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Kitten Care

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!

Feed your kitten four times per day until 12 weeks of age, then three times daily until they're five - six months old. Once or twice a day is fine from then on.

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.

TIP: After a kitten is weaned from their mother, there is no need to give milk. Fresh water is far better and helps with digestion.

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 PETstock VET service you can get your kitten vaccinated conveniently in store.

TIP: FIV is a serious problem among the cat population. It is highly recommended you vaccinate against this deadly disease if your kitten has any outdoor contact. It is transmitted via biting and scratching and in some areas, up to 25% of outdoor cats are carrying this disease. FIV is extremely serious and can be prevented by vaccinations. Ask your vet for more information the next time you visit.

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.

TIP: 'All wormers' are a good way to protect your cat from all types of intestinal worms. Remember, some worms can transfer from cats to humans, so be diligent.

Fleas carry tapeworm and can cause severe scratching and allergic reactions, known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis.

Cover your kitten with a good quality flea control product on a monthly basis, all year round. You can start from six - eight weeks of age and continue for life.

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 PETstock VET service you can get your kitten microchipped conveniently in store.

TIP: It's essential to inform the microchip registry if you move, or your contact details change.

As well as microchipping, it's a good idea to purchase an I.D tag for your kitten's collar, engraved with their name and your contact number. This will also increase their chance of finding their way home if they ever get lost!

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.

If you are having trouble training your kitten, try a different type of litter, ensure the tray is in a quiet, secluded place and ensure you're cleaning it regularly.

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.

TIP: Male cats must be de-sexed unless they are in a breeding colony. Otherwise, they can be uncontrollable in a normal household.

Male cats must be de-sexed unless they are in a breeding colony. Otherwise, they can be uncontrollable in a normal household.