Cats and Kittens!
Please note: These are general recommendations; they are not meant to be construed as veterinary advice, and may not be appropriate for your pet. Be sure to schedule a visit with your local veterinarian to discuss the best care for your animal!
Cats are wonderful, curious, and playful companions. A cat in the home can bring warmth and affection, along with the occasional hairball!
Here are some common tips and recommendations for pet cats in the US:
Vaccinations are a very important part of keeping our animals healthy. Vaccines allow our animals to develop immunity to common diseases without putting them at risk for contracting the disease. Thanks to the widespread use of vaccines, many deadly diseases which used to be common in our cat populations have become rare, and our kittens are kept healthier and happier as a result. Because kittens do not have a fully developed immune system, and because their maternal antibodies can interfere with developing immunity, they require a series of vaccinations and boosters to keep them protected.
In rare cases, cats can have allergic reactions to vaccines. These reactions can present in a variety of ways, but may include swelling of the face or limbs, lethargy, diarrhea, or vomiting. Be sure to call your veterinarian right away if you think your cat is having an allergic reaction.
Rabies is a deadly disease which can affect both cats and humans. All cats should be vaccinated for rabies. Indoor-only cats can still have rabies exposure, most commonly via bats, and should be kept up-to-date on their vaccines.
Distemper Combination (FVRCP):
This combination vaccination includes a variety of highly contagious diseases, including feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia.
This is a retrovirus that can be spread between cats through saliva and other secretions. All cats which go outside and may encounter other cats should be vaccinated for this disease. Feline Leukemia is a fatal disease for which there is currently no cure.
Regular fecal testing is important for indoor and outdoor cats, especially if they like to catch mice! While hunting cats are perhaps at highest risk for parasites, kittens can contract intestinal parasites from their mother even without any external exposure. Two common worms, hookworms and roundworms, can even infect people! Be sure to always wash your hands after scooping the litter box!
There are many different external parasites that can infect our pet cats. Fleas, ticks, ear mites; the list goes on and on! Outdoor cats especially should be given flea and tick preventative, which your veterinarian can recommend based on the risks in your area. Fleas not only irritate our cats and cause itching and scratching, they also can spread tapeworms! Gross!
The primary window for kittens to learn about new animals and objects is just 1-3 months of age! It is very important that during this time your kitten has lots of positive, happy experiences with a wide variety of people, animals, and household items (such as the vacuum cleaner or dishwasher!). Praise and treats can help make sure that your cat only makes positive associations; we don’t want to scare the kitten and make them more afraid! Be sure to let your kitten explore (and approach) new items on their own terms to make sure the experience is positive.
Playing with your kitten’s ears, paws, and mouth will also help them accept future ear cleaning, nail trimming, and teeth brushing. Most kittens do not naturally enjoy having their paws or ears touched, so we have to give them positive experiences (and treats!) to help them adjust. Make sure you keep these teaching sessions short and fun, so that your kitten makes only positive associations!
Spaying and Neutering
The AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners) guidelines recommend all cats be spayed (females) or neutered (males) at 5 months of age.
A microchip is an implantable, permanent identification tag for your cat. If your cat escapes and is brought to a shelter or veterinary clinic, the microchip can be scanned for its unique number. This number is then given to the microchip company, who can then contact you and reunite you with your cat! Microchips are placed under the skin with a large needle, so it is generally easiest to perform during a spay or neuter, when your animal is already under anesthesia. Please be aware, a microchip is NOT a GPS; you cannot track your cat with a microchip.
Dr. Chuck recommends all cats go to the veterinarian at least once per year to make sure they are healthy and happy!