Kitten Care

Typically, cats are considered kittens from birth up to 1 year of age. This first year is when they undergo the majority of their growth and development - both physically and mentally!

Kittens have a very high play drive. Now is the best time for gradual positive introductions to people and other pets. It is also the right time for your cat to become comfortable with nail trims, tooth and coat brushing, their cat carrier, and transportation to the veterinary practice.

Your First Veterinary Visit

Veterinary visits should occur at least once per year (more frequent for cats with health conditions) but will be more frequent in the beginning so kittens can receive all of the boosters for the recommended vaccines. You will also have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have or discuss any concerns that may arise.

 

During your first visit, the veterinarian will make recommendations for your kitten based on age, health, breed, and medical history.

 

Medical History

Depending on your kitten’s history, the veterinarian's recommendations will vary. Every kitten is an individual and will be treated that way! During your appointment you will likely be asked:

  •  where your kitten came from

  • if they have any previous medical records from a vet or shelters

  • what you’ve been feeding

  • if there are any other animals in the home

  • if your kitten has been vomiting, coughing, sneezing, or having diarrhea

  • if you plan to keep your kitten indoors only or if they’ll be going outside

 

Kittens obtained through a breeder often offer a health guarantee that requires the kitten to be checked by a veterinarian within a certain amount of time from the time of purchase. Many purebred cats are also genetically predisposed to certain conditions which should be discussed during these first visits. Some of these conditions include:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)

  • Feline lower urinary tract diseases (FLUTD), which can include bladder stones and other urinary tract problems

  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)

  • Breathing/eye issues in flatter-faced breeds

  • Asthma

  • Hip dysplasia

  • Periodontal disease and other dental issues

Many of these conditions can occur in any cat, but some breeds are unfortunately more predisposed. If you have any questions about these or any other conditions, our veterinarians will be more than happy to answer them!

Vaccines and Laboratory Testing

There are many infectious diseases (some fatal) that we can vaccinate for, including:

  • Rabies

  • Feline distemper (panleukopenia)

  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis (feline herpes virus 1)

  • Calicivirus

  • Feline leukemia

 

What vaccines your kitten receives and how many sets they should get will vary on lifestyle and age. Typically, we start immunizations at 6-8 weeks of age and are continued every 3-4 weeks until 4 months of age.

feline-vaccination-schedule.png

We routinely also run a couple of laboratory tests during your kitten visits. A FeLV/FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) combo test will look for these two incurable viruses: feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus. We also run a fecal test to look for intestinal parasites such as giardia, tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms. It is fairly common for kittens to have one or more of these and they will be treated during their visit according to the resultes. As a kitten, these tests will often need repeating later.

Extra Focus During Checkups

During a routine kitten visit, you can expect us to discuss infectious diseases, zoonotic diseases/parasite prevention, and spay/neuter recommendations.

  • Infectious diseases you should be aware of:

    • Rabies

    • Feline distemper (panleukopenia)

    • Feline viral rhinotracheitis (feline herpes virus 1)

    • Calicivirus

    • Feline leukemia (FeLV)

    • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

  • Zoonotic diseases:

    • Roundworms

    • ringworm

    • toxoplasmosis

    • salmonellosis

    • campylobacter infection

    • Giardia infection

    • cryptosporidium infection

    • roundworms

    • hookworms

    • cat scratch disease

    • rabies

We will also discuss parasite prevention. We currently recommend the once-monthly topical prevention called Revolt that kills adult fleas and prevents flea eggs from hatching for one month and is indicated for the prevention and control of flea infestations (Ctenocephalides felis), prevention of heartworm disease caused by Dirofilaria immitis, and the treatment and control of ear mite (Otodectes cynotis) infestations. Revolt is also indicated for the treatment and control of roundworm (Toxocara cati) and intestinal hookworm (Ancylostoma tubaeforme) infections in cats.

 

Generally, spays and neuters are recommended at 6 months of age since cats reach sexual maturity fairly early. Oftentimes, kittens coming from a shelter or rescue are already fixed!

 

Nutrition

Kittens should be fed a kitten-specific formula until at least 1 year of age. Some breeds of cats may require them to stay on it for longer. The dry kibble is often smaller and easier for kittens to eat and digest and contains all of the essentials for proper growth and development! They also have different nutritional requirements than adult cats because they have more energy and are also growing and developing at rapid rates.  

