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Taking your New Kitten Home

Birmans have wonderful characters. They are loving, gentle, adaptable creatures and will fit into virtually any household.  Taking home your new kitten should be a very rewarding experience and to help ensure this, some careful preparation is essential.

It is always difficult to wait for your new kitten to arrive, especially if this is your first.  However there are a number of items that you will need:

A carrying basket.
Before collecting your kitten you should buy a cat carrier, it is not safe to carry a kitten loose in the car.  This will also be essential for visits to the vets, transporting to boarding catteries and taking to cat shows.  Make sure that it is large enough to accommodate the kitten when it is an adult, draught proof and can be easily disinfected if any accidents occur.  Various types are available from good pet shops or cat shows.  Collapsible cardboard box types are not advisable, and should be used only in an emergency.

It is not necessary to buy an expensive basket that may be rejected in favour of a cardboard box from your supermarket.  It is however essential to keep your new kitten warm and preferably quite, so choose a suitable place where the sleeping basket / box can be placed permanently. Blankets or bedding which are washable such as Vetbed should be placed in the basket / box and left in the chosen spot and will quickly become the kittens sleeping place.  Whatever you choose make sure that it is draught proof, large enough for the cat to stretch out in when it’s an adult, and enclosed on three sides for cosiness and sense of security, the hooded types fit this requirement nicely.

These should be made of an easily cleaned and reasonably sturdy material. A rubber mat or tray will keep the feeding area clean, as some spillage is inevitable.  Each cat should have its own bowl, with a separate bowl for fresh water.  As with the bedding, select a permanent position where the kitten can eat undisturbed.

Litter Tray.
This is a vital piece of equipment whether your cat has access to the outdoors or not, and should be made of a material that is easily cleaned and disinfected.  As a cat is a creature of habit, the tray should be kept in the same place.  The hooded types are advisable as it will keep the litter from being scattered around the room, and the hood can be removed for easy cleaning.  Various types of litter are available from pet shops, although it is advisable to use the same type as the breeder in the initial weeks until the kitten becomes accustomed to its new home.

Scratching post.
This provides an alternative to your furnishings for the cat to exercise its claws.  Some cat owners erect elaborate climbing frames with posts and platforms which give the cat plenty of exercise.  But simply for scratching, a straightforward post is quite adequate, which may be covered in rough bark or rope (preferably not carpet as this can encourage the use of carpet for sharpening claws elsewhere in the house) mounted on a heavy wooden base.

A Vet.
If this is your first cat, then it is advisable to find a vet now before the kitten arrives home.  Ask your friends who already have cats for their advice, and recommendations.

Your kitten will be around thirteen weeks old by the time it can be collected.  This is because it will have had a course of two injections against Feline Infectious Enteritis and Cat Flu, normally at nine and twelve weeks.  Therefore unless it has a reaction to the injection, it can leave home 7 days after the second course.  Aim to collect your kitten when it can be given as much attention as possible, such as on a weekend or during a holiday.  Avoid a long journey in hot weather, as for the sake of both safety and comfort, the cat should be transported in a carrier which can become stuffy.  Make sure that it is not fed just before the journey.  Before you leave the breeder is the time to clarify any questions you may have, although all good breeders are more than happy to offer help and advise over the phone.

Before you leave make sure the breeder provides you with and discusses with you the kitten’s pedigree, a GCCF transfer form, vaccination certificate, a diet sheet describing the feeding times and food the kitten has been used too, and finally a sales receipt.

Kittens are best confined to one room until they have gained confidence. Make sure all windows and doors are shut, and the litter tray and water are available.  Avoid the presence of too many people and distracting noise.  Likewise if there are any other animals in the house, keep them separated in another room for now.  Make sure children are quite and gentle with the new kitten and show them the correct way to handle them.  Toddlers too young to understand how to treat a cat are best kept out of the way until the kitten has settled in.  After the excitement of exploration is over, show the kitten its bedding. In all probability it will jump out and continue playing, but knowing where its bed is will be reassuring.

It is advisable with other animals in the house, to rotate shutting them and the kitten in so that they can all get used to the new smells. Postpone the introduction until the next day when they are both hungry and feed them together using separate bowls.  Be prepared for some resentment, most cats and dogs will accept a young kitten after showing some initial displeasure, which may last for up to two or three weeks.

Any sign of illness should be taken seriously, but a temporary loss of appetite may just be the stress of changing homes and should not last more than the first day.  If you have any worries, contact the breeder, or seek veterinary advice.

