A Litter of Kittens, Curled Up Together and Sound Asleep, Can Be Very Alluring
After all, they're so small - how much time and attention could they need? Plenty! But every bit of affection you and your family give a kitten will be returned over and over again. And since the average lifespan of an indoor cat that's cared for properly is about 15 years, you can expect to enjoy the company of your new kitten for a long time.
Before you bring a kitten home, though, you'll have some shopping and "catproofing" to do!
Your kitten will need its own food and water dishes, a litterbox and litterbox supplies, a cat carrier, nail clippers, a scratching post, some kitten toys, food specifically formulated for kittens, and its own bed - though chances are it will find lots of places in which to relax.
Remember, though, that your home can be a dangerous place for a kitten. Toxic substances are even more dangerous for cats than dogs because cats live up to their reputation for curiosity and they groom themselves thoroughly. Be sure that cleaning products, motor oil, antifreeze, brake fluid and other household and automotive chemicals are stored in tightly closed containers. If any of these substances are spilled, clean them up immediately. Let floors dry after using household chemicals to clean them - cats can become ill from simply licking their paws after walking on newly cleaned, wet floors. And never put rodent bait where your cat can find it.
Houseplants are very attractive to cats, but many plants are poisonous. Make sure you get rid of those that could harm your cat.
Medicines can be another source of toxicity - medications that are safe for humans may not be safe for cats. Keep medicine containers closed tightly and away from your pet. Never give your kitten or cat any medication unless it is prescribed or approved by your veterinarian.
You've Brought Your Kitten Home - Now What?
Once a kitten is eight weeks old, it is probably ready to eat solid food and leave its mother.
Find a small, quiet, warm part of the house for your new kitten to live in for the first few weeks until it gets used to its new environment. If you have another cat, be sure to take the newcomer to the veterinarian before exposing it to the cat you already have, to make sure the kitten isn't carrying any transmissible diseases. Once the kitten has clearance from your veterinarian, allow at least two to three weeks for the cat and kitten to adjust to one another. Don't force them to play together, but do try feeding them on opposite sides of the same door. You can also familiarize the cat and kitten with each other by exchanging their blankets from time to time. Gradually, let the kitten begin to explore the house while the other cat is in another room. Handle and groom your kitten - this will encourage socialization and help you start developing a trusting relationship with your new pet.
Every new kitten faces a variety of parasites and infectious organisms as it grows. Some of them can pose a threat to humans too, so it's important to take your kitten to your veterinarian as soon as you can. That way, your veterinarian can get your kitten started on a preventive health care plan that's the foundation for a long, healthy life - and your family can enjoy your new kitten worry free. If you don't already have a veterinarian, click here to sign up for Veterinarian Locator service, free from Merial.com.
Here are some kitten health care topics you'll be discussing with your veterinarian. Just click on each topic for more information.
Heartworms and Gastrointestinal Parasites: Risks You Might Not Even See until Your Cat's Infected
Pampered princess or inquisitive prowler, your kitten is at risk of exposure to potentially deadly heartworms as well as harmful gastrointestinal parasites. But don't despair - heartworm disease can be prevented and hookworms can be controlled!
Heartworm disease in cat's is a condition that continues to increase in the number of cases diagnosed. Its prevalence has increased because we live in such a mobile society - people and their pets travel from place to place, unknowingly taking parasites along for the ride. Cats of any age and type are susceptible, and the disease can be fatal.
The parasitic worm responsible for heartworm disease is called Dirofilaria immitis. Heartworm disease transmission begins when a mosquito bites an infected dog and draws in a small amount of blood in which tiny immature heartworm larvae are circulating. (Dogs are the usual reservoir from which mosquitoes acquire the larvae that become infective and may be transmitted to animals that include dogs and cats).
Within 2 to 3 weeks the heartworm larvae develop inside the mosquito. When that same mosquito then bites a cat, heartworm larvae are deposited on the cat's skin. The larvae migrate through the tissue and into the bloodstream where they continue to develop. Within 4 months, heartworms reach the heart and lungs and may cause heartworm disease. Worm burdens of as few as one heartworm may cause permanent damage or even death in cats. Diagnosing heartworm disease may require several tests because blood tests that work well for dogs are not always reliable in cats. There is no approved treatment for feline heartworm disease.
Whether your cat is an "outdoor" or "indoor" pet, it's at risk of exposure to heartworms. Fortunately, heartworm disease in cats can be prevented. Ask your veterinarin about the HEARTGARD® (ivermectin) for Cats from Merial.
