CONGRATULATIONS on your NEW KITTEN!

 

Congratulations on acquiring your new kitten! We hope you enjoy the wonderful experiences that the human:animal bond will bring into your life. This handout is designed to summarise the main health aspects and diseases you need to be aware of when becoming a cat owner. If you have questions relating to your kitten's health or behaviour, please do not hesitate to phone us on 9980 1800 or email contact@cherrybrookvets.com.au 

Vaccinations

There are various diseases that may be dangerous and even fatal in cats. Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent many of these by the use of very effective vaccines. In order to produce sufficient protection and to overcome the problem of maternal antibodies interfering with the vaccination, these vaccines are given as a series of injections.

Kittens usually have F3 vaccinations at 6-8 weeks (check with the breeder to see if he or she has already had this one), 10-12 weeks and 16 weeks though these recommendations may vary according to circumstance.

            F3 vaccinates against Feline Enteritis (Parvovirus) and Cat Flu (Herpesvirus and Calicivirus)

Kittens should not be allowed to come into contact with unvaccinated cats until 10 days after their 16 week F3 vaccination. It is recommended to keep kittens indoors (unless they are on a lead) until 6 months of age, to prevent them from roaming and getting lost.

It is important that the final kitten booster is given at a minimum age of 16 weeks, which is when the maternal antibodies are no longer present in the bloodstream.

Adult cats are then vaccinated annually to continue protection for life – a reminder will be sent out when your cat’s vaccination is due.

There are 3 other important infectious viral diseases in young cats - FIV (feline AIDS), FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) and FeLV (feline leukaemia virus). Currently there is no vaccine available for FIP. There are vaccinations available for both FeLV and FIV.

FIV is usually transmitted via saliva during cat fights or by sharing the same food and water bowls for cats in the same household. If you already have a cat that is FIV positive, then it may be wise to have your kitten vaccinated against FIV to help prevent infection. Infection rates in Sydney are fairly high (14% in NSW) and while it is not an immediately life threatening disease, FIV can predispose your kitten to infectious diseases due to a weakened immune system. There is no cross infection between cats and humans as it is a completely different virus to HIV. There are differing opinions amongst veterinarians about the efficacy and use of the available FIV vaccine but if your cat spends a lot of time roaming and fighting fights then the arguments for and against FIV vaccination are worth discussing with your veterinarian.

Feline leukaemia virus is transmitted by direct contact between cats. FeLV is a very rare disease in Sydney and for this reason, the majority of feline specialists and university veterinary teaching hospitals advise that this vaccination is not necessary except in high-risk situations (e.g. breeding catteries) so our clinic does not routinely recommend FeLV vaccination.

Intestinal Worming

Intestinal parasites are common in kittens. Kittens can become infected with parasites before they are born or later through their mother's milk. Kittens should be wormed every 2 weeks until 12 weeks old, then once monthly until 6 months old. Adult cats should be wormed every 3 months. Cats do not have to mix with other cats to develop a worm infestation. Many of the intermediate hosts are small mammals such as mice and snails/slugs.

Instestinal worms carried by cats pose a small but definite risk to immunologically susceptible people therefore it is good practice to regularly deworm your cat throughout its life.

Dead worms may sometimes be seen in your cat’s faeces the day after worming and occasionally a particular worming product will cause vomiting. If this occurs, we may need to change the type of worming he or she is receiving.

When choosing an intestinal wormer for your cat, ensure that the following worms are covered:

  • Roundworm
  • Tapeworm - note that not all worming products cover tapeworm effectively
  • Hookworm (less common in cats)


Worming products available for kittens/cats:

Amongst the products that veterinarian commonly recommend are

  • Felex all-wormer paste (a yellow paste administered via a syringe into the mouth and is safe to use from 2 weeks of age)
  • Milbemax tablets (small tablets which are safe to use from 6 weeks of age)
  • Profender spot on (liquid applied to the skin on the back of the neck every 3 months and safe to use from 8 weeks of age from 0.5kg bodyweight)
  • Advocate spot on (liquid applied to the skin on the back of the neck monthly and safe to use from 9 weeks; does not cover tapeworm but has additional protection for lungworm and fleas)

For cats that are allowed outside and are hunters, Advocate is the best choice, as it has the additional cover for lungworm which is common in cats that hunt. In these cats, a Milbemax tablet should be given every 3-6 months to ensure tapeworm cover.

