A cat is a fastidiously clean animal quite content to be independent. The desexed cat is usually content with the territorial limitations of an backyard and very satisfied to spend the major part of the day basking in the sun. It will rarely come when called—unless there is food. It. is much happier on someone’s lap in front of a winter’s fire than accompanying a jogger on a rainy night.
Cats are ideal for people living in flats or units—in fact, anywhere a pet desired but the territory is limited (although, as cats are not allowed in apartment buildings, do check first). Cats are less costly to keep than dogs.
When selecting a cat, there are a great variety from which to choose. The sex of the cat doesn’t matter so long as you have it desexed. Next you should think about long hair versus short hair. The color combinations are now numerous that all cat owners’ tastes can be satisfied.
The age of the cat is a consideration but it doesn’t really matter whether you select a mature cat or a young kitten, providing you give it sufficient to establish a relationship with you. Young kittens will demand more your time because they need to be fed four times a day and toilet trained. Ll generally, however, the pleasure derived from observing the antics of a kitten far outweigh any disadvantages.
If you haven’t had a cat in the family before, each member of the family should check they are not allergic to the animal. Handle the cat; even bring its fur in contact with your face. An allergic reaction causes watering and irritation of the eyes, accompanied by snuffling and sneezing. If a member of the family is allergic, it is much easier to be sensible about the situation fore the cat has become part of the family.
The most trouble-free breed of cat is the common short-haired tabby type. They need a minimum of grooming, and in warm climates are the obvious choice. On long-haired cats ectoparasites such as fleas and ticks are more difficult to eliminate. Long-haired cats require frequent grooming to prevent the development of matted areas along the belly and flanks. Badly matted hair can lead to dermatitis serious enough to require treatment under a general anesthetic. The ordinary tabby or alley cat makes an excellent house cat and pet and it has no peer as a rodent exterminator. The tabby comes in all sizes, shapes and colors. Because it is crossbred, it is less susceptible to diseases, particularly to the upper respiratory tract viral infections which are so common in other breeds. The tabby has virtually no hereditary or congenital abnormalities.
Pedigree cats can be divided into long-haired and short-haired varieties. Some of the long-haired varieties, particularly the creams and chinchillas, have been bred to accentuate the ‘pushed-in’ face. Unfortunately, this has led to problems: many of these cats have tears constantly washing down their face, marking their hair, and causing chronic conjunctivitis. Siamese and Burmese cats are particularly sensitive to cat flu viruses. Blue-eyed white cats are usually congenitally deaf. Tortoise-shell or calico cats are usually female; the few males are usually sterile. White-eared cats are subject to sunburn and skin cancer of the ear tips.
Selecting a Cat from a Litter
Wherever you get your cat, keep the following points in mind. Note the appearance and sanitary condition of the establishment from which you are purchasing the animal. Is it clean and free of odors? Are the cages clean and in good condition? What is the general appearance of the animals in the cattery?
One advantage of dealing directly with a breeder is that a history of the mother and her management during the pregnancy can sometimes be very helpful in choosing the right cat. If the mother has had two or three litters in the space of twelve months, it is possible that her bones are starting to become deficient in the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for proper bone formation in the kittens. If she has been fed a meat diet only, without calcium supplementation, this will increase the possibility of weak bones in the kittens. Worming should have taken place before the mother became pregnant and she should have been wormed two or three times during the pregnancy. The mother should have been vaccinated against infectious female enteritis and cat flu within the previous twelve months and preferably midway through the pregnancy also. Kittens infected with fleas are a good Indication of lack of care on the breeder’s part. If the breeder has taken the :trouble to care properly for the mother, then you can be sure that the litter is the best opportunity for survival.
Don’t base your selection of a kitten entirely on a cute expression or an appealing look. Never be tempted to feel sorry for the runt of the litter or a sickly kitten. Observe the whole litter at a distance. Select a kitten that is alert and playful. It should have a glossy coat and be well and robust in condition. Avoid the very shy kitten, particularly if you have small children in your family, as such a pet will require careful handling and will not submit to being handled by young children.
Once a kitten has been selected at a distance, pick it up and compare its eight to the others in the litter. Hold the kitten in the palm of your hand and feel its activity and weight. Look for dry scurfy skin, lice and fleas. Check under the tail to see if the kitten has had any diarrhea.
Examine its mouth and check that the gums are a good pink color. Check the roof of the kitten’s mouth for a cleft palate (this is a slit in the roof of the mouth). Check the eyes for discharge. If the third eyelid (a mucous membrane at the corner of the eye) is protruding more than one-sixth towards the centre, it indicates that the kitten is in ill health. Blindness can be checked by darting the fingers towards the eye; the kitten should blink.
Check the ears for any smell or discharge. Kittens with infected ears will shake their heads and paw at the outsides of the ears. Ear infections can be cured but do consider the veterinary expenses. Deafness can be determined by snapping your fingers or clapping your hands behind the cat. If it fails ???? respond the chances are that it is deaf. Examine the belly of the cat for hernias. The kitten should have five toes on each front foot, and four on each hind-foot.
The kitten’s sex should be determined (see above). Pedigree cats should come with papers documenting their pedigree. In the case of a cat already registered, a transfer form signed by the breeder should be available. Wean off the kitten should have started at four weeks of age. At six weeks the kitten is ready to leave its mother, but some breeders prefer to wait till the eat is nine weeks old.
Feed the kittens that are orphaned a milk as close to cat’s milk as possible. The difference between cow’s milk and cat’s milk is that the latter contains about twice as much protein, which is essential for the normal high rate of growth the kitten. A suitable substitute for cat’s milk is one cup of evaporated milk plus a quarter cup of water, or cow’s milk to which has been added egg yolk at the rate of 1 part beaten egg yolk to 4 parts milk. There are also commercial substitutes.
Orphaned kittens will require feeding every two to three hours for the first Lek; the intervals between feeds can be gradually increased to four hours.
It can be given by stomach tube—a length of soft polyethylene tubing about 2 millimeters in diameter attached to a disposable syringe. Measure the f:stance between the kitten’s nose and the rear of its rib cage when its head – neck are stretched out, and cut the tubing slightly longer (this is .efficient to reach the kitten’s stomach). Pass the tube through its mouth and it may push until the indicated length has been reached. Initially about 3 milliliters (about half a teaspoon) of milk should be given at each feed. Increase the amount to 4 milliliters (nearly 1 teaspoon) by the end of the first week and to 10 milliliters (2 teaspoons) by the third week. You can also – a pet nurser bottle for the kitten to suckle. All equipment must be kept scrupulously clean; sterilize it as you would for a baby.
Keep orphaned kittens in a large cardboard box lined with torn news- :aper, at a temperature of about 30°C; this can be effected by the use of Infra-red lamps or electric light bulbs. By four weeks the kittens should be tapping and eating. A mother cat usually stimulates defecation and urination by licking her kitten’s anal area. This can be simulated in orphaned kittens -Dv gently rubbing with a paper tissue. Wipe the kittens clean afterwards.
Keep them clean all over by daily wipe-downs with a soft damp towel. If the kittens are unable to suckle their mother in the first twenty-four hours to receive colostrum, it is advisable to take them to a veterinary surgeon who will dose them with a small quantity of normal cat serum to give them antibody protection against disease.