All about Kittens

Pedigree Or Not?

The majority of cats in the UK are non-pedigree, in fact only around 10% of cats are pedigree animals. So what’s the difference?

Pedigree:
A pedigree (or pure-bred) kitten is the offspring of two cats of the same breed. The advantages of pedigree animals is that you have a better idea of size, typical temperament, fur type and other characteristics of the breed. Do some research into the different breeds, cat breed books are a great place to start.

Cross Breed:
A cross-bred kitten is the offspring of two pedigree cats of different breeds, so the kitten could inherit characteristics from both/either of the parents.

Non-Pedigree (Moggie):
A kitten is known as non-pedigree (commonly referred to as a ‘moggie’) if one or both the parents are cross-bred or moggies.

Consider adult size, temperament, grooming requirements, hereditary illnesses and ability to train. Try not to choose on looks alone! Pedigree cats often come with a large price tag, where as non-pedigrees tend to be less expensive to purchase.

Male or Female?

Cats can be difficult to sex when they are very young, but this becomes easier as the kitten ages. An experienced breeder should have no difficulty in determining the sex, but check with a vet if you’re unsure.

The pictures show a male and female kitten, in the male the penis is hidden approx. 1cm below the anus with the scrotum in between. In the female, the vulva is a vertical slit that appears almost joined to the anus.

Whichever sex you choose, kittens are all individuals, but here are some points which may help:

  • If neutered before 6 months of age there is very little difference between the behaviour of male and female cats.

  • If you are introducing a kitten to a household with a resident cat, it’s best to choose a cat of the opposite sex to the older cat.

  • If you buy more than one kitten, then one of each sex is probably the best option, although neutering helps to reduce competition and differences.

  • If a cat remains unneutered then it is sometimes said that males are more difficult to control than females, and may have more aggressive tendencies.

  • A queen may become pregnant at least once a year, so must be kept away from males during her season, to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Males may stray many miles or become agitated if they are in the vicinity of a queen in season.

Neutering Cats

Benefits for male cats:

  • Removes risk of developing tumours of the testicles

  • Less likely to display territorial behaviour such as spraying

  • Less likely to roam, and therefore reduce the risk of being in a traffic accident

  • Less likely to fight, reducing the risk of being injured or contracting feline diseases

Benefits for female cats:

  • Unable to become pregnant

  • Removes risk of cancer in the ovaries or uterus

  • Stops the cat from wailing or calling as they do when in season

  • Less likely to contract feline diseases through cat bites

  • Unlikely to develop mammary cancer

Kittens can become sexually active from just 4 months old, so early neutering is advisable (before or around 6 months). Cats will breed with brothers/sisters and left unneutered a female could have up to three litters a year. Pregnancy is very stressful on the body, and there is no benefit of a cat having ‘just one litter’ before being spayed. The cost of neutering can vary so consult your local veterinary practice for more information.

Just One?

Consider whether you could commit yourself to more than one kitten, not only financially, but also with time and care. Many people feel that having 2 kittens is the best option as they will keep each other company as they grow older, but single cats will thrive just as well with devoted owners.

Advantages:
Stimulation and social interaction – two kittens together will frolic and enjoy play fighting and adventuring together. This means that the kittens don’t become ‘bored’ or frustrated when you are unable to pay them your full attention.

If you have one timid and one confident kitten, the nervous kitten may be encouraged to tackle more situations by the more confident character.

Introducing two cats together is much easier than introducing a kitten into a house where there is an older cat. The older cat will have established territory and may not appreciate the new member of the household – particularly if they are the same sex.

Disadvantages:
The cost of vaccinations, neutering, medical expenses, insurance, feeding, litter trays, toys and so on are all doubled!

Not all kittens will get along.

Cat and Dog?

There is no reason why canine and feline cannot live together, as long as they are introduced sensibly and there is no preference shown towards either. Beware of introducing a cat to a dog that likes to chase small fluffy prey!

Indoor or Outdoor?

