Congratulations On Your New Kitten!
Welcoming your new kitten into your home is an exciting and rewarding commitment, but can be stressful and filled with questions. Whether you are experienced with cats or a first-time cat owner, this packet will help inform you with current medical information and advice on raising your new friend. We are here to help you with any concerns that you have about your new family member and serve as your primary resource for any of your pet’s health needs. We look forward to being part of your pet’s circle of care in the coming years and will strive to ensure a happy and healthy future for your kitten!
First Day Jitters
Alternatives to Declawing
Training and Socialization
What To Expect
Bringing your new kitten home is an exciting day, but it can be overwhelming if you are not prepared. The following are a few recommendations to make the transition easier for you and your pet.
Create a bond with your new pet. Just like a human child, when a cat or kitten comes into a new environment they can be equal parts curious and nervous. Your presence should be one of calming comfort as they acclimate to their new environment. Keeping your kitten in a specific room for several days, like your bedroom, can help them slowly integrate all the sights, sounds, and smells, as well as give them a quiet place to bond with you.
Keeping your new addition separated for a few days can also be beneficial if you have other pets already in your home. This will allow them to get used to each other’s smells and sounds without coming face-to-face with each other. Taking blankets or pillows into the new kitten that have smells from other people and animals in the house will allow them to become familiar before any meeting takes place. Likewise, bringing the smell of the new kitten out to the other pets in your home can help ease the eventual meet and greet.
A carrier or enclosed pen can be an excellent tool to introduce your new pet to your household. Place the new kitten or cat into a carrier or enclosed pen, then allow the current resident cat to enter the room on their own while still giving them calm reassurance and affection. The resident cat may completely ignore the new addition, show interest, or have a negative first reaction. All of these are normal. If the resident cat has a negative reaction, distract them with a clap or place a pillow in front of their eye line and redirect their attention. Please do not place the cats face to face with each other or attempt to force a close proximity to each other. This is a process, so it will take numerous meetings until they both begin to get to know each other. Praise or reward any positive behaviors as you want both cats to associate each other with pleasant interactions.
Introductions to a dog are a little different. White often portrayed as enemies, dogs and cats are likely to get along well with the proper instruction. For their initial meeting the cat or kitten should be in a carrier or enclosed pen. This will give the cat a feeling of security while allowing the dog to smell and investigate safely. Meetings between dogs and cats should be kept brief, but frequent, to allow the dog to satisfy their curiosity safely, while letting the cat grow accustomed to them. When it is time to meet outside the carrier or pen the dog should be kept leashed at all times. They may try to ‘play’ with
the kitten, which the kitten is almost certain to not want to participate in. Other dogs may have a strong herding or hunting instinct, posing a risk if the cat makes an unexpected move and initiates a game of ‘tag’. Make sure to praise and reward your dog for calm interactions so they associate the kitten with positive behavior. You should only leave your dog and new kitten alone together after an extended period of time of introduction and are confident both are secure in their behavior. (A side note: Your cat’s food and litter box will be hugely tempting for your dog to investigate and sample! Make sure both are secure and out of reach!)
Let’s talk litter. Litter box training a kitten can be very straightforward. In the immediate days following bringing your new little one home and they are already separated from the rest of the house is an ideal time to begin training in litter box use. First off, if you have a small kitten, make sure whatever they use is comfortable for them to get in and out of until they are able to use a standard sized litter box. The biggest rule of litter boxes: Location, location, location. Litter boxes should be easily accessible and conveniently located and away from food and water sources. Avoid locations near loud or noisy areas (living rooms, laundry rooms, washing machines, etc.). Provide an appropriate amount of boxes per household: if you have multiple cats you should have multiple boxes, if you have a multi-story home you should have multiple boxes, etc.
Keep all boxes away from food and water sources. No matter which type of box or litter you choose, clumping, non-clumping, crystal, pellet, make sure you stick with it. Most cats will not respond favorably to changes. And, last but not least, keep it clean. The dirtier their box is, the less likely they are to use it.
Kittens are not as notorious as puppies for eating everything they can, but they are definitely chewers! Be sure to monitor them to make sure they are not chewing electrical wires, plants, getting into household chemicals, mouse/rat bait, medications, raw meat or bones, and string-like objects, such as yarn, sewing thread, Christmas tree tinsel, and dental floss.
You will be making a number of trips to see us the first few months of your kitten’s life! Kittens receive many of their initial vaccinations in a series of boosters, so it’s important not to miss an appointment!
Rabies: This viral disease attacks the nervous system and is always fatal. The virus is secreted in saliva and is transmitted to any human or animal by a bite from an infected animal. Texas state law mandates that dogs and cats must be vaccinated against Rabies by four months of age and that the pet must be kept current on their Rabies vaccine throughout their lifetime.
FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (Feline Herpesvirus), Calicivirus, Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper)): Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis and Calicivirus cause most upper respiratory infections with fever, sneezing, eye and nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, and lethargy, and are extremely contagious to other cats. Panleukopenia is a highly contagious virus that causes severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and low white blood cell count. There is no cure for the disease, and treatment involves supportive care that is costly and does not guarantee survival.
Feline Leukemia (FELV): Feline leukemia is a virus causing anemia and immune suppression, and is transmitted through nasal secretions, saliva or bite wounds from infected cats and has no cure. Studies show that roughly 50% of cats diagnosed with FeLV succumb to the disease within two and a half years.
*(Protocols can vary depending on a few factors; your veterinarian can better develop a plan for your new kitten!)
Fecal Testing: Why do run fecal tests on kittens? Kittens are regularly born with internal parasites inherited from their mothers while in utero, via milk, or through fecal ingestion. Some common parasites include Hookworms, Roundworms, and Whipworms and can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and lack of weight gain. These parasites can be diagnosed easily with a fecal test then the proper dewormer can be administered so your kitten can stay happy and healthy.
Flea and Tick Preventatives: These pests are not only annoying, they can cause preventable medication conditions and, in the case of ticks, dangerous diseases. Luckily there are a number of preventatives to keep your pet protected and fit your lifestyle.
Adult fleas are what you will commonly spend the most time on your pet, but hundreds of eggs, larvae and pupae can roll off your pet to contaminate carpet, furniture, and clothing, thus continuing the lifecycle for months on end. Ingestion of fleas can also lead to tapeworms, an intestinal parasite that grows in the GI tract.
Ticks are prevalent throughout the United States and carry numerous preventable diseases, several of which can affect you! Ticks can be as small as a pinhead and difficult to see under your pet’s fur. With the hot Texas weather and relatively mild winters, it is important to keep your pet on preventatives year-round! There are numerous options to keep them protected and fit your lifestyle. Please speak with us about any questions you may have about your different options.
Spaying and Neutering
An average of 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized each year. Help keep animals out of shelters by spaying or neutering your pet. Feline behavior can be a huge factor in spaying and neutering. Cats in heat become very anxious, and often pace and loudly vocalize through all hours of the day and night. Intact male cats that are kept indoors will urinate on walls, furniture and appliances to mark their territory. Spaying or neutering before these behaviors begin is the best way to make sure they are prevented.
There are a number of medical issues that can be addressed with spaying and neutering, as well. Your pet may live longer and healthier. Spaying has been shown to prevent dangerous uterine infections like pyometra. It has also shown a massive reduction in the chance of developing breast cancer, and eliminates the chance of uterine cancer. Neutering has been shown to help prevent prostate problems and eliminates the risk of testicular cancer. While definitely not a cure-all, spaying and neutering has been shown to help with undesirable behaviors, including spray, dominance issues, and pets are less likely to wander or escape. It is also vastly more cost effective than an unexpected litter of kittens to care for.
We generally recommend spaying or neutering your pet around six months of age, but please consult with the veterinarian with questions or concerns, and for specific recommendations for your pet.
Post-surgical care instructions will always include the following:
- Medication to help manage
- An e-collar will need to be worn around their neck to restrict access to the incision
- Activity will need to be limited for approximately two Outdoor cats will need to be confined during this time to allow for proper healing to take place.
- Keep the incision area clean and
Alternatives to Declawing
The term ‘declawing’ is a bit of a misnomer. Unlike human nails, a cat’s claw is attached to the last bone in their toe. ‘Declawing’ is actually the amputation of the end of their toes, similar to amputating the last joint of a human finger.
It is important to understand that scratching is a normal, inherent behavior for cats. As well as hunting and climbing, a cat’s claw grows in layers. Scratching helps remove the worn, outside layer to expose new growth underneath. Regular claw trimming, synthetic nail caps, and appropriate scratching material can help eliminate unwanted scratching on furniture, wood, or other surfaces.
Cats can be effectively trained to use appropriate surfaces for scratching. Scratchers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and textures, so you may have to play around a little bit to find what works
best for your cat. Two key components to success will be location and positive reinforcement. It can be very effective to place a scratcher near an undesirable scratching location (i.e. your couch) and then reward your cat with a treat when they use the scratcher. If your cat uses an undesirable location, gently remove them from that location, take them to a correct scratcher and give them positive reinforcement.
Regular claw trimming can help prevent damage to household items (and your skin!). Since cat claws grow in layers, using proper feline nail trimmers is important to prevent splintering. Begin trimming their claws as a kitten so they can become comfortable with the process and learn it as part of a routine. It is completely acceptable to go slow, take breaks, do one paw at a time, and offer treats for positive behavior while trimming. If you are unsure how to trim your cat’s claws, please ask us for a demonstration and we will happily show you how to safely complete this process.
