The good news is that cats are living longer and longer. Ten years ago a cat would have been considered geriatric at 10-12 years old. Nowadays, veterinary surgeons commonly treat cats of 16 years and even up to 22-23 years.
There are many reasons why cats are living longer, but the advent of good quality pet food has gone a long way to increasing feline lifespan. In the past, many cats developed vision and heart disease due to a dietary deficiency of the amino acid Taurine. This problem is rare nowadays, as this is routinely added to pet food.
The other reason for cat longevity
is that cats are no longer considered 'a cheap dog' by their owners,
but are given the same level of quality veterinary care. In fact, cats
are now the number one most popular pet in the UK with a total of 8
million pet cats. Over the past 20 years veterinary knowledge and research
in the feline field has escalated, and with newer discoveries treatment
for diseases of old age has vastly improved. The advent of safer anaesthetics
has also meant that vets are now able to operate safely on older cats
and treat painful conditions such as dental disease or even cancer.
The main diseases we vaccinate cats against are Cat flu, Feline Enteritis and Feline Leukaemia. As your cat reaches old age it may no longer be at risk of getting Feline Enteritis and Feline Leukaemia, but I would strongly recommend annual vaccination against Cat flu. Cat flu is very much a disease of the young and ageing cat. Like elderly people if an old cat gets a dose of flu it can become extremely debilitated and require intensive nursing and sometimes intravenous fluids.
Old age does not stop the fleas so carry on with regular flea control. Most modern flea products act against insects only and are relatively safe for the elderly cat. Discuss the safest form of flea control with your vet.
If your cat gets fleas it can easily get tapeworms as well. This can occasionally contribute to colitis, so have your cat wormed at least every 6 months.
*Health check for the senior cat*
As your cat gets older it is vital that you give it a thorough once over every week to catch any signs of ill health. Early veterinary treatment is vital for the ageing cat because they tend to lose weight very rapidly when ill. Regular health checks at your vet are advisable every 6 months.
. Run your hand along its
rib cage. If you can count each individual rib then your cat may be
losing weight. If the ribs are hidden by rolls of fat, your cat is overweight.
. Check your cat's eyes: is there any discharge? Has your cat shown any sign of decreasing vision like bumping into things?
. Check your cat's ears: if there is a bad smell coming from the ear your cat could have an ear infection. Older cats can sometimes have a polyp growing at the base of the ear canal, which produces pus
. Open your cat's mouth and check the teeth, gums and tongue. If there is an ulcer on the tongue it may be due to dental disease or underlying kidney problems. If there is bad breath and inflamed gums your cat may need a dental checkup
. Check the fur and scalp for any black specks of flea dirt. Increased dandruff on the scalp can be a sign of poor diet, fleas or underlying liver problems
. Look for matted fur along the back and behind the ears: if matts occur in a shorthaired cat it is usually a sign that something is preventing your cat from its usual grooming routine. It could be arthritis, painful gums or just general debility
. Run your hand along the belly and feel for unusual lumps or bumps: a lump on the mammary gland could be cancer, which needs urgent removal
. Check your cat's back passage: a small white rice grain may indicate your cat has a tapeworm
. Watch your cat's breathing: is it more rapid and laboured then usual?
. Check the claws: older cats frequently get long claws, so these should be trimmed to stop them becoming ingrown
While nothing can replace the thorough check up your vet can give your dog, it is important that you know how to administer basic medication. In addition, there are basic indicators of health that you can check at home which can give specific information about the well being of your pet.
*Take a temperature*
If you want to take
your dog's temperature at home, it is much safer to buy a digital thermometer
as a glass thermometer could break inside your dog's back passage if
For obvious reasons, most dogs hate having their temperatures taken so it is easier if you get someone to hold the dog calmly in a standing position.
. Make sure the thermometer is registering zero
. Lubricate well with Vaseline jelly
. Hold the dog's tail with one hand and insert thermometer at least one inch into the anus
. Wait one minute until the thermometer bleeps
. Once finished wipe the thermometer clean with mild antiseptic
A normal dog's temperature is higher than ours being 38-39°C. Puppies will have a slightly higher temperature than adult dogs. If your dog has diarrhoea or is overexcited you may also get a false high reading.
A high temperature could mean your dog has an infection. A temperature below normal is equally serious - your dog could be in shock, suffering from anaemia or a viral infection. In both cases seek veterinary advice promptly.
*Take a pulse*
As the heart beats it creates a wave of blood as it passes through an artery. It is this pulsing effect we can measure to get an idea of the state of our dog's heart and circulation. Placing the ball of the finger over an artery close to the skin and counting the pulse beat over a minute will give you the reading.
The best place to feel your pet's pulse is the femoral artery, which lies inside the thigh in the groin. While your pet is relaxed put the ball of two fingers inside the thigh and feel the pulse. In some slim dogs you can also feel the heart beat if you place your finger over the heart behind the left elbow in a standing dog.
A normal dog pulse will vary according to the breed. Small breeds have a higher pulse of between 90-120 beats per minute, while large dogs will have a pulse of between 60-90 beats per minute.
A normal pulse should be strong with a regular rhythmn. It will increase naturally if your dog is overexcited so make sure your dog is relaxed and calm. If the pulse is elevated then it could be a sign of heart problems, pain or fever. A rapid but weak pulse could be caused by blood loss after a car accident or anaemia. Seek veterinary advice if in doubt.
*Give a tablet*
Ask your vet to prescribe a palatable tablet, which can be crushed and mixed with the food. If your dog is sly about avoiding the tablet in the food bowl crush the tablet into powder, mix it with something sticky like butter or cream cheese, and disguise it with a small part of your dog's dinner. Only feed him the rest when he has eaten the tablet.
Into the mouth:
Get your dog to sit quietly and don't let it get stressed or excited. Open the mouth wide with one hand and with the other put the tablet right to the back of the tongue. Then shut the mouth and hold the dog's mouth closed with its head up slightly up and wait until you see it swallow. If the tablet slips to one side or doesn't get far back then your dog will easily spit it out.
If your dog is difiult, hold the dog between your legs with your knees behind its shoulders so that it cannot escape or get a second person to restrain the dog for you. Small dogs can be wrapped in a blanket to stop them wriggling. Most vets also sell pill poppers, which make it easier to pop the tablet to the back of the mouth.
