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Health Care


A Litter of Kittens, Curled Up Together and Sound Asleep, Can Be Very Alluring After all, they're so small - how much time and attention could they need? Plenty! But every bit of affection you and your family give a kitten will be returned over and over again. And since the average lifefont of an indoor cat that's cared for properly is about 15 years, you can expect to enjoy the company of your new kitten for a long time.

Before you bring a kitten home, though, you'll have some shopping and "catproofing" to do! Your kitten will need its own food and water dishes, a litterbox and litterbox supplies, a cat carrier, nail clippers, a scratching post, some kitten toys, food specifically formulated for kittens, and its own bed - though chances are it will find lots of places in which to relax.

Remember, though, that your home can be a dangerous place for a kitten. Toxic substances are even more dangerous for cats than dogs because cats live up to their reputation for curiosity and they groom themselves thoroughly. Be sure that cleaning products, motor oil, brake fluid and other household and automotive chemicals are stored in tightly closed containers. If any of these substances are spilled, clean them up immediately. Let floors dry after using household chemicals to clean them - cats can become ill from simply licking their paws after walking on newly cleaned, wet floors. And never put rodent bait where your cat can find it.

Houseplants are very attractive to cats, but many plants are poisonous. Make sure you get rid of those that could harm your cat.

Medicines can be another source of toxicity - medications that are safe for humans may not be safe for cats. Keep medicine containers closed tightly and away from your pet. Never give your kitten or cat any medication unless it is prescribed or approved by your veterinarian.

You've Brought Your Kitten Home - Now What? Once a kitten is eight weeks old, it is probably ready to eat solid food and leave its mother.

Find a small, quiet, warm part of the house for your new kitten to live in for the first few weeks until it gets used to its new environment. If you have another cat, be sure to take the newcomer to the veterinarian before exposing it to the cat you already have, to make sure the kitten isn't carrying any transmissible diseases. Once the kitten has clearance from your veterinarian, allow at least two to three weeks for the cat and kitten to adjust to one another. Don't force them to play together, but do try feeding them on opposite sides of the same door. You can also familiarize the cat and kitten with each other by exchanging their blankets from time to time. Gradually, let the kitten begin to explore the house while the other cat is in another room. Handle and groom your kitten - this will encourage socialization and help you start developing a trusting relationship with your new pet.

Love Is Not Enough: Your Kitten Needs a Preventive Health Care Program, Too. Every new kitten faces a variety of parasites and infectious organisms as it grows. Some of them can pose a threat to humans too, so it's important to take your kitten to your veterinarian as soon as you can. That way, your veterinarian can get your kitten started on a preventive health care plan that's the foundation for a long, healthy life - and your family can enjoy your new kitten worry free.

Here are some kitten health care topics you'll be discussing with your veterinarian. Just click on each topic for more information.

Kitten health care topics you'll be discussing with your veterinarian

Diseases of kittens

There's no way around it - dangerous, disease-causing organisms are part of your kitten's environment. And because kittens like to explore everything, they're good candidates for exposure to infection. But your veterinarian can protect kittens and adult kittens against a number of infectious organisms through a regular vaccination program.

In fact, taking your kitten to "get its shots" on a regular basis is one of the easiest, most important ways you can protect your pet's good health, because it ensures that your veterinarian has the chance to examine your pet regularly to detect any problems before they become threats.

Vaccines are fascinating - they work by stimulating an animal's immune system, either by producing antibodies that fight infection and/or by activating what are called cell-level immune responses. The animal health industry has developed a number of vaccines that can protect your kitten from disease, now and as an adult.

Some of the most important to understand and talk about with your veterinarian are feline rabies, feline leukemia (FeLV), respiratory diseases (FVR, FCV, FPN), and feline panleukopenia (FPV). Vaccines are available against all these diseases.

Your Kitten's Vaccination Schedule

No matter what kind of kitten you've selected, its vaccination schedule should begin at six to eight weeks of age. After that, regular revaccinations are needed to keep your cat healthy. See your veterinarian to establish a vaccination and revaccination schedule.

When and why should my cat be vaccinated? Which vaccines are the right ones?

In a young cat, a series of vaccinations is given early in life to assist in the development of immune system response against disease. Mature cats require regular vaccinations for a number of diseases. Your veterinarian will assess your cat's risk factors and advise you on the vaccination program he or she recommends. Only your veterinarian knows your cat - it's age, condition, history, and your local disease situation - and is the best source of correct vaccination information.

Why do kittens require multiple vaccinations?

When a vaccination for a specific disease is given to your cat, its immune system makes special substances called antibodies that work against a specific virus or bacteria. A nursing kitten receives certain antibodies from its mother that protect it from the disease early in life. Interestingly, these same antibodies can also keep a vaccine from being completely effective. Since the presence of maternal antibodies gradually decreases as a kitten gets older, the kitten must create new antibodies to ward off disease. A series of vaccines over a period of time will stimulate the kitten's immune system to produce its own antibodies.

How will my cat feel after vaccination?

The way an individual animal reacts to a vaccine depends on a number of factors, including its age, the type of vaccination, and the cat's overall health. In all likelihood your cat will feel fine. It may show mild short-term signs, such as fatigue, a slight fever, or lack of appetite before returning to normal. If symptoms persist beyond 48 hours, consult your veterinarian.

Click on the following links for more information:

The Kitten Has Arrived! 148KB, PDF

Kitten/Cat Vaccinations 82KB, PDF

Maintaining Health and Well-being 97KB, PDF

Emergencies 78KB, PDF

Responsible Cat Ownership 47KB, PDF