For cats that are totally inside and are on a monthly flea preventative, an annual worming tablet given by your veterinarian at the annual health check is probably sufficient in the majority of cases.

Heartworm disease is rare in cats in Sydney but is covered by monthly Revolution and Advocate. In general, heartworm prevention is routinely recommended in cats given its rare occurrence.

 

Flea Prevention

These days, flea shampoos, collars and powders are ineffective against fleas due to pyrethroid resistance. There are several innovative better preventatives available on the market but always check as to when it is safe to start using these products.

  • Advantage spot-on can be used from 2 weeks of age to treat and prevent fleas. It is applied to the skin on the back of the neck monthly. Note – Advocate has the same active ingredient as Advantage but treats most of the worms as well.
  • Revolution spot-on can be used from 8 weeks of age to treat and prevent fleas monthly. Revolution also covers ear mites (common in kittens) as well as roundworm.
  • Activyl spot-on can be used from 8 weeks of age to treat and prevent fleas monthly. It is the newest topical flea prevention on the market at the moment and is therefore the most effective topical agent, with no reported flea resistance. It is particularly useful for multi-animal households.
  • Comfortis is a monthly flavoured tablet which treats and prevents fleas. It can be used from 14 weeks of age. Having been used in dogs successfully, the product is now registered for use in cats too. It is important to always give Comfortis with a full meal (or vomiting may occur). Comfortis is currently one of the best flea adulticides on the market.
  • Capstar tablets kill all fleas on the cat within 1 hour but do not have any lasting effect. They are good to have on hand if fleas are seen on the cat in between monthly preparations. Capstar can be used from 4 weeks of age.
  • Program injection is a 6 monthly injection which prevents flea infestations by causing the female fleas to become sterile. This breaks the flea life cycle. Program is an excellent means of reducing flea problems in cats that are very sensitive to fleas or in multi-cat households. It is safe to use in kittens from 6 weeks of age but is generally something that is considered after desexing.

We have a separate handout available which talks about flea prevention in more detail and covers environmental control. Please ask one of our staff members if you would like this printed. Additional recommendations are listed for pets with a flea infestation.

Ticks

The paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) is fairly common in the Cherrybrook area and surrounds, particularly in areas where there are possums and bandicoots, as these are the natural hosts for ticks. Coastal areas, such as the beach, are far worse affected.

One tick can kill a cat after several days of attachment so it is vital that owners are aware of this potentially deadly parasite. Ticks can be present all year round but are most prevalent during spring and summer. If you live near the bush or have possums or bandicoots on your property, then it is recommended that a tick preventative be used.

The only registered product for tick prevention in cats is fipronil spray  (Frontera) applied every 3 weeks to the coat.  Not everyone is comfortable with spraying insecticidal products on a cat's coat, especially given a cat's tendency to groom off any foreign material but Fipronil is relatively safe and appears to be effective. To ensure correct application it is worth speaking to our staff about the administration procedure of the spray. Frontline top spot may be used every 2 weeks as an aid for tick prevention but it is not registered for this use .

Whatever tick product you choose there is no 100% guarantee for protection. A daily tick search of your cat, especially during the warmer months, is  good idea particularly if your cat may live or wander near bushland. It generally takes 3 days for clinical signs of tick paralysis to start, so a daily tick search gives you 3 chances to find a tick that has attached. For long-haired cats that may be exposed to ticks an all-over clip in Spring may be worth considering.

Households should own a tick twister, which is a plastic hook that enables complete removal of ticks easily once they are located on your cat. These are cheap and available at Cherrybrook Vet.

Signs of tick paralysis in cats include:

  • a change in voice or meow (progressive vocal chord paralysis)
  • increasingly laboured respiration
  • inco-ordination
  • decreased appetite
  • vomiting

If any of these signs are noticed and a tick is suspected, it is best that you book your cat in for a check up as soon as possible. The anti-tick serum is most effective if it is administered in the early stages of paralysis.

Further information on tick prevention is available in a handout so please feel free to ask for a copy.