Once your dog has taken the tablet always remember to give it lots of praise and even a food treat. That way it will learn to associate medication with reward.
. Bathe the eye first
with warm water and damp cotton wool
. Lift the upper eyelid and apply a thin smear of eye ointment or eye drops onto the eye according to your vet's instructions
. Close the eyelids and massage the eye to disperse the medication
. Never use medication that has been opened for longer than one month as it may be harmful to your pet.
*Giving ear medication*
Many dogs hate having their ears medicated, so try and do it after a walk when your pet is more relaxed.
. Encourage your dog to sit
. Lift up the ear lobe and locate the ear canal. Ask your vet to show you the correct place
. Insert the nozzle in the ear canal aiming towards the nose. Squirt the correct amount of medication down the ear canal according to your vet's instructions
. Massage the ear well to disperse the medication
. Give your dog a treat if he has been well behaved
Grooming not only improves your animal's appearance, it improves its health too. Grooming gives you the chance to check your pet for any lumps, bumps or parasites. Preventing the build-up of matts and tangles is essential to keep your dog's skin in good condition. Daily brushing is also a useful training and bonding experience.
Grooming should be done on a daily basis, if at all possible. If you leave long-coated animals ungroomed then tangles, and eventually matts, will develop in their coats. These are painful and time consuming to remove. Grooming will become an unpleasant chore for you and a time of anxiety for your pet. It is much more sensible to spend a few minutes each day in a session that both you and your pet will find relaxing and rewarding. In terms of short-coated animals, daily grooming will greatly reduce the amount of hair shed over your house.
You don't need a lot of fancy equipment to keep your pet looking neat. Most good pet stores will stock all the following:
for smooth-coated dogs: a hound glove or even a chamois
for long-haired dogs: a pin brush and a wide-toothed comb
a flea comb for cleaning under the eyes
nail clippers, which come in an assortment of sizes depending on the needs of your pet
Getting your dog used to grooming
It is always easier to start with a younger animal. Puppies should be handled thoroughly from a young age and should get used to the feel of a brush and a comb. Dogs that will need to be clipped, such as poodles, can begin as early as seven weeks. In this way, they will become used to the sound and feel of the clippers and will not be afraid of getting a trim.
*Signs that might indicate that something is not right with your dog*
Owners often think a wet nose means their pet is healthy. But many sick dogs have wet noses and older dogs have dry noses. Check and see if there is any discharge.
Clear coloured discharge:
Could be an early sign of a respiratory infection such as kennel cough. It is not serious but your pet may need antibiotics. It can also occur if your dog has an allergy to pollen or house dust
Pus coloured discharge:
Means your pet has an infection
Blood from the nose:
If it is bleeding from just one nostril then it may have something like a grass seed up its nose. Often your pet will sneeze violently to try and expel it. Other causes of nosebleeds can be nasal tumours and fungal infections. Your vet will need to X-ray the nose to investigate this
A healthy ear should have
no hairs blocking the opening to the ear canal. There should be no smell,
no redness or inflammation, no discharge, and no pain on examination.
Thick dried brown wax:
Caused by ear mites or a yeast infection called Malassezia
Can be due to bacterial infection and often carries a foul smell
Blood on the ear:
Usually due to the animal scratching its own ear due to an ear infection
A healthy dog should have salmon-pink gums. Some dogs have pigment on their gums so you may have to look at the insides of their eyes instead.
Lift the jowl and look at the gums. Press the gums with the ball of your finger - the gums should turn white briefly but return to normal pink colour within 2-3 seconds. If your dog is sick the gums can change colour
Pale pink gums:
Your dog could be anaemic or have a circulatory problem. Gums also go pale when a dog is in shock like after a road traffic accident. When you press the gums the colour will be slow to return. Seek veterinary attention
Your dog is not getting enough oxygen throughout his circulation. This is usually caused by heart or chest problems or something blocking the airways. This is serious and should be checked immediately by your vet. Keep your pet cool and quiet
Indicates jaundice, the most common cause being liver problems. It can also occur if your dog is not vaccinated against Leptospirosis. Your vet may need to do blood tests to investigate this further
The coat should be glossy, even and dense. It should be free from matting and soiling. Look for black specks, which indicate fleas
Ribs should be easy to feel and covered with only a thin layer of fat. If you cannot detect them, then your dog is overweight.
The area under the tail should be clean. Look out for white segments like rice grains around the back passage, which indicate worms.
There are several different types of birds which are bred in captivity and are fine companions. Budgies (parakeets), canaries, finches and cockatiels are all active, interesting and comfortable in most homes.
Parakeets or budgerigars are hardy small birds related to parrots. Parakeets can be trained to sit on your finger, and to talk with time and patience. They can be quite loud with their constant squawks, whistles and chirps.
Canaries are famous songsters, but only the males sing. While finches may not sing the same complex songs as canaries many of them do sing delightful tunes. Cockatiels are also part of the parrot family. They are larger than parakeets and have a crest over the top of their head. Cockatiels will tame easily and will learn to sit on your shoulder. They will also learn to talk.
All birds should have a safe, secure cage. The largest cage that you have room for is the best choice and it must be large enough to allow the bird to extend its wings fully. Finches and canaries should be able to fly short distances. Parakeets and cockatiels will need room to climb. The bars must be spaced close enough together, about 3/8-1/2 inches, to prevent the birds from escaping, or getting stuck between the bars. There should be several perches of various diameters and textures. Line the bottom of the cage with paper or hard wood shavings.
Place the cage in a quiet room, away from drafts and direct sunlight. Birds are very sensitive to noise, high levels of activity and smoke or fumes, so these should be avoided.
Birds will be most comfortable is the cage is placed at eye level. It needs to be a safe, secure location if you have other pets such as dogs or cats.
The diet for birds should be based on a high quality seed mixture proper for the species, or pelleted food, supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables. Birds will also require a cuttlebone to provide needed calcium. Bird grit should also be provided to help the birds with digestion. Fresh water should be available at all times.
Birds are quite social and will enjoy being in a room where you engage in quiet activities. Parakeets, finches and cockatiels will also do well in pairs or small groups, provided the cage is large enough.
Provide opportunities for play and behavioural enrichment with fresh fruits or vegetables clipped to the bars of the cage, toys, birdbaths, and perches at different heights and orientations to facilitate hopping and climbing.
