Wellness Care for Your Kitten
At your kitten's first visit, the veterinarian will perform a comprehensive physical exam and the veterinarian and nurse will set up a wellness plan for your kitten, give you info on veterinary pet insurance, dental care, parasite control, and nutrition and send you home with a sample of high quality kitten food as well as a special treat or toy for your kitten.
At each follow-up pediatric visit for booster vaccines, the veterinarian will perform a brief exam and the veterinarian and nurse will be available to answer any questions and address any concerns you may have.
Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus are viruses that can infect even healthy looking cats but that can cause devastating illnesses and death. Kittens are especially susceptible to Feline Leukemia Virus. If your kitten comes from a shelter, he or she will likely already have been tested for Feline Leukemia Virus and, depending on the shelter, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. If your kitten has not been tested, a quick blood test for these two viruses is recommended at the first visit. If your kitten tests positive, an additional confirmatory test is recommended. If your kitten is found to be infected with Feline Leukemia or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus we will help you make up a plan for special care and treatment.
Please see our Pet Library for more information on these diseases.
All kittens need at least two (and sometimes 3 or 4) FVRCP vaccines, to protect them from distemper/panleukopenia and severe respiratory infections caused by Calicivirus and Herpesvirus. These vaccines are given 3 weeks apart, with the first one at 6-8 weeks (or as soon as you get your kitten) and the last one being at 16 weeks of age or older.
All kittens need a Rabies vaccine (required by law). This is usually given at about 16 weeks of age. We use a non-adjuvanted vaccine made with special DNA technology which is very safe and effective.
Because kittens are so extremely vulnerable to Feline Leukemia Virus, Feline Leukemia Virus vaccines are recommended for all kittens. Two doses, 3-4 weeks apart, are given starting at 9 weeks of age or older. We use a non-adjuvanted transdermal vaccine which is extremely safe and effective. Once your kitten has grown up, we recommend continuing Feline Leukemia vaccines if your cat will go outside at all or be exposed to other cats who are not known to be free of Feline Leukemia. If your cat, as an adult, is indoors only and only in contact with other cats who have been tested and are known to be free of Feline Leukemia, the vaccine does not need to be continued.
Kittens are often infected with intestinal parasites. These can cause illness for the kitten and most can also infect people and cause illnesses, especially in children. We recommend fecal/stool tests every 3-4 weeks until at least two in a row have been "negative" for parasites. These fecal tests generally do not show tapeworms, so be on the lookout for little worms that look like grains of rice or sesame seeds on your kitten's fur or stools or where he or she has been sleeping. These worms are acquired from fleas and require specific dewormers to be eliminated. Because stool samples don't always show worms, even when they are there,we will give your kitten several doses of a safe dewormer that covers roundworms and hookworms every 2-3 weeks. Remember, this dewormer does not cover other parasites, like giardia and coccidia, so be sure to bring in fresh stool samples for us to check.
Fleas are a year round problem in Washington. We recommend using a safe, effective once a month flea preventative and will get your kitten started on a flea control program. Fleas are not only a nuisance, but can spread worms and diseases, like Cat Scratch Fever/Bartonella, that can cause illness in people.
If your kitten will travel with you outside of Washington, heartworm preventative may be indicated. Please be sure to ask us about this if you are traveling or moving out of state.
We recommend kittens be transitioned into being fed discrete meals as they grow up, as leaving food out often leads to over eating and obesity.
We will give you a sample of a high quality kitten food at your first visit. Science Diet, Royal Canin, Purina, and Iams/Eukanuba all make high quality cat foods and are active in researching feline nutrition and the impact nutrition has on health and disease. We recommend avoiding multicolored dry foods, inexpensive foods from the grocery store, feed store, or "big box" store, semi-moist diets, or unbalanced diets. If you choose to make your own diet we can help you find resources that can help you ensure the diet you make is balanced. Cats have extremely specific nutritional needs and it is very easy to end up causing nutritional deficiencies or excesses with a home made diet.
Dry food is less expensive and more convenient to feed than canned food and most kittens do very well on a primarily dry food diet, with canned food for special treats. A daily dab of yummy canned food is a good way to help build a bond between you and your kitten.
