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Adopting a Kitten - or a Cat

Your local SPCA should be your first port of call if you are thinking of adopting a dog or puppy. Please pay them a visit - you may just fall in love!

Some Things to Think About...

Age Span

Cats make delightful pets. They are affectionate and easy to care for, but remember that when you take a kitten or young cat into your home you are accepting a long term responsibility. Most cats live at least 10 years, some much longer.

Costs

Are you prepared for the costs involved? A kitten that is offered 'free' will still cost you money! The kitten may be free - but veterinary treatment is not. When it is 10 to 12 weeks old it will need vaccinating and at 5 to 6 months it will need to be spayed or neutered. All its life your cat will need food, sundry items such as worming tablets and flea treatments, and from time to time there will be veterinary bills to pay.

Age at Adoption

Kittens made available for sale or rehoming requiring removal from the mother must be in good health and must be at least 8 weeks of age, except where they have been orphaned and cannot be fostered.

Kittens and Children

Please remember that a kitten is not a toy for children to play with. It is a baby creature which must be handled gently at all times. A kitten tires quickly and needs plenty of sleep. Kittens also need to be trained to use the litter box, and need to be fed 4 small meals each day, so it is best if someone is home during the day to tend to your new kitten's needs.

Growing Up

A kitten does not remain a kitten for very long. Before you know it, you will have a beautiful fully-grown adult cat - and cats breed fast! Your female kitten can come into season at 5 months of age. She will be visited by all the neighbourhood toms and 63 days later will give birth to her kittens. By the time they are weaned she could be carrying her second litter. Your cat family, and your food bills, will be expanding at an alarming rate. Please do not let this happen. Spay your cat before she has her first litter.

Selection


Cat or Kitten?

If you are away from home all day, or if you have very young children, select an older kitten, say 3 to 5 months, or better still an adult cat. It is often possible to adopt a cat which has already been desexed and vaccinated. A donation is required by most animal welfare organisations, but the saving is still considerable.

Short Fur or Long?

Short-haired cats are easier to care for. If you choose a cat with long fur it will need regular grooming all its life to prevent its coat from becoming knotted and flea-ridden. Accustom your cat to regular brushing and combing from an early age.
Male or Female?

Once de-sexed, there is little to choose between them. The female cat costs more than the male to desex, but as this is an operation performed only once in its lifetime, the saving is minor.

Signs of Good Health

Kittens and cats should be alert and quickly responsive to sounds. They should have a well covered body, a clean coat free from parasites and dirt. There should be no bald patches. Eyes should be clear with no discharge or inflammation. Rear end should be clean - no sign of diarrhoea. Ears should be clean - no discharge or inflammation. Dirty ears often indicate the presence of ear mites.

Health Check

If you have any concerns about your new pet make an appointment for your veterinarian to make a complete health check. At the same time your veterinarian will advise you on any other routine procedures, such as de-sexing, worming, flea control. This is also a good opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have.

Going Home

Going to a new home is a traumatic experience for an animal, whatever its age, so avoid introducing it on days such as Christmas or a birthday. Wait until party time is over.

Preparation

You will need a secure carrying container, a toilet tray (preferably plastic for easy cleaning) and some form of litter material - sawdust, fine bark or kitty litter which is obtainable from your supermarket, pet shop or veterinarian.

Set aside one room, say the laundry, in which to keep your cat/kitten while you get to know each other. Set out food, milk and toilet tray. Provide a cosy bed - a cardboard carton with a blanket or towel will be fine.

The Journey Home

Transport your cat or kitten in an escape-proof container, preferably a well ventilated cage or box designed for the purpose and available from pet shops or veterinary clinics. This is a good investment as you will need it throughout your cats life - for trips to the veterinarian, to a Cattery or when moving house.

Never travel with your cat or kitten loose in the car. It could cause a serious accident.

On Arrival

Put the carrying container in the room you have prepared. Check that doors and windows are closed. Open up the container and allow the cat to come out in its own time and explore its surroundings in peace and quiet.

If you have children, do not allow them to crowd around and give the new pet an over-enthusiastic welcome. Allow it to settle in quietly.

Do not let it outside at this stage. When it has had a meal, a wash, a sleep, and has begun to purr, you will know it is beginning to relax and feel at home. During its time of confinement talk to your cat so it will get to know your voice.

Keep a small kitten indoors for the first week or two. Keep an adult cat indoors about 4 days. If it is a nervous cat, keep it in at least a week.

If You Lose Your Cat...

Sometimes a cat will disappear for a few hours when it first goes outside. Dont panic! It may be that it is just exploring its new territory. If it does not return within a few hours, go outside when it is quiet and call softly. Sometimes it is a good idea to place the cat's used toilet tray outside the door. If it has lost its bearings it may pick up its own scent on the breeze and return to you. If it is still missing next day do the following:

  • Telephone your local SPCA and report its loss. Contact details for your SPCA can be found here. Some branches run a Lost & Found service and have reasonable success in re-uniting lost pets with their owners. Also telephone any other local animal welfare groups.

  • Ask your neighbours to look under their houses, in their garage etc.

  • Contact local veterinarians in case your pet has been picked up injured.

  • Do a letter-box drop, describing your cat and giving your telephone number and address.

  • Advertise in your local paper and watch for someone advertising your pet as being found.

  • If your cat has come from another private home, not too far away, ask the previous owner to come round, preferably when it is quiet, and call the cat by name. A nervous cat in new surroundings will usually respond to a familiar voice.

