By nature, cats are inquisitive and playful, which frequently gets them into trouble. Cat-proofing your home is important to prevent accidents and illness.
TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR CAT SAFE
Physical punishment is the least effective method for training cats. Do not discipline your cat by hitting or striking it. This will only frighten or anger it, frequently leading to biting and clawing. Keep a squirt gun or bottle available. A squirt of water in the face does not hurt them but deters most kittens from doing things they should not, such as jumping up on counters.
Spend lots of time playing with your kitten. Drag a string around the house or tie an object to a string on a pole and wave it around while watching TV. Do not play with your kitten by wiggling your fingers or toes as this only encourages biting.
Never force a kitten to stay in your lap if it wants to get down. Do not grab at your cat or scare it to prevent the development of biting reactions. Rough play also encourages aggression. Play gently using a toy, not your fingers.
Confine your kitten to one room that has no plants or dangerous objects when you are not home. Swallowing or choking on small objects is very common in kittens & cats. Beware of things such as rubber bands, pencil erasers, ear plugs, needles & thread, small toys, metal objects such as paper clips, fabric scraps, earrings, etc. Anything smaller than 1 inch diameter can potentially be swallowed and needs to be kept out of the kitten’s reach. Do not give your kitten string or yarn to play with! These are among the most common and deadly of intestinal obstructions.
Provide at least one scratching post for your cat to use. Even declawed cats like to stretch and knead their paws. Rubbing catnip on the scratching post will encourage its use. Keep the post in a place where the kitten spends a lot of time. Cats usually prefer a larger post that they can climb up and down. Use your squirt bottle if you see him scratching in inappropriate places.
To prevent chewing on cords and shoes, use unscented roll-on antiperspirant on these items once or twice each week. Cats do not like the drying, bitter taste and will soon learn to avoid these things.
Aluminum foil can be around your plant pots and counter tops or tables, especially when you can not be home to use the squirt bottle! Cats do not like shiny, noisy foil and will generally avoid it. Many types of plants are poisonous to your pet, so it is best to keep them all out of reach. Double-sided sticky tape works well on couches and chairs.
Be aware the laundry room and kitchen contain many things that can be toxic to a cat when licked off the paws after walking through it. Laundry soap and bleach are prime examples. Many cats die each year after exploring the washing machine, taking a nap in the dryer, or jumping on or in a hot stove or oven. Cats are also very good at learning how to open cabinet doors.
A collar and ID tag ensures your cat can be identified if it escapes outside. Use breakaway collars to prevent choking. Microchips are now available to permanently identify your cat. Be sure that the litter pan is accessible, in a quiet place, and changed frequently. If your house is large, it is best to have more than one box placed in convenient areas. It is recommended that there be one more litter pan than cats in multicat households. Avoid heavily scented litter – cats do not like perfume. Avoid changing brands of litter. Changing the litter every day is much healthier than using the new “scoopable” litters. Be sure to remove “clumps” daily if “scoopable” litter is used. Any time the cat eliminates outside the litter box, be sure to have the cat checked for a medical problem.
Nutrition for Kittens
Unlike most pets, cats remain true to their “meat-eater” heritage, and have special food requirements.
Cats cannot process vitamins directly from vegetables, so a cat must eat the meat of animals that can convert vegetable vitamins to a digestible form. That’s why, in the wild, a cat must eat its prey’s entire carcass to derive essential proteins, minerals, and vitamins. Taurine, for example, is an amino acid that is vital to eyesight. Non-meat eaters can make taurine in their body, but cats cannot. Therefore, they must eat foods that contain taurine.
Commercial diets for cats must be balanced and nutritional, specialized, and concentrated in small portions. Therefore feline foods are slightly more expensive than dog foods. Wet or dry food for a cat should contain 30-40% protein. We highly recommend premium cat food for all kittens. It can be fed free choice. Only put out what the kitten will probably eat in the one-day period. We prefer to put fresh food out every day. We consider Science Diet to be the premium cat food for your cat.
Water is extremely important to the cat. Insufficient fluid intake can cause the urine to become too concentrated leading to urinary stone problems. It seems easy for the cat not to drink sufficient water each day. Make water very accessible in more that one part of the house. Grown cats should drink a cup of water daily.
If the kitten does not eat well within the first 36 hours in the new home, it may be that it misses familiar surroundings. It may be necessary to force feed the kitten to stimulate appetite. We also recommend feeding some strong smelling canned foods during the early growing months.
The major appetite stimulant for the cat is smell!! Since dry foods do not have as strong a smell as canned foods, some cats are more reluctant to eat dry food.
Make diet changes slowly. Any abrupt change can cause digestive upsets resulting in vomiting and/or diarrhea.
Milk is not necessary in the diet and quite often causes diarrhea.
Allow the kitten plenty of rest time. Cats sleep about 22 hours each day. Adequate rest is necessary for optimum growth and development.
Guard against the kitten swallowing foreign objects. Quite often, we must perform surgery to remove foreign objects from the stomach and intestinal tract. These objects include string, fishing line, marbles, needles, or just about any other small object you can think of.
FEEDING THE KITTEN
The first year is the most important for a kitten. His development is determined in those fifty-two weeks. This first year is critical because during that time he grows from infancy through the equivalent of childhood and then on to young adulthood. That is why it is especially important to feed a high quality food such as HILL’S SCIENCE DIET FELINE GROWTH to your kitten. The best nutrition possible is needed to build strong bones, good muscles, a well-developed nervous system, and provide the energy needed during that first year. See PREMIUM PET FOODS for more information.
