All about kitten boot camp …

I thought some of you might be interested in hearing about the demanding regimen Mythicbells kittens must endure during their short time here with me.  Some of this is behind the reasoning for keeping the kittens until 12 weeks of age before adoption.  While I’m on the subject, since it is a common question and sometimes becomes a bone of contention.  Why do I keep my kittens until they are 12 weeks old?  After all, what kitty lover has not gotten a kitten at 6 – 8 weeks at some point in their past?  So, why won’t I let my babies go that young? I have a number of answers depending on my mood and whether or not I’m feeling kind.

  • Because I want to.
  • Do you think I’m daft?  I don’t let them go until I wear off all the cuteness!
  • It takes that long for me to give them the best chance of being healthy, stable, assured kittens in their new environments and for them to be vaccinated, wormed, tested and whatnot.  They go with a health guarantee and if I let them go any younger than that, I’d have to turn the phone off or have an anxiety attack every time it rang.

12 weeks seems to be the breeder standard, but I see that some breeders keep their kittens to 16 and even 20 weeks.  This might be due to having them spayed/neutered before adoption, I’m not sure.  A few breeders let their kittens go closer to 8 weeks, but this is not standard, and I don’t know why they’d want to do that if they are enjoying the process of raising the little guys.  Plus they’ll have to rush weaning rather than allow the mother to do it on her own schedule.  The kittens will be vaccinated but it’s doubtful as to how effective vaccines are at that age (more about vaccines below).   They are at their most vulnerable and you are sending them into a new environment at a time when their immune systems are just beginning to develop.  We all know that most kittens will do well at younger adoption ages, but responsible breeders are more comfortable not taking that chance.   Oh very well — I’m simply going to fall back on the “do you think I’m daft?” defense.

Okay, that’s it for that little lecture.  YES!  The kittens are STILL cute at 12 weeks.  In fact one of the first comments I always get from the family when they pick up their kitten is “he’s so tiny!!”  They are still small and cute.  They just look like monsters in the videos because I have the camera shoved in their faces.

First up for the kittens will be their first worming at 3 weeks.  Poor little guys!  There are a variety of worms that cats can fall prey to and possibly pass on to their babies.  This is a preventative and a precaution, it’s unlikely that the queen or any of the Mythicbells cats have worms.  In fact Sahara was both tested as well as wormed just prior to the birth.  But supposedly worms can lie dormant in the mother’s tissues and appear years later.   I don’t know how true that is in a pampered pedigreed cat.  I use a very gentle worming medication that is also good for giardia, a common protozoa.  So, for 5 days the tykes will get this liquid squirted in their mouths once a day.

The worming medication is a piece of cake compared to their next hurdle.  At 4 weeks and again at 5 weeks, I give them a medication that protects them against the other common protozoa, coccidia.  This medication is very bitter and they froth at the mouth and make me feel like the most horrendous person on earth.  Fortunately it’s just two doses a week a part.  Both coccidia and giardia are very easy for pets to pick up in the environment.  Healthy animals are usually not adversely affected by these parasites.  Their immune systems either throw them out or keep them in check, but they can be dangerous for tiny kittens.  So, these two meds are used to head those little suckers off at the pass, or nip them in the bud, just in case they are lurking about.

Then the kittens get a little time off from all of that horrid stuff to concentrate on learning to walk, eat solid food, and use the litter box.  Most of this is fairly effortless on my part.  When they start showing an interest in expanding their horizons, I will take the sides out of their nest and put a corral up around it just in case one tries to make a break for it.  Usually they don’t.  They waddle up to the edge and look out with curious, but slightly worried looks on their little faces.  It’s just too cute!  The first step out into the world must look like a doozy.  Finally they usually tumble out and I find them in little piles around their corral and never in their bed, so I remove the bed and just put down a pad.  A litter box goes in as soon as they fall out of the nest so that one of the first things they waddle through is cat litter.  Kittens are very easy to train to the litter box if they are corralled close to their box until they get the idea.  I also start feeding mom in the corral right about this time and let the kittens watch and learn.  On Kitty Cam you may see me with my fingers dripping with rabbit juice or some other morsel in an attempt to get the kittens eating, but basically that’s just me being impatient.  They will learn when ready and not a second before, mainly by watching mom and wandering through her food.  I’ve seen 3 week old kittens wade in and start eating and 5 week olds stubbornly refusing to get the point, but eventually they all learn.

By 5 weeks, they are very curious about what lies beyond the corral walls and their litter box habits are flawless, so the corral is opened up and they have run of the entire room, and eventually the rest of the house.  At about 8 weeks I begin allowing them supervised outings in the enclosure where they have the best time ever.  They are also exposed to a lot of loud traffic noises, dogs barking, and other neighborhood sounds as well as different textures odors and the older cats.

Now the kittens are on the home run towards adoption, but we still have to squeeze in a visit to my veterinarian and vaccinations.  What is the deal with vaccinations?  Everyone has probably heard something along the lines “oh, she’s had her kitten series of vaccinations.”  What does this mean?  Don’t worry, I never knew either.  Every few years the AVMA (American Veterinarian Medical Association) comes out with recommended vaccination protocols for dogs and cats.  There are a number of vaccinations such as for Rabies, Feline Leukemia, etc … but the one we talk about for small kittens does not include those.  It’s a vaccination for panleukopenia (distemper) plus a couple of upper respiratory ailments.  These are normally combined in one vial.  Distemper is the important one kittens need protection from as it’s often fatal.  The other two serve to lessen if not prevent upper respiratory viruses calici  and rhinotracheitis (herpes).  Theoretically a kitten would only need one shot of this combined vaccine if we could get the timing right.  A kitten who has nursed naturally from its mother shortly after birth is protected by her anti-bodies until its some where between 8 and 12 weeks of age.  But since we don’t know exactly when that will be, kittens get a “vaccination series.”  The first at 8 – 9 weeks and the second at 12 – 13 weeks.  If the mother’s anti-bodies are still active in the kitten they will destroy the vaccine and render it useless.  Nevertheless it’s given just in case.  Current protocol states that if vaccinated after 12 weeks, then the kitten is good for that vaccination until one year later.  SO, this means that soon after adoption, the new families need to get their kitten vaccinated for the second time, and if for some reason I’m keeping a kitten a bit longer than 12 weeks, I have that taken care of.  Many breeders will give their own vaccinations.  This is not an Rx item and does not require a veterinarian.  However, I’m more comfortable having my vet take care of it in conjunction with a full exam right around 9 weeks.  At that time I also try to get stool samples tested for the kittens to determine that they are, in fact, free of any parasites.

