What Is a Pet Sitter & Why Hire One


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In the past, pet owners had few choices concerning care for their animals while they were away. In looking for new alternatives, many have found that in-home pet care is one of the best choices for both the owner and the pet. 

When you go away, your pet stays at home! Each day you are away I will come to your home for several visits to feed and care for both your pets and your home. If you travel and need overnight care, I spend the night at your home with your pets. It’s that simple.

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Study Shows Health Benefits for Cat Owners


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If you want to lower your blood pressure and heart rate, volunteer some time with a cat shelter or rescue.  If you want to see even better results, become a cat owner.

A Cornwall College scientist has completed a study entitled “Does cat attachment have an effect on human health?,” that provides evidence owning or being with cats results in being more relaxed both mentally and physically.

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Published in “Pet Behaviour Science,” a peer reviewed scientific journal, college student Filipa Denis admits to always having wanted to do research involving cats.  In considering the effect animal relationships have on humans, she found far more research available on dogs than cats, giving her both motive and opportunity to formulate her study.

She had a decided interest in the bonding effects of cats as people view their pets and their relationships with them in different ways.  Starting within a household, understanding that people under the same roof may each have their own relationship with the family cat, she grew that thought process into comparing shelter volunteers to cat owners.

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While her study did show that people who worked in volunteer situations with cats did exhibit health benefits in the areas of blood pressure and heart rate, the effects proved far bigger for owners.  It also showed that the more attached an owner was to their feline, there was a substantially greater calming effect, as well.  The research also raises the question as to the health benefits of a cat in an environment, such as the workplace, and to what level for people who do not have the same familiarity with the animal as a household pet.

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The good news is that for those who are fond of felines but perhaps not in a situation that allows them the freedom to have a cat of their own, spending time at a local shelter, rescue, or humane society does offer some of those same identified health benefits while those animals are benefiting, as well.  This perhaps gives those organizations another angle to encourage volunteerism in their communities.

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Certainly aspects such as personal lifestyle choices, state of both mental and physical health and well-being, and the location in which the actual research takes place will have bearing on the outcome, but it does set up nicely the opportunity for further study.

That said, most cat owners will probably be happy to share that they already knew that.

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Interesting Facts About Dogs


– The top five favorite breeds of dogs in the US are: Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Beagle, and Dachshund.

– The Basenji is the only barkless dog in the world.

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Greyhounds can reach a speed of up to 45 miles per hour.

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– When a puppy is born, he is blind, deaf, and toothless.

– There are more than 150 dog breeds, divided into 8 classes: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, herding, and miscellaneous.

– According to a recent survey, the most popular name for a dog is Max. Other popular names include Molly, Sam, Zach, and Maggie.

– Dogs can vary in size from a 36 inch (150+ lb.) Great Dane to a 2 lb. Chihuahua.

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– Puppies and kittens can be adopted as early as 8 weeks of age.  Until then, they should stay with their moms and littermates.

– About 1/3 of the dogs that are surrendered to animal shelters are purebred dogs.

– Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not sweat by salivating. They sweat through the pads of their feet.

– Dogs may not have as many taste buds as we do (they have about 1,700 on their tongues, while we humans have about 9,000), but that doesn’t mean they’re not discriminating eaters. They have over 200 million scent receptors in their noses (we have only 5 million) so it’s important that their food smells good and tastes good.

– The term “dog days” has nothing to do with dogs. It dates back to Roman times, when it was believed that Sirius, the Dog Star, added its heat to that of the sun from July 3 to August 11, creating exceptionally high temperatures.

– Did you know they were female?  Toto’s role in The Wizard of Oz was played by a female Cairn Terrier named Terry, and the Taco Bell dog is actually a female Chihuahua named Gidget.

– Former US President Teddy Roosevelt had a Pit Bull named Pete.

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– An adult dog has 42 teeth.

– If a dog isn’t spayed or neutered, a female dog, her mate and their offspring can product 67,000 dogs in 6 years.

– The most successful mountain rescue dog ever was a St Bernard named Barry, who lived during the early 1800’s and saved 40 lives.

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– It was recently discovered that dogs do see in color, just not as vivid as we see.

