Basic Kitten Care

Caring for a kitten will provide you with hours of fun and laughter, but it also presents a big responsibility. As an owner you’ll need to fulfill all the kitten’s basic needs, which means dedicating time and money to its care.

What you will need to provide:

  • Regular, appropriate meals
  • Access to fresh water
  • Clean, dry, comfortable bed
  • Litter tray
  • Outdoor access (not essential if you can change the litter tray regularly)
  • Grooming
  • Companionship
  • Vaccinations
  • Flea and worming treatments
  • Access to veterinary care

Feeding

It is important to start by feeding your kitten on the same food it is already used to eating, because a sudden change in diet can cause a stomach upset. If you wish to change your kitten’s diet then begin by mixing some of the new food with the kitten’s usual food before phasing the old food out completely.

You should feed your kitten on good quality commercial kitten food. Check that the label of the particular kitten food states ‘complete’ and not simply ‘complimentary’. ‘Complete’ food contains all the nutrition a kitten needs to be healthy. Kittens have small stomachs so they need feeding little and often. Kittens aged between eight and 12 weeks will need four meals per day, then between three to six months they require three meals per day and after six months this can be reduced to two meals per day.

Avoid giving your kitten cow’s milk. Instead supply your kitten with fresh water and supplement with the occasional bowl of specially formulated cat milk.

Litter training

Cats are clean animals by nature, which usually makes litter training a kitten relatively easy. Your kitten may have already learnt to use a litter tray from its mother.

Use a plastic tray filled with sand or cat litter and ensure that your kitten is able to gain access to the tray whenever it needs to. Place your kitten on the tray on waking and after meals so that he knows where to go to the toilet. For more information on litter training why not read Litter Training Your Kitten.

Venturing Outside

You should not allow your kitten outside until one week after he has completed his vaccination course. Once the time has come to let your kitten see the great outdoors you will need to accompany him. If you don’t have a secure garden then it’s a good idea to use a collar and a lead on your kitten for its first outing. It is advisable to accompany your kitten whenever it goes outside until it reaches six months old.

Grooming

When your kitten starts to explore the outside world it’s likely that you will notice him returning home with matted, scruffy fur which will require brushing. Cats remove dead hair when they clean themselves, however this results in fur balls building up in the cat’s stomach. By brushing your kitten regularly you will reduce the frequency of these fur balls.

More Information

Pet-providers have many more detailed articles on the subject of cat care. However if you have any specific concerns regarding the health or behaviour of your cat it is always advisable to consult your vet.

Common Illnesses Affecting Dogs

We all hope that our dogs will never get ill but just like the rest of us they will probably suffer a few ailments in their lives. Most of the common illnesses that affect dogs are not life threatening and are easily treated, but unfortunately some of them can be fatal. This may sound quite frightening, but it is important to be aware that the majority of the serious illnesses affecting dogs are completely preventable using vaccinations. Knowing how to prevent and spot illnesses is key to keeping our dogs healthy.

Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is a very unpleasant disease that can prove fatal. It is a highly contagious disease that is spread between dogs and most commonly occurs in young, unvaccinated puppies. Preventing parvovirus simply involves taking a puppy for initial vaccinations and then for boosters throughout its life. However before puppies have had their first course of vaccines they should not be taken on walks and need to be kept away from other dogs. The symptoms of parvovirus include acute vomiting and diarrhea that comes on quickly over a couple of days. Parvovirus requires immediate veterinary attention.

Lungworm

Lungworm is a type of parasite that infests a dog’s lungs. It is usually picked up when dogs eat snails or slugs, but can also be picked up from toys and water-bowls that have been left outside. Symptoms of lungworm include laboured breathing, poor blood clotting and lethargy. Treating your dog regularly with a worming treatment will help to protect your dog. It is important to check that the worming treatment you use includes protection against lungworm.

Kennel Cough

This highly contagious bacterial disease affects the lungs, which can produce a dry, painful cough. Kennel cough may clear up by itself or may need treatment from a vet. If your dog is visiting boarding kennels then you will need to have him vaccinated against kennel cough.

Obesity

Obesity is a common problem in dogs, usually caused by over-feeding and limited exercise. Obesity can contribute to other health conditions such as heart disease and arthritis. If you are concerned that your dog may be over-weight it is important to consult a veterinarian.

Lyme Disease

Lyme’s disease is transmitted by ticks, which are usually found in woodland areas and long grass. If a tick gets onto your dog it will suck the blood and if it is carrying Lyme’s disease then it will transmit it to the dog. Treatment is possible if contracted but prevention is the best method. Fleas and ticks are easily prevented using spot-on treatment.

Other Illnesses

Other common illnesses in dogs include many that are the same as conditions that occur in humans. These include cancer, heart disease and cataracts. There are just as many illnesses affecting dogs as there are illnesses that affect humans, however using preventative measures and seeking veterinary treatment means that most illnesses can either be cured or controlled.

Dogs and Poisonous Foods

You wouldn’t dream of consuming some of the food that you see your dog eating! This is partly because rotting bones and raw meat isn’t very appetising but also because they could potentially poison us. This works the other way around too, with certain foods and substances in our environment being poisonous to dogs. However, dogs are not always aware that these substances are dangerous to them. In fact many dogs think that poisonous foods are absolutely delicious and will wolf down as much as they can get their paws on. With this is mind owners need to be aware of the poisonous foods so that they can be stored safely out of reach.

Poisonous human substances

  • Chocolate – This is one of the most recognised poisonous foods to dogs. Chocolate contains theobromine a chemical compound that is perfectly safe for human consumption but can be lethal to dogs. Darker chocolate contains higher levels of theorbromine, making it more toxic than milk or white chocolate. If you suspect that your dog has consumed chocolate it is important to contact a vet immediately.
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Small bones – Small bones, for example those found in turkey or chicken meat can be dangerous to dogs. They are not poisonous but they have the potential to get stuck in the throat or damage the intestines. Cooked bones are particularly dangerous.
  • Onions
  • Xylitol (a sweetener found in sugar-free foods)
  • Medicines

Poisonous plants

Some plants that grow in our gardens and in the wild are poisonous to dogs. The Dog’s Trust website provides a list of plants which are poisonous to dogs – the list can be found here.

Anti-freeze poisoning

Anti-freeze and car de-icing products contain a chemical called Ethylene Gycol which is lethally poisonous to dogs. Anti-freeze tastes sweet to dogs and they will happily drink it, which means it is essential to keep anti-freeze in a sealed container and out of reach. Always remember to clean up any spills that may occur when topping up the car.

Signs of poisoning

Providing you take careful measures to keep harmful substances and foods out of your dogs reach the chances of poisoning occurring are slim. However, it does sometimes happen and not necessarily through any fault of the owner. Signs that a dog may be poisoned include vomiting, confusion, increased or decreased heart rate, drooling, fatigue, dehydration or even excitability. If you notice that your dog is displaying some of these symptoms it is important to call a vet immediately. The vet will be able to give you advice on what you can do to treat your dog while waiting for emergency help.