 

Kitten food has more calories and higher levels of certain nutrients. Some of these nutrients include:  

  • Protein: As carnivores, cats need more protein than dogs. Kittens, however, need even more protein, and more essential amino acids such as arginine, lysine, and methionine than adult cats to support their rapid growth and development.

  • Taurine and Choline: Like adult cats, kittens need a sufficient daily intake of taurine and choline.

  • Fat: Kittens need more essential fatty acids to support their rapid growth and development.

  • Calcium and Phosphorus: Kittens need more calcium and phosphorus than adult cats to support the growth and development of their bones and teeth.

  • DHA: The omega-3 fatty acid DHA is important for brain and vision development.

  • Vitamins and Minerals: Cats need an adequate daily intake of vitamins and minerals, but kittens need more magnesium, copper, iodine, and vitamin A than adult cats.

Should Kittens Drink Milk?

From birth to three to four weeks of age, kittens need their mother’s milk (or a milk replacement). That satisfies all their nutritional needs during that time. Once a kitten is weaned from milk at six to eight weeks, she should get all her nutrition from kitten food. Cows’ milk, goats’ milk, and other sources of dairy alone are not complete and balanced and should not be given to kittens.  

 

The amount and frequency of food given to your kitten will vary on age, body condition, and breed so ask your vet for any specific recommendations!

 

Behavior and Environment

 
Introducing a Kitten to Other Cats in the Household

When you already have cats as part of your family, introducing your newly adopted cat can seem like an overwhelming task. Patience is key–the transition can take several weeks, but by planning ahead you can reduce some stress, allow for an easier transition, and build a positive relationship between your feline companions.

Grooming Your Kitten

Cats devote a large part of their day to cleaning and conditioning their coat and claws. Estimates range from about 2 to 6 hours a day. This means you should frequently see your cat lapping her fur, washing her face, using a scratching post, and biting her nails. Most cats are “self-cleaning,”  but some may have characteristics that make grooming more of a challenge. Long-hair, polydactyls (extra toes), flat-faced, and hairless cats may require help with personal hygiene even when they are healthy.

 

As your cat’s caregiver, keep these facts in mind:

  • All cats can benefit from regular grooming sessions and nail trimming at home.

  • Grooming enhances your relationship and will allow you to notice even subtle changes in the condition of your cat’s coat, skin, and nails.

  • Acute illness, increasing age, increasing weight, dental disease, less than ideal nutrition, parasites, infections, and chronic illnesses can all contribute to a loss of the well-groomed appearance we expect of our cats.

  • If you see changes in your cat’s grooming practices or your cat appears unkempt or messy, call your veterinarian so they can assess your cat and make sure that she is not ill.

  • Having the proper tools makes grooming easier for you and your cat.

  • Make sure you report any changes in grooming behavior to your veterinarian.

Cat Grooming and Nail Trims
Grooming Toolkit
Living With a Clawed Cat
Brushing a Cat's Coat
Kitten Play
  • For energetic kittens, mental activity is just as important as physical well-being.

  • Cats are stimulated by a variety of scents, sounds, and tactile experiences.

  • In felines, healthy development includes acting upon their natural predatory behaviors. Young kittens will naturally stalk, pounce, and roll around with toys unprovoked – a part of her inner big cat!

  • It comes as no surprise that a natural favorite for kittens is a furry toy mouse. Avoid stringy or yarn-type toys as curious kittens may try to eat their toys instead of play.

  • To discourage biting or scratching, make sure that you avoid using hands and fingers as ways to engage in play. Feather pole toys are excellent for playing with your little one while keeping your hands at a safe distance.

Playing With Your Cat
Environmental Needs
DIY Cat Toys
Kitten Enrichment Basics

Litter Box

Choosing a litter box for your kitten can be overwhelming! There is an infinite number of styles and sizes to choose from! Then, there is the type of litter you fill it with… The following PDF will help you decide what to buy and where in the home you should place a litter box.

 
Litter Box

Oral Health

 

Teething begins in kittens at about 10 weeks to 6 months of age, beginning with the primary incisors being replaced by their permanent counterparts. By the time the average kitten reaches 6-7 months of age, all 30 adult teeth will have erupted. Teaching your kitten to tolerate getting their teeth brushed should start as early as possible will help to maintain the best oral health possible throughout their life! 

Brushing Kitten Teeth
Steps to Brushing Cat Teeth