The rearing of kittens can be trouble free if certain precautions are observed. The first important consideration is feeding.
Very often kittens are taken away from their mothers before being properly weaned. Some patience is required to teach a kitten to lap milk from a saucer.
It helps to make the milk a little thicker than normal with the addition of some baby cereal. When the kitten investigates with its tongue some of the mixture adheres to it and the kitten quickly gets the idea of lapping.
The tendency is to feed solid food in too large amounts too early to small kittens. The kitten’s stomach takes some months to develop fully and cannot cope with large quantities of food. Digestive disorders follow and the kitten becomes pot bellied and fails to thrive.
Calcium is essential for kittens and milk is one of the best sources.
Calcium deficiencies are common in kittens that have not been given adequate quantities of milk after weaning. The fast growing young animal requires large quantities of calcium to ensure proper strong bone development.
Diets lacking in adequate calcium can produce a kitten that appears normal but is unable to jump and play like other kittens. Even small falls may produce a severe lameness or joint damage. If the calcium deficiency persists over a long period the cat develops bowed short legs and pelvic deformities that can cripple the animal for life.
An 8 week old kitten should be fed four times a day.
Milk and cereal can be given in the morning, then a few teaspoons of fresh mince or gravy beef and milk at lunch and dinner time and some more milk before it is put to bed at night. Calcium carbonate can be given in powdered or granular form or as a flavored tablet.
At 3 months the kitten has three meals a day.
The amount of meat is increased and chopped heart or fish can be given to vary the diet. It is a good idea to give a young kitten different forms of food to prevent it becoming too finicky later in life. Small quantities of tinned food and dry pellets can be offered at this time but not fed exclusively.
Kittens should be dewormed for roundworms at 8 weeks and then monthly until 6 months. A tape-worm treatment should also be given at three or four months but remember that cats do not carry the hydatid tapeworm.
Try to prevent your kitten from meeting stray cats before it has been vaccinated. If it can be isolated, vaccinations are best delayed until 3 months of age.
Protection against feline enteritis is essential but thought should be given to protecting it against the major respiratory diseases. If it is likely that your cat may have to go to a boarding kennel at any time it is wise to have these flu vaccinations given.
Initially the feline enteritis and first flu vaccination can be given together, with a second flu injection 3 to 4 weeks later. Subsequently one injection for feline enteritis and flu is given a year later.
If the origins of your kitten are not known it is wise to ask your veterinarian to test the kitten for ringworm at the time of vaccination.
Desexing of female kittens should be done between 4 and 6 months. If left much later there is a risk that your kitten can become pregnant and thus add to the already great number of unwanted or stray kittens.
Male kittens are best desexed when about 6 months old. A desexed male cat does not get into so many fights, does not come in contact with large numbers of stray cats, and therefore is less likely to get injured or diseased.