Cat Kitten Care - Getting a Kitten on the Path to Good Health


What is the most important thing to know about raising a healthy kitten?

The best thing to do is to bring them to the vet. And I know that sounds a little cliche, being a veterinarian, but we can make sure that they're healthy at that first visit. We can figure out what vaccines they need to receive to ward against some common viral and bacterial diseases. If your cat came from an outdoor or stray situation, we make sure that they don't have any diseases that we commonly see spread through outdoor cat populations. Ensuring that they're healthy gets you off on the right foot because then we can also talk about things like diet, preventative care against fleas, ticks, intestinal parasites, heartworms, and ear mites. We can discuss making some lifestyle recommendations about activity level, housing, litter boxes, and other things such as spaying or neutering your pets.


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care

What are the right and wrong ways to pick up my kitten?

The biggest thing is you always want to make sure that they feel comfortable and supported. As you can kind of see that I'm holding Cher here, I'm supporting the underside of her body with my hands. Many people like to do what I call the Lion King hold with cats, and it can kind of freak them out a little bit at first, so I wouldn't recommend that right off the bat. But the biggest thing is you want to do is ensure you have good support of them. Many times, cats like some body contact, but you're just going to have to feel out your kitten because each one's got their own personality.

How can I tell if my kitten is happy and healthy?

If they're eating, playing, interacting with you, they're not hiding all the time; they're taking naps comfortably out in the open—those are all good signs. But suppose you've got a nervous kitten. In that case, they're hiding a lot; maybe you find them in the closet quite a bit, they're not eating well, they do not have consistent litter box habits for urination and defecation—all of these would be reasons to have them checked out to ensure that everything else is okay.

How should I feed my kitten?

Each vet will have their own recommendations for kittens as they're growing especially when they're really little. I'm a big fan of making sure that there's food down all the time. Of course, as they start maturing and getting older, I recommend that that gets a bit more regulated. Once they've kind of hit that year of age mark, that's when we get a little bit stricter about our nutritional and dietary needs. But the biggest thing is making sure that they have access to kitten food and fresh, clean water all the time.

How soon should I bring my new kitten in to see the veterinarian?

You can bring them in as soon as you want, even if they're two weeks of age. Hopefully, they're not that little, as we hope they're still with their mama at that point. But if you get one at six weeks of age, we love to see them then. That's generally when we start their vaccine series. We can see them even as late as 12 weeks of age or out to 16 weeks of age, or even if you get your kitten when it's eight or nine months old. Still, bring them in to make sure that we're getting everything that they need to keep them healthy and get them started right.

How can I get the most out of my first vet visit with my new kitten?

I would write down any questions that you have to ask the technical staff or the veterinarian. My technical staff here is super knowledgeable, and so a lot of them can answer any question you have, and I don't want you guys to think that any question is stupid. Because even some of the ones that seem like they're silly or they should be common sense, go ahead and ask it because everybody here has experience with kittens, and we all have recommendations to make and ways to help. Write down those questions, and then follow the advice and the recommendations of the professional, whether it be the veterinarian or the staff that we have here.

The vaccines are essential; making sure that we don't have intestinal parasites will be critical. And then that way, we can get you geared up for what kind of lifestyle you think your cat's going to have. Are they going to be indoor only with you, because we might make some recommendations that would be different for a kitty that's living outside all the time? Come prepared with those questions, and we're happy to talk.

What will you be looking for during an initial kitten care visit?

I want to ensure that their teeth and gums look healthy. I also want to make sure that their hard palate, or the roof of their mouth, has formed properly. I look at eyes and ears, making sure that nothing looks too small, listening to their heart to make sure that they have a good normal, consistent heartbeat, and listening to those lungs. It's not uncommon sometimes for kittens to get a little sneezy or develop an upper respiratory tract infection, so we make sure everything sounds okay. We also check that the kitten didn't develop any hernias, which can be common from where the umbilical cord attaches, and make sure the lymph nodes are healthy. We also check for fleas and ticks.

Why is it important to avoid self-diagnosing possible kitten health problems?

Kittens can exhibit a lot of symptoms, and one symptom could have 10 different causes. The best way to figure out what that is is to bring them to a trained medical professional to make sure that we're treating the problem that your cat or your kitten has and not something that it could look like.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 625-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Kitten Care - FAQs


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care

How long will it take a kitten to wean from their mother?

I generally recommend that kittens should start weaning about five to six weeks of age. So, of course, if you come across a kitten who is not with their mother that's younger than that five to six week of age, then they'll have to be bottle-fed. But if they're older kittens, so at least about six weeks of age, then we can go ahead and start transitioning them over to canned or dry kitten food.

Do all kittens need to be bottle-fed?

