We are excited and honored to partner with you for your new pet’s health care and wellness needs. Contained in this packet is information to help you and your pet get started on a lifetime of health and happiness.
To help meet your needs, Coastal Sunrise Animal Hospital can accommodate appointments, bathing, drop off appointments, and surgery Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:30 am until 5:00 pm and Monday and Thursday 7:30 am until 6:00 pm
The Veterinarians and Team Members
Coastal Sunrise Animal Hospital
FIRST YEAR OF LIFE
Adding a kitten, or kittens, to your family is one of the most rewarding experiences. Kittens can keep one another company, play together, and can share a long life together as best friends. The first year is full of milestones for your kitten. From learning how to play and interact with your family, to growing strong and healthy. It is important to learn to recognize and anticipate your kitten’s natural behaviors while being proactive in your cat’s health care plan. Kickstart your kitten’s lifetime of wellness with proper vaccines, parasite prevention, and safe socialization so you can enjoy many happy years to come.
THE FIRST 8-10 WEEKS
Whether your kitten was acquired from a shelter or breeder, stray, or gifted, there are some basics to make sure you start off on the right “paw”. Ideally, kittens are with their mother and littermates for the first 8-10 weeks of their life. This period is called the socialization period. Kittens learn appropriate car behavior, and their experiences in this window of time help to share life-long interactions with their environment. At 8-10 weeks old, a kitten is ready to step out into the world and explore! No longer dependent on their mother and littermates for life lessons and entertainment, kittens show independence and an abundance of curiosity. For many cat caregivers, this will be the strongest bonding time you share with your pet.
PREPARE BEFORE YOU BRING YOUR KITTEN HOME
Before you bring your kitten home, try to prepare by having the following items ready:
- Cat carrier ideally with a front and top loading feature.
- Clean, low profile litter box with at least two inches of litter (scoopable, unscented is preferred)
- Cat appropriate toys and grooming brush or comb
- Separate food and water bowls
- Kitten dry and wet canned food
FIND A VETERINARIAN ASAP
Most kittens are full of energy and excitement. Don’t let their energy distract you from keeping them healthy. Your kitten needs a thorough physical exam and protection from preventable diseases by receiving appropriate vaccines. Ideally, the first visit to the veterinarian should happen within the first week you bring your kitten home. If you have other cats in your household, your new kitten should be tested by your veterinarian before coming into your home. To keep a kitten healthy, vaccines are given as a series at specific intervals beginning at 6 weeks old until they have developed sufficient immunity, typically at 16 weeks old. During this time, your kitten will become protected against the “core” group of diseases, including Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper), Calicivirus, Rhinotracheitis, and Rabies. A less obvious point of wellness care is parasite prevention. Unfortunately, many parasites go undetected since young kittens can be infected without showing any clinical signs. To make sure your kitten does not have intestinal parasites, be sure to bring in a stool sample for your first veterinary checkup. Your veterinarian will probably also deworm your kitten at each visit since kittens don’t always shed parasite eggs in their stool. As your kitten grows older, your veterinarian will likely discuss spaying or neutering. While this surgery can be done as early as 7 weeks old, most veterinarians will wait until they’ve reached 6-8 months old. Cats that are adopted from a shelter are usually spayed or neutered before going to their new home.
YOUR KITTEN’S HOME – LET THE TRAINING BEGIN
When you bring your little one home, he/she will want to explore. Take time to show your kitten the litter box, feeding area, and carrier. Training your kitten to be comfortable inside the carrier is an easy way to make her feel safe and secure when going to and from the veterinarian. It will also create a positive relationship with the carrier, so you don’t struggle getting her into the carrier. Leave the carrier open in your living area to encourage your kitten to go in and out freely. Feed your kitten treats and put toys inside the carrier so she has positive associations with the carrier. Take your kitten for short car trips in the carrier so she isn’t fearful of a car ride. Hide treats in the carrier to add to the positive experience.
KEEP UP WITH YOUR KITTEN’S ACTIVITY LEVEL
For energetic kittens, mental activity is just as important as physical well-being. Cats are stimulated by a variety of scents, sounds, and tactile experiences. In felines, healthy development includes acting upon their natural predatory behaviors. Young kittens will naturally stalk, pounce, and roll around with toys unprovoked – a part of their inner big cat!
