2013-11-08 / Columnists

The Veterinary Corner

Getting A New Kitten
By Dr. Jay Rogoff And Dr. Allan Simon

Congratulations! Owning a new kitten can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. However, as with any new addition to a family, there are often adjustments and changes that can be made to make the transition easier for everyone in the household. In this article we at the Animal Hospital of the Rockaways will address some of the questions and challenges facing the owners of a new kitten.

Kittens are naturally inquisitive and your new addition will want to explore its new surroundings as soon as possible. However, in order to avoid overwhelming your kitten, it is best to allow this exploration in stages. For the first few days confine your kitten to one or two rooms and then gradually allow him or her to move to other portions of your home. This gradual expansion of boundaries will allow your kitten to always have a safe haven in a previously explored area of the home.

Your new kitten may initially receive a hostile reaction from your current pets, especially another cat.

In order to minimize this reaction, make sure that your established pets do not feel the need to compete with the kitten for attention or food. Shower all of your pets with attention during the homecoming, introduction period and until the household has settled into a normal routine. And do not let the new kitten eat or drink from established cat’s bowls.

It is important to stimulate your new kitten with many types of play and socialization in order to foster proper muscle development and to teach proper social skills. Two types of essential play behaviors are stalking and pouncing. These behaviors can be encouraged by providing toys that are lightweight, easily movable and have unique sounds to attract your kitten’s attention during play. Some examples of these toys are small balls, crumpled paper and lengths of yarn, string or ribbon that may be dragged across the floor.

Remember, however, that your kitten should always be supervised when playing with small items that may present a swallowing or choking hazard. If you use a string or yarn please remove it totally from the environment when you are not around.

Kittens learn a great deal about the world around them and acceptable social behavior between the ages of two and twelve weeks. During this time it is important for you to expose your new addition to as many positive experiences with men, women, children, dogs, cats and other pets as possible. Positive experiences in many different settings during this time will help prevent your kitten from becoming scared or skittish in new environments and around strangers.

Kittens are rambunctious and curious. Unfortunately, these normally cute characteristics can also lead to destructive behavior. If your kitten is caught in the act of destructive behavior, it may be necessary to discipline it. Physical and harsh punishment for kittens is never recommended. Instead it is best to use a punishment that will be associated with the undesired behavior and not the enforcer. Some examples of these types of punishment include using a squirt bottle, horn, or hand clap to startle the kitten.

As with any new pet, proper veterinary care is essential to maintaining a healthy happy kitten. Your new kitten should receive a series of vaccinations to help protect it against five preventable feline diseases. These diseases are rabies, feline distemper and three types of respiratory organisms. This series of injections is normally first given between six to eight weeks of age, at 12 weeks and again at 16 weeks. Vaccinations are also available for feline leukemia. It is also possible to begin your new kitten on flea prevention and heartworm preventative.

If you have any questions or wish to discuss anything, please feel free to visit us at the Animal Hospital of the Rockaways, 114-10 Beach Channel Drive, or if you prefer call us at 718-474-0500. This is an exciting time for you and your new addition.

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