Kittens make wonderful companions and a new kitten is a source of pleasure and joy. Here are a few tips to help you care for your kitten.

Choosing a Cat Friendly Vet

Cats aren’t just little dogs, as many cat lovers know they’re a superior species!  Here at Prahran Veterinary Hospital we’re proud to be officially recognised as a Cat Friendly Clinic

What is a Cat Friendly Clinic?

An accredited Cat Friendly Clinic has reached a higher standard of cat care in that the staff:

  • Understand the needs of cats and have made visits to the vet clinic more cat friendly
  • Understand how to approach and handle cats gently and with care
  • Have good knowledge and equipment to manage the care of cats

Achieving Cat Friendly Clinic accreditation involves all staff, from receptionists, nurses and technicians, through to vets. Each accredited clinic also has at least one ‘Cat Advocate’ – someone who ensures the cat friendly standards are adhered to, and who would be happy to talk to you.

What does it mean for my cat and me?

A Cat Friendly Clinic gives you peace of mind and reassurance, letting you know that:

  • The clinic has achieved certain minimum accreditation standards
  • The clinic and clinic staff have thought about the specific needs of cats
  • The staff will be happy to talk with you, show you what they do, and show you around the clinic
  • The staff will explain your cat’s treatment and recovery clearly and sensitively so that you have a full understanding of what is going on

What are the different levels of Cat Friendly Clinic accreditation?

Cat Friendly Clinic accreditation is at three levels – Bronze, Sliver and Gold. These recognise that vet clinics vary widely in their size, location, structure, staffing and equipment. Here at Prahran Veterinary Hospital we’re proud to hold Gold level accreditation, reflecting a commitment to cat care which places us at the forefront of our profession.

Feeding

Try to find out what your kitten was being fed before you got him and start him on a similar diet for the first few days while he is settling in.

Any time you change your kitten’s diet do it gradually, as sudden changes can cause stomach upsets or diarrhoea.

Your kitten’s diet should be based on a high quality kitten food because these are reliably balanced to contain all the essential vitamins and nutrients that your kitten needs. Check that the food your kitten is eating is labeled “complete and balanced”  If you base his diet on the commercial kitten foods, you can add other types of food to provide variety.

Always provide fresh, clean drinking water.  Cats can be fastidious about their drinking water, so use ceramic or stainless steel bowls or even a pet drinking fountain, to ensure your kitten is happily drinking.

Kittens do not need milk, and milk will often cause tummy upsets (most cats are actually mildly lactose intolerant).

Kittens aged six to twelve weeks should be fed four times a day. As a rough guide they should be allowed to eat as much as they feel inclined to at each meal. From twelve to sixteen weeks they should be fed three times a day and then twice a day from 16 weeks onwards.

Life Plan

Life Plan is a program designed to tailor your pet’s yearly health check ups and vaccinations to their age and breed. Pets, like us, have a higher likelihood of certain illnesses at different ages. As your pet becomes older we will concentrate on different health issues with a strong emphasis on preventative health care.

When your pet is due for a health check, a reminder letter will be sent in the mail. This letter will contain a series of questions that may help us detect both behavioural and medical problems early. This will help us institute preventative health care programs before these conditions become severe. Certain tests, such as blood or urine tests, will be recommended for specific age groups. Please bring the reminder, previous vaccination certificate and health check up reports when you come in (if you can find them).

With kittens we focus on preventative health issues such as parasite control and behavioural issues and toilet training.

As your pet gets older, we will ask you to bring in urine samples and may recommend blood tests or other tests, to determine if problems are starting to develop.

What are the benefits of Life Plan?

Questions on your pet’s behaviour and the utilisation of specific tests will allow us to recognise any health problems much earlier. The early recognition of problems will ensure that your pet’s health is optimised.

The major benefits of Life Plan include maximising the information that we can gain at each annual health check and minimising the impact of illnesses in your pet through early detection and implementation of preventative health strategies.

Our aim is “Healthier Pets for Life!”

Vaccinations

Vaccinations protect your cat against diseases that otherwise cause serious illness or death. We recommend three vaccinations, each one month apart, starting from the age of six weeks.

