Oceanside Animal Clinic Kitten Care Recommendations
Congratulations on the acquisition of your new kitten! Owning a cat can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it is also a large responsibility that lasts the entire lifetime of the cat. This handout is a guideline to help get you the information needed to make some excellent decisions regarding the care of your kitten.
It is important to get your kitten established for veterinary care as soon as possible in order to make a plan to ensure he/she receives proper protection and that you receive timely and appropriate advice. An initial health check is typically recommended at a minimum of 6–8 weeks of age, at which time we will begin vaccinations and parasite prevention protocols.
Preventative Care At-A-Glance
6-8 weeks: Initial wellness exam, FVRCP Vaccine, Fecal Exam, Deworming and Flea/Tick prevention
12 weeks: Wellness Exam, FVCRP-FeLV Vaccine, Rabies Vaccine, Flea/Tick/Heartworm prevention +/- additional fecal exam/deworming
16 weeks: Wellness Exam, FVRCP-FeLV Vaccine, Flea/Tick/Heartworm prevention +/- additional fecal exam/deworming
6 months: Spay/Neuter, FeLV/FIV test, Heartworm test recommended
After 1 year: Switch to adult food, boost all vaccines at 1 year then continue FeLV annually and FVRCP and Rabies every 3 years. Year round flea/tick/heartworm prevention recommended.
Please note, these recommendations are general guidelines and may change based on each pets’ individual needs and circumstances. For example, the FeLV/FIV test may be recommended sooner than 6 months if your kitten is acting ill or from a stray colony.
When should my kitten be vaccinated?
Vaccinations are very important for your young kitten. Some infectious diseases are fatal, and vaccinations can protect your kitten from many of these diseases. In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of timely injections. Ideally, they are given at about 6 to 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, but the recommended vaccines and schedule of injections may vary depending on your pet’s individual needs.
The core vaccination schedule will protect your kitten from several common diseases: feline distemper (panleukopenia), feline viral rhinotracheitis (feline herpes virus 1), calicivirus, (FVRCP) and rabies. We also strongly recommend vaccinating against Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), a highly infectious and often fatal disease that can be passed by casual contact with unvaccinated cats, e.g. sniffing at each other through a window, sharing a food/water bowl, etc.
Our recommended vaccine schedule is as follows:
– 6-8 weeks: FVRCP
– 12 weeks: FVRCP-FeLV, Rabies
– 16 weeks: FVRCP-FeLV
This timing may vary slightly based on when the first vaccine is given, but in general the FVRCP vaccine should be boosted every 3-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old.
All of these vaccines are then boosted at 1 year. Feline leukemia vaccine continues to be boosted annually, whereas FVRCP and Rabies only require every 3 year immunization after the first set of boosters.
The most widely recommended pet identification device is the microchip. This tiny device is implanted with a needle much like administering an injection. A special scanner can detect these chips; veterinary hospitals, humane societies, and animal shelters across the country have these scanners. A national registry assists in the identification and return of microchipped pets throughout the United States and Canada.The microchip can be quickly implanted during any regular veterinary appointment or this can be done while under anesthesia at the time of spaying/neutering.
Intestinal Parasites and Deworming
Intestinal parasites are very common in kittens. Kittens can become infected with some types of intestinal worms before they are born or later through their mother’s milk. Microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually help your veterinarian to determine the presence of most intestinal parasites. This exam is recommended for all kittens, especially during their first few veterinary visits. Routine deworming during kittenhood as well as year-round prevention is recommended.
Year-round flea prevention is recommended in this area, and depending on the product can be started as early as 8 weeks of age. Even indoor-only cats are susceptible to flea bites and infestation. Topical Advantage II, Advantage Multi, or Revolution Plus may be applied topically monthly depending on your preference, the latter two provide protection against additional internal and external parasites. Alternatively, we carry a monthly chewable product called Credelio for cats if you prefer oral flea medication. Please be sure to bring up any questions you may have regarding these products during your kitten visits.
We know pet foods and nutrition can be overwhelming and you have many, many choices. In general, our recommendations are to feed a commercial cat food that meets AAFCO standards and has undergone extensive feeding trials. Vetted brands include Purina Pro Plan, Hill’s Science Diet, and Royal Canin. If one of these diets is being fed exclusively, they offer a complete and balanced nutrition profile and additional vitamins/supplements are unnecessary. Typically we recommend feeding a kitten-specific food until 1 year of age. Cats are obligate carnivores, therefore their diets are higher in protein than dog foods. However, there is no research to support the need for grain-free diets in cats. Keep in mind that in the wild, cats ingest their prey’s stomach contents which consist of grains and plant materials. An ideal diet has a high amount of digestible protein and low relative amount of carbohydrates.
Why does my kitten need more than one vaccination?
When kittens are born, they get a temporary form of immunity through maternal antibodies obtained via nursing. These maternal antibodies provide passive protection against diseases that the mother has been exposed to, either naturally or by vaccination. This passive immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the kitten’s life, but at some point, its levels decline and the kitten must be able to develop its own active long-lasting immunity. Vaccinations are used to provide this long-lasting protection.
As long as the mother’s antibodies are present, vaccinations are unable to stimulate the kitten’s immune system because the mother’s antibodies neutralize the vaccine.
Many factors determine when the kitten will be able to respond to vaccinations. These include the level of immunity in the mother at the time of birth, how many antibodies the nursing kitten absorbed, and the general health of the kitten. Since it is unknown when an individual kitten will lose its short-term maternal immunity, a series of vaccinations are given. The goal is for at least two of these to fall into the time frame when the kitten has lost immunity from its mother but has not yet been exposed to disease. A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate long-term immunity, which is critically important.
Rabies vaccine is an exception to this, since one injection given at the proper time is enough to produce long-term immunity due to the lack of maternal antibody interference.
Why should I have my female cat spayed?
Spaying is the surgical removal of the uterus and the ovaries, and eliminates the cat’s estrus, or “heat” cycles. We typically recommend spaying cats prior to their first heat cycle, which will usually begin between 6-7 months of age. This will prevent unplanned litters, reduce risk of mammary cancer, and avoid the sometimes unsavory behavioral changes that occur during a heat cycle. Spaying a cat may be a common procedure, but all surgery must be taken seriously. The correct term for spaying is ovariohysterectomy, and refers to the complete removal of the uterus and ovaries under general anesthesia. Adequate pain control and appropriate post-operative care is necessary for a smooth recovery.
Why should I have my male cat neutered?
Neutering or castration refers to the complete removal of the testicles of a male cat. Health advantages include reduced risk of fighting with other cats, reduced risk of urine marking, lower risk of transmission of certain viral diseases, and elimination of risk of testicular cancer. Male cats are usually neutered between 4-8 months of age under general anesthesia.
Do I need pet insurance?
If you are considering pet insurance, now is the time! As veterinary medicine becomes more technologically advanced, the cost of care increases. That’s because of higher costs associated with the equipment, facilities and training required to provide these higher-quality services. Pet health insurance can help by offsetting some or most of the costs of diagnosing, treating and managing your pet’s illness or injury.
There are now many different pet insurance companies, and it is important to do your research prior to choosing one to make sure you fully understand what each plan costs and covers. Pet insurance plans are generally reimbursement plans you pay the bills up front and are reimbursed by the insurance provider. Ask the insurance provider how claims are processed and what the timeframe is for reimbursement. Ultimately, it’s your decision whether or not to buy, what coverage to choose, and from what company. There are consumer websites that compare features and costs of pet insurance, and/or offer reviews, and you might find these helpful.