Pil­low talk

The Tribune (NZ) - - INSIGHT -

What have I done? Or what on earth was I think­ing when she or he con­vinced me the other night to get this new kit­ten or puppy? Beware of pil­low talk! But those four-legged toi­let­ing ma­chines are pretty cute! And don’t worry - it will all work out fine. Shoe boxes ar­riv­ing at the hos­pi­tal is a sure sign that sum­mer has ar­rived.

In Townsville, Aus­tralia, it wasn’t shoe boxes but pil­low cases. I walked in to my new job to find a pil­low case hang­ing on ev­ery cor­ner of ev­ery ta­ble or desk. In­side each pil­low case was a joey. It was an amaz­ing place to work be­cause they did all the wildlife work for the area. This in­cluded rais­ing tiny young echid­nas (like a por­cu­pine) which don’t have quills or spines when they are very young (some­thing I hadn’t re­ally thought about), pos­sums, and deal­ing with birds of prey, along with all the young kan­ga­roos and wal­la­bies found in the pouches of their dead moth­ers af­ter they were killed on the roads. But get­ting back to sum­mer. Its kit­ten and puppy sea­son, so I thought it would be help­ful to give you a cou­ple of things to check your­self and a bit of info. Most im­por­tantly:

Is it a boy or a girl?

There are lots of mis­takes made in this area and a few hasty name changes as a re­sult. All pup­pies and kit­tens are born with two open­ings below the tail (ob­vi­ous I know BUT) The dif­fer­ence be­tween a male and a fe­male is the dis­tance be­tween the anal and gen­i­tal open­ings. Males have a larger dis­tance be­cause the scro­tum sep­a­rates the two (but the tes­ti­cles are not there for about four to six weeks). Fe­males have a much shorter dis­tance be­tween the two open­ings and the gen­i­tal open­ing is a ver­ti­cal slit rather than the small cir­cu­lar open­ing of the male. Also, tor­toise­shell kit­tens are al­most al­ways fe­males. There is no colour cod­ing in dogs un­for­tu­nately. Rab­bits are very dif­fi­cult to sex at a young age and small pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sions are not un­com­mon as a re­sult of a mis­take here.

What age should I get a kit­ten or puppy?

Kit­tens should be at least nine to 10 weeks old be­fore go­ing to their new home, and should be fully weaned (ie eat­ing solid kit­ten food). Pup­pies can vary in the age that they can go to a new home, but all breeds should be at least eight weeks old and again fully weaned. Smaller and def­i­nitely toy breeds should be at least 12 weeks old.

What to feed, how much to feed?

The most im­por­tant rule here is: Keep the food the same. So don’t change their food ev­ery two days from dry to wet or vice versa. By far the most com­mon prob­lem we see kit­tens and pup­pies for is di­ar­rhoea. There are lots of rea­sons but di­etary changes are a big cause. Just keep it sim­ple and as you mean to con­tinue. So wa­ter and one type of food, and prefer­ably dry food if they have al­ready been on this.

When do they get vac­ci­nated?

Pup­pies start at six weeks then again at eight or nine weeks and kit­tens for the first time at eight to nine weeks of age. And it’s a great time to get a full check up to make sure ev­ery­thing is Ok. Worm­ing also starts at two to four weeks of age. A spe­cial plea! Check the rab­bits! It’s fly sea­son as well and those damp bums are par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive to nasty flies. Give them a dry area to sleep with lots of hay and check their back­sides daily for damp­ness. Have a great month from the crazy crew at AN­DER­SON’S Vet Hos­pi­tal, seven days on 357 9993.

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