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Home Eminent Columnists

Eminent Columnists

This is the second and concluding part in a series of two articles on How to take care of a cat and kittens. The first part of this article was featured in the December 2013 issue.

For the love of cats and kittens!


Always feed a new kitten the same food it has been used to. A sudden change of diet combined with the stress of adapting to a new home can cause stomach upsets and diarrhoea. If you want to change the diet, do so gradually by mixing it with the kitten’s usual food. Kittens have small stomachs and have to be fed little and often, like babies. It can be very difficult to put together a homemade diet which provides all the nutrients required by growing kittens - it is a great deal easier to feed a good quality commercial kitten food and spend the time playing with the kitten instead! Cats and kittens go blind on purely vegetarian diets, so if you are hung up on vegetarianism, we suggest you don’t keep cats.

There are foods which have been specially formulated for kittens because they have different nutritional needs to the fully grown cat. Read and follow the feeding instructions on cat food bags or boxes carefully. If the food is marked ‘complete’ it contains everything the kitten needs to stay healthy. If it is marked ‘complementary’ it does not supply all the kitten needs and should be fed with other foods. Fresh drinking water should be available at all times.

Toilet Training

Cats are very clean and fussy about their toilet habits and kittens will usually have learnt to use a litter tray by copying their mother. You may just need to show your new kitten where the litter tray is and place a trace of its old litter in the tray and lift the kitten onto the tray on waking up from a sleep and after meals, or when the kitten is sniffing, scratching or beginning to crouch and looks as if it is about to go! Give it some time and privacy and the smell should do the trick.

Instincts & Health

All animals have instincts that are strong. For cats and kittens, their claws are sharp and by instinct they need a scratching post or pad or they will destroy your furniture. So is their instinct to hunt, so don’t be mad if they kill a bird or a rat. Just prevent the access if you want to avoid this. Cats are prolific breeders and male cats will roam and fight, while strange male cats will invade your home if you have a female cat. So neutering by the age of 6 months is absolutely a must for both male and female kittens. Annual vaccines, as for dogs, are a must for cats along with routine de-worming and grooming schedules with anti-flea treatment.


Kittens love to play and in the company of other kittens they will play for hours together. So ideally two cats are better than one, they play with each other and care for each other, even when you are not home. Give them an assortment of toys to keep them occupied and exercised - these need not be expensive - every kitten loves a cardboard box to play in. They love to chase objects – felt mice toys at the end of a string, or pointer lights. They love to dive into shredded or scrunched paper balls. Play is also a good way for you to get to know and trust your cats.

A word of caution: Don’t leave any toys lying out with string attached as they could tie themselves into knots and choke or strangulate.

Month: January 2014


It was a cloudy Sunday with no threat of rain and the air was cool. The setting was perfect, outdoors with shady trees by the side lake and ample space for Hyderabadis and their pet’s alike! In fact, this particular Sunday couldn’t have been better! In the growing concrete jungle and traffic of the city and the growing intolerance for both people and animals - Pedigree and Blue Cross came together to convince N Convention to co-create an event where tolerance and fun would be the theme, with people and animals living together in harmony in our city. It was a day where pets could be pets and let themselves free and enjoy! It was a day for this, about this and with this! The theme was simple; family, pets, fun!

Why hold a Pet Carnival? Testing waters on how to bring about attitude changes, awareness and regard for city animals and provide their keepers, pet parents opportunity to bond with them, interact with others and socialise, Blue Cross of Hyderabad conducted a Pet Carnival recently. Master mind behind the Pet Carnival was Pedigree who provided all the professional skill and help to ensure guidance at the venue on training, food and nutrition options, veterinary guidance and more, N Convention willing provided the space and the logistics. And Blue Cross provided the volunteers and animals to start off the event, with dozens of enterprising Government school teachers (from Teach for India) bringing their children to interact with the animals on Jan 26th to make it a huge success!

Over 1500 people visited with over 200 pets and children were not counted as there were many schools who visited. Thanks to the efforts and hard work of our amazing volunteers Blue Cross shelter dogs had a beautiful day out and even won awards.  So what took place at the Pet Carnival? There were walk in contests for pet and pet parent. There were professional help desks, municipal registration booths for pet registration. There were fun games, activity areas, photo sessions and meet the Blue Cross animal zones. Puppies, kittens, cats and dogs ready for adoption and counselling for people seeking to adopt. We were all surprised when our blind dogs stole the show as they were not visually distracted like the other dogs, walking straight lines, by the side of the volunteer walking them. Many children came to meet the animals and got over their fears. When pets don’t get to socialise they become unsocial. This is why the pet carnival was put together. Most people brought their dogs and cats , and one lady even brought her horse who was a star attraction!