Escaped birds can be captured with a bird net, or by tossing a light towel or pillowcase over them.
Birds are very sensitive to fumes, pesticides and smoke. Take them to a safe room if you will be spraying or cleaning in a room.
Signs of sickness in a bird are lethargy; dull, rumpled feathers; discharge from the eyes or nostrils; or wet, dirty feathers around the anus. Sick birds should be taken to a veterinarian experienced in avian medicine.
Rabbits are now the third most popular pets in the Western World and keeping rabbits as house pets is on the increase. Rabbits make excellent indoor pets as they can be house trained and are great company and fun.
Points to bear in mind
. Rabbits are long-lived pets - with better health care they are now living for up to 10 years so are not suitable as pets for young children
. Rabbits need plenty of exercise - keeping them in a hutch at the end of the garden is no longer acceptable. They are better kept indoors as house pets or exercised daily in the garden
. Rabbits are sociable animals and prefer the company of other rabbits. Consider getting two young rabbits as they will usually get along well together if matched at an early age
. Rabbits suffer a lot from dental problems - your rabbit will need regular dental checks
In the past rabbits were looked upon as 'children's pets' and led sad lives locked in solitary confinement in small hutches in the garden. They would be fed and cleaned every day, but only taken out and handled after school and at weekends. This lack of exercise and an incorrect diet led to many rabbits getting brittle bones and dental problems.
If you contrast this to the wild rabbit which lives in a warren with lots of other rabbits and gets plenty of exercise scampering around and grazing on grass, you can understand how neglected these rabbits were.
Nowadays there is a growing trend for house rabbits which means bunnies can lead happier lives with plenty of exercise and lots of social contact with their owners.
You can still keep a rabbit
outside but you will need a large roomy hutch at night and a big grazing
ark where your rabbit can safely munch on grass. Some enlightened owners
even convert their whole back yard or patio into a bunny amusement park.
However you must make sure all outdoor areas are very secure against
predators as fox and dog attacks are common.
Rabbits must have access to fibre to make their gut work properly. The best fibre is from letting your rabbit graze on grass but if this is not possible you must offer your bunny hay every day. This will not only prevent loose motions but also help avoid dental disease by chewing.
People used to say that giving a rabbit greens caused diarrhoea. This could happen if you fed your rabbit a lot of fresh greens suddenly. Vegetables are good for rabbits provided you introduce them slowly and provide 3-4 different types every day. There is little nutritional value in lettuce or cucumber, so try to feed fibrous fruit and vegetables such as carrot, apple, cabbage, parsnip, turnip and broccoli.
You can feed convenience rabbit mix to rabbits, but don't feed large amounts as your bunny will eat all the high calorie bits and leave the pellets behind. The pellets contain important calcium, which is very important for your rabbit's bones and teeth.
Rabbits are very sociable animals, so if possible two rabbits are better than one. It is much better if you introduce them to life together from an early age because some rabbits become quite aggressive and may fight. If you need to mix 2 adult rabbits together they must be neutered and introduced slowly on neutral territory.
Health care for your bunny:
. Annual vaccination against myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease
. Neutering - this is very important to prevent aggression and unwanted litters
. Plenty of exercise in either the garden or house
. Regular dental check ups with your vet
. Agood diet of hay/ grass, fibrous vegetables and rabbit mix in moderation
A cat is a great family pet if you are at work all day and haven't enough time for a dog. However, although people often think cats are aloof and independent don't forget they do like human company and can get lonely on their own. Cats are also very long-lived and 12-15 years is now a common lifespan. If you buy a kitten for your kids remember the cat will still be part of the family long after your children have left home! Cats tend to roam a lot and can easily get hit by cars so veterinary care can be expensive - don't forget to budget for veterinary bills. You may even consider taking out pet insurance to cover against major illness or accidents.
* Where should I look *
Breeder: spend time
researching a reputable breeder with many years of experience.
Animal charities: these are often an excellent source for a first time pet owner as you will benefit from the advice and knowledge of experienced and dedicated staff.
Pet shops: don't ever buy from a local pet store on impulse without researching first. A good pet shop should be spotlessly clean with staff experienced in giving the right advice.
Friends or neighbours: this can be a good source, as you will know exactly where your pet has come from. Don't buy through advertisements in papers, as you really don't know what you're getting!
A healthy kitten should
. alert, curious and mischievous. It should be used to being handled by humans and not hiss or cower away when picked up
. clear bright eyes with no discharge. Any discharge at all can be a sign of cat flu
. clean, pink ears with no evidence of caked, brown wax. This would indicate ear mites
. a nose that is damp and soft as velvet. There should be no discharge or crusting of the nostrils
. a healthy coat with no black dirt in the coat indicating flea dirt. Examine the belly, as this is the most likely place to find fleas
. a clean bottom - check the litter tray to make sure no kittens have diarrhoea
. free from ringworm which is common in kittens from bad homes. Check there are no bald patches anywhere in the coat
Kittens can be taken to their new home between 6- 8 weeks. If you have other cats at home it is very important that you take your new kitten for a full health check to your vet before bringing her home. Your vet will check for any infectious diseases like ringworm and cat flu, and will discuss diet, vaccination and worming. They will also check for any birth defects like umbilical hernias (belly button hernias).
Don't be worried if your kitten
has extra digits on one or more of its feet. This is called polydactylia
(many toes). Sometimes the nails on these extra toes can become overgrown
so ask your vet to show you how to keep them trim. In extreme cases,
if the toes are causing problems, your cat may need surgery, but most
times they are just unique features of your pet!
* Anticipating the expenses *
One of the most important factors to consider when acquiring a cat is the cost of keeping it. There will be all the day-to-day spending on essentials, such as:
. Regular vaccinations, worming and flea treatments
. Toys, scratch posts and activity centres
. Grooming accessories, litter tray, bedding and travel items
There will also be occasional
expenses, such as cattery fees if you go on holiday. You may even want
to apply for a pet passport. Unfortunately,
your cat may also suffer unexpected accidents or illness.
Veterinary fees can vary a great deal between regions, surgeries and procedures involved, so you may want to search for a reliable vet in your area before you bring your cat home.