– Nearly all but two breeds of dogs have pink tongues: the Chow Chow and the Shar-pei both have black tongues.

– The Poodle haircut was originally meant to improve the dog’s swimming abilities as a retriever, with the pom-poms left in place to warm their joints.

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– All dogs, regardless of breed, are direct descendants of wolves and technically of the same species.

– A dog’s whiskers — found on the muzzle, above the eyes and below the jaws — are technically known as vibrissae. They are touch-sensitive hairs than actually sense minute changes in airflow.

– Dogs are capable of locating the source of a sound in 6/100ths of a second by using their swiveling ears like radar dishes.

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20+ Adorable Photos of Kids & Cats


Dogs get a lot of love as awesome family pets, but don’t write cats off. When they are not planning world domination, cats can be wonderful purring companions for children.

Though they are excellent family pets, make sure your cat is socialized and that your children understand your cat’s boundaries – they may get a nasty scratch otherwise! Some fear that children may run the risk of infection with toxoplasmosis, but the chances of this are very slim. If you clean your cat’s litterbox often and if your cat doesn’t roam outside, you have nothing to fear.

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Relationship Between Cat Coat Color & Personality


Dr. Arnold Plotnick (MS, DVM, ACVIM)

Although most of us cat lovers will tell you that it’s a cat’s personality that matters most, many of us will admit that we find ourselves drawn to a cat’s particular coat color.  At my cat hospital, my technician Hiromi is drawn to orange boys.  I tend to go for the torties.  My technician Gina favors black cats.  A close friend of mine, Arden Moore (the famous writer and pet educator) feels that there is certain personality traits are tied to coat color in cats.  Only a few studies have been done, however, that explore the potential link between coat color and cat personality, and these have shown mixed results.  One study from 1995 suggested that orange male cats may have difficulties in “tolerating the proximity of other males”.   A study (that was never published) on the reactions to novel situations showed that orange and cream colored kittens reacted more aggressively than other colors of kittens when held by an unknown  human.  A more recent study (in 2010) looked at cats of certain coat colors (black, orange, brown, and tortie) and compared them to cats of the same coat color but with white patches (i.e. black and white, orange and white, brown and white, and calico) in terms of how the cats reacted to novel situations and handling by a stranger.  No significant differences were found between any of the coat color groups.

So, studies of actual personality differences based on coat color are decidedly mixed.  But what about people’s perceptions of cats of a certain color?   Whether studies show differences or not, people definitely do associate personality and color.  It’s not just coincidence that black and brown cats are the less likely to be adopted from shelters compared to other colors.  Studies have shown that the color of a cat plays a significant role as a basis for adopting a cat, however, the cat’s personality takes on the greater role when it comes to whether or not to keep the cat in the home once it’s been adopted.

Exactly how are certain colored cats perceived by people?

A recent study was conducted that helps shed a little light on the topic.  A questionnaire was distributed to participants in a study.  Using a 7-point scale (where 1 = strongly agree, 2 = agree, 3 = agree a little, 4 = neutral,  5 = disagree a little, 6 = disagree, and 7 = strongly disagree), participants assessed ten characteristics (active, aloof, bold, calm, friendly, intolerant, shy, stubborn, tolerant, and trainable) and the extent to which these characteristics could be applied to five colors of cats (Orange, tortie, white, black, and bi-colored).  [Bi-colored was a weird category to me, because this could be black and white, or it could be orange and white. They chose this color scheme to see if the presence of white patches might impact attitude toward cat personalities.]  The statements in the questionnaire was made very matter-of-factly, and participants had to indicate how much they agreed or disagreed with the statement.  For example, “Orange cats are active” or “tortie cats are friendly” or “black cats are aloof”.   189 people participated and produced valid questionnaires.

The way the results were reported are a bit odd, so I’ll just report it the way the article says:

All other listed colors of cats were deemed more “active” than white cats.

Torties, black cats, and white cats were more “aloof” than orange cats.

All other listed colors of cats were termed more “bold” than white cats.

White cats were considered more “calm” than torties and bi-colored cats.

Orange, black and bi-colored were considered more “friendly” than torties; orange and bi-colored cats were seen as being friendlier than white cats.

