Kitten Care

Vet Tech Tips Kitten Bed

Did you recently adopt a kitten or are you thinking about getting a kitten? Are you aware of the standards of care kittens require to grow up to be strong and healthy members of your family?

1. Indoor vs Outdoor Cat

2. Access to Outside

3. Litter Box Training

4. Kitten Diseases and Viruses

5. FVRCP

6. Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis

7. Feline Calicivirus

8. Feline Panleukopenia

9. Rabies

10. FeLV

11. FeLV/FIV Testing

12. Spay and Neuter

13. Your Information

14. Toys and Scratching Posts

15. String

16. Brushing Teeth

17. Handling Kittens

18. Feeding Kittens

19. Hair Length and Color

Indoor vs Outdoor Cat

Where your kitten started its life normally only makes a difference if the kitten is over three months of age and the mother was a feral cat. Typically, they do well as indoor cats and become accustomed to people if you bring them into your home and give them attention before three months of age. As they get older and are outside longer, they become more scared of people and might not be able to be kept as an indoor cat. Depending on where you live outdoor cats can be helpful with keeping the rodent population down around your house or property but make sure they are neutered or spayed so they do not have more kittens.

Access to Outside

Some cats do fine with being indoor-only cats even when they started as outdoor-only kittens. Allowing them to have access to windows, able to see outside, have supervised outdoor time, access to the outdoors via a cat room, or cat fences, are great ways to get your cat access to outside and keep them safe. Some cats do well being indoor and outdoor cats. You will have to see what works best for you and your cat.

Litter Box Training

Vet Tech Tips Kitten Litter Box
Vet Tech Tips Kitten Litter Box

Most kittens will start to use the litter box when you put it out for them. Normally you do not even have to do anything else but keep it clean. Each cat/kitten is different with how often they prefer you to clean the litter box so see what works best for you and your cat. A good rule for litter boxes is to have one litter box per cat plus one box. If you have three cats you should have four litter boxes. If you have a lot of cats this is not always possible, but most cats prefer this. This can help with cats urinating and defecating outside of the litter box. Make sure to use non-clumping, fragrance-free litter with kittens until they are at least four months old. If they ingest clumping litter, it can cause blockages of the intestines that require surgery to have it removed. You can gradually add in the new litter with the old litter and switch over to clumping litter once the kitten is over four months old. Using a short-sided litter box is best for kittens to be able to get in and out of the litter box easily.

Kitten Diseases and Viruses

Kittens can get diseases from other cats and their environment, so it is important to get them vaccinated. Before eight weeks of age their mother’s antibodies are still in their system so waiting until they are eight weeks old is best for them to get their first vaccine. The next vaccine is at twelve weeks old and the next booster at sixteen weeks old. This is just a guideline but talk to your veterinarian about the best schedule for you and your kitten.

FVRCP

Vet Tech Tips Kitten Getting Vaccine
Vet Tech Tips Kitten Getting Vaccine

FVRCP, stands for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR), Feline Calicivirus (C), and Feline Panleukopenia (P). This is the core vaccine for cats/kittens and the one that should have three doses as a kitten, then after one year of age and every three years after that.

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis is an upper respiratory disease that causes symptoms such as fever, sneezing, poor appetite, lung infection, 4inflammation and discharge from the eyes and nose. This virus is also called Feline Herpesvirus-1. This is transmitted by the cat sneezing and spreading the virus. When the cat gets stressed later in life it can cause symptoms to return.

Feline Calicivirus

Feline Calicivirus includes fever, lung infection, lameness, nasal congestion, sneezing, eye inflammation, and clear or yellow discharge from nose and eyes. They can also develop painful ulcers in the mouth, lips or nose causing a poor appetite. When the cat gets stressed later in life it can cause symptoms to return. Transmitted by the cat sneezing and contaminated surfaces.

Feline Panleukopenia

Feline Panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper, caused by a parvovirus, is a serious virus that causes damage to bone marrow, lymph nodes, and the cells lining the intestines. Symptoms include depression, loss of appetite, high fever, lethargy, vomiting, severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, tremors and lack of coordination, heart damage, nasal discharge and dehydration. These symptoms are often fatal to kittens. Transmitted by contaminated surfaces, direct contact with infected cats, and litter boxes.

The FVRCP vaccine helps the cat/kitten fight against these three diseases.