* Essential Treatments *
Neuter / Spay:
1st Vaccination: 9 weeks= flu / enteritis / leukaemia
Booster Vaccination: 12 weeks= flu / enteritis / leukaemia
The course of vaccination
for kittens protects against three major
potentially fatal diseases: Feline Enteritis, Cat flu and Feline Leukaemia.
Feline enteritis is a fatal disease that affects young kittens. They get attacks of vomiting and diarrhoea, and can die within 3 days.
Cat flu is caused by two viruses called feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus. It is less fatal but is highly infectious to other cats and can cause permanent damage to the cat's sinuses.
Feline leukaemia suppresses the immune system and causes leukaemia and cancers of the glands. It is one of the most common causes of death in young cats. It can be spread through the mother in the womb or through the saliva.
Other available vaccines
- this causes another form of cat flu. It is not given routinely, but
may be necessary in high-risk areas such as during a flu outbreak at
a breeders or in a rescue home.
Rabies vaccination - now available for cats travelling abroad. The vaccine is followed by a blood test 30 days later.
All kittens have roundworms called Toxocara Cati, which they inherit from their mother through her milk while suckling. Therefore worming should be done regularly from an early age.
Most kittens do not show signs of disease, but if they have a heavy infestation then you could see the following signs:
. Poor coat
. Vomiting and diarrhoea
. Pot belly
. Spaghetti worms visible in the litter tray
A good wormer should be easy
for you to give your kitten and effective. The main thing to realise
is that each time your kitten is wormed only a percentage of the worms
are killed, so regular worming is necessary up until 6 months. Ask your
vet about worming each time your kitten gets its vaccination.
Even the best cared for kittens can get fleas. Fleas are a hazard of modern living because many of us now have warm, centrally heated houses with fitted carpets. Fleas survive by sucking your kitten's blood, and very young kittens can become stunted and anaemic from blood loss. It can be difficult to see fleas, but the best place to look is on the belly. Part the fur gently and you may see mahogany-coloured insects scurrying away from the light.
The two most predominent Fleas are the cat and dog flea, but it's the cat flea that predominates most pets. If your kitten has fleas you must treat all the other cats or dogs in the house too.
Remember it is always best to start flea control before your kitten gets fleas. That way when the flea bites it will get killed and your kitten won't get irritable and itchy.
*Kittens under 12 weeks
There are few products licensed for young kittens. If your kitten only has a mild flea infestation, a flea powder should be enough. If fleas are a real problem you will have to buy a stronger aerosol spray available only from your vet.
*Over 12 weeks
There is a wide choice of products on the market, so discuss the best type with your vet. Flea products should be safe for your kitten, easy to administer and should match your budget.
*Different types of flea control:
. flea powders - available from pet shops. These are very mild and need to be applied every 1-2 weeks. They are messy to use . . . and not advisable if you are asthmatic
. flea combing - if you groom your kitten with a fine comb you can remove the fleas. However this will not stop the fleas in your pet's environment so it will quickly pick up more
. flea sprays - sometimes the noise of the aerosol spray can scare your kitten. The strength of spray varies according to the chemical ingredient and more potent long-lasting sprays are only available from veterinary surgeons
. spot on products - a drop is put on the back of the kitten's neck where it gets absorbed into the skin. There are many types on the market, and the longer acting ones (1- 2 months) are only available on prescription from veterinary surgeons
. flea injection - given by your vet every 6 months. It acts against the flea larvae and stops them developing into adult fleas
Although adult fleas cause most of the irritation to your pet, they only represent 5% of the flea population. The other 95% are the eggs and larvae that get laid in your pet's environment (carpets, furniture, your pet's bed) which can lie dormant for up to a year.
In order to stop your pet becoming re-infested from the house, it is advisable to use a household spray to kill off the flea eggs. These sprays can be long acting and often have effects for 7 months. Regular vacuuming under rugs and furniture and keeping your pet's bed clean is also important, so wash the blankets and the bed regularly.
* Feeding *
Your kitten is growing fast
so will need a diet high in protein and fat for growth and energy. It
will also have a high requirement for calcium for its growing bones.
It is important that kittens are fed a good quality kitten food, which
is highly digestible for their delicate stomachs
How often should I feed?
8-12 weeks: 4 meals daily
12-20 weeks: 3 meals daily
20 weeks plus: 2 meals daily
Basically give them all they
can consume in 20 minutes. Kittens tend not to over eat and, unlike
puppies, excessive growth rates and obesity are not generally a problem.
What type of food?
A good quality commercial kitten food is best, as the manufacturers will have invested millions of pounds researching your kitten's exact nutritional requirements. If possible, feed a variety of different types and flavours so that your kitten doesn't develop into a fussy eater. As these food are nutritionally balanced you do not need to give any extra vitamins and minerals.
Does my kitten need milk?
Once your kitten is weaned it doesn't need milk. Some cats lack the enzyme to digest the milk sugar of cow's milk (lactose) so this can be a common cause of diarrhoea.
* Common Problems *
Vomiting and diarrhoea
This can be caused if you change the food suddenly of if your kitten has worms. Do not give it any milk and feed it a bland diet of boiled chicken or fish for a day or two.
If your kitten is not interested
in playing, refuses food and is lethargic, you should seek veterinary
advice immediately. Excessive vomiting and diarrhoea can make your kitten
very dehydrated very fast.
Mischievous little kittens get under our feet all the time, and it is very easy for owners to tread on their limbs and break them. Kitten easily fracture their legs and get greenstick fractures. If you kitten is limping or holding up a paw you should get it checked by your vet. Although these fractures can heal quite fast, some may need surgical repair or splints to avoid the kitten healing with a crooked leg.
If your kitten shows signs of runny eyes, nose and sneezing it could have cat flu. Although vaccination protects against serious cat flu infection, kittens can still get a mild dose if exposed to a high dose of the virus. It is very important that all kittens get treated immediately for cat flu. Cat flu commonly causes an eye infection called conjunctivitis. If untreated, this can lead to serious eye infections and occasionally the loss of an eye.
This is another disease common in stray kittens or ones from multi-cat households. Ringworm is not a worm but a fungus that grows in the skin making the fur fall out. It often appears like a patch of cigarette ash on the fur. It is highly contagious and can be transmitted to other cats and dogs as well as humans. If you notice any bald patches around your kitten's face and body get it checked by your vet straight away.
