Kitty Advice & Common Veterinary Questions

Forty years as a geneticist and veterinarian coupled with a life time of cat ownership (to include 20 years as a Mainecoon, Abyssinian and Ragdoll cat breeder) has given me a fair amount of insight into the health and behavior of our feline friends. I have included this page to share some of what I have learned and observed. These writings are basically the discussions I have every day with my cat clients. This is a work in progress so visit again for added information. (refresh your page). If you have a topic of interest or a question don't hesitate to contact me. I will be glad to add it to my post.

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Before you buy a kitten

A Ragdoll kitten can be wondrous in every way. Beautiful to look at, luxurious to touch, a joy to watch and tons of love. But they are a living breathing creature and can live for greater than 15 years. A kitten is a long term commitment. Before you get excited about how much fun it will be, don't forget that they pee and poop on a regular basis, they leave a bit of hair around the house and there are food and veterinary expenses to consider.

Are you ready for this type of commitment ? Can you keep the litter pan clean for the next 15 years ? Can you afford veterinary care should the need arise ? Will this kitten be able to live out its entire life with you ? What are you going to do should something unexpected happen and you do have to re home your cat ? Are you willing to put forth the effort it takes to find an adult cat a home ? This is a traumatic event for the cat . It is not fair to dump your kitty at a shelter or expect the breeder to take it back.

My mother often said "You have to have a good cat !". My "mum" was always right and for me the joy of cat ownership does outweigh the effort. UP DOWN

What To Do When You Take Your New Kitten Home

It is important to remember that your new kitten is a baby. It has not been that long since they were with their mother and siblings and it can be a scarey thing to suddenly be away from your cat family and moved into a new house with different people. It is important for this transition period to be as comfortable as possible for everyone. Many bad habits in cats develop from anxiety and fear or simply "I was playing and I forgot where the bathroom is !". UP DOWN

Feeding My New Kitten

I recommend that you initially offer your kitten the same food that they are accustomed to. It is important that you actually witness your new kitten eating and drinking and monitor peeing and pooping. Scant amounts of poop are a sure sign that your kitten isn't eating well. Once your kitty is doing well, you can slowly change their diet to your preferred kitten food. Cats are obligate carnivores and don't require a lot of vegetable material in their diet. Buy a good quality kitten food and make sure that the first ingredient is a "meat" - eg. chicken rather than chicken meal or chicken byproducts. You can leave food out for your young kitten but as they mature "meal" feeding will help prevent obesity. Read the amount that you need to feed you cat "on the cat" rather than "on the bag". Cat's do have different body types even within a breed but in general we don't want our kitties too fat or too thin. Adjust their intake accordingly. Don't forget that your kittens will grow in spurts and will eat more during one of these spurts. Eating slows down as they mature and you can change to an adult diet between 1-1 1/2 years of age. TOP DOWN

The Litter Box

The kitty litter should also remain the same until you are confident that your kitten does know where the bathroom is. I suggest that unless you are closely monitoring your new pet that you confine them to a small utility room or bathroom. This insures that the litter box is in close proximity while your kitten is acclimating to their new home. My rule of thumb is that you have one more litter box than the number of cats in the household. If you have a large house then I would provide extra pans until your kitten knows where they are. Kittens are just like little kids and will be playing so hard that they "forget" and then suddenly have an emergency. Take the time to put your kitten in the litter pan every 30 -60 minutes. Even if they jump out it will help them remember where to go. Our animal friends live in a much more "smell" related environment then we do. It is so important to prevent an accident as a cat can be drawn back to that area even if you have done a great cleaning job. If your kitty does have an accident do the best job you can at cleaning and confine your kitten to a different area for a week or so. An established behavior is harder for them to forget than a one time event.

When to let your kitten have the "run of the house" will depend upon the personality of the kitten as well as the nature of the household. Use your common sense and most importantly spend a lot of time with your kitten and have fun ! Most ragdolls are bold and friendly and adapt quickly but just like us personalities vary.

