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Health and wellbeing

Health and wellbeing

Keeping your kitten fit

Just like humans, cats need exercise to keep fit and healthy. However, they're hardly likely to become regulars down at the local gym.

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Keeping your kitten well groomed

When it comes to grooming, kittens are fastidious; they learn how to keep themselves clean and tidy from their mothers. But occasionally, they may need a little help from you, and grooming your kitten gives you a great opportunity to make a fuss of her - she’ll enjoy every second! If your kitten has long hair, for example, she’ll need to be combed every day.

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Meet the vet

You're bound to want the very best for your new kitten, and one of the most important things you can do is find an excellent veterinary practice. After all, you're going to be relying on them for years to come. A recommendation from family or friends is one way to find a good vet but otherwise just trust your instincts.

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Vaccinating your kitten

Your new kitten will start life with some natural immunity from diseases from her mum, but as this wears off you'll need to have her vaccinated to keep her healthy. Vaccinating your kitten is absolutely essential as it will protect her from life-threatening diseases. Most vets recommend a combined vaccine, given at around 8-9 and 11-12 weeks of age.

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Microchipping

Your kitten shouldn't be allowed outside the home until she's completed her first course of vaccinations. And even then, you should wait a further 2 weeks, to make certain the vaccine has had time to take effect. A good age to let her experience the outside world is 14-16 weeks, but please don't let her out unaccompanied until she's really confident; a good guide is whether she's big enough to use the cat flap.

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Caring for your kitten's teeth

When you first get your kitten, she'll almost certainly have a full set of "baby teeth". These first teeth begin to appear at 3 weeks. At around 15 weeks they'll start to become loose and fall out, making way for her permanent adult teeth.

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Fleas and worms

Your kitten will love the fuss and attention you, your family and friends lavish upon her, but not the attention she receives from parasites. Fleas, worms and mites are extremely common, so it'd be pretty unusual if your kitten didn't pick them up at some point. The good news is, parasites aren't that harmful, and easy to get rid of.

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A purrfect coat for your kitten

Every new kitten owner wants their cuddly new companion to grow into a healthy, happy cat. So it's important that you play a part in ensuring your kitten stays in good health. For example, correct feeding and completing the first course of vaccinations are essential for her to thrive.

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All you need to know about sterilisation

Unless you’re planning to breed from your kitten, sterilisation (or neutering) is the best thing you can do to help her enjoy life to the full. Why? Because not only will you avoid the worry of unwanted pregnancy in female cats, but also a male cat will refrain from sexual behaviour such as spraying urine and howling, which can be very unpleasant.

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6 months check up

At six months, it is advisable to make a vet's appointment for your kitten so that he or she can give her a thorough health-check. Your vet will want to make sure your kitten is on track with her development and growth, so will check her weight and provide a general health assessment.

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Growing up

By six months old, your kitten will have reached three quarters of her adult size. But don't be fooled by appearances - she may look like an adult but she won't behave like one (not unlike a teenager!) Play and mischief are very much the order of the day.

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Good healthcare starts at home

A good healthcare routine for your kitten starts at home. Just as in humans, prevention is much better than cure. As the person who knows your kitten best of all, nobody could be better qualified than you to become the 'eyes' and 'ears' of your vet.

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Caring for your kitten's new teeth

Brushing your kitten's teeth is not as difficult as you might think; if you start early and use a special cat toothpaste that she likes, your kitten will even look forward to it. Don't be tempted to use a human toothbrush as they are not suitable and can damage your pet's gums. Your vet will be happy to advise you on which brush is right for your kitten. Start by getting your kitten accustomed to you placing your finger in her mouth by gently coaxing her mouth open and rubbing her teeth.

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Toxic houseplants

Many cat owners have opted in recent years to keep their cats indoors. This is understandable as the dangers of road traffic accidents are all too real in both rural and urban locations.

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Stamping out bad behaviour

Spraying is perfectly natural cat behaviour and their way of marking somewhere with information about themselves. That said, it's not particularly desirable if done in your living room! Before trying to solve a spraying problem, it's important to determine your kitten is actually spraying, not just urinating.

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Free of fur balls

Cats are very clean creatures and your kitten will spend approximately five hours a day grooming herself. In doing so, she'll pick up any loose hairs from her coat. These are difficult for her to spit out, so she'll probably just swallow them.

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Checking for urinary tract infections

Your kitten can't tell you if she's poorly so you need to keep an eye out for any health problems that might arise. One such problem could be feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD). Here's what to look out for: Pain when urinating.

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Your kitten is nearly an adult

By one year old, your kitten will be an adult cat. She may still act like a mischievous kitten, but her needs will have changed.

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When to call a vet

You know your cat better than anyone else and, if you're at all concerned, you shouldn't hesitate to pick up the phone to your vet. It's always better to be safe than sorry and no vet will mind a false alarm. When to call the vet Call your vet if you notice any of the following: Loss of appetite Vomiting Diarrhoea or constipation Coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing Bleeding Limping Dirty eyes or ears Lethargy, tiredness or less active Excessive scratching or very red skin Increased thirst Difficulty passing urine Crying in pain or mewing Swollen legs or joints Anything else that worries you.

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Introducing a new food

Now that you have a kitten all the things you've heard about cats over the years suddenly seem more relevant. But the myths and old wives tales that you've grown up with can be hard to fathom. This list will help you separate fact from fiction.

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Fully grown and fighting fit

By one year old, your kitten will be an adult cat. She may still act like a mischievous kitten, but her needs will have changed.

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