BASICS FOR NEW KITTEN OR CAT OWNERS

FOOD:

Kittens 6-8 weeks old: soften dry food with small amount of water (takes 5-10 minutes)--soft NOT mushy (you can microwave 2 seconds to soften faster (no longer)--make sure it's NOT hot when you give it to the kitten.)

Feed kittens 4 times a day: 6:30 - 8:00 am, then about every 5 hours--11:30 - 1:00 pm; 5:00 - 6:00 pm; 10:00 - 10:30 pm. At 8 weeks old, leave some dry out, when the kitten starts eating that, stop softening it. You may feed about 1 tablespoon canned kitten food once a day. DO NOT give the kitten milk. ALWAYS have a big bowl of fresh water. Kittens need kitten food until one year old, then switch to adult cat food. Adults eat once or twice a day, or you may leave a day's measure out all day. Use a better, healthier long-term food such as IAMS, Nutro Maxi-Kitten, Sensible Choice, which states it is formulated for a cat's urinary health. This means it has LOW MAGNESIUM. When you change foods, the first day add a little new to the old food, then half & half for two days, then just the new. Sudden changes may cause diarhea. Never give a cat chocolate.

SHOTS:

a. Kittens must be 8-10 weeks old, ask your vet. A series of 3 shots may be given 3-4 weeks apart. If the kitten is 15 weeks old (almost 4 months old) your vet may give it everything at once in only one shot--ask your vet. ALWAYS watch the kitten or cat for a couple of hours after a shot to make sure it does not have an allergic reaction: vomiting or the face swelling up. This could be serious and you should contact a vet if it happens. Discuss with your vet whether the shots should include the FELV (feline leukemia) if your cat will be inside-only. Keep in mind that no matter how hard you try your cat may manage to get out and would be exposed. The recommendation has been for one shot and a booster as a kitten, with a follow-up one year later.

b. The FIP and the FIV (feline AIDs) vaccinations are still controversial among the veterinarian community. It has never been shown that the FIP vaccine is preventative. (The FIP test itself is a waste of time; it does not mean the cat has FIP, only that it has been exposed to the Corona virus). Both vaccinations cause an antibody titer in the blood, so that if tested, the cat will show up as "positive" though it may not actually have either disease. Most rescue organizations immediately euthanize any cat they pick up that tests positive for either disease, even though FIV cats can and do live long and healthy lives just like any other cat (such euthanization is inhumane). So, since anyone's cat can manage to get outside, lost, and be picked up by a rescue organization, vaccinating it for FIV could be a death sentence. (One note here: Get your pets microchipped for permanent identification by such groups, vets, and the pound so they can scan it and return it to you. Also use a flexible or breakaway collar for your cat so neighbors can identify the owner and return it to you.)

c. Adult cats should have annual checkups by a veterinarian to catch any health problems early. However, the schedule for vaccinating adult cats has changed; all shots are not given annually, depending on law and circumstances. The most recent recommendations (2004) are to give a kitten the series of shots shown above, with a booster shot one year later. Thereafter, adult cats that remain totally indoors should receive the FVRCP (upper respiratory) vaccination every 3 years, and the rabies vaccination as required by local/state law (in Texas this is now every 3 years). The FELV (feline leukemia) is not recommended if the cat will not be exposed to other cats by going outdoors. This vaccine should be considered for cats who live in a cattery or home that is used to foster cats. Your veterinarian should be consulted regarding the vaccination schedule. Again, FIP and FIV are not recommended. Outdoor cats should receive the FELV on a schedule recommended by the veterinarian, which is usually every 3 years. We highly recommend keeping all cats inside so they will be safer and not exposed to diseases, and will not need the FELV which it is believed can cause cancer.

SPAY/NEUTER:

No later than 6 months old! Females go into heat at 6 months--and everybody's miserable. She may try to get out of the house. A male is neutered no later than age 6 months so he does not start a spraying habit.

DECLAW:

They remove the last knuckle on the cat's toe (like yours with fingernail). The cat is defenseless and if it gets outside, has no way to survive. We strongly suggest first training the kitten to use a scratching post--hemp rope is best--and a cardboard scratching box. Cats also like to scratch logs. Also learn to trim the claws every 2-3 weeks. Squirt the cat with water if it starts scratching furniture. Declaw should be the last resort. If you decide it has to be done, it can be done when the kitten is spayed/neutered and ONLY the front claws. Be sure to get a painkiller FROM THE VET. Put the pill in a teaspoon of canned food. If you have other cats, make sure the kitten eats the food with the pill in it! NEVER ever give a cat aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.!!

IDENTIFICATION PROVIDES SAFETY:

As mentioned above, having identification on your pet is its only ticket home to you if it somehow gets outside and gets lost! Most city pounds (animal control) will euthanize animals without identification within 3 days. With ID they can locate the owner. The microchip is best for this purpose as most city pounds will have scanners and check animals they pick up for ID. Veterinarians also have these and you can take any stray pet you find to the vet for scanning. Veterinarians implant the chip under the skin at the back of the neck. It is about the size of a piece of dry rice, and totally safe. Implantation doesn't seem to bother the animals. You then register with AKC's national database. This is not expensive. A flexible or breakaway collar with a tag with your name and telephone number is also necessary because your neighbors won't have a scanner, or think to take it to a vet. Please don't use flea collars! They are inflexible and could harm your cat. Please make sure collars are not too tight--you should be able to put 2 fingers between the collar and the cat's neck. I don't like collars on kittens, but as long as you check frequently to make sure they are not too tight, they should be okay, and I would use only thin elastic tied with a knot as a collar because the kitten can pull out of it if it got hung on something.

LITTER:

Be very careful with kittens up to 8 weeks of age and the litter material you use. The clumping kind and clay litter could get into their mouths and clog their intestines. They can also get their feet wet and get the clumpable litter stuck between their toes, which they then lick and chew off . (I've never had these problems, and I always used the regular type of clay litter, but it bears a warning.) Alternatives are shredded newspaper, sand, flushable pine litter, or flushable reprocessed paper litter during this phase.

TOYS:

Make sure toys don't have small parts that can come off (like plastic eyes, etc.) and choke. DO NOT provide yarn strings to play with, as kittens/cats can choke on it. Kittens/cats are like small children, keep small objects away from them to avoid choking, and keep them away from electrical cords.

EMERGENCIES:

For night and weekend emergencies in Dallas, call the Emergency Animal Clinic, 12101 Greenville (just south of I-635): 972-994-9110. (Open 24 hours a day.)

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