Caring for your Kitten


It is probably true to say that, whilst acquiring a puppy is usually a deliberate choice, choosing (or being chosen by) a cat is often accidental. Sometimes a homeless kitten arrives in the garden, or a neighbour is anxious to find homes for an unplanned litter, or one hears that a kitten will be put to sleep unless a home is found at once. Almost without premeditation one becomes a cat owner. However, it is important to check first that the whole family agrees to the new arrival. It is not fair through an impulse of generosity to bring a kitten into a house where it is not really welcome. To provide a home is not enough. A lot of love and care will be needed as well.


Ideally kittens should be eight weeks old before they are sent to a new home, or if younger, they should be completely weaned and used to sleeping away from the mother cat. A kitten of four to five weeks old which has not learned to lap or take sufficient solid food on its own, has a very poor chance of survival in the outside world. However, as previously mentioned, the arrival of a kitten is not always premeditated or arranged. If your new pet looks much younger and smaller than you had expected it will need special care in the first few days if it is to develop into a healthy young cat.


The healthiest kittens are, as a rule, those that come from good private homes. They have had the advantage of proper feeding during their first weeks of life, and a relatively low risk of contact with outside infections. Even more important, a kitten from a kind and loving home that is used to being handled by people is more likely to have an even temperament and be free from excessive nervousness. It should be easier to feed (especially if you check with the owner as to previous types and times of feeding), and it may even be house-trained, at least to some extent. If you do not know of any kittens in your immediate circle, try asking at your local pet shop, where this kind of information may often be found. Alternatively, look in your local or evening paper. Kittens are often advertised as 'free to good homes'. It is certainly an act of kindness to give a home to a kitten from a Cats' Home but this is not always a venture with a happy ending. Young kittens which have been handed into a shelter at five or six weeks of age have very little resistance to infection, and in this situation there is every chance that they will come into contact with infection (most commonly the flu or enteritis viruses). A kitten that appears quite healthy to you, or to the home official who hands it out, may well be in the incubating stages of disease. The recovery rate for very young kittens is not good. For your new pet to die within a week or two can be a most upsetting experience for children in the family - and for adults too. Likewise, care is also needed when buying a kitten from a pet shop. Make sure that the shop has a good source of kittens and a high standard of hygiene. The kitten you choose should be lively and healthy. If you wish to get a cat from a rehoming centre, it may be better to choose an older individual.


When buying a pedigree cat the same rules apply. A long pedigree and a high price are no guarantee of good health, so wherever possible collect your kitten directly from the breeder and find out as much as possible about its background. A reliable breeder will, as a rule, agree to let your own Veterinary Surgeon examine the kitten for health before you complete the purchase. It is in the best interests of breeders' reputations to sell only sound kittens and they are usually glad to know that the animals that they have reared are going to caring homes.


Never, on any account, buy a kitten unseen from an advertisement. A young animal that is sent by train may easily suffer as a result of unexpected and even unavoidable delays. There are, nowadays, a great number of pedigree cats to choose from, although the various varieties of Siamese are probably top favourites. These cats have been carefully selected and bred and their price will vary with their rarity and their show potential. For the cat lover, breeding and showing can provide an interesting hobby. The best way to learn about cats and to choose your favourite kind is to visit a local cat show. However, unless you really have a lot of time to spare avoid the long-haired Persian varieties. The enchanting pretty fluffy kittens, which are so often featured in advertisements, are only kept in this way by constant care, and a neglected and tangled Persian becomes a misery to itself.


Half-bred pedigree kittens (usually the result of the accidental mating of a Siamese or other type of pedigree cat) are sometimes offered for sale or free to good homes. While they do not, as a rule, follow the colour of the pedigree, they do have many of the breed characteristics, and make very attractive pets.


The sex of the new kitten is not of great consequence if it is to be a family pet, since most thoughtful owners will probably decide on neutering in either case (see section on neutering later in this chapter). The temperaments and characters of the neutered male and female are very similar. The female may, marginally, be sweeter and more affectionate and marginally, the male may be more independent, but these are only generalisations and many owners would probably disagree. It is not easy for the average person to distinguish the sex of a very young kitten. In fact, many kittens are booked in for neutering under the wrong sex, to the great surprise of the owner who was certain that their 'female' was a 'tom' or vice versa.


