Cats & Kittens
Cats make delightful pets. They are affectionate and easy to care for, but remember that when you take a kitten or young cat into your home you are accepting a long term responsibility. Most cats live at least 12 - 15 years, some much longer.
Are you prepared for the costs involved?
A kitten that is offered "free to a good home" will still cost you money! When it is 8-10 weeks old it will need a vaccination and then a booster 3-4 weeks after that. At 4-6 months it will need to be spayed or neutered. If it develops any kind or injury or illness, there will be consultation and possibly medication or treatment involved. So the kitten may be free—but veterinary treatment is not. All its life your cat will need food, sundry items such as worming pills, flea powders, etc., and from time to time there will be veterinary bills to pay.
A kitten tires quickly and needs plenty of sleep. A kitten will also need toilet training and 4 small meals each day.
Cats breed fast! Your female kitten can come into season at 5 months of age. She will be visited by all the neighbourhood tom-cats and 63 days later will give birth to her kittens. By the time they are weaned she could be carrying her second litter. Your cat family and your food bills will expand at an alarming rate. Please do not let this happen, spay your cat before she has her first litter.
Cat or Kitten?
If you are away from home all day, or if you have very young children, select an older kitten, say 6 - 12 months, or better still an adult cat. From SPCA Otago you can adopt adult cats which have already been desexed and vaccinated.
Short fur or long?
Short-haired cats are easier to care for. If you choose a cat with long fur it will need regular grooming all its life to prevent its coat from becoming knotted and flea-ridden. Accustom your cat to regular brushing and combing from an early age.
Male or Female?
Once de-sexed, there is little difference between them. The female cat costs more than the male to desex, but as this operation is performed only once in its lifetime, the saving is minor.
Signs of good health
Kittens and cats should be alert and quickly responsive to sounds. They should have a well covered body, a clean coat free from parasites and dirt. There should be no bald patches. It's eyes should be clear with no discharge or inflammation. The rear-end should be clean with no sign of diarrhoea. The ears should be clean with no discharge or inflammation. Dirty ears often indicate the presence of ear mites.
If you have any concerns about your new pet make an appointment for your veterinarian right away to have a complete health check. At the same time your veterinarian will advise you on any other routine procedures such as de-sexing, worming and flea control. This is also a good opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have.
Taking home your new cat or kitten
Going to a new home is a traumatic experience for an animal whatever its age, so avoid introducing it on days such as Christmas or a birthday. Wait until party time is over. In terms of preparation: You will need a secure carrying container, a litter tray (preferably plastic for easy cleaning) and some form of litter material—sawdust, fine bark or kitty litter which is obtainable from your supermarket, pet shop or veterinarian. Set aside one room, such as the laundry, in which to keep your cat/kitten while you get to know each other. Set out food, water and a toilet tray. Provide a cosy bed with a blanket or towel.
The journey home
Transport your cat or kitten in an escape-proof cage, preferably a well ventilated cage designed for the purpose and available from pet shops or veterinary clinics. This is a good investment as you will need it throughout your cat’s life—for trips to the veterinarian, to a Cattery or when moving house. Never travel with your cat or kitten loose in the car, this could cause a serious accident. On arrival home, place the carry cage in the room you have prepared. Check that doors and windows are closed. Open up the cage and allow the cat to come out in its own time and explore its surroundings in peace and quiet.
If you have children, do not allow them to crowd around and give the new pet an over-enthusiastic welcome. Allow it to settle in quietly. Do not let it outside at this stage. When it has had a meal, a wash, a sleep, and has begun to purr, you will know it is beginning to relax and feel at home. During its time of confinement talk to your cat so it will get to know your voice. Keep new cats and kittens indoors about 10 days. If it is a nervous cat, keep it in at least 2 - 3 weeks or until you feel it has enough confidence to take a look around outside. On its first few outings, accompany the cat and guide it around the section as it smells out the new environment. Bring it back indoors after a period of time, so that it knows the way to come back in. If you have a cat door, start teaching it to go in and out using pet treats.