New Kitten and Cat Care
So you have a new kitten? The first thing we recommend is that you allow us to take a blood sample to test for Leukemia and Aids, Yes cats have their own set of diseases that they can get from other cats or even their own mother, so it is best to know their disease status before you take them into your house esp if you have other cats at home, and before we vaccinate them. (THERE IS NO VACCINE AVAILABLE FOR FELINE AIDS, as well as the life span of outdoor cats statistically is 2-4 years less than strictly indoor cats, so it is recommended your cat be strictly indoors or out only with harness and leash). Depending on those results we will then have discussions on how to proceed from there, most of the time it is with well kitten exam where a general exam is done to determine how healthy the kitten seems. We will also recommend a fecal, and first set of vaccines depending on kittens age and health status. (factoid kittens usually grow about a pound a month for the first 6months of life, so if your kitten is 3lbs then it’s probably about 3 months old) . They also require a series of vaccines until they are 4 months or older (if your pet is over 4 months they will still need at least two sets of vaccines, unless they have been vaccinated previously and you have proof from a previous owner) Cats also are vulnerable to heartworms and other diseases spread by fleas and ticks so it is also recommended that they are on flea and heartworm prevention year-round, even if strictly indoors since it is very common to get bit by a mosquito in your home and bring flea eggs in on even your own shoes, or if you have a dog that goes outside.
Spaying and neutering your cat is very important and recommended at 5-6 months of age.
Kittens make for great cats if time is taken to teach them and expose them to all the things that are needed to have a great cat (able to pill, social, able to groom, cut nails etc) Unfortunately it is a myth that cats are easy, they require just as much work as a dog to get a great one. This will all be discussed at your first kitten visit. Handling your kitten daily, making sure you are able to open their mouth, touching and hold their feet, brushing them and holding them until still etc are very important to make sure you have a cat that you can treat when they are older and may need it. Cats can be leash trained as well as trained with basic commands just like dogs and other mammals.
Free feeding kittens seems to be ok, however it is not recommended once they are over 8-9 months because most cats will make themselves fat, predisposing them to all the diseases we are predisposed to when overweight (ie arthritis, diabetes, heart disease etc) Also free feeding makes it more difficult to tell when your cat is actually sick and how much they are eating. When you feed 3-4 times a day, small meals it also mimics the wild more, as well as if they don’t come to eat you can tell they aren’t feeling well or use it as an indicator of how stressed they are, as well as if there are more than 1 cat in the house you know how much each pet is eating. Amounts etc can all be discussed at your visit. It is also recommended to expose your kitten to as many different wet foods as possible, kittens and cats can develop food aversion very quickly and become very finicky quickly so keeping them exposed to different textures of wet food and flavors will help you if they ever do become sick in the future or you have to switch them to a prescription diet.
Cats are not pack animals, and humans and other animals are predators to them, we can be a big source of stress to them. It is not like a human or a dog where sometimes they actually enjoy the company of another cat, most cats will tolerate but most of the time multi-cat households are very stressful environments and we miss the signs of stress (hiding, inappropriate elimination, fighting, excessive grooming, not eating, vomiting etc). Luckily with modification of our behavior and additions of hiding places/ perches/toys/ set play times, sometimes even nutraceuticals and pheramones most times this can be decreased and cats can actually enjoy living inside and with multiple people and pets.
Cats are a prey species and are very good at hiding signs of sickness and will sometimes be much sicker than they appear on the outside, hence it is very important to do yearly exams and once they reach 7-8 years old to do yearly lab work to check their blood values as well as organ and thyroid function.