We are just back from the vet’s where Inkie got his second and final kitten inoculation. Our boy was a nervous wreck, clinging to me while sticking his head in the crook of my elbow.
Luckily, our vet is brilliant. He popped the needle in Inkie’s well upholstered bottom and in seconds we were all done.
We went straight home and Inkie is now upstairs, lying flat on his back in bed, recovering from the trauma of it all. And if I know my boy, he’s also ruminating over ways to punish my wicked betrayal.
The curious thing is that we are dealing with Inkie’s basic health decisions in a completely novel way, mostly because of the lockdowns.
Inkie was born on Jan 1, and he and his mum were taken in promptly by their rescuer. When he joined our family in the third week of May, he was just shy of six months old.
While Inkie was well fed, healthy, and flea-free, he hadn’t had his kitten vaccinations yet. Also, he hadn’t been neutered.
Normally, kittens have their first shots at six weeks and another a month later. They also have worming tablets and after they’re two or three months old, they may have flea preventative too.
Neutering used to be arranged according to age, with tom cats going in for the op at six months. However, current thinking focuses on maturity. When kittens reach 2lbs (0.9kg) in weight, roughly at three months old, they’re considered ready.
In addition, standard advice is to wait a month between vaccinations and surgery.
So when Inkie joined us, we knew that following protocol meant Inkie would settle in for a few week or two. Then he would go in for his vaccinations at six months and seven months, followed by the snip at eight months. That number worried us.
When tom cats mature, their bodies change and this affects their attitude and behaviour. Intact adult toms spray urine to mark their territory. They also defend their territory from other toms.
While Inkie was still a baby, tom cats can reach maturity at six months. Our boy is big boned, tall, and definitely mature for his age. In just a week, we could see him grow. That may also be because the little pirate had stashed a bag of biscuits behind the pantry door, but that’s another story.
We worried that putting the neutering off for two months might cause a problem. We didn’t want an adult intact Inkie warring with our old boy Target or peeing all over the house in an attempt to mark his territory.
Another concern was that we anticipated more lockdowns. Back in May, numbers were rising rapidly. There was also news of new variants that might come into play.
Putting it together, we were concerned that circumstances might combine. Adding another month to the numbers, or perhaps two, would mean Inkie wouldn’t be neutered until he was 10 months old. That really would be pushing it.
Usually, vaccinations are vital because kittens are super fragile. Many feral and stray cats lose their kits due to disease. But with Target and Tic Tac both inoculated and everyone living indoors, we considered the risk of infection to be low.
Figuring it all out and calculating the odds, we decided to ignore protocol. We asked our vet to neuter Inkie first, and do the vaccinations after.
Well, it worked out fine. Inkie was neutered end of May, a day before he was officially six months old. Our poor boy was nervous about being in the car and due to SOPs, I put his box at the surgery door and backed away. Two-and-a-half hours later, the vet put the box out and we got our pet back.
He was fine. Dopey, with a sore bottom, but OK. Within hours, he was asking Tic Tac for kisses, and insisting he was so weak and shattered that he needed reviving with treats. He got them. Hand-fed, with appropriate grovelling from me.
Lockdown hit again almost immediately after, and all of our gloomiest projections came through. It wasn’t until five weeks ago that Inkie went for his first baby injection. He had his second shot this morning, at the age of almost 10 months.
Although it was radical, we’re happy we ignored common practice. If we’d vaccinated him first, he would have been a month late for his second shot and on top of that, he would have been 10 months old when neutered.
Would it have made a difference to wait two months between his kitten shots? I’ve no clue. According to rescuers, strays and ferals often vanish for days on end and sometimes more. So it’s not unusual for street kitties to have longer than the recommended month between injections.
As for the neutering, 10 months is still more kitten than cat. But looking at Inkie’s enormous size, it would have been a little tight for comfort. He is a big boy, already an inch taller than Target and much bigger than his sister.
But for all the broad chest and macho posing, Inkie is still a baby. With the relaxed SOPs, I was allowed to take him in personally and hold him for his shots. Our poor boy was dead scared and yet he didn’t even stick out a claw. He’s a sweet cat, soft as butter.
So, it’s all done and dusted. Inkie is all healthy and set for a long and happy life. As a matter of fact, we’re kicking off right now with a small party.
Inkie is a clever boy and he has learned to exploit us to the max after a visit to the vet. As he’s rested an hour now, he’ll be waiting for me to make amends. I have a pile of treats, enough for all three cats to party. And to soothe his hurt feelings, I’m up for a fulsome grovel.
Life is good.
While the pandemic is hopefully nearing its end, it has reminded us that following standard practice is not always possible or ideal. Here are some basic issues to consider when adopting a cat or kitten.
Worming and fleas. It used to be that these took different systems but nowadays there combo treatments. Work out what is best for your pet, but consider these rules of thumb.
First roundworm treatment should be at three weeks of age and repeated at five weeks and eight weeks of age. Then monthly until your pet is six months old. For cats aged older than six months, use a combo product for roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms every one to three months.
For fleas, read the product details carefully. Typically, you can start once kittens are two months old and weigh 2lbs (0.9kg). Applications to be repeated every four to six weeks.
Basic shots. Cats get basic combo shots that protect against Feline Rhinotracheitis (FVR), Feline Calicivirus (FCV), and Feline Panleukopenia (FPL). There may by a fourth available that also protects against feline chlamydiosis.
Typical schedules are for a single dose at about two months, followed by a second shot one month later. Then there is a booster at one year, followed by boosters every three years.
Note: There is considerable debate about over-vaccination and under-vaccination. Also, schedules can vary depending on the product. Talk to your vet to see what's what.
Rabies. If you're in a rabies area, ask your vet about shots. Typical schedules are for a single dose at about two months, followed by a second shot a year later, and boosters every three years.
Other options. If your pet is an outdoor kitty, or mixing with other cats in shows or shelters or hotels, you may want to explore extra protection. Standard "non-core" extras include Feline Leukemia vaccine, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), and Giardia vaccine.
Neutering. Old rules of thumb are to neuter and spay at six months. New thoughts are that kittens can be safely spayed or neutered at two months, or as soon as they weigh 2lbs (0.9kg). However, this is for healthy and robust kittens, and you need to factor in when they get their vaccinations.
Working out health issues is always tricky because every pet is different. For safety, talk to your vet and plan it all out so your pet gets the best schedule for its health and situation.
Pumpkin is two years old, neutered, healthy and super social. This handsome boy is extremely manja and very loving. He bonds well with other cats, and he loves people. If you walk past his enclosure, he’ll meow. He holds very good conversations! Interested adopters, please ask for Pumpkin, C245. Interested adopters, please contact PAWS Animal Welfare Society, Jalan PJU 1A/20, Ara Damansara, 47301 Subang, Selangor (phone: 011-2193 5651/ website: paws.org.my).