Sunday, February 03, 2013

New kitten becomes

rambunctious at night

Paws & Claws

Jill Bowen has practiced veterinary medicine in England and Texas. She lives in Blacksburg now, and answers local pet owners' questions every week in The Roanoke Times and roanoke.com.

Recent columns

Q. We have a new kitten that is into everything especially at night, when she rushes round the house and bounces on us in bed.

She is due to be spayed soon. Will this change her personality?

-Pip, by email

A. In many cases spaying or neutering a cat may resolve some behavior problems, and as your cat grows older, many of the more rambunctious habits will naturally wane as the cat becomes more docile and quieter.

Shutting the bedroom doors at night will stop the bed-bouncing problem, but expect her to scratch and meow at the closed doors for the first night or two.

Do not weaken and open the door.

She will soon realize that bedrooms are off-limits once you have gone to bed.

If she is causing havoc in the rest of the house by climbing the curtains, knocking over ornaments, etc., then I suggest that you confine her either to a cat-proof room, or to a small cage with a cozy bed and a small supply of food and water. I advocate spaying females at 4 to 6 months of age, before they have come into season for the first time, reducing the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.

There are other benefits from spaying and castrating; on average, cats that have been neutered live longer and healthier lives.

Mammary cancer in cats is nearly always highly malignant, and spaying, which removes the ovaries, reduces the chances of a cat developing a mammary growth to virtually zero.

This also applies to the chance of a cat developing a serious or even potentially fatal uterine infection, as the uterus, like the ovaries, will have been removed at surgery.

There is one caveat: An altered cat is likely to be a little less active than an intact cat and so may need to have its dietary needs monitored to prevent obesity.

Q. I have a very sad story, our lovely little year-old cat recently had a litter of kittens, some were born dead and the remainder only lived a short while.

I thought cats were very easy breeders and wonder what was the problem. They all looked quite normal.

- G.McC, by email

A. There are many conditions that can lead to the death of newborn kittens, especially in a first litter, where the queen is inexperienced.

First-litter queens may neglect the newborn kittens by failing to remove the fetal membranes in a timely fashion and licking the kitten to stimulate breathing, as well as nudging the kittens to suckle.

The inexperienced queen may be unwilling to let them suckle and may not realize that one or more kittens are left out in the cold, where they can quickly become hypothermic and die.

It is essential that the queen be provided with the right conditions at kittening.

Some queens like to be left alone in a dark spot to give birth, a cozy warm bed in the bottom of a cupboard with no human interaction.

Others prefer to be constantly encouraged by their owners and are happy to have help with membrane removal and stimulation of the newborn.

Many congenital problems may occur in cats - particularly in inbreeding pedigree cats, a practice commonly used to try and stabilize certain traits. Viral disease can be a significant factor as a cause of neonatal death.

Many years ago, Glasgow University showed that feline leukemia virus causes fading kitten syndrome. The same is true of the panleukopenia virus, as well as several feline respiratory viruses. Most cats are vaccinated against these viruses, so cats that are up-to-date on their vaccines will likely not have any problems.

At one time it was suggested that neonatal death and fading kittens was due to a common E. coli bacterial infection, but that is no longer thought to be the case.

Bacterial infections can occasionally occur either from the mother's licking or from dirty surroundings.

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