BRINGING A NEW KITTEN HOME
Bringing a new kitten home is exciting. The following guidelines will help you and your kitten adjust to this big change in your lives.
Kittens can leave their mother and littermates after they have been weaned, usually at 8 to 10 weeks of age. Like human babies, kittens require special care, including veterinary care, feeding, and socialization. The best time to bring a kitten home is when you have at least 1 or 2 days to focus on helping him or her adjust to new surroundings.
To safely transport your new kitten home, you’ll need a carrier. Leaving mom is a big deal for your kitten; a carrier will help him or her feel more secure. Don’t use another pet’s carrier because its smell could be stressful to your kitten. Place a towel in the carrier for warmth and to absorb urine in case of an accident. Carry an extra towel.
Before your kitten has contact with other cats, he or she must be tested for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus, given a physical examination, tested and treated for parasites, and vaccinated. This will prevent the spread of a disease or parasites to other pets. If you have other pets, talk to your veterinarian about how to introduce your kitten to them.
Before you bring your kitten home, prepare a small room or space that will be his or her own for the first few days or weeks. Having a smaller area to explore at first will help your kitten get comfortable with his or her new home. Cats don’t like to eat next to the litterbox, so place the litterbox on one side of the room and the food and water dishes on the other. Make sure that your kitten can get in and out of the litterbox without help; it might be necessary to provide a litterbox with low sides. To help your kitten feel secure, make sure that the room has hiding places. If there isn’t furniture to hide beneath, place cardboard boxes on their sides or cut doorways into them. Providing a warm, comfortable bed is essential. You can purchase a pet bed or line a box with something soft; using a sweatshirt that you’ve worn will help your kitten get used to your scent.
When you bring your kitten home, put the carrier in the room you’ve prepared. Open the carrier door, but let your kitten come out when he or she is ready. After your kitten comes out, leave the carrier in the corner as another hiding place. Every day, scoop out the litterbox and provide fresh food and water.
Your kitten may hide at first, but he or she will explore when no one is watching, becoming more comfortable with his or her new home. Your kitten will likely want plenty of attention from you—you’re his or her new mother/littermate!
After your kitten has been to your veterinarian, becomes comfortable in his or her room, and develops a regular routine of eating, drinking, and using the litterbox, you can let him or her venture into the rest of your house. At this point, you need to make sure that your kitten stays safe and has enough privacy to eat, sleep, and use the litterbox. Keep your kitten’s bed, litterbox, and food/water dishes in the same place so that he or she knows where to find them.
Kittens receive some immunity (protection against disease) from their mothers at birth and through nursing. Because this immunity slowly wears off, kittens should be vaccinated against various diseases on a schedule, beginning at 2 to 3 months of age. Ask your veterinarian for details.
Intestinal parasites are common in kittens. Fecal examinations and treatments (dewormings) are usually repeated until two consecutive fecal examinations have negative results. External parasites (fleas, ticks, and mites) are treated with products approved for use on kittens.
Kittens should be spayed or neutered by 6 months of age. This helps to control pet overpopulation and reduces the chance of behavior problems and some medical conditions.
Proper nutrition is especially important for kittens, which need two to three times as many calories and nutrients as adult cats. A mother cat’s milk provides everything a kitten needs during the first 4 weeks of life. Cow’s milk should never be given to kittens or cats because it can give them diarrhea. Most kittens are completely weaned between 8 and 10 weeks of age. At 6 to 7 weeks of age, kittens should be able to chew dry food. Feed a name-brand kitten food with the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement on the bag or labeluntil your kitten is approximately 9 to 12 months old. When your kitten is 3 to 6 months old, feed him or her three times per day. When your kitten is 6 months old, start feeding twice daily.
Cats learn how to socialize with each other from their mother and littermates; therefore, if possible, kittens should remain with their mother and/or littermates until they are about 10 weeks old. Kittens that have human contact before they are 10 to 12 weeks old are more likely to interact well with people throughout their lives. Handling and playing with your kitten can help you bond with him or her. Feral (wild) cats haven’t been socialized with people as kittens and may fear and avoid people throughout their lives. Your kitten should be gradually introduced to other pets with care and supervision. Ask your veterinarian for advice on the best way to do this.