It comes as no surprise that a natural favorite for kittens is a furry mouse. Avoid string or yarn base toys, as curious kittens may try to eat it.
To discourage biting or scratching, make sure that you avoid using hands and fingers as a way to engage in play. Feather pole toys are excellent for playing with your little ones while keeping your hands at a safe distance.
When you are deciding on a litter box for your cat, think about location, size, type of litter, litter box management, and the number of litter boxes needed for your household.
The general rule of thumb is to have one litter box for each cat, plus one additional extra box.
Look at the floor plan of your home to figure out the best place for the litter box. Avoid placing the food and water bowls close to the litter box.
Cats usually prefer quiet, private places when they need to eliminate. Avoid busy areas of the home and locations where your cat could be cornered in, blocked off, or unable to flee. Place litter boxes in multiple locations that are out of view from other litter boxes and are easily accessible. This way a more timid cat can get to a litter box without passing by or getting clocked by a bully cat.
Keep the litter boxes apart in different locations because your cat views boxes close to each other as one large litter box. If your cat is toileting away from the litter box, place an additional litter box at the new site (temporarily or permanently) to get your cat to use the box again. In a multi-level home, place a litter box on each level. If you have an older cat, place a litter box on the level where they spend the most time, as it may not be easy for them to go up and down stairs each time they need to use the box.
In general, bigger is better, and many litter boxes are too small. Litter boxes should be 1 ½ times the length of your cat from the nose to the base of the tail. The litter box needs to be large enough to allow your cat to enter, turn around, scratch, and eliminate. Suitable alternatives can include concrete mixing trays to storage containers. Older cats need a low entry, so you can cut down the side but inspect for any sharp edges. Many cats do not like box liners or covers, but a shy cat may prefer a covered box.
TYPE OF LITTER
Soft, unscented clumping litter is preferred by most cats and these litters are easier for caregivers to clean. Many cats prefer sand or soil litter as they would use it in the wild. Aromatic or dusty litter, litter deodorizers, and box liners are unpopular with many cats. Many litters contain perfumed crystals or other scents which can cause asthma in cats – and in people! Others, such as cedar or pine, can have scent that also bothers human and feline asthmatics. Avoid litter with sharp or very hard consistency for older cats or those with sensitive paws.
MANAGING THE LITTER BOX
Remove waste at a minimum of once per day, and add litter as needed. Wash the litter box every 1-4 weeks using soap and hot water only. Avoid using strong chemicals or any ammonia-based products. A box with non-clumping litter should be changed completely every week.
MEETING THE NEEDS OF YOUR KITTEN
Provide a safe place. Every cat needs a safe and secure place where it can retreat to feel protected or used as a resting area. The cat should have the ability to exit and enter the space from at least two sides if it feels threatened. Most cats prefer that the safe space is big enough to fit only themselves, has sides around it, and is raised off the ground. Good examples of safe places are cardboard boxes, a cat carrier, or a raised cat perch. There should be at least as many safe places, sized to hold a single cat, as there are cats in a household. Safe places should be located away from each other, so that cats can choose to be on their own. Provide multiple and separated key environmental resources. Key resources include food, water, toileting areas, scratching areas, play areas, and resting or sleeping areas. These resources should be separated from each other so that cats have free access without being challenged by other cats or other potential threats. Separation of resources not only reduces the risk of competition (which may result in one cat being physically prevented from accessing resources by another cat), stress, and stress-associated diseases. Provide opportunity for play and predatory behavior. Play and predatory behaviors allow cats to fulfill their natural need to hunt. Play can be stimulated with the use of interactive toys that mimic the action of hunting for prey and provides more natural eating behavior. You can encourage your cat’s interactive play by rotating your cat’s toys, so they do not get bored and rewarding with treats to provide positive reinforcement for appropriate play. If you have more than one cat, remember to play with them individually. Provide positive, consistent, and predictable human-cat social interaction. Cat’s individual preferences determine how much they like human interactions such as petting, grooming, being played with or talked to, being picked up, and sitting or lying on a person’s lap. To a large extent this depends on whether, as kittens, they were introduced to and socialized with humans during their period of socialization from 2-7 weeks of age. It is important to remember that every cat interacts differently and to respect the cat’s individual preferences. Remember to remind guests and all household members not to force interaction and instead let the cat initiate, choose, and control the type of human contact. Provide an environment that respects the importance of the cat’s sense of smell. Unlike humans, cats use their sense of smell to evaluate their surroundings. Cats mark their scent by rubbing their face and body, which deposits natural pheromones to establish boundaries which make them feel safe and secure. Avoid cleaning their scent off these areas, especially when a new cat is introduced into the home or there are other changes with pets, people, or the environment in the home. The use of synthetic facial pheromones, such as Feliway, can mimic a cat’s natural pheromones and provide a calming effect in a stressful or unfamiliar situation. Some smells can be threatening to cats, such as the scent of unfamiliar animals or the use of scented products, cleaners, or detergents. Threatening smells and the inability to rub their scent can sometimes lead to problematic behaviors such as passing urine or stools outside the litter box, spraying, and scratching in undesirable areas. In some cases, stress-related illnesses may develop. If any of these problems occur, contact your veterinarian right away.