In some cases the sex can be surmised from its colour. True tortoiseshells are always females, but doubt sometimes arises as to the identification of this colour - a particular mixture of reddish brown and black hairs. Ginger cats are often, but not always, males. Contrary to popular opinion, ginger females are not sterile and can breed successfully. However, it is true that in some cases an all white colour in cats is linked with deafness. This can be a great disadvantage since a deaf cat is exposed to dangers - both from traffic and animal enemies.


To attempt to identify the sex of your new kitten, first stand 'it' on a table in a good light and lift up the tail. In the male the uro-genital opening is a small circular dot below and slightly separated from the anus, rather like a colon (:). It may also be possible to see the slight swelling of the testicles, just below the anus. In the female the opening (vulva) is in the same situation, below but closer to the anus and is rather more elongated vertically, like an inverted exclamation mark. When looking at a male and female kitten together the differences are fairly obvious but considering one on its own can be puzzling, especially when they are very young.


A litter of young kittens is a very attractive sight and to most prospective cat owners the temptation is strong to choose the one that looks the prettiest and take it home at once. However, a little time spent on checking over the proposed new addition to the family may save some trouble and worry in the weeks to come.


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A healthy kitten should be bright, active, and interested in the world around it. One that is very shy, or inclined to back into a corner and spit at strangers may have a difficult temperament and grow up to be a problem cat. Plumpness is a healthy sign but an over-distended stomach in proportion to the body may indicate poor feeding, or the presence of roundworms. The coat should be shiny, clean, and free from parasites, although even in the best of homes the occasional flea may be found. However, this is not a serious problem and it is a good precaution to give any new kitten a once-over with a flea comb on arrival in the new home. The ears should be examined for the hard crusty deposits in the ear canal, which may indicate the presence of ear mites. This condition can certainly be cured by the application of suitable drops from your Veterinary Surgeon, but a severe infestation can make a young kitten quite ill and it is probably best to ask the owner to carry out treatment before taking the kitten home. The healthy kitten has clear bright eyes and an only slightly moist nose. Beware of the so-called 'cold'. Cats do not get the trivial common cold as humans do and any sneezing or discharge from the eyes or nose must be taken as a danger signal. It may be a symptom of the onset of cat flu; a viral disease which can be very serious or even fatal, or it may indicate that the kitten has chronic catarrh; a condition which, whilst it rarely kills, can be a recurring nuisance throughout life. In some areas, especially farms, this condition may be found in nearly all the cats, which have continuously runny eyes and noses, together with sneezing and catarrhal symptoms. They are often permanently stunted as a result. Having said all this, it is a fact that many cats arrive unexpectedly in the home, sometimes in poor condition as a result of straying and exposure. Check through all the previous points and also consider whether there is any sign of diarrhoea, or if the kitten seems unable to take food. Young animals have very little resistance to infection and, if they are unable to feed, quickly become dehydrated and weak. In these circumstances it is important to take the kitten to your own Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible for examination and treatment.


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When collecting your new kitten remember that he, or she, may well be frightened by the first contact with the noisy outside world. Nervous kittens are inclined to bolt, so it is important to take a strong carrying box of some kind. If you have a proper cat box this is, of course, ideal. If you decide to buy a cat box, it will certainly be of use in the future if your cat has to travel, or even for necessary visits to the vet. If you do not want to go to this expense you will probably find that your local animal welfare society (RSPCA or PDSA) or a local pet shop sells strong cardboard cat carriers quite cheaply. They are very suitable for transporting kittens, though they may not be adequate for a boisterous adult cat. As an emergency cat box, two strong cardboard boxes can be used (after making ventilation holes), the large box can be fitted completely over the smaller to form a lid, it can then be held together with string. This may seem an unnecessary amount of caution but nothing could be sadder than to lose a young kitten in a strange area through lack of taking care. Finally, a warm blanket in the box will be comforting, especially if the weather is cold.


