Disclaimer: This information is intended to provide information helpful for new kitten owners and is based on our experience. However it should not be construed as authoritative or used in place of proper veterinary care and advice.
Bringing a New Kitten Home
By Franny Syufy, about.com
Cat-Proofing Your Home
Kittens are inveterate snoops and their favorite toys might be harmful to them: things like the cords on blinds, electrical cords, or yummy (and toxic) plants to nibble. They can also do a certain amount of damage with their little needle claws by climbing curtains or your good furniture. Therefore a certain amount of cat proofing will be necessary.
The first thing you need to do is place yourself physically down at the level of a cat, by sitting or even lying on the floor. Look up and around at all the interesting things to play with. From this vantage point you can make a list of hazards and breakables that you will need to deal with.
The Importance of Quarantine
If you have no other household pets, integrating a new kitten into your home is a fairly simple matter. You’ll automatically make it one of the family, and will no doubt spend a great deal of time with it, bonding and generally “spoiling” it.
It’s another matter entirely, however, if you have existing dogs and/or cats in your family. First, it’s important to quarantine the new kitten(s) until they have had their veterinary exam, to prevent spreading diseases or parasites they may carry. Feral kittens often have ear mites, fleas, and other parasites. Sadly, they may too be carriers or be infected with FIV or FeLV. Kittens adopted from shelters quite often have URIs (upper respiratory infections), including Bordetella (kennel cough). Even kittens from breeders can have these and often ringworm and URI’s have an incubation period of up to three or four weeks, thus even a reputable rescue or reputable breeder may be unaware of this condition.
New Kitten Care Guide
From The Homeless Cat Network
You’ve just acquired a new kitten and with it, a lot of joy and pleasure, but also a set of responsibilities to insure its health and well-being. To start with, it is a good idea to consult with your veterinarian about your kitten’s health.
Kittens should be active and playful when awake; but when they sleep they should sleep deeply. You should be concerned if your new kitten:
Fatigues easily during play
Has coughing, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea, or discharge from the eyes or nose
Has a “bloated” appearance (a full, tense abdomen)
Has a poor appetite and/or a dry coat
Kittens should eat good quality kitten food until 9-12 months of age. When making a change from kitten to adult food or when changing brands, do this gradually over a few days by mixing the two types before changing over completely to the new food.
The addition of cow’s milk to the diet can cause diarrhea. Some special types of lactose-free milk for cats are available but this isn’t an essential part of their diet.
Table scraps and human food should be avoided to prevent obesity, to control urinary problems and intestinal upset, and to discourage begging.
A kitten receives a series of vaccinations during its youth, and your adopted kitten has received at least the first FVRCP vaccinations. The foster parent from whom you adopted the kitten will provide you with the kitten’s vaccination records, and from this, you can plan out when to get the next series of vaccinations. A series of vaccinations is recommended because each kitten will differ as to when its immune system is most stimulated by the vaccine.
Kittens should be vaccinated for the following:
FVRCP – A combination vaccine to protect against rhinotracheitis/calicivirus/panleukopenia/chylamydia.
Rabies – Legally required for all cats residing Illinois
FELV – Optional….A vaccine to protect against feline leukemia – Recommended for all cats who spend some or all of their time outdoors.
A recommended vaccination schedule is as follows:
FVRCP – (4 in 1 shot) 2 to 3 vaccines given every 3-4 weeks with the first one given at 8 weeks of age or older and the final one given at 16 weeks of age or older. Many veterinary offices give them at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. For adult cats, boosters are recommended every 1-3 years, depending on the cat’s lifestyle.
Rabies – given at or after the age of 16 weeks. The first one is good for 1 year and all subsequent rabies vaccines are good for 3 years.
FELV vaccines – OPTIONAL – A series of 2 shots given 2-4 weeks apart with the first vaccination given at 10 weeks of age or older. For adult cats boosters are recommended every 1-3 years, depending on the cat’s lifestyle.
The new kitten you adopted from Angels on Wheels will be dewormed at least once. We deworm every 2 weeks with Pyrantel. The vet will continue to deworm your kitten at each vaccination visit.
Roundworms – kittens often acquire them from their mother. A bloated abdomen, vomiting, diarrhea, a poor hair coat or failure to gain weight can occur from a heavy infestation of worms. The adult worms are long, white, and spaghetti-like and are occasionally passed in the feces or even vomited up. It is not uncommon for kittens to not show any apparent worms in the stool since the eggs are microscopic, can be shed intermittently, and thus missed on a routine fecal analysis. Because of this, we recommend that all kittens be de-wormed routinely with Nemex or Strongid liquid. Because roundworms can be transmitted from cats to humans (children are especially at risk), it is important that kittens be appropriately treated.