The decision usually depends on your housing – ie. tower block, or no garden, or for safety if you live near a main road. Considerations should also include risk of boredom for a single kitten if no one is home for long periods, and risk of injury or loss if allowed to roam. You could compromise by allowing them out during the day and keeping them in at night, or construct a mesh cat run outside your house where your kittens can play without risk.

Pet Insurance?

You may find that pet insurance is the best option to cover those more expensive vet’s bills and treatments, although it will not cover the cost of annual vaccinations or any treatment costing under the minimum excess payment (varies by insurer).

Vaccinations?

It is recommended that your kitten is vaccinated from the age of about 8/9 weeks against Feline Enteritis and Feline Influenza, and more recently vaccinations against Feline Leukaemia and Chlamydia have become available. These diseases, although rare, are virtually incurable so initial vaccinations and annual boosters are a ‘must’. Register with a vet as soon as possible for a health check and advice about your kitten.

Feeding Time?

Your kitten should be fed a specific ‘Kitten’ or ‘Growth’ lifestage food for the first year of its life – longer if a larger breed. These types of food will have been specially formulated by leading nutritionists to benefit every aspect of your growing kitten. Diets without such modifications can lead to poor bone development, bad teeth and stunted growth.

Pets Corner specialises in nutrition. Our staff are trained in all of our food related products to offer you the best advice on feeding to suit your pet, both in complete foods and treats. We stock foods to cater for all ages and pet lifestyles – active, average or lazy/kitten, adult or senior. Not only can we select the healthiest, most natural diet for your pet, but when your cat is fully grown we could save you around £300 per year!

Depending on the recommended daily feeding quantity for your kitten, divide the amount into several small meals throughout the day:

  • Up to 12 weeks – 4 small equal meals.

  • Up to 6 months – 3 meals – lunch smaller.

  • Over 6 months – 2 meals – larger in the morning.

Always supply plenty of fresh drinking water.

Purchase animal-safe treats only. Try treating with premium treats that do not contain excess sugar rather than human food or sweets.

We recommend: More Pet Food, Symply Food, Canagan Cat Food.

Playtime & Toys

These should be used for entertainment and rewards. A kitten will respond well to you if you have its favourite toy in your hand. Playtime is an ideal opportunity to teach your kitten the basic commands you wish to use – but always make it short and enjoyable or your kitten will lose interest very quickly.

Playtime is great for bonding, so choose toys that allow you can interact with your kitten; be careful not to startle her as you could create a negative experience. Fishing rod toys are ideal!

We recommend: Great&Small Dangle Fish & Feather Cat Toy.

Grooming & Bathtime

Make all experiences a pleasure for your kitten! Use these sessions for handling and getting it used to you touching it all over. Try to avoid keeping your kitten still for too long. How it is handled the first few times can affect its behaviour in future situations – ie. during health checks, when at the vets or cattery/grooming parlour etc.

We recommend: Kong Cat Zoom Groom, John Paul Pet Full Body and Paw Wipes.

Teeth & Teething

Your kitten will have a complete set of sharp teeth (and claws) when you get it home – as you will soon find out. As it loses its baby teeth from 12 weeks to 6 months old, it may need toys and teething aids to satisfy its chewing urges. Try to obtain several durable toys for constant chewing – and protect your ankles!

We recommend: Petstages Catnip Dental Health Chew, Petstages Fresh Breath Mint Stick.

Health Checks

It is very important to keep a close eye on your kitten, as small changes can lead to bigger problems. Every time you groom or bath your kitten, check her for cuts, sores and lumps. If it is regularly checked, you will be able to spot a potential problem early on. In particular look out for any lumps and bumps.

Watch for scratching and check the coat for fleas or other problems, which could reflect a medical or dietary problem. Skin disorders can often be remedied by a change of diet. Check that your pets urinate regularly and that their stools are firm, as any change could indicate a developing health problem. This can be difficult if your kitten is trained to soil outside, so changes in behaviour and feeding can be used as indicators of trouble, particularly if your kitten is lethargic or hunched over.