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It is a good idea to buy a proper cat collar (with an elasticated safety section or quick-release buckle to avoid the risk of strangulation if he should become entangled in a tree) as soon as you get your new kitten and to have a disc made with your name, address, and telephone number on. It is only too easy for young animals to stray and your chances of recovering your pet will be much greater if he can be easily identified. Microchipping is a simple process. The microchip is small, and it is inserted under the skin by your vet, or other trained individual. Each chip is unique, and can be read by a vet, animal warden, or a number of animal charities. Your details are kept on a central computer, so that you can be contacted if your cat is found. Many Siamese cats learn to walk on a collar and lead like dogs. This idea could quite usefully be applied to other breeds, giving a little more mobility and safety to strange situations such as when travelling.


Cats are inquisitive animals and your new kitten will certainly want to get out of the basket and make a thorough inspection of his new surroundings, so make certain that all doors and windows are shut. Also, if there is an open fire or fire grate, make certain that there is a guard in place because timid kittens have been known to bolt up chimneys. It is really best to confine the newcomer at first to one room as far as possible, until he has become accustomed to the place. He will probably not be house-trained and this will minimise the risk of accidents occurring on carpets. It is also for his own safety, since tiny kittens can so easily be stepped on and injured when they are encountered unexpectedly.


This is always a very difficult decision to take and depends upon the individual circumstances. At least one week should be allowed for the kitten to adapt to his surroundings and for the sights, sounds and smells which make up the new home to become imprinted on his mind. If you have a well-enclosed garden you may then decide to let him out for a stroll and an investigation, but only under supervision, and preferably just before a meal (this ensures he will come back!).


If you live near a busy road you may have to decide to keep your cat in altogether. Unfortunately, there is no way of preventing a cat from straying into danger. If you allow your cat to go out alone in an area where there is heavy traffic, you must face the fact that he may one day be injured or killed.


Cats in the wild are probably, at least partly, nocturnal animals and on summer nights they love to stay out chasing moths and other bigger game. However, the danger from traffic at night is even greater than by day, since cats are often injured after being dazzled by car headlights and there is always the thought that a pet may be lying hurt for some hours before he is found. Under today's conditions it is probably kinder and wiser to keep cats in unless you live in a very rural area. A useful precaution would be to fit your cat with a Reflective Collar. As a compromise, it is worth considering constructing a wire netting enclosure in the garden for your kitten. If it is furnished with an old tree branch as a seat and a place to scratch the claws, it will provide a little fresh air and exercise together with peace of mind for the owner. The cat run need not be large but it should be strongly made. Choose an area that has some shade as well as sunshine and provide a box or shelter to give protection from rain if your cat is to be left for some hours at a time


There was an old superstition that buttering the paws prevented a new kitten from straying away. There is certainly no basis in fact for this at all but people thought that a cat that was cleaning the butter off his feet would be too busy to stray.


Children usually love kittens and kittens thoroughly enjoy being played with and encouraged to chase a piece of paper or string. However, it is important to teach children that pets are not just toys, and must be allowed plenty of time to sleep and rest when the games are over. Allowing an older child to be responsible for the cat's feeding and grooming will do much to encourage a love and a sense of responsibility for pets.


Introducing your new kitten to cats and dogs that are already established in the household may present problems. Prepare to face a certain amount of ill will and try to minimise jealousy by not making too much fuss over the newcomer. With cats, after a day or two of spitting and growling at a new member of the family, things usually settle down and after the initial strangeness has worn off they quite obviously enjoy the company of one of their kind and get much more fun out of life. Having said this, however, there are occasionally cases where cats prove to be completely incompatible and the only kind solution is to try and find another home for the newcomer. In the case of a dog that is not accustomed to cats it is obviously necessary to take more care. Many dogs have a strong hunting instinct when it comes to small animals that run away and they regard them as legitimate prey. A young kitten might easily be injured or even killed in the first few moments. Even if they appear to have accepted each other, it is not wise to leave a dog alone with a young kitten for any time or to feed the two together. However, once friendship becomes established cats and dogs usually get on very well together, often sharing the same basket and washing each other, although the dog may still feel justified in chasing other people's cats. Indeed, it is true to say that in most homes in the end it is the cat that seems to rule the roost.


