God only gives you as many kittys as you can handle
October 9, 2012 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Bequeathed a feral adorbs kitten. Will be arriving tonight. My two cats and angrycat have some questions for the wise ones.

Right, so, a student is giving me a kitten under somewhat emergency-for-the-kitten conditions (kittens outside, hungry as hell, student's father won't let her have cats). Kitteh is six weeks old.

I have two other cats. One is not a problem but the other is FREAKED OUT by random things and will sometimes go into attack mode (clipping her claws leaves me bloody every time, e.g.). She's a pretty big cat.

So, I know I need to get kitteh to the vet asap for all of her shots and a thorough check-up. Do I need to keep her segregated from the other cats prior to going to the vet?

Do six-week old kittens need a special diet?

Are there any good cat-whisper techniques for consoling the other cats, who are going to be startled as hell?

Uh -- anything else to worry about?
posted by angrycat to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My very limited experience is that cats that have not had regular food when young will subsequently forever eat until all of the food is gone. So if you had cats that ate just what they needed and left the rest you will probably have to figure out how do it now that you will have a non-stop eater on your hands.
posted by srboisvert at 10:00 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

The standard advice when introducing a New Cat to Established Cats is that New Cat gets a room of his/her own, with litter box and water/food dishes in there, for the first week or two. Established Cats will figure out that New Cat is there readily enough (via smell and sound), but can "get used" to the presence of New Cat without being full-on confronted with the 100% New Cat experience. After the first week is over, New Cat and Established Cats can be in the same room, supervised at first, and maybe segregated at night for some more days.

This is the usual advice for introducing adult cats to each other. Adult cats are usually a little more tolerant of new kittens than they are of new adult cats, so you might be able to accelerate this schedule somewhat. And, of course, this assumes that your living space has enough rooms & doors to allow them to be segregated for long periods.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:02 AM on October 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

You should keep new-cat in a separate location, just in case she has any medical issues, also to keep everyone as chill as possible under the circumstances.

You'll probably want to add another litter box to your collection.

Manage new kitty introduction time slowly and one on one, until you see how everyone reacts and gets along.

Six weeks is pretty young to be away from Mom. Kitten food is the best for her. Ours loved Fancy Feast and gobbled it up and meowed for more. (Our two cats share a can, no sense in going nuts.) Kitten food is higher in fat and older cats LURVE it! So you might want to feed the little-one separately.

I don't think kitten milk from a bottle is necessary, but ask your vet.

As for the other kitties, lots of love, pets and play-time, well supervised until the baby is accepted into the family.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:04 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do I need to keep her segregated from the other cats prior to going to the vet?

Yes. She could have any number of things - from the inconvenient cold to the more inconvenient ringworm to the horrible feline leukemia. Keep her in a warm space with food and a little litterbox. At this age, she can probably manage kitten chow or canned food.

As for intros...my sister-in-law just introduced a new kitten to an established household of three adult cats. Everyone *really* wanted to meet after just a few days, and now the kitten is totally in charge of all the things, including the other cats, who have been very patient. YCMMV, as with all things cat.
posted by rtha at 10:09 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks guys. Another question? Student describes her as a 'rag doll' cat with big hair that is pretty matted and dirty. My cats are indoor cats, short haired, and bathing has never been an issue. Is there a good way to give a kitten a bath?

Y'all are awesome, and I promise to shower the thread with pictures.
posted by angrycat at 10:15 AM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

PLEASE monitor the other cats around new kitteh until you are SURE they are safe around each other.

My parents have an adorable one-eyed cat. It arrived as a two-eyed kitten into a home with two other cats, one of which got a hate-on for new kitty. They did the best they could to keep them separated but the one cat STALKED new kitty even tho they were keeping the bigger cat separated-she saw her chance and attacked, damaging an eye which then had to be removed.

Not saying this would happen with yours, but I would monitor this thread AND check with your vet AND stock some feliway.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:21 AM on October 9, 2012

Bathing an already terrified kitten is probably not going to go so well. I had to bathe a cat once. I still have the scars. Instead of a full-on bath, try wiping her down with a slightly damp washcloth, which mimics motherly cleaning. If there are mats in her fur, cut them out with scissors. She should take care of the rest on her own.

To add to what others are saying about quarantine, definitely don't let your cats anywhere near her until she passes her FeLV and FLV tests. After that, a baby gate can work well to separate the cats if it's taking a little longer to get them to behave around each other.
posted by zug at 10:31 AM on October 9, 2012

Yes, keep them separate for now. You can bathe a kitten in a sink with cat shampoo -- there are all sorts of odd things that are bad for cats, so only use something purpose-built. But I'd first try to wash it a few times with just water, which is likely to help. (When I bathed kittens, they were surprisingly okay with it. Use water that is body temperature. Keep watch on it afterwards to ensure it stays warm.) You can, very very very carefully, cut out mats. Feed the kitten kitten food, or even something like babycat food.

