Baby cats are a lot like baby people. They need to be fed, to associate and play with others, and to receive healthcare. But kittens can quickly outgrow their dependence on their mother when a loving pet parent is ready to provide nurturing. Kittens are usually ready to leave their mother and the rest of the litter when they are 8 weeks old.
The earlier—and more frequently—your kitten visits the vet, the easier it will be for him to enjoy the cat carrier, car ride, and hospital environment throughout his lifetime. You should schedule your kitten's first appointment within the first week of bringing her home, regardless of her age. Our doctors and staff can make fast friends with your kitty for a fear-free relationship!
After 8 weeks of age, typical kittens should begin receiving vaccinations from their veterinarian. (This may be earlier for orphan kittens.) Around this time, the natural immunity they got from their mother's milk is wearing off. So they need routine vaccinations—at specific starting points and intervals—to boost their immune systems for the fight against disease (such as rabies, feline distemper, and respiratory diseases).
There is no treatment for heartworm disease in cats. Therefore, heartworm prevention will be a paramount consideration for your veterinarian. Also, depending on your kitten's lifestyle and risk factors, your vet will discuss with you testing and vaccination for Feline Leukemia Virus, and testing for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FeLV/FIV).
Kittens are especially susceptible to intestinal parasites because these worms can be passed to them as larvae through their mother's placenta or milk. For this reason, the doctor will administer a broad-spectrum dewormer and perform fecal exams until 2 consecutive tests for worms return negative.
Your vet will also recommend flea and tick prevention approved for kittens, because loss of blood by these external parasites is a critical issue for felines with developing red blood cell counts, and these parasites can transmit potentially serious infectious diseases. In addition, the vet will guide you in the area of a properly formulated kitten diet. Good nutrition will meet the special needs of your growing cat.
Your veterinarian has the "healthcaring" schedule of your kitten well in hand. We put it in your grasp too: Our New Kitten Checklist (shown here for information purposes) can help you track these important veterinary milestones throughout the routine wellness stages of kittenhood.
Cats do not respond well to punishment. Behavior training is best achieved with positive reinforcement. "Clicker training" is an effective way to teach your young cat to engage in good behaviors and to avoid bad ones. Clicker training also stimulates your cat's mental faculties and helps you build a close and trusting relationship with them. In these ways, behavior training is an important part of kitten socialization and development.
Play is an integral part of daily life—for both kittens and adult cats—to alleviate boredom and associated stress. Active play also helps your cat to maintain a healthy weight and helps you and your kitty bond. During playtime, let your kitten be a cat. Cats are hunters by nature, so include games that allow your little tiger to prowl, pounce, and tussle!
However, avoid playing such games with your bare hands (or feet). This can teach your cat that attacking, biting, and scratching people is acceptable; this is true even if you wear a toy puppet on your hand. Instead, use a wand toy, a stuffed "caterpillar" toy, or any pet-safe toy that distances your body from your cat. And when "hunting" with your cat, remember to let them catch their "prey" as often as not. They will derive great satisfaction from playtime with this real-life strategy.
When we talk about brushing, nail trimming, bathing, and tooth brushing your pet, certainly we're not talking about your cat, right? Actually, these grooming activities are very possible for your cat when he or she is acclimated to them while still a kitten. With patience, calm, and lots of treats, you can train your cat to willingly accept grooming from an early age.
Training can start as simply as getting your kitty used to gentle handling. This "grooming for beginners" can include softly moving a cotton ball inside the ears, and a toothbrush along the gum line, for a brief moment each week. Remember to never force your cat to accept grooming; this could damage your relationship! The earlier you begin a grooming routine, the easier it will be for you and your cat.
Cats will typically train themselves to use the litter box. However, if your kitten doesn't take a fancy to it, there are a few things that might help. Cats may prefer a different type of litter or a different kind of box. Also, you might try placing the litter box in a different location. Avoid putting it in noisy places (such as near the washing machine) or in high traffic areas (especially where children and dogs trek). Placement of the box is key; cats can prefer their privacy!
You can use clicker training to acclimate your kitten to a cat carrier. This has the advantage of you never having to force your cat into the carrier. Less stress for your cat means less stress for you!
Once your kitten is in the carrier, use the opportunity to acclimate them to car rides too. This is useful for vet visits, especially when you actually take your kitty to the vet from time to time, and sit for a while in the cat reception area so they can get used to the staff, sights, and smells. Let them learn from the very beginning that a vet visit isn't a bad thing! Helping your kitten become accustomed to the cat carrier is also very helpful in other situations, such as home fire drills and hurricane evacuations.
Please call us, or come for a visit, if you need more assistance with your kitten. We are happy to help you get your new arrival off to the best life ever!