It is important to learn and understand the commitment, dedication, time and financial requirements needed to have a cat or a kitten.
For example, a newly born kitten needs to be nursed every 2 hours with the correct milk formula, a 1-6 month old kitten needs to be fed 3-4 times a day with good quality kitten food, an adult cat needs a proper size litter box and fed
watery canned food at least once a day to increase its water intake [1,2,4,9].
Below shows the estimated on-going cost of keeping a relatively, healthy domestic short hair (DSH) cat in Singapore, not considering the other premium, luxury products and options commonly available here.
*Currency used SGD
Estimation does not include diagnostics like xrays, MRI, CT Scan; other major or additional surgeries or medication and treatment associated with sudden or chronic diseases.
CARE FOR VERY YOUNG KITTENS
(<2 MONTHS OLD)
Buy a good quality rectal thermometer to measure the kitten's body temperature.
The normal temperature of a young kitten should be kept between the range from 38.0˚C to 39.0˚C.
Kittens under 4 weeks old cannot regulate their body temperature well [1,9].
Do not feed a cold kitten any milk because their cold body cannot digest the formula and may cause severe colic, diarrhea and vomiting.
Do not feed cold milk.
Drip droplets of milk on the back of your hand to check the temperature before feeding. It should be warm, not hot.
Always warm a cold kitten up slowly before feeding any milk .
Place the kitten near your skin or cover with a sweater to help them keep warm.
Stimulate the genitalia area, after every feeding, by gently rubbing with a wet, warm cotton swab to mimic a mother cat licking the kitten to encourage it to urinate and defecate. You have to fulfill the role of the mother cat if you have adopted/ rescued a very young kitten .
Always discard unused milk after 24 hours .
Always sterilize all the equipment used for feeding, e.g., milk bottle, spoons and bowls.
KEEP YOUR KITTEN WARM AT ALL TIMES
Above: Three weeks old kittens napping. Pic by LOLVet.
EMERGENCY KITTEN FORMULA
*This formula is NOT for long term use because there are no published nutrient analysis. Buy a kitten milk replacer powder formula as soon as possible.
Bottom: Homemade Milk Replacer for
kittens adapted from Management of Pregnant and Neonatal Dogs, Cats, and Exotic Pets (ME in kilocalories per milliliter (kcal/ml) of milk as fed. Queen's milk contains 1.21 kcal per 100 g milk as fed) .
A guide to estimate the amount of milk to feed according to the approximated age. The amount of milk and frequency of feeding should be adjusted according to the resultant weight changes of the kittens.
These figures should be used only as guidelines because the individual requirements of kittens can vary greatly.
Chart and information adapted from Canine and Feline Nutrition, 3rd Ed.
The different compositions in the milk of different species shows that dog’s and cat’s milk provides a larger proportion of their calories from fat and protein and lower proportions from lactose, unlike the milk of the cow and goat.
When converted to a calorie basis, the lactose content of cow’s milk is much higher than that found in a cat’s milk, and kittens that are fed straight cow’s milk will develop severe diarrhea. [1,4,8]
COW'S MILK, GOAT'S MILK OR FRESH MILK
ARE NOT A SUITABLE
SUBSTITUTES FOR KITTENS AND CATS.
MILK REPLACER FORMULA
Commercial milk replacers are the preferred source of nutrition as they have been tested for the specific purpose of raising neonatal kittens [2,4,8]. These formulas from reputable manufacturers are now easily available in Singapore pet shops.
The most important aspect of nursing a very young kittens is not to change the brands abruptly as this may cause severe issues in the kitten's digestive system.
The bottle or packaging of these kitten formulas should have clear mixing and feeding instruction to guide you.
What is quarantine?
To place a pet in an area isolated and separated from the main activity area, such that other animals have no access to it.
When the pet is under quarantine, the primary care taker must thoroughly clean and disinfect himself/herself before and after attending to that quarantined pet to prevent fomite transmission (refer to flow diagram below).
Why must we quarantine?
It is important to quarantine your new kitten from your other pets, including cats, dogs parrots, etc.