One of the last indignities they must suffer is an application of either Revolution or Advantage-Multi.  The Mythicbells habitat and cats are free of fleas and I make sure of that by treating all of the cats on a monthly basis.  Up to 8 weeks, the kittens are too young to be treated for flea prevention but since the environment is flea-free it’s not an issue.  However I like to send them out into the world with a month of flea protection and I choose one of those two products because they have the added benefit of killing most worms as well as ear mites and protect the kitten from such things for 30 days.  In essence, then this is the kittens’ second worming.

Whew!  I didn’t realize it would take so long to tell you all of this and I didn’t mention the baths they get nor the weekly claw clipping nor the photo shoots, or the extensive cuddling as well as rehearsals and performances for  their many fans and visitors.


18 responses to “All about kitten boot camp …

  1. Even though I already knew all this, you still had me laughing all the way through, thanks!

  2. Thank goodness your kitties all have sufficient cutness to cope with all these indignities, Molly!
    I’m sure couldn’t (but then again I’m not THAT cute.

  3. this page is the proof of how much you love your precious little ones. Ok, tecnically they’re Sahara’s precious little ones this time, but well your the caretaker so you’re like a 2nd mommy to them.

  4. Thanks, Molly!! Delightful to read, and a testament to the love and meticulous care that goes into your “kitten boot camp” process!

  5. "Auntie JAFO"

    Molly, If you could just be a little more detailed and specific. Breezing over these important milestones in a Mythicbells Persian is a disservice to those who may not understand the check list a little cutie must pass in order to graduate to their forever homes. I just know that we (All the Aunties & Unckies) will have to answer these questions over and over as the days progress. GF in the future, please try and cover all the bases would you? Thanks in Advance…. On Behalf of “The Gang”~

    • LOL … Auntie J – you may regret that request. First up on the kitten calendar … okay, not sure when I have it scheduled … is “contact Auntie J for Mythicbells kitten bags” — I’ll give you fair warning so that you can clear your schedule 😀

  6. "Auntie JAFO"

    Where ever the schedule pops it up, consider it done and not one day before….. ❤

  7. Molly…you always manage to make whatever you are writing about sound so funny! Thank-you for the always-needed giggle! 😀

  8. Great post and nice to see the ‘graduating’ steps involved. It pleases me, a vet tech and newly retired Cornish Rex breeder, to see you following the same protocols and steps I did. I am thinking you are talking about Metronidazole making them foam as it is so bitter. Yes, even at the cat hospital where I work, we don’t even try having it made into a flavored suspension it’s so bitter. BUT we now get it compounded from Wedgewood Pharmacy, Metronidazole Benzoate TinyTabs and they aren’t bitter at all. You might check into it or have your vet look into it. I brought in Giardia with a queen and kicked it finally per a parasitology vet, using both fenbendazole and metronidazole at the same time. Let me know if you want more info on that. I can’t wait to see more pix!

    • Thank you Teri — nice to hear the perspective of a fellow breeder and one with a veterinary background. The worming/giardia med is Panacur (fenbendazole) which they don’t mind too much. The very bitter stuff is Baycox (Toltrazuril) which will kill coccidia as opposed to just knock it back like the Albon does. I, started this regimen when, like you, I brought in giardia with a new cat. I saw coccidia later on, also with a new cat, but by then I knew about Totrazuril and was much better about quarantine. The Totrazuril or a paste with similar properties can be compounded through a compounding pharmacy. I’m told the Baycox is better since the med is often not uniform throughout the paste (it’s still off label for cats, I believe) … but it IS bitter, so I mix it with kayo syrup and that helps a little.

    • My 2 cats (littermates) both take metronidazole 2x a week for IBD. I had an awful time getting it into them so I got it in liquid (tuna-flavor), which helped, but they still hated it and I had to force it in to them, which was upsetting for me and them. When Greenies came out with pill pockets in salmon flavor, I tried them and since then it’s easy to give Phoebe & Zoey their medication. As soon as they hear the pill bottle, they both come running. To them, it’s treat time (treats with a metronidazole center)! What are TinyTabs?

  9. Lovely post, love your first reason for hanging on to your kittens for 12 weeks, that would be mine LOL !!!!

  10. Will we be tested on this?

  11. Molly, thank you so much for taking the time to write such an infomative and entertaining explanation of kitten life at Mythicbells.
    Despite the regime and indignities those little ones have to go through, I still think they are some of the luckiest kittens in the world and as far as I’m concerned, you can hang on to those precious little bundles of fluff as long as you want. Though I don’t think their adopted families would agree with me there.

  12. Loved this post, Molly. It was really interesting and had me smiling all the way through 🙂

  13. heartwarming *and* inspirational. i think all breeders should attend the human boot camp version i think you ought run. pre-requisite! …tho i shan’t be taking the baycox thank you very much – you can corral or chase me. no wha-hay

  14. Pingback: K Litter update | Mythicbells Persian Cats & Kittens

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