Rabies

Rabies is another vaccine that is normally given to kittens. There is no cure for rabies so getting your kitten vaccinated against rabies is important. Rabies is transmitted by a bite from an infected animal or through infected saliva that comes in contact with mucus membranes. Rabies is spread through the nerves to the brain resulting in death. Symptoms include restlessness, irritability, inability to swallow, paralysis, and death. Depending on the state you live in will determine when your kitten can get their first rabies vaccine. Most states in the U.S. allow kittens to be vaccinated for rabies between 12-16 weeks. Talk to your veterinarian about what is best for your kitten. If your cat is indoor only having them vaccinated for rabies is something you should discuss with your veterinarian. If your cat is indoor/outdoor or outdoor only it is recommended that they are regularly vaccinated against rabies.

FeLV

The other vaccine that is normally given to cats/kittens is FeLV or Feline Leukemia Virus. To learn more about FeLV check out the article on Feline Leukemia Virus or FeLV. This vaccine is normally given at about 12 weeks of age, a booster at 16 weeks, at one year of age, and then depending on the vaccine it will be boosted every one or three years. Your kitten or cat should be tested for FeLV before being vaccinated for FeLV since you do not need to vaccinate a cat for FeLV if they already have the virus. If your cat is indoor only and is not exposed to other cats, talk to your veterinarian to determine whether your cat should be vaccinated for FeLV.

FeLV/FIV Testing

Kittens should be tested for FeLV and FIV or Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus to make sure they did not get either virus from their mother and then possibly give it to other cats in your house. If your cat goes outside, you do not want your cat to give these viruses to other cats.

Spay and Neuter

Kittens should have a spay if they are female or neuter if they are male. These are important to help with the overpopulation of cats which is a problem in most areas. This can help prevent cats from having more kittens and prevent male cats from spraying on things. If your cat is going to be mostly outdoors, it is a good idea to have their ear notched or tattooed at the time of the spay or neuter so people who see the cat know they do not have to worry about more kittens.

Your Information

If your cat has outside access, it’s a good idea to have a breakaway collar with your information on it and to have your cat microchipped. If the collar comes off then the microchip can be scanned by a veterinary office, a rescue group, or your local shelter to find your information so they can return your cat to you.

Toys and Scratching Posts

Vet Tech Tips Small Scratching Post
Vet Tech Tips Small Scratching Post

Toys and scratching posts are great items to get for your kittens to play with and use instead of biting and scratching at your furniture. Many different types of toys will help keep your kitten entertained. If you are limited with space, you can use a small cardboard scratcher or a short cat tree. The more room your kitten has to climb on these types of items the less likely they are to climb on things you do not want them on. Kittens like things that move like small cat balls, mice toys, and feather toys (do not leave feathers with kittens unattended as some like to eat the feathers.)

String

Cats and kittens should not have access to items that have strings that can come off. If the cat swallows the string it can cause the intestines to be pulled together, which will require surgery to have the string removed. If the string stays in the intestines for a long time it can cause a lot of damage. Please keep string, hair ties, rubber bands, and yarn away from cats and kittens.

Brushing Teeth

Vet Tech Tips Toothbrush Toothpaste Kit
Vet Tech Tips Toothbrush Toothpaste Kit

It is a good idea to start brushing your kitten’s teeth when they are young to get them used to it and your hands in their mouth.

Handling Kittens

It is also important to touch your kitten’s ears and feet, roll them on their back or side, and open their mouth. This way they get accustomed to being handled and things being done to them. If your veterinary team ever needs to examine these areas, the cat will be accustomed to being handled in these ways which leads to less stressful examinations and procedures and makes it easier. This can reduce the need for drugs to sedate them for necessary procedures to keep them healthy.

Feeding Kittens

Check out the article on Healthy Cat Food to learn more about foods that are beneficial to cats. Kittens should be on kitten formula food until they are about one year old. Kittens grow quickly and need the extra fat, calories and vitamins that kitten food has in it. Whether you feed canned, kibble, fresh or a combination of these foods make sure the kitten has access to some type of food throughout the day.

Hair Length and Color

Cats are a lot of fun and great family pets. When choosing a kitten most of the time it is what color you want and the length of their hair that is the deciding factor. Long-haired cats sometimes need to be brushed so if you do not want to have to brush your cat’s hair, you might prefer a short-haired cat.

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