This will prevent any infectious diseases from passing between the kitten and your home pets.
For how long must the quarantine be?
We recommend a minimum quarantine period of 14 days from other pets (an ideal quarantine period would be 30 days).
During the quarantine period, the primary care taker must ensure that the kitten is eating normally, monitor if the stool remains firm, adequate urine is produced and the urine colour is normal, and if the kitten develops other conditions such as sneezing, vomiting or diarrhea, and to seek medical attention immediately.
PROTECT YOUR KITTEN
AND KEEP OTHER ANIMALS AWAY.
CARE FOR OLDER KITTENS
(2-11 MONTHS OLD)
Ten things you should know:
FOOD AND WATER
Growing kittens have energy requirements that are about double of what adult cats need [2,4,9].
To support the growth of new tissues and vital organs, only feed food formulated for kittens that has higher protein content (than those formulated for adult maintenance) and with good quality protein at the correct amount [2,4,9].
Always feed a commercially formulated food from a reputable company.
Homecooked food at this lifestage is not recommended because of the lack of adequate calcium, protein, taurine, vitamins, etc [4,9].
We noticed that Singapore's weather is getting warmer and recommend that you train your kitten to accept the routine of eating canned food spiked with water (mixed into a porridge consistency) daily, in order to increase the water intake now.
We recommend that most cats be fed a wet food diet with limited carbohydrate content (< 15% on a dry-matter basis) [2,4].
Teach your kitten to drink fresh water daily and make it a fun routine so that he/she will carry it through to adulthood.
The first kitten vaccine should be given at 6-8 weeks old, followed by a second vaccine 1 month later. This type of vaccination programs are timed to coincide with the period that maternal colostrum derived immune protection is waning and the kittens' own immunity is maturing [7,10].
Click HERE for vaccination recommendation.
Socialisation with other pets should be allowed only 2 weeks after the last kitten vaccine.
Socialisation with other pets should be allowed only 2 weeks after the last kitten vaccine.
Anti-intestinal-worm medication should be given every 2 weeks until the completion of its last kitten vaccine.
The future schedule can be quarterly, 6 monthly or annually, depending on the lifestyle of the pet.
FLEAS AND LICE CONTROL
External parasites should be eliminated because they spread diseases and cause extreme discomfort to your pet .
There are many topical and oral medication available to prevent infestation of these external parasites.
We recommend monthly topical preventative medication only because of their wider safety margin.
Above: 3 months old kitten. Pic by LOLVet.
Below are some common and easily available treatments-:
We recommend sterilizing your pet at about 5-6 months old.
Click HERE for further explanation
Train your kitten to let you examine its mouth and teeth.
Start teeth cleaning with a soft cloth and warm water so the kitten becomes receptive oral examination and brushing.
Click HERE for further explanation
The most rapid growth period occurs during the first 3 to 6 months of their lives.
Your kitten should be growing quite rapidly - average increment should be at least 10-15% of previous body weight per week, depending on the kitten's breed [1,4].
Ensure that you purchase a litter box big enough for your kitten when it grows into a cat.
Buy a good quality litter that absorbs urine well without irritating your kitten’s paws, respiratory system or eyes.
Remove soiled litter from the litter box at least twice daily.
Playing with your kitten will help them develop motor skills, vent their frustration of being cooped up and also help them bond to you.
KITTEN-PROOF YOUR HOUSE
Place fine wire mesh on your windows and doors now to prevent your kitten from falling out or escaping into the dangerous concrete jungle outside or causing irreparable fractures or even death .
Provide many hiding places in addition to the ‘private’ area for your kitten, using boxes, solid-sided carriers, igloo beds, covered litter trays converted into beds, a towel or your unwashed clothes draped over a fitted shelf, because this will reduce potential mental stress during periods of time when you are not at home and mimic the natural feline habitat [1,7,10].
CARE FOR YOUNG ADULT CATS
(>12 MONTHS OLD)
Our domesticated pet cats (Felids) belong to the superfamily, Feloidea, together with the Viverrids (genet), the Hyaenids (hyena), who have all evolved as strict carnivores.