LIVING WITH A CLAWED CAT
Your domestic cat has maintained their instincts of their wild ancestors. Cats’ claws are physically unique and serve several functions. The forelimb claws are retractable and allow her to expose or retract her/his nails as needed.
The reason your cat may expose their claws is:
- To hunt, using them to grasp and capture their prey.
- To defend itself during conflict with other cats or other animals.
- To mark their territory, both visually (scratching inanimate objects) and chemically (via pheromones or scent).
WHY DO CATS SCRATCH INANIMATE OBJECTS?
Scratching is a natural, normal, and necessary behavior for your cat. Your cat does not scratch to upset you or spitefully damage your furniture. Scratching is a form of communication and often your cat will scratch during times of stress and anxiety.
The reason your cat may scratch inanimate objects is:
- To renew their nail by dislodging old nail growth and exposing new, sharper nails underneath.
- To mark their territory visually and with their scent (pheromones) as a message to other cats and animals.
- To stretch out their limbs.
If your cat’s scratching or marking has increased, this may be a sign of stress or anxiety, including a threat or restriction to their environmental resources (food, water, litter box, safe place to sleep, familiar territory, etc.). It is important to figure out the cause of your cat’s stress or anxiety so you can address the issue and reduce the unwanted scratching behavior. A veterinary behaviorist may be needed to help resolve the problem.
BEST PRACTICES FOR LIVING WITH A CLAWED CAT
Living alongside a cat with claws can be an adjustment, especially if you are unfamiliar or a first-time cat caregiver. Trim your cat’s nails regularly. Ask your veterinarian for a demonstration or discuss temporary synthetic nail caps as another option. Provide appropriate resources for each cat in your household. Provide appropriate environmental enrichment in your home to include interactive play, perches, and scratching posts that allow vertical accessibility, along with human attention if desired.
Address inter-cat related issues that may be causing your cat’s fear and anxiety. Inter-cat conflict is common and a cause of unwanted scratching behavior. However, since the signs are subtle, you may not know there is an inter-cat conflict problem in your home. Discuss this with your veterinarian. To help prevent conflict, make sure each cat has ample resources that are located in multiple locations throughout your home. This helps prevent competition for resources. There should be at least two ways where your cat can enter or leave each of their resources. This allows your cat to flee or escape if they feel threatened or stressed. Teach all members of your household to treat your cats with respect. No one should be allowed to play rough with your cat or handle him/her in a manner that causes fear, stress, or pain. Learn proper cat friendly play techniques.
WHAT MAKES AN IDEAL SCRATCHING SURFACE?
Each cat prefers different scratching surfaces. To determine which your cat prefers, offer an assortment of scratching options, in a wide variety of locations.
SIZE AND SHAPE
Most cats like to scratch vertically. They will need a sturdy post that is taller than their body length to fully stretch and give a good scratch. If your cat is scratching your carpet, try a horizontal scratcher.
The texture of the scratching post is also important. Many cats prefer sisal rope, others prefer corrugated cardboard or wood on the scratching surface. It is important to experiment with a variety of textures and types of scratches to determine which is preferred by each cat.