Heartworms are not the only parasite of concern to kitten owners. Everyday gastrointestinal parasites such as hookworms can weaken adult cats as well as kittens, and can even cause death in severe cases. Effective treatment and ongoing control of gastrointestinal parasites is essential for the health of your kitten.
Fleas and Ticks
Ounce-for-ounce, few creatures can inflict more discomfort than fleas. These tiny, pests can hop onto your cat unobserved to feed on its blood and lay their eggs, producing yet another generation. Fleas can make life miserable for people and pets alike, disrupting your household with a nasty cycle of biting and scratching and causing flea allergy dermatitis or anemia in some cats..
Ticks attach to cats to feed. You might not even notice these minute pests on your cat until the ticks have fed so much that they've become engorged. Worse yet, ticks carry diseases that can cause serious cat-health problems.
Click here for more information about protection from Merial against fleas and ticks.
Diseases of kittens
There's no way around it - dangerous, disease-causing organisms are part of your kitten's environment. And because kittens like to explore everything, they're good candidates for exposure to infection. But your veterinarian can protect kittens and adult cats against a number of infectious organisms through a regular vaccination program.
In fact, taking your kitten to "get its shots" on a regular basis is one of the easiest, most important ways you can protect your pet's good health, because it ensures that your veterinarian has the chance to examine your pet regularly to detect any problems before they become threats.
Vaccines are fascinating - they work by stimulating an animal's immune system, either by producing antibodies that fight infection and/or by activating what are called cell-level immune responses. The animal health industry has developed a number of vaccines that can protect your kitten from disease, now and as an adult.
Some of the most important to understand and talk about with your veterinarian are feline rabies, feline leukemia (FeLV), respiratory diseases (FVR, FCV, FPN), and feline panleukopenia (FPV). Vaccines are available against all these diseases.
Rabies: A Fatal Disease that Affects People, Too
Rabies is a frightening disease that is almost always fatal. It's doubly dangerous because it can be transmitted from animals to people. Some states now mandate vaccinations for cats and most require vaccination for dogs. Before the advent of effective rabies vaccination programs, rabies was widely reported in domestic pets. Today, the majority of rabies cases involve wild animals, especially skunks, raccoons, bats, coyotes and foxes. As people have developed rural areas into suburban developments and office complexes, rabies-infected animals have increasingly come into contact with humans and their pets.
Feline Leukemia (FeLV): A Virus Responsible for Several Potentially Fatal Diseases
Feline leukemia virus is found in the saliva of infected cats. FeLV can be transmitted from cat-to-cat via saliva, urine, feces, and milk. Younger cats are more susceptible to the virus, which weakens the immune system and can cause malignant and nonmalignant diseases. While some cats carry and transmit FeLV without showing signs of illness, feline leukemia virus is one of the leading causes of death in cats.
Respiratory Diseases (FVR, FCV, FPN): "Cat Flu" that Can Be Fatal in Kittens
Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), feline calicivirus (FCV), and Chlamydia (FPN) are responsible for upper respiratory infections known collectively as "cat flu." FVR and FCV cause 80-90% of cat flu cases and are spread from cat to cat by contaminated litter boxes and water bowls or contact with infected fluids such as saliva, nasal secretions, and eye discharge. FVR is characterized by inflammation of the cat's eyes, nose, or windpipe; discharge from the eyes or nose; lethargy; fever; loss of appetite; and constant sneezing. The symptoms of FCV include runny nose and moderate sneezing; more serious symptoms are tongue ulcers, excess salivation, weight loss, poor physical appearance, and a refusal to eat.
FPN, though implicated in fewer cases of cat flu, provides opportunities for more serious bacterial complications to develop. Though cats generally recover from FPN-related illness, the illness can recur if cats who have had the disease become stressed or develop other ailments.
Feline Panleukopenia (FPV): Sudden Onset, High Mortality
Feline panleukopenia a very contagious, dangerous disease that happens suddenly, causing fever, loss of appetite, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, hypothermia, and, all too often, death. The virus that causes feline panleukopenia can survive for long periods in a contaminated environment, but it can also be eliminated from that environment by a dilution of household bleach. Cats and kittens are both susceptible, though mortality is higher in young cats. Cats become infected when they ingest the feces of an infected cat.
Your Kitten's Vaccination Schedule
No matter what kind of kitten you've selected, its vaccination schedule should begin at six to eight weeks of age. After that, regular revaccinations are needed to keep your cat healthy. See your veterinarian to establish a vaccination and revaccination schedule.