The diseases we vaccinate for are:

  • Feline Enteritis: This disease can cause severe fever, depression, loss of appetite, rapid and severe weight loss, dehydration, vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • Feline Respiratory Disease (“Cat Flu”): This disease affects cats of all ages but young kittens are the most severely affected. The signs of Cat Flu include sneezing, discharges from the nose and eyes, ulcers on the tongue and in the mouth and coughing.
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (“FIV”): This disease affects the cat’s immune system and can result in Feline AIDS. A course of vaccinations can protect many cats. 3 vaccinations are needed.

To keep your cat protected from these diseases regular booster vaccinations are required. The frequency of the booster vaccinations depend on the vaccines used as well as you and your cat’s needs and circumstances.

Intestinal Worms

Roundworm is the major problem worm in young kittens. Kittens should be wormed against roundworm at two weeks of age and then every two weeks until 12 weeks of age. Then they are then wormed monthly until six months of age.

Cats over six months need to be wormed four times a year. Use an “all wormer” preparation such as such as Milbemax or Profender. These “all wormers” treat for roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. When purchasing worm medications read the label carefully as many do not treat for tapeworms.

Revolution and Advocate (monthly “spot on” preparations) are also available to cover most worms (except tapeworm).

Please ask us which worm preparation is most suited to your kitten. It is important to dose correctly for weight.

Toilet Training

Most kittens are pretty self-sufficient when it comes to matters of toileting, find a cat litter type that your kitten prefers and try not to vary things too much. Some key points:

  • Avoid negative training methods: Scolding, hitting or rubbing the cat’s nose in its urine or faeces after it has eliminated in an undesirable location is notoriously ineffective at house-training. Often it makes matters worse because the cat becomes more anxious.
  • Reward elimination in the correct place: Take the cat to the area you want it to go (either place him in the litter tray or in the garden if he is to be an outside cat). When you see the cat eliminating in the correct place wait until he has finished and then praise him. Place the litter tray in an area where your cat is least likely to be disturbed and keep the litter fresh.

Car Travel

If your kitten is likely to be taken on car trips throughout their life, it may be worthwhile getting him used to the car when he is small. Take your pet on short car rides initially. We recommend that all cats are restrained in a cat carrier or basket for safety reasons.

No food should be given to the kitten for about two hours before the trip.

Spending some time making the car a happy place to be by feeding the kitten in the stationary car and playing with him in the car can help reduce anxiety. Once the kitten is happy and relaxed eating and playing in the stationary car then progress to going on very short trips that end with some pleasurable experience.

During the trip remember only to engage with and praise him when he is bright and happy. If you pat and cuddle him when he is nervous it may reinforce anxious behaviour.

Dental Care

Kittens get their baby teeth (deciduous teeth) between two and eight weeks of age. From two to six months of age they shed their deciduous teeth and their permanent teeth erupt. They have all their permanent teeth by seven to eight months of age.

As cats get older they often get dental problems, such as gum infections and rotten teeth. The best way to prevent this is to familiarise your kitten with having his teeth brushed.

In mature cats, specialised diets are available that help with preventing dental plaque formation

Important Points in Prevention of Dental Disease:

  • Feed food that will help the teeth to stay clean. Meat may be fed if provided in large enough pieces that force cats to engage their teeth and chew.
  • Brush your pet’s teeth regularly. This is best done daily with special enzymatic cat toothpaste. DO NOT USE HUMAN TOOTH PASTE.

Flea Control

Life Cycle of the Flea

Fleas are small, brown or black wingless insects with flattened bodies. These blood-sucking insects cause considerable irritation and distress to infested pets. Severe infestation may lead to anaemia from blood loss. Fleas spread the common tapeworm in dogs and cats. Flea bites also cause skin disorders on both pets and people.

After taking a blood meal, fleas drop off the animal and deposit their eggs in cracks, crevices and carpeting. A single breeding pair of fleas may produce 20,000 fleas in three months. Eggs hatch after two to 12 days into larvae that feed in the environment. Larvae moult twice and then spin a cocoon for anywhere from a week to a year.

Most (95%) of the life cycle is spent away from the pet in the environment. This is why control of the flea in the environment is essential for proper flea control.

Control of Fleas

Products called “spot-ons” can be applied to the skin once a month to kill adult fleas and their larvae. We recommend a product called Advocate for monthly parasite control.

