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Congratulations on your new kitten! We've summarized some of the most important aspects of kitten health. All kittens should have an examination as soon as it is convenient for you after you've adopted your new family member. We want to be sure that we get rid of any parasites that might be affecting your kitten's health, prevent common illnesses through proper vaccinations, maximize proper growth through good nutrition, and be sure that the kitten is being trained and socialized in an appropriate manner. We will discuss all of these in detail at your well-kitten visits that generally are timed in association with vaccination series. Too many owners wait to start vaccinations at 6 months of age when they get altered but this risks infection from contagious diseases, allows dangerous parasites to proliferate, and skips important education aspects covered in well-kitten visits. To help save you costs, we offer a Preventive Health Care Plan for Kittens which provides vacccinations, examinations, leukemia and FIV testing, stool testing, de-worming, microchip insertion and registration, a year supply of heartworm and flea prevention, and our Preferred Plan Spay or Neuter, all at significant discount. For information, click the Preventive Health Care tab at left or contact our office at 574-654-3129.
Feline Leukemia (FeLV)and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) testing. These deadly viruses can predispose your kitten to other illnesses and cancers yet may be lying dormant in an otherwise healthy looking kitten. Before investing time, money, and especially emotion in a new family member, all kittens should be tested for the presence of these two viruses via one simple blood test.
Intestinal Parasites. It is so common for kittens to have intestinal worms and other parasites that all new kittens should be de-wormed at least once or twice. Even once this has been done, a stool sample should be tested microscopically for hidden worms that can not only harm your kitten but can spread to other pets and people too.
External Parasites. Fleas, ticks, lice, and ear mites are common in young kittens but must be treated safely yet thoroughly to prevent infestation of others and to prevent transmission of diseases to your kitten. Did you know that fleas can take so much blood from your kitten that it can be fatal and that blood transfusions may be needed for treatment?
Heartworms are deadly parasites spread by mosquitoes so even indoor animals are susceptible. Young kittens can be started on monthly preventive medication without the need for a heartworm blood test; many of these preventives also prevent internal and external parasites.
Vaccinations are vital to prevent highly contagious and deadly viruses. A series of vaccines and boosters are needed starting at 6-8 weeks and continued every 3-4 weeks until the kitten is 4 months of age when his immune system is strong enough to prevent the disease. This is for core vaccines that all kittens should get, protecting them against distemper, rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and chlamydia. He will receive his Rabies vaccine generally at 3-4 months of age; this is required by state law. You should not wait until this age to start the distemper series since some of these respiratory diseases are extremely common and can result in chronic, lifelong symptoms Other vaccinations that might be given, depending on exposure risk, include feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus. Leukemia is actually quite common and FIV is by no means rare, especially in outdoor cats. Other vaccines are available for special situations as well.
Nutrition. Good nutrition and feeding schedules helps your kitten develop properly. Since space is limited here, to summarize, your kitten should be meal fed (i.e. don't just leave the food out for him to eat whenever he wants) a good quality kitten food that is appropriate for his size. You get what you pay for in terms of quality... we encourage use of premium foods such as Science Diet, Purina ProPlan, or Eukanuba. In addition, at least somewhat of his diet should include canned food since this is more natural for cats (high protein low carbohydrate canned food is much more similar to wild animals they would catch than is high carbohydrate dry foods, which can predispose cats to obesity, diabetes, and other health issues).
Training. Proper training methods and socialization is critical at this age. They have a critical socialization period up to 4 months of age. If you expose them to all types of experiences, situations, and people prior to this time, they will be much better adjusted and able to cope with change later on. Proper play avoids the likelihood of inappropriate biting or aggressiveness later on. Although most kittens use a litter box quite naturally, proper litter box management lessens the risk of the most common behavior problem in adult cats: failure to use the box and selecting inappropriate locations elsewhere in the house! Behavior problems are almost always preventable and too many people treat them incorrectly with punishment which induces additional fear; behavior problems are the number one killer of pets: owners relinquish a cat to a shelter where often it is euthanized.
Spaying and neutering is best done at 5-6 months of age, prior to the first heat cycle and the development of unwanted hormonally induced behaviors. You will prevent various diseases prone later in life and prevent unwanted pregnancies that add to the unwanted pet population problem. Declawing can be done at this age if desired but should only be done if the cat is overly destructive; frequent nail trimming and nail caps are less invasive alternatives.