The vet’s office: Raising a healthy kitten
Cat wellness starts with being proactive early
By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
When the time comes to adopt or purchase a new kitten, veterinarians want owners to know that there are many things that can be done to promote wellness early in a kitten’s life. The first visit to a veterinary practice usually occurs at 6 to 8 weeks of age, but if it is adopted as an older kitten, the recommendations still apply.
Kittens will need a thorough physical exam to establish what is normal for them and to detect problems the owner may not notice. Subsequent visits occur every three to four weeks until the kitten reaches approximately 16 weeks old.
What is important to know is that kittens’ immune systems are immature, which makes them far more susceptible to disease than mature cats. They may or may not have protective antibodies from their mother to fight illness. Also, the kitten has not been exposed to enough germs in the environment to bolster its immune defenses. This makes early vaccinations with regular boosters all the more important as well as screenings and treatments for common parasites.
At some time a blood test to check for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus will be done. There is a vaccine for FeLV, and the American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends it for all kittens at least for the first year. Kittens are prone to high energy runs and might escape outside, where they are more susceptible to FeLV from outdoor cats.
The other important vaccines will be protections from upper respiratory infections that cause sneezing, coughing, and eye discharges and also from feline panleukopenia or distemper. Kittens will also receive routine deworming for roundworms and will need a stool sample checked for other intestinal parasites. Checks for external parasites such as fleas, lice, or ear mites and a screening for ringworm may be performed as well.
Initial kitten wellness visits are extremely important, and since there is so much information to cover, extra time is usually allotted. This article covered just some of the basics of preventive care. Other topics such as nutrition, grooming, basic socialization, and proper exercise would be discussed at the visit.
Veterinary technicians are an important resource for more questions. Bring your questions with you to your first new kitten visit. Veterinarians love it when owners want to be more informed.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.