Hopefully the pet carnival will be a bi-annual event and go a long way in making our city an animal friendly place.

Month: March 2014

Some days I drive along the road and see that every street dog is scratching itself in frenzy and I understand what they mean by “a dog’s life”! Poor creatures! Is your pet scratching too? Can you see tiny dark specks in its fur, or small brown-black insects scurrying about? Do you have any unaccounted for insect bites yourself that itch like crazy? If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions – it could mean fleas.

Dogs and cats often get infested with fleas through contact with other animals or contact with fleas in the environment. The strong back legs of this insect enable it to jump from host to host or from the environment onto the host. The flea’s bite causes itching for the host and for a sensitive or flea-allergic animal, this itching can be quite severe and leads to hair-loss, inflammation and secondary skin infections.

How do you know if fleas are causing all that itching? Generally, unlike the microscopic mites, fleas can be seen scurrying along the surface of the skin. They dislike light, so look for them within furry areas and on the pet’s belly and inner thighs to spot them. Look for ‘flea dirt’, which looks like dark specks of pepper scattered on the skin surface. If you see flea dirt, (flea feces ), pick some off the pet and place on a wet paper towel. If after a few minutes the tiny specks spread out like a small blood stain, it’s definitely flea dirt and your pet has fleas! Attention to constant scratching or noticing the tendency to itch till the dog bleeds, suggests an allergic reaction to flea bite. Such allergy needs immediate veterinary treatment and should not be ignored.

Treatment, Prevention and Prescription Medication

Treating for fleas is important as fleas feed on blood, so young or frail animals can become weak and even die as a result of blood loss. Flea larvae can become infected with tapeworm eggs. If your pet eats an infected flea it can become host to this parasite. If your pet has fleas you should also make sure your pet is treated for worms. Fleas can also pass diseases to your pets.

There are a wide variety of flea products on the market today, and the newer prescription products are finally taking the frustration out of flea control. Some of these flea products when put on the pet, do not harm the adult flea but instead prevents her eggs from hatching, thus breaking the life cycle of the flea; with no reproduction the flea population eventually dissipates as long as the pet isn’t coming in contact with new fleas continually. Fleas can be a problem even in the most spotless home or on the cleanest pet.

Only give your pet flea treatment that has been recommended for it, ideally as prescribed by a vet. Products suitable for one species may not be suitable for another e.g. dog flea treatments contain permethrin, an insecticide that is safe for dogs but highly toxic to cats. Cats have ingestible flea treatment that protects for 1-3 months depending on dosage and age of cat.

A vacuum cleaner is your single most important weapon in the war on fleas. In fact, it kills nearly 100 percent of fleas that get sucked into it. Though it’s not clear why, hypotheses include the idea that it dries the exterior coating that keeps fleas hydrated.

If preceding pattern of bathing and vacuuming doesn’t do the trick, head to the vet for some professional recommendations like leave-on skin treatments with chemicals etc.

Month: February 2014

I’m not talking about their accent here. Nor am I talking about their unique capability of brushing their teeth in buses and also spit ‘paan’ leaf juice accurately at places where no one else in their right mind would not want to.

Nor is it their habit of making anyone who looks a year or so older than themselves their uncle or aunty depending on their gender.

No, I’m not talking about their manic obsession for cricket, movies or Amitabh Bachchan either.

And it is a well-established fact that while they are good at living in abject poverty and great at computing, they are not well endowed ‘down’ there. Particularly, and obviously the men take the blame for it.

And, I’m not the guy who is saying this. It’s the well-known stand-up comedian Russel Peters. I can hear a lot of Indian men out there growling “Speak for yourself Russel...”.

So, what is it that I am talking about?

It’s their ability to pull off some surprises. Winning one gold medal at the Olympics [other than in hockey], after decades of being also-rans. That was a surprise. But then Abhinav Bindra did not have to win it for running the fastest over a distance or hammering all others senseless in boxing. He won it where the prime talent is in standing still. If you just look around, you will find millions of Indians practicing that art. They can gaze steadily at nothing while chewing ‘paan’ without twitching a little finger for hours together. It’s all in the gene structure. We are good at standing still. Except at night, when we heave, huff and puff and try our best to overtake China as the most populous nation in the world.

The thing about Indians is, that they can pull off the most astonishing surprises for sure.