These are the commonest cause of ear infections in kittens. They are highly contagious to other cats and dogs. The mites scurry around inside the ear canal producing large amounts of brown wax. Your vet will need to prescribe ear medication to kill the mites and you will have to treat all animals in contact with your kitten as well.
* House Training *
If your kitten has come from a clean home there is a good chance it is already half house trained. Kittens are naturally very fastidious and will quickly learn where the litter tray is.
There are many different types of cat litter available, all of which work very well. The main thing is to make sure the tray is kept scrupulously clean at all times. This is important for house hygiene and for your kitten's comfort.
The location of the tray is also very important. It should be in a quiet place where no loud noises might upset your kitten. More timid kittens prefer covered trays. Do not place the tray near the food bowl as cats dislike defecating in their dining room.
Unlike dogs, cat worms do
not infect humans. However some cats can carry a microscopic parasite
called toxoplasma which could be harmful to pregnant women. Cats usually
get infected by eating raw meat or hunting and pass the cysts in their
faeces. If there is a chance you might be pregnant, you should avoid
cleaning out the cat litter tray or, if necessary, wear gloves.
* Pet proofing your home *
Bringing home a kitten is a bit like introducing a very adventurous 3 year old into the house. Kittens are incredibly curious and love to explore so unfortunately the number of household accidents is very high. Take a look around your home to make sure it is safe for your kitten.
ensure you have a fireguard and be careful when ironing. Kittens love to play with the cord and could be injured or burned by a falling hot iron
don't leave saucepans of hot water unattended and keep the kitten out of the bathroom if running a bath. They could get very badly scalded
never leave the washing machine or tumble drier open as kittens love to snuggle up amongst the washing. If in doubt, always check it is kitten free before you turn it on
kittens love to play with string, thread and even needles and often swallow them. Don't leave the sewing box lying around
never open the windows from the bottom - your kitten could leap up on the sill and fall out the window.
* Handling your kitten *
After your kitten has settled in, try and establish a good bond with your pet by holding and petting it. Kittens like being held, but if they are gripped too tightly they panic and will wriggle out of your grasp. Hold them on your lap and stroke them gently. Repeat this every day until your kitten learns to enjoy the cuddle.
If you have young children in the house they must be shown how to handle the kitten. Toddlers are often fascinated by cute kittens but unfortunately treat them like a furry toy and often drop them. Rough handling will only make your kitten fractious and frightened of being handled.
Make sure your child knows
never to squeeze or hold a kitten too tightly. Stroking them gently
around their face and ears is a better way to make friends. Children
must also learn to respect the kitten's privacy and never grab them
when they are asleep.
Putting a collar on your kitten
If you kitten is going to go outside, a collar and identity tag is very important so that it can be traced back to you if it gets lost. Otherwise it may get mistaken for a stray and be sent to an animal sanctuary for re-homing. Make sure the collar has an elastic piece, which will stretch if your cat catches the collar around a branch while climbing a tree. The collar should fit snugly with room for two fingers around the neck. Don't forget that kittens grow very fast and adjust it accordingly. You should also consider having your kitten microchipped.
The best time to socialise your kitten is up to 12 weeks of age. Once your kitten has settled in, now is the time to introduce him to the rest of the family, other pets and the outside world. Your kitten will see it all as a big adventure and learn not to be timid or fearful of strange surroundings.
. take him for short car
rides so he learns that car rides are fun. This will make it easier
for trips to the vet or holidays
. allow children, men and women to gently stroke and hold him
. take him into the garden and let him explore grass, plants and trees
. introduce him to loud noses like the vacuum cleaner, door bell, hairdryers
. let him meet other animals like dogs, cats and rabbits. Be careful to supervise this to avoid a mischievous kitten annoying an adult cat or dog
. get him used to being picked up and cuddled and examined all over
Several types of reptiles, including snakes, lizards, and turtles, are kept as pets. Though they can be dangerous, reptiles are advantageous because they require very little attention. Their pet care consists almost solely of a proper diet and the right artificial environment. Snakes, lizards, and turtles can all be housed in an aquarium. Because these pets are cold blooded, however, the aquarium must provide a variety of temperatures. A light bulb should be positioned at one end to provide warmth and light for basking. The other end should be darker, and cooler. Lizards require additional ultraviolet light and aquatic turtles must be kept in water, but reptile housing relies mainly upon a clean environment with various temperatures. Snakes, on average, eat once a week and food sources include mice, chicks, and rabbits. Lizards and turtles need a more varied diet of vegetables, fruit, and calcium supplements. For more information about reptile pet care, consult a veterinarian near you.
These are good
pets to introduce to children, as they don't tend to scratch and can
be gently handled. Being smaller than rabbits and ground dwellers, they
need less exercise and less room. Guinea pigs live for about 6 years.
Points to bear in mind:
Guinea pigs are incredibly gregarious - please avoid keeping them on their own. If you have to introduce adult males together neutering is advised first they are very timid animals so must always have a bolthole to hide away
guinea pigs (like people) have to get vitamin C daily in their diet - if they don't they get scurvy which can be fatal.
Guinea pigs need a high-fibre diet to make their gut work properly and they also need lots of vitamin C every day lots of fresh meadow hay fresh fibrous vegetables ( not lettuce) guinea pig mix (do not feed rabbit mix to guinea pigs as it doesn't have enough vitamin C)
Guinea pigs are very timid and dislike change so when they are young it is important to get them used to a wide variety of vegetables. Pick vegetables and fruits that are high in fibre and vitamin C, such as parsley, broccoli, cabbage, kiwi fruit, and melon.
a private nest box where your guinea pig can hide away with hay for bedding a grazing area where your guinea pig can get exercise and munch grass
You can keep guinea pigs in the house but they will need their own pen, as they are not as easy to house train as rabbits.
Keeping a guinea pig with
This is best avoided if possible, as the large rabbit may bully the guinea pig. Rabbits can also carry bacteria called borditella that doesn't affect them, but can give the guinea pig a respiratory infection. Guinea pigs really prefer the company of their own kind.
Health care for your guinea
. Annual check up with your vet
. Neutering of the males to avoid fighting
. Hay, vegetables rich in vitamin C, guinea pig mix
. Asecure hutch with grazing area
Mice & Rats
Mice and/or Rats are the ideal pets if you haven't room for a bigger pet. They can be kept easily even in a small bedsit and are a popular pet with students. Like many other rodents mice are very sociable, so it is best to keep 2 or 3 females together. Male mice will fight unless they are matched together when juveniles.
