Q: What points should I look for when buying a kitten?

Answer: First of all, the kitten must have been properly weaned. Since most cats are weaned at six to eight week old under domestic conditions, this means that the kitten should be minimum of eight weeks old before it leaves its mother.

If it has already been handled frequently as a kitten (through of course not ill treated) it will usually accept human readily and prove an affectionate pet. A kitten over twelve weeks old, reared in a cattery with little human contact, is best not purchased because it will tend always to be fearful of humans and rather distant.

By this age of seven or eight weeks old the kitten will have all, or virtually all, of its, needle sharp milk teeth (deciduous teeth); fourteen in the upper jaw and twelve in the lover, twenty six in all. Also, at the age most kittens will weight about 25 to 29 oz (700 to 800g).

The kitten should be adequately nourished, neither then with its back-bone and ribs sticking out, nor pot-bellied. If the mother of the litter appears poorly cared for, it’s likely that the kittens have had the same treatment. Kittens should appear clean and will groomed, strong active and alert, taking an interest in what is going on around them, including your behaviors. There should be no evidence of fleas or ear mites (see latter)or anything else working with the coat, e.g. yellow staining of diarrhea beneath the tail.

There should be no abnormality of the limbs or any defect in walking, and no discharge around the eyes and nose. With a white kitten with one or both eyes blue, it is as will to test for possible deafness. If you choose from a litter, choose a friendly, bright animal, but not the most aggressive (i.e. the one who fights all his litter mates) or at the other extreme timid shrinking kitten. And don’t choose the ’runt’ of the litter, i.e. the smallest and most put upon, even though you probably feel very sorry for him. These kittens are more likely to develop to physical and emotional problems. The being life less will nourished and with less immunity to disease and, because of the treatment they have received from their litter mates, they are more likely to grow up either excessively timid or very aggressive. If you want test a kitten’s emotional stat, palace it in a room where there are no other cats to distract it and see whether it chase a paper ball or piece of string. Then clap your hands loudly and speck to it for five or ten seconds. If it is scurries away and hides and doesn’t chase this behavior quickly when you come to coax it, the chances are that it won’t fit it well with a house full of noisy children.

Lastly, find out what, if any, vaccinations the kitten has received and take it to your own vet for a check-up.

Q: Couldn’t the vet give my cat a local anaesthetic instead of a general one?

Answer: In most cases local anaesthesia is used to remove sensation from a relatively restricted and superficial part of the body. The local anaesthetic (otherwise known as a local analgesic) in the form of drug solution, is injected either around the sensory never endings of an area, or around the nerves which receive sensation from that area (the litter is referred to as nerve blocking). As a result, the transmission of sensations, including pain, from that area to the brain is temporarily prevented, and the animal is unaware of interferences to that region of its body.
Spinal anaesthesia is seldom practiced on cat, but this technique produces complete blockage of the lower spinal nerves to produce a total lack of sensation, and paralysis in the posterior part of the body.

In all types of local anaesthesia, however, the animal still remains conscious and therefore subject to fear when it observes what is going on around it. It is also able to move. For these reasons, it is unsuitable for any surgical procedures which involve the deeper structures of the body, or where sudden movement could produce severe damage (e.g. near the eye). It is also not appropriate for lengthy procedures, or if the animal resents being restrained.

As a consequence local anaesthesia in the cat is usually employed only for desensitization of the skin prior to the removal of small growths, or fro injection into deeper structures to facilitate certain procedures. For example it is useful fro desensitization of the skin before emergency drainage of the bladder, using the needle inserted through the abdominal wall, in cases of urethral obstruction.

Q: Is a surgical operation the only reason for giving a general anaesthetic?

Answer: Although not undertaken lightly, general anaesthesia may be applied in other situations:

1 Where the cat’s temperament makes it extremely difficult to handle for example, with some animals it may be necessary in order to be able to clip matted hair from the coat, or to both the cat.

2 Where a long painful procedure has to be performed which unduly distress the cat, such as passing a catheter into the bladder of a male cat with a urinary blockage.

3 Where it is necessary for the cat to remain absolutely still-for example for radiographs to be taken. This is particularly necessary if such radiographs involve complex techniques e.g. the injection of contrast media to show up certain structures more clearly.

As with any type of ‘photograph’, movement produces blurring of the image so that it can be difficult to distinguish important details. For certain radiographic procedures it may be sufficient to keep the animal still by holding it, but this is usually unsatisfactory for complex procedures, as well as exposing the handlers to noon-essential radiation.

Q: Is general anaesthesia safe?

Answer: In the vest majority of cases, yes. Modern anaesthetic drugs are less toxic and have greater margin of safety then previously, and in the hands of trained, experienced veterinary staff death from anaesthesia seldom occurs. However, it should be appreciated that, just as in human medicine, there are individuals who may, quit unpredictably, react unfavorably to a particular drug. Fortunately, such idiosyncratic reactions are few and far between.

Certain groups of animals are most at risk from the undesirable effects of anaesthetics principally the very old, the very young, and severely ill, debilitated or weak animals, especially those suffering from shock. Whenever possible, it is batter to delay anaesthesia and surgery until the animal is in a stronger condition to withstand it. But clearly in an emergency situation this is not possible.

Two general rules emerge therefore:

1 Postpone noon-essential anesthesia and operations (e.g. cat spays) on sick animals until they are improved.

2 Perform any really essential anaesthesia and surgery immediately, before a cat’s condition deteriorates further.