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Kitten Care - Everything a Pet Owner Needs to Know to Raise a Healthy Kitten



Dr. Sudeep Wahla
Prestige Animal Hospital

What is the most important thing to know about raising a healthy kitten?

Cats and kittens are amazing animals. They learn to be self-sufficient fairly quickly. A couple of things to know … Know what substrate they like to urinate on and get that litter box. Make sure you know what vaccines and what type of lifestyle you're going to have them lead ... Are they going to be indoor? Are they going to be outdoors? Make sure you check them regularly for parasites, knowing where they came from. Were they from an outside stray kitty? Did they come from an indoor kitty who you knew from someone?

Have a healthy environment. They're going to need a lot of exercise. If you have other pets or other cats or dogs, there are some things to take into consideration before bringing a kitten into the house. Kittens will be playful and naughty, just like any other babies. Don't think, "I'm going to get a kitten and cuddle it all day long and they're going to be great." Yes, they're great, but they do take some work.

What are the right and wrong ways to pick up my kitten?

Right ways … Depending on their age and lifestyle, I'd say probably up to about four months, you can always scruff them from the back of their scruff, just above the shoulder blades. This means just grabbing a little bit of skin, kind of like their mom would pick them up. But another way you could pick them up, under their chest, cuff them, and just hold their whole body.

The wrong way would be to pick them up by one leg, dangle them, or picking them up by two legs and dangling them. You also don’t want to pick them up from under the elbows where you're not supporting the chest. You always want to have a nice, firm hold on the chest or abdomen or from the scruff. You don't want to pick them up by any limbs or under the armpits, or any other way.

How can I tell if my kitten is happy and healthy?

What I tell people is kittens are like babies. They play hard, they sleep hard, and they poop and pee. As long as your kitten is pooping and peeing a lot, playing hard, eating well, and sleeping well, then they're a pretty healthy kitten.

How should I feed my kitten?

It depends how old your kitten is. As long as they have teeth, kitten food. They make kibble or they make wet food. If they don't have teeth, which is generally under four weeks of age, bottle feeding and they have kitten milk replacers for fostering kittens.

What are some products I might need for my kitten?

Products that you may need for your kitten when you bring kitten home: litter box, litter, scratching posts, and sometimes they like the cat towers that they can climb. A lot of kittens like a bed. Some don't like a bed so much. I like the little feather toy with the bell, laser pointers, little balls that they can play with—things to keep them active.

How soon should I bring my new kitten in to see the veterinarian?

I would bring your new kitten in as soon as you get them. As soon as you have your kitten, schedule an appointment the next day. We have some good information and some great tips. They need a health exam immediately.

How can I get the most out of my first vet visit with my new kitten?

Write down any questions you have. I have a lot of people who get in the vet clinic, they have a lot of questions. They see us and they're like, "Oh, I don't remember what I was going to ask." I always tell people, "That's okay. At your next visit, write down your questions. And that way, we can get them all answered.”

What will a veterinarian look for during an initial kitten care visit?

During initial kitten care visits, we look for a couple of things. Number one, are they really a male or female? Sometimes in young kittens, it's hard to tell. You might have a female cat who you named Alice, and really they’re an Al.

Then we look for fleas. We look for any parasites that are visible during a physical exam, but a lot of times they're internal, so we'll need a poop test because people can get parasites from pets as well. We'll look at their eyes and their ears, making sure there are no ear mites or ear infections. We make sure they weren't born with any cleft palates. Then we make sure there are no umbilical hernias because, as they grow, they can have hernias, especially as kittens, that they were born with. We also make sure there are no congenital neurologic issues or anything else that we can detect.

What are some early signs and symptoms of health issues in my kitten?

Some early signs and symptoms of health issues can be sneezing, squinting eyes, maybe some ocular discharge or eye discharge, some excessive green or clear nasal discharge. Cats don't have that much discharge from the nose, but if you notice that it’s always wet around their nostrils, this could be an underlying respiratory tract infection. Sometimes if you see a little rice or grain stuck to their fur or tail, it can be little parasites, such as a tapeworm.

These are some things that we need to keep an eye out for during the early stages. Also, if they're not eating as well and they're not gaining weight how they're supposed to. Some cats have a really big belly that feels bloated, and we obviously want to know if they have diarrhea. I'm trying to think. Pale gums are another one that there could be something going on with their blood flow.

Why is it important to avoid self-diagnosing possible kitten health problems?