Points to bear in mind:
Males will fight. They produce a stronger smell so you will have to clean the cage about three times a week
mice are prone to respiratory infections so they must be kept in a well-ventilated place. An aquarium style tank is not suitable
Like all rodents, mice are extremely curious and love a large cage with lots of tunnels, ramps and ladders. The best litter for the floor is woodshavings, and shredded paper is best for bedding. Mice like to curl up in a nest so always provide a dark hidey-hole.
Mice eat a variety of foods from cereal mix to a little meat. Contrary to popular opinion they don't always like cheese! Fresh water must be available daily - make sure the water bottle is low enough so that a small mouse can reach the nozzle. They must also have plenty of items to gnaw such as dog biscuits, raw pasta or gnawing blocks.
Health care for your mouse
. Annual health check with your vet
. Roomy cage with lots of tunnels and ramps
. Something to gnaw
. Good quality mouse food
. Fresh water daily
This is the ideal pet if you want to get just one animal as hamsters are very solitary animals and like being on their own. In fact the female hamster will attack the male except when she is in season. They are also a good first time pet as they live on average for about 3 years.
Golden or Syrian Hamster
Points to bear in mind:
hamsters are nocturnal and only begin to wake up in the early evening, so are not ideal pets for young children
they need to be hand-tamed from an early age or else they can give a painful bite!
Although people think hamsters are dozy little creatures they are extremely active in the early evening and at night. Hamsters, like all rodents, love climbing and exploring so you will need a large cage with lots of ramps, tunnels and ladders. You will need wood shavings for the floor litter and shredded paper tissue for bedding.
Hamsters are mainly vegetarian but like an occasional bit of protein, like cheese, or even a tiny bit of meat. They should be fed hamster mix with a few pieces of vegetables. Water must be available at all times - a water bottle is best as a bowl can easily be knocked over. Hamsters, like all rodents, need to gnaw to exercise their teeth - provide dog biscuits, gnawing blocks or apple branches.
Health care for your hamster:
. Annual health check with your vet
. Large cage which must be cleaned weekly
. Handle them daily to tame them
. Good quality hamster food with some greens
. Fresh water daily
. Something to gnaw on
Veterinarians care for pets, livestock, sporting and laboratory animals, and protect humans against diseases carried by animals. Veterinarians diagnose medical problems, dress wounds, set broken bones, perform surgery, prescribe and administer medicines, and vaccinate animals against diseases. They also advise owners on care and breeding.
Most veterinarians are in private practice. Some have a general practice, treating all kinds of animals. The majority, however, just treat small companion animals such as dogs, cats, and birds. Others treat both small and larger animals, and some treat only large animals, such as cattle and horses.
In America, veterinarians in companion animal medicine provide services in more than 20,000 animal hospitals or clinics; 80% of these only treat cats and some only treat birds.
Veterinarians for large animals treat and care for cattle, horses, sheep, and swine. They also advise ranchers and farmers on the care, breeding, and management of livestock. Others specialize in fish and poultry.
Veterinarians contribute to human as well as animal health. A number of veterinarians engage in research, food safety inspection, or education. Some work with physicians and scientists on research to prevent and treat diseases in humans. Veterinarians are also in regulatory medicine or public health. Those who are livestock inspectors check animals for disease, advise owners on treatment, and may quarantine animals. Veterinarians who are meat inspectors examine slaughtering and processing plants, check live animals and carcasses for disease, and enforce government food purity as well as sanitation regulations. Some veterinarians care for zoo or aquarium animals or for laboratory animals.
Veterinarians help prevent the outbreak and spread of animal diseases, some of which-like rabies-can be transmitted to humans, and perform autopsies on diseased animals. Some specialize in epidemiology or animal pathology, to control diseases transmitted through food animals, and problems of residues from herbicides, pesticides, and antibiotics in animals used for food.
Veterinarians usually treat pets in hospitals and clinics. Often these facilities are noisy. Those in large animal practice usually work out of well-equipped mobile clinics and drive considerable distances to farms and ranches. Veterinarians can be exposed to disease and infection and may be kicked, bitten, or scratched.
Those in private practice
often work long hours. They may set their own schedules and may work
nights and weekends. Large animal veterinarians may work outdoors in
all kinds of weather.
Veterinarians held about 47,000 jobs in 1990. Almost half were self employed, in solo or group practices. Most others were employees of a practice. The Federal Government employed about 2,000 civilian veterinarians, chiefly in the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Defense, and Health and Human Services. Other employers of veterinarians are State and local governments, colleges of veterinary medicine, medical schools, research laboratories, animal food companies, and pharmaceutical companies. A few veterinarians work for zoos. Most veterinarians caring for zoo animals are private practitioners who contract with zoos to provide services, usually on a part-time basis.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement:
All States and the District of Columbia require that veterinarians be licensed. To obtain a license, applicants must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.) degree from an accredited college of veterinary medicine and pass a State board examination. Some States issue licenses without further examination to veterinarians already licensed by another State.
For research and teaching jobs, a master's or Ph.D. degree usually is required. Veterinarians who seek specialty certification in a field such as medicine, opthalmology, pathology, surgery, radiology, or laboratory animal medicine must complete 3-year residency program, and pass an examination. There is a growing number of specialty groups.
The D.V.M. degree requires a minimum of 6 years of college consisting of at least 2 years of preveterinary study that emphasizes the physical and biological sciences and a 4-year veterinary program. Most successful applicants have completed 4 years of college. In addition to academic instruction, training includes clinical experience in diagnosing and treating animal diseases, performing surgery, and performing laboratory work in anatomy, biochemistry, and other scientific and medical subjects.
In 1991, all 27 colleges of veterinary medicine were accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Admission is highly competitive. Applicants usually have grades of "B" or better, especially in sciences. Applicants must take the Veterinary Aptitude Test, Medical College Admission Test, or the Graduate Record Examination and submit evidence they have experience working with animals. Colleges usually give preference to in-State applicants, because most are State supported. There are regional educational agreements in which States without veterinary schools send students to designated regional schools. In other areas, schools give priority to applicants from nearby States that do not have veterinary schools.