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Warmth is of the greatest importance in the care of young animals and in winter it is best to keep your kitten in a constant, even, warm temperature away from draughts (ideally in the kitchen). If the bed or box is placed against a radiator, stove, or other source of heat the newcomer will usually adopt it as his own and settle down very comfortably to sleep. A bed of his own gives a great sense of security to a kitten in a strange new home. A cardboard box with one side cut down to provide a step and the other sides left high to keep out draughts is suitable, or you can place the box on its side to produce a completely roofed house. These have the great advantage of being inexpensive and easy to replace. However, if you or your cat would like something a little more elaborate there are many different types of bed to be found nowadays at pet stores, from the traditional basketwork to the modern polystyrene shape with a plastic cover (the latter have the advantage of being easily sponged clean) but as a general rule a cat will feel safer and more content in a bed with high sides.


Cats love comfort and they will appreciate a pillow or a blanket in their bed, often quite visibly expressing their pleasure at new soft bedding by treading, or kneading the ground and purring loudly. However, it is best to use either a polystyrene foam square covered by a blanket or a plastic cushion since flock or feather pillows may harbour fleas. The bed covers should be washed regularly, or alternatively you can use pieces of old quilted dressing gowns, or other remnants that can be discarded and burnt.


The kitten has a very high dietary requirement compared to the adult cat. Because it is growing quickly it needs food not only to supply body heat and energy but also to form tissues and bones. In fact a kitten of seven weeks old may eat the equivalent of 20% of its own bodyweight in food each day Cats are naturally total carnivores (meat eaters) and have a very high requirement of protein and fat in the diet. In the wild state it would be small mammals that form their prey. It is also worth knowing that in the wild, cats probably took very little water as such (they were originally desert dwellers) since fresh animal carcasses contain approximately 90% of fluid and this supplied sufficient for their needs. Carbohydrate is not a normal constituent of the diet of the cat since they use protein to supply energy, but it can be used as a food supplement to supply bulk if given in conjunction with a high protein food.


Cats have a rather higher requirement of Vitamins A, D, and B12 than other animals, and the growing kitten and the pregnant cat especially require calcium. However, all these elements will be found in adequate amounts in a normal balanced diet and harm can be caused by over-administration of vitamins. If you suspect that your kitten may be suffering from a deficiency condition seek Veterinary advice rather than attempt to remedy the situation yourself before diagnosis.


All fresh meats and offal supply protein and fat. Lungs (lights) can be used occasionally but they have a poor food content and while they are obviously palatable and very popular with cats, they are not really suitable for growing kittens. Cheese is a good source of protein and is well accepted by many cats. Milk (as fresh milk or Lactol) is a good source of protein and also of calcium and Vitamin D. However, milk soon deteriorates if it is left in the dish, so if your kitten does not finish the drink, take it up and throw it away. Very occasionally cats develop an intolerance to the lactose found in cow's milk, resulting in diarrhoea. If this happens cows milk should be removed from the diet.


Nowadays, the majority of cats are fed on convenience manufactured foods (this subject is covered more fully in Caring for the Adult Cat). They are very carefully formulated to provide a balanced food, with the appropriate vitamins and minerals. If given in accordance with the instructions they should provide a suitable diet for a normal kitten. They are, as a rule, very palatable and have the great advantage of being readily available and easy to prepare. If wished, fresh or raw foods can be used to supplement a diet of prepared foods but there is no evidence to show that this is necessary. Although the water consumption of some cats is very low, water should be available at all times and it is especially important in hot weather, or if a dry or semi-moist food is being used.


When your new kitten arrives he may feel strange and uncertain in his new surroundings or he may be unused to the type of food that you are offering. The best policy is to offer not more than a teaspoonful of some very palatable food on a saucer (well-cooked and boned rabbit, cooked giblets, or white fish are all highly acceptable) and to wait until this has been finished before offering more. It is better that the kitten should be slightly under, rather than over-fed, until it has adjusted to the new routine. A sudden change in diet may induce diarrhoea, so any change must be gradual. For very young kittens, sieved baby foods (meat or fish) can be used and can be given with a spoon if necessary. Once a satisfactory feeding routine has been established, make it a rule to put down the amount of food that you expect to be eaten at each feeding time and if it is not all cleared up, promptly remove it until the next meal is due. If your kitten seems perfectly fit and playful and yet food is being left at each meal, you are probably over-estimating his or her requirements and you should reduce the amount of each meal accordingly. Healthy cats do not simply become bored with a food that they have previously enjoyed unless they are being over-fed, so avoid falling into the trap of searching for new foods to tempt the jaded appetite of a cat who has already eaten quite enough.