YOUR CAT IS SCRATCHING AN UNWANTED SURFACE
If the surface is near a window or door where you cat can see and/or smell another cat (or other smells), discourage or remove the unwanted cats from your yard, or block the window view and use feline facial pheromones.
If the surface is near where your cat sleeps, place a scratcher near her sleeping area. Place a scratching post or pad near where your cat is currently scratching that is unwanted (e.g. in front of a couch leg, or door to the outside). If your cat scratches somewhere other than the scratching post r\or pad, gently pick him/her up, take him/her to the scratcher, and then provide a reward within 3 seconds (i.e. treat, grooming, play, or petting). Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian so you can discuss all aspects of your cat’s health, environment, interactions, daily schedules, scratching behaviors, and location to identify possible causes and solutions. Some cat caregivers have found success with the placement of two-sided sticky tape, tinfoil, plastic, or furniture covers as a first step to reduce scratching on surfaces. Cats that like to chew plastic should not have access to that type of surface cover. Remember to place a scratching pad or post near this area to give your cat an alternate surface to scratch.
YOUR CAT’S SCRATCHING IS INCREASING
You will need to figure out and address what may be causing your cat’s stress, anxiety, or frustration. Speak with your veterinarian to discuss possible reasons and solutions. Resolve any inter-cat issues immediately with your veterinarian. Make sure each cat has access to their own complete set of resources, which are separated so that cats have free access without being challenged or blocked by other cats or perceived threats.
TRAIN YOUR CAT TO SCRATCH APPROPRIATELY
Yes, you can train your cat to scratch certain approved items, and train them not to scratch at others.
LOCATION IS CRITICAL
Cats often stretch or scratch when they wake up, so place a scratcher near their sleeping area. Place a post or pad near where your cat is currently scratching that is unwanted (e.g. in front of a couch leg, or door to the outside). The changes in scent can result in your cat re-making that area.
PROVIDE REWARDS AND POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
As you redirect your cat to use the new scratching post or pad, reward them immediately (within 3 seconds) to reinforce this positive behavior. Find a reward your cat really likes (i.e. treats, catnip, interactive play and petting, or grooming).
Introduce interactive play early in your cat’s life so they can learn how to play with you. Never use your fingers or toes, or the wiggling of hands or feet as toys during play. Although it may seem cute with kittens, as your kitten grows into a cat, they will believe this is an appropriate form of play. Scratching or biting can lead to painful injuries and infections.
Is your cat overweight?
Do you know what a healthy body weight is for your cat?
The images of fat cats made popular in comic strips and internet memes has changed people’s ideas of a cat’s ideal or normal body weight. It’s quite possible that your feline friend is carrying around a little (or a lot) of extra weight. Your veterinarian can help you figure out a healthy weight for your cat.
OBESITY RELATED HEALTH CONCERNS
Did you know that when a cat is at its ideal body weight, they live longer lives? Not only that, but they tend to feel better, too! Obesity in cats has been linked to many health concerns such as diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease. Fat cells can release pro-inflammatory mediators into the bloodstream which predisposes cats to inflammation. This can cause many conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and asthma – two very common cat diseases. As cats age, arthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD), often become an issue. Cats tend to develop arthritis in the joints of their limbs and spine, which is made worse by extra weight on these joints.
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT OF OBESITY
If you are concerned about your cat’s weight, now is the time to take action. Start your cat on their way to a healthier and happier life. Involve your veterinarian to make sure your car loses weight in a safe and healthy manner. Together you can design a program with weight loss goals, make sure the weight is coming off at an appropriate rate, and ensure that all your kitty’s nutritional requirements are being met.
During your veterinary visit, discuss the type and amount of food your cat is eating. Be sure to tell your veterinarian about the treats your cat receives. Don’t forget those little crumbs from your dinner plate count, too. There are many different types of foods that can create a healthier diet for your cat, including special prescription diets. You and your veterinarian can discuss and figure out which works best for you both. In multiple cat households, often one cat steals food from the other cats. This makes it difficult for you to regulate what your cat eats. Different strategies can be used, such as controlled meal feeding in separate bowls or putting food where only one cat can access it. There are even devices you can buy that only allow a specified cat to access the food based on an I.D. collar or microchip. Discuss the specifics of your situation during your veterinary visit to come up with creative solutions for your home.
