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Kitten Care

Congratulations on your new kitten! As your kitten grows and develops a personality all its own, it will depend on you for all its care and comfort. Raising a kitten is a big responsibility and we are here to help you get your kitten off to a good start.

A. Diet

1. What to feed: Kittens require proper nutrition to grow strong and healthy. Diets we recommend are Hill's Science Diet, IAMS, and Nutro because they are high quality, premium brands that include the right amounts of nutrients for your kitten. Also, we recommend dry food rather than canned food to promote healthy teeth and gums.

2. How much to feed: The first few days in a new home are very stressful for a kitten and a sudden change of diet would certainly aggravate the stress. Find out what kind of food the kitten is already used to eating and begin feeding with it. Then, if you want to make a diet change, do it very gradually by adding in the new food and taking out the old food little by little at each feeding. The self-feeding method works well with kittens where they have the free choice to eat whenever they want to eat. Use the feeding guide printed on the food label as a starting point for the amount to feed. Leave the food bowl out at all times. Don't forget to provide a bowl of fresh, clean water for your kitten at all times, too. When the kitten is about 12 months old and fully-grown you can switch to adult food.

3. What not to feed: Once you find a diet that your cat likes, you shouldn't change it. Cats don't need a variety of flavors and they can easily get indigestion from a sudden change in diet. You should also avoid feeding your cat table scraps, milk, and raw meats because they can cause indigestion, obesity, and behavior problems, such as bad manners and finicky eating. Never give your cat chicken bones or meat bones because they can cause choking, bowel obstruction, and teeth fractures.

B. Health

1. Vaccinations: All kittens need a series of vaccinations starting sometime between the sixth and eighth week of age. Vaccinations protect against Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, and Panleukopenia. Kittens need booster vaccinations every 3 weeks until they are 16 weeks old, and then yearly or as often as the veterinarian prescribes. Cats can be vaccinated against Rabies after they are 16 weeks old and should receive a booster after 1 year. For outdoor cats, we also recommend the Feline Leukemia vaccine because it is a highly contagious disease spread by direct contact between cats.

2. Deworming: Most kittens have intestinal parasites of some type, so the veterinarian will start your kitten on a deworming schedule. However, the basic deworming medication does not treat certain intestinal parasites, such as coccidia and giardia. At some point, you should bring in a fresh stool sample to be checked for parasites. You should also report to the veterinarian if you see any worms in the stool or if your kitten has loose bowel movements.

3. Physical exam: When you take your kitten to the veterinarian for the first time, be sure to bring any previous records of vaccinations and, if you can, bring in a fresh stool sample to be tested for intestinal parasites (worms). At your first visit, the veterinarian will have a lot to tell you about kitten care. Don't hesitate to ask questions at this time because your veterinarian is the best source of information about your kitten's health and well-being. Please carry your kitten at all times because until he receives a full series of shots, your kitten is very vulnerable to deadly infectious diseases. In the exam room, the veterinarian will weigh your kitten, do a full physical exam, and give the necessary vaccinations. Your veterinarian will tell you when to bring your kitten back for the next vaccination and give you a vaccination schedule. It is important for your kitten to have a blood test to check for FELV (feline leukemia virus) and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) if it hasn't already. Your veterinarian will also discuss spaying or neutering, flea and tick control, dental care, and training. It is natural to feel overwhelmed by all this information at once, so we will give you our Kitten Care Kit to take home that contains educational articles, brochures, and free product samples.

4. Vaccine reactions: After the hospital visit, it is normal for your kitten to be tired from the excitement and a little sore from the vaccination. On a rare occasion, a kitten will have an allergic reaction to the vaccination. Signs of an allergic reaction are sudden facial swelling, hives, fainting, vomiting, trouble breathing, and pale or gray gums. The onset of a vaccine reaction is rapid and your kitten should return to the veterinarian immediately for treatment. If your kitten is allergic to vaccines, next time the veterinarian will pre-medicate the kitten with antihistamine before giving the vaccination and carefully monitor the kitten for several hours in the hospital.

5. When to call the vet: Kittens are curious, energetic, and unpredictable. They always seem to be jumping around and playing with anything they can get their paws on. They are also likely to swallow anything they can get into their mouths. A healthy kitten should not be listless, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, constipated, or having diarrhea. Call your veterinarian if you think your kitten is sick or not acting right. In case of an emergency, call first so that the hospital will be prepared to treat your kitten as soon as you arrive.

C. Grooming

1. Brushing: Cats rarely need a bath because they are so meticulous about licking and grooming themselves every day. However, as fur accumulates inside your cat's stomach, you will frequently see your cat vomit hair balls. You can help your kitten along and reduce hair balls by brushing it regularly and by giving daily doses of oral lubricant for hair ball removal. Long-haired cats need to be brushed daily to prevent hair matting.

2. Nail trims: Start trimming your kitten's nails as soon as you can in order to acclimate it to this routine. Use human fingernail trimmers while the kitten has small nails. As they get bigger, you can switch to regular cat nail trimmers. Since cats have light colored nails, you can see the blood vein inside each nail. If you cut the nail too close to the blood vein, you could make it bleed. To stop the bleeding, you can apply some flour or cornstarch to the nail and apply pressure for a few minutes. Feel free to ask us for help. You can also make an appointment for a nail trim at our clinic.

D. Training

1. Litterbox: Place the kitten in the litterbox after feeding. Repeat this several times until he catches on. Some of the reasons that a cat might refuse to use the litterbox are if it is not clean enough, if it is not in the right location, if you changed the brand of litter, or if your cat is under any kind of emotional distress. Notify your veterinarian if you notice any physical changes in your cat's urination habits.

2. Scratching: Cats, by nature, want to sharpen their claws. Give your kitten a scratching post to use instead of your furniture or curtains. Encourage your kitten to use the scratching post by putting its paws against it making a scratching motion and give plenty of praise when you see the kitten use it correctly. You might try rubbing some catnip on the post to attract the kitten to it. With regular nail trims and a good scratching post, you can protect yourself and your furniture against damage from cat claws. If you catch your kitten in the act of scratching something he shouldn't, immediately startle him by squirting water at him or making a loud noise. This type of negative reinforcement works only at the moment you see the bad behavior, not after it happens. Scolding and punishing a cat moments after it does something bad will only make the cat dislike and distrust you. Kittens react well to praise, kindness and consistency, so have patience.

3. Playing: By providing the right kind of toys for your kitten, you can have fun with him while encouraging him to exercise. Toys bring out the hunting instinct of your kitten as he stalks, chases, and pounces on them. Choose toys that are not small enough for your kitten to swallow. They should also be strong enough to withstand chewing and tearing. Any foreign object that your kitten swallows can potentially obstruct the intestinal tract. String, thread, ribbons, rubber bands, and yarn are particularly dangerous if swallowed, so keep your kitten away from these potential hazards. Although kittens seem cute when they play with your fingers and toes, you should not encourage biting. Instead, have them play with an inanimate object with you. Also, discourage your kitten from playing with electric cords and houseplants. For your kitten's safety, get into the habit of asking yourself, "Could this possibly hurt my kitten?"