We recommend 3 veterinary visits for each new kitten, to examine your kitten as it grows and to go over the many aspects of kitten ownership with you. All kittens are given at least one full physical examination. There are many aspects of raising a kitten which we may spend a lot of time going over with a new kitten owner, and reviewing with a seasoned kitten owner. We touch on socialization/ handling, nutrition, vaccines, deworming, dental care, nail issues (scratching, nail trimming), microchip implants, pet insurance, spay/ neutering, early weight control, wellness blood testing, outdoor/ indoor issues and fleas, litter box issues, environmental enrichment and anxiety issues in cats, Feline Leukemia and Feline Aids, injection site sarcomas. The extent of the discussions will depend on the client receptiveness and their own list of important issues. We are here to help you turn this kitten into an important family member who will hopefully stay healthy well into the geriatric years.
2. Vaccine Series: This series is age dependent. By missing earlier vaccines your kitten takes on risk of acquiring these diseases as its maternal protection declines. These guidelines are adapted from recommendations of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.
6-8 weeks – PRC (early kitten vaccine could be missed, beneficial if kitten is stray, or the kitten did not receive good quantities of first mother’s milk)
9-12 weeks – PRC (panleukopenia [parvo], rhinotracheitis [herpes] and calicivirus)
– L (Feline Leukemia) The American Assoc. of Feline Practitioners recommends L for all kittens due to potential lifestyle changes in the future. This would be boostered in 1 month then again in 1 year, and then stop for indoor cats.
*outdoor cats add –L (Feline Leukemia)
– A (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus)
> 13 weeks – PRC – all kittens.
– L – booster all kittens
– R (Rabies, 1 year non-adjuvant vaccine). For international travel, Rabies must be given no earlier than 3 months of age (which can be more than 12 actual weeks).
*outdoor Cats add – L, A
– R (Rabies, 3 year non-aluminum adjuvant vaccine or the 1 year non-Adjuvant vaccine)
Rabies lasts 3 years ONLY after it is boostered. 1 year after this pump priming vaccine. Although the 1 year vaccine is only approved for 1 year, we tend to cycle this vaccine to 2 and 3 year off label to indoor cats, but it needs to be boostered at 1 year to be able to appropriately off-label to do this.
*this vaccine series is boostered at one visit 1 year after the Rabies vaccine is given. This is considered the next most important vaccine for the rest of the pet’s life. Not to be missed.
3. De-worming and Stool Analysis
Guidelines were adopted from the Canadian Animal Parasite Council www.capcvet.org.
Kittens are given an initial series of 3 broad spectrum internal parasite treatments each given 2 weeks apart.
This is followed by monthly deworming medication up until the pet is 6 months of age.
Stools are analyzed for internal parasites every 3 months just before the next deworming medication is given, up to 12 months of age. For indoor cats we should do one more stool analysis 1 year later. For outdoor cats please bring in a stool sample with an annual exam each year and/ or once in December when we focus on Parasite prevention. [See Monthly Programs.]
4. Dental Care
We encourage clients to be proactive at keeping on top of their pets’ teeth at an early age.
The easiest thing to do is socialize your kitten to letting you into their mouth. You should teach him/her to let you lift up the lips, to touch all the teeth and gently scratch them. Opening and looking down the mouth is not important for dental care, but it is valuable tool to be able to do later on for a number of reasons and in particular to give medication. Ideally you should scratch the outer surfaces of the teeth once per week. If you can graduate to brushing once or twice daily that would be of great value, but in the future scratching off brown build up is going to be critically important to prevent tartar build up. Brushing by itself is usually not enough, but dental specialists generally say it is the most important preventative step. Unfortunately cats don’t chew like dogs. Dental treats for cats may lead to more overweight concerns than actual dental prevention.
Some cats show early tartar development for some reason, and could benefit from ultrasonic scaling or hand instruments at the time of spay/ neuter. Some cats develop an unusual degree of gingivitis, yet have no sign of tartar or plaque which usually leads to the gingivitis. These cats should be checked for a viral origin by doing a test for feline aids or leukemia and the teeth should be checked under the gum line for resorptive lesions which are specific to cats.
Retained deciduous teeth that occur commonly in puppies almost never occur in kittens, so there really is no strong reason to wait until 6-7 months to spay or neuter. We can do this much earlier to prevent pregnancy and avoid the annoying signs of heat that females can show.
Our Dental Program
5. Wellness Testing
We advise a complete blood count and biochemical profile (wellness screen) to be done on all pets in their first year, to assess the internal organs and screen for congenital abnormalities. This is particularly advantageous before they get their first anesthesia to be spayed or neutered. This pre-anesthetic panel adds to the safety and quality of giving general anesthesia…it’s gold standard.