To meet State licensure requirements, foreign-trained veterinarians must fulfill the English language and clinical evaluation requirements of the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates.
Most veterinarians begin as employees or partners in established practices. With experience, they may set up their own practice or purchase an established one.
Newly trained veterinarians may become U.S. Government meat and poultry inspectors, disease-control workers, epidemiologists, research assistants, or commissioned officers in the U.S. Public Health Service. A State license may be required.
Veterinarians need good manual dexterity. They should be able to calm animals that are upset, and get along with animal owners, and be able to make decisions in emergencies.
Employment of veterinarians is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2005. Rising incomes and the movement of baby boomers into the 34-59 year age group, where pet ownership is highest, should cause the number of pets to increase rapidly. Pet owners may also be more willing to pay for more intensive care than in the past. In addition, emphasis on scientific methods of breeding and raising livestock and poultry, and continued support for public health and disease control programs will contribute to the demand for veterinarians. Jobs will also occur as veterinarians retire.
The outlook is good for veterinarians with specialty training. Demand for specialists in toxicology, laboratory animal medicine, and pathology is expected to remain strong, as is the demand for faculty at colleges of veterinary medicine. Most jobs for specialists will be in metropolitan areas. Prospects for veterinarians who specialize in farm animals is also good, because most veterinarians prefer working in metropolitan areas.
Newly graduated veterinarians working in the private practices of established veterinarians had an average salary of $27,000 in 1990, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Veterinarians in private practices generally earned between $50,000 and $100,000 a year.
Newly graduated veterinarians employed by the Federal Government started at $31,116 a year in 1991. The average annual salary of all veterinarians in the Federal Government was $45,893 in 1991.
Veterinarians prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases, disorders, and injuries in animals. Workers who do this for humans include audiologists, chiropractors, dentists, optometrists, physicians, podiatrists, and speech pathologists. Other occupations that involve working with animals include animal trainers, zoologists, marine biologists, naturalists, and veterinary technicians.
Sources of Additional Information:
For more information on careers in veterinary medicine, write to:
American Veterinary Medical
1931 N. Meacham Rd., Suite 100
Schaumburg, IL 60173-4360
For information on scholarships, grants, and loans, contact the financial aid officer at the veterinary schools to which you wish to apply.
Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges
1023 15th St. NW., Third Floor
Washington, DC 20005
* Choosing your Puppy *
It is worth spending time researching what kind of dog will suit you and your family. Just like humans, dogs are living longer so the pup you choose may still be part of the family in 14 years time. You may have a preference for a particular breed or you may want a mongrel, but it is important that you select the right dog for your lifestyle.
Never buy from an unknown
source and, if possible, visit the house to see the kind of place your
puppy comes from. It is essential to get a healthy pup from a clean
home where the litter has been well nurtured and handled from an early
age. Spend some time, too, with the mother to get an idea of her temperament.
If she is the kind of dog you would like as your pet, than her puppies
should be suitable for you.
* A healthy pup should have *
1) A friendly, confident manner but should not be dominant with its litter mates. Timid pups often become highly strung and dominant pups might become aggressive.
2) Clean, bright eyes with no redness or discharge.
3) Clean ears with no waxy crusts in the ear canal.
4) The front teeth (called the incisors) should meet. If they don't, it means the pup has an undershot jaw. This is a defect and could lead to early dental problems.
5) The skin should be sleek and shiny with no dandruff or black specks indicating flea dirt.
6) The back end should be clean and odor free. Soiling might indicate diarrhea.
7) The pup should be plump with rolls of loose skin. If the pup has a potbelly with prominent ribs than it may be sickly or have worms.
Most puppies can be acquired at 6-8 weeks of age. At this stage they will be fully weaned but still young enough to adapt well to your household. It is a good idea to take all new pups for a health check at the vet to discuss vaccination, worming and diet. Your vet will also check for any birth defects such as hare lip, umbilical hernia (swelling at the belly button) and an undershot jaw.
* Your pup's first days
1) keep it confined to one room of the house so that it gets a chance to settle in
2) provide a cozy bed in a quiet place away from children
3) feed your pup the same diet it received from the breeder
4) pet-proof your home - pups love to chew, so make sure electric flexes, handbags and anything remotely edible is out of reach
5) give your pet its own toys to play with
All puppies should be
vaccinated against four potentially fatal diseases:
Distemper, Parvovirus, Infectious Canine Hepatitis and Leptospirosis.
* Puppy vaccination *
. 1st vaccination 8 weeks
. 2nd vaccination 12 weeks
. newer vaccines are now available which can be started even earlier at 6 and 10 weeks. Discuss this with your vet.
In the past the recommendation
was to keep the puppy at home until a week after the vaccination course
finished. However as the best time to socialize a puppy is between 3-12
weeks of age it is now advised that you expose your pup to the outside
world as early as possible. Many vet surgeries hold puppy parties where
healthy pups can mix together and learn basic obedience training and
good puppy behavior.
* Puppies over 12 weeks *
. 1st vaccination - any time
. 2nd vaccination 2-4 weeks later
After the initial vaccination course an annual booster is recommended.
* Worming *
All pups are born with roundworms, which they inherit from their mother in the womb or through her milk. The main roundworms of pups are called Toxocara Canis and Toxascaris Leonina. Humans (especially toddlers) can pick up Toxocara Canis worm eggs if they touch dog feces and put their hand to their mouth. In exceptional cases this could lead to serious eye damage.
The main point to realize is that each time you worm a pup you will only kill a certain percentage of worms. It is very important all pups are wormed at regular intervals from 2 weeks of age up to 6 months.
Most healthy pups have worms without showing any symptoms. If your pup has a lot of worms you may sometimes see the following signs:
a ravenous appetite
a pot belly
vomiting and diarrhea
white spaghetti worms in the feces
There are many roundworm medications
on the market but it is important you choose a remedy that is easy to
give and effective. Discuss the best worming regime with your vet.
* Training Your Pup *
The first item on the agenda will be toilet training. Dogs are naturally clean but, like toddlers, accidents are unavoidable while they are being house trained. In the first few days you will have to provide somewhere for your pet to empty its bowels and bladder. A newspaper on the floor in the same area is the cheapest and most hygienic method. If you leave a remnant of soiled paper here your pup will follow its sense of smell and get the habit of using this place as toilet.
