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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

This is very urgent, I found a kitten about 5-6 weeks old. She apparently was dumped and has not eaten in quite some time. We have taken her in along with our 5 other cats (who are not happy with us). We do not have the money to take her to the vet. She is eating and drinking, but her stools are loose and she is weak. What can we do to help in her recovery? We have named her Phoebe. She is adorable and loving. And we cannot understand how someone could do that to one of God’s animals. But we are here to be adopted by her. We would appreciate any advice possible. Thank you and God Bless you and the cats on this site.

~Terri

Siouxsie: It’s very kind and noble of you to rescue this stray kitten and try to help her get strong and healthy again. We’re very grateful to you and others whose love for animals prompts them to help cats in need.

Thomas:  We do have some tips for you about how to go about rescuing her and restoring her to health.

Dahlia: First of all, it’s very important that you keep this kitten away from your other cats until she gets a clean bill of health. Stray cats can have parasites or illnesses that could be contagious to your other feline residents.

Siouxsie: If you have a room where you can provide Phoebe with her own litterbox, food and water, bed and toys, that would be the best choice.

Thomas: There are several reasons why Phoebe might be weak and have runny stools. First of all, a lot of kittens are born with roundworms. Roundworms can be transmitted through mother’s milk, through the ingestion of infected dirt (usually by grooming), or by eating prey animals that are infected with roundworms.

Dahlia: Weakness and diarrhea are two common symptoms of roundworm infestation. Roundworms can be very dangerous to kittens. They can also be transmitted to cats and to humans, so it’s important to deworm any cat that has roundworms.

Siouxsie: Roundworms–and other intestinal parasites such as tapeworms and hookworms–can be diagnosed by viewing a stool sample in a microscope. The microscopic examination will reveal worm eggs or cysts and can also detect other microparasites such as giardia.

Thomas: It is commonly assumed that kittens, particularly those born to stray mothers or mothers who have received inadequate veterinary care, do have roundworms.

Dahlia: This site has good information about roundworms and their life cycle. It also lists some products that can get rid of roundworms.

Siouxsie:  Mama doses us with Strongid, an inexpensive roundworm killer available at veterinarians’ offices, every six months. We don’t like it, but we like worms even less! When we get tapeworms, Mama gets Cestex from the vet and gives us that stuff.

Thomas: Products you get from a vet are much more effective than over-the-counter dewormers of the type you can buy at pet stores.

Dahlia: If you’re giving Phoebe cow’s milk to drink, that can cause diarrhea as well. We cats like the taste of cow milk, but we don’t tolerate it very well because we lack the right enzymes to digest it properly. If you need to give Phoebe a milk-type product, we recommend kitten milk replacer, which you can buy at pet stores.

Siouxsie: Kitten milk replacer contains the right nutrients to help a growing kitten. Since kittens aren’t fully weaned until they’re about eight weeks old, Phoebe probably does need some of those nutrients she’d find in her mother’s milk.

Thomas: The thing is, Terri, you really do need to find a way to get Phoebe to a vet. She needs to be checked for worms and fleas, and she needs to be tested to see if she carries diseases like feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia (FeLV), which can be easily transmitted to other cats.

Dahlia: Phoebe is also going to need vaccinations. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends the following “core” vaccinations for all cats: Rabies, which is legally required in some parts of the US; and FVRCP, a vaccination which protects against feline viral rhinotracheitis and calcivirus (upper respiratory infections) and panleukopenia (also known as distemper). Some veterinarians are giving a vaccine called HCP, which is just another brand name; they vaccinate against the same diseases, but HCP is designed to have a longer period of effectiveness.

Siouxsie: Cats that go outdoors are at risk for contracting feline leukemia, so they should be vaccinated against the feline leukemia virus as well.

Thomas: There are a number of other vaccinations, but in our opinion these are not strictly necessary for the health and well-being of your cat. If you want to learn more about cat vaccinations and core and non-core vaccines, you can find out more from this quick guide to the American Veterinary Association’s recommended vaccines and vaccination schedule.

Dahlia: We know you said you can’t afford to take Phoebe to the vet. But there are resources available to help. First of all, contact your local humane society. Since you’ve rescued a stray, they may be able or willing to make money available for a veterinary exam and required vaccinations or treatments.

Siouxsie: Also, if you have a regular veterinarian for your other kitties, you might ask them if they’d be willing to let you make payments or if they know of a fund that may help you get Phoebe off to a good start.

Thomas: Here’s a short list of other resources that may be able to provide funds to help you out.

Dahlia: Good luck, Terri. Please let us know how things turn out with Phoebe.

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