Potential owners need to do some homework before it's safe to say 'hello kitty'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 August, 2011, 12:00am


Cute animals, more often than not, can grab the attention of would-be pet owners, but they can sometimes be difficult to rear. Kittens can be active, but can also be solitary and shy.

Before you go home with a fluffy feline under your arm, there are some home safety issues that may need to be addressed.

The SPCA says the apartment should be safe, and installing wire mesh to windows, especially if you live in a high rise, can prevent the kitten from falling out.

Also, it is advised to choose a quiet corner to put the cat litter box, food and water bowl so the kitten will feel safe and secure while eating.

'[Pet owners] should find out what diet the kitten is used to and give it that for at least one week while it settles into your home.

'If you would like to offer a different type of food, a slow transition over several days is necessary to prevent stomach upsets,' says Jane Gray, chief veterinary surgeon of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Hong Kong.

She adds that kittens should be fed commercial cat food three to four times a day.

Homemade food or other kinds of pet food are not good and can even be dangerous as they don't not give the kitten the nutritional balance it needs.

Cats are carnivorous but, unlike dogs, cannot synthesise taurine, a compound essential for the development of the retina, muscles and nervous system. Cats can only absorb this nutrient with amino acid arachidonic and vitamin A from its own food.

Dog food, on the other hand, does not contain enough arginine which can result in salivation, ataxia and even death if fed to a cat regularly. Kittens need two doses of a combined vaccine to stay healthy.

'The first is to be given at nine weeks old and the second at 12 to 13-weeks,' says Rebecca Ngan, public relations and communications manager, SPCA.

'Vaccines prevent feline coryza, influenza and cat plague.

'A booster should be given every year so it's advisable that pet owners take kittens to a vet for an annual check-up.' To prevent aggressive behaviour towards other cats, kittens should be neutered at about six months old. The operation can be done anytime after reaching sexual maturity, but the longer it is left the more difficult it is to alter the pet's behaviour. Unwanted behaviour patterns can include roaming, being aggressive to other males and marking territory by spraying urine.

Neutering kittens will not only make them even tempered, but also healthier as aggressive behaviour can cause feline leukaemia, a virus that can be transmitted through close contact.

Neutering can also prevent breast cancer. Some pet owners believe cats should produce one litter before being spayed.

However, there is no scientific research to support the benefits of this.

Some species of cats are trainable, including the Norwegian Forest Cat and Maine Coon, but most are solitary and cannot be trained.

Fostered kittens will be more independent and comfortable once they familiarise themselves with their new home. It is also necessary to let kittens get along with other family members and pets.

'One trick is to feed each pet on opposite sides of a closed door. They will smell and hear each other,' Gray says. 'Avoid face-to-face confrontations.'

It is unnecessary to take them out. 'Cats are vigilant, they can sniff around but taking them out is a waste of time.

You cannot force your kitten to move if it does not want to,' says cat-lover Cheung Ka-yan.

A kitten costs from few hundred dollars to more than HK$2,000. 'I think it is better to adopt a kitten. You don't have to pay, but you will save a life,' Cheung says.