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How to care for your kitten

When you first take your kitten home you need to provide a warm safe environment for sleep and play. You will need to buy a litter tray, kitty litter, food and a water bowl.. If you are going to keep your kitten inside most of the time, they will need some toys to keep them occupied. There are a wide variety of toys available but you can make simple toys from things around the house, for example, a stick with a piece of ribbon tied to it, to provide them with hours of fun.

Vaccinations

Just like humans, cats require vaccinations to keep them healthy and protect them from potentially fatal diseases. Treatment against these diseases is sometimes unsuccessful and this is why we strongly believe ‘prevention is better than cure’.

Vaccination Regime

  • 6-8 weeks of age
  • 12 weeks of age

Tick Paralysis

Paralysis Ticks are always present in our environment, however the warmer months do see an increase in the cases we see. Animals can die suddenly in the early stages of tick paralysis from heart failure. Symptoms to watch out for are loss of co-ordination, coughing, vomiting and difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these symptoms you should seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

To help protect your cat from kitten paralysis we recommend using a product called Frontline spray as well as daily searching of the coat.  New products continue to be released and some can only be used from a certain age, so please ask any of our staff about protecting your kitten from ticks. 

Fleas

There is a wide variety of flea treatments available on the market. We recommend Revolution due to the added benefit of worming and heartworm prevention. It is important to protect your kitten from fleas to avoid not only irritation and flea allergy dermatitis but it will also prevent contamination of your house with flea eggs.

Intestinal Worms

By following this guide you will protect not only your kitten but your family as well, from intestinal parasites such as hookworm, roundworm and tapeworm, we recommend and use Milbemax worming tablets.

  • Every two weeks until 12 weeks of age (2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 weeks)
  • Every month from 12 weeks of age (4, 5 and 6 months)
  • Lastly every 3 months for the rest of your kittens life. 

Heartworm

Like in dogs, cats are susceptible to heartworm disease by being exposed to mosquitoes. The Shoalhaven and Western Sydney areas have been reported to have the highest recorded incidence for heartworm. The diagnosis of heartworm in cats is difficult as it only takes one worm to cause disease. To date there is no treatment for heartworm in cats; therefore it is essential to use preventive medication for your kitten. We sell and recommend a product called Revolution, which is applied every month as a ‘spot on’. Revolution also treats for intestinal worming. Remember, prevention is the key to this disease.

Diet

Feeding your kitten a premium diet during its first year of life is incredibly important for their development. The kitten foods that we recommend will ensure that your kitten receives all the nutrients needed to grow into a healthy cat. We highly recommend a premium kitten food for its distinct nutritional benefits over feeding a supermarket kitten food. A premium kitten food can include Royal Canin or Hills pet food. 

We highly recommend not to feed your kitten milk of any sort. Cats are lactose intolerant and any kitten milk products that you can purchase are filled with no beneficial nutrients and can often cause a gastrointestinal upset. More importantly, once a kitten has been weaned from their mother (usually 6-7 weeks) they do not require any additional milk. 

Exercise and socialisation 

Kittens should be exposed to many sounds, people and objects keeping them occupied. Ensure to handle your kitten in a relaxed manner and use treats to introduce visitors. Soon your kitten will associate visitors with food and play.

Pet Insurance

We definitely recommend insurance for your pet. It gives you the peace of mind financially if your pet becomes ill or injured.

There is a lot involved with rearing a healthy, happy kitten. We would like to help in any way to make this journey from a kitten into a senior member of the feline community with the least amount of ill health. If you need any information or have any concerns or queries please contact our hospital and we will be happy to discuss these with you.

Looking after your cat

Cats are playful, affectionate and relatively independent creatures that make great companions. Just like any other member of the family they do require some basic needs to live a long and healthy life.

Vaccinations

Cats require vaccinations to keep them healthy and protect them from potentially fatal diseases. Treatment against these diseases is sometimes unsuccessful and this is why we strongly believe ‘prevention is better than cure’.

Vaccination Regime

  • Annual F3 & FIV vaccination 

PROTECTING YOUR CAT AGAINST WHAT DISEASES?

  • Feline Enteritis- This virus causes gastroenteritis and is extremely contagious. Symptoms include haemorrhagic vomiting and diarrhoea and unfortunately cats can die. Cats infected show signs of depression, fever and loss of appetite. It travels through the intestinal lining causing severe damage eventually making its way into the blood stream and bone marrow.
  • Feline Calicivirus and Feline Herpes virus- These viruses both cause respiratory infections. Initial signs and symptoms can include sneezing, nasal discharge, fever, conjunctivitis and ulceration of the mouth. 
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)- Cats infected with the virus may not show any symptoms for a number of years. The disease weakens the immune system causing many secondary infections. There can be many various symptoms of FIV this is why a test is always performed to determine the virus. There is no cure for this virus.
  • Feline Leukaemia Virus – Attacks the immune system and makes cats susceptible to secondary infections. Symptoms can be non-specific so its important a blood test is taken to determine whether a cat is infected. There is no cure for this virus.