Reference to the diet sheet supplied by the breeder will avoid upsets to the kitten, and any changes should be made gradually.  All food should be served at room temperature and not left down for long periods, especially in warm weather.  Often it is a good idea to lift un-eaten food, and leave down dry food of a type recommended by the breeder.  Kittens have small stomachs and need small, varied, frequent meals.  Four meals a day at three months, dropping to three a day at about six or seven months, during this period the size of the meal will increase from one to approximately four tablespoons per meal.  At around one year old two meals a day should be sufficient.

Pet foods.
The safest and probably the easiest way to feed your cat, that will mimic its natural diet is to use one of the formulated proprietary foods.  Of these, canned food is the most popular, and those produced by reputable manufactures are adequate for all cats, with special foods provided for kittens. However, be careful to read the label, as some tinned food may not be nutritionally complete, and should be used only as a treat.  Beware of the temptation of giving your kitten canned dog food; this may contain large amounts of cereals and vegetables and as a result, not enough animal protein.

Giving too much of certain fish can be nutritionally dangerous, as oily fish, particularly Tuna, is rich in Polyunsaturated fats, which can cause a serious vitamin E deficiency.  Occasional treats of boned cooked Coley or other white fish, Sardines and Pilchards will all however be enjoyed.

It is usually best to cook fresh meat, as raw foods can contain harmful substances.  Cats, however will enjoy an occasional treat of raw minced beef or lamb, provided it is suitable for human consumption.  Chicken, beef, heart and liver are all good meats to offer.

This is not tolerated by many kittens and cats, although it is a good source of calcium.  They cannot digest the milk sugar lactose, which passes into the large intestine and ferments causing gas and diarrhoea.  The surest way of providing enough calcium is to add to the meat the correct amount of sterilized bone meal supplement (not gardeners bone meal) or a proprietary substitute such as Stress.  Occasional small amounts of evaporated milk and cheese will be accepted.

Scrambled eggs, cooked whole eggs or raw yolks (no whites which destroy vitamin B), provide valuable protein.

Yeast tablets are a good provider of vitamin B. A general vitamin supplement and some butter or sunflower margarine are good for the cat’s coat.

Birmans thrive on companionship and if you are going to be out at work all day they can become very lonely.  Two kittens, either from the same litter or another litter of a similar age, or even a moggy friend, is an excellent idea.  Provide plenty of toys for your kitten to play with.  These should not have small parts or string which could become detached and cause a serious choking hazard.

This is always a difficult decision for any new owner.  If you do decide to let it have its freedom, do not let it out for at least two weeks to ensure that it is completely settled.  Then let it out gradually with you in the garden for short periods only, lengthening the time over the coming weeks, will enable the kitten to become comfortable with its new surroundings.  Never let a kitten or cat stay out at night as this is the most dangerous time for accidents.  If its last feed is at 6.00pm, the kitten should be kept in after this time and a lifetime habit will be formed.  If you have a cat door installed, it is a good idea to have a block fitted to stop the kitten getting out at night.  The decision to let your kitten out must vary according to your location; it would not be advisable to let your kitten out if you live next to a busy road.  An alternative would be to build a large wired run in the garden, with a shelter and climbing apparatus, or logs for exercise.

Checks should be carried out as part of the regular grooming. Look for cleanliness of the ears, no tear duct problems in the eyes, make sure there is no tartar build-up, or redness around the teeth.  Ensure that the vaccination boosters are kept up to date; claws may be clipped but never declawed.  The coat should be checked for any unwanted guests or injuries.

The golden rule in the case of illness is to contact your vet, do not wait to see “how the kitten is in the morning”, for it may be too late, kittens can become very sick very quickly.

The kitten should be wormed for roundworm after about three months in its new home, or on the advise of the breeder, giving a second dose about fourteen days later.

Un-neutered males will tend to stray away from home, and entire females will become vocal when they start calling (coming into season).  If you have not purchased your cat as a stud or breeding queen, then the ideal age for neutering a male is six to eight months, and spaying of a female at about eight months. Always go on the advise of your vet as to the correct age for your kitten.

Many house plants are poisonous to cats, along with many household cleaners and disinfectants such as TCP, Iodine, Dettol, Jeyes Fluid and Lysol.  Much safer are Savlon, Milton, Shield and diluted Domestos.Other hazards in the house are open windows on the first floor, unprotected fires, chimneys, cookers, unprotected flexes and open electrical appliances such as fridges, tumble driers and washing machines.

Original Document written by Alistair Balharrie
Updated by Teresa Cole