It's really important because I've seen problems where, if they would've brought them on day one, it could have been so manageable and the kittens could have gotten better. But some people try to self-diagnose or self-care, and they'll go to just a regular pet store and just get some drops or something, for example, for the eyes. Oh, the eyes are looking gunky. They go to a store and say, "My kitten's eyes are looking gunky." Then one of the employees gives them some drops. They come to see us and say, "Oh, I've been using the drops for a week." Now the eyes are all green and gunky, and the infection has gotten so much worse. I've seen some kittens even lose vision because people wait and they try to self-diagnose. If you think your kitten's having an issue, please don't self-diagnose. Bring them into the veterinarian right away.

When should my kitten get vaccinations?

It depends on where the kitten came from and where they are. When I say where they came from, were they a stray cat? Do they still feed off the mother? But generally, they can get vaccinations as early as six weeks.

FAQ - Kitten Care


Dr. Sudeep Wahla
Prestige Animal Hospital

What should I expect at my kitten's very first veterinary visit?

At your first visit you'll get introduced to the team. You'll get introduced to how we are going to go about caring for your pet in the different lifestyles and phases. We'll talk about a lot of information on behavior, and do a thorough physical exam. We make sure there are no congenital abnormalities that have gone undetected, or underlying parasites like fleas or ticks. And we’ll just have an overall discussion of your kitten's health and needs. Be prepared to discuss lifestyle as well. Are you thinking about having an indoor kitty or outdoor kitty? How many pets do you have in the house? So these are some things to expect to discuss and for us to go over at your veterinary visit.

What should I ask my veterinarian at my kitten's first appointment?

It’s good to ask how much food to feed your kitten and how much exercise they need. Especially if you're unfamiliar, ask for good resources. Where's the closest emergency facility in case your regular veterinarian is closed? That's always good to know so you're not scrambling at the last minute. We like to give all that information ahead of time, and we direct people to our website, prestigeanimalhospital.com. We have these client resources for a guide to cat care where they can find all that information. Because it can get overwhelming at the visit, we give them a reference to go back to that summarizes what we discussed.

How often does my kitten need to go to the veterinarian?

Bring the kitten in right away so we can discuss this. Different ages require them to come at different times. For example, let's say you get a 14-week-old cat. They might not be coming as frequently as that of a 4 or 6-week-old kitten, who we need to see more regularly.

What vaccinations does my kitten need?

Vaccinations typically in kittens are multiple vaccines known as FERCP, feline leukemia, and rabies, all depending on your cat's lifestyle.

Does my kitten need vaccinations even if I keep them inside?

This is a question we get often. And my answer to that is, as a kitten, if they're strictly indoors and they have zero contact from other cats outside, and when I mean zero contact, you don't leave the windows open with a screen, you don't have a screen door where they can go up and maybe another kitten can come out and sneeze and get some respiratory aerosols into their eyes or face, or hiss. They don't go outside to the backyard and back in—they're strictly indoors. Then what we do recommend is get them caught up on their kitten vaccinations, we get them their annual vaccinations, and then we can hold off. If they have any possibility of going outside, regular vaccinations at least annually should be required.

What kind of preventative care does my kitten need?

So preventative care is a pillar of our clinic. This is part of our philosophy—strong, preventative care to just do that, prevent things from happening later in life...to prevent kittens from getting sick, prevent them from transmitting anything to the owner.

So some preventative care is fecal testing or poop testing to check for any parasites. Because sometimes you can't see parasites that are worms on the stool. It can be eggs, and these can be zoonotic, or transmissible to people. We get them proper vaccinations to protect them from diseases that are common in cats. We administer blood tests to make sure they weren't born with that with a virus that sometimes some kitty cats can get. We check their heart, their lungs. So, regular veterinary appointments are going to be very important. Do not forget flea and tick control. Cats are very good at hiding fleas, as they groom often.

When should I get my kitten spayed or neutered?

Generally we say between four to six months is a good time for a kitten - male or female - to get spayed or neutered. We tend to wait until six months in females, but males can be done as early as four months of age.

One quick tip I want to give you guys as far as kitten care. The first thing we do is when we get the kittens and bring them home, we get a carrier. All cats should be brought to the veterinary clinic in a carrier because they can get scared and can jump and run away.

What I recommend to people is don't put them in the carrier and bring them directly to the vet and then take them home, and that's the only time you use the carrier. Because they will hate going in the carrier and you will be fighting them the rest of their life to go in the carrier. So, what I recommend to people is when you get a kitten, put them in the carrier, give them food that they really want, leave the door open and let them go in and out, make it a happy place. Put them in, close it, walk around the house, walk outside and back in. Do that couple of times a week. That way when they're going in the carrier, they don't associate it with just going to the vet, getting shots and getting looked at, and your life as a pet owner will be much more pleasant...instead of having to come in with scratches on your arms for trying to squeeze them into that cat carrier.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (909) 329-2860, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook.

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