Synthetic nap caps are a hard plastic cap that is glued onto the end of your cat’s nail. These caps are applied after the nail is trimmed and range in size according to the age and weight of your cat. They usually last around 4-6 weeks, so this will need to become a regular routine for you and your cat.
Synthetic pheromone sprays and diffusers, like Feliway, work well to relieve scratching by cats that may be related to stress, anxiety, attention seeking, or a perceived lack of security in their environment. After cleaning with soap and water to remove the communication marking scents left by your cat’s paws, apply where your cat has exhibited undesired scratching. Applying regularly can prevent your cat’s need to mark these areas again. If undesirable scratching occurs in several rooms, a plug-in diffuser in several rooms may be more appropriate around the house.
As much as we associate cats with lazing the day away, during their waking hours they do require enrichment and play. Cats need mental stimulation, just as dogs do, or else they may become bored or destructive. Vertical space, interactive toys, hunting games, and food puzzles are a few ways to enhance your cat’s quality of life and reduce the chance of unwanted behaviors. Catnip, treats, and toys near a scratching posts will encourage their use.
As much as our cats like to think of themselves as tiny lions, it’s kind of true when it comes to their food. Cats are true carnivores who eat a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. While what we feed our cats is very important, so is how we feed them. Cats need to hunt and search for food, and to eat multiple small meals each day in privacy. You can meet these needs with puzzle feeders and by portioning food throughout the day, which reduces inactivity, anxiety, and obesity.
Just because cats will eat together, does not mean they should. In homes with multiple cats, some cats may not get along with others. Even though cats will eat together, group feeding can cause gorging, feeding aggression, and even weight issues. Cats are very good at hiding signs of distress, so even though they may not show you clear signs of anxiety or fighting when eating together, underlying anxiety and stress affects their wellbeing. Watch for signs of anxiety or tension during feeding time. Cats need to feel safe when eating. When cats are anxious or tense, you may see vigilant behavior including constant looking around, approaching the food with caution, ear flattening or positioned sideways in ‘airplane’ position, or a hunched or crouched posture.
If a cat is bored, eating can become an activity, leading to obesity. Overweight cats have more difficulty performing physical activities such as jumping, climbing, hunting and playing. Obesity can also lead to health problems such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, and heart and respiratory disease. Using puzzle feeders and even hiding kibbles around the home increases activity, and provides mental and physical stimulation. Puzzle feeders vary in their complexity, can be motionless or rolling, and can be designed for dry or wet foods.
Pet insurance has exploded in popularity over the last decade with dozens of companies now available, including some employers offering pet insurance as an add-on to your own health insurance policy! Frankly, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to pet insurance, it just boils down to what you would like covered and your budget. One thing is common no matter which company you choose: the earlier you enroll your pet, the more cost-effective it is.
Pet insurance can be a literal lifesaver when it comes to caring for your pet. Unexpected incidents, injuries, or just routine care can all add up.
Pet insurance can cover up to 100% of costs and give you the ability to say yes to giving your pet the best. Below are a few companies that we found to offer a wide range of services and price points.
Pumpkin https://www.pumpkin.care/ 1-866-ARF-MEOW
Nationwide https://www.petinsurance.com/ 1-888-899-4874
ASPCA Pet Health https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/ 1-888-716-1203
Trupanion https://trupanion.com/ 1-855-210-8749
A microchip is an easy, convenient, life-long means of making sure your best friend will always be able to make their way back home. The size of a grain of rice, this implant carries a chip that can be scanned at almost any veterinary center, humane society or shelter if your pet is ever lost or stolen. Once scanned, the identification number attached to the chip will be able to provide your contact information to get your pet safely home.
Home Safety and Socialization
Kitten-proofing your house is essentially like child-proofing your house, and just like human children, if they can get into something, they will. You can never completely anticipate what a kitten will find entertaining to get into, but you can greatly reduce the possibility of harm by following some simple guidelines.
- It sounds simple, but a collar with a bell will help you keep track of your sneaky, tiny lion while they explore their new surroundings.
- Electrical cords, tissues, paper towels, diapers, children’s toys, and household garbage should all be kept secure and out of reach.
- Toxic substances such as cleaning solutions, paint, gasoline, antifreeze, mouse/rat poison, pesticides, should all be secured and out of reach.
- Numerous plants and foods can be toxic and cause serious injury or death if ingested. For a list by item, please see the following link for information. https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poisons/
If you suspect your pet may have ingested any detrimental foreign object or substance please call the Pet Poison Hotline and seek help at your closest veterinary center!
Taking the time to socialize your kitten will pay off massive dividends later in life. Trips to the vet, introducing new people or animals, car rides, even nail trims can be made much easier if you take time early on. Don’t do too much at once and keep sessions brief to ensure they are effective. Continued exposure to being touched on the toes, ears, mouth, and tail, being brushed, nail trims, loud noises or noisy appliances, different toys, a pet carrier, and eventually car rides will help keep your cat happier and well adjusted in life.