That cute little kitten stole your heart and now he's part of your family. You love him to death, but remember: He's your responsibility and you need to take care of him.
Of course, taking care of your cat is a year round responsibility. You should keep a detailed medical file on each pet to remind you when vaccines are due, when the last fecal sample was checked and what special seasonal events are required, such as a trip to the groomer.
To keep him healthy and happy, there are several things you should do as part of his care.
Parasites are a common problem as your kitten ages. Ticks, fleas, heartworms and intestinal worms are the primary culprits. However, with a little planning and some medical help, your kitten can be kept parasite free. Your veterinarian has medications available to prevent these parasites from infesting your kitten and to eliminate the parasites if already present. Ticks
Several topical and oral medications are available to prevent and treat tick infestations. If you find a tick, remove it carefully with a tweezers or tick removal instrument.
For more information, please see the related story How to Remove and Prevent Ticks.
Preventing fleas is much easier than treating an already established flea infestation. Topical and oral medications are quite effective in keeping your kitten's flea problem to a minimum and are safe in kittens. Monthly products now make flea treatment much easier than ever before. If fleas are allowed to proliferate, your pet and your entire environment – home and yard – must be treated.
For more information, please see the related story How to Control and Prevent Fleas on Your Cat.
Though more common in dogs, heartworms are still a preventable parasite in your cat. For kittens at risk of infection, monthly oral preventative is strongly recommended, based on geographical location and lifestyle. This medication is typically started around 4-6 months of age. Since mosquitoes transmit heartworms, the risk of heartworm infection is increased in the warmer months.
For more information, please see the related story Can Cats Get Heartworm Disease.
Roundworms, hookworms, coccidia and giardia are common intestinal parasites. Most veterinarians recommend deworming all kittens since many kittens are born with roundworms. After initial deworming, additional deworming may be necessary. After your kitten becomes an adult, a fecal sample should be evaluated yearly. Early treatment can reduce the chance of serious illness. Currently, there are monthly medications available that help prevent some of these parasites from developing. Even if your cat is on medication to prevent parasites, annual fecal evaluation is still recommended.
For more information, please see the related story Parasite Control.
In addition to parasite control, preventing contagious disease is also recommended. Several vaccines are available to help reduce your kitten's risk of acquiring diseases such as feline upper respiratory infections, gastrointestinal viruses, feline leukemia and rabies. Kitten vaccines are generally started around 6-8 weeks of age and are given every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Feline leukemia vaccine is given to those kittens at risk of exposure. At risk kittens include those that spend time outdoors and kittens that live in multi-cat households. Rabies vaccination is given at 3-4 months of age and then one year later.
For more information, please see the related story Vaccine Recommendations for Your Cat.
Proper nutrition is essential in maintaining health, especially in kittens. As kittens grow, proper calories need to be provided to avoid nutritional illness or developmental problems. Feeding a high quality kitten diet should provide adequate nutrients for your kitten.
For more information, please see the related story The Feeding and Nutrition of Kittens.
