Basic Kitten Care
Eric Fold, DVM
April 15, 2018
Kittens can be a great addition to any family whether it is your first pet or you are adding to an existing pet family. There are some special considerations when owning a kitten when it comes to vaccinations, feeding, and socialization. We at Rock-N-Country Veterinary Services would like to help you and adapt to this new adventure and hope that we can make it a smooth transition.
Just how many vaccinations does my kitty need?
The very basic idea behind vaccinating a kitten is to provide the patient with adequate immune stimulus to help fight off infections. Some kittens receive a protective dose from their mother (Passive immunity) that will help them stay protected naturally for longer, but it will interfere with an early vaccine schedule. Other kittens from a non-vaccinated mother will not be protected and will need to have protection through a vaccine closer to 6 weeks old. Testing a kitten for passive immunity is cost prohibitive, therefore, we recommend vaccinating all kittens starting at 6-8 weeks old, every 3 weeks, until they are 16 weeks old. See the graph below for a visual explanation. The minimum number of vaccines needed for a cat 16 weeks and older is a series of 2. This will stimulate an appropriate immune response that will only need to be boostered, in most cases once yearly.
Why are fecal exams important and what are you looking for?
Intestinal parasites are very common in kittens and are often passed through the placenta or the mother’s milk. These parasites can cause pot-bellied appearance and failure to thrive due to their location in the small intestine. It is important to deworm all kittens at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age with a broad spectrum dewormer containing pyrantel pamoate. Not only can these parasites be harmful to our pets, but they can also cause disease in adults and children!
What should my kitten be eating?
Proper nutrition is critical especially in a kitten. Too much energy and the kitten could easily become obese, too little energy and the kitten could become starved and have stunted growth. Kittens do not have sufficient fat stores when born and require several meals throughout the day to maintain adequate energy levels. As the kitten is weaned from the mother, transitioning to soft food and then hard kibble is a gradual process. The kitten should have access to 3-4 meals daily until 6 months old and then transition to 2 meals daily until adulthood.
Why is it important to socialize and train my kitty?
House training is important for your kitten and should occur as early as possible and should always be a positive experience. Offering several litter medias for your kitty to choose from will help differentiate which litter they prefer. It is important to offer a litter box for each cat in your household, plus one additional litter box. If you have multiple levels in your home, you should consider having options on each level to prevent inappropriate soiling. For most kittens, you should plan on this process taking a few weeks. The most critical time in your kitten's social development are between 8 and 12 weeks old. Introducing them to the members of the family will help your kitten except the members as a normal occurrence in the household and will help existing pets in the household see them as an addition instead of as a threat to their territory. It is important to give your kitty positive experiences with members of the family to reduce the chances of negative behavior later in life.
Adding a kitten to your home can provide much joy and can be a special bonding time for your family. With routine health examinations at Rock-N-Country Veterinary Services we will ensure that your kitten's healthcare is provided for as well as the safety of other pets in your household and your family.
- “Ascarid.” CAPC Vet, 1 Nov. 2016, www.capcvet.org/guidelines/ascarid/.
- Greene, Craig E, and Julie K Levy. “Immunoprophylaxis.” Veterian Key, 6 Aug. 2016, veteriankey.com/immunoprophylaxis-2/.
- McLynn. “Royal Canin® Feline Health Nutrition™ Kitten Dry Cat Food.” Kitten Dry Cat Food | Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition, 25 Aug. 2015, www.royalcanin.com/products/royal-canin-feline-health-nutrition-kitten-dry-cat-food/2522.