- This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, but rather a resource of information based on 28 years of breeding experience. For some topics there is general agreement about the information being provided. For the health-related issues (vaccination schedules, viruses, etc.) you will find a variety of opinions, among breeders and among veterinarians. For those of you who have any questions, I encourage you to talk with your veterinarian. I am available to discuss any of these issues with your veterinarian, or make arrangements to have my veterinarian consult with yours.
- WHAT TO EXPECT WITH A NEW KITTEN
- For all of our good intentions, nature does one thing much better than any breeder can ever do. She only allows the strongest to survive. And while her methods may be cruel, they are truly effective. This natural selection process culls out those kittens that are weak in any way that will allow their survival. For example, in the wild a kitten with a slight upper respiratory infection who cannot smell food and doesn't eat for 3-4 days will die. In the home of someone who raises kittens, it is inconceivable to allow a kitten to die just because it has a "cold." So, while breeders make their best effort to put the strongest and most vigorous cats together for breeding, the breeding-in-captivity situation inherently lends itself to a weakening of any breed.
- We protect our kittens. We protect them so well that they often do not get the "opportunity" to be exposed to things that toughen up their immunities. For this reason, pedigreed cats are slower to build up immunity to a variety of things that they would be exposed to in the wild. Over time they will, but at a young age a kitten is vulnerable.
- VIRUSES AND VACCINES
- Kittens are most vulnerable to upper respiratory infections. A recent article on cattery management suggests that there are at least 28 different kinds of viruses that can attack kittens. Of those 28, there may be numerous strains of each particular virus. The best veterinarian can only vaccinate for 7 basic viruses. These are: Rhinotracheitis, Calici, Panleukopenia, Chlamydia, Feline Leukemia, Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) and Rabies. That leaves much to be desired in terms of ensuring that your kitten never becomes ill. There is also a great deal of controversy regarding the administration of vaccines--what type to give, what schedule to use, what manufacturer to use, how effective they are.
- Kiddlyn Kattery has adopted the University of California, Davis, Veterinary Teaching Hospital schedule, and has supplemented this schedule of injected vaccines with intranasal modified-live vaccines, which recent research has shown to be effective in helping develop a stronger immunity in kittens at an earlier age.
- The schedule we use is as follows:
- 1) Two-way modified live intranasal at 3 weeks and 6 weeks of age
- 2) Three-way (modified live with killed panleukopenia) at 9 weeks and at 12+
- The manufacturer's instructions say that if a kitten has a series of two shots, one at less than 12 weeks and one after 12 weeks, (spaced at least 3-4 weeks apart), the vaccine is effective for one year. Recent evidence suggests that an additional booster at 16 weeks may be very effective in further protecting the kitten from viral infection. Since most people get their kittens prior to the age of 16 weeks, the decision to get a 16-week booster is up to you and your veterinarian. You should keep in mind that our vaccines are purchased from the same suppliers that veterinarians use. Other than the additional 16-week vaccine, there is absolutely no reason to re-vaccinate a kitten for the viruses that it has already been vaccinated against. After a cat has had its one-year booster, the current recommended vaccination protocol is re-vaccination every 3 years. Recent studies have indicated that over-vaccination can be more harmful than good to a cat's immune system. For more information see http://www.thensome.com/vaccinations.htm.
- Decisions about whether to vaccinate for Feline Leukemia, Rabies, or FIP are decisions that you can make in consultation with your veterinarian. We strongly recommend against the FIP vaccine. Based on recent studies done by Cornell University, it has been shown to actually sensitize some animals to the disease, and they can later develop and die from it. More information on this study is available upon request.
- FELINE LEUKEMIA VIRUS
- Kiddlyn Kattery is a closed, Feline Leukemia-negative cattery. This means that no animal comes into the house without being tested first. Since all basic breeding stock has been tested negative, we do not test each individual kitten. In addition, since these cats do not go outside, or come in contact with other cats who might have the virus, there is really no chance of them being infected with the virus. This virus is only transmitted through close contact and exchange of body fluids.
- WHAT TO EXPECT
- The kinds of things that happen when a kitten goes to a new environment are pretty universal. You should be prepared for the following. These things are very common, and the solutions are fairly simple. If what you experience goes well beyond the items listed, please feel free to call me and discuss.
- Kittens cry plaintively (as if they are in pain or looking for something) for 2-3 days. The reason is usually because they miss their siblings, miss their mother, or just plain miss me.
- Kittens develop sniffles (teary eyes, runny noses, sneezing) 7-10 days after they arrive in their new environment. This is what is commonly referred to as a stress related breakdown. It happens about 25% of the time. Sometimes, kittens that are shipped across the country don't break, and kittens that go down the street do. It has everything to do with each kitten's immunity and ability to handle the "stress" of the change.
- WHAT STRESSES A KITTEN?