The history of the cat's evolutionary development, despite their relationship with humans, evidently indicates that this species has remained a pure carnivore, unlike the dogs.
They are still unable to obtain all their required nutrients from plants and plant based products and must consume animal tissues to get protein, taurine, arachidonic acid and preformed vitamin A.
You may start feeding the kitten with food that are formulated for adult cat maintenance when they reach about 1 year old [2,4].
Some cats are happy to eat at a fixed time, some prefer to graze. Your can provide dry food all the time or canned food 2-4 times a day to accommodate their preference and ensuring that eating is a more pleasurable enjoyment for them [4,11].
Encourage good water intake at a young age by making it into a fun game. Most pets should be taking about 60ml/kg of water daily.
You can feed your pets a fixed variety of good quality food. Do not change your
food randomly or excessively or introduce
large amount of new food and treats so they do not develop a palate that is difficult to please.
Change their diet slowly when you are feeding a brand new food by mixing the old and new food (50%-50%) together for at least 1 week before increasing the percentage of the new food slowly and with a complete replacement after about 3-4 weeks [4,7,10].
Monitor your cat's daily poop consistency, colour and smell so that you can detect digestive issues as early as possible.
You should arrange for a veterinary consultation and discussion at least every 6 months  so that the veterinary team can become more in-tuned to your cats' personalities, behaviour, habits and medical status. The familiarity will help the team recognise illnesses in your cats and derive at a diagnostic decision faster.
CARE FOR AGING CATS
(>7 YEARS OLD)
Nowadays, cats are considered to be elderly once they reach about 11 -14 years old. They are deemed geriatric from 15 years old onward [7,10,11,13].
A two year old cat will have a physiological age of a 24 year old human and with each passing year, the cat will age physiologically by about 4 human years.
For example, a 7 year old cat would have a physiological age of a 44 - 51 years old human and a 16 year old cat would be equivalent to an 80 year old human.
Older cats are prone to arthritis, kidney failure, diabetes, hyperthyroidism and high blood pressure [1,3,11,12,13].
Click HERE for more.
Ten things you should know:
A CHAT WITH THE VET
By now, you should have established a very close working relationship with your regular veterinary clinic and team. Your biannual to annual veterinary check for your apparently healthy cat should continue even if he/she appears perfectly healthy, as early stages of many diseases are hidden and not apparent [10,13].
Remember, the accumulated bill for regular check ups is still cheaper than the treatment for any advanced, unmanaged and complicated disease that can cause death.
Normal aging is associated with decrease in lean body tissue (muscles) and total body water because lean tissue contains 73% water, and an increase in the proportion of body fats [2,4].
As the physical condition of your cat changes with age, he/she may not be able to eat convenient, off the shelf, commercial food anymore .
Chewing big pieces of hard, rubbery food can become a mechanical problem, their ability to expel excess additive and chemical components like colouring or iodine may be inefficient, their digestive capabilities and ability to maintain proper hydration through food may be significantly reduced [4,10,11,13].
Nutritional goals should include supporting, and preventing the onset or slowing the progression of, age related disorders, and improving the pet’s quality of life and, if possible, prolonging life expectancy [2,4].
Therefore, providing a larger portion of an easily consumed and highly digestible diet containing high quality protein to your older cat at regular intervals throughout the day at this point of time is essential. This type of diet will supply the essential amino acids needed for body maintenance and minimize losses of lean body tissue [2,4].
The minimum water intake of a cat should be approximately 60ml/kg/day. Ensure that cool, clean water is available all the times.
Senior animals have a decreased thirst response even on a hot day so they are more prone to dehydration .
If you senior cat does not drink enough water, his /her organs can start to malfunction and develop problems such as kidney, liver and cardiopulmonary failure easily, or suffer from deadly conditions associated with heat stress or heat stroke in hot and humid Singapore.
Feeding the correct type of food that suits your cat's unique body requirement will ensure that your senior cat stays healthy and fit, with an ideal body weight .
Obese cats can develop diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, skin diseases and even cancer .