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In the interest of hygiene your kitten should have his own feeding dishes which are kept separate from your own. Old saucers will certainly serve the purpose but the plastic dishes sold at pet shops (in a non tip-over design) are inexpensive and, last for years.


Young kittens which arrive at their new home in the early stages of gastro-enteritis infection may refuse to eat any food and if not given prompt Veterinary treatment will probably quickly become dehydrated and weak. They may die. If you suspect that this may be the case with your new kitten, consult a Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible. In the meantime, keep the patient very warm and try to give a few drops of water every hour with a dropper or syringe.


Cats are not, as a rule, as easily trained as dogs. They have a greater sense of independence and are less concerned with pleasing their owners. Sometimes a battle of wills may be needed before a satisfactory code of behaviour is established. Remember that your cat will be a much more enjoyable member of the family if he has learned some basic good manners.


This is the first and most important lesson if your cat is to have the freedom of the house. Cats are naturally very clean animals and some kittens (especially those that have remained with the mother cat to the age of eight weeks or more) may have already acquired some idea of house-training before they reach their home. If your kitten is among this number you are very lucky. However, in the case of kittens which have been living wild, or have had several unsatisfactory homes, the situation is very different and unfortunately bad habits, once learned, can be hard to lose. Patience is the most important factor in training or in re-training a cat. They are timid animals and if you become angry and shout, or if you hit your cat for soiling the floors, you may simply create a neurotic pet who will never fully recover its confidence in the world.


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In almost all cases it is necessary to train a cat at first to use a litter tray, even if you hope later to let it use a garden. If you are a keen gardener yourself (or even more important, if your neighbours are) it may be worthwhile continuing to empty a tray once or twice daily, rather than have the nuisance and the problems that result from having a cat dig up gardens. In any case, in bad weather and through the night a tray will be necessary for the first few weeks and it can be a great help when moving house, or putting a cat into a cattery, if he is still accustomed to using a tray. There are two very important rules to observe in training a cat to be house clean: - 1. See that he is confined to one room only until the idea of using the litter tray is thoroughly imprinted on his mind. Young animals have very limited control over their bladder and bowels and if a kitten is allowed the freedom of the house, or is shut in a room with carpets for some hours, accidents can be expected. Once carpets have become soiled with urine, cats, like puppies, have a tendency to assume that this is an appropriate place and return to it. If the kitten is kept in one room with an impervious floor which can be properly washed and disinfected, the nuisance will be kept to a minimum. 2. Provide a suitable litter tray. See that it remains always in the same place (preferably in a quiet corner of the kitchen) and see that the litter is changed as often as necessary. Cats are very fastidious animals and are reluctant to use a soiled tray. Once clean habits are established it may be possible to remove the tray from the kitchen to a garage or basement if preferred but beware of upsetting your cat's routine too soon. Proper plastic litter trays are now available from almost all pet shops. This should be lined with a strong layer of newspaper or a litter tray liner and then add a good scattering of a prepared cat litter, or earth if litter is not available. Some cats are inclined to scratch rather vigorously in their litter, scattering it on the floor, so it may be a good idea to place the tray in a large flat cardboard box lid to reduce the mess. The tray should be washed with disinfectant solution each week The litter will be less offensive and last longer if you add a sprinkling of Cat Litter Deodoriser, which traps and destroys the urine, so preventing odours from building up. Put the kitten onto the tray after every mealtime, whenever it wakes up, or at any other time when you think it may be necessary. Having once trained your cat to use a tray it can sometimes be difficult to retrain it to use the garden, especially in cold weather. However, in most cases with the return of summer, when the cat can spend long hours in the garden, the problem usually resolves of its own accord, although it may sometimes help if the litter tray is placed outside the back door for a while.


