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Vet's Clinic with Liam Moriarty - Cats and Kittens

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Cats and kittens:-

. Vets often get phone calls from worried cat owners at this time of year because their cat is behaving very strangely. The females are probably in heat. If you are thinking of getting a pet, it is also the time of year when you can get a kitten.

What Kittens Need:-

. Vaccinations
. Microchip ID
. De-worm and De-flea
. Litter Tray
. Scratching Post
. Toys

Cats and Kittens:-

. We often get phone calls from worried cat owners at this time of year because their cat is behaving very strangely.

Why might a female cat be behaving strangely?

If your cat is behaving strangely, unusually affectionate, vocalizing (calling a lot), urine marking, hold in a strange position, head down, bottom in air, crying out - she may be in heat! This is breeding season. Cats are daylight breeders - from February on. If not mated can come into season every 3 weeks for 4/5 days) until September.

Males, if not neutered, will fight with other males. They will want to get out and meet other cats. So they will fight with other cats. They may get bitten and get viruses. Owners will look out for spraying their territory - a rotten smell. When neutered at a young age they won't do that. If neutered at an older age they may still do it.

An average cat can produce 2-3 litters a year, so 8-10 kittens in total. 63 days (2 months) gestation timer for a cat. They will start breeding from 7-8 months of age. Superfetation is possible - so can have 1 set and get pregnant while still gestating the first.

Rescue centres estimate that one pair of breeding cats and their offspring could produce 420,000 offspring in a 7 year period! 2 cats have kittens and kittens have kittens etc.

As cats typically start to breed in early spring their kittens will be appearing from now onwards. From February, 2 months until first batches of kittens start forming through. May get confused if indoors and have kittens sooner. Daylight triggers the kitten making.

If you are thinking of adopting a kitten now might be the right time - there usually is no shortage from now til September.

What to look out for:

Make sure it's healthy. Watch out for runny eyes runny nose. Try get it by 8 weeks so it gets used to you and being handled by you and well socialized. A feral animal is a domestic animal that has become wild. But a feral cat's kittens could be tamed.

Where to go:

Contact Cat Shelters, local vets to get a kitten. This is the time of year to get them. They stop being born in September.

Spay a female or neuter a male when they are 6 months of age. The cat fasts overnight, comes into the clinic, gets a general anaesthetic, they have the operation, and then they get stitched up. Then they go home that evening, come back after 2 days, stitches out after 10 days. Their personality shouldn't change. Male cats are then less likely to fight with other cats or spray their territory. Females don't come in heat again.

A cat pill - they do exist but hard to get someone to prescribe them. Not good for their health. Easier and cheaper to have the op done. They live longer.

What do they need?

If you are thinking of getting a cat, they will need:

. Kittens will need a course of vaccinations from their vet.
. They will need kitten food.
. They will need to be de-wormed and de-flead - once a month - can get de-worm treatments over the counter after visiting the vet and getting a vaccination.
. They need to be neutered or spayed at 6 months of age.
. Litter tray
. Scratching post
. Toys
. Love and attention
. Microchip identification or scanning
. Collar and tag
. Pet insurance in case anything goes wrong - if it gets sick or has an accident. Not for spaying/neutering. Allianz / Pet / 123 - have to pay approx first €75 as an excess. ¼ of Liam's owner have their pets insured. 1/43 people claim every year.
. Grooming - especially long haired cats.

Training kittens to use a litter tray is usually simple - much easier than in dogs. Show them the tray, leave it in the room with the kittens and they will use it. Make sure no potted plants. Most cats will prefer to go outdoors if given the option.

They are very affectionate engaging creatures and are great fun to play with. However they are also quite independent.

Liam Moriarty MVB
Hermitage Veterinary Clinic
Old Bawn Veterinary Clinic

For Further information Contact your local Vet or Ring:

Cats Protection Association
The Cat and Dog Protection Association of Ireland, Carmichael House
North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7
Tel: 01-888 0828/ 01-877 9023
Office Hours: Monday - Friday 9:30am -5:30pm
Contact: Florence O Sullivan, Chairperson. 01-276 1850

Or Dublin SPCA: Tel. 01-493 5502/4

Or ISPCA: - 043 332 5035

Or Wicklow SPCA - - Tel. +353 404 44783

Extra info from DSPCA - Kitten Season

31st March 2010

Look outside, it's summertime. Yippee! Ok, we know it's really cold, but the clocks have moved forward an hour, marking the official start of summertime; and, we hasten to add, the official start of Kitten Season!

