useful information on how to care for your new kitten
This page gives some important information about how to keep your new addition happy and healthy as they settle in and throughout their lives. If you have any questions or would like to discuss any specific concerns call or email.
As well as treating animals who are unwell, we try to prevent health problems wherever possible. This includes vaccinations, parasite treatment, neutering, good diet and proper socialisation.
Vaccinations are important to prevent infectious disease outbreaks. The core diseases that we vaccinate all cats against are cat flu and feline enteritis. Cats that go outside or live with other cats who do, should also be vaccinated against feline leukaemia virus. Unfortunately these diseases can cause cats to become seriously unwell and some can be fatal – treatment is not always successful, which is why it is important we prevent them.
We recommend that your kitten is vaccinated at 9 and 12 weeks of age. The initial course is two vaccinations 3-4 weeks apart. Your kitten is not protected by his/her vaccinations until 7 days after their second vaccination. The first annual booster is very important to ensure your kitten develops adequate immunity and they will require annual boosters afterwards.
Before they are vaccinated your kitten will receive a thorough health check to ensure that they are well enough to be vaccinated and this is repeated annually at booster time so that we can identify and treat any health problems early.
Vaccinations are required before your cat can stay in licensed cattery. Some insurance policies will not provide cover for a disease that could have been prevented by vaccination if your cat is not vaccinated. You will be given a signed record of your cat’s vaccinations, please keep this safe. As a courtesy we sent out reminders when vaccinations are due, but rarely these can be lost and it is your responsibility to ensure vaccinations remain up to date.
Are vaccinations safe?
Vaccinations are safe, however like all treatment there is a small risk of adverse reactions. The reason we offer vaccinations is to prevent diseases that pose a serious risk to your cat’s health, so the risks must be considered against this. Most adverse reactions are mild and resolve quickly without treatment and severe reactions are very rare. If you are concerned about your cat after a vaccination, please phone the surgery.
My kitten had his/ her vaccinations with the breeder, can I have the second vaccination at Filey Vets?
It is important that your kitten receives the same brand of vaccine for both their first and second injection. This is because we have no evidence as to whether using different manufacturers’ vaccines will protect them. If your kitten received a first vaccination that Filey Vets does not stock you can either restart their vaccines to ensure they are protected or find another practice that has the vaccination you require.
Does my cat need a booster every year?
Yes. Maintaining immunity to cat flu and feline leukaemia virus requires annual booster vaccines.
Does it matter if a booster is given late or is missed one year?
Yes. There is a short grace period for annual boosters but after this your cat will need to restart their vaccinations.
Does my cat need to be vaccinated against rabies?
Rabies is not present in the UK, so provided your cat does not travel abroad, vaccination is not required. If you intend to travel then a rabies vaccination will be necessary alongside travel documents so please book an appointment plenty of time before you plan to travel to discuss this.
Microchips are not required for cats but they do increase the chance of being reunited with your cat if it is lost. We can microchip kittens at vaccination appointments but would advise waiting until your kitten is neutered so it can be done whilst they are anaesthetised and they won’t feel it.
We will register the microchip for you with the details you provide but it is important that you update your contact details when necessary to make sure you can be contacted if your cat is found.
Fleas are small parasites that can live on your cat’s skin and cause them to become itchy and develop skin disease. Fleas can be hard to spot because they only spend time on our pets to feed. They lay eggs in the environment, especially in carpets, furnishings and between floorboards. It is much easier to prevent a flea infestation than it is to treat one, so we recommend regular preventative treatment.
There are a wide variety of products available including flavoured tablets that you can give like a treat and spot-on products. Prescription flea treatment is usually safer and more effective than supermarket or pet shop brands. Frequency of dosing varies by product but is generally monthly. All products work by killing fleas shortly after contact with a treated cat, preventing them from laying eggs. It is very important that you do not use products made for dogs on your cat.
It is important to worm your cat regularly throughout its lifetime and again products supplied by a veterinary surgeon are often safer and more effective than pet shop or supermarket brands. It is uncommon for adult worms to be passed in faeces and the eggs can only be seen under a microscope so your cat may have worms without you knowing,
Your cat may become infected with worms from hunting, eating raw meat and from soil. Tapeworms can be transmitted by fleas. Kittens can pick up worms when they are nursing from their mothers.
The most common worms we see are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms. Roundworm is of particular concern because it can also infect humans and households in which there are very young children or vulnerable unwell people should take particular care with worming and hygiene.
Kittens should be wormed monthly between 8 weeks and 6 months of age. After this the standard recommendation is to worm every three months, but this can be done more often if your cat is at high risk or there are particular concerns about infection of humans.
