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General Reference Guide for New Kitten Owners

| March 15, 2017

Getting a new Kitten?

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Getting a new addition to the family can be tricky and finding the right fit is important.

Deciding on a new kitten should be done slowly and not a brash decision as finding the PURRRfect fit will take time.

Unfortunately the choice of kitten is often more an emotional choice than an objective one.

Kittens and all pets need the best provided for them from a good food to annual health checks, if you can provide for all the needs of your new pet, happy hunting for the next addition to your family.

Where to get a new kitten?

Kittens are available from many different sources. Many people who want pedigree kittens must buy them from catteries with a good reputation and register kittens with SACC, CFSA and CASA.

Buying kittens from a back yard breeder or a so called ‘bad breeder’ is a recipe for disaster. Find out from friends and family where they have had positive experiences adopting animals, even enquire at your local vet of any good breeders in the area of the breed kitten you are looking for. Welfare organisations or people fostering kittens also have a variety of kittens to choose from but be aware that these kittens MUST be tested for virus’ like FIV (Feline immunodeficiency virus) and FeLV (Feline Leukaemia virus) before being introduced into your household as we want to protect the pets you already have.

Shopping for kittens online is definitely not a good idea.

When going to a breeder to look at what kittens they have available for you, many good breeders will put you under the microscope to evaluate you and they want to know what type of home their kitten is going to.
I also like to reverse this situation where the new pet owner should evaluate where the kitten is coming from with regards to cleanliness, cat health, parentage of kittens, etc.

If a breeder won’t show you the parents (where both are available) they are hiding something and I would tend not to support this breeder. You get so many fantastic breeders out there with great breeding ethics and feline care, but you also get some bad breeders which should not be supported.

In my experience, many people go to a breeder and see a cute kitten and fall in love with this kitten, not thinking about the situation logically and adopting/buying this kitten for emotional reasons. Try not to fall into this trap.

Never buy a sick kitten: this is a recipe for heart break as this new kitten could have a variety of things wrong with it from FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis), birth defects, FIV, FeLV, Snuffles, Ringworm, as well as infect the rest of your cats established at home.
Don’t pick the smallest, sickest, weakest kitten in the litter as these are all signs of something wrong and you will not only be buying a kitten but problems associated with that sick kitten.

Find out if the kittens have been vaccinated by a VET and hence checked out by a vet.

Many kitten breeders vaccinate the kittens themselves and the kitten has never seen a vet and had a proper health check.

Kittens should be vaccinated at least twice where the first vaccination is given at 6 to 8 weeks and the second 3 to 4 weeks later.

Enquire what the kittens have been vaccinated with as various different vaccines are on the market. This will hopefully be a discussion in later issues of the magazine.

Deworming is just as important, as any area where there is a high burden of animals, parasites are going to lurk, even in the cleanest of homes.

Deworming as mentioned should be done routinely in young kittens as all the nutrients they consume, need to go into building blocks for growth.

At what age should you get/adopt a new kitten:

Many new owners want kittens as young as possible for various different reasons.

It is very important in the social developmental process for the kittens, that they stay with the queens for the first 10 weeks at least.

Many social queues are taught by the mother from 4 weeks of age starting from her teaching the kittens how to interact appropriately with her, then other cats and lastly other species like dogs and people.

A kitten obtained very young often does not have well developed social behaviour and can become very needy, not interact well with other cats, inappropriately interact with people and other animals. This can be one of the many causes of aggression in an adult cat.
I got all my cats at 12 weeks old and they are well socialised with each other and have established a hierarchy within my living space.

If a breeder wants to sell you a kitten at 5 to 6 weeks, ask them if they can keep your kitten longer so the kitten can learn from its mother.

Many pet shops/breeders sell kittens as early as possible and take the kittens away from their mother at this early age as they want to sell these kittens before they require their first vaccinations and hence they make a bigger profit.

With a long life ahead of you with this new kitten, a few weeks delay in introducing the cat into your home is negligible if you think about the years of problems you can have with a cat who has poor social development.

 

Copyright: Dr Laurence John Behrens, BSc: Veterinary Biology, BVSc

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