If changing the type of litter do it slowly by adding the new to the old. If you want to use a mechanical litter box provide a regular one until you are sure your kitten has accepted the new one. UP DOWN

Old Pets New Pets

Introducing a new kitten into a household with existing pets needs some planning. I recommend that the current pets be confined when your new kitten arrives home. Bonding with your new kitten is so important so spend a lot of time holding, playing with and talking to your kitty. Let your new kitten's scent get on you and spread around in the environment as they do some exploring. Once your kitten seems to have tired you can place them in the small room where they will spend the night. Now is the time to let the "old guys" back into the area. They will be able to smell the new pet on your clothes and around the house. By alternating this process several times everyone gets a little accustomed to the "new" guy before they actually meet face to face . It is safest to put your new kitten in a carrier and let the older pets meet and greet through the carrier. You will have to "play it by ear" at this point and let the animals actually meet each other with close supervision. UP DOWN

Inappropriate Elimination

A "group" of cats can create an interesting scenario. There is a great deal of communicating going on between the cats within the household as well as with outdoor cats that "slides" right past us mere human beings. Many litter pan problems are the result of a dominant cat letting the subordinate cat know that they have "claimed" the pan and it's use is not allowed. Owners rarely notice this. Some inappropriate eliminating is the result of your cat trying to tell the "outdoor" cats that "this is MY house". Pee and poop is offensive to us but is a significant means of communicating with many species of animals. If a kitty eliminates around a door or window it is very often an outdoor cat that has left a scent outside which stimulates this behavior.

My sister called one day asking my advice as her fastidious old cat had started eliminating where she slept. I told her that her other cat was not letting her use the pan. As sisters do, she assured me I was wrong as the old cat was the boss and it had to be something else. Well I finally told her "Just get another pan and put it where the other cat can't see both of them at the same time !!!!". I get a phone call "OMG" she jumped in the pan before I even got it to the floor. How did you know ? Well the old cat was getting old and the young cat knew it and had taken over the alpha position in the family.

Keep your kitty pans clean. The number one reason for a cat not using the pan is it is dirty. Use a small amount of litter and throw it away and clean the whole pan often rather than filling it full and scooping for days. It isn't clean after a few days and your kitties know it. It helps to have a couple of sets. Once your cat learns to eliminate in the wrong place it is difficult to stop. Keep the pan clean. UP DOWN

The Scratching Post

Kitty toe nails grow in layers rather than continuously. Scratching helps pull the old sheath off to reveal a brand new sharp nail. The "raggedy" look of the scratching area is also a communication method. Even lions recognize a scratching tree and will investigate and use it to leave a message (I am here) to other animals in the environment.

Kitties are smart and learn easily. Buy your new kitty a scratching post with sisal rope, hiding places and some type of dingle balls. Make an effort to play with your kitty at the scratching post - at least a couple of times of a day. It will become a social, fun happy event. My cats run to the post when I come home, start scratching and seem to have a joyous gleeful look on their faces.

Monitor your young kitten. It is easier to avoid an issue than to correct one. If you catch you kitten scratching inappropriately you have to stop him in the act. Pick him up and firmly tell him NO, - face to face - and confine him to a carrier or small room. After 30-60 minutes let him out as if nothing has happened. Keep your eye on him. I discuss things with my cats. Somehow they "get" it. If I see something happening I say "I would really prefer you not do that" and give them the look. If they continue I have a phrase that I use only when I "really" mean it. "Mommy said NO". (a carry over from having kids). Cooper, my daughter's Ragdoll came to stay for a little while. He kept jumping on the counter and I kept putting him down. He hadn't lived with me for over 6 years. I let him jump up again and quietly said "Cooper, Mommy said no". He looked at me and got down. They are smart AND have good memories.

Start trimming the points from you kitten's nails right away. You can use a fingernail trimmer held sideways while they are little. Play with their toes everyday so they get used to it. UP DOWN

Declawing

As a veterinarian I have done many declaws. I do them because most people who want it done get it done with or without me. There are several ways to do the surgery and the quickest and most common technique can be very deforming and debillitating. Look at your fingernail and the joint above it. That is where we cut and the entire bone is removed. Try to imagine what that might feel like ! I do this surgery by carefully cutting through the joint with a tiny scalpel. This is cosmetically much better and I don't see chronic pain issues developing as with the more common guillotine method .

Make no mistake about it though. I do not recommend a declaw on any cat and especially on a gentle Ragdoll. This is a surgery that can leave significant emotional scars. Declawed cats despise going to the vet. They do not forget ! Many develop bathroom issues or become quiet and withdrawn. These become life long personality changes.

Kitties can absolutely be taught not to damage things. It just takes some effort on the part of the owners when the kitten is young.

"Soft Paws" (plastic nail covers) actually do work and stay on for quite some time. UP DOWN

This page is a work in progress so visit again for more "Cat advice".

 

All photographs, text and graphics copyright maxine stiles 2012

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