Caring for your kitten
General guidelines are: Initially feed ad-lib; at 6-12 weeks of age - feed 3-4 times daily; 3-6 months of age - feed 3 meals daily. From 6-7 months - feed 2 meals daily. Ideally, feed a raw meaty bone often, realizing some cats won't be tempted! There may be some risk of gut infections with feeding poultry bones (so must be very fresh from the supplier before freezing); so small bone chunks from the upper body of sheep/cattle can be given, or even whole lamb cutlets. The balance of the diet may include commercial food (canned/dry) and table scraps, eggs etc. Cats do not require high levels of starch or cereals in their diet. Royal Canin Feline dry is ideal as its shape and content helps in preventing plaque formation; and its "Neutered" range is ideal for avoiding weight gain after desexing. Avoid milk or dairy products generally - water is adequate. Also avoid regular meals of liver, raw fish or meat on its own.
The raw meaty bone diet will also ensure dental calculus and gum disease is minimised. Some cats will not shed their temporary fang teeth at the usual age of 6-7 months, and will be retained adjacent to the emerging permanent fangs. Should this be evident, please phone for advice. In a minority of kittens where bones are not a part of the diet it may be wise to brush daily with a rubber finger brush and antiseptic gel to prevent the buildup of dental calculus.
All kittens should receive Feline Enteritis and 'Flu' (Herpes & Calicivirus) termed Feline 3 at 6-8 weeks of age followed by a booster at 12-14 weeks of age. Most kittens should receive a flu only booster at 16-18 weeks of age as well. A booster F3 vaccine is given at 15 months of age; then 1-3 yearly based on individual risk. Feline Aids (FIV) vaccine is an option for cats in conflict, eg. those likely to be outdoors at night, or those in multiple cat households. Leukaemia and Chlamydia vaccination are not routinely given for this area.
It is now illegal to have an unregistered/unmicrochipped cat. Council registration is required at six months of age. Desexing prior to registration reduces this once only cost appreciably. Cats will jump fences and stray easily and this simple procedure gives peace of mind.
Ideally at 4,8 and 12 weeks, then 4 1/2 months, 6 months; then 3-4 monthly through life using an allwormer, eg: Milbemax. Some cats (especially hunters) may acquire an uncommon tapeworm or lungworm, which are treated with specific drugs. Revolution is a combination product with wide activity including most worms, fleas, heartworm prevention, and ear mite suppression.
If you do not intend breeding with your kitten, desexing of either sex can be done at 5-6 months of age. In females, both the ovaries and the uterus are removed. It is not a minor procedure and is usually done when not in heat or pregnant. Desexing your male cat will stop most territorial fights and urine spraying, and will reduce greatly the risk of acquiring cat AIDS (or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and Leukemia Virus infection.
A prolonged severe flea infestation can KILL a kitten purely through blood loss. Fleas are the host to the most common of the cat and dog tapeworms; ie, if your cat has fleas it will most likely have tapeworms. Treatments include: Capstar or Comfortis; both tablets, with a duration of 24 hours and 30 days respectively. Activyl, Advantage and Revolution - are topical 'spot-on' style products applied monthly, and are non-toxic. Revolution also prevents heartworm which affects cats less frequently than dogs; and treats nematodes and ear mites. It is important to understand that no flea product will be effective if there is a source of young fleas/eggs in the environment. Beware of dark, high humidity locations around and in the home, and treat appropriately with either wet sprays or aerosols.
Tick season is usually from July to January. Flea control products cannot be relied upon for tick control in cats so regular searches (daily to second daily) are important. Remember, if a tick is found simply grasp with forceps to remove; and if this fails imply cut the tick off level with the skin with a pair of scissors, and the rest will fall out later.
Most companies now offer health insurance for pets. This can help you cover the cost of medical bills. Pets statistically are afflicted by illness and injury more frequently than their owners. It makes sense to plan for this risk. Check links for insurance contacts.