The kitten’s normal weight practically triples during his first three weeks of life. In his first 20 weeks, a kitten can have a 2,000 percent increase over his birth weight. At 26 weeks, the visible growth rate starts to level off, and he may look like an adult cat. However, the kitten continues to develop inside – his bones become stronger and his body fills out – until he is one year old.
Extensive studies show that a kitten rapid growth and high energy level require food that will give him extra nutrition and calories. And since he has a small stomach, it is difficult just to eat more food to get the needed calories. The kitten’s correct development requires protein, calcium, iron, phosphorous, and many other nutrients as part of a complete and balanced diet. It is important to use a food specially formulated for kittens. Kittens, like babies, need their own special food.
Supplementation of the food often upsets the nutrient balance. Too much of anything can be harmful, and often leads to other health problems. Do not feed additional supplements unless your veterinarian recommends it.
Place your kitten’s food and water dishes away from foot traffic and noise, in a place, which is comfortable and easy for him to reach. Putting newspapers or a plastic mat under the dishes will make cleanup easier. Feed in the same place all the time. Do NOT change the location unless absolutely necessary.
Always keep clean, fresh water available. Change the food and water daily. Keep food and water dishes clean.
Establish a routine so that your kitten is fed at the same time every day. Give him three (3) meals a day, if at all possible until he is six (6) months old. At 6 months, your kitten will closely resemble adult size, but do not be misled. He still needs to do a lot of growing up and filling out. Now he can be fed only twice (2) daily, but be sure to continue the kitten diet until one year of age.
It is acceptable to feed only dry food during the first few months if it is softened with water. However, it is also acceptable to feed either canned food or a mixture of both.
By the time he is seven (7) months old, most of your kitten’s permanent teeth should have grown in. One of the advantages of feeding dry food, apart from the convenience, is that dry food can help decrease the rate of tartar accumulation on the teeth.
Do not worry if your kitten’s appetite decreases slightly between the ages of four (4) and seven (7) months. As he loses his baby teeth, he may eat a little less because his gums are sore.
For a proper feeding program, use only high quality commercial foods and feed the amount that maintains your cat’s weight at it’s optimum level.
Make any changes in foods gradually by mixing the old and new food over a 7-10 day period to avoid gastrointestinal upsets. Cats do NOT require a variable diet, and the least problems occur when the same food is fed all the time.
What not to feed your kitten:
• Table scraps
• Puppy or dog food – deficient in nutrients required specifically by cats.
• Foods known to cause health problems, such as chocolate, onions, etc.
When in doubt, ask your veterinarian for the best answers to anything you want to know about nutrition for you pet.
The Importance of Completing Initial Vaccinations
A series of immunizations is required for a young pet to develop its immunity. The immune system of newborn puppies and kittens is immature. For that reason, the newborn receives immunity called antibodies from its mother through the milk it nurses for the first 24 hours after birth. This “special” milk is called colostrum. These antibodies are called passive immunity and exist for varying periods of time in each individual young pet. In some pets, this immunity may last up to 20 weeks of age, while in others it may last only a few days or weeks. The problem for the doctor is there is no easy, practical way to measure how much of this passive immunity is present in each pet –and how long it will last.
Vaccinations contain antigens which have the capability of causing the pet’s own immune system to produce its own antibodies. This is termed active immunity. However for the vaccination to be able to cause this stimulation, the pet’s body must have very low levels remaining of the passive immunity it got from its mother. When a vaccine antigen is administered to a pet, that antigen has the ability to stimulate immunity for only 5 days or so. If the passive immunity remaining from the mother’s milk does not drop low enough for the vaccine to “over-ride” this obstacle, the vaccine will not work and loses its potential strength to do so in approximately 5 days.
It is also possible that the pet’s overall condition may not be sufficient to allow the immune system to work at its optimum level. Malnutrition and parasites can greatly reduce the body’s ability to produce its own active immunity. Since there is no quick, inexpensive way to measure this passive immunity level, a series of vaccines must be given to be sure there is active stimulation present when the pet’s body is able to do it. As mentioned before, this particular time varies from pet to pet. This series of vaccinations must be spaced out so as to allow a minimal “window of opportunity” for disease to occur. This “window of opportunity” is defined as the time when the passive immunity (from the mother’s milk) is too low to protect the pet from disease, and the time when a vaccine antigen is available to stimulate the pet’s immune system.
It should also be noted that a very small percentage of pets do not have an immune system capable of producing immunity at any age. This is similar to the kids that must live in a “plastic bubble.” They have the same problem. They have a body much more susceptible to disease since their immune system does not work normally.
Your own veterinarian, considering age of the pet, breed, environment, overall health, and disease prevalence in the area, must determine the particular vaccination program, including specific vaccinations used and frequency of administration.
YOUR PET IS AT RISK UNTIL THE ENTIRE SERIES OF VACCINATIONS IS COMPLETED:
• Follow the individual vaccination schedule for your pet recommended by your veterinarian.
• Be sure to return on time to minimize the pet’s “window of opportunity.”
• For more information on feline vaccines please see FELINE VACCINATIONS.
• For more information on canine vaccines please see CANINE VACCINATION