Torties were rates as being more “intolerant” than orange, black and bi-colored cats.

White cats were ranked as being more “shy” than orange and bi-colored cats, and black cats were ranked as being more “shy” than orange cats.

Orange cats and black cats were said to be more “tolerant” than torties.

Orange cats were said to be more “trainable” than white cats.

To further describe the researchers’ findings, they concluded that a color group was different in terms of personality if they were statistically different from at least two other colors of cat.  Using this scheme, they determined that …

Orange cats were perceived as being high in friendliness and low in aloofness and shyness

Torties were high in aloofness and intolerance, and low in friendliness and tolerance.

White cats were thought to be aloof, calm and shy, and not very active, bold or friendly.

Bi-colored cats (black and white, orange and white) were said to be friendly, and not aloof.

Interestingly, black cats were not rated differently from more than one color category on any of the traits.

The questionnaire asked the participants how important was color, and how important was personality, when it came to adopting a new cat. 26% said color was important or very important, 24% were neutral about it, and 50% said that color wasn’t important at all.  Personality was considered important or very important to 94.7% of the respondents.  3.2% felt neutral, and 2.2% felt that personality was not important at all.  (Who the heck is in this 2.2% group?  I’d love to ask them, “So, personality does not matter at all?  You’d be willing to adopt the crabbiest, nastiest, most aloof cat in the world as long as it looked nice?”  People are strange, I tell ya.)

Anyway… what can we conclude from all of this?  I guess we can say that people seem to perceive coat color as a factor that contributes to the personalities of differently colored cats.  Orange cats were thought of as being friendly, not shy or aloof.  I think this is interesting, given that some of our cultural feline icons, like Morris and Garfield, are not depicted this way.  Morris is “The world’s most finicky cat”, and Garfield is portrayed as being lazy and cynical.  Perhaps it’s not the personality traits that are given to Morris and Garfield that’s important, but more the fact that these orange cats are anthropomorphized (for example, Morris and Garfield are depicted as being able to talk) in advertising is what makes them appealing. Compared with other colors of cats, orange cats tend to be adopted more quickly from shelters, and we see the same at my own veterinary hospital.  When we have an orange kitten in the window for adoption, it tends to be snatched up immediately, while other colored cats tend to linger for a while.  Torties and calicos were ranked as being aloof, intolerant, and unfriendly.  I have to say, though I’m skeptical about these kinds of studies, in my own veterinary practice, there is no doubt that calicos and torties do indeed fit this bill.  I didn’t want to believe it, but it can’t just be coincidence.  These cats give me more grief than any other color pattern.   White cats were considered less friendly and more aloof, and I wonder if this is because of the Fancy Feast cat – a white Persian cat being fed from a crystal goblet – which depicts the cat as being “snobby”.

Although I find it a little irritating that coat color may be a predictive factor in the adoption and euthanasia rates of some cats in shelters, I was pleased to learn, from the article, that when cat owners are surveyed after the adoption, personality is the primary reason cited for their satisfaction with their cat.  Again, appearance may play a role in the adoption selection, but personality plays the major role in the satisfaction after adoption.  It looks like there might be a disconnect between the way people choose a new cat and how appropriate that cat might really be for them.  This also emphasizes the need for shelters to really screen their cats for personality, and then make this behavioral assessment clearly apparent to potential adopters.  When people are faced with a lack of accurate behavioral information about a specific cat,  they will revert to making decisions based on their personal perceptions about cats, including the idea that color coat is an indicator of personality.  Also, if shelters know that people think white cats are shy and aloof and torties and calicos are unfriendly, they can try to counteract these perceptions by featuring these cats in advertisements and fliers that emphasize their positive personality traits.Dark colored cats have been documented to remain in adoption centers longer, and are more likely to be euthanized than lighter colored cats or cat with a patterned coat.  Black cats have also been associated with bad luck.  Surprisingly, though, there were no significant differences between the ratings assigned to black cats compared to cats of other color groups.  So, if black cats weren’t assigned any negative personality traits, their lower adoption rate must be due to their appearance.  Either people consider black cats “plain” looking, or they still harbor that negative stereotype of them being bad luck.