Kitten season is the time of year when cats give birth; flooding the Dublin SPCA and other busy animal rescue shelters across the country with homeless litters.

When the warm weather coincides with female cats' reproduction cycles, they go into heat, sending the male cat population into a mating frenzy; visiting the ladies from near and far. This usually begins in spring, peaks early summer and runs right through to October.

As you can imagine, the cats are not the only ones feeling the effects of the stress. The burden also presents enormous challenges for us here at the Dublin SPCA, with space and finances stretched to the limit and, on top of our usual compliment of rescued animals; we are inundated with hundreds of homeless cats.

Typically the adult cats suffer the immediate affects as they are overlooked by potential new families when kittens are available in abundance; increasing the risk of feline illness and death.

So, what can you, the public do to help?

Firstly, the most efficient way to reduce the overwhelming burden of unwanted cats is to spay or neuter your own cat. Unaltered cats are driven by hormones and will sneak outdoors in search of a mate.

It's important to know that mating just the once can start a cycle that will result in thousands of unwanted animals who are often left to fend for themselves and end up arriving en masse here at the Dublin SPCA.

Below are some guidelines to follow if you come across a mother cat and her litter:

Firstly, try to establish if the family is tame or feral.

If the cat miaows and responds to you giving her food and water then she's most likely tame. Give them shelter but do not separate mother and kittens; keeping them together in a garden shed, downstairs loo, cloakroom or utility room and ring the Dublin SPCA at 01-4935502/4.

Although we are unable to collect the kittens, when you contact us, our staff will make an appointment for you to bring the family to the shelter where they'll be given expert veterinary attention and fostered out to caring families until the kittens are old enough to leave their mother and be re-homed.

If the mother and her kittens hiss and warn you off, then it's likely they're feral. If the kittens have opened their eyes fully, (this usually occurs at around 2 weeks when eyes begin to open slightly, getting wider as the weeks progress), it's likely the kittens can see and may try to defend themselves by biting you.
In this case, leave them alone, again, do not remove kittens from the mother, but ring the Dublin SPCA and we will advise you, and give you an appointment.

It's important to understand, even though the family is feral, there is every chance we can tame the kittens, re-home them when they are ready to leave their mother and spay the mother so that this situation does not reoccur.

Either way, it is imperative that you do not ever remove or separate the kittens from their mother; to do so could mean their certain death.

Remember, feral cats deserve to be taken care of just as much as the tame ones who live with us. They are very often the victims of abandonment and failure by owners to spay/neuter their own pets.

It's no secret that many rescue kittens, feral or tame, have been influenced negatively by early separation from the mother. Sometimes an unwitting member of the public brings a litter of unwanted kittens to the shelter too early as it's often assumed they've been abandoned by the mother when she is actually away finding food or is trying to keep humans and other unwelcome prey away from her nest area.

Kitten Development: Here are the Facts!

Kittens separated too early from their mother can suffer a variety of psychological and health problems because they miss out on critical physical and emotional milestones that occur during the early weeks of life.

For example, if they are deprived of their mother's milk too soon their immune system is compromised making them susceptible to a wide variety of illnesses, in particular, respiratory conditions.

Also, rushed weaning will mean they are inclined to suffer from severe diarrhea caused by a rapid shift to solid food. This condition is very often life threatening as the kittens become dehydrated and lose weight quickly.

Kittens suffer poor socialisation skills because it's during the early weeks when the mother teaches them which behaviours are appropriate. Separated too early, kittens are likely to be hostile and aggressive towards humans and other pets, even cats.

This is because they have never learned to interpret feline body language, having missed out on the process with their mother. Overall a kitten separated too early from the mother is insecure, less tolerant and will experience health problems.

Take a look at our Kitten Development table below:

Kitten Development:-

. 3 Weeks:- The mother and her kittens begin to interact. She grooms them and prevents them from becoming over-demanding and aggressive. Kittens will begin to explore just outside of the kitten box.

. 4 Weeks:- Kittens begin to accept semi-solid food and can also be taught how to use a litter tray which should be placed close to the kitten box.

. 6 Weeks:- Kittens learn through play. They begin to explore further away from the kitten box.

. 8 Weeks:- Kittens are fully weaned onto solid food and first vaccinations can be given around 9 weeks.

For further information contact your local vet or ring the Dublin SPCA, at 01-4935502/4 or log onto We are 170 years Standing Up For Animals, making us Ireland's oldest and largest animal rescue charity.