Library

Kitten care

 

What should I feed my kitten?

Find out from the breeder what, when and how much your kitten was being fed. A sudden change in diet can cause a gut upset, so you should feed the same thing that the breeder fed – at least initially. Once your kitten gets settled in, you can wean him or her over to a new diet if you wish. The main thing to remember when choosing a food for your kitten is that it must be food specifically made for kittens – not adult cat food. Kitten food is specifically formulated to meet the needs of a growing kitten. We recommend Royal Canin Growth food, which you can buy in the clinic. If you feed this, you do not need to provide any supplements. Wean your kitten onto new food over a period of about a week by first mixing 80% of the old food with 20% of the new food, then gradually increasing the percentage of the new food. Kittens should be fed four times daily until 2 months of age, three times daily until 4 months of age, and twice daily thereafter. Make sure your kitten always has free access to water. Cats don't need milk, but if you wish to provide milk make sure it is milk intended for cats – this milk is low in lactose, as many cats are lactose intolerant.

What veterinary treatment does my kitten need?

The following are all part of a comprehensive preventative health care program for a kitten:

  • Microchipping – Microchipping is a legal requirement for council registration. It involves injecting a small chip, about the size of a rice grain, under the skin between the shoulder blades. It is a bit painful, so some people elect to have it done at the time of desexing under anaesthesia. Vet clinics and pet shelters have scanners that identify these chips. A microchip is a permanent form of identification that will help your pet find its way back to you if it ever gets lost.
  • Vaccinations – Vaccination protects against feline herpesvirus (cat flu), feline calicivirus (cat flu), feline parvovirus (enteritis) and feline leukaemia. All of these diseases can potentially be fatal. Your kitten needs to be vaccinated at 6 – 8 weeks, 10 – 12 weeks and 14 – 16 weeks. He or she will not be completely protected until a week after receiving the third vaccine. After that, vaccination is required annually.
  • Worming – Four types of intestinal worm affect cats: roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm. Kittens are particularly susceptible to the effects of worms, and infestation can potentially be fatal, so regular deworming is essential. Worming is required every 2 weeks until the age of 12 weeks, then monthly until the age of 6 months. Thereafter, your cat should be wormed once every 3 months for life.
  • Flea treatment – To completely prevent fleas, cats should receive flea treatment monthly. However, cats that are indoors and have minimal contact with other cats may not need regular flea treatment.
  • Heartworm treatment – Intestinal dewormers do not protect against heartworm. Heartworm is primarily a disease of dogs, but it is possible for cats to become 'accidentally' infected. It is spread by mosquitoes, so even if your cat is not in contact with other animals, this does not guarantee that he or she will not become infected. Heartworm is very rare in dogs in Melbourne, and even more rare in cats.

How can I toilet train my kitten?

Some kittens will already have been using a litter tray when they come to your home, and will only need to be shown where the litter tray is. If not, you can take the following steps to help your kitten learn to use a litter tray:

Keep the tray in a quiet, protected area where your kitten can use it privately.
Keep the tray in one place – do not move it around.
Praise your cat for using the litter tray, but do not punish him or her for toileting in inappropriate areas.
Clean the litter tray regularly with water – some cats will not use a soiled litter tray, and the smell of disinfectants or detergents can deter them from using the litter tray.

When and why should I desex my kitten?

See the Information Sheet on Desexing.

Should I groom my kitten?

All cats benefit from grooming, and the earlier you introduce this to your cat, the better he or she will tolerate it. It is best to use a brush specifically designed for cats. Grooming is also a good way to pick up on any abnormalities in your cat. In long-haired breeds, hair can start to mat after even a few weeks, which can be uncomfortable and even painful. Your cat may require sedation to be able to remove these mats.

What can I do to keep my cat's teeth healthy?

It is important that there is something in your cat's diet to keep the teeth clean from an early age, because once tartar has built up on the teeth the only way to remove it is using ultrasonic scaling under general anaesthesia (see Dental Health Information Sheet).

The ideal way to prevent tartar formation is to brush your pet's teeth 3 times per week. If this is done from an early age, kittens can learn to tolerate this well. We understand that you may not be willing to do this, and there are other options. Royal Canin Dental food and Hill's t/d are complete and balanced, and can be used as part of the diet (every second day) from 6 months of age to abrade the teeth and prevent tartar formation. Raw chicken necks or bones are also effective at cleaning teeth.