Neutering means surgically preventing pets from being able to reproduce, in males the operation is called castration and in females it is known as spaying. Neutering your pet can be an important way of keeping them healthy and preventing unintentional mating. Neutering operations are some of the most common procedures performed by vets and this is done as a day case, so your kitten will come home on the day of surgery. There is always a small risk with any anaesthesia and surgery, but neutering is very safe.
Kittens can be neutered from 4-5 months of age, depending on their size and need to weigh over 2kg. Please keep your kitten indoors until after they have been neutered to prevent unwanted litters and roaming to find a mate.
A good diet is essential for the health of your cat. Cats are carnivores and so must eat meat to stay healthy. It is also important that their diet contains adequate taurine, to prevent heart disease – all commercial cat food is supplemented with adequate taurine. Kitten food is formulated to support healthy growth and can be fed up to one year of age. Kittens need to be fed more often than adult cats and we would suggest four meals a day between 8-12 weeks, between 3 and 6 months feed three meals and over 6 months feed two meals. Read the feeding guideline on the food carefully and then divide the total daily amount into the correct number of meals. If you require specific advice then please ask.
If you change the food your kitten is being fed this should be done slowly because a sudden dietary change can cause an upset stomach. Introduce the new food whilst you still have some of the old food left and mix them together, increasing the proportion of the new food over a few days.
Gum disease in the most common dental problem in cats and is present in most dogs by the time they are 3 years old. As in humans plaque builds up on the teeth and causes your cat’s immune system to react, so over time the attachment between the gum and the tooth is broken down. Early signs of gum disease include bad breath, tartar on the teeth and a red line along the gum where it meets the tooth.
As this progresses the teeth become loose and painful, bacteria are able to get into your dog’s bloodstream and their immune system has to destroy them and bone is lost from the jaw bone, weakening it. Treatment for gum disease requires a general anaesthetic for a thorough cleaning and often requires extraction of teeth.
Gum disease is preventable.
The most effective way to prevent gum disease is to brush your cat’s teeth once daily and there is a separate sheet explaining how to do this. You should start to do this from around 5 months of age as your kitten’s permanent teeth start to erupt because this will prevent disease and it is much more difficult to train older cats to allow this. You can start sooner, getting them used to having their mouth handled and getting used to a toothbrush.
Socialisation is a process by which kittens learn about the world around them throughout the first year of their lives but especially the first 8-10 weeks. It involves meeting people (including children) and other pets as well as getting used to different environments and situations. A well socialised kitten is more likely to grow into a happy, confident cat. Poorly socialised kittens may be more anxious and fearful and are more likely to develop behavioural problems in later life.
It is important to remember that until a week after their second vaccination your kitten is not protected by their vaccines so meeting unvaccinated cats or walking outside, should be avoided. It is important to introduce your kitten to everyday noises within your home (e.g television, hoover, washing machine) and get them used to being handled. It is important not to overwhelm them, but try to continue as normal. If you have children they are bound to be very excited, but encourage them to be calm when handling the kitten to avoid frightening them and to allow the kitten to move away if they are worried.
Some kittens are naturally shy and anxious and it is important to notice the signs that they are unhappy. Be patient and allow them time to get used to a situation in their own time. It is important to avoid bad experiences because this is likely to make them anxious.
In the wild, cats live alone rather than in groups. If you have littermates then they often live together happily but conflict between cats can be a cause of chronic stress, which then contributes to a number of different health conditions. If you have multiple cats there are things you can do to reduce conflict and stress.
Signs of stress in cats include hiding, overgrooming, being less keen to play or move around, going to the toilet outside the litter tray and aggression. It is uncommon for cats to fight so the signs of conflict can be very easy to miss.
Cat’s don’t like to share and forcing them to spend time together to get the things they need like water, food and access to a litter tray makes any conflict worse. For important resources such as food and water bowls and litter trays you should have one more than the total number of cats you have and these should be spread around the house so that each cat has their own.
You can also use Feliway, a pheromone designed to reduce stress in your home. These are plug in diffusers that are replaced monthly.
Letting Your Cat Outside For The First Time
We advise that you do not let your kitten go outside until they are fully vaccinated, neutered and microchipped. If your cat wears a collar please make sure it has a quick release fastening – to stop them getting caught as they explore.
The first time you let your cat out should be just before a meal, so that they are more likely to return for food when you call them and can be rewarded with food when they return.
Pet insurance is available to cover the cost of treatment should your cat have an accident or become unwell. We recommend that you insure your kitten.
Filey Veterinary Practice
1 Station Avenue