Once the kitten is cleared, you can follow normal cat introduction rules, modified as needed based on how the cats interact.
posted by jeather at 10:36 AM on October 9, 2012

Rag-Doll cats are sweet, mellow kitties, so mellow that you can schlep them around like rag-dolls.

If your new kitty enjoys being held, give her a test run at the sink by swiping her paw under running water (nice and warm for kitty.) If she seems cool with it, see if she'll deal with being submerged and then shampooed with special kitten no-more-tears.

You may want to see if she minds being furminated. A Furminator is an awesome tool. My little girl doesn't mind too much, my little boy HATES IT SOOOOO MUCH! Eat animal is different. The tool is spendy, but really worth it if your cats will take to it as you can remove enough fur for a sweater.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:45 AM on October 9, 2012

If you're taking the cat to the vet already, I'd let the vet deal with her fur. It might be easiest just to shave her completely and start over.
posted by something something at 10:54 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Medical: Check with your vet regarding their vac schedule, many vets will not start vaccinations until the kitten is 8 weeks old (although it's OK for most kittens to start at 6 weeks). She can also get a FeLV test done right away. An FIV test will have to wait until she is older: at this age, if the mother cat had FIV, the kitten can show a false positive for FIV. I'd keep the kitten quarantined from your older cats at least until her FeLV test comes back. Other common feral kitten medical issues are fleas, ear mites, intestinal worms and eye infections: the fleas and mites in particular can spread quickly to other cats so it's good to treat them before allowing your cats to share space with the kitten.

Kitty citizenship: Six weeks is very young to be separated from the mother so expect to have to step into that role a bit yourself by investing a lot of time with the kitten via play and socializing. She'll need Intro to Litter Box 101 because her age + being raised outdoors means she will likely have zero to very shaky understanding about the appropriate places to eliminate. Try to keep her confined to one room, one where her own litter box (no sharing at this stage) is within sight at all times. I've gotten around these two conflicting goals of 'keep kitten confined' and 'spend a lot of time with them' by wearing young kittens in the front pocket of a sweat jacket, kangaroo style. The bonus is the kitten will grow up into the most human-oriented cat you'll ever have. Also, it's hilarious when they try to stuff themselves back in the pocket when they weigh 12#. Kittens are super bitey at play, my general rule is "my fingers are not toys" because chomping/clawing are not so hilarious when they are 12#: keep some kitten-sized plush toys handy so you can stick them between kitten and hand when the playing gets too intense. Introductions to the other cats should wait until the kitten is not a vulnerable size (12 weeks is ideal although admittedly not always possible).

Food: At 6 weeks, she's off mother's milk and well into solids. I like Wellness Kitten canned and the above-mentioned Royal Canin Babycat. No cow milk at all, just water and always have a fresh bowl out. Expect some kind of GIS distress the first few weeks, anything from constipation to explosive diarrhea, with the later being more common. Both need to be treated quickly (a bit of vaseline to the pucker for the former, vet check if the later goes on for more than a day). Mild diarrhea can be treated by temporarily switching to a diet of cooked white rice and unsalted boiled chicken.

Kitten proofing:
• crawl around and look at the hazards/attractive nuisances at kitten eye level. She can squash herself into any space that fits her shockingly tiny skull. This sounds silly but one of my cats found a 3" gap next to the water pipe behind the toilet and getting her out of the wall was less than fun.
• keep the toilet lid down, kittens that size will fall in and usually can't get back out on their own.
• separate blind cords and if possible, rubber band them up into a bundle
• they really like to climb but kind of suck at it: remove any combination of "heavy or breakable thing on top of fabric on top of slippery surface" because that thing is going to get pulled down in the next few weeks.
• it's not a bad idea to remove curtains for now or kiss them goodbye.
• electrical cords will be chewed. I cover them with cut-to-length corrugated split length tubes like these, available in the electrical dept of hardware stores, Ikea and any place that sells networking cable.

Hygiene: Try working out her mats with a wide toothed metal comb before bathing her: once those mats get wet all the way through, they are set for good and will have to be cut off. If it gets the point where you need to cut mats, let a pro step in: it's just incredibly difficult to do on kittens w/o slicing skin but if you can work them out with the comb, follow up with a damp warm washcloth wipe down. Due to the stress + potential for loss of trust, I would only bath her if fleas are present (use kitten shampoo, not flea shampoo, follow up with a flea comb when she's dry, expect to repeat). This is a great age to get her used to being brushed and combed daily and having her nails clipped too: long-haired cats really do need the grooming help even as adults.
posted by jamaro at 12:19 PM on October 9, 2012 [9 favorites]