Nutrition

Diet is extremely important in the growing months of a cat's life and should provide adequate and balanced nutrition as well as incorporating some form of chewing to keep teeth clean and healthy. Commercial cat foods are convenient and generally provide adequate nutrition. Dry food can be left in the cat's bowl without spoiling. All well known brands of “complete” dry food should provide balanced nutrition however it is probably wise to avoid the cheapest end supermarket brands or brands that are not well known. I fact it is worth considering a "premium" brand dry food for at least the first 12 months, especially as a correct calcium to phosphorus ratio is really important for the kitten’s growth phase and their bone development.

Opinions regarding diet will vary, much the same as they do in humans, however a widely accepted recommendation is to use a combination of dry food and wet (tin or sachet) food (50-70% good quality dry). All commercial foods should be adequate nutritionally but quality, especially in terms of protein quality and digestibility, will vary. It's probably fair to say that the cheaper the food, the lower the protein quality and digestibility are likely to be. Low digestibility may produce voluminous or loose stools in some cats.

Dry food are convenient and can be left out during the day to suit a cat's preference to "graze" rather than consume two main meals. Tinned foods and raw meats such as beef and chicken can be given in the mornings and evenings but should be removed, if unfinished, to avoid spoiling. It is important to note that red meat is relatively low in calcium and excessive use, especially in growing cats can cause bone development problems.

Once a cat is fully grown at 12 months, the amount of dry food required reduces. It's not possible to give a definitive amount that your cat will need to eat each day as this will vary between cats depending on their metabolism and activity. The recommendations regarding daily requirements on the side of the food packet will provide a guide but the ultimate amount will depend on you monitoring the size of your cat and avoiding obesity. Many cats will remain at a good weight on ad lib dry food feeding but others will become overweight leading to obesity and possible health problems such as diabetes later in life. 

It is dangerous to feed cooked bones eg cooked chicken bones as they can splinter and cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract.

There are some household items that are poisonous to cats including lilies and paracetamol.

Dental Health

Periodontal (gum) disease is very common in cats and it is almost certainly  fair to say that cats that eat primarily soft "wet foods" are going to be prone to dental problems. Even commercial dry foods are not perfect for keeping teeth clean but various manufacturers now are producing "dental" dry foods with a harder, larger kibble that encourages more chewing.

Other means of preventing dental disease in cats include:

  • Raw beef strips

In cats, providing ‘stir fry’ style strips of raw beef encourages chewing

  • Raw chicken wing tips

The cartilaginous end of chicken wings are suitable for cats to chew on and can be introduced from a young age

  • Greenies chews

These are chew treats designed to encourage cats to chew and are very tasty!

  • Hills T/D and oral biscuits or similar

T/D biscuits for adult cats (suitable from 12 months of age) are a much harder and larger biscuit which are designed to clean the teeth as the cat works harder to crunch them. They can be fed as the sole dry food source instead of other commercial dry foods.

It has unfortunately become common for adult cats to require a dental scale and polish under an anaesthetic a few times in their lifetime. Your vet will check your cat’s teeth at the annual check up and inform you if this is needed.

Desexing

Desexing cats is encouraged for health reasons unless the animal is to be used for breeding. We usually recommend desexing at approximately 5 ½ to 6 months of age.

Female cats that are allowed to go outside and are not desexed within this time frame will almost always get pregnant and this only adds to the problem of unwanted kittens.

It is generally considered irresponsible to allow a cat that has not been desexed to roam outside as they cannot be confined to your yard and so will add to the feral cat problem and have a negative affect on our native wildlife. Tom cats will also spray a foul smelling urine to mark their territory and get into fights with neighbouring cats. They also tend to spread the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) which is the feline version of ‘AIDS’.

Desexing involves the surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries in female cats and the testicles in male cats. The surgery is performed under general anaesthesia and with good quality pain relief. Complications are rare. Please ask one of our staff for a more comprehensive information sheet about the benefits of desexing.

Toileting

In most cases, kittens will instinctively use a litter tray with the appropriate litter. Ask the cats previous owner/breeder what brand of litter they have been using. Often you may need to try several types of litter to determine which one the cat likes to use eg Breeder’s Choice litter (recycled newspaper). The cheaper litter types are often just as good. Clumping litter is not recommended for kittens.