Tick Paralysis

Paralysis Ticks are always present in our environment, however the warmer months do see an increase in the cases we see. Animals can die suddenly in the early stages of tick paralysis from heart failure. Symptoms to watch out for are loss of co-ordination, coughing, vomiting and difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these symptoms you should seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

To help protect your cat from tick paralysis we recommend using a product called Frontline spray as well as daily searching of the coat.  New products continue to be released, so please ask any of our staff about protecting your kitten from ticks. For more about paralysis ticks click here. 

Fleas

There is a wide variety of flea treatments available on the market. We recommend Revolution due to the added benefit of worming and heartworm prevention. It is important to protect your kitten from fleas to avoid not only irritation and flea allergy dermatitis but it will also prevent contamination of your house with flea eggs. For more about fleas click here.

Intestinal Worms

By following this guide you will protect not only your kitten but your family as well, from intestinal parasites such as hookworm, roundworm and tapeworm, we recommend and use Milbemax worming tablets. For more about intestinal worms click here. 

  • Every 3 months for the rest of your cat’s life. 

Heartworm

Like in dogs, cats are susceptible to heartworm disease by being exposed to mosquitoes. The Shoalhaven and Western Sydney areas have been reported to have the highest recorded incidence for heartworm. The diagnosis of heartworm in cats is difficult as it only takes one worm to cause disease. To date there is no treatment for heartworm in cats; therefore it is essential to use preventive medication for your kitten. We sell and recommend a product called Revolution, which is applied every month as a ‘spot on’. Revolution also treats for intestinal worming. Remember, prevention is the key to this disease. For more about heartworm click here.

Diet

Feeding your cat a premium diet during its first year of life is incredibly important for their development. The cat foods that we recommend will ensure that your cat receives the nutrients they need to remain healthy. We highly recommend a premium cat food for its distinct nutritional benefits over feeding a supermarket cat food. A premium cat food can include Royal Canin or Hills pet food. We stock a variety of premium cat foods to suit your cat’s needs.

Health Checks

We highly recommend a health check for your cat at least once a year to ensure the wellbeing of your cat. There are many hidden diseases that do not necessarily show physical symptoms straight away. Click here for more information about what your be could be hiding.

Exercise and socialisation 

It is important that your cat engages in regular exercise to maintain a healthy body weight but to also keeps their minds stimulated. Always provide your cat with plenty of toys and space to run around. Physical activity avoids them having a sedentary lifestyle which may lead to eventual obesity. It helps your cat maintain strong muscles and keeps their mind alert and occupied. Playing games with your cat can also be a great opportunity to bond with our cats. There are many ways to get your cat more involved in play, and they don’t take much time, money, or effort on your part

Pet Insurance

We definitely recommend insurance for your pet. It gives you the peace of mind financially if your pet becomes ill or injured.

Upper Respiratory Tract Infections ‘Cat Flu’ 

‘Cat flu’ is a common disease in unvaccinated cats of all ages, but tends to be particularly severe in young and especially purebred cats.  A number of infectious agents have been found to cause ‘cat flu’ but the vast majority of cases will be caused by one of two viruses, feline herpes virus type 1 (FHV-1) and feline calicivirus (FCV). FHV-1 is also known as feline rhinotracheitis virus.

What are the clinical signs of ‘cat flu’ ?

Signs of ‘cat flu’ are similar to colds and flu in people. FHV-1 tends to cause more severe disease, the major signs are inflammation of the lining around the eye (conjunctivitis) and nose (rhinitis). This causes a clear discharge from the nose and eyes which becomes thickened and purulent as the disease progresses due to secondary bacterial infection. Cats tend to be dull and depressed with a raised temperature, sneezing and are reluctant to eat. Coughing is also a feature in some cases. Rarely the virus will cause skin lesions and invade the lungs causing pneumonia. Without treatment signs usually resolve in 2-3 weeks but some cats are left with a chronic, intermittent nasal discharge or eye disease.   Treatment can significantly aid recovery.

FCV tends to cause less serious disease, but clinical signs are dependent on the strain of virus that is involved. Mouth ulceration can be a prominent feature of the disease causing severe lack of appetite. Ulcers may also sometimes occur on the tongue, nose and hard palate. Some strains of FCV cause a lameness and fever syndrome in young kittens. FCV is commonly isolated from cats with long-standing (chronic) inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and from cats with ‘faucitis’ (inflammation of the recesses at the back of the throat).

