Kitten through Adult Cat Care
Whether you have a new kitten or adult cat, we want to partner with you to ensure all of their needs are meet including health, behavior, travel, exercise, etc. We offer pet selection guidance, initial and follow-up kittenvisits, and biannual exams and consultations to promote wellness in family-member pets. We strive to provide personalized, high quality, and compassionate care for each of our patients. Review our page about Veterinary Visits for more information. We also have many resources to help you with any questions or concerns that may arise. Life cycle needs for dogs can vary as they age, so please visit our Life Cycle Needs page to ensure that your pet is receiving the best care.
Introducing a New Kitten to its New Environment
A cat is naturally inclined to investigate its new surroundings. It is suggested that the cat’s area of exploration be limited initially so that these natural tendencies do not create an unmanageable task. After confining the cat to one room for the first few days, you can slowly allow access to other areas of the home.
Introducing a New Kitten to Other Cats in the Household
Many kittens receive a hostile reception from other household pets, especially from another cat. The other cat usually sees no need for a kitten in the household, and these feelings are reinforced if it perceives that (special favoritism is being shown to the kitten) its territory has been intruded upon. Your existing cat will need some time to adjust to the idea of a new housemates. If given a gradual introduction over the course of several weeks most cats will except, and even come to appreciate the addition of a new kitten. You should prepare a room for your new kitten, with food and water bowls, a litter box, scratching post and toys. This separate room will be your kitten’s new home turf for the next couple of weeks while they both get used to the presence, smell and sound of each other. Bring your new kitten home in a carrier and place it in the room you have prepared. Allow the kitten to come out of the carrier on his/her own. You can take the towel/blanket from the carrier and place it in another part of the house for your existing cat to smell. Be sure to spend time with your kitten in its room playing, handling, etc. For short periods allow the kitten exposure to the rest of the house while supervised. During this time your existing cat should be confided to a different part of the house to prevent conflict. After about a week, or when your existing cat seems comfortable with the idea of a new presence in the house (this could be several weeks for some cats) give them the opportunity to have a visual meeting only for a minute or two. Gradually as they become more comfortable, increase the interaction times until they are out and about in the same room and giving treats. Remember to always allow them to have their separate areas when you are not able to supervise until they are both comfortable with each other.
Playing Behavior in Kittens
Stimulating play is important during the first weeks and throughout your cat’s lifetime. Stalking and puncing are important play behaviors in kittens and play an important role in proper muscular development. If given a sufficient outlet for these behaviors with toys, your kitten will be less likely to use family members for these activities. the best toys are light weight and moveable. These include wads of paper, small balls, and wand toys. Kittens should not play with string or ribbon, as they might swallow them. Any other toy that is small enough to be swallowed should also be avoided. Avoid rough play especially with hands. Discontinue play sessions immediately if biting or scratching occurs. Kittens need to learn that hands are not toys. Avoid physical punishment, as this will send the wrong message and will escalate aggression. Wand toys are a great way to play with your kitten without hands being mistaken as toys.
Scratching is normal cat behavior, There are 2 primary reasons cats scratch. Scratching mechanically removes the outer layer of the nail to maintain nail health and is also a method of marking territory. In the first week you bring your kitten home, note where, how and when your kitten scratches. Pay attention to what textures and height (vertical or horizontal) your kitten prefers to scratch. Place scratching posts of the preferred texture and height in the areas when your kitten likes to scratch. You can discourage your kitten from inappropriate scratching by placing plastic, double sided tape or tin foil over objects. You can also gently move your kitten to a scratching post and use a food reward.
There are many diseases that are fatal to cats. Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent many of these by using very effective vaccines. In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of injections. Ideally, they are given at about 6-8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, but this schedule may vary somewhat depending on several factors. The routine vaccination schedule will protect your kitten from four diseases: distemper, two respiratory viruses, and rabies. The first three are included in a combination vaccine that is given at 6-8, 12, and 16 weeks old. Rabies vaccine is given at 16 weeks of age. Leukemia vaccine is necessary if your cat does or will go outside or if you have another cat that goes in and out since this deadly disease is transmitted by contact with other cats, especially when fighting occurs. We administer two leukemia vaccinations one month apart after the age of 9 weeks.