No, it's an age-dependent necessity. Those younger kittens that are purely on milk at that stage in their life need to be bottle-fed. But as they get a little bit older, again that six-week mark, we can go ahead and transition them over to dry or canned kitten food.

Can I give my kitten regular milk?

I definitely wouldn't recommend it. Even though that's like an age-old thing that we see, I wouldn't recommend it. It's not the best nutritional support for these guys.

When should kittens start eating solid food?

I want them to start working on either canned food or dry food at that six-week mark. But once they're about 10 weeks, they should be consistently on dry food.

Do kittens need to drink water?

Yes, and I would always recommend making sure that you have a fresh, clean bowl of water available at all times of the day.

How often do kittens need to eat?

So that depends. When kittens are younger, they need smaller, more frequent meals. And then, as they develop and grow older, we can do larger, less frequent meals. So it's not uncommon for your veterinarian to recommend having food out all the time while they're little.

How do I know that my kitten is getting enough to eat?

That's something that you can discuss with your veterinarian. We look at their body condition, their hair coat, things like that to make sure that they're eating enough. There are also some ways that we can calculate their basic energy requirements, and there are some feeding charts and recommendations out there as well. But each kitten is individual, and you can best figure out what they need with your veterinarian.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 625-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Kitten Care - FAQs 2


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care

What are the vaccines required for kittens?

The three core vaccines that I require for kittens are going to be the feline distemper vaccine, which protects against the common viral diseases that we see in cats, along with the feline leukemia vaccine, which prevents leukemia or cancer of the blood. And then the last one is rabies, and that one's required by law. And that's also the one that you and I could potentially catch, so we want to make sure we don't see that.

How soon should my kitten be vaccinated?

I like to start vaccines between that six and eight weeks of age, as that's kind of the ideal place to start. But that doesn't mean that if you get a cat and they're a little bit older, like three or four months, that we can't start their vaccine series there. Or even if they're eight or nine months, there is a series that we need to go through for any age of kitten. But that perfect window is when they're six to eight weeks of age.

What is the recommended vaccine schedule for kittens?

So every veterinarian is going to have their own. We have some nationwide guidelines that we use to help us out. But my personal vaccine schedule is to start their first and second visit with their feline distemper vaccine, and then their third and fourth visit; we do that feline distemper, along with their feline leukemia vaccine. We then update them on their rabies vaccine that last visit. We do that because they have to be a certain age to receive rabies, but it's such a great vaccine that they only need to have that vaccine once; it doesn't need to be boostered.

Does my kitten need vaccines if they're only going to be indoors?

I recommend it, even if they're indoor only. If you ever bring another cat into your home in the future, or if they were to get outside, or your situation were to change down the road, we want to make sure that we set their immune system up right. I recommend that all kittens get those core vaccines.

Are there any risks or side effects associated with kitten vaccines?

We tend to see sometimes that they can be a little sore at the injection site. It's not uncommon—if you go to get your annual flu shot or any other vaccine and your arms are a little sore for a day, so we can notice that. Sometimes they can be a little sleepy too. Vaccines drain you of your energy for 24 hours, and those are some things that we can notice, but for the most part, I don't feel like I ever have owners feel like they have a concern.

What if my kitten misses a vaccination?

Depending on what vaccine they miss and where they are in their series, we can get them back on track appropriately; it just varies as to what was missed and when.

Can my kitten go outside if not all vaccinations have been given yet?

I would recommend waiting until they have that last vaccine series with their rabies because that's going to be the way they're going to contract it—from wildlife outside, but hopefully, they never do. But to make sure that they're fully protected, I would wait until they finish out their full vaccine series.

Why is it important to get my kitten vaccinated by a veterinarian?

We do an exam when we're vaccinating your cat to ensure that your cat looks healthy enough to receive vaccines. If the kitten is not healthy, we don't want to make them feel worse by giving them a vaccine. As veterinarians, we're a bit more in tune with making sure that they're healthy enough to receive the vaccines. But then we also do other things, like making sure that they don't have any intestinal parasites or diseases that could be transmitted from cat to cat. And that's going to be a critical factor. Lastly, a vaccine like rabies can only be administered by a licensed veterinarian.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 625-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Kitten Care - FAQs 3


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care - Berea

What should I expect at my kitten's first veterinary visit?

Of course, we are going to be very welcoming to your new addition to your family. We always start with a comprehensive physical exam to ensure that everything looks good and that we don't feel any hernias, whether they be at the umbilical area, the belly button area, or sometimes there can be some hernias in between the legs. We're going to make sure we don't hear any heart murmurs. Just make sure that everything looks happy, healthy. Sometimes kittens can be prone to allergies in their new environment or upper respiratory tract infections, so we ensure that everything there looks good.