Deaths following respiratory virus infections are rare, usually occurring in young kittens that have advanced disease before being presented for treatment.

How is ‘cat flu’ diagnosed ?

In most cases the diagnosis is made on clinical signs but in cases where there is recurrent disease or in vaccinated cats a specific diagnosis may be required. This can be achieved by swabbing the cat’s mouth and sending the swab in viral transport medium to a laboratory where the virus can be grown in culture and identified.  (This service is not generally commercially available).

What treatments are available ?

As for colds and flu, specific anti-viral treatments are not generally available. Treatment is aimed at controlling secondary bacterial infection (with antibiotics) and stimulating eating and drinking as, particularly dehydration, is a major cause of worsening disease. Anti-viral ointment (e.g. acyclovir) used to treat herpes virus infections in people (cold sores) has been used in cats, but generally the response is not as good and the drug needs to be used early in the course of infection.

What  can be done to help treatment?

Your cat can be encouraged to eat and drink using drugs such as multivitamins and mucolytics (which help dissolve secretions) but good nursing plays a crucial role. The eyes and nose can be kept clear of secretions by gently bathing the area with cotton wool and by steaming. Steaming needs to be undertaken carefully, the cat is placed in a wire basket and a bowl of steaming water is placed outside the basket, the two are then covered by a towel and the cat left for up to 5 minutes. The steam acts to loosen secretions making the cat feel better, oils such as eucalyptus should be avoided as they can cause ulceration of the nose in cats. Your cat can be encouraged to eating by providing highly flavoured foods e.g. sardines warmed to body temperature. Hand feeding can also help. Severely ill cats may need nursing in hospital, this allows rehydration with intravenous fluids and feeding by naso-oesophageal tube. 

How can ‘cat flu’ be prevented and controlled? 

For most households, with a few cats, vaccination is sufficient. Vaccination may not prevent your cat becoming infected but will drastically reduce the severity of the disease, often to the point that all that is noticed is mild transient lethargy and inappetance for a few days. A variety of vaccines are available depending on the circumstances (see vaccination leaflet). Neither virus is very hardy, FHV-1 will survive for a maximum of 48 hours in the environment, FCV lasting 7-10 days.

In multi-cat households, particularly where new cats are continually arriving (rescue, boarding or breeding), vaccination alone may not be sufficient to control the problem. In these households isolation and quarantine is also required. Disinfection, whilst an important part of disease control generally, is of limited value in respiratory virus control as most cats become infected by aerosol droplets sneezed or coughed out by infected cats. Clinically ill cats or those suspected of being carriers should be isolated and handled last, their food bowls and litter trays disinfected and your hands, face and boots washed before handling other cats. Where possible separate clothing or overalls should be worn. New arrivals to the group should be quarantined for 7-10 days in case they are incubating ‘cat flu’. Unfortunately, quarantine will not identify carrier cats. In households where ‘cat flu’ is endemic, queens should be kittened in isolation from other cats and, where possible, the kittens remain in isolation until vaccinated.

What are carrier cats?

Carriers are animals that are infected with ‘cat flu’ but are not showing any clinical signs. Carriers are only infectious to other animals when shedding the virus. Viral shedding can be continual or intermittent. Around 80% of cats that have been infected with FHV-1 become carriers, they shed the virus intermittently usually during periods of stress e.g. re-homing, lactation trauma, early weaning, cold and remain carriers for life. About 50% of cats infected with FCV are still excreting virus 3 months after they were originally unwell, some of these cats continue to excrete for up to 18 months. FCV carriers excrete continually so are always potentially infectious to unvaccinated cats.

Can I check to see if my cat is a carrier?

In some special circumstances it may be helpful to identify carriers but this is not usually important for pet cats.  A swab can be taken from your cat’s mouth which will show if it is a FCV carrier. FHV-1 carriers are only diagnosed if they are excreting the virus at the time the swab is taken which is unlikely.  Unfortunately virus isolation from swabs is not generally commercially available.

What should I do if my cat is a carrier ?

Nothing can be done to change the carrier status of your cat. Therefore it is important that your cat does not come into contact with unvaccinated cats or kittens. All cats that have had ‘cat flu’ and specifically FHV-1 infection should be assumed to be carriers.

My cat has had ‘cat flu’ should I bother to vaccinate it?

YES!   Your cat is likely to have been infected with only one of the viruses so will still be susceptible to infection with the other, or with other strains of calicivirus.

 

 

 

 

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