TREATS AND REWARDS
It can be hard not to treat your feline friend with lots of food and treats. However, food is only one of the ways that you can spoil it. You can reward your cat with catnip, play, or just plain old loving attention.
Puzzle feeders can also be a great way to slow down eating and provide activity and stimulation.
Just as with people, daily activity is an important part of your cats’ weight loss plan. Indoor cats are particularly prone to inactivity. With a small amount of effort on your part, your cat can start to get more exercise which comes with the added bonus of being more mentally stimulated as well!
INTRODUCING A CAT
When you already have cats as part of your family, introducing your newly adopted cat can seem like an overwhelming task. Patience is key – the transition can take several weeks, but by planning ahead, you can: reduce stress, allow for an easier transition, and build a positive relationship between your feline companions.
STEP ONE: THE FIRST FEW DAYS
You should isolate your new cat in a separate room with its own food, water, litter box, bedding, and toys.
Bring familiar items from the adoption location into the separate room to make this room smell comforting and “homey” to your new cat. If there are other cats in your home, this first step allows both cats to first get used to the scents and sounds of other cats without the risk of confrontation.
Be sure to spend a lot of time with each cat or group of cats individually. Keep their carrier open in the room as well so your cat has a place to hide and can become familiar with the carrier for future veterinary visits. When you allow your cat to become familiar with it’s carrier, it can help reduce the stress and difficulty of getting your cat into the carrier when you need to transport them to the veterinarian’s office or a trip.
Once all your cats in the home seem relaxed, gradually start to move the food dishes closer to the door that separates them. If any stress is noted, go back to where they were comfortably and work more slowly. You can also use a toy for them to play with under the door when they are calm and hopefully curious. If your cats are calm, take a cloth or blanket to wipe one cat and then put the cloth or towel in the room with the other cats. Do the same for new and existing cats, so that the others can smell the cat in their area.
If this is comfortable to all cats, you can also mix the scents on one cloth, wiping first one cat, then the other. Remember to reward all calm behaviors with treats and praise in a soft voice.
When your cats are comfortable with the steps above, it is time to try a brief and safe interaction. This can be done by opening the crack of the door an inch so that both cats are safe but can start to see each other. If one cat hisses or tries to attack, close the door, back up the process, and restart more gradually.
Sometimes it can be helpful to distract your cats with food.
When all is going well, place your new cat inside a carrier and allow your other cat(s) to explore by seeing and smelling your new cat more closely in a safe environment. Continue to reward calm behaviors with treats and praise in a soft voice. If your cats are harness and leash trained, this is another option you can try.
If your cats seem comfortable in this environment, the next step is to try placing them in the same room with direct supervision. Start introductions for brief periods to help make it more likely that these experiences will be positive.
Remember to be patient and go back a few steps if necessary, and gradually re-introduce. If you have any concerns, contact your veterinarian.
Once your cats have been successfully acclimated, remember that each cat still needs their own resources, often in different locations, such as food, water, bedding, and litter boxes.
FEW FINAL PIECES OF IMPORTANT INFORMATION
It can still be overwhelming to acclimate a cat into your home even if you do not have other cats.
As your new feline companion becomes more comfortable, they will be more likely to explore and test boundaries.
You should always check for potential hazards in your home such as poisonous plants, full-length curtains, fireplaces, breakable objects, etc. The more prepared you are, the smoother the transition can be.
ROUTINE VETERINARY CARE
Your cat needs preventive care examinations or check-ups at least once a year, and more often for senior cats and those with chronic conditions. These visits are important to your cat’s specific healthcare plan. Your veterinarian will discuss and assess topics such as; nutrition, lifestyle, behavior, environmental enrichment or physical, social surroundings, disease, and parasite prevention.
WHY ARE PREVENTATIVE CARE CHECK-UPS SO IMPORTANT?
During the check-up, veterinarians can often detect conditions that may affect your cat’s health long before they become noticeable so they can be managed or cured before they become painful or more costly.
Cats age more rapidly than we do, so preventative care check-ups are a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle.
As a member of the family, your cat deserves the best possible care. Together, you and your veterinarian can best decide how to accomplish that by meeting at least once a year to talk about your cat and any changes that have taken place in their life.
With the information you bring and a good physical check-up, a plan will be created to meet the needs of your cat and the family.