 

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How to Read Cat Body Language


While cats may seem mysterious to some, to others, understanding a cat is simply a matter of paying attention, watching the cat’s body language and responding accordingly. Cats use a variety of ways to communicate their feelings, needs and desires.

Reading Your Cat's Body Language

HOW CATS USE THEIR TAILS TO COMMUNICATE

Watching the position of a cat’s tail is a great way to decipher how a cat is feeling. Marilyn Krieger, Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and Cat Fancy’s behaviorist, shares what different tail positions mean in cat body language.

  • Tail up – This is a happy, cheerful cat who is most likely approachable.
  • Tail down – This may indicate a cat who is scared or threatened.
  • Tail moving rapidly back and forth – A cat’s wagging tail isn’t the same as a dog’s happy tail wagging gesture. “A fast-thumping tail is a good indicator that a cat is agitated and should be left alone,” Krieger says.
  • Tail moving slowly back and forth  – If a cat is trying to decipher the situation, he may move his tail back and forth slowly as he makes up his mind about how he feels.
  • Halloween-cat tail – Yes, cats with Halloween-cat tails are scary! Krieger explains that a cat in this stance is not in a good mood and is trying to appear larger and scarier than he is.

HOW CATS USE THEIR EARS TO COMMUNICATE

Another good way to gauge your cat’s mood is to pay attention to the position of your cat’s ears.  The Humane Society of the United States shares tips for deciphering your cat’s ear positions.

  • Ears forward – A cat with ears slightly forward is likely feeling content or even playful.
  • Ears straight up – When a cat is alert, his ears are likely standing at attention as well.
  • Ears turned back – Watch out for this kitty! He might feel irritated over stimulated, so it’s probably a good idea to leave him alone.
  • Ears turned sideways or back – This cat is feeling nervous or anxious about something. Use caution around a cat whose ears are in this position.
  • Ears back and flat against head – This is a sure sign a cat is scared and feeling defensive.  Ears flat against the head may also indicate an angry or aggressive cat. Either way, ears against the head means don’t mess with this guy!

HOW CATS USE THEIR EYES TO COMMUNICATE

Not only are they beautiful and mesmerizing but a cat’s eyes can offer all kinds of clues about how he’s feeling about the world around him.

  • Dilated pupils – Cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett says a cat’s pupils may dilate when a cat is surprised, scared or stimulated.
  • Constricted pupilsJohnson-Bennett warns that constricted pupils might mean your cat is tense or possibly feeling aggressive. “Of course, available light must be taken into consideration,” she says. (Think Like a Cat: How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat, Not a Sour Puss)
  • Stare – In her book, The Cat Bible, pet expert Tracie Hotchner explains that a stare down is likely a challenge from your cat.
  • Slow Blinking – On the flip side, says Hotchner, slow blinking is the opposite of the stare. This indicates your cat feels safe, comfortable and trusts you.
  • Half Closed – Hotchner says that droopy lids indicate a relaxed and trusting kitty.

Often a cat will use several forms of body language to display his feelings. Take time to understand your cat’s various ways of communicating and you’ll be able to better decipher his moods and needs.

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Catification


Before You Get a Kitten…

This post is by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM, holistic veterinarian and original founder of Spirit Essences holistic remedies for animals.

Kittens have a way of turning up when you least expect them! If a kitten has appeared in your life, or if you’re getting the urge to add a new feline family member (not forgetting that there are millions of wonderful, healthy adult cats waiting for a home like yours!), you’ll definitely want to consider these important issues:

Where does kitty come from?

Kitten5Your best bet is to adopt from a shelter or rescue. From May to October (or even later), shelters are inundated with unwanted kittens. Chances are good that you can even find a purebred through these sources. Find a local shelter through the APSCA’s directory, check out Petfinder, or look up a breed rescue. Petsmart and Petco also support local shelters by sponsoring adoptions through their stores.

Feral cats (whether simply homeless or truly wild) often choose quiet spots in garages or under porches to have their babies. If brought into a home and socialized to people before about 8-10 weeks of age, these kittens can be wonderful companions. However, after 8 weeks (and especially after age 6 months), if they have had no prior human contact, they may be very difficult to tame. For more information on feral cats,  Alley Cat Allies is a wonderful resource.