Analysing the current situation, we have pathetic rich to poor divide, our sense of designing beautiful streets and buildings died out ages ago when the soap box came into existence. All buildings, homes and offices were subsequently modelled on the lines of a soap box.

In fact, for the recent Deepavali, I almost had to apply for a bank loan to buy a few crackers for my young son. And the rockets in the small bag of crackers managed to go past the top floor of the two-storey soap box next door. That was a success. The noise from the bombs wouldn’t have scared a baby.

The buses that we import at a great cost explode with fatal consequences. The economy is in shambles. People do not mind buying cars, but it is the fuel price that kills them.

Roads have been strategically created with enough pot holes, open man holes and drains so that any enemy coming in to invade will have their tanks falling into these hazards routinely.

Should one want to buy a train ticket to somewhere, he would have to plan the journey a few months in advance.

And, amidst this whole scenario, they pulled off a surprise again. They have successfully managed to launch a space ship to Mars! What it will do there is anyone’s guess, but it feels good to know that we have sent a space ship to Mars. While our roads are bad, administration is awful, food costs a bomb, we have still managed the launch. The satellite will definitely send some pictures of Mars back to the earth in a few years.

By that time, pictures of the Mars from American satellites will be available on image banks for a couple of dollars each.

So saying, and having eaten a tenth of all the food that they had ordered, they paid the bill and left the table.“Ridiculous”, snapped Yadav. “The government has fixed a price of fifty paise per kilo and these people are spoiling the whole show. Don’t look at it from the money angle alone. Remember, it is precious food that they are wasting.

”Narasimha Rao piped in, “But they claim to be supporting the farmers by buying tomatoes from them at five rupees a kg and two thousand kilos of them!”Goverdhan Yadav looked sad, “Yes Anjaliji, what is the present generation coming to? I understand that everyone has to pay a five-hundred rupee entrance fee to the festival.

The government will of course ban it.”Ranjit looked a little bored. He was wondering what would be the share these two sharks would ask for in exchange of the new contract for supplying sub-standard medicines to the government hospitals.

“In the meanwhile Goverdhanji, have you heard of the new money wasting idea our youngsters are coming up with? They want to have a festival where everyone pelts each other with tomatoes?,” said Anjali.The waiter, trained as he was to smile at all times, blanched. The sum total of the cost of the desserts was more than what he and his wife made in a month.“Since there are four of us, and all of us like good desserts, let’s have four large chocolate mousse helpings, topped with strawberry dressing and four of the largest ice creams you have.

And not to forget, a large bowl of the special khubaani ka meetha, topped with fresh cream,” Anjali ordered. She smiled and added, “I know that this hotel gets its apricots for the khubaani from the Indo-Pak border and they are really good.”Goverdhan Yadav bared his fangs. One would think he bared his fangs whenever he made an effort to smile. The paan-stained red teeth made it seem so. He was rumoured to eat at least two gold leaf paans every day, each costing a couple of thousand rupees.Together, they were the delight of most diabetologists and countless dress designers trying valiantly to clothe them to look svelte.Not only did Anjali know a lot about desserts, desserts also knew her very well.

They sat very comfortably on her mid-section, hind-section and actually all over rather comfortably. So also with her husband Ranjit. Narasimha Rao, the trade union leader who spouted ethics and equal opportunities at every given occasion, practiced everything otherwise. Wearing his trade mark, cheap white khadi shirt and trousers, crisply ironed, he looked like an aggrieved shark in general. One who has had a prime bite of a sailors shank taken away by a bigger shark. He smiled and nodded at Anjali. “Madam, you order,” he said, “You are the best person who knows desserts.” Goverdhan Yadav, a cabinet minister, also nodded.“Sweetheart, order the desserts,” said Ranjit, smiling at the other two guests at the table.

Anjali nodded absent-mindedly. Forty-something against her husband’s forty-six, she was usually absent-minded (except when it came to spending money), and Ranjit could easily afford it. The last week at the hotel in Goa was one of the frequent whims they had indulged in, ostensibly to celebrate their waking up together one evening! Ranjit after all made money by the bagfuls and had no qualms about spending it on himself. Ranjit Shah, hot shot business magnate, pushed away the half-eaten plate of mutton rogan josh at the five-star hotel. “This is nice,” he said to his wife Anjali, “but not as good as the one we had at the Goa last week.”The recently planned tomatina festival in Hyderabad brought to fore the underlying natures of Indians. Truly and completely.

Month: September 2011.

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