- There are two major kinds of stressors:
- 1) Psychological
- 2) Physiological
Psychological stressors include: separation from siblings/mom and change in routine. Physiological stressors include: temperature, dust, allergens, humidity, change in food/water, physical activity, number of cats in the household, etc. Physiological stressors have to do with environments. Since each environment can be so different in so many subtle ways, it is difficult to know how much the kitten will be stressed and, therefore, what the chances are that it will break. When kittens "break" they exhibit common cold symptoms. Like the common cold in people, there is no cure. The standard practice is to provide supportive care, and administer general antibiotics to prevent secondary infection. What does that mean? It means the virus has to run its course, and during its course you keep the eyes clean, use antibiotic eye ointment if necessary and make sure the kitten is eating and getting plenty of fluids. This kind of mild upper respiratory infection is very common.Psychological stressors include: separation from siblings/mom and change in routine. Physiological stressors include: temperature, dust, allergens, humidity, change in food/water, physical activity, number of cats in the household, etc. Physiological stressors have to do with environments. Since each environment can be so different in so many subtle ways, it is difficult to know how much the kitten will be stressed and, therefore, what the chances are that it will break. When kittens "break" they exhibit common cold symptoms. Like the common cold in people, there is no cure. The standard practice is to provide supportive care, and administer general antibiotics to prevent secondary infection. What does that mean? It means the virus has to run its course, and during its course you keep the eyes clean, use antibiotic eye ointment if necessary and make sure the kitten is eating and getting plenty of fluids. This kind of mild upper respiratory infection is very common.
Some viruses are carried by certain cats and remain dormant until the animal is stressed. These chronic carriers are almost always cats that have had a severe upper respiratory infection as a kitten. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine which cats are asymptomatic herpes virus carriers, and which ones are not.
Kiddlyn Kattery uses only those breeder queens who have and no history of serious upper respiratory infections and no history of producing kittens who are prone to upper respiratory infections.
WHAT YOU CAN DO.
You can provide an environment as close to mine as possible. This includes the same food that the kitten is used to eating, filtered or bottled water for awhile, lots of love and attention, a good dust-free litter. Once the kitten is older, changes can be made gradually, and are less likely to have a deleterious effect.
WHAT TO FEED
Feed a good, premium cat food. The kitten has been raised on a mixture of Epigen Chicken (60% Protein) from Wysong, Kirkland Adult Formula (from Costco), and Purina Kitten Chow. Purina Kitten Chow is not the most nutritious, but it is loved by kittens and can be moistened without getting rancid. Dry food is available at all times. When the kittens are very young, I put down a can of wet food (on a plate), break it up with a fork, add a little warm water to make it sloppy, then sprinkle the dry on top of it. This encourages the kittens to eat through the dry to get to the wet. Dry is superior to wet in nutritional value and helps to keep teeth clean. Gradually, the kittens receive less canned and more dry, until they receive dry only. Most kittens are eating dry food only by the age of 12-16 weeks. I have also found that cats are nibblers and tend to like to eat many small meals several times a day. They seem to do best and keep themselves at an optimum weight if dry food is available to them at all times rather than being fed on a schedule.
For wet food, I recommend Fancy Feast, Friskies or Iams. I stay away from any canned food that has gravy in it. Gravy seems to cause diarrhea in some kittens.
I generally do not feed grocery store dry cat food, because it contains sugar and dyes, is not as nutritionally sound as the premium foods and can cause diarrhea in kittens who are not used to it. I have used Purina Kitten Chow or Royal Canin Baby Cat on occasions where I am having difficulty weaning kittens. The current formula of Purina Kitten Chow seems to have less dye than it used to and is tolerated well by kittens. Both formulas can be moistened without getting rancid and the kibble will turn into little sponges that kittens will eat when their teeth are first coming in. They also seem to enjoy the taste of both formulas dry.
Once the kitten has reached 6 months of age or has been neutered/spayed, you can switch to an adult food. The caloric needs of a cat drop dramatically after it has been spayed or neutered. Kitten foods tend to be much higher in fat content which can contribute to an overweight cat if it continues to get "kitten food" after it has been spayed or neutered. I recommend any variety of Purina Pro-Plan or PurinaOne where the first ingredient is chicken or turkey. Wysong makes a formula that is pure meat which is cold processed with no starch and made into the form of a kibble. It is called Epigen and can be obtained at wysong.net or at chewy.com. Shipping charges through Chewy are much lower than at the Wysong website. Science Diet is very greasy. It draws ants and has a tendency to make Bobtails overweight. It also has a tendency to make their coats look greasy. I had previously used Royal Canin for many years and recommended it, but some of their formulas have changed and I no longer use them. The bottom line for me is that I stay away from foods that have corn as their first or second ingredient (which is not well tolerated by some cats and causes food allergies) and I stay away from foods where the first ingredient is chicken or meat by-products which is the junk meat of the animal.