Underweight cats are prone to have poor immune system, skin diseases, digestive problem, severe dehydration and even cancer .
The simplest supplement to help fortify your senior cat’s health is fatty acids such as Omega 3 (DHA and EPA). It has been shown to improve mobility in cats with arthritis, help skin condition and assist the aging heart .
ensure that the dietary intake is not affected by mastication problem associated with bad oral health [2,3,4,5,6,9].
Due to the aging immune ability of most older cats, boarding in overcrowded pet hotels and contact with other cats should be minimized to prevent contracting any contagious diseases .
Click HERE for more.
Toys, at this point of time, should be selected carefully to avoid injury to the older cats [3,5,6,8,12,13].
More appropriate toys and games may be a slow, lie-down form of swatting game, a session of fur-brushing and gentle entangling, treasure hunt for treats hidden around the living room and even a food puzzle for him/her to solve [3,5,6,8,12,13].
Some senior cats may need you to change your lifestyle in order to accommodate their aging physiological requirements [3,5,6,8,12,13].
For example, cats with arthritis need beds that are lowered, short ramps and staircase, non-slip mat on the floor for better traction while walking, bowls that are placed at ground level so that they do not need to jump up to eat and drink and litter box that have shorter rims for easy access [1,3,5,6,8,12,13].
Spending quiet, quality and exclusive time with your elderly cat is the most important aspect of loving and reassuring him/her and reducing stress for him/her [1,12].
Your senior pet can already feel more secure, draw strength and comfort from just laying beside you and probably can maintain a better cognitive connection with his/her surrounding and people with such interactions [1,12].
Brushing is a simple way to keep the teeth of your cat clean.
If your cat does not allow brushing, consider annual dental scaling by your regular veterinary team which will help
SOME DIAGNOSTIC TESTS TO CONSIDER 
FPV (for persisting diarrhea and vomiting)
Complete Blood Count
Comprehensive Biochemistry Analysis
T4 and Cholesterol
Above: Minimum database (MDB) testing can be used for early detection of problems in apparently healthy cats and before procedures requiring sedation or anaesthesia. Table adapted from BSAVA Manual of Feline Practice: A Foundation Manual.
1. Atkinson, Trudi. (2018). Practical Feline Behaviour. Understanding Cat Behaviour and Improving Welfare. UK: CABI
2. Case, L. P., Daristotle, L., Hayek, M. G., Raasch, M. F. (2011). Canine and Feline Nutrition, 3rd Ed. Maryland Heights, Missouri: Mosby.
3. Davies, M. (1996). Canine and Feline Geriatrics. UK: Wiley-Blackwell
4. Fascetti, A. J., Delaney, S. J. (2012). Applied Veterinary Clinical Nutrition. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
5. Gram, W.D.; Milner, R.J.; Lobetti, R. (2018). Chronic Disease Management for Small Animal. USA: Wiley-Blackwell
6. Gardner, M., McVety, D. (2017). Treatment and Care of the Geriatric Veterinary Patient. UK: Wiley-Blackwell
7. Harvey, A.; Tasker, A. (2013). BSAVA Manual of Feline Practice. A Foundation Manual. UK: BSAVA
8. Landsberg, G.; Madari, A.; Zilka, N. (2017). Canine and Feline Dementia. Molecular Basis, Diagnostics and Therapy. Switzerland: Springer
9. Lopate, C. (2012). Management of Pregnant and Neonatal Dogs, Cats, and Exotic Pets. USA: Wiley-Blackwell
10. Norsworthy, G. D., Crystal, M. A., Magric, S. F. G., Tilley, L. P. (2011). The Feline Patient, 4th Ed. Iowa, USA: Blackwell.
11. Rodan, I.; Heath, S. (2016). Feline Behavioral Health and Welfare. USA: Elsevier
12. Shanan, A.; Pierce, J.; Shearer, T. (2017). Hospice and Palliative Care for Companion Animals. Principles and Practice. UK: Wiley-Blackwell
13. Shojai,A.D. (2010). Complete Care for Your Aging Cat, 2nd Ed. USA: FurryMuse
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