The acceptable number of trays is ONE LITTER TRAY PER CAT PLUS ONE. If there is more than one cat in the household, try to place the trays in different locations. It is important that the feeding area is not near the litter tray as cats are very clean animals and are unlikely to defecate near their food.

Generally cats prefer to have a large and deep litter tray with plenty of litter in it so that they can dig and cover their waste properly. Avoid the trays that have a lid on the top as cats usually find these unappealing.

Scoop the litter box every day and replace the litter once a week as a minimum. Wash out the box with hot soapy water rather than disinfectant.

Make sure the litter tray is not right next to a noisy house hold appliance such as the washing machine and that your cat has some privacy. They don’t like to be interrupted while on the toilet!

Contact the vet hospital if there are any toileting problems with your cat as soon as possible. We have a handout called “Inappropriate Urination” which goes into more detail about how to please your cat when it comes to their toilet.

Microchipping

A microchip implant is a permanent means of identification via a barcode that can be scanned. This helps lost cats to be quickly returned to their owners if they are brought to the pound or the vet.

Microchippingis compulsory for all cats (NSW Companion Animal Act). This can be performed at any age but should be done as early as possible and can be done easily at the same time as vaccinations.

Most kittens have already been microchipped by the time of purchase. It is recommended that owners contact their local council to ensure their details have been correctly entered into the database. It is also a good idea to ensure there is a secondary contact person listed. All cats must be registered with the council by 6 months of age. Desexed cats are much cheaper to register. Make sure you update your details with your local council whenever you move house or change your phone number.

If your cat tends to wander or escape, then it may be worthwhile getting a pet name tag with your contact details which can be ordered through Cherrybrook Vet Hospital. 

Pet Health Insurance

Insuring your kitten for veterinary treatment is very wise. Pets are not covered by Medicare and medications are not under the PBS system as they are in human medicine. Diagnostic investigation and treatment for illness and accidents are as involved as those in the human medical field and therefore costs can be considerable. Insurance companies will not insure for pre-existing conditions. For example, if your cat comes in with a skin problem and you decide to take out insurance after that, future skin issues will not be covered. For this reason, the best time to take out pet insurance is as soon as you get your kitten, before any health problems are detected.

Aspects to consider with choosing the right pet health insurance policy include:

-        Is there adequate tick paralysis coverage? (Costs can be thousands if your pet requires mechanical ventilation at a specialist referral facility)

-        Is dental treatment covered? (Most pets require dentistry under anaesthesia in their lifetime)

-        Is there cover for behaviour issues requiring medication and referral to a veterinary behaviour specialist? (Behaviour problems are extremely common and referral can be hundreds of dollars)

We have brochures available at Cherrybrook Vet but we are unable to advise on a specific policy for legal reasons. Having your pet insured can give you peace of mind that if something unexpected were to happen, such as an accident or injury, chronic health issue or if a specialist referral was required, the costs involved are not such a concern.

Socialisation

It is important that you spend as much time as possible to socialise your kitten. Generally the more positive experiences and interactions you and your family have with your kitten, the more comfortable he or she will feel in the new environment. Try to introduce the cat to lots of different men, women, children and dogs (with care) while the cat is young (preferably before 8-10 weeks of age). During this early period, known as the ‘socialisation period’, kittens learn what aspects of their environment are safe and normal so that everything they come across during this period is likely to be accepted a something that is okay for them later in life.

Settling In

When acquiring a new kitten, you may need to take some time off work (2-3 days) to help the little one adjust to his or her new surroundings and create a bond with your pet. pend at least a couple of hours interacting with your kitten every day and try not to leave him or her unattended for too long initially.

Remember cats DO NOT respond to force but they do respond to praise!

Provide a room or another space that your kitten can feel safe in, complete with food/water, a cat bed, litter tray, scratching/climbing post and some toys. Cats prefer their water source to be at least 1 metre from their food source. Their food and water should be well away from their toilet too.

Always provide places to climb up and look out of windows. Cats prefer to feel like they are ‘in control’ of their surroundings.