The key is to read the labels. The main ingredient should be meat, chicken, lamb, turkey or fish. Meat or chicken meal is okay as a first ingredient because it is essentially the meat or chicken with the water removed. If the main ingredient is corn, rice, or meat by-products then you might want to keep looking. Cats with food allergies are most often allergic to corn and meat by-products are the junk parts of animals that are usually thrown away at the butcher shop. Cats are carnivores, and while they do need some starch to digest meat, they seem to do best when the main ingredient in their diet is meat.
Bobtails seem to prefer eating from a plate or shallow dish rather than a bowl. Also, it is recommended that you use ceramic, glass, or stainless steel bowls for water. Plastic bowls are notorious for harboring a bacteria/fungus which causes chin acne.
JBT COATS AND COLORING
Kiddlyn Kattery began its breeding program with cats from several different major catteries. One of the most noticeable differences which became apparent from combining these lines was kitten coat type. Some kittens have fluffy coats, some have silky coats, some have coarser, bristly coats, some have plush coats, and some have thin cottony coats. Breeders refer to this as "unstable kitten coat." The differences are very noticeable in kittens, but gradually disappear as the coat matures.
Kitten coats will start to change at around 4 months of age and may not complete the full transition to adult coat until 8 months of age. So if your kitten looks fluffy, wiry, wispy or thin coated, rest assured that this will change. How long it takes to become the mature, adult bobtail coat depends on the lines from which it came. This also holds true for color, particularly with black coloring. For kittens who carry brown tabby or blue, the black color can look brownish, striped, or smoked until the adult coat comes in. As with coat texture, coloring deepens on different time frames based on the lines.
LITTER PAN TIPS
Bobtails are very meticulous cats by nature, but kittens have a short attention span. This means that they potty train themselves, and don't make mistakes unless they are confused. For this reason, I recommend that you confine your kitten to the room with the litter pan for several hours, so that the location of the litter pan is very clear.
These kittens are raised in a medium-sized house, with a litter pan in each room. Often, when kittens go to a much larger house and the urge hits them, they make mistakes--but only if the litter pan is too far away. Show your kitten where the litter pan is after its first meal, and put your kitten in it several times during the first day. Make sure that access to the pan is never blocked by a closed door. Kiddlyn Kattery uses regular clay litters mixed with pine pellets. If you want to minimize litter pan odor, use baking soda. Using carpet freshening powders can be very irritating to kittens.
The dust level of litters is very important too. These days I have found that Tidy Cat or Scamp seem to be the least dusty of the popular clay litters. Some kittens are irritated by fragrances in clay litters. Some kittens can use any type of litter with no problem. If your kitten sneezes every time it uses the litter pan, consider changing your brand.
We also use Feline Pine or Pine Fresh (pine pellets) added in with the clay litter. We will sometimes purchase stove pellets to add in with the clay litter. It is important that the stove pellets are pure pine as some other woods have too much natural turpentine in them which can irritate cats. We put about one inch of pine on the bottom of the litter pan and cover it with clay litter. Separately these products work satisfactorily, but together they are extremely effective in reducing odors and keeping the box relatively dry. The pine pellets turn into sawdust when they get wet, then dry and become sawdust again. They seem to draw the moisture out of the clay and prevent mud from sticking to the bottom of the litter pan. This mixture really helps reduce odor and allows the litter pan to dump out clean.
Be very careful when using the scoopable litter. Some published information has indicated that it can be very dangerous. See "Clumping Clay Kitty Litters: A Deadly Convenience?" http://www.thelighthouseonline.com/articles/clump.html. Besides the dangers outlined in this article, some of the so-called "multiple cat" or "heavy clumping" formulas are very dusty. I have had one report of a kitten getting a bacterial bronchitis from dusty, flushable, scoopable litter, which coated his lungs and caused bouts of coughing. The veterinarian who examined and x-rayed him said his lungs looked like those of a coal miner. Scoop-Away No-Track formula is an excellent formula. But if your kitten is a serious scratcher in the litter pan, you may want to stay away from scoopable litter until he is an adult.
The new crystal litters seem to work well and are relatively dust and odor free. As with the clay litter, a cup or so of pine pellets mixed with the crystal will help keep it drier and help it last longer.
WATERWe recommend the use of bottled or filtered water during your kitten's adjustment period and for the rest of its life if possible. We have found that in certain parts of the country there seems to be an increase in Giardia infestations in cats and dogs. These "beasties" are protozoan-type organisms which are usually found in streams or in things like bird feces, but for some strange reason more and more cats (who don't go outside) are getting giardia.
Brita filters don't remove giardia. There is only one on-the-facet filter that we know of that effectively filters out giardia and cryptosporidium organisms from water. It's the PUR water filter. It can be purchased for $30-35 at Target, Costco/Price Club, general department/home improvement stores and certain drug stores. Severe diarrhea can be deadly to young kittens. Treatment is simple with 5 days of a drug called Flagyl (Metronizadole). Giardia can be difficult to diagnose, so we recommend the use of water that has been filtered for Giardia and Cryptosporidium..
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