Ensure your new pet stays in tip-top condition.
Kitten care plan: 4 – 6 weeks
While with mum, kittens can become infected with roundworm so they are usually wormed at this age. Roundworm live in the small intestine of the cat. A heavy infestation with roundworms, especially in kittens, may cause loss of condition, diarrhoea, and a bloated appearance to the belly. A liquid wormer safe to use in kittens should be used, advises vet Bradley Viner. He adds: “It is only necessary to treat for external parasites such as fleas and lice if any problems are visible. “Vet advice should be sought about any products that are used at this age.”
Kitten care plan: 9 weeks
Many non-pedigree kittens are now settling into their new homes and it is time for a visit to the vet. The vet will carry out a thorough health examination checking the skin, ears, eyes, mouth and anus, as well as listening to the heart and chest with a stethoscope. As their immune systems have not yet matured and they are no longer protected from infection by antibodies from mum’s milk, kittens are vulnerable to disease so the vaccination course should commence. Bradley says: “The exact protocol may vary depending on local disease risks, type of vaccine, and lifestyle. It is usual for kittens to be vaccinated against feline enteritis (panleukopenia), two forms of cat flu (calicivirus and herpesvirus), and feline leukaemia virus. Even indoor cats are advised to receive at least the initial course and cats that go outdoors will need annual booster injections. “Vaccinations against other agents, such as Chlamydophilia felis (a cause of conjunctivitis) and Bordetella bronchiseptica (that causes an infectious cough) are also available, but are not core vaccinations.” The initial course will cost about £60 with annual boosters around £35. Pedigree kittens usually leave the breeder after they have completed the course of vaccinations but you may still want to have a health check by your own vet. ‘
Kitten care plan : 12 weeks
Kittens are physically pretty much like ‘little adults’ at this stage but they do have very special health needs. Bradley says: “It’s time for a return visit to the vet as the second part of the initial course of vaccinations is due at around this age (although don’t forget that an annual health check and booster vaccination is also required). Any non-urgent health issues that may have arisen since the previous visit can also be dealt with at this stage. Ask your vet how long you should allow before your kitten is allowed outdoors – it varies from one to two weeks depending on the vaccine used.”
Kitten care plan: 14 weeks
If the kitten is to have access to your garden, perhaps with an outdoor run, now is the time that they will start exploring the big wide world, with all the potential dangers it can bring. Bradley says: “Although you may have carried out some pest control during the kitten’s early weeks, now is the time to start up a programme of regular preventative care. There are many products that protect against fleas and worms and your vet is the person to advise you. The most modern combine effective flea control and worming in easy to use spot-on formulations, which most owners find far easier to use than the old regime of sprays for fleas and tablets for worms. “If you decide to buy over-the-counter products make sure they are suitable for kittens. Some flea preparations are too strong to use on a kitten under the age of six months so check the labelling. If your youngster arrived with ‘visitors’ and they have already made themselves at home, you will need to use a household insecticidal spray as well as a product on the kitten. Never use dog flea treatments on cats as many are toxic to felines.
Kitten care plan : 15 – 20 weeks
Neutering is essential to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to reduce tom cats’ antisocial behaviour. Bradley says: “In the case of females, womb infections and breast cancer are commonly seen if they are left ‘entire’, and the strain of repeated calling (oestrus) can lead to a severe loss of condition. Unneutered males that roam over large areas to protect their territory from other cats will not only be liable to recurrent abscesses, but will also be prone to picking up diseases that are transmitted as a result of fighting, particularly feline immunodeficiency virus. Neutered cats have a significantly longer life expectancy.”
Safe and sound
Microchipping is highly recommended by veterinary professionals and is often carried out at the same time as the second stage of the initial course of vaccinations.
It costs around $25 to have a small chip injected under the skin in the nape of the neck. It should remain in place for life but it’s vital that owners inform the database operator when they move house in order to keep the address details up-to-date on the computer database. Even if your cat lives his life entirely indoors, it’s worth getting him chipped in case he ever escapes. A microchip is also a legal requirement for obtaining a pet passport and is proof of ownership should there be a dispute over who he belongs to.
Read more: What do you need to buy for cat
A need to neuter
Unless you intend to breed later, make a date for your kitten to be neutered. Female cats, or queens, become sexually mature at somewhere between seven and 12 months of age, although this can be as young as six months. Male cats, or toms, tend to mature later, between ten and 14 months. Spaying is an operation to remove the ovaries and uterus, performed under general anaesthetic on female cats. It is as safe as the procedure to remove a human’s appendix, but there are restrictions on when it should be carried out. The kitten must be at least three months old. Expect to pay on average $50 for a male cat castration and $65 for a female spay. Many animal charities will not release a kitten to your care without a written undertaking that you will neuter the cat. Some animal charities provide neutering at a reduced cost (the RSPCA charges around $25 to neuter cats if owners are eligible for its assisted neutering scheme).