There’s nothing like having a little ball of fluff on your lap purring with joy because you gave her a forever home. You have thought of everything for your new kitten: a cozy bed (or two), food and water bowls on an elegant placemat, cat food, a sturdy carrier, first-class toys, a litter box suitable for kings, care products and a scratching post that (hopefully ) will bring joy for many hours. That should cover it, right? Nearly. While it is certainly an extensive shopping list, one thing is missing: an appointment with your veterinarian.
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“Most kittens are full of energy and excitement,” wrote licensed veterinary technician Laura Lee Muller on Cat Friendly Homes, a website of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). “Don’t let their energy distract you from keeping them healthy. Your kitten will need a thorough physical exam and protection from preventable diseases by receiving appropriate vaccines. Ideally, your first visit to the vet should be within the first week that you bring your kitten home. If you have other cats in your household, your new kitten should get tested by your veterinarian before coming to your home. “
Here’s how to prepare your kitten for the vet
Your kitten’s first visit to the vet may include diagnostic tests, deworming, and vaccinations. The frequency with which kittens should be vaccinated is based on established guidelines as set out by the AAFP’s Advisory Committee on Cat Vaccination.
“According to guidelines, kittens should generally see the vet [for vaccination] between 6 and 8 weeks old, “says Dr. Bruce Kornreich, director of the Cornell Feline Health Center at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. “Vaccines are usually given about every two to four weeks until the cat is 4 months old, although some vets may spread them out over 5 months.”
Vaccines fall into two categories, core and non-core. Core vaccines are those that are recommended for all cats, such as: Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), feline herpesvirus 1 (FHV-1), feline calicivirus (FCV), and rabies. Non-core vaccines are considered discretionary, meaning they are administered on a case-by-case basis. These vaccines include feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV), among others. While FeLV is considered a non-core vaccine, the AAFP strongly recommends this vaccination for all kittens.
Deworming treats internal parasites such as tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasite in cats, affecting 25% to 75% of cats, with higher rates seen in kittens, according to the Cornell Feline Health Center. Kittens often get roundworms from their mother.
“Some vets will dewormer cats empirically,” says Dr. Kornreich. “At least a stool sample should be done [to check for internal parasites]. ”
Kittens can also be prone to ectoparasites such as fleas, ear mites, and ticks. “It is very important that cat owners follow product guidelines regarding the use of ectoparasite products,” said Dr.
Kornreich says. “Some products are not intended for kittens, and it is really important that they not use cat dog products.”
Keep a close eye
If your kitten is experiencing lethargy, eye or nose discharge, diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting, hair loss, raised voice, failure to thrive, low temperature, and / or coughing, contact your veterinarian. These are signs that your kitten may be sick.
Dandruff, flaky or crusty skin, circular areas with hair loss, inflamed areas of the skin, and excessive care and scratches can all indicate ringworm. It is one of the most common skin conditions in cats, according to the Cornell Feline Health Center. Ringworm is actually a fungal infection that has nothing to do with worms. While ringworm is treatable, be aware that it is a zoonosis, which means it can be passed from an infected cat to a human who comes in contact with it.
Respiratory infections can be common in cats, according to the Cornell Feline Health Center. These infections are caused by a wide variety of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa.
Symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections include clear or colored discharge from the eyes or nose, coughing, sneezing, conjunctivitis, lethargy, mouth ulcers, and anorexia. In some rare cases, cats may have difficulty breathing, according to the center. Your veterinarian can pinpoint the cause of the symptoms and the appropriate treatment.
Once your cat turns first birthday, go ahead with wellness checks once a year, then twice a year when your cat turns 10, says Dr. Kornreich.
“The earlier a problem is diagnosed, the sooner an intervention can be made,” says Dr. Kornreich. “In most cases there will be a better result.”
Here are some of the main medical problems kittens may face
While this list is by no means exhaustive, it does provide some insight into some of the conditions some kittens may encounter.
Infectious peritonitis in cats (FIP)
What is it: A viral disease caused by a mutation in a common coronavirus that only affects animals. Any cat who carries a coronavirus may be at risk for developing FIP. However, cats with weak immune systems such as kittens are most likely to develop FIP. It is not a highly contagious disease, but it is almost always fatal.
What to look out for: There are two main forms of FIP: a “wet” form, which is characterized by a build-up of fluid in the abdomen, and a “dry” form, which has symptoms such as chronic weight loss, anemia, depression, and fever.
“In general, any cat younger than 2 years of age who develops a fever should not respond to antibiotics and build up fluid. FIP should be at the top of the list,” says Dr. Kornreich.
Good to know: The majority of cats that get coronavirus develop, according to Dr. Kornreich no FIP. There is no approved treatment for FIP, but some drugs show promise in clinical trials.
What is it: A highly contagious viral disease caused by feline parvovirus. It often has a high death rate. Kittens are particularly vulnerable.
What to look out for: Fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and leukopenia (low white blood cell count).
Good to know: Vaccination is generally effective in controlling the disease.
What is it: Abnormal development of the cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for coordinating muscles. In the uterus or the early newborn, panleucopenia infection can cause cerebellar hypoplasia in cats. It is a lifelong condition with no healing.
What to look out for: Lack of coordination, head movements, unusual locomotion.
Good to know: “Cats with cerebellar hypoplasia can actually lead happy lives if they are managed and kept in such a way that the risk is minimized,” says Dr. Kornreich. “The cat’s movements can be jerky and unsettling to owners, but we know cats can otherwise lead healthy lives.”
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