Please, please, PLEASE never purchase a kitten from a pet store! No matter what the salesperson tells you, it is a stone cold fact that pet stores get their animals from only two places: irresponsible “backyard breeders” who couldn’t be bothered to spay their cat; and commercial mills, where cats spend their lives in cramped, dirty cages with little human contact or veterinary care, solely for the purpose of bringing two or three litters a year into an overcrowded world. Yes, there are kitten mills, although puppy mills are much more common. Persians are common victims of kitten mills. (SeePurebred Cat Rescue for more info.) Kittens from either mills or pet stores are likely to have parasites, hidden genetic and health problems, and significant socialization deficiencies. People are often taken in by those pitiful little faces and want to save them, but every well-intentioned “rescue” from a pet store condemns one more mother cat to a horrible life. Suppliers do not care why you bought it–they only know that you just put a big wad of money in their pockets.

Other places where you shouldn’t get a kitten are through newspaper ads, internet classifieds (which are often fronts for kitten mills), and friends whose cat “accidentally” got pregnant. Unplanned breeding is the #1 cause of pet overpopulation in this country. Please urge your friends to get their cat spayed before another “accident” occurs; cats can produce 2 or 3 litters per year.

“Hobby” breeders are a cut above the backyard and accidental breeders, but they are still purposely bringing kittens into a world where many million of homeless animals die in shelters every year in the U.S.

If your heart is set on a purebred cat, do your homework and thoroughly research your breed and the breeder. For instance, purebred cats have notoriously poor immune systems. Persian cats are prone to chronic upper respiratory and ocular diseases, Abyssinians are famous for dental problems, and “wildcat” hybrids like Bengals, Savannahs, and Pixie-Bobs have serious temperament issues as they get older. Make sure the breeder you deal with is reputable, and preferably holistic.

Remember: buying supports cruel mills and irresponsible breeding, but adopting saves lives.

Preparing for the New Kitten

You’ll need supplies  to set up a “base camp” for your kitten. Especially if you have other pets at home, a “safe” room for the kitten is essential. This can be any a room, such as a spare bedroom or bathroom, or even a large dog crate, where the kitten will spend its first days in its new home. You’ll need: litterbox, kitty litter, and scooper to clean the box; food (preferably wet food), and bowls (glass or lead-free ceramic are best); toys; comb and brush;  bed (a fluffy towel or blanket will work); toys; and a scratching post. Other items that will come in handy are a carrier, breakaway cat collar, and identification tag.

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You’ll also need to kitten-proof the base camp area, and eventually the whole house. Put “child-proof” electric plug protectors in all unused outlets. Remove breakable items from shelves and tables, or secure them with mounting putty (you’ll be amazed how fast and how high a kitten can jump or climb, and grateful that you took precautions!). Cover exposed wires with foam pipe insulation, or wipe with hot chili or Tabasco sauce, to prevent chewing. Remove slatted furniture such as chairs to prevent the kitten from getting his head caught. Tie  up blind and curtain cords, and clean up string, ribbon, rubber bands, hair ties, twisties, paper clips, tacks, and other small items that could be swallowed. Be extremely cautious when using a recliner: make sure you know where the kitten is before getting up—too many kittens have been injured or killed by the mechanism. Store house cleaning products, insecticides, etc., out of reach; if needed, install child-proof latches on cabinets. (And consider switching to eco- and kitten-safe household products if you haven’t already!)

Interacting with Your New Kitten

Kitten3Animal communicator Kate Solisti has some sage advice on how to get to know your kitten and establish “house rules” to make life peaceful and fun:

Using mother cat’s communication techniques will work best. From birth until weaning, Mother is everything. She is definitely “She-who-must-be-obeyed,” as well as the source of food and love. But you are now “Mother Cat,” and for a few golden days or weeks, if you’re lucky, your kitten will pay attention to you and want to learn from you. If you make the most of this precious time, you’ll have a loving relationship for life!

When you first bring your kitten home, give her lots of contact. Quiet yourself and get into a loving, soft space with your kitten. Pet her face, starting on the side and sweeping down her body. This is how Mother Cat grooms. Pay attention to the whole face and think how mother cat would lick her kitten.  Now your kitten clearly knows who you are!

