Healthcare for your Kitten
Congratulations on your new kitten! Bringing home a new family member is always exciting, and raising one is a fun and challenging experience. To ensure that your kitten lives the longest and healthiest life possible, we recommend that he or she be brought in to the veterinarian for a new kitten check-up within 1-2 weeks of adoption/purchase. Please bring with you any documents given to you with the kitten to help us understand any and all medical care your kitten has received.
It is extremely important that your kitten receives a full set of shots and stays up to date on boosters for his or her entire life. Kittens younger than 12 weeks of age are very susceptible to many diseases, even if they have had some of their shots already. Keeping your kitten away from cats who are unvaccinated or have unknown vaccination status is the best way to protect your kitten before he or she has had a full set of vaccines.
FVRCP-C (Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia Virus, and Chlamydia Psittaci):
First dose should be given between 6-8 weeks of age, and should be boostered every 3 weeks until the kitten reaches 16 weeks of age. Booster at one year of age and then every 3 years. If an adult at time of first vaccination, it will need to be boostered 3-4 weeks later, then annually.
FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus):
If your kitten has tested negative for FeLV (see below), he or she should be vaccinated for FeLV. First dose given between 6- 8 weeks of age and should be boostered every 3 weeks until kitten reaches 16 weeks of age. If an adult at time of first vaccination, it will need to be boostered 3-4 weeks later, then annually.
First dose given at 16 weeks of age, booster at 1 year, and then booster every 3 years.
FeLV and FIV Testing:
FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)
Testing for FeLV should take place at the kitten's first visit to the veterinarian. It is a simple and quick blood test and only takes about 10 minutes to get results. FeLV is spread through bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, milk, and sexual contact, and once a cat is infected there is no cure. Much like the HIV virus in humans, signs can take several years to show up and can vary greatly. Because the virus can be spread in saliva when cats share food and water dishes or groom each other, it is important to have your new kitten tested right away to prevent infection of any other cats in the household.
FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus)
Testing for FIV is strongly recommended and can take place any time after 6 months of age. It is a simple and quick blood test and only takes about 10 minutes to get results. FIV has no cure and is very similar to HIV in humans in that it causes death by AIDS. FIV is spread through bodily fluids such as blood, milk, and sexual contact, however unlike FeLV it is not spread through exchange of saliva unless the saliva goes into the bloodstream (such as from a bite wound during a cat fight). FIV can incubate anywhere from 1-10 or more years before turning into AIDS.
It is very important to keep your kitten free of parasites, both internal and external. Parasites such as worms and fleas can make your pet very uncomfortable and even cause life-threatening disease. Keeping your pet current on parasite prevention will keep him or her happy and prevent many diseases that can be transmitted to you too!
Deworming for Intestinal Parasites:
It is recommended that kittens be dewormed for the first time at 4 weeks of age, then every 2 weeks for at least 3 treatments. A fecal examination under the microscope at your kitten's first visit to the veterinarian is recommended to asses whether or not your kitten has been adequately dewormed. Some parasites, such as giardia and coccidia, will not be killed by regular dewormers and require special medications to properly treat.
Staying current on flea prevention will make your kitten's life much more comfortable and keep humans in the household from getting flea bites too (note: fleas do not live on humans but they will gladly bite them). Veterinarian-recommended topical or oral products given once a month to your kitten year-round, starting at 8 weeks of age, will prevent fleas from infesting your kitten and laying eggs in your house, perpetuating the problem. Some flea collars provide up to 8 months of protection. Because fleas can live everywhere, it is strongly recommended that all cats be kept current on flea prevention, even if you have never seen fleas on any of your pets. While usually not life-threatening, flea infestation is extremely uncomfortable and can cause allergic reactions, and accidental ingestion of fleas, due to licking and chewing itchy places on his or her body, will transmit tapeworms to your kitten.
This is a type of roundworm that lives in the heart and lungs and is transmitted by mosquitoes. Cats are not as susceptible as dogs to Heartworm Disease, but when they become infected they can develop breathing problems due to an allergic reaction caused by the presence of worms in their bodies, sometimes causing collapse and death. Diagnosis of Heartworm Disease in cats can be tricky and expensive, and it can mimic many other common problems such as asthma or hairballs. Although the symptoms can be managed there is no known cure for Heartworm Disease in cats, so it is very important that ALL cats be on Heartworm prevention YEAR-ROUND, especially if they live primarily outdoors, as it only takes a single mosquito bite to become infected. The good news is that many inexpensive and easy to administer prevention products are available to protect your cat. Prevention should be given once a month for your kitten's entire life starting at 8 weeks of age. Most Heartworm prevention products will also control intestinal worms such as roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, and tapeworms too.
A microchip is a very small (about the size of a grain of rice) device which sits under your pet's skin and contains a unique identification number. Unfortunately it does not work like a GPS, but should your pet get away from you and be brought by a good Samaritan to a vet or shelter, the chip can be scanned and the number identified. By looking up the number in the microchip database, your name and phone number can be found and you will be reunited with your pet. A microchip can be inserted at any time with minimal discomfort and is strongly recommended, especially since it cannot be removed or lost like a collar can. Just make sure to keep your contact information up to date!
Spaying or neutering is the most important thing you can do for your pet to keep him or her healthy and happy!!!
Spaying is the removal of the uterus and ovaries in females, and Neutering is the removal of the testicles in males. Spayed/neutered pets not only live longer, but they live much more comfortable and stress-free lives. Spaying and neutering reduces/eliminates the risk of certain cancers, infections of the reproductive tract, unwanted behaviors due to sexual frustration, and accidental pregnancies.
For both males and females it is recommended between 3-5 months of age, and definitely before 6 months of age when puberty begins in cats. Spaying a female before her first heat cycle reduces by 99% the chance of her getting breast cancer when she is older. While males do not have heat cycles, it is important to neuter a male before he reaches puberty to reduce unwanted behaviors such as urine spraying and aggression, which can be difficult to resolve once such behaviors have started.
If you are considering letting your cat have kittens:
More than 4 million healthy dogs and cats are euthanized each year due to lack of homes, and each litter of kittens born, whether bred intentionally or not, contributes to that number. Life-threatening and expensive complications during pregnancy and delivery of kittens are very common (Cesarean sections can cost $1000-3000 or more!), so it is important to be financially and emotionally prepared should you decide to breed your cat. There is NO benefit of allowing your cat to have a litter of kittens before she is spayed.
It is strongly recommended that new owners purchase pet insurance, especially when their pets are still young and healthy. Many insurance plans are available to cover preventative and/or emergency care, and are very affordable. Having good health care coverage for your pet can mean the difference between life and death should he or she need expensive care that would otherwise not be financially feasible for an owner.
Following our healthcare recommendations will help give your kitten the happiest and longest life possible. Enjoy your new kitten and do not hesitate to call us if you have any questions or concerns!