answers to your most
pressing cat health concerns
See the following website for advice on how to tell if it is abandoned and how to take care of it if you have determined that it is: Alley Cat Allies Page.
Click here for an age progression description with pictures.
After selecting a kitten, it should be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. If there is a serious problem, it can be dealt with properly. A good physical exam is imperative. This is the time we use to check the animal’s temperature, skin, coat, eyes, ears, oral cavity, mucous membranes, weight, heart, and lung sounds. Most congenital defects can be picked up at this time. Your kitten should be checked for internal parasites, even if a dewormer was used previously. There are many types of parasites, and common over-the-counter dewormers only get some of them.
Vaccination is very important for a kitten, even if it is to be an indoor only cat. First your kitty should be tested for leukemia and FIV, diseases that can be transferred from the mother cat. An initial kitten series of rabies, leukemia, and distemper + respiratory diseases (Panleukopenia/Distemper, Herpes, and Calici) should be given. A vaccination schedule can be individualized for your cat afterward based on your preferences, your lifestyle, and our recommendations. The first vaccination should be given at 6-8 weeks of age and then every 3-4 weeks until the kitty reaches 16 weeks. Some cats may show mild signs, such as tiredness, mild fever, or lack of appetite for a short time after vaccination. If symptoms persist beyond 48 hours or if symptoms are severe (vomiting, dramatic attitude change, etc.), please call us or go to an emergency clinic. Most cats do not have any problems.
Nutrition is probably the most important part of your kitty’s health that is controlled by you, which is why the pet food industry has become so commercialized. There are so many brands of food available that it becomes difficult to select a good product. Our basic suggestion is to stay away from cheap generic foods (from dollar store, etc). We recommend feeding well-known brands such as Purina, Royal Canin, Science Diet, Iams, etc. or some of the natural/organic diets.
We advise offering canned and dry food with a variety of textures and flavors to teach them to accept many different types of foods. Otherwise, some cats become so accustomed to the single food type offered and reject foods that may be needed in the future for health reasons.
Kittens have a rapid growth rate and, therefore, have different nutritional needs than an adult cat. They should be fed a “kitten” diet for the first 7-12 months of life. Kittens over the age of 6 weeks do not need milk supplements or milk (even though they like it!) In fact, it may cause an upset tummy and diarrhea.
You can feed an amount of food according to the packager’s instructions or leave food out all the time (free choice). Meal feeding as opposed to free choice generally results in more fit cats (obesity frequently occurs in cats with access to food all the time). Kittens need nutrients more frequently than adult cats, but they don’t need access to food 24 hours per day. Vitamins or supplements are not necessary with a high quality diet.
Most kittens, if raised with their mother, will already know the basics of using the litter box. If not, you can encourage urination and defecation by placing the kitty in the box frequently (especially after eating).
Certain types of litter may be preferred by your kitten-many do not like strongly scented or dusty litter or large clay particles. Try a sandy clumping litter that does not have a strong odor if your kitty seems to disagree with the litter box.
The litter box should be cleaned out and changed frequently to prevent health problems, to prevent house soiling, and to control odor. Feeding high quality diets, which have low residue (stools) is also a tremendous help with odor control.
Every cat should be treated for intestinal hookworms and roundworms (which can be transferred from the mother cat or from the environment). These parasites can be transmitted to other pets and even humans, so it is very important that they be controlled. We recommend "de-worming" cats that have not been de-wormed or that go outdoors even if parasite eggs are not present on microscopic examination of a stool sample. It requires treatment initially then again ~3 weeks later. Please bring a stool sample from your kitten for microscopic examination.
Fleas, ticks, ear mites and heartworms are some of the other parasites seen in kitties. In addition to being tapeworm carriers, fleas can cause severe itching and even allergic reactions. They can also transmit deadly blood parasites. There are several products available to prevent and treat flea infestations-we'll be happy to discuss these with you. Ticks engorge on blood and can also carry diseases that can be fatal to cats. Tick control products are also available. Ear mites are tiny mites in the ears that can cause severe irritation and sometimes secondary bacterial or fungal infections. They are also contagious to other animals, so other pets should be treated as a preventive measure. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes and can infect cats. Heartworms CAN infect indoor-only cats! Recent studies show that a large percentage of cats testing positive for heartworm infection were kept exclusively or mostly indoors. Even one worm may cause disease or death in a cat, and treatment is very difficult in cats. Given the dangers, heartworm prevention is the best choice. See our Heartworm Page for more information.
Please ask us about products for fleas, ticks, ear mites, and heartworms.
We recommend that all animals that are not going to be used for breeding purposes should be spayed or neutered at 4-6 months of age. Doing so before sexual maturity greatly reduces the incidence of mammary cancer and behavioral problems. It is much easier to prevent these problems than to try to fix them. Numerous myths about it being better to wait to spay/neuter until after the first heat cycle, the first set of kittens, etc. are absolutely false. Female cats come into heat as early as 5 or 6 months and continue cycling in and out of heat until they are bred. Spaying is removal of the ovaries. Neutering is removal of the testicles. See our Spay & Neuter Page for a full description of our procedures. Both procedures are performed under general anesthesia and pain medications are used.
It is best for the kitten to play with toys rather than your hands so that your kitty learns where it is and is not supposed to bite, kick, and scratch/grab. It will not be so cute when the kitten is an adult cat and still attacks you because it learned at an early age that biting you is perfectly acceptable!
Use your hands to handle the kitten as much as possible when it is young so that it learns not to fear being handled and manipulated. Try to imagine any possible situations that may occur later in life and acquaint your kitty with them. Examples: you may one day have to medicate, so touch all around its mouth, ears, & eyes and get your kitten used to nail trims and grooming as early as possible. Not only will it make life easier for you and the cat, but also for your veterinarians and health care team members. The cat will not be as stressed and will hopefully be better behaved, which makes it easier on everyone.
Make sure plenty of toys are available, but they must be safe. Avoid leaving out string or small objects. Kitties (especially youngsters) are notorious for eating things not designed for eating, and we definitely don't want to see any problems, so please kitten-proof your home. Pet stores have many types of toys available specifically for cats. You'll have to experiment to see which toys your kitty likes best!
Above all, play, bond, and have fun with your kitten. Please call if you have any questions or concerns!
Kittens are naturally inquisitive, which can often lead to serious injury. Here are some tips on how you can make your house safer for the new arrival.