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This is an important lesson but it is not, by any means, as easy as when training a puppy. The psychology of the cat is very different; he does not respond automatically to the sound of the owner's voice but quite sensibly makes a reasoned judgement as to whether it is in his own interest to come at that time. However, much can be done to induce a reflex tendency to come when called by use of rewards. Find something that your cat really enjoys, perhaps a meaty biscuit, or a tiny piece of cheese, and he will soon come to associate the particular tone of voice when you call with the treat (and it is, of course, important to always give the treat if the system is to work). This habit, once established, can save a great deal of annoyance on those occasions when it is essential to get your cat in a hurry. However, be warned, it will not work well with the overfed cat, or the one which is allowed to pick at food all day. Do train your cat not to sit on furniture. It can be done if you start out with determination and check him every time he tries to get on a chair. He has his own comfortable bed, so there is no need to feel sorry for him and it is not pleasant to find that clothes are covered with cat hair. If your will power is not quite up to this, at least make sure that your cat sleeps in just one chair of the house. The bad habit that causes the most annoyance to owners is scratching or clawing at furniture, carpets, or sometimes even wallpaper. Siamese are probably the worst culprits (and they have very strong nails) and with an adult cat the habit may prove incurable. It is particularly difficult because to the cat his behaviour is a perfectly normal method of sharpening his claws and he probably finds it odd that his owner objects so much. Boredom is often the main cause of this type of destructiveness. A cat which has a garden to wander in and trees to climb usually learns to sharpen his claws in the outside world but this, of course, is of little comfort to the flat dweller with a well loved but destructive pet. With a young kitten, every possible effort must be made to let him know that this behaviour is unacceptable. Check him at once if he is caught in the act with a stern tone of voice. See that the nails are not allowed to grow too long. Cut just the tips yourself with nail clippers, or if you feel uncertain of how to do this, visit your Veterinary Surgeon and ask to be shown. Provide a scratching post. You can buy prepared scratching posts from pet shops. These are impregnated with a substance that is attractive to cats and so encourages the use. Alternatively, use a fallen tree bough that you may perhaps keep in the garage or in the kitchen. As far as possible, see that your cat is not left alone in rooms where there is furniture to damage.


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As soon as you bring home your new fluffy kitten you should also buy a brush and comb and establish a regular grooming routine, once weekly for short-haired varieties and daily for Persian and other long-haired varieties. A strong nylon brush and a fine comb (either steel or plastic) are essential tools. Spread a thick layer of newspaper on a table in a good light, and apart from combing out tangles, check the following: 1. Check the eyes and nose for any discharge. Staining around the eyes is sometimes a problem with white cats, and Eye Lotion or Tear Stain Remover may be of use. However, if there is any redness, soreness, or excessive watering consult your Veterinary Surgeon. 2. Check the ears for the presence of dark wax which may denote the presence of ear mites or any discharge. The ears can be cleaned with Ear Cleaner, a specially formulated solution that helps prevent the build up of wax and other debris in the ear. 3. Check the coat for fleas, lice, and ticks. 4. Check the nails. If too long, the ends can be 'tipped' with nail cutters. Grooming should not be an ordeal that your cat dreads, provided you approach it sensibly. Spend a little time combining the ticklish areas under the chin and behind the ears (which they usually enjoy) as well as carrying out the more serious work.


1. Enteritis vaccination has been carried out for a number of years and appears to provide an effective level of immunity against viral gastro-enteritis, a very serious and often fatal disease characterised by high temperature, vomiting and diarrhoea. It is a condition that is encountered most in boarding kennels or breeding catteries and for this reason most proprietors of catteries insist on a certificate of vaccination before admitting cats for boarding. Vaccination is usually carried out from nine weeks old, and thereafter booster injections are necessary once a year. 2. Vaccination against feline influenza is also recommended. This is usually a course of two injections and can be carried out from nine weeks of age. Once again, booster injections are necessary. Since this serious, and potentially fatal, disease occurs most often in catteries, vaccination is strongly recommended for anyone who may have to board their pet during holidays. Remember to consult your Veterinary Surgeon in good time to obtain maximum protection. 3. Vaccines against Feline Leukaemia Virus are now also available. This disease is characterised by a disorder of the white blood cells, and results in reduced immunity to other infections


Many new cat owners may feel reluctant to consider having their kitten neutered but there really are sound reasons in favour, both for the male and the female.