Puppies have weak bladders and need to urinate frequently. Anticipate this by placing it on this paper after every meal, after play or when it wakes up. Dogs usually sniff the ground before they urinate so if you catch your pup in the act of doing this pick it up fast and place it on the paper. Each time he does it in the correct place give him lots of praise.
Do not scold a pup for soiling in the wrong place. Never ever rub your pet's nose in its mess as you will only succeed in making your pup nervous. Owners often think the pup knows it has been naughty, as it will look guilty when the owner scolds. What people don't realize is that the pup knows you are annoyed with him but doesn't know why!
If your pet does soil in the wrong place clean up the mess promptly and remove all odors. Otherwise your pup will mistake this place for the toilet and try again! A pup's sense of smell is much more highly specialized than ours, so ordinary household disinfectants won't work. You can buy special odor eliminator from your vet or clean the area with hot biological washing powder solution.
Toilet Training Outside:
Once your pet has settled in, start toilet training outside. Find a designated place to act as a canine toilet to avoid having dog feces and urine staining your garden. When you see your pup sniffing and starting to relieve itself take it outside immediately. Give it lots of praise each time it does it correctly. Once he has been there a few times the smell will encourage him to go back. Initially you will have to take him outside practically every hour. If you are unable to be around that often it is best to keep the pup in a playpen with a newspaper to avoid accidents. They can also be left in the pen at nighttime Some puppies learn fast and some do not, just like potty training a toddler. Be patient while your pup is learning. All dogs want to be clean and he will get the message eventually.
Toilet Training In The Street:
Your pet will usually need
to empty its bowel on the first part of the walk. As a responsible pet
owner it is important you do not let your dog soil the streets and especially
parks and children's playgrounds. Encourage your dog to soil in the
gutter and carry a poop-scoop to remove the feces. Remember there are
hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dogs in every city, and dogs
fouling the pavements are unpopular with local residents.
Training Your Pup To Come When You Call:
The first thing your pet must learn is its own name and to come when called. Choose a catchy name with two syllables, which is easy to recognize. Teach your pup to come to you when you call it and reward it with praise and a food treat.
Remember pups are like toddlers, they crave attention. If they are good reward them with lots of praise and stroking and even food rewards. They will soon learn that good behavior gets them their owner's full attention. Never ever shout at a pup. Pups do not understand languages and won't know what you are saying.
If your pup is misbehaving
just give a firm 'No' and ignore it. You must always reprimand a pup
immediately it is naughty. Pups live in the present tense so there is
absolutely no point in reprimanding past misdemeanors.
Pups love to jump up at their owners and lick their face. While this may seem very charming when they are young it should never be encouraged. When your dog is bigger it may scare young children and visitors.
Each time your pup leaps up to catch your attention just stand still with your arms crossed and say no. Turn away and ignore it. Reward quiet, gentle behavior by calm praise and stroking.
All pups have to chew to exercise their teeth. Unlike toddlers they also use their teeth and mouths to explore. Bored pups left alone for long periods will start chewing household furniture and can rapidly become very destructive.
For a start, a pup should never be left alone for long periods. If you have to go out it is better to leave the pup in a playpen with its own toys to chew and let it out for supervised play when you return. A puppy will feel more secure in its own personal pad and you can leave on the radio for company. Provide your pup with lots of interesting toys, rawhide chews, logs of wood and even cardboard boxes.
Urinating with excitement:
Even house-trained pups often wet themselves with excitement when their owner returns. This is more common in female dogs and is a form of submission. Try not to let your pup get overexcited when you come into the house. When the puppy rushes up to greet you, stay calm and don't respond to its advances. Once it has calmed down then reward it with strokes and cuddles. This problem can take some time to cure so keep a sheet of polythene close to the door to prevent accidents.
Handling Your Pup:
It is important that you get
your pup used to being handled from an early age.
If it learns good manners now, you will have no problem giving it medication if it gets sick.
Every day make your pet sit quietly while you examine him all over.
. lift up your pet's ears and look down them
. check its eyes for discharges
. gently lift up the jowls and inspect all the teeth from the front incisors to the back molars
. buy a soft baby toothbrush or a finger glove and rub your pet's teeth along the gum margins. Although your pup will soon lose its milk teeth you should get him used to having his teeth brushed from an early age
. open your pet's mouth and inspect the tongue. Do not encourage it to bite playfully with you
. run your hand along your pup's back and tummy
. get your pet used to being lifted up and carried and don't encourage it to wriggle
Play and Excersise:
In the first few weeks your
pup will get most of its exercise by playing. You should devote a lot
of time to playing with your pup to form a strong bond with it. It is
best to play with your pup for short periods throughout the day rather
than exhausting it. Do not encourage it to play by biting you. This
may encourage dominant behaviour and your pup could become quite aggressive.
All pups expend a lot of energy romping around playing then collapse
into a deep sleep.
It is a sad fact that more
adult dogs are put to sleep for behavioral
problems like aggression or destructive tendencies than illness or disease.
Therefore it is very important that you help your pet adapt to the outside world from an early age. Otherwise, just like people, they can become nervous, highly strung and often bite from fear.
The best time to socialize a puppy is from 3-12 weeks because whatever your pet encounters during this time it will perceive as normal. A good breeder will have started the socialization process by handling the pups from 3 weeks and letting them mix with other people and children. Many adult dogs that are nervous with men, aggressive to policemen or snappy with children may not have had enough exposure when they were a puppy. They develop antisocial manners because they do not recognize these events as familiar.
Try and carry your pup out and about wherever you go so that it encounters lots of people and places. However, until your pet is fully vaccinated do not walk it along the streets, in public parks or let it meet stray dogs.
So, to summarize the main
. let it mix with men, women and children
. let your pup meet other dogs and cats
. expose it to all loud noises - fire engine sirens, police cars, busy traffic, vacuum cleaners
. introduce it to people in the street - policemen, lollipop men, cyclists and joggers
. take it down to the local shops and let strangers stroke and talk to it
. take it for lots of short car rides
. carry it through crowded streets with lots of people
. take your pup with you when you visit friends so it gets used to different houses and people
. if you live in a town take it to the country so it can meet horse riders, cattle and sheep
. enroll at your local puppy party - these are held for healthy vaccinated pups and a pet behaviorist will teach your pet and you . all about the correct pet code of behavior