Kitten-proofing Your Home:
When you bring home any new kitten it is necessary to for the sake of your cat’s health to kitten-proof your home, and Bengal kittens probably need it even more than many cat breeds (except maybe siamese cats) because they are so curious. Look around for strings, electrical cords, and ways that they could hang themselves on your curtain rods when they climb your curtains (not kidding). Also make sure to pick up pins, tacks, coins, rubber bands, twist ties, clothing with spaghetti straps or thin ties.
When Angel was a few months old she began vomiting multiple times a day over the course of five days. I ran to the veterinarian many times over those days trying to figure out why she was so sick. At one point during that time she vomited a feather that she had bitten off of one of her cat toys. The vet said that she had most likely irritated her stomach lining by swallowing the feather. I promptly cut all feathers off of all of their toys and started focusing on balls, cat games, and other toys without feathers or strings. Since then she has had some close calls. If a domestic cat eats a stringy item (like icicles off of a Christmas tree) it can become stuck in their intestines and do significant damage to their insides, causing severe health problems or even death. At one point she ate the inner ties off of my bathrobe, which required a trip to the emergency vet, and another time I caught her eating the vinyl ties off of the cat tunnel. This kitty is obsessed with eating anything stringy and it can cause some serious cat medical problems! She starts at one end and swallows until she eventually bites through whatever she’s eating. I have become hyper-vigilant about any kind of strings and never let them play unsupervised with anything that has strings. I cut the remaining inner ties off of my bathrobe and threw them away, and keep the kitties out of my laundry because I have even seen her try to eat the spaghetti straps off of my tank tops. Aria is not immune to the seduction of strings either, but she isn’t obsessed in the same way that Angel is. The dangers of string eating have been the biggest health issue that I have had to deal with with these kittens. The American Humane Society has a great page to walk you through pet-proofing your home.
Domestic Cat Health Insurance:
With all of the dangers available to kittens I highly recommend buying cat health insurance while they are young and before they develop any cat medical problems. Due to the expense of many of my previous cats‘ health issues I decided to buy cat health insurance early for my kittens and I’m very glad that I did. I have been reimbursed a significant amount of money for my vet visits and vaccinations. Spaying was free with my cat health insurance after reimbursement, and many employers provide discounts for pet insurance as an additional benefit for their employees.
Plants and Human Food that are Poisonous to Cats:
Be aware that there are many plants poisonous to cats as well as many human foods that are also poisonous to cats. Please visit the section of http://indoorplanttips.com/poisonous-plants titled Poisonous Plants Toxic to Animals for more information and a link to the ASPCA poisonous plants database. Be sure to copy the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline phone number as well.
Domestic Cat Medical Problems to Watch For:
When kittens are young be very aware of fevers, sniffles, coughs and vomiting. Also keep an eye out for unusual lethargy. Both Angel and Aria had respiratory infections within their first year of life. Angel had a fever and while kittens have higher body temperatures than we do, she felt like her little body was on fire (I think she was about 2 months old at the time). She was lethargic and radiating heat. I was so scared for her. The vet gave her antibiotics and she recovered completely within a few days. Aria had a reaction to a vaccine that caused her to get a fever. Since that reaction, they now premedicate her before vaccines to keep her from getting sick from them.
Kittens usually start using the litter box with little training. If your kitten has been using the litter box and starts going in inappropriate places, that is an indication that something is wrong, either physically or behaviorally. Make sure you check out the physical side first. Cats can have a variety of health issues such as urinary tract infections, diabetes, or kidney problems that either make them unable to get to the box in time, or cause stress to the point that they start going elsewhere. I had a problem with Aria in that she is a very sensitive kitty, and when I had her spayed the vet did not send home pain meds. After the initial pain medication wore off, she came to me and peed on my bed right in front of me. I took her back to the vet, and they gave me pain medication to give her for the next few days. When that ran out, she again peed on my bed. Unfortunately, it became her way of telling me she was in pain, then the behavioral aspect kicked in. For information on dealing with the kitten behavior (cat behavior) and the behavioral aspects of peeing or marking outside the litter box, please go to http://littlespottedcats.com/bengal-kitten-behavior.
