So, you’ve adopted a kitten! While you definitely know how cute and fluffy they are, and you’re adamant about which treats and accessories you want to buy them, you may not be so sure on where to start with their healthcare. Luckily, we’ve compiled a guide with all you need to know about vaccinations, flea and worm treatments, nutrition, microchipping and toilet training.
Most core cat vaccinations aim to help prevent at least three diseases in kittens and cats: Feline Panleukopenia (FPV), Feline Herpesvirus 1 (FSV1), and Feline Calicivirus (FCV).
Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV, also called Feline Distemper or Feline Enteritis) is a highly contagious virus of the parvovirus group, with a high mortality rate. It is easily transmitted through contact, either from cat-to-cat or by human-to-cat. Clinical signs of Feline Panleukopenia can include sudden onset fever, loss of appetite, dehydration, depression, vomiting and/or a “hunched” appearance.
Feline Herpesvirus 1 and Feline Calicivirus are the most common causes of Feline Respiratory Disease (FRD), often called “cat flu” or “cat snuffles”. The most common symptoms of FRD are sneezing, discharge from the eyes and/or nose and loss of appetite. FRD is spread in a similar way to Feline Panleukopenia Virus. When cats are infected with the virus, they do not always show signs of illness, but can still be infectious to other cats, sometimes becoming ‘carriers’ of the disease. Stress factors such as illness or trauma, change of home, breeding, travelling, attending cat shows, house renovations, or a new person or pet in the household can be enough to trigger an episode of disease in a carrier cat.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is transmitted during a cat fight through biting. Every time your cat goes outside it may be potentially at risk of being bitten by an already infected cat. If bitten, the virus remains with your cat for life and gradually reduces decreases its immunity. This progression, known as Feline AIDS, can lead to an increase in infections and some types of cancer. Cats that develop disease caused by infection with FIV have a vastly decreased quality of life over time.
So, when do I vaccinate?
8 weeks of age – first vaccination
12 weeks of age – second vaccination
16 weeks of age – third vaccination
Then vaccinated throughout life depending on risk factors will be annually or three yearly on your vet’s recommendation.
Why do I need to get my cat vaccinated?
While kittens are suckling from their mother, they receive a temporary form of immunity from disease primarily through the mother’s colostrum. This immunity is in the form of proteins called antibodies and for the first 12-24 hours after birth, the kitten’s intestine allows the absorption of these antibodies directly into the blood stream.
This maternal immunity is only of benefit during the first few weeks of life and, at some point, the level of immunity falls and the kitten must begin to produce its own long-lasting protection against disease – vaccines are used for this purpose. As long as the mother’s antibodies are present, vaccinations do not have such a good chance to stimulate the kitten’s immune system, which is why we wait until at least 6 weeks of age to begin the vaccination course.
Cats and kittens should be treated for worms from two weeks of age; every two weeks until three months old, then monthly until six months old, then three monthly thereafter, for life.
There are three different types of worms that affect cats, which is why it is important to ensure you treat with a broad-spectrum product. The different worms are:
How do I know if my pet has worms?
Internal parasites are not always easy to detect, but some common clinical signs include:
The importance of prevention in the control of intestinal parasites should not be underestimated. Some worms that affect dogs and cats can also pose a significant risk to human health. Children who are often closest to family pets are most at risk. Infections in humans can originate from the ingestion of eggs by not washing hands after playing with pets, the ingestion of eggs by small children ingesting soil contaminated with pet faeces or by the penetration of larvae through human skin.
Ensure maximum protection:
Many flea control preparations for adult cats are not always suitable for use on kittens – so be sure to read the product guidelines before purchasing a product.
Three key points for successful flea control:
Environmental factors to consider:
Did you know?
There is a large variety of flea control products on the market; both topical and oral. Be sure to talk to us about the best control program for your situation
The what’s what of feline nutrition
First things first – cats are OBLIGATE CARNIVORES. This means that they MUST be fed meat! Cats have evolved to be dependent on a meat-based diet and CANNOT survive as vegetarians. This is because:
Cats require higher amounts of protein in their diet than dogs, and kittens require even higher amounts again.
Cats find carbohydrates difficult to digest because they have a shorter digestive tract than dogs. Because of this they get their energy from fats and proteins.
There are essential amino acids that cats require, many of which can only be provided in the diet. Cats require one extra amino acid to dogs, which is called taurine. Taurine can only be provided by animal proteins (i.e. meat, eggs or fish) and is required for both eye and heart health, and a healthy reproductive system.
Cats also require Vitamin A to be provided in the diet. Dogs can make their own Vitamin A, but cats cannot. Vitamin A must be provided in the diet and is ONLY found in animal tissues.
Other important points:
Toilet training – mastering the litter tray!
Most kittens are very easy to litter train and may already have learnt by watching their mother by the time you get them home. However, there are a few simple steps which will ensure your new kitten is using their litter tray in no time.
Microchipping cats is becoming more and more popular. There are many benefits to having your cat microchipped, such as your pet being able to be tracked back to you if lost or stolen. Microchips are very useful in another unique way for cats. A cat door can be purchased which can be programmed with your cat’s microchip number and only allow your cat in! What a great use of technology. This is so helpful if you are having a problem with stray cats coming in and bothering your cat or stealing their food.
The microchip is a small transponder that, when scanned, emits a unique identification code. The microchip we use at our clinics is about the size of a grain of rice and is injected over the shoulder blades. The needle is much smaller than it used to be and generally tolerated very well by our furry friends. We try distracting your pet as the needle goes in and often they don’t even notice.
Once your pet is microchipped we will record the number in our patient records.
For an additional fee, we recommend registering your cat’s microchip details to the New Zealand Companion Animal Register. This company is independent of the regional councils and holds microchip information for companion animals nationwide. It is ideal as an ‘extra back-up’ for the storage of microchip details.
Even though there is no legal requirement to register cats in New Zealand, we strongly recommend microchipping.
We hope this guide has given you confidence in providing the healthiest and happiest of homes for your new kitten. And if you’re still not fully set up to welcome them home, we have a range of products available at the clinic including treats, food, cat doors, bowls, grooming tools, litter trays and more. We can’t wait to see your kitten in the clinic when they come in for their vaccinations!