Looking After a New Kitten - Everything You Need to Know
First of all, congratulations on the new addition to your household. A new pet is a big responsibility, but will return twice over the love and companionship you provide for many years to come.
The first six months of owning a new cat can be busy, but is also one of the most rewarding times.
There are a number of issues, both medically and socially, which occur within this first six month period.
In the following sections I'll do my best to give an overview, but if you have any questions please contact us any time and we'll be happy to help.
Fleas & Ticks
A cat should always be fed a diet suitable for his or her life stage (kitten, adult or senior).
After being weaned from the mother, which will happen sometime between 4 to 8 weeks of age, it is recommended to feed a kitten food.
Diets can either be commercial (available as dry or canned food from vets, pet stores or supermarkets), or home made. High quality commercial diets are generally nutritionally complete and balanced, containing all necessary vitamins and minerals. They are also generally formulated specifically for the life stage of the cat.
Dry food is nutritionally very similar to canned food, and is usually more economical, cleaner and encourages better dental development, however a lot of cats prefer the taste of wet (canned) food. Many owners feed a combination of the two. The quality of the food is also important, and there are significant differences between the lower priced budget food and the premium range of cat food. Calcium should never be supplemented to a balanced cat diet.
Vetopia.com.hk stocks an excellent range of kitten food here.
Your new kitten should also be given occasional treats, such as cat chews or raw chicken wings. Cooked bones can splinter and should not be fed.
A tasty selection of treats guaranteed to satisfy your cat can be found here.
Home-made diets can also be a great choice, but it can be difficult to formulate a home-made diet that is nutritionally complete, and liked by cats. Note that plain meat or meat and rice (even with vitamin supplements) is not a complete or balanced diet. If you decide to feed solely a home made diet, you should consult a veterinary nutritionist to have a recipe developed. If you would more information on natural diets and commercial diets, please see here.
Vaccinations for Cats.
Vaccination is a very important step in preventative health. Cats are generally vaccinated with a combination vaccine at 6-8 weeks, 10-12 weeks and 16 weeks of age. This vaccine covers the most serious preventable diseases affecting cats – Feline Panleukopaenia (Feline Parvovirus), Feline Rhinotracheitis and Feline Calicivirus (forms of ‘Cat Flu’). All kittens should be vaccinated as there is a high incidence of the above diseases in unvaccinated cats in Hong Kong. This vaccination is continued annually in adult cats.
Rabies vaccinations are not required for cats in Hong Kong, but are necessary for cats traveling overseas. There is a negligible risk of your cat catching rabies in Hong Kong.
Feline Leukaemia is a chronic and progressively debilitating immunosuppressive disease of cats, and is most common in stray cats and multi-cat households. Feline Leukaemia is rare in Hong Kong, and vaccination is rare.
If you'd like more information on vaccination for kittens or general medical care, we would recommend you contact one of the Creature Comforts Group hospitals or East Island Animal Hospital. Contact details are available by clicking here.
Kittens should be given a tablet for intestinal worms at each initial vaccination, and then every 3-6 months as an adult cat. Control of intestinal worms is important for the health of your cat, and can in some cases also be important in preventing transmission of worms to family members.
Intestinal worming treatments can be bought online here.
Fleas and Ticks.
Fleas are a significant cause of allergy, dermatitis and scratching in cats, and can also transmit some species of intestinal worms. Flea prevention is not essential in all cats, but is highly recommended in areas with a high flea population or for cats who venture outside.
Ticks are an 8-legged arthropod that look somewhat like a large, slow moving flea. Apart from causing irritation and possible anaemia, ticks often carry Babesia, a microscopic parasite which can cause Tick Fever. Tick Fever is a life-threatening condition, but is uncommon in cats in Hong Kong. Ticks are most common in bushy areas, but are present throughout Hong Kong.
Prevention of Flea & Ticks:
Revolution is my preferred preventative for fleas in cats - one quick treatment each month protects your cat from fleas, heartworms, roundworms, hookworms and ear mites.
Frontline Spot-On is a very safe treatment for fleas. It is usually applied to the skin behind the neck once per month.
Please note that flea and tick shampoos and pyrethrin-based products are generally ineffective, with resistance being present in up to 75% of fleas, and can be toxic for cats. We would not recommend using flea and tick shampoos on cats.
There is lots more information about vaccinations and healthcare on vetopia.com.hk here.
Bedding and Housing.
Cats should generally have a basket, bed or den (cage) to which they can retire at night. They should not, however, be locked in a cage or tied up. The bed should be cleaned regularly and the blankets washed weekly or whenever dirty. The bed should be kept in a warm, comfortable and private place, but should also be close to or part of the main living area in the house.
Cats should also be provided with a litter tray. This is generally placed away from the main living area, often in the bathroom and away from your cat's food and water bowls. A good quality, clumping litter is usually put in the tray to a depth of around an inch or more. The tray should be cleared daily of faeces and urine clumps. Cats are generally very clean and rarely need any toilet training.
A selection of quality, low odour cat litter can be found here.
Cats don't require as much grooming maintenance as dogs (they generally don't need to be bathed), however they will require their claws to be cut and if you have a long haired cat, it will require regular brushing. It will make your life a lot easier if you get your kitten used to grooming from a young age. Claws should be clipped whenever they get sharp enough to cause you harm or if your cat is getting stuck on things when walking around. You might find it easiest to do a couple of claws at a time, rather than trying to do all 10 in one go. A suitable claw trimmer should be used. You should also provide your cat with a scratching toy so they have somewhere suitable to scratch (that will hopefully save your sofa from being destroyed).
Cats can be quite a challenge to train. Training to come when called or to respond to commands is often difficult, although food rewards can often help.
Luckily toilet training is usually instinctual and doesn’t need to be taught.
Negative reward training (telling a cat off or smacking a cat) has long been considered outdated and cruel, and generally results in a poorly trained cat who is scared of their owner.
Training rewards must always be given at the time of the action – if you reward a cat five minutes later he may have forgotten exactly what it was he did right.
Desexing or neutering involves a surgical operation, preventing your pet from mating and producing offspring. Desexing can be performed any time after your cat is six months old. The desexing operation involves a day visit to the hospital, however your cat will be pretty much back to their old self by the evening and will usually not need to stay in hospital overnight.
Desexing is performed for both social and medical reasons, and if you are not planning on breeding your cat, desexing is highly recommended. There is more information about desexing on the Desexing - Cats page.