The Need for a Series of Vaccinations
When the kitten nurses its mother, it receives a temporary form of immunity through its mother’s milk. This immunity is in the form of proteins called antibodies. For about 24-48 hours after birth, the kitten’s intestine allows absorption of these antibodies directly into the blood stream. This immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the kitten’s life, but, at some point, this immunity fails and the kitten must be able to make its own long-lasting immunity. Vaccinations are used for this purpose. As long as the mother’s antibodies are present, these antibodies will neutralize the vaccine so the vaccine does not get a chance to stimulate the kitten’s immune system. Many factors determine when the kitten will be able to respond to the vaccines. These include the level of immunity in the mother cat, how much of the antibody has been absorbed, and the number of vaccines given the kitten. Since we do not know when an individual kitten will lose the short-term immunity, we give a series of vaccinations. The goal is that at least two of these will fall in the window of time when the kitten has lost the immunity from its mother but has not yet been exposed to disease. A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate the long-term immunity which is so important. Rabies vaccine is an exception to this, since one injection given at the proper time is enough to produce long-term immunity.
External and Internal Parasites
Learn more about fleas, ticks and many intestinal worms at our External and Internal Parasites page.
Feeding a Kitten
Diet is extremely important in the growing months and continues to be a critical component in the health of adult cats. We recommend and feed Hill’s Science Diet. The food you choose should be labeled for kittens specifically. It is best to only buy food which has the AAFCO certification. This information should be easily found on the label. AAFCO is an organization that oversees the entire pet food industry. It does not endorse any particular food, but it will certify that the food has met the minimum requirements for nutrition. Feeding a dry, canned, or semi-moist form of cat food is acceptable. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Dry food is definitely the least expensive. It can be left in the cat’s bowl at all times. If given the choice, the average cat will eat a mouthful of food about 12-20 times per day. Semi-moist and canned foods are also acceptable. However, both are considerably more expensive than dry food. They often are more appealing to the cat’s taste; however, they are not more nutritious. If you feed a very tasty food, you are running the risk of creating a cat with a finicky appetite. In addition, the semi-moist foods are high in sugar. Table foods are not recommended. Because they are generally very tasty, cats will often begin to hold out for these and not eat their well-balanced cat food. We enjoy a variety of things to eat in our diet. However, most cats actually prefer not to change from one food to another unless they are trained to do so by the way you feed them. Do not feel guilty if your cat is happy to just eat one food day after day, week after week.
The Socialization Period for cats is between 2 and 9 weeks of age. During that time, the kitten is very impressionable to social influences. If it has good experiences with men, women, children, dogs, other cats, etc., it is likely to accept them throughout their life. If the experiences are absent or unpleasant, it may become apprehensive or adverse to any of them. Therefore, during the period of socialization, we encourage you to expose your kitten to as many types of social events and influences as possible. Exposures and handling should be gentle, frequent and brief (2-5 minutes). Gradual introductions are best avoiding forced interactions with people or other animals that cause fearfulness. Most kittens/cats have a threshold for petting/handling. Make these sessions short with a treat reward before releasing. When petting, remember to move you hand along the direction of the fur with strokes on the head or just above the tail. Full body strokes with kittens tend to cause excitement or over-stimulation.
The Litter Box
The number one behavioral problem of cats is urinating out of the litter box (inappropriate urination). There are several things that cause this frustrating problem, but some of those are related to the litter box.
