Raising a kitten Part two: Food and behaviors

Alabama Living Magazine

This month we continue from the last column. 

 More on food: As we talked about in the last issue, we heavily favor wet food over dry. We buy the 12.5 oz tall cans (cheaper) of Halo, Nulo, Wellness, and maybe Friskies original chicken. You do not need to use these brands, but you can read the labels and use them as a starting point. Make any food switches slowly over 3-4 days.

I think it is useful to add some fiber (like wheatgrass) to their wet food. Our cats get a tiny bit of steamed broccoli, cauliflower, etc. mixed with their wet food. A professor at Iowa State University has shown that cats who eat a wider variety of food have a broader and healthier gut flora. 

If you have an adult cat who is addicted to dry food, check out this excellent article:

Indoor vs. outdoor: We like cats to be strictly indoors for three reasons: 

a. It is very painful to lose a cat we love so much and invested our heart into 

b. Cats cause havoc on small native wildlife

c. It is not that hard to provide them with a rich environment indoors!

Toys and scratching posts: Sometimes a crumpled-up piece of paper can be the greatest toy for your cat. Many cats will learn to fetch. Six months ago, we went on a cat toy binge. The most enduring one seems to be a “cat fishing-toy.” They are quite inexpensive. There are many, many to try. Please AVOID the laser toys.

Cat trees are a must, as cats love high spaces. You can buy them at any pet store. However, for the creative folks, there is a dizzying amount of DIY cat stuff on YouTube. Do a search for “cat wall.”

Dangers: Cats have sensitive livers and cannot break down many chemicals. Things that are not toxic to us can be very toxic to them. One common example is Tylenol. And check out the names of your house plants on the Internet to see if they are safe for cats. Also please be very careful with string toys, rubber bands etc. If a string gets caught on a cat’s tongue, they cannot get it out. So, the string goes down their stomach. The only way to get the string out is surgery, and these surgeries take a while to perform and can be hard on the intestinal tract.

Scratching and declawing: What can I say? Don’t declaw your cat! That is so 1990s! Declawing is like cutting off the last part of your fingers. There are many resources on the Internet about how to deal with scratching issues. Microfiber seems to work well to discourage scratching. The following link is a very good starting point:

Spay and neuter: It is highly likely that your kitten is the product of a cat who was not spayed on time. It is of great importance to spay/neuter cats. Most vets will spay/neuter cats when they are at least 3 months old and over 3 pounds. For an indoor cat, it is better to wait longer. Cats can get pregnant when they are still nursing.

Giving cats medicine: Cats are sensitive creatures. We want to go out of our way so as not to hurt their feelings. If we reach the point where it becomes a “battle,” then we will not want to continue giving them meds. Our goal is to cultivate peace and harmony.  In case of war, everyone loses. 

There are two ways to get a pill (or liquid) in a cat, either directly by mouth or by mixing it with their food. You can use a Pet Piller. Even better than pilling is giving their meds with their food, especially for long-term medication like methimazole. Start early when they are young. Get them used to wet food. Keep changing brands and flavors so that they do not get used to only ONE kind of food. Then, start getting them used to “other things” in their food.

For a young cat, you can start by mushing in some steamed broccoli. We add liquid children’s vitamins to our young cat’s food. There is no reason you cannot follow that same protocol for an older cat.

It is extremely important to start slow with the medicines and herbs. I mean slow! My cat gets four drops of methimazole twice daily, but I started by mixing even less than a drop into her food and slowly built up to four drops.

Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He owns High Falls Holistic Veterinary Care near Geraldine, Alabama. To suggest topics for future discussions, email him at


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