Trips to the Vet:
Taking your kitty to the vet can be an anxiety-producing experience for both of you. Some cats, like Angel, stay calm and seem to have no issues whatsoever with the vet or anything they do to her. Others, like Aria, begin hissing as soon as they see someone in a white coat. If you have two kittens I would recommend booking double appointments and taking them both at the same time, which will help keep them from being hostile towards each other when you get home. Sometimes the hostility bred from a trip to the vet by one cat can lead to lifelong hostility between your cats. If only one of my kitties needs to be seen, I still take them both. That way, they are both surrounded by the sounds and the smells. They seem to seek each other out for comfort when we get home rather than acting hostile towards each other.
If your kitty gets extremely distressed over trips to the vet, your vet can prescribe valium to take before the visit, or even sedate them during the visit. My last cat needed to be sedated just for a claw trim.
During the time when Angel was vomiting over the course of five days, the vet kept the two of them overnight in a double cage with a heavy fiber board divider keeping them separated. At that point the two had never been apart for more than five minutes in their lives, so they were pretty distressed that they couldn’t be together. When the vet staff came back from their lunch break they found that the girls had worked together to move the fiber board divider out of the way and were snuggled up together!
What to feed a kitten:
When kittens are very young and the mother is available, then nursing until they’re approximately 8 weeks old is ideal. If the mother is not available, then they must be bottle fed. The vet told me that if a kitten is bottle-fed for too long then they are more likely to have behavioral issues as adult cats. If you must bottle feed a kitten, then use kitten formula and feed them with a bottle until they are approximately 6 weeks old. At that point they should be introduced to solid foods to minimize behavioral issues as adults. I found that transition very hard on a personal level because I brought my kittens home at 4 weeks old and I loved the bonding of holding them and feeding them; however, they decided pretty quickly that they weren’t thrilled about the bottle and preferred solid food.
What to feed Cats:
There is a big debate over whether the best thing for cat care is to feed all wet cat food, all dry food, a mix, or raw food diet. I have chosen to go with all wet food because I found a website written by a vet that discussed the various health risks of the different diets. I seriously considered going with a raw food diet for my kitties, but decided against it due to personal health risks of them eating raw meat. Cats that I’ve owned in the past who were on exclusively dry food died of diabetes, liver failure, and stomach cancer. The big danger of eating wet food that I have heard is that cats can get a tartar buildup on their teeth if they don’t have dry food to rub it off. The truth is, the cats who ate exclusively dry food STILL had to have dental treatments due to tartar buildup, and one even had to have her teeth pulled. I’d rather just have to worry about the dental bills and not the more serious cats health issues of diabetes, liver failure, and stomach cancer.
To me, there is no contest between wet food and dry food. My kittens are on an exclusively wet food diet. The trouble with feeding kittens wet food is that they need to eat as much as they can to compensate for their growth, and somehow humans need to know how many cans to dish up each day and how often to do so. If you google the age of the kitten you can sometimes come up with an estimate of how many ounces to feed per day for the best kitten care, but the information is difficult to find and there are no hard and fast rules. The best suggestion I can give is to start out with 2 or 3 ounces and see how quickly they eat it. If they eat it all within 5-10 minutes, then give them more. If the food is still sitting there an hour later then give them less the next time. My kittens’ appetites have fluctuated with their growth spurts, so we try to adapt their food portions to their appetites. We also feed them twice a day now (they are a year old), but have at times fed them up to four times in a day. If you are having a lot of trouble finding good information, some of the pet food supply stores have good information about cats and can recommend the best commercial foods for cat nutrition, advice to deal with some cat problems, and what to feed kittens.
If you go with a wet food diet, I would recommend looking for something that has low-grain content or no grains at all (better). I look at a food can label and if the first 4 or 5 items on the ingredient list are high quality proteins, then I consider it a good food. If you’re buying for a kitten, make sure that the label says either “kitten food”, or “for all stages”. Food for adult cats does not have the fat content or the nutrients that kittens need to grow.
The best kitten foods (in my opinion) are:
- Merrick BG Chicken canned food
- AvoDerm Natural Chicken Formula Cat Food, 5.5-Ounce Cans, Case of 24
The best kitten treats (cat treats) in my opinion are:
Make sure that the food you select has a low ash content. Ash can cause potentially fatal urinary tract blockages that are more common in male cats, but can also affect females. I don’t know what the ideal content is. I would choose 0%, but don’t know whether that’s possible. Perhaps avoiding the kinds of food that contain ingredients like “chicken byproduct” would eliminate ash content.