Having a kitten is a rewarding experience. The joys of owning are many; just gently stroking a cat can reduce your blood pressure and decrease stress. Having a kitten also entails responsibilities to ensure the kitten’s health, your sanity and your leather lounge remain in one piece.
When you first bring your kitten home, it will take them a little time to settle in. It is a good idea to have a place ready for them with a bed, food bowls and a litter tray within easy reach. Kittens are very quick learners and generally know instinctively how to use their kitty litter, though occasionally they may need encouragement! They should be kept inside completely until at least a week after they have had their last kitten vaccination (and after they have been neutered/desexed). If you would like your kitten to have time outdoors, then let them out a little at a time, initially under supervision. It is a good idea to let your kitten or cat out before mealtime, so they have a good incentive to come them inside again! Kittens should always be supervised outdoors until they are adults. All cats should be kept in at night – both for the sake of the local wildlife and for their own safety. Cats are much more likely to roam at night and therefore are much more prone to fighting and having accidents at this time. Most cats are happy to remain indoor cats- don’t feel they need to have outdoor time, so long as they are given plenty of stimulation at home.
Provide your kitten with things to do – even a peg, a sock or a scrunched up piece of paper can be a toy! Make sure you talk to them and interact with them on a daily basis- they love being made to feel part of the family! Scratching is natural behaviour for cats, but they need to be able to express this in an acceptable way (to protect your furniture!) – scratching posts or something similar provides their claws with good exercise. It’s a good idea to start looking in your kitten’s mouth and playing with their feet regularly from a young age to make it easier to check their teeth and clip their claws as they get older.
Specific care for your kitten is as follows:
Taking good care of your new kitten will set the foundations for a happy lifelong relationship!
In our practice, up to 90% of all skin problems in cats are associated with fleas, although it is important to realise that cats (and other animals) can have fleas without showing any signs of disease. Only the adult flea lives on the animal; the rest of the life cycle (eggs, larva, pupa) lives in the environment. The female adult flea needs to feed from the animal in order to produce eggs. Once she lays the eggs (up to 200 eggs per flea per day!), they fall off the cat wherever the cat may be (eg into the floorboards or the grass). If the conditions are warm and humid enough, these eggs will hatch, and in approximately 3 weeks they will become adults themselves, ready to jump onto the nearest animal.
A few important points to bear in mind: in Sydney, although fleas are more common in the warmer months, we often see fleas all the year around; eggs can remain viable for months waiting for the right conditions before hatching; indoor cats can still get fleas (via people or other animals carrying any part of the flea life cycle into the proximity of the cat); and fleas prefer animals to humans, so if a person in the household is getting bitten, it usually means there are already a lot of fleas around.
There are a number of options for flea control, depending on the circumstances. Most people find the spot on applications very convenient, safe and effective. The newer ones tend to be more effective, as fleas can develop resistance to any given product over time. Some of these products (eg Revolution® and Advocate®) also cover for other parasites, such as heartworm (spread by mosquitoes) and most intestinal worms, meaning fewer medications are needed for their cat (and this is usually a good thing!). Bravecto® is a spot on given every 3 months and also covers ticks.
Sometimes we recommend other products (usually Capstar® tablets which kills fleas very quickly, within 30 minutes, but only lasts for a few days), to help get rid of a large infestation of fleas, or to help with ongoing flea control in a particularly allergic cat. These will be used in conjunction with the spot on formula, and work very well together. Another product called Comfortis® is also a (chewable) tablet, and is very effective at killing fleas quickly and for the whole month.
We can help tailor a flea control regimen to suit your individual needs.
Fleabites can cause anything from minor irritation to severe itchiness from allergy that can result in skin inflammation and infections due to self-trauma. If this happens, the cat will require veterinary attention to treat the allergy and its consequences, but the underlying fleas must also be controlled. It is important to remember that once a cat has shown signs of being allergic to fleabites, they will always be allergic and predisposed to having skin problems. It is especially important that these cats have very thorough and diligent flea control.
Once the fleas on your cat have been treated, there’s still the problem of all those flea eggs and larvae in your cat’s immediate environment. Generally a thorough vacuuming through the premises, including on and behind furniture is enough to get rid of the majority of the flea life cycle and the flea products mop up the remainder.
To understand why you may still see fleas on your cat despite being diligent with applying a flea product regularly, we need explain what the products are up against, that is, explain how well fleas multiply.
Each flea can lay up to 2000 eggs (a female can lay 40-50 eggs per day!) and the life cycle is only 3 weeks. Let’s assume a cat starts with only 1 flea and is somewhere that has never been exposed to fleas and that each flea lays only 100 eggs. After 3 weeks, there will be 100 fleas ready to jump on the cat. If they all hatch and infest that cat and lay 100 eggs and this cycle continues, then after 6 weeks, the cat will have 10, 000 fleas and after 9 weeks, the cat will be burdened by 1 million fleas!!!! Back in the real World, not every flea egg hatches but they can survive in the environment for years. If your cat goes outside or is in contact with another animal that goes outside, then it will be constantly exposed to fleas.
The most commonly used products to kill fleas are the ‘spot-ons’ that are usually applied to back of the cat’s head. The newer versions of these are all effective at killing fleas and are safe for cats (DO NOT USE PRODUCTS THAT ARE FOR DOGS- SOME OF THESE ARE TOXIC FOR CATS, for example Advantix®).
The main products like this all have their strengths and weaknesses. Some of them are effective for worming and other parasites as well as fleas, and Bravecto® is licensed for use against ticks. These products also vary in how quickly they kill fleas as well as the percentage of fleas still being killed after 4 weeks (when the next application is due).
