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Health and Behaviour

Often, people think that getting a cat begins and ends with selecting a kitten and bringing it home.  The fact is, this attitude couldnít be further from the truth !  A kitten is a baby, and like all babies, you have to teach and set limits if you want an adult cat that is socialized and well behaved.  One of the biggest reasons that adult cats are surrendered to shelters is because of behavioural problems that make it too difficult to share your home with your cat. 

 

Kittens learn best by copying their parents.  Here two Ragdoll females ( Lily feeding and Hope in the bottom right of the photo)

between them ensure that the kittens are clean and fed.  Kittens start copying their parents as young as three weeks of age.

 

If you want a well behaved cat, start right Ė be selective when choosing your kitten. Most pedigree cats are not made available to their purr-ever families until they are 10 Ė 12 weeks of age. This is because reputable breeders want their kittens to have a much opportunity as possible to learn their socialization skills from Mum.

This does not mean that if your non-pedigree kitten is 6 Ė 8 weeks of age that they canít be taught adequate behaviour, it simply means that you as the owner must act as a substitute parent.

Photo of Phantom, one of a dumped litter

 of four I hand raised from a few days old.

 

Sometimes you must be parent to a kitten in more ways than one.  Breeding involves risks, one of which is that the mother can die during birth or be too ill to care for the kittens.  If that happens, round the clock care and bottle feeding is the only way to save the kittens.  Do you want to risk the life of your cat with a litter of kittens that may kill her ?

Behaviour tips :

          Your kitten is a baby Ė and like all babies, needs to be taught limits.  Try these tricks :

          To stop your kitten biting, blow sharply into their mouth.  This causes a reflex swallow action and they let go.  They donít like the feel either, and soon stop.

          Get yourself a water pistol.  Snacking and yelling only make the cat scared of you.  If you see kitty doing something wrong, squirt them with a water pistol.  They will not associate the unpleasant squirt with you, just the behaviour.

          Donít reward bad behaviour.  If your cat consistently jumps on the meal table begging for food and you feed them, then they associate the jumping behaviour with being fed.  Instead, say ďNOĒ firmly, and lift them down.  If they persist, put them in another area and shut the door.  This way, they associate the bad behaviour with missing out on all the action.

          The reason most cats are scared of car travel and the cat cage is because the only time they experience these they go to the vet and something nasty happens to them.  Try placing a blanket in the cage with the door off.  Your cat will get used to sleeping in it and wonít go into hysterics every time you bring it out.  Also, take you cat on trips in the car that donít end in the vet.  For instance, I regularly take my kittens on the car when collecting my husband from the train station.  This way, they learn to be relaxed when travelling, making it much easier for you.

          Cats need to scratch, to help control claw growth.  If you donít give them a suitable, stable post, theyíll make their own Ė usually on your good furniture.  Get a good scratch post and theyíll leave the rest of your things alone.  In Australia declawing is illegal, as well it should be around the world.  We prohibit declawing in our contract and will not place kittens otherwise.  It is not necessary, it is a barbaric amputation of your cats toes.  Cats that are declawed can't defend themselves, become withdrawn as a result of the mutilation and many develop behaviour problems - such as not using litter trays because it's now too painful to dig in the litter.  If you can't deal with the fact that cats have claws, then don't have one.  Mutilation is not the answer.

          If Puss gets up too early in the morning, you may need to adjust their sleeping routine.  When you see Puss dosing off early in the evening gently wake them and play with them.  An hours additional wake-up time means an extra hour they will sleep the next morning.  Iíve found it works quite well, and they soon adjust to the new sleep pattern.

 Health :

          We vaccinate our cats.  In Australia, vaccines are placed through a rigorous testing procedure to gain approval and we are confident that they are safe to use based on the current scientific literature.  We use killed (inactivated) products only, as the Ragdoll breed is known to be sensitive to live (activated) and modified-live vaccines.  We remain at the vet for some time after vaccinations in case anti-histamines are needed to control an adverse reaction.  This has happened once or twice since we started breeding, and the cats in question are now a healthy happy neuters and speys.  They now receive antihistamines as a routine part of their vaccination protocol.

          Some kittens develop a small pea-sized lump at the site under the skin where they were immunised.  This lump will subside in about a week, and does not cause any discomfort to the cat.  Some cats get it, some donít Ė it depends entirely on the individual.

          Ragdolls are sensitive to anesthetics.   Isoflurane (gas) is suitable agent  for all speying and neutering procedures.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that Ketamine and Domidor are not suitable for Ragdolls.  Make sure you talk to your vet about what drugs will be used. In many cases if they are not familiar with the idiosyncracies of the breed, you will know more than they do.  You need to work out between you the best approach for your cat.

          Ragdolls are in general a robust, healthy breed with a life span of 12 to 15 years.  As with any other animal, spontaneous health problems may occur in individual cats or if the breeding program is not geneticially diverse, but we have not experienced this with our program.  We screen our cats, scrutinise pedigrees and calculate in-breeding co-efficients prior to each mating to ensure that as far as we are able to control it,  problems will not arise. 

          Kittens lose their baby teeth at around about 15 to 20 weeks of age.  Some kittens breeze through this, some donít.  ALL however, will want something to chew on.  If you donít want this to be the electrical cord for your TV, provide an alternative.  The cardboard tube out of a toilet roll is good, so is a tightly rolled up piece of paper.  You may find teeth on the floor, or your kitten may seem to be drooling a little.  This is normal.  If your kitten seems to be off their food for more than a day or appears to have a temperature or be lethargic, however, a trip to the vet just to check may be in order.

          Sometimes Puss may wake up with one eye seemingly glued shut.  Donít panic Ė they probably have sleep in their eyes thatís caught the eyelid hairs.  Just wipe the eye with a damp cotton bud and loosen the material, and youíll have two baby blues looking back at you.  If the eye looks red or swollen, or Puss isnít opening it fully, check there is no hair in the eye.  If you canít see any irritant, or the problem persists, a trip to the vet is in order.