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Kitten season is upon us. In fact, now that summer’s here, I can almost breathe a sigh of relief knowing 2015’s annual influx of kittens will soon be behind me.
Let me explain: Though I practice in Miami, where kittens happen year-round, there’s, nonetheless, a noticeable spike in kitten births in the middle of springtime. The phenomenon may be more pronounced elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean our hospital doesn’t get treated to a flood of homeless young felines at the same time every year.
Some arrive anonymously via box (usually left overnight, by the back door), while others appear less inauspiciously, in the hands of clients who want to do right by them, but would rather not keep them at home (where they're not as likely to find their forever homes quickly). And while we have a limit as to how many we can take on, we’ve only once had to resort to sending a box full of kittens away to the shelter due to hospital overcrowding. We do our best.
Every year, we learn a little more about what it takes to handle the annual overflow of our area’s neediest feline babies. In case you plan to take on some kitten detail in the future, here’s a helpful sampling of tips from our experiences in 2015:
1. Start with a checkup at the vet. Your veterinarian will be able to assess general kitten health and give you a rough idea of the age of your kittens. She’ll also check for fleas, ear mites and other parasites that are best not brought into your home. If there’s no mama cat, and the kittens are under three or four weeks of age, she can recommend a kitten formula and feeding schedule, as well as provide you with other kitten care tips.
2. Separate the kittens from other pets in your household. Kittens can transmit infectious diseases to your other pets. And because their immune systems aren’t fully developed yet, they’re vulnerable to catching diseases from other animals.
3. Wash yourself well after every bath, feeding or play session. Mange happens. So does ringworm. I should know. I’m currently battling a bout of mange that’s infested the skin over my abdomen. It’s not pretty. And it’s way itchy, too!
It can be possible that your kittens weren’t showing signs of mites or fungal infections at the time of your veterinary visit. Or they may develop upper respiratory infections. To be on the safe side, wearing gloves or washing up really well after handling kittens is fundamental. If you have other pets in the household, you may want to wear a special smock when handling the kittens, or change clothes when you leave the room — that is, while kittens are still infectious. Once your vet gives them a clean bill of health, you can let them run roughshod over everything and everyone in their room.
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