Keeping Kittens Healthy

Just as humans need close care and attention during their first years of life, young kittens require a few essential things in order to ensure they grow up to be healthy, happy cats. Making sure these needs are met is absolutely crucial to ensuring your new friend grows up to be the great companion you and your family hope for. Our veterinarians help make this easy, providing expert care and advice to you and your pet every step of the way.

When should my kitten have his or her first check up?

New kittens should receive their first check up 4-5 days after entering a new household. This gives them several days to adjust to their new surroundings, and the new owner can observe them for problems. Of course, if problems are noted they should be checked immediately. Any vaccine history or medical records should be brought along so that the veterinarian can review them and begin a medical health program for your pet. Bring along a stool specimen to be checked for internal parasites.

What about vaccines?

Vaccines are given to young kittens to stimulate their immune systems to form antibodies to protect against disease. A young kitten will receive some protection through the mother’s milk, but this is only temporary. A series of vaccines is necessary to ensure that your kitten’s immunity is sufficient to protect your pet against disease.

When should my kitten begin a health program?

Vaccines should generally begin at six weeks of age. Vaccinations are repeated at three-week intervals until 12 weeks of age. We strongly recommend checking your kitten for Feline Leukemia and Feline AIDS (not related to human HIV), prior to beginning a health program. If your kitten has one of these diseases, this may have an effect on your decisions concerning the health of your pet. Periodic checks for intestinal parasites should also be performed at this time.

We also recommend all cats be placed on heartworm preventative. Surprisingly enough, indoor cats seem most susceptible to this disease, which is not readily treatable in cats.

What vaccines will my kitten receive?

The main vaccine is known as Feline Distemper (FVRCP) vaccine. This vaccine protects against the following diseases:

  • Panleukopenia: Characterized by fever, poor appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. This may cause death.
  • Rhinotracheitis: Highly contagious respiratory disease and is characterized by sneezing, fever and inflamed eyes.
  • Calicivirus: Highly contagious respiratory disease similar to rhinotracheitis.
  • Pneumonitis (Chlamydia): Another respiratory infection that may cause pneumonia.
  • Feline Leukemia: May exist in a non-symptomatic carrier state. It is generally fatal if active and is characterized by anemia, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. It is highly contagious. A blood test is required before vaccinating for this disease. This vaccine is recommended for all kittens up to one year of age, and then annually depending on the risk of exposure if your cat goes outdoors.
  • FIV (Feline AIDS): This vaccine is recommended only for cats that have the risk of exposure by being outdoors.
  • Rabies: Your kitten will also receive a rabies vaccine at 3-4 months of age. Rabies is always fatal and is a public health concern.

What types of parasites can affect my kitten?

There are many types of intestinal parasites. This includes roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and coccidia. Many kittens will have some type of parasite and these are treated routinely. Untreated intestinal parasites can cause diarrhea, anemia, poor growth and even death. Some types of intestinal parasites are of public health concern, so if you have small children, please exercise care when cleaning up after your kitten. Good hygiene is important.

What should I feed my kitten?

It is important to feed your kitten a high quality kitten food. Avoid feeing table food as it can cause intestinal problems and picky eaters. Keep plenty of fresh water available at all times.

What about spaying or neutering my kitten?

If you are not going to breeding your cat (which is the case for most animals), we recommend spaying or neutering at six months of age. Your pet will generally have a better temperament and have fewer health problems if this is done at an early age. Also, as a responsible pet owner, you will not be contributing to the over-population of unwanted pets that are euthanized and destroyed each year.

You have already taken the first step towards the good health of your kitten by visiting your veterinarian. Routine veterinary care, annual vaccinations and physical exams can all help ensure a healthy pet. It is far less expensive and much easier to prevent disease than it is to treat it.

Enjoy your new kitten and friend. They don’t ask for much, and give so much in return. If at any time you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call us.