Feliway can be used to help your cat relax while settling in. This is the feline facial pheromone analogue or ‘happy cat’ pheromone. It comes in either a plug in diffuser or a spray and can be very effective at helping your cat feel right at home and in a safe place.

There are also many environmental enrichment type toys which can occupy your cat while you are not around. Speak to your pet shop for ideas. Giving your cat something fun to do just prior to you leaving the house can help prevent separation anxiety. It is a good idea to provide a tall scratching post where the cat can perch at the top. This creates a sense of security while the cat can survey his or her new home.

Another great toy is the Bergan Turbo Cat Scratcher – check it out on YouTube! Cats love them!

The internet is useful for cat information if you look at vet-recommended websites. The following are some examples of vet endorsed websites with helpful information about cat care:

www.veterinarypartner.com or www.icatcare.org

Indoors or Outdoors?

Cats that are not desexed yet should be confined to indoors (until 6 months when they can be desexed) or only allowed outside on a cat harness.

Once the cat is desexed, the owner needs to decide whether they are going to allow their cat to have free outdoor access eg via a cat door or be kept as a totally indoor cat.

If owners choose to allow the cat to have access to outside, a good option is to have a cat door that is activated by your cat’s microchip. This avoids unwanted visiting cats from coming into your cat’s territory! Sureflap is an example of a microchip cat flap.

We also recommend for cats allowed outdoors that the food be removed during the day so that your cat is hungry enough to come in at night for his or her dinner. Cats should definitely be curfewed overnight as this is the most common time where problems can occur such as cat fights, car accidents and wildlife destruction.

There is no question that keeping cats indoors expands their lifespan, as they are no longer vulnerable to motor vehicle accidents, dog attacks and cat fights. Cats are naturally very curious creatures and will often harass their owners to be let out, but there are plenty of ways to enrich your cat’s indoor environment.

There is a whole website dedicated to indoor cats http://indoorpet.osu.edu or simply Google “Indoor Cat Initiative” for the link.

Alternatively, if cats insist on being let outside, a cat proof garden or contained cat enclosure may be the answer. For information on how to cat proof your garden, visit www.icatcare.org for ideas.

There are companies that provide innovative contained cat enclosures that attach to your house and still look attractive:

  • Cat Walk City       www.catwalkcity.com.au               ph 0414 437 413
  • Cat Max               www.catmax.com.au                      ph 1300 306 605        

Grooming & Bathing

It is unnecessary to bath/shampoo your cat unless for some reason they are unable to groom themselves sufficiently. Long haired breeds must be regularly brushed to prevent the coat from forming mats. If your cat does develop mats, then the coat may need to be clipped short each year. Cherrybrook Vet Hospital does not provide a grooming service as such but we do clip cats where general anaesthetic is necessary and clipping is unable to b carried out by a normal pet groomer. 

Nails

Nail clipping in cats is normally straight-forward but claws regrow quite quickly. Purchase of a scratching pole is usually a good way to prevent damage to furniture through claw-sharpening behaviour. Unfortunately leather lounges are a favourite for cats to scratch their claws on! The best nail clippers available for cats are the Gripsoft small nail clippers which should last a life time. As a general rule, the nails need more frequent clipping in elderly cats as their nails seem to stop shedding properly. Sometimes the nails can even grow into the pads which can be very painful.

Boarding Catteries           

If you are going away, it is generally not recommended to leave a cat unattended in the backyard. Even if a neighbour is coming around to the house daily to feed the cat, then your cat should be confined to indoors. A housesitter or pet feeder can work well for cats, particularly those that tend to get a bit stressed going into catteries.

There are a number of good catteries in the area but it is a good idea for owners to check the cattery facilities in person and ensure they are clean and the cats look well cared for.

  • Aristocat Boarding Cattery                    ph 9654 1041 (Annangrove)
  • Puss N’ Boots Boarding Catteryph 9651 1401 (Dural)
  • Calabash Kennels & Cattery     ph 9655 1624 (Arcadia)
  • Cats @ Home                                         ph 0405 346 967 (Wayne Malpas) jmalpas@bigpond.net.au

If you are uncertain about any aspect of your kitten’s care, please do not hesitate to call one of our staff members for advice on (02) 9980 1800 or email contact@cherrybrookvets.com.au with your questions.