Tapeworms – these are commonly seen coming directly from the animal’s rectum or can be found on its feces or bedding. Tapeworms look like grains of rice or sesame seeds when dried. Cats acquire tapew orms through the ingestion of fleas while grooming themselves. So in addition to de-worming kittens with Droncit, it is also recommended you treat them for fleas.
If your kitten/cat has ongoing diarrhea we recommend a fecal (stool) analysis at your veterinary office to screen for possible worm infestation.
Common Kitten Ailments
Upper respiratory infections – basically a “cold” virus that will cause kittens to sneeze, become congested and have discharge of the nose and/or eyes. Secondary bacterial infections are common. Take your kitty to the veterinarian for treatment with antibiotics and/or topical ointments.
Eye Infections – along with respiratory diseases, kittens can get red, watery or swollen eyes from a variety of viral and bacterial diseases. Symptoms may be mild to severe and the infections need to be treated with topical and/or systemic antibiotics. Again, a trip to the vet is the best bet.
Ear Mites – cause black crusty material to accumulate in the ears which then become itchy. The ears need to be cleaned and treated as ear mites cause discomfort to the cat and can be transmitted to other cats in the household. Standard treatment is medication applied topically or given systemically by a series of injections.
Ringworm – not actually a worm, but rather a fungus that can cause crusty skin lesions that may or may not be itchy. If just a small area is affected, ringworm sometimes resolves without treatment but it may warrant topical treatment. If, however, the lesions are wide spread, ringworm will require systemic treatment. Ringworm can also affect children and adults in the same household.
Anemia – This can result if there are many fleas which literally suck out much of the kitten’s blood. The fleas must be kept under control (see below).
How to Care For Your New Kitten
From Candy’s Cats
Do not give your kitten cow’s milk – it can make them sick and give them diarrhea. You can obtain mother’s milk replacer for young kittens at many of the pet stores in the area. When the kittens are 8 weeks or older, they no longer need the milk but may enjoy it anyway. Milk that has been specially processed for cats to consume safely is available from many local groceries.
Keep clean, fresh water available to your kitten at all times. The bowl should be low enough for the kitten to able to drink from it easily. Some kittens enjoy playing in the water and even tipping over the bowl, so you may need a heavy bowl. Place the bowl when it won’t get dirtied by litter etc.
You can offer your kitten either dry food, canned food, or both. Be sure to choose food which is designed for kittens. They require a diet which is especially rich in protein, calcium, and other nutrients. Cat food that is for adults is not sufficient. Your young cat will need the enhanced kitten food until he or she is a year old. Young kittens need to eat every few hours, because their tummies are so small. I like to feed them canned food several times a day but also have a bowl of dry food available for them to munch on whenever they wish.
Young kittens need to stay warm because their bodies are too small to retain body heat well. That is why they like to cuddle up together, or curl up under your chin or in your lap to sleep. Kittens younger than about 10 weeks need a warm place to be, such as under an incadescent lamp or in a warm lined box or kitty bed. This is especially important if you have only one kitten.
Kittens will instinctively use the litter box as they get older, but their mother also helps to teach them. Make sure that a litter box with sides low enough for the kittens to get in and out is easily accessible. Use regular litter, not the clumping kind! Small kittens can lick themselves, swallow the clumping litter, and suffer dangerous blockages in their digestive track! Once the kitten is 3 months old, they can safely use the clumping litter. Keep the litter box clean — this encourages the kitten to develop good litter box habits. Rule of thumb is each kitten should have their own kitty box plus an extra for multiple kitty households. Rule of thumb with multiple cats is 1 box per cat then an extra for every two cats. So if you have 2 cats you should have 3 boxes.
Kittens will instinctively clean themselves, but the mother helps to develop this behavior too. You can help keep your little kitten by cleaning him or her gently with a damp washrag. Often they need to have their little rear ends cleaned. This also helps to bond your kitten to you, since you are acting in the role of “mommy.” They generally do not need real baths unless they have gotten especially dirty or if they need baths for fleas.
Play time is very important to a kitten. They learn to socialize, develop physical skills, get exercise, and have fun! Kittens have a great time playing with each other – rough housing, stalking, pouncing, chasing, and grooming each other. Young kittens don’t know they are hurting you when they grab at or bite your hand, or run up your pant leg, so be patient and forgiving. If you have just one kitten, you will the focus of all of his play making attention! You can “train” your kitten not to bite or scratch by giving a high-pitched yelp whenever s
he gets too enthusiastic. This is how kittens let each other know that the play has gotten too rough. An idea which can help save your arms from scratches is provide what I call a “wrestle buddy” for your kitten – a stuffed toy or old sock filled with soft cloth or socks – that they can be free to sink their little teeth and claws into. Use it to rough house with your kitten and she won’t become accustomed to using you as her scratching toy!
