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Owning a kitten will be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things you will ever do.
To enjoy all the benefits of owning a kitten, it is vital you take the steps to ensure he or she stays healthy and happy. This information guide will help you achieve this.
While it's exciting bringing a new kitten home, remember the environment is new and your kitten may be very apprehensive or scared. Act calm, not too rowdy, and provide a warm, soft and cosy area for your kitten to feel secure. Kittens are very curious creatures so let them explore everything in their own time.
Firstly, remember kittens are not puppies and should not be fed puppy food. They are 'obligate carnivores' and require more protein and other nutrients than dogs. Feed your kitten their current diet for the first week before aiming to integrate a premium quality kitten food over the following week (if your kitten is not already on one). Wet food is fine but it is important to always feed some dry food too, as it's much better for your kitten's teeth!
Premium kitten food is full of the right nutrients in the right proportions, unlike many supermarket foods. Make sure you give your cat the correct portion of food each day and avoid topping up the bowl every time they meow or ask for more, as this can easily make your cat overweight.
Usually your kitten can stay on a growth or kitten diet until 12 months of age before switching to an adult cat food.
Kittens are at risk of a number of serious diseases, including feline enteritis, feline respiratory diseases and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) - similar to the AIDS virus. These diseases are debilitating and can be fatal so vaccinating against them is vital. Your vet will guide you on the right vaccination regime for your kitten.
The first vaccination is generally given at six - eight weeks of age, 12 weeks for the second vaccination and 14 - 16 weeks of age for the final vaccination. Boosters are then recommended yearly.
If your local petstock store offers a petVET service you can get your kitten vaccinated conveniently in store.
Your kitten should be treated for intestinal worms every two weeks until 12 weeks of age, then every four weeks until six months of age. After six months, worming should continue every three months for life.
The most common intestinal worms include roundworm, hookworm and tapeworm. Worm treatments are easy to administer and come in the form of a tablet, liquid or spot on.
Fleas carry tapeworm and can cause severe scratching and allergic reactions, known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis.
Cats are about 2,000 times more resistant to heartworm than dogs, meaning the general consensus is that it's less vital to protect against it in cats.
However, heartworm disease has been associated with sudden death in cats, so prevention is available.
A microchip is a permanent identification device implanted under the skin, allowing a quick and easy return if your kitten ever gets lost.
Pet microchipping is mandatory in most Australian states, so ask a petstock staff member or your local council if this is a requirement in your area.
Your kitten can be microchipped at any age but the earlier the better. Microchipping is quick and easy, causing very little discomfort.
If your local petstock store offers a petVET service you can get your kitten microchipped conveniently in store.
Toilet training should start as early as possible and kittens usually learn to use a litter tray very quickly. Place the tray in a secluded, yet easily accessible place away from the kitten's bed and feeding areas. You should place your kitten in the tray every morning, night and after meals, until they get the hang of it.
Due to various health and behaviour problems it is highly recommended your cat is de-sexed at five - six months of age. This will not change the personality of your cat. Female cats can get pregnant as early as five months so it's best not to let them out doors until they are de-sexed.
Male cats must be de-sexed unless they are in a breeding colony. Otherwise, they can be uncontrollable in a normal household.