Always take great care before applying any insecticide to a young kitten. Many flea control products are unsuitable for animals under three months of age. Dog insecticides should not be used in cats unless the label specifically says so. Keep insecticides away from children and always read the safety directions carefully before application.

Grooming

Kittens that have long hair or thick coats should be familiarised with grooming as early as six to eight weeks of age. Long haired cats often need to be brushed daily.

Brushing kittens before you feed them will make them look forward to grooming sessions. It’s best to place the kitten on a chair or table and then brush from the top of the head to the tip of the tail, not forgetting the chest and face. Be gentle and don’t pull at knots or the kitten will learn to dislike grooming.

Long-haired cats can develop hair balls if they ingest a lot of hair during their daily grooming. Please ask us how to prevent hair balls if you have a long-haired cat.

Provide your kitten with a scratching post to allow scratching which is a natural behaviour for them. Nail clipping for your kitten is a quick and easy task. It is important to prevent ingrown nails which are extremely painful for your pet. Old cats that don’t wear down their nails because of reduced scratching behaviour appear to be most susceptible to overgrown nails.

We offer nail clipping to all pets, from birds and rabbits to dogs and cats.

Identification

Legislation requires that your kitten be microchipped before it is three months old. A microchip is a permanent identifier that is implanted with just one small injection. In addition to his microchip, your kitten should always wear some form of identification such as a collar and name tag with your details.

Registration

Stonnington council requires cats over three months of age to be registered. Registering before 6 months of age may entitle you to up to a year of free registration. It is cheaper to register desexed pets. Contact the Animal control officer of Stonnington Council on 82901333 for more information. All pets must be microchipped to be registered.

Desexing

We recommend that cats be desexed at approximately six months of age. Female cats are spayed, which is the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus (ovariohysterectomy). Male cats are castrated, which is the surgical removal of both testicles. These operations are done under a general anaesthetic.

Stonnington council requires all pet cats to be desexed. Exemptions are only made for cats for registered breeding purposes or due to veterinary advice.

The Reasons we Recommend Desexing

Males

Females

Stops unwanted kittens. Stops unwanted kittens.
Less roaming, wandering and aggression. Fewer stray and unwanted pets.
Fewer stray and abandoned pets. No “seasons”, with problems of confinement.
Much less chance of urine spraying. Much less chance of breast cancer.
Less destruction of native birds and fauna. Eliminated womb infections.
No problems caused by pregnancy and birth.

Environmental Enrichment

It is important to make the home environment as interesting as possible for your kitten. Toys should be rotated regularly, so that they are exciting when they come out again. Treat balls or Kitty Kongs can be filled with food (or a meal) and will keep your cat occupied for hours. Cats will also find their own toys in anything from paper bags to bottle tops to christmas decorations

Scratching posts should be provided to focus your kittens’ attention on a specific area of the house, to avoid having your expensive lounge suite clawed and remodeled to your cats’ desire! Posts should be tall enough for you cat to stretch up on its’ hind legs and should have both a horizontal and a vertical scratching surface. Do not replace the scratching post when it gets ‘messy’ or your cat may turn its attention elsewhere.

Cats need grass to chew. Catnip and cat grass seeds can be purchased from your local garden centre.

Environmental enrichment will help to reduce the risk of destructive and nuisance behaviour.

Pet Insurance

A variety of pet insurance policies are available for your puppy. Insurance can help cover the cost of unexpected veterinary visits and provide the best possible care for your pet when the need arises. Refer to the different insurance companies and their policies to find out which suits you and your pet’s needs.

“Kitten Kindergarten”

Kitten Kinder is a socialisaton and training programme we run along with cat trainer Natalia. The programme runs for four weeks and kittens aged between eight and 14 weeks are eligible to attend. Classes are held on Saturday afternoons at the Prahran Vet Hospital.

This 4 week programme will create confident kittys, teach them basic manners and provide you with the tools to prevent and address unwanted behaviour.

Learn about:

  • Toilet training
  • Scratching
  • Socialisation
  • Enrichment
  • Touch & handling
  • Teach your kitten its name, “sit!” and “come!”

If you are interested in attending please contact the hospital, as spaces are limited. Cost is $135.00 per kitten (discounts apply to kittens from some rescue agencies) and two human family members are welcome to attend with each student, please contact reception to find out about our next course and reserve your kitten’s place!