All cats and kittens should have home dental care to help prevent periodontal disease. You can get your kitten started on a tooth brushing routine by offering a dab of yummy CET toothpaste on your finger tip, rubbing it on his or her gums, and eventually using a soft cat or finger brush. Brushing should ideally be done daily or you can apply Oravet, an anti-plaque gel, weekly. If you aren't able to make brushing a daily routine, Hill's t/d diet is an excellent option. This food can be fed in small amounts as a treat to kittens and is an excellent maintenance diet for adults that has been proven to help keep their teeth clean. Some kittens and cats also enjoy CET Cat Chews, a dehydrated fish chew treat, that helps keep teeth clean. We will give you samples of any of the home dental care products that you would like to try and help you find a home dental care plan that works for you and your kitten.
All kittens and cats need nail care and some cats need regular brushing/combing to prevent matted fur. We will help you learn how to trim your kitten's nails and, if needed, how to brush and comb him or her.
We recommend keeping your kitten or cat indoors only to protect him or her from infectious diseases, car accidents, parasites, maulings by dogs, coyotes, or raccoons, cat fights and abscesses, and poisons. Indoor only cats live longer and are less expensive to care for because they have fewer illnesses, accidents, and injuries.
We recommend all cats be microchipped. This can be done at any visit. A break-away safety collar and identification tag is also a good idea.
Cats and houseplants/flowers are not a good match. Some flowers and plants are extremely toxic to cats. Be sure to find out if a plant or flower arrangement is safe to eat before you bring it into your house!
Never give your kitten medications unless they have been prescribed by a veterinarian for that kitten. Some medications which are safe for humans or dogs are very toxic to cats.
Getting off to a good start with litter pan and scratching habits is important for kittens. We can help you with any challenges you are having. If your kitten is especially wild with his or her claws, applying Soft Paws, temporary plastic nail caps, can be helpful while you are training your kitten where to scratch. Kittens should never be physically punished or forced to do anything. It is important that you build a positive bond with your kitten and that your kitten be able to trust that you will not do anything to him or her that is painful or scary.
Spaying and Neutering
All kittens should be spayed or neutered at 4-6 months of age. If this is not done, females will often have continual troublesome heat cycles and males will typically begin to spray urine to mark. Most shelters spay and neuter kittens before they are put up for adoption.
Pre-anesthetic blood testing is recommended prior to spaying and neutering. This can be done at your kitten's last visit for vaccines or immediately before the spay or neuter.
When your kitten comes in for his or her spay or neuter, a brief exam will be performed and a pre-anesthetic sedative and pain control injection will be given. Kittens being spayed have an intravenous catheter placed through which injectable anesthesia and fluids are given. A breathing tube is put in the kitten's trachea through which oxygen and anesthetic gases are given. The level of anesthesia can be rapidly adjusted as needed during the procedure. A nurse monitors your kitten's vital signs, using machines that measure heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygenation, blood pressure, and temperature, throughout the anesthetic procedure. Once your kitten is in the surgical suite and prepared for surgery, the veterinarian makes an incision into the abdomen, locates the ovaries and uterus and ties off the blood supply, removes the ovaries and uterus, and closes the body wall, subcutaneous tissues, and skin with sutures. The surgery itself typically takes 20-30 minutes and your kitten is usually under anesthesia for 35-45 minutes. After the procedure, your kitten is given additional pain control and is given TLC and comfort as needed throughout the rest of the day. Your kitten can either stay overnight in the hospital after the spay or go home with you and return the next day for a post-op check. The day after your kitten's spay we will check your kitten's temperature and incision and make sure her pain is well controlled. She will go home with 4-5 days of pain medications to take at home by mouth. A suture removal is usually needed 10-14 days after surgery. For the boy kittens, an anesthetic injection is given intravenously which provides a short duration of anesthesia. The scrotum is prepared for surgery and the veterinarian makes an incision in each side of the scrotum through which the testicles are removed after their blood supply is tied off. The surgery typically takes about 5 minutes and the anesthetic time is about 10 minutes. Additional anesthesia is given as needed via a mask delivering oxygen and anesthetic gas. A second pain control injection is given at the time of surgery. Following a neuter, your kitten will go home in the evening with a couple of days of oral pain medication to give at home.
Once your kitten has finished his or her kitten vaccines and been spayed or neutered, your next visit for wellness care will typically be at about 16 months, or one year after your kitten's last kitten vaccines. Please see "Wellness Care for Your Adult Cat" for more information.