Choose a litter box that is large enough for your cat to fit in comfortably. It needs to be able to turn around freely. An 18 X 14 inch box with 4 inch sides is appropriate for most adult cats. Kittens may need a box with shorter sides so they can get in and out easily. We do not recommend a box with a top (hood). Although hooded litter boxes are more private and better contain the litter, they also trap odors inside. Because cats are so fastidious, these odors often cause them to seek other places to urinate. Many cats exhibiting inappropriate urination will return to their litter boxes when the lid is removed. There are three main types of litter: clay, clumpable, and organic. Clay litter absorbs 75-100% of its weight in moisture. This is good but not adequate to keep urine from being absorbed throughout a widespread area of litter. Solid matter and wet litter should be removed 1-2 times per day, but the entire litter box should be changed weekly. Clay litter is also quite dusty. Cats with allergies can have increased problems when breathing the litter dust. Clumping litter is also called scoopable litter. It absorbs urine and swells to about 15 times its original volume. Therefore, you need only to remove the litter clumps; you do not need to change the entire contents of the litter box. It tends to control urine and stool odors better than clay litter. Organic litters are made of alfalfa, newspaper, peanut hulls, corn cobs, or recycled, biodegradable materials. They appeal to many cats, but they are also not received well by others. Some litters contain scented or odor-controlling additives. Some cats tolerate them, but others find them objectionable. To minimize the chances of inappropriate urination, it is better to avoid scented litters. Fecal matter and wet litter need to be removed once daily for each cat that uses the litter box. Even with clumping litter, a monthly scrubbing of the litter box removes odors that may collect in the box itself. Use warm, soapy water and avoid scented disinfectants. The location of the litter box is important. It should be on an easily cleaned surface as some cats don’t always aim well. Litter is also scratched out or tracked out of the litter box frequently. It is very important that the litter box be placed in a quite, non-threatening location. Cats need their privacy and will avoid a litter box that is in a high traffic area or a location accessible to dogs.
Kittens have very sharp toenails. They can be trimmed with your regular finger nail clippers or with nail trimmers made for dogs and cats. If you take too much off the nail, you will get into the quick; bleeding and pain will occur. If this happens, neither you nor your cat will want to do this again. Therefore, a few points are helpful: You can see the pink of the quick through the nail. Avoid the pink area, and you should be out of the quick. When cutting nails, use sharp trimmers. Dull trimmers tend to crush the nail and cause pain even if you are not in the quick. If bleeding occurs, apply direct pressure to the nail tip and use a styptic powder or corn starch to stop the bleeding.
Spaying Female Cats
Spaying or ovariohysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and the ovaries. Therefore, heat periods no longer occur. In many cases, despite of your best effort, the female will become pregnant; spaying prevents unplanned litters of kittens.
Spaying offers several advantages. The female’s heat periods result in about 2-3 weeks of unusual behavior. This can be quite annoying if your cat is kept indoors. Male cats are attracted from blocks away and, in fact, seem to come out of the woodwork. They seem to go over, around, and through many doors. Your cat will have a heat period about every 2-3 weeks until she is bred. It has been proven that as the female cat gets older; there is a significant incidence of breast cancer and uterine infections if she has not been spayed. We strongly recommend that she be spayed before her first heat period. This can be done anytime after she is 3 months old.
Neutering Male Cats
Neutering is the surgical removal of both testicles. It offers several important advantages. Male cats go through a significant personality change when they mature. They become very possessive of their territory and mark it with their urine to ward off other cats. The tom cat’s urine develops a very strong odor that will be almost impossible to remove from your house. They also try to constantly enlarge their territory which means one fight after another. Fighting results in severe infections and abscesses. We strongly urge you to have your cat neutered at about 3 to 5 months of age. If he should begin to spray his urine before that time, he should be neutered immediately. The longer he sprays or fights, the less likely neutering is to stop it.
Each year 1 million pets are lost or stolen, Statistics show 1 out of 3 pets will get lost in their lifetime. In addition, 41% of people looking for their lost cats in shelters considered them to be “indoor only” cats. Without identification, 9 out of 10 pets will not get home. Microchipping has been used for many years and has been found to be very safe and effective in reuniting families with their companions. This tiny device (roughly the size of a grain of rice) is implanted with a needle so the process is comparable to a vaccine being administered. The best time to microchip your pet would be after you acquire your kitten, but anytime is the right time, as you never know when he/she might go missing. A helpful suggestion may be to have your veterinarian’s information listed as a second contact. Remember to keep your pet’s information updated with the correct microchip company.