And then next, we usually recommend testing them for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus, especially if they came from maybe an outdoor litter, or mama cat was a stray, and we found some kittens, or we're not exactly sure of their origins. And then, if everything looks good there, we start the vaccine and deworming process. And we get you a dose of monthly prevention, which helps with fleas, ticks, heartworm, and intestinal parasite prevention.

What questions should I ask my veterinarian at the appointment?

Some great questions to ask, especially if this is your first kitten or your first cat, are things like what kind of food I should feed my pet and how many litter boxes I should have in my house? And maybe we could make some suggestions for you on the type of litter you could try in your litter boxes. And then from there, it's what's the best thing for these guys to make sure that we're keeping them healthy, and on the veterinary end of things, that's going to be making sure they come in for all of their kitten booster vaccines so that we can build their healthy immune system. It will keep them on prevention and make sure that they don't have any intestinal parasites. And then, from there, we like to check cats out every year.

How often does my kitten need to go to the vet?

We see kittens pretty frequently while they're little, up until they're about four months of age, and then we generally see them around six to eight months of age for their spay or neuter, if that's what you choose to do. And when they're younger, we see them for their vaccines, exams, dewormings, all of that stuff, making sure everything looks good, happy, and healthy. And then, from there, we like to see them about every year to keep those vaccines up to date. And, of course, we can see them in between if they have any health concerns.

What vaccines does my kitten need?

We want to make sure that they're getting their feline distemper vaccine. That's kind of their core feline vaccine, which protects them against many common viral diseases that are present throughout the entire nation. We often vaccinate for the feline leukemia virus, which is a virus that can get transmitted through saliva. It's prevalent in outdoor cat populations. And then, of course, when they're old enough, we want to make sure that they get their rabies vaccine and that's to protect them as much as it is to protect you as the owners, because that disease is transmissible from the cats to their owners, if they were to contract it.

Does my kitten need vaccines even if I keep them inside?

Yeah. I recommend that every cat get its kitten vaccines, even if they're going to be indoor-only cats. So that way we can make sure we're setting up their immune system for success. And then if you are planning on keeping your cat indoors and you have questions about vaccinating them later on in life, of course, we always recommend it, but we can have that discussion with you and figure out the best plan for you and your pet.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 985-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Kitten Care - FAQs 4


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care - Berea

What is the most important thing to know about raising a kitten?

Kittens have a lot of energy, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. We love kitten energy here at Advanced Animal Care Berea but just know that they will be much more playful. They're going to be a lot more mischievous. They might have some middle-of-the-night, 3:30 in the morning zoomies going around the house, so be prepared for that if you've never had a kitten before.

What should I consider before adopting or buying a kitten?

You want to ensure that you're going to have a good relationship with the pet. If you're in a rental situation, make sure your landlord is okay with you having a cat, as not every landlord is. But the biggest thing is that kittens are dependent on you to make sure that their litter box is clean and they have fresh food and water and things like that. And kittens love a lot of social interaction, so you want to make sure that they can get that as well. And so, if you're going to be gone 16 to 18 hours a day, then it might be a little challenging for your new companion at home to make that adjustment because they'll want to have that interaction with you.

How could I kitten-proof my house?

So if you have some concerns about carpet or things like that, you could always try to keep your kitten off of the carpeted areas if you're worried about them clawing that up. You could buy things like corner wall guards. But more than kitten proofing your home, I think it's more about making your home kitten-friendly. And I think a big part of that is making sure that you have plenty of litter boxes for your cat throughout your entire homeplace, that they have easily accessible clean water, and a comfortable place for them to eat. So whether you have a dog at home, you want to make sure that the dog doesn't hover over the kitten while eating and things like that.

Cats also like sunny spaces and windows and perches. Perhaps you get your kitten a cat tree or set up the space on the back of the couch so that they can get up there to look out the window. And so it's more about making your home kitten and cat friendly than kitten-proofing your home.

Is it possible to care for a kitten while working full time?

It is. So I would say as long as what you consider full time isn't like 16 or 18 hours out of the day that you're going to be working or out of the house, I think it's a very doable and a great relationship. So many people work like an eight to five or an eight to six job. And I think that it’s just fine to have a kitten. They do spend quite a lot of the time sleeping, but then when you're home, you can interact with them and let them get their kitten energy out and have an excellent relationship.

How do I introduce a kitten to other pets?

The biggest thing is making sure that your kitten has a safe place to get comfortable within your home that is away from where the other pets are—whether that’s a bathroom or a laundry room or maybe a spare bedroom where they've got their litter box, their food and their water, some toys, some enrichment, and things like that. That area will be their safe, secure space that these other pets aren't getting into. And then maybe you slowly introduce them by letting them kind of sniff each other under the door, setting up a baby gate. So that kitten still has the opportunity to get to that safe space if they feel like they need it, but they can slowly start interacting with the other pets in the home.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 985-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

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