In summary, Advocate® and Comfortis® kills fleas the quickest but Advocate® has the least effect in the last week of the month. With Revolution®, it takes longer to kill the fleas, but is still effective near the end of the month. Bravecto® is given only every 3 months and also covers ticks. If you are using one of these products but your cat is still bothered by fleas, then Capstar® tablets can be given as often as every two days.
It is best for your cat to be assessed by a veterinarian in the first instance to ensure there aren’t more severe underlying problems (eg jaundice or dehydration) that need immediate investigations.
Home Care (in an otherwise well cat):
then it is very important to call us to organise an appointment. We can assess if your cat needs further investigations (for example, with blood tests or ultrasound), and if they need to be admitted to hospital for IV fluids (a drip) and more specialised care.
Your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus.
Usually this means that not enough insulin is being produced by the pancreas to let glucose (‘blood sugar’) be transported from the bloodstream into cells around the body for energy.
Without insulin, the glucose is left in the bloodstream, where it builds up to very high levels. If this remains untreated, a diabetic cat will lose weight and eventually starve to death even if eating more than usual.
Some of this excess glucose is extracted from the blood by the kidneys and excreted in the urine. This excess glucose in the urine draws lots of water with it, which will cause increased urination. To compensate for this loss, the uncontrolled diabetic cat must drink more water.
You will need to give insulin injections to your cat twice a day. Many people initially feel uneasy about needles but ALL of our clients with diabetic cats agree that giving injections is easier than giving tablets!
To regulate the insulin and blood sugar levels, insulin and food must be provided at strict intervals and in strict amounts.
Your cat will have an initial stabilisation period to determine the correct dose of insulin to start off with. A routine will be established for the medication and feeding.
You will choose times that you will be able to consistently medicate and feed your cat twice daily at approximately the same time each day (for example, 7am and 7pm).
It’s important to re-assess cats regularly to begin with, then three monthly. The rechecks are important since insulin requirements can vary. Sometimes extra rechecks are indicated. We can usually teach owners to do these checks themselves at home, but we still need to have a vet check every 6 months.
* Keep the insulin in the fridge
* Shake the bottle gently before use
* Inject just under a pinch of skin (ie subcutaneously)
If you are unsure whether you gave the insulin injection correctly DO NOT RE-ADMINISTER IT. Don’t worry, just feed your cat as normal.
If you forget to give the insulin injection, don’t worry. Just miss that injection and re-administer as usual 12 hours later.
Call us immediately if your cat shows any of the following signs: weakness, depression, seizures, stops eating, or increases drinking and urination. This may mean that your cat’s blood sugar may be too low or too high.
Of course, call us about any other concerns you may have.
Out of all the zoonotic diseases which humans can get from cats, Toxoplasmosis is the most well known and publicised one. However, there is a huge amount of misunderstanding about this disease and about the role in which the cat plays in causing human disease.
Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease caused by an organism called Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite can infect almost any warm-blooded animal (including birds and humans) though cats are the only animals that can spread this organism through faeces (droppings). If a cat does become infected, it will only shed eggs for around 2-3 weeks in the cat’s life. Cats develop immunity against the parasite, which usually prevents reinfection and further shedding. Eggs that have been shed in faeces need to be exposed to air for 1 to 5 days before they become infective to people or other animals though they can remain infective for up to 18 months in the soil.
When other animals and humans become infected with this parasite through ingestion of this parasite, cysts can be formed in their tissues (muscle, brain, etc.), but no adult parasites develop in their intestinal tract. Infection is widespread throughout the world but T gondii is a very well adapted parasite, meaning it rarely causes significant disease in an infected host.
How do people or animals become infected?
Infection is caused by
People likely to develop symptoms are children and people with compromised immune systems. Pregnant women who become infected with toxoplasmosis risk affecting their unborn baby.
Toxoplasmosis and Pregnancy
When a previously non-infected woman becomes infected during pregnancy with T. gondii, there may be no clinical signs, however there is a chance that the unborn baby may become infected as well. The effect on the baby depends heavily on the stage of pregnancy but is most severe during the first half of the pregnancy. Infection may result in stillbirths, spontaneous abortions, or the development of permanent birth defects such as malformations, mental retardation, impaired vision, and deafness.
Before becoming pregnant it is a good idea to find out whether you have been previously infected with Toxoplasma gondii by having a blood test. If previously infected, your baby is not at risk from a new infection. It is important to remember that the only way to catch Toxoplasma in relation to your cat is from ingesting faeces exposed to air for greater than a day from a cat infected for the first time.
Toxoplasmosis and the Immunocompromised
Once inside the body, the Toxoplasma parasite never leaves it. Although in healthy people the parasite remains inactive, it can “reactivate” in immunocompromised people. There is no additional danger of transmission of the parasite from their cat. However, toxoplasmosis in the immunocompromised is a more serious disease, with the most common manifestation being encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
What are the signs in animals?
When symptoms are apparent, they usually include vague signs like diarrhoea, weight loss, decreased appetite, depression and fever. Measurement of antibodies to T. gondii in the blood is the best method to diagnose toxoplasmosis. It may be a good idea to check for some viruses, since usually only immunocompromised cats will show signs of Toxoplasma. Cats with this disease can be cured with antibiotics.
In cats, infection with T gondii is much more common in outdoor cats that are active hunters, and in cats that are fed undercooked or raw meat.
How can I prevent my pet from becoming infected?
How can I prevent myself from becoming infected?