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Ask Dr. Kait: If felines are your fancy
Ask Dr. Kait

Ask Dr. Kait: If felines are your fancy

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Felines can make great companions, but before you bring a kitten home there are some things that you should consider.

First, you should have realistic expectations regarding a cat. Cats are independent creatures who seem to think they have a human servant, rather than them being a “pet.” They are difficult to train and will be unlikely to sit or fetch for you. They won’t go on walks with you and probably won’t care if they please you. That being said, there is nothing more soothing than the purr of a cat and they will never drool on you or sniff your guests in inappropriate places! Cats make great pets, but it is important to appreciate their unique qualities. If you already own a cat and a second cat will be joining your family, the health of your new addition is very important, since many feline illnesses are contagious.

Before you select your new kitten consider it’s history. Is it a stray in our neighborhood? Was it a rescue? Does it have gunk in it’s eyes? If so, it is probably not allergies or a cold. Respiratory infections are very commonly found in outdoor cats in Kings County, so your new cat should be taken to your veterinarian for a check up before exposing it to your other cats. Your veterinarian can examine the new addition’s overall health and can test for Feline Leukemia, Feline AIDS, and perform a respiratory disease panel. Every kitten deserves a loving family, so if you will have a single indoor cat, these diseases can be managed. However, if you already have cats at home, a FELV or FIV positive kitten may not be a good choice.

Once your kitten has a clean bill of health, it is time to introduce it into your family. It is important to remember that cats are not pack animals. Most are content in being in a single-cat home, so be patient with the process of building feline friendships. You should keep your new kitten in a separate room with its own food and water dish and litter box. Your cat will notice the newcomer and they can exchange communications through the crack under the door. They can play or fight with the safety of the door between them. After a few days, you may consider taking a bed or blanket that each cat slept on and exchange it to the other cat’s space. This will allow them to familiarize themselves with each other’s smell. Next, when the under-door visits seem peaceful, you can put a baby gate up and let them see each other for supervised visits. Finally, after a slow transition, the new kitten and the old cat will hopefully be friends. Be sure to continue feeding them separate, since kittens should eat kitten food until they are a year old. All foods are not created equal, so keep in mind feeding a high quality food such as Science Diet is recommended to ensure good health. One final detail, you should always maintain 1.5 liter boxes per cat. So, if you have two cats, your home should have three litter boxes.

In some cases, cats do not accept a housemate. If you fall into this category, constant fights or inappropriate litter box behavior may be an issue. If you are in this unfortunate situation, separate the cats again. You may need to give each cat it’s own space permanently.

So, good luck with your new addition. I hope these tips help your transition go smoothly.

Dr. Kaitlen Lawton-Betchel grew up in Lemoore. An alumni of West Hills College and Fresno Pacific University,  she graduated from Midwestern University in Arizona with her doctorate of veterinary medicine and her business certificate. Dr. Kait currently practices out of Karing for Kreatures Veterinary Hospital, also known as K+K.

The hospital is located at 377 Hill St., Lemoore.    To make an appointment, call 559-997-1121. 

Her column runs every other Thursday. 

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