I’m not sure I wrote about it at the time, but last spring we adopted Rumple (technically Rumpelstiltskin, pictured below… rough life) from the Guelph Humane Society as part of their Barn Cat Adoption program. He quickly migrated from the barn and set up shop as a garage and deck cat (which also lead to an unintended 12 hr, 100 km round-trip excursion when he hitched a ride from someone who left their car door open for a minute while at the house… but that’s another story and an example of the value of microchips).

Out of the goodness of his heart, Rumple adopted a wayward young female feral cat this spring. Not long after, she kept getting bigger and bigger, disappeared for a couple days, then came back much smaller. That answered the “pregnant vs abdominal disease” question.  (For the record, Rumple’s not to blame for that, since cats are neutered, vaccinated and microchipped as part of the barn cat adoption program.) We weren’t sure where the kittens were or if they were alive.  Five weeks later, I saw her trotting in from the field with a kitten in her mouth, relocating them from the birthing spot to our attic (which also required maneuvering up an extension ladder to get there).
So, we now have 6 kittens living above our garage, and we need to think about a preventive medicine plan.

I’ll start with deworming. These kittens look pretty healthy so far – actually very healthy for feral kittens, probably because of limited cat density in our rural area. They don’t have the classic pot-bellied (worm filled) appearance, but they are presumably harbouring parasites. Neonates are the highest risk group for a variety of parasites. They can be exposed early in life, develop significant parasite burdens in a short time, and are at greatest risk of health complications as a result. They also pose the greatest risk of transmission to people since they are often handled very closely, and more apt to poop just about anywhere. (That doesn’t mean they should be totally avoided as biohazards. My kids are having a great time trying to socialize the kittens – a little common sense and handwashing are key.)

Because of the greater risk during this period and the likelihood of a greater worm burden, we’re more aggressive with deworming youngsters. I was able to (semi-effectively) treat their mom during what we now know was pregnancy, with a topical dewormer. Ideally, we’d have started deworming the kittens starting at 2 weeks of age, and repeating at 4, 6, and 8 weeks, followed by monthly treatments until 6 months of age. This obviously wasn’t possible since they weren’t accessible for those first time points. Now that we have access to them (when we can catch them… another potential issue at the moment), the process can start. There aren’t specific guidelines for what to do when you start deworming older kittens, but every two weeks for the first 3-4 doses, then monthly until 6 months of age is reasonable. Hopefully they’ll all be re-homed by then anyway. Mother cats can get reinfected during this period from kitten feces, so Alice will get treated a few more times as well.

Among the future priorities… corralling the kittens so they can be treated and socialized more easily, vaccinating, finding homes for them (despite the daily requests from my kids to keep them) and getting Alice spayed, since as much fun as kittens are, there’s not exactly a shortage.