When I first got my long haired beauty I cleaned her by using rags soaked in warm water and shampoo and then wiped her down with wAter only rags. Now I keep her fairly mat free by keeping a comb by all the places I sit and where she hangs out so I can give her a quick comb through a few times a day
posted by spunweb at 12:25 PM on October 9, 2012

Having had a Ragdoll cat, one thing to be aware of is the kitty may not fight back. My Ragdoll would just duck and cower when my dog loved on her. She would never hiss or swat or scratch, so be extra watchful when your cats meet the kitty.
posted by shmurley at 12:27 PM on October 9, 2012

Response by poster: jamaro,if I do the sweat-jacket kangaroo thing, and am puttering around in spaces where my other cats are, am I putting my other cats at risk for anything more than fleas/mites? The bad diseases are transmitted via direct contact/bodily fluids, right?
posted by angrycat at 1:11 PM on October 9, 2012

One thing you will want is absorbent mats for the confinement room. They're commonly called "puppy pads". You should be able to get more than enough for under $10, to last you at least a few weeks that may be necessary. Kittens at 6 weeks are developmentally similar to toddlers so there may well be a couple of accidents before she figures things out.

For a kitten too, you may want to use a baking dish rather than a full-sized litter box. Six-week-old kits have a hard time jumping.
posted by bonehead at 1:57 PM on October 9, 2012

6 weeks is young but do-able to wean entirely. The biggest issue maybe behaviors like woolsucking or inappropriate litterbox habits which I see was covered above.

Definitely quarantine.

Also please talk to your vet to get their take, but one thing I REALLY wish we'd done with our tragically departed shelter kitty was wait a bit longer after we adopted him before doing his annual immunizations. I am totally, completely, 100% for getting all their shots up-to-date, HOWEVER as it turned out, the combined stress from being transferred from a bigger shelter, then to our shelter, then neutered, then transferred to our home and being introduced to our resident cat, then subsequently taken BACK to the vet and given a round of booster shots, all within a couple of weeks, was just too much for his little system. He developed wet FIP about 7 days after the round of booster shots and we had to have him put to sleep. It was devastating, and we are still gutted about losing him.

Not to say this will happen in your case, as FIP also has a mutagenic and genetic component. BUT it tends to flare in highly stressed cats with suppressed immune function and now we'll never know if he might have been fine had we just fucking waited a month or two to let him settle in.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:10 PM on October 9, 2012

Response by poster: Man, I feel like this is the saddest thing I've written on metafilter.

So, the student corralled all the kittens in this litter and took them to Petco for a look over. Petco believed at least one in the litter was infected with rabies. The kittens have been collected by whatever state agency, and that's that.

Shit. Well, at least my dear Parker, who hasn't had her rabies shot and would have been vulnerable to the disease (and would have been killed by the state even if she hadn't) is safe. Thanks anyways, all of you, for your advice.
posted by angrycat at 2:13 PM on October 9, 2012

Wow. I'm so sorry.
posted by bonehead at 2:40 PM on October 9, 2012

Oh, that is sad, I'm sorry. Kittens have such great odds against them, every cat with a home has won the Kitty Lottery.
posted by jamaro at 2:46 PM on October 9, 2012

Response by poster: I think maybe the hardest part is the reason this student and I had become close enough for her to offer me a kitten is because she has been through shit city -- we're talking serious crises that imperil her mental and physical well-being, the last of which (being robbed and roughed up at gunpoint) happened a couple weeks ago. She went through all of this with the kittens because it was one of the few areas of control she had in her life, or so she felt, I think. I wish she didn't know what the results of the state seizing the litter were.

So, yeah, I was all excited and now I'm sad, some little kittens will soon be no more, but the saddest thing is this student of mine can't catch a break. It's one of the things that makes this political season so difficult -- that people don't know, unless they are in or have escaped from the shit, how freaking hard people try over and over to make things right.
posted by angrycat at 2:50 PM on October 9, 2012

Oh damn, angrycat. I'm so sorry it's working out like this.
posted by rtha at 3:03 PM on October 9, 2012

I'm really sorry angrycat. That totally sucks, all of it.
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:25 PM on October 9, 2012

I'm so sorry, angrycat.
posted by jeather at 6:23 PM on October 9, 2012

That's horrible. If you were both prepared to adopt a kitty though, maybe let the vacancy left behind by these guys be taken by another shelter kitty? So many sweet kitties need homes. As far as your student goes...animal therapy is powerful. I swear, my cats have saved my sanity and marriage over the last few years.Virtual hugs...hope things pick up for both of you.
posted by jrobin276 at 6:48 PM on October 9, 2012

Huh. I'm so sorry. This is the first I've heard of states actively seizing animals rather than imposing a 10 day quarantine. Then again, rabies is scary stuff.
posted by zug at 12:46 PM on October 11, 2012

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