The female cat will, if allowed, have several litters each year, often becoming pregnant again before she has finished feeding the last litter. One cat may, in her lifetime, be responsible for hundreds of offspring. Apart from the fact that this over-production exhausts the mother cat and shortens her life, there simply are not sufficient kind and caring homes to take in all these newcomers. No cat lover would want to bring kittens into the world to end as hungry and unwanted strays.


The female kitten comes into season (or 'calling' as it is also known, because she really does develop a very loud and persistent miaow, quite different from the usual sound) at six months or soon after. If allowed out, she will almost certainly become pregnant. Keeping a cat in at this time is far from easy since she is, of course, determined to get out and may become very irritable and even bad tempered. Worse still, you will usually find that several of the local toms have arrived on the doorstep or even in the house, if they have the opportunity.


Neutering, or spaying, involves a surgical operation under a general anaesthetic. The uterus and the ovaries are removed to prevent the cat from coming into season or becoming pregnant. This operation is usually carried out from twenty weeks old onwards. Opinions vary slightly as to the best time, so consult your own Veterinary Surgeon. If you have decided not to breed, it is safest to have the procedure carried out before six months of age to avoid the risk of pregnancy. However, if you decide you would like to rear one litter the operation may be carried out later and, as a rule, it causes the cat remarkably little distress or disturbance. In most instances you will be asked to bring your cat to the Veterinary Surgeon first thing in the morning, after having starved her for at least twelve hours (this is to avoid the risk of vomiting whilst under the anaesthetic), and you may be able to collect her the same evening or on the following day. Your own Veterinary Surgeon will give you more precise instructions if you ask but, as a rule, with a little extra care and attention for the first day or two, your cat will soon be her playful self again. The cat may well be a little sleepy when returned to you but this is, of course, perfectly normal after a general anaesthetic. It is best to keep the patient in a confined space (ideally in a cat basket) and in a warm atmosphere for the first few hours. It may be necessary, in some cases, to construct a cotton jacket to cover the stitches since it is not easy to keep an abdominal bandage on a cat.


Oestrus and pregnancy can be prevented or postponed by means of a chemical given by injection or tablet. This is helpful for an owner who thinks that they might like to have a litter at some more convenient time, or who is very reluctant to face the thought of an operation. However, the treatment must be repeated at intervals during the year throughout her life and for the average owner it is not as satisfactory or as free from complications as the surgical method.


Male cats are neutered partly for their own welfare and partly to make them more suitable as household pets. Mature male cats tend to wander away in search of females, sometimes becoming lost and ending up as strays and frequently being injured or killed on the roads. They have a strong instinct to fight other males in their territory and as a consequence suffer severe wounds and abscesses, often looking battered and battle scarred before they are no more than two years old. There is also the disadvantage from the owner's point of view that the urine of the unneutered male develops a characteristically strong, unpleasant and persistent odour. In the breeding season even house-trained males are liable to urinate or 'spray' in their own homes. Neutering is a simple operation in the male. It is carried out under general anaesthetic and is usually free from side effects, with no stitches. The operation is usually carried out from five to eight months, although adult males may also be neutered. At the younger age the operation is scarcely noticed but some opinions favour waiting until the cat is more mature. While the operation is not generally an abdominal one, the cat may feel a little 'groggy' on returning home and should be given the same general post-operative care as the female. Consult your own Veterinary Surgeon on this. Neutering in the male or female does not produce a fat or sluggish cat. This is a result of over¬feeding. With proper care and management the neutered cat should have a long, active, and happy life.


In male cats either one, or both, testicles may be retained in the abdomen. In this case your Veterinary Surgeon may either advise you to wait for six months and then return your cat for another examination or, if the cat is more mature, may suggest an abdominal operation, since a cat which has one abdominal testicle could show all the undesirable characteristics of a full tom.

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