Your kitten will start to scratch at things at an early age. This is the time to start training her! Provide a small scratching post or flat scratching pad and keep it wherever she usually plays. Encourage her to use it by enticing her with a toy or with catnip. Give her praise when she uses it, and give a loud yell saying “CLAWS” when she scratches the wrong thing. A loud voice is generally all it takes to communicate the error — don’t hit her or squirt her with water. You can also start trimming her claws. Wait until she is sleepy and relaxed to trim her claws. Start by trimming just a few of her claws, and don’t force it if she starts to resist. Pet her and tell her how good she is. She will soon get used to it, and it will become a lifelong good habit.
Kittens will need to be dewormed at least twice and probably a third or fourth time because kittens pick them up very quickly. The “worms” are typically roundworms or pin worms. They are passed to the kitten through the mother’s milk. Your vet can give your kitten a dose of medicat
ion such as Strongid to kill these parasites when the kitten is 6 weeks old or so. This should be followed 2 weeks later either by a second dose of medication or a fecal test to insure that all the worms have been killed.
Tests for Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and FIV
If you have not had a cat in recent years, you may have never heard of these new, dangerous cat diseases. Feline Leukemia (FeLeuk) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) are diseases that attack the immune system, much as HIV does in humans. (Neither of these diseases can be caught by humans.) You should, if possible, have the kitten’s mother tested for these two diseases. Typically the kitten will not get one of these diseases unless the mother has it. If the mother is not available, you can have your kitten tested for FeLeuk, which is the most communicable of the two diseases. You may want to wait for about 6 weeks after receiving your kitty to test for FIV. This is because the test may give a false positive result if the kitten has been exposed to FIV through the mother, but has not caught the disease.
If Your Kitten Seems Sick
You must be attentive to your kitten’s behavior, because small kittens can fade very quickly if not treated right away. If your kitten becomes sluggish, quits playing, and sleeps more than usual, then he is probably sick. He may also quit eating, and this is very dangerous since his liver may then shut down. If you notice that your kitten has quit eating, you may need to force feed him (see next item). Of course you should take the kitten to see your veterinarian as soon as possible!
To do this, you will need an eye dropper or syringe. Mix some canned kitten food with mother’s milk replace, stirring to make a slurry (a blender works great). Fill the eye dropper or syringe, and place it into the kitten’s mouth. Squirt a small amount very gently – he should swallow it with no problem. Continue to feed him small amounts. The amount varies on the size of the kitten, but underfeeding is better than overfeeding.
If your kittens is not old enough for revolution, frontline plus and other like products, kittens should get daily flea combing for fleas and flea dirt. If you find fleas, bath the kitten with kitten shampoo or Dawn Antibacterial Soap. The soap kills/stuns the fleas instantly but you will need to pick the dead fleas off. Any live fleas will crawl to the head which you should also pick off. Be sure you are in a warm room like a bathroom and the kitty is wrapped in a towel to keep the kitty warm. Keep a piece of tape on hand or a small glass of whiskey and put the live fleas on the tape or in the whiskey so they don’t jump away…then kill them… (DO NOT WASH THE HEAD, FACE, OR EARS). Bathing and picking off the fleas will NOT stop the flea cycle and eggs on your kitten will hatch. There will also be fleas and eggs in the environment. You can use a safe flea killing product like Revolution or Frontline Plus for Kittens. There are many other products available. These products will stop the cycle of the fleas and get rid of them. You will also need to clean and wash bedding and vacuum very well. Keeping your new pet on these products for many months will help prevent the kitten from getting reinfected if you have issues in your environment. Fleas will kill a kitten if not killed.
Young kittens can get chilled very quickly so be sure to towel-dry them well then hold them in a towel to keep them warm. Some flea medicines like Advantage and Revolution may be save for kittens 6 weeks and older and is applied topically on a monthly basis to kill both fleas and ticks.
Kittens can perish very quickly, be sure to go to the vet ASAP if you think your new kittens are very sick, or weak, or vomiting, or has bloody diarrhea, they can become dehydrated fast. Fleas give parasites and can cause anemia in kittens if not taken care of quickly.
Did You Know?
Female orange tabbies only happen about 25% of the time, and require for both parents to have an orange coat gene, so that the XX combination determines that they must be red. That makes them rarer than males certainly (because in males the X gene in the XY combination takes over, so that even if both parents were not orange, a cat with an X orange gene will be orange – it happens more often in other words).