Enjoy your new kitten, and let your veterinarian know if you have any questions.
ADRENAL GLAND DISEASE IN FERRETS
Adrenal gland disease usually affects adult ferrets (older than 2 years).
What Causes Adrenal Gland Disease in Ferrets?
Adrenal gland disease is, unfortunately, a common disease of pet ferrets in the United States. Most affected ferrets are older than 2 years. While the exact cause of this condition has not been determined, it is believed that spaying and neutering ferrets at an early age plays a role. This is problematic because failing to spay females can result in life-threatening illness, while neutering males reduces odor and aggression. Removal of the testes or ovaries removes hormonal influences that appear to affect the adrenal gland. In the absence of these influences, the adrenal glands may overproduce several sex hormones, causing a variety of clinical signs. In some cases, the overactive gland can eventually become cancerous. Genetics may also play a role in the development of adrenal gland disease.
What Are the Clinical Signs?
The most common sign associated with this condition is hair loss, particularly on the tail, hips, and shoulders. Some ferrets may become extremely itchy, and some have an oily appearance to the fur. Female ferrets may develop swelling of the vulva and, occasionally, a discharge. Behavioral changes such as increased aggression are also sometimes observed.
In male ferrets, the prostate may become enlarged, resulting in difficulty urinating. This is an emergency situation. If you have a male ferret that is straining to urinate, veterinary care is required immediately.
Ferrets with any of the conditions listed above could have an adrenal gland problem and should be examined by a veterinarian.
How Is the Problem Diagnosed?
Adrenal gland disease can be diagnosed by measuring hormone levels in a sample of the ferret’s blood. If the hormone levels are elevated above normal, adrenal gland disease is present. Another way to diagnose this problem is with abdominal ultrasound. The ultrasound exam is a noninvasive way of visualizing the internal organs. It allows the veterinarian to determine which adrenal gland may be affected as well as whether there are obvious abnormalities in other abdominal organs. Exploratory surgery, which is performed based on the history, clinical symptoms, and physical examination, is another means of identifying enlarged adrenal glands or masses.
How Are Ferrets Treated for Adrenal Gland Disease?
Several options are available for the treatment of adrenal gland disease. Surgical removal of the affected gland is the preferred treatment. Surgery allows direct inspection of both adrenal glands as well as the other internal organs. If abnormalities are noted in one or both adrenal glands, the glands can be removed, and other abnormalities can be investigated or addressed at the same time. The left adrenal gland can typically be removed without complication. The right adrenal gland lies very close to a major blood vessel called the caudal vena cava, making removal more difficult. For right-sided adrenal gland disease, more advanced surgical techniques may be needed. While surgery is curative in most ferrets, it is important to know that in some cases, an adrenal mass may recur, or grow back.
Hormone therapy can also be employed in treating adrenal problems. The hormone leuprolide acetate (Lupron) is commonly used. Leuprolide mimics the effects of a hormone called GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone). This ultimately causes the body to stop producing GnRH, thus decreasing stimulation of the adrenal glands. Lupron is usually given as one injection every 6 to 8 weeks. While leuprolide controls the signs of adrenal gland disease, it does not modify a diseased adrenal gland or prevent tumor development. Even with regular Lupron injections, an enlarged adrenal gland may continue to grow or become a tumor.
A newer treatment, similar to Lupron injection, is the deslorelin acetate (Suprelorin) implant. Like leuprolide, deslorelin mimics GnRH and blocks adrenal stimulation. The advantage of deslorelin over leuprolide is that the implant lasts for up to 2 years in the average ferret. Additionally, there is some evidence that deslorelin can shrink adrenal tumors or slow their development.
If your ferret has any of the signs listed above, or if you have questions about adrenal gland disease, please consult a veterinarian with experience treating exotic pets.
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