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.

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