Mother cat communicates clearly and decisively, and always with love and clarity. She never punishes. In fact, physical punishment is never appropriate! (Find out why here!) If your kitten gets into plants, or places you don’t want her to, it makes no sense from her perspective if you yell, which will scare her, or just say “no” without demonstrating what “no” means.

When a kitten goes somewhere she’s not supposed to, Mother cat picks him up and moves him. If you want to mimic Mother cat, gently pick your kitten up by the scruff and calmly take her to where she should be. Put her down and pet her face to tail to let her know that this is where she’s supposed to be.Note:Scruffing should only be used when they are younger than about 10 weeks old. After that, it’s offensive for them to be “treated like a baby!” (But you can make an exception in an emergency if you need to hold or move the cat immediately.)

This is very effective if she is clawing her way up the sofa, drapes or your pant leg. In fact, kittens get the message very quickly that this is NOT okay behavior. Of course, you must provide a scratching post or other alternative, because all cats will scratch. And don’t even think about declawing! (Why not?Find out here!)

Polite Introductions

Kitten2Your kitten should be isolated from other animals at first; but if you have other pets, eventually you’ll want to introduce them. There’s a right way–and dozens of wrong ways–to accomplish this!

If kitty’s base camp has a door, keep it closed, but allow both the kitten and other pets can sniff at each other under the door. Feed kitten and the other pets on opposite sides of the door, as close  as possible without anyone getting upset or stressed. This establishes an association between all the pets and something good—food!

It’s great to exchange bedding between the kitten and other pets, or rub a towel on the kitten and allow the others to smell it, and vice versa. This way they become familiar with each others’ scents–without the chances for a disastrous physical encounter. You can also change places—resident animal(s) in the kitten’s room, and let kitten explore the rest of the home.

The introduction process may take several weeks. It’s vital that you do not rush it. Let the animals tell you when they’re ready for the next step–usually when all the hissing or growling stops. During this period, give the resident pets a lot of extra love and attention, so they don’t feel like their social status is threatened by the new addition.

When the animals all feel comfortable, crack open the door to base camp just a little bit, and let them to see each other. Or, put the kitten in a carrier and bring it out so the others can see. With cats, expect some hissing and growling at each step; it’s perfectly natural. Do this a few times a day. If any animal seems hostile or aggressive, go back to the previous step, and proceed more slowly.

Once things simmer down, it’s time to let the kitten out.

If you have a dog, leash it when the kitten is out and about. Most dogs are fine, but occasionally a bouncing, small, furry kitten will trigger the hunting instinct in even the most placid dog. Please understand that you are not fast enough to stop a tragedy, so never allow that situation to occur. Reward the dog for calm, non-aggressive behavior with plenty of praise and treats; this helps the dog associate the kitten with good things.

For the first few weeks, until you are confident in all the animals’ behavior, separate them from the kitten when you are unable to supervise them (when you are out, or sleeping).

(For more details, see our articles Cat-to-Cat Introductions and Cat-to-Dog Introductions.)

Veterinary Care

Kittens need special care from your veterinarian; deworming and tests for infectious diseases such as feline leukemia and FIV (feline AIDS) before meeting resident cats.

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Vaccination is controversial, and guidelines have changed. It is no longer necessary to give annual vaccines; but kittens need core vaccines such as distemper (panleukopenia) and rabies to protect them from these fatal diseases. Most kittens do not need leukemia, FIP, or FIV vaccines. Shelters typically give the first panleukopenia vaccine. Talk to your vet about which vaccines are appropriate, and on what schedule. Vaccines should be given one at a time, at least two weeks apart. (See our article onVaccination for more information.)

If your kitten is not already microchipped, please have this done. Even if you aren’t planning to let your kitten outside, accidents and escapes happen! A microchip is “cheap insurance” that lasts a lifetime. Ideally, have the chip placed slightly off midline to avoid acupuncture meridians, and give a dose of homeopathic Ledum 30C afterward to prevent an adverse reaction.

And finally, if your kitten is not already sterilized, please spay or neuter! It’s better for health reasons as well as to curb pet overpopulation

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