General Cat and Kitten Care

Vaccination

Do not omit to have your kitten vaccinated. A combined Enteritis/Cat Flu injection at 12 weeks of age with a booster at 16 weeks will protect your pet. Thereafter an annual booster is recommended.

If your kitten shows signs of sickness - vomiting, diarrhoea, listlessness, seek veterinary advice at once. Also seek veterniary advice if bald patches appear on its body.

Desexing

When you have your kitten vaccinated talk to your veterinarian about desexing. Desexing is absolutely crucial to prevent your kitten from breeding and adding to the unwanted pet population. Female kittens should be spayed around 5 to 6 months and male kittens neutered at 6 to 7 months. Mature cats may be desexed at any age.

If you have adopted an adult cat it may be already vaccinated and desexed. If in doubt a booster vaccination is recommended. If you are uncertain whether or not it is desexed consult your veterinarian.

What to Feed Your Cat

If possible, find out what your new pet is accustomed to eating and keep him on the same food for the first few days as a sudden change of diet could upset his tummy. You can use prepared tinned food OR a mixture of fresh and prepared food.

Prepared Food


 

Most proprietary brands of cat food contain all the necessary vitamins and minerals to provide a balanced diet. If you adopt this method, it is extremely important to read and follow the manufacturers instructions and feed accordingly. For many people, this method is the most satisfactory.

Dried Food


 

Most cats enjoy dried foods, which is convenient for the owner and good for the cats teeth. If this type of food forms part of your cats diet, it is very important that your cat drinks sufficient water as bladder or urinary tract problems may result if liquid intake is insufficient.

A Mixture of Foods


 

You may prefer (and so may your cat!) to use a mixture of foods, giving fresh meat or fish several times a week and tinned food and/or the crunchy dried cat food inbetween times. Meat is best fed raw. Fish may be cooked or raw, but a diet too high in fish can lead to a vitamin deficiency causing brain disease. Raw fish must be fed when fresh.

Liver


 

May be fed either cooked or raw, but only in moderation - not more than once a week. Too much liver can cause a bone disease, as well as diarrhoea.

Grass


 

All cats and kittens need access to a little grass, which they eat to maintain their natural digestive balance.

Bones


 

Make sure all bones are removed from cooked fish and chicken, as these can easily get caught in the throat or pierce the intestines. The result is great suffering and sometimes death.

Milk


 

Many cats enjoy a daily drink of milk, but there are some who react adversely to it and develop diarrhoea. If this is the case with your cat or kitten, try adding warm water to the milk and if the diarrhoea persists restrict him to water.

Water


 

A fresh bowl of water should always be available, even if the cat has milk as well.

Moving House

Cats moved to a new home sometimes return to their old surroundings. To avoid this, contain the cat indoors for 4 days, feeding as usual and providing a toilet tray. During this period let the cat roam the house to get its bearings, keeping doors and windows closed meanwhile. Let it out for the first time about 20 minutes before its feeding time, carrying it around in your arms until it becomes familiar with its new surroundings.

Holiday Times

If you go away, whether for the week-end or a longer holiday, you will need to make arrangements for the care of your cat. You can arrange for a neighbour or a feeding service to care for it at home or put it in a boarding Cattery. If you decide upon the Cattery your cat will need an up-to-date vaccination certificate.

Kitten Care

Feeding Time

As for cats, you can use tinned food, giving four small meals a day until the age of 12 weeks. Alternatively, you can prepare your own, using finely ground fresh meat, cooked chicken or fish (no liver for tiny kittens!), cooked rice, cereals such as Farex, as well as some tinned food.

If your kitten cannot digest cow's milk you could try goat's milk or yoghurt. Give your kitten some variety so that it will not become addicted to only one type of food.

Housetraining

Place your kitten on his toilet tray immediately after a meal, a sleep or a game. He will very soon seek out the tray of his own accord. Be sure to remove the soiled litter regularly, at least twice a day, as many kittens (and cats) will not use a dirty tray.

If your kitten makes a mistake never rub his nose in it. Just place him quickly on his tray. To help him get the idea, take his front paw and show him how to scratch the litter. If he persists in using a certain corner, place another litter tray on that spot. As your kitten grows, these problems usually solve themselves and your cat will go outside - provided of course he has easy access to the garden at all times. A cat door is a good idea.

Worming

If you adopted your kitten from the SPCA (or other animal welfare organisation), he should already have been treated for worms. If not, your new kitten will almost certainly need worming. Worm tablets can be bought at veterinary clinics, from pet shops and chemists. Be sure to follow the directions given. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian.

Flea Control

Never use flea treatment on kittens under 8 weeks of age without veterinary advice. Small kittens should be carefully and gently combed every day using a fine metal flea comb to remove both fleas and their eggs. For adult cats there are many products on the market for the control of fleas. Your veterinarian will advise you.

Grooming

Your long-haired cat will need regular grooming. Suitable brushes and combs are available from pet shops or your veterinary clinic. Accustom a kitten to grooming while it is small.

Recommendations

  • Never travel with a cat loose in the car. It could cause a serious accident.

  • Cats are best kept home after dark. This is the time when they are the biggest threat to native birds nesting in trees. If they have access to a toilet tray and are given a cosy bed they will be content.

  • Keep your veterinarian's telephone number handy, as well as the number of your nearest Emergency Clinic. You never know when you may need it