts. Both should be available for your new addition
Kittens should be shown where the scratching board is and if they scratch in the wrong spot they should be brought to the scratching post. Cat nip can also be used to entice them to use the scratching post.
If cats scratch inappropriately there are a couple of options available. Soft paws can be purchased and be put over the cat or kittens own nails- these caps prevent them from causing damage. They normally last 2-3 months and most cats tolerate them well. They can be purchased at most pet stores or online and applied at home.
Declawing is another option- it involves the removal of the last part of the digit including the nail. It is recommended to have the procedure performed at a young age for quick recovery and easy adjustment for the pet. Most pets do very well after the declaw, and have very few problems. However, as with any surgery there are risks for anesthesia (including death) and for the surgery including infection, limping (usually temporary), and pain.
There are 2 retroviral diseases that cats can get. These are Feline Leukemia and FIV (Feline immunodeficiency virus). These diseases are specific to cats and do not spread to other animals or humans.
In the US the prevalence of both disease is less than 2% in the healthy cats. Male, adult cats with outdoor access are at the highest risk whereas indoor spayed or neutered pets are at lower risk. Feline leukemia is spread most frequently by mutual grooming or from queen to kittens. FIV is spread most frequently via fighting and bite wounds.
Testing is available for both diseases.
Testing is recommended:
- Newly acquired cats or kittens- they should be retested in 60 days or at 6 months of age.
- After exposure to an infected or unknown infection status cat.
- Before vaccinating for feline leukemia or FIV.
- When a cat or kitten becomes sick.
We think of heartworm disease more when it comes to dogs, but it is something cats can also get. Heartworms are spread via the mosquito. The prevalence of heartworm disease in cats is thought to be between 5-15%.
Cats rarely have adult heartworms but have more problems with immature heartworms in their lungs. This is referred to as HARD- heartworm associated respiratory disease. The signs can sometimes be confused with asthma.
Due to the nature of the heartworms in cats we don’t have tests that are as accurate as the ones we have for dogs. We also do not have good treatments available for cats that develop heartworm disease. It is therefore important to keep cats on heartworm preventatives year round. We recommend revolution- a topical medication applied between the shoulder blades monthly.
Fleas are a very common parasite seen in the cat. They can complete their whole lifecycle on a cat and live off the cat’s blood. They can cause anemia (low red blood cell count), allergies and can spread tapeworm (a type of intestinal parasite). The climate in southwest Florida is ideal for the flea and they survive year round. Monthly flea prevention is recommended year round and can be started as early as 6 weeks.
A stool sample is an important part of any kittens’ full examination. It is very common for kittens to have internal parasites (worms). These are often spread from mom to kittens. These are often not visible to the naked eye so a microscopic examination is necessary. A stool sample should be checked with every kitten examination to make sure they have not acquired any new parasites. Stool samples should then be checked every 6 months once the kitten reaches adulthood.
Intestinal parasites are spread a number of different ways including from the ground, other animals feces, and fleas and even through the foot pads. It is also important to note that some of these parasites are zoonotic. This means that they can spread to people (especially children). There are 2 in particular that we are concerned about.
- Roundworms- if the egg is ingested by a person they can cause visceral larva migrans. The larvae can migrate to the eye and cause damage including blindness.
- Hookworms- the larvae can penetrate (go through) the skin and cause inflammation. Some can even go deeper and cause serious damage to the intestines or other organs.
It is not always possible to see the parasites in the stool sample even if they have them since some parasites shed worms only intermittently. It is therefore recommended to deworm cats every six months. This is a guideline given by the CDC (center for disease control and prevention) and recommended by our veterinarians.
There are several vaccines that all cats should be vaccinated against- these are considered core vaccines. These include:
- FVRCP: Feline Viral Rhinopneumonitis, Calici, Panleukopenia. These diseases show signs varying from upper respiratory signs to neurological signs and can be fatal.
- Rabies– This is a neurological disease that is fatal to both humans and animals. All cats are required to have this vaccine.
There are also other vaccines that are given based on lifestyle or age of the pet. These are considered non-core vaccines. These include-
- Feline Leukemia Virus: This is a disease that causes suppression of the immune system. It is recommended that all kittens receive this vaccine.
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus– FIV: This is a disease that causes suppression of the immune system.
Kitten vaccines are started at 6-8 weeks of age and consist of a series of vaccines every 3-4 weeks until the cat reaches at least 16 weeks of age. This series is customized to each animal. Your kitten will not be fully protected against these diseases until about 2 weeks after they have finished their series.
The vaccines are then repeated every 1-3 years based on the vaccine and lifestyle of the cat.