Congratulations on your new kitten!
We hope that you have many healthy and happy years together, and we strive to be there at each stage of your cat's life. Below are tips on caring for your new kitten during its the first year of life. (Please feel free to call us if you have any questions.)
Deworming Your Cat
Kittens often pick up parasites from their mother, the pet shelter, or their outdoor environment. We recommend deworming new kittens multiple times and outdoor cats every 3-4 months. Your cat's parasites can be passed to you! Always wash your hands after playing with cats or cleaning the litterbox/handling fecal matter. Here are a few recommended deworming products:
- Revolution — a topical deworming product that treats most parasites and is applied monthly; it also prevents heartworms.
- Drontal — oral deworming tablets for tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms.
- Strongid — oral deworming liquid for roundworms and hookworms.
Fecal Testing for Felines
We recommend that all kittens have two fecal samples checked. The first sample should be checked at the initial veterinary visit. The second sample should be checked at the time of the spay or neuter procedure. Because parasites shed in cycles, it is possible to miss a parasite infection at the first check.
Retroviral Testing for Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline AIDS (FIV)
All kittens and cats should be tested for FeLV and FIV when first adopted AND retested 6 months later. Outdoor cats should be tested yearly. It can take 4-6 months for a test to be positive after exposure. If your cat has been outdoors, consider retesting a second time 4-6 months after the first test.
- Feline Leukemia Virus is a virus which is passed between cats through bite wounds, sharing food/water bowls, nose-to-nose contact, or from mother to kittens in utero. From diagnosis, prognosis is poor and life expectancy is less than 2 years. There is no treatment, but it can be prevented with a yearly vaccine.
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is transmitted from mother to kittens in utero or via bite wounds/scratches from infected cats. There is no cure at this time. Most cats do very well for many years if symptoms are properly managed. Some cats are more predisposed to dental infections, delayed wound healing, and certain types of cancer. FIV-positive cats should be kept up to date on exams twice a year and vaccines yearly.
Vaccinations for Kittens and Cats
- Distemper Vaccine (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calici Virus, and Panleukopenia, also known as FVRCP) — This prevents some highly contagious (and sometimes deadly) respiratory viruses. This vaccine is given starting at 6-8 weeks, every 3-4 weeks THROUGH the age of 15 or 16 weeks. The last vaccine is effective for 1 year, and then we booster the vaccine every 3 years depending on risk/exposure.
**Note: Many cats from crowded shelters or hoarding situations are already infected with Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (feline herpes) virus prior to vaccination. These cats may have chronic upper respiratory infections or eye infections. The vaccination cannot fully protect these already-infected cats, but is still recommended to reduce the frequency of clinical signs.**
- Rabies Vaccine — Rabies is an incurable, fatal neurologic disease that is passed from wildlife and other pets outside through bite wounds. Rabies can be transmitted from animals to people and is fatal. The Rabies vaccine is extremely effective and required by Massachusetts state law. The first vaccine is given between the ages of 12 and 16 weeks and is good for 1 year. You can then elect an annual rabies vaccine (safest) or a 3-year vaccine. To be eligible for the 3-year vaccine, it must be given within 9-12 months of the initial vaccine. Owners should be aware that the 3-year vaccine carries a 1 in 5000 risk of fibrosarcoma (a vaccine-related cancer). We offer a safer, yearly rabies vaccine called Purevax which does not carry the risk of fibrosarcoma.
- Feline Leukemia — FeLV vaccine is given as a series of two vaccines three weeks apart. Then the vaccine is given yearly. Cats must be tested for feline leukemia prior to the vaccine, and then should be tested yearly if going outdoors and in contact with other cats. We offer the safest yearly FeLV vaccine available (Merial Purevax FeLV Vaccine).
Spaying/Neutering Your Kitten
We recommend spaying or neutering your cat between 4 and 6 months of age. It is extremely important that we spay female cats before their first heat cycle to reduce the chance of mammary cancer in the future. Consider neutering male cats before urinary spraying starts, usually around 6 months. If you have both a female and male kitten, consider scheduling their surgeries early so you don't end up with a litter of kittens!
Microchipping Your Pet
Did you know that a microchip is the only way to prove ownership? It is also the only way to permanently identify your cat should it escape your house or get lost. Even indoor cats should be microchipped. A natural disaster, burglary, or a forgotten door can let your cat escape. If found, a quick scan by a veterinarian or animal shelter will help connect you to your cat!
Proper Nutrition & Diet for Kittens
Kittens should be fed a mixture of high-quality dry and wet kitten food daily for the first year of life. Wet food reduces the chance of life-threatening urinary blockages in male cats. Between the ages of 8 weeks and 5 months, they should have food available at all times. After 5 months, kittens should be offered food in the morning and evening, and remaining food should be picked up between feedings to reduce the chance of them becoming overweight. After a kitten is spayed/neutered, their metabolism decreases by 30%. It is important to reduce their food accordingly to avoid excessive weight gain. We offer free weight checks and recommend that this be done about 8-9 months of age in ALL kittens. We recommend a high-quality food such as Hill's Science Diet for optimal growth and nutrition.
Heartworms come from exposure to mosquitoes and can lead to lung disease and death. Even indoor only cats can develop heartworm disease if mosquitoes come into the house. All cats should receive a heartworm preventative monthly. Options include Revolution or Heartgard. Monthly heartworm prevention is recommended by both the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association.
Flea Control for Cats
If your cat goes outside or you have a dog in the house, flea control is extremely important. We recommend Revolution monthly to control fleas, ear mites, and intestinal parasites. Fleas carry multiple parasites that can make your cat very ill. We recommend to start new kittens on Revolution for their first three months (minimum). If they go outside, it should be applied monthly all year long.
Kittens love to play! In order to encourage proper and safe play, we recommend that you do not use your fingers to play. Encourage kittens to play using dangling toys (e.g., Cat Dancer), feather toys on a string, laser pointers, balls, and toy mice. If you do not already know how to trim your cat's claws, please ask for a demonstration. It is important to also provide scratching posts or mats to encourage scratching — instead of using your furniture or drapes!
Kitten Dental Care
It is important to keep your kitten's teeth healthy for life. We recommend brushing their teeth daily, offering dental treats, and feeding dental food when they reach the age of 1 year. Many cats need regular dental cleanings during their lifetime to keep their teeth healthy.
Please keep all strings, dental floss, ribbons, yarn, and sewing thread away from kittens. These can be deadly if swallowed. Also avoid having any lilies in your house — one taste can be deadly to cats.
Managing Pet Care Costs
Kittens can be expensive, but with a little planning ahead, you can make things a little easier. Below are a few options that are available for pet care expenses.
- Pet Insurance — Pet Insurance is something every pet owner should consider. Many plans offer either wellness benefits (covering a percentage of vaccines, wellness care, and elective procedures), emergency/injury benefits, or both.
- Care Credit — This is veterinary and dental exclusive credit card which can be used for unexpected expenses. Depending on how much you spend, you can get 6-18 months interest-free to pay off the balance.