You are an important member of your cat’s health care team. You can be helpful in helping your cat live a happy and healthy quality of life.
Why Spay or Neuter My Cat?
YOUR CAT’S HEALTH
Spaying a female cat, especially before the first heat, helps prevent uterine infections, uterine cancers, and breast cancer. Neutering male cats eliminates the chances of testicular cancer and lowers the risk of prostate problems. Generally, spayed and neutered pets live healthier, longer, and happier lives.
YOUR CAT WILL BE BETTER BEHAVED
Spayed or neutered cats are better behaved. They will be less likely to roam, yowl, wail, bite, display aggressive behavior, or spray or mark their territory. Intact males will do just about anything they can to find mates, including escaping from your home, which puts them at risk of injury or fights with other males. Roaming can also expose your cat to dangerous diseases, including feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus. Spaying or neutering can help improve your cat’s mood. Unaltered pets become stressed when in heat, which can last several months out of the year. Spaying or neutering will help relieve stress and will leave you with a content pet. You’ll help curb undesirable behaviors without interfering with your furry companion’s unique personality.
HELP FIGHT PET OVERPOPULATION
Did you know that millions of healthy cats are euthanized in the U.S. each year because there aren’t enough homes available? Spaying and neutering can help control the pet overpopulation crisis and reduces the number of strays, which end up in shelters instead of loving homes. Unfortunately, many end up homeless and are left to fend for themselves.
SPAYING AND NEUTERING ARE COST EFFECTIVE
The long-term costs you could incur by not spaying or neutering your furry friend can be excessive. Treating cancers of the reproductive system can be quite costly, as is caring for a new cat litter. Additionally, unaltered pets can be more destructive and may engage in serious fights with neighborhood strays, often requiring pricey treatments.
One of the most important parts of your cat’s annual check-up is when the veterinary staff gathers information from you about your cat. As the caregiver, you have valuable information your veterinarian needs to know so they can properly assess your cat’s health.
These questions are asked by a trained veterinary assistant, a certified veterinary technician, or your veterinarian. Typical questions include:
- How did your cat come to live with you?
- What do you feed your cat on a daily basis?
- How much does your cat typically eat each day?
- Does your cat have any previous health issues?
- Is your cat having any problems using the litter box?
- Does your cat cough, sneeze, vomit, or have diarrhea?
- Has your cat left the state?
- Have you noticed a change in your cat’s ability to run or jump on things in your home?
- Is your cat microchipped?
- Does your cat ever go outside?
- Do you have any worries or concerns about your cat?
- Will you be traveling with your cat?
- Are there other pets in your household?
It is important for your veterinarian to spend time looking at your cat and listening for important clues to help determine your cat’s health status. During the examination, your veterinarian incorporates a thorough evaluation of all the major organ systems, including abdomen, muscle tone, coat/fur/skin, ears, eyes, mouth, gums and teeth, joints, spine, and under the tail.
The exam also includes weighing your cat. If your cat has been seen at this clinic before, they will compare your cat’s current weight with previous weights. A body condition score is often assigned to indicate if your cat’s weight is appropriate for their age, size, and breed. If your cat is stressed or frightened, the veterinary team might have your cat remain in the bottom part of their carrier and/or under a towel. Then they can weigh your cat at the end of the check-up.
If your veterinarian notices something abnormal or worrisome, they will make a note and discuss this with you later.
Now is the time for you and your veterinarian to talk in more depth. Your veterinarian should discuss what he or she noticed during the exam and make further recommendations for care.
Cats often hide signs of pain and illness, so it is common for your veterinarian to suggest various laboratory samples be obtained for evaluation. This allows them to determine any problems your cat may be experiencing. Now is the time for you to ask any questions you may have and ask for advice. Please remember your veterinarian is your partner as well as a medical professional and wants to help you provide the very best care for your cat. Don’t be shy to ask for advice on subjects like the litter box or behavioral issues, as well as what to expect as your cat ages. As you make the decision to adopt a cat, it is important to remember that this is a lifelong commitment. To be the best possible cat caregiver, you really need to have a solid understanding about how to meet your cat’s environmental needs, feline behaviors, feline health conditions, diseases, and the critical need for routine preventative veterinary visits.
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