Kittens 10 to 12 Weeks of Age
Spaying and Neutering
Spaying or neutering your pet at or before six months of age is important for many reasons. Behavioral problems are much less common in neutered animals and it reducing the risk of developing certain diseases later in life.
Neutering is the surgical removal of both testes. The beneficial effects that are seen following this procedure are directly related to reduction in levels of the male hormone, testosterone. A reduced level of this hormone affects many behaviors. Neutering male cats has been shown to reduce the percentage of cats that bite, roam, urine mark, urinate outside the litter box, and exhibit overly territorial behaviors (such as cat fights). Neutering is much more effective at preventing these behaviors than it is in eliminating them once they have begun. It is for this reason that it is advised to have this procedure performed before six months of age.
Spaying is the common name for ovariohysterectomy. This procedure is the complete removal of both the ovaries and the uterus. This eliminates a female cat from having heat cycles, which occur every 2-3 weeks throughout the spring and summer until they mate. This cycle is often very obvious to pet owners because the cat becomes very vocal, will rub her head and neck against objects, and will start rolling around on the floor. During this time she will also show an exaggerated response to stroking of the back and rubbing of the base of the tail by lowering her front end and raising her pelvis. It is around this time that the female cat becomes receptive to breeding.
Spaying at an early age (at or before six months of age) has numerous health benefits in female cats. Mammary tumors in cats are almost always malignant (aggressive tumors that often spread to the lungs). Research has shown that if a female cat is spayed before her first heat cycle, which usually occurs at 6 to 9 months of age, her chance of developing this type of cancer is greatly reduced in later years. Pyometra is another serious medical condition that occurs in older unspayed females. It is a condition in which the uterus fills with infection and enlarges to many times its normal size. As the female cat ages her cycles often become irregular. This can lead to the cervix remaining open and allowing infection inside the uterus. The toxic principles released by this infection often lead to this life threatening disease. Spaying early in life is preventative and is our recommendation for all cats not intended for breeding purposes.
Early Training Is The Key
Socialization of your kitten is critical at this age. Kittens are most impressionable during the stage of 5 to 16 weeks of age. Socialization is nothing more than exposing the kitten to all the things that he will be exposed to later in life so that he may begin to become comfortable with these things. Introduction to things that may be new (interacting with your family, other pets, people outside your family, the vacuum cleaner, vehicles, and any other thing that may potentially frighten your pet) will help him accept them more readily when he is older. Allow your kitten to watch these things from a distance, give a treat and praise, and then slowly lead him closer as his comfort level increases. This will help your kitten become a well-adjusted, confident cat.
All cat owners should teach their cats to enjoy and allow handling of their body. When kittens are young, they can be taught to allow all parts of their body to be examined. You can reward the kitten with food rewards (such as a favorite treat or a small piece of meat) for allowing handling. Pet the kitten and give a treat. Look in the kitten's mouth and give a treat. Pick up the kitten's feet and give a treat. Soon the kitten will realize that when you approach the kitten you bring good things and will learn to trust you and not be afraid to have different areas of the body examined or handled. Early handling can make later medical treatments, dental care, ear cleaning, and nail trims easier. For long hair kittens, it is also recommended that the kitten be brushed regularly so that they may become used to the routine that will be necessary to keep the coat at its best.
It is also important to provide an outlet for use of your kitten's claws from the beginning. Cats don't use scratching posts just to sharpen their claws. They are actually using these posts to get rid of the brittle ends of their nails, to leave a scented mark to let other cats know when they were last there, and to stretch when they get up after a long nap. If we do not provide them with an outlet, then they will find their own. They will often choose our couches and curtains because they provide a good surface to snag their nails on and they are often along a path they normally take through the house. It is important to provide a scratching surface in any room that your cat will be spending a lot of time in and in the main hall that your cat will use. Offering a variety will also help to ensure that you are providing a substrate that your cat will like, such as corrugated cardboard, looped carpet, wood, or even rope. Many cats do not like the "fuzzy" carpet on most scratching posts because it does not snag well. Placing catnip on the scratching post will help attract your cat to that area. Also consider both vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces. If you are planning on having your kitten declawed we still recommend providing them with a scratching outlet until they are old enough for surgery. This will also give them a surface to stretch on and mark even after surgery.
Keeping a clean litter box will not only keep your kitten happy, but it will reduce the likelihood of your kitten urinating outside the litter box. This is one of the biggest reasons for pet owners giving up their pet or turning an indoor cat into an outdoor cat. You should have the same number of litter boxes as you do cats, plus one. The litter boxes should be scooped daily (2-3 times a day if there is a lid) and the entire box should be emptied and sanitized every 3-4 weeks. Avoid using citrus scented products in the litter box as it discourages cats from going there. Cats tend to prefer the fine granular unscented clumping litter. If at any point your kitten stops using the litter box he should be seen right away to make sure there is not a medical reason for his inappropriate elimination. The longer a cat urinates or defecates outside of the litter box, then harder it is to get them back to using the litter box consistently.