Guidelines For New Kitten Owners

The first few months of a kitten’s life are very important for both you and your kitten. As well as learning proper behaviour and being socialised, there are some important health needs to attend to.

1. Vaccinations

Your kitten should receive a number of vaccinations depending on the age of your kitten and the type of vaccine used. Typically, vaccination programs start at 6-8 weeks of age for feline flu and enteritis. Boosters are given at approximately 4 to 6 week intervals until the kitten is 18 to 20 weeks of age. Annual vaccination is recommended to keep antibody levels high throughout life.

Vaccinating your kitten against Feline AIDS is also recommended if your cat is going to spend any time outdoors. Feline AIDS is unfortunately far too prevalent in Melbourne and there is no cure.

2. Intestinal worming

Many kittens are born with worms. Since roundworm can cause illness in humans, especially children, kittens need to be wormed every 2 weeks from 2 to 12 weeks of age, then monthly to 6 months, then at 3 monthly intervals afterwards.

3. Heartworm

Heartworm prevention is not 100% necessary for cats in Melbourne.

4. Fleas

Flea control is important from a young age, as a few fleas can end in plague-proportions in a couple of weeks! Fleas also carry tapeworm eggs, which infect puppies as they chew at and swallow the fleas. There are many different flea control preparations, not all of which are suitable for young kittens.

5. Nutrition

Good nutrition is vital at this age when bones are quickly growing. A kitten diet is required as it contains the right balance of nutrients, significantly calcium, and a good quality diet means it is readily digestible (undigested food results in soft, smelly faeces, and also flatulence). There are many different brands of premium pet foods.

Did you know that 80% of cats at three years of age have irreversible gum disease. You can prevent this, by making sure your kitten is chewing regularly from an early age.

Guidelines For New Puppy Owners

The first few months of a puppy’s life are very important for both you and your puppy. As well as learning proper behaviour and being socialised, there are some important health needs to attend to.

1. Vaccinations

Your puppy should receive a number of vaccinations depending on the age of your puppy and the type of vaccine used. Typically, vaccination programs start at 6-8 weeks of age, and boosters are given at approximately 4 to 6 week intervals until the puppy is 18 to 20 weeks of age. Annual vaccination is recommended to keep antibody levels high throughout life.

2. Intestinal worming

Many puppies are born with worms. Since roundworm can cause illness in humans, especially children, puppies need to be wormed every 2 weeks from 2 to 12 weeks of age, then monthly to 6 months, then at 3 monthly intervals afterwards.

3. Heartworm

Heartworm prevention usually starts at 3 months of age and is available as a daily or monthly tablet or chewable, or as a monthly ‘topspot’ application (a small amount of liquid applied between the shoulder blades).
There is now a once-a-year heartworm preventative available from your veterinarian that gives your dog 12 months protection from heartworm disease in one dose. The new Once-A-Year injection is administered by your vet and can be used in all dogs from 3 months of age.

4. Fleas

Flea control is important from a young age, as a few fleas can end in plague-proportions in a couple of weeks! Fleas also carry tapeworm eggs, which infect puppies as they chew at and swallow the fleas. There are many different flea control preparations, not all of which are suitable for young puppies.

5. Nutrition

Good nutrition is vital at this age when bones are quickly growing. A puppy diet is required as it contains the right balance of nutrients, significantly calcium, and a good quality diet means it is readily digestible (undigested food results in soft, smelly faeces, and also flatulence). There are many different brands of premium pet foods. Large breeds of dogs have specific nutritional requirements during the rapid growth phase, so large breed puppy diets are recommended for these dogs.

Night frights with New Pups

The first few days with a new pup can be a nightmare and particularly trying to get the little hair-ball to sleep through the night.

Getting some sleep

How do you do it? Do you ‘tough love’ the pup and force it to stay in the laundry or outside or do you ‘spoil the pup’ and let it sleep inside, knowing that’s not what you really want?

Let’s look at it from the pup’s perspective. All it has known is its mum, its litter mates and the people who tenderly bred the little wriggler.

As total strangers, you whisk the pup away from the comfort of its litter and throw it into hostile territory – and you expect it to be happy???

Spoil the pup and let it sleep inside!!! Worry not, as you can always get it to sleep outside later.

The first nights

The first priority is to get the pup acquainted with its new home and your new routines but, above all, to make it settled and happy. That’s why you let it sleep inside.

Human company is the important ingredient, so let the pup sleep in your bedroom for the first few nights.

Perhaps you can put the pup in a cage or crate beside your bed. Maybe you can barricade it into a corner of your bedroom or perhaps you can borrow a baby’s play pen to house the pup at night.