It is recommended that all newly acquired cats be tested for Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, ideally before they enter a multi-cat household. This is done to know the viral status of the pet. These are common viruses which can effect the long term health of the pet, could modify the economic decisions regarding the pet, adds risk for other cats in the household (which could mean vaccinating the other cats) and helps us prevent the spread of these viruses if we intend to let the pet outside.
Our Wellness Program
6. Spay and Neuter
Although we can spay or neuter an animal as early as 7 weeks of age safely, we advise animals be spayed/neutered after completing their full vaccine series (last over 16 weeks of age). We have to wait 2 weeks after the last vaccine before doing the surgery.
We like to have a pre-anesthetic blood screen done at least a few days before the procedure, to make sure everything is healthy inside the pet. On admission pets are given a sedative, anti-anxiety and pain preventative medication. For all spays intravenous fluids are administered throughout the procedure and we monitor closely with the help of respiratory, blood pressure, arterial oxygen saturation (pulse oximetry), temperature and ECG monitors. The neutering procedure is very quick in cats, so we usually just monitor with a technician and a respiratory monitor. IV fluids for cat neuters are ideal for IV access, but not mandatory.
It is important to remember that pets sometimes have a tendency to gain weight after being spayed. Their metabolic needs may change due to a decrease in the male and female hormones since the testicles or ovaries were removed. Researchers feel this procedure may change the behavior of the animal leading to more consumption of food. Regardless, you should be proactive by decreasing the quantity of food given, and especially quantities of treats given, after this procedure. Obesity and overweight is very common and often evident at the 1st annual exam. Cats can gain 1-2 lbs every year to be even over 60% obese!! That is, more than half the cat is fat tissue!
7. Positive Reward Based Training
As everybody knows, cats don’t respond quite as easily to training as dogs do, but they are trainable. Cat’s can be trained to come and sit. They can be trained to even use the toilet! Clicker training is a very effective way to start training initially to get your pet to know the language and the behaviour you want them to do. Generally the principles of Positive Reward Based Training used for dogs are good for cats too. Basically, you reward desired behaviors (with a click and treat or verbal/ physical praise) and you ignore undesirable behaviours, or prevent them from occurring by modifying the cat’s access to something in the environment. Cats need to be acclimated to the car, veterinary visits, the new baby, other pets or other ‘scary’ things we put in their environment. For a cat to be trained to not do things in the environment, we need to provide other avenues to express normal cat behaviour, ideally, or we need to booby-trap them so a negative consequence happens to them when they perform a behaviour independent of us (NO squirting water at them, tossing things at them, chasing them, etc.) e.g. motion detectors and alarms on a counter top, or entrance into a room you don’t want the cat to go into. Cats need to be trained through gentle, patient, consistent, gradual and frequent handling to allow manipulation of their mouth, ears, and feet to allow nail trimming, dental care, pilling, etc. Also, it is a good idea to teach them games that increase the cat’s activity (e.g. ball retrieving). Encourage object and interactive play as a weight management strategy too.
8. Environmental Enrichment
This is a huge topic we may only be able to lightly cover or mention at one of the kitten check ups. We likely will bring up this important topic for our feline friends at other consultations as well. A good site to check out is from the Ohio State University Indoor Cat Initiative at www.vet.osu.edu/indoorcat.htm.
Basically outdoor cats will potentially have much less stress because they are free to roam, climb trees and fences, have community socialization with other cats, hunt, and play and rest/sleep anywhere they like. The problem of course is their ‘9’ life spans may be shortened (due to cars and other trauma or toxins); they are prone to costly repair due to injuries (cat fights, trauma etc.) and they run the risk of acquiring certain diseases they are not exposed to indoors (Leukemia, Aids, Fleas, Ringworm, Abscesses, blood parasites etc). Sometimes cats choose other owners too…they decide not to come home or they get lost and are not recovered. There may also be future or current bylaw regulations on stray cats.
So, the solution for many cat caregivers is to keep their friends indoors. This leads to potential stress issues in these cats that cause behavioural problems for their owners. Stress issues can lead to aggression (multiple types), bowel movements out of the box, urine spraying and soiling, feline interstitial cystitis (blood in urine and frequent visits to the box), excess vocalization, nocturnal issues and likely more.
For these reasons we recommend cat people try to modify the environment of their cat to be as stress free as possible in ‘the cat’s eyes’. For example (see link above and in the resource section of this website): a very large uncovered litter box with clumping litter, multiple litter boxes in the house (each level of the home), litter boxes not near scary machines (furnace, washer/dryer) with an escape route, perches, cat trees, fishing rod toys, card board boxes, hiding places, access to fresh water in flat dishes (fountains, fish bowels, sinks etc.), feeding toys, and more. Cats should not have food left down all the time as this gives them nothing to look forward to and leads to them getting overweight and often obese. Food should be regulated, and ideally make them work for it a bit.