The pup will settle more quickly if it eats a meal just before bed and has a comfortable basket or box to sleep in.

Use the ‘Sock-it-to-em’ principle. Mimic its mum’s heartbeat by placing a ticking clock (not easy to get nowadays) in its box and then make it a ‘virtual litter mate’. Get one of your smelly socks. Fill a second sock with a cup of raw rice that you have heated to a safe temperature in the microwave. Place it and several other old socks inside the smelly one and leave this virtual pup with your little buddy to mimic a litter mate. Make sure the rice-sock is not too hot and is seated deep inside the virtual pup.

Alternatively, you can purchase plush toys that have a beating, ticking heart for your pup to snuggle up to.

Conditioning to its night-time abode

Having weathered the first few nights, now we need to move the pooch to its permanent night-time abode. This we do progressively and with a smattering of science to help the process.

Say you want the pup to sleep in your laundry at night. The first task is to make the pup love the laundry. Let’s make the laundry into its ‘Den’.

To do this, associate all the pup’s peak joys in life with the laundry. For instance, feed the pup in the laundry. As you will be feeding it four times a day, that gives the hair-ball plenty of practice to learn to love the laundry.

Better still, feed the pup in unusual ways. Try hiding some food inside a toilet roll core or under an empty plant pot so the pup has to steam-clean his little brain working out how to get to the food.

While it is eating, lock the pup inside the laundry with its food so that the joy of the food is linked with being confined. Once this happy association has started, try putting the pup in the laundry for longer times during the day but don’t expect too much at the start.

If it is noisy, use the ‘Progressive Praise Technique’ to control the noise. At the very first squeak, tap the closed door of the laundry and instruct your pup to be QUIET, but don’t be too gruff.

This should ‘buy’ you five seconds of silence. Praise the pup through the closed door and that should buy you a longer quiet time of, say, 15 seconds. Now reward this longer time with more praise by opening the door and giving the pup a brief cuddle. Close the door once more and if the pup is quiet for a further 15 seconds, then let it out as a reward.

As the pup learns, make the confinement times longer. In no time at all, you should be able to put the pup in the laundry overnight.

Pheromone fun

Next, use the settling science of furry pheromones to help. The Dog Appeasing Pheromone is available from your vet and is a wonderful way of helping a pup to acclimatise to a new home.

The Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) is a synthetic equivalent of the pheromones released from the pup’s mum. These pheromones bond the pup to the mum when the pup is only seven days old and the effect follows into adult life. The DAP is a convenient plug-in diffuser. Place it in a power-point where the pup sleeps and the pup should bond to that area quickly.

Don’t forget to have your pup checked by your vet to ensure he or she is fit and healthy. You can also get the latest advice on worming, vaccination schedules, flea and tick treatments and join a puppy pre-school class as soon as the first vaccination is given. Here you will learn the tools to set your pup up for a happy, harmonious life with your family.

Is your house Pet Safe?

Young puppies and kittens can be very mischievous and inquisitive. Before you bring home your new pet you should make sure your house is as safe as possible.

1. Store any household poisons, such as cleaning agents and detergents, where your pet will not be able to access them.

2. When using rat or mouse baits, cockroach traps or snail baits, make sure they are placed in areas that are inaccessible to your animals.

3. Some indoor plants can be poisonous to your pet and should be kept out of reach or in a room you can close off. Your vet can give you a complete list.

4. Store any insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers in a secure area. When using any of these products in your garden, make sure your pet is safely inside until the area dries and always read the instructions first.

5. Car products, such as oil, anti-freeze and petrol can be deadly to your pet. Keep them out of reach.

6. Medications should be stored safely in a locked cupboard. Human medications, such as painkillers and cold medicines, should never be given to your pet and can be potentially lethal even in small doses.

7. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs and cats. Never leave unattended or offer as a treat. Also keep cigarettes, coffee and alcohol away from your pets, and make sure your garbage is safe from being rifled through. Spoiled foods, plastic bags or sharp objects can be dangerous.

8. Check the placement of objects such as lamps and any electrical appliances that can be pulled over or off a high place onto your pet. Puppies and kittens love to play with anything hanging, like dangling cords and fringes from tablecloths. They also like to chew, so check any electrical cords that may be fayed and could shock your pet.

9. Puppies and kittens may get tangled or hang themselves in cords hanging from blinds. Cut them short or keep them tightly wrapped up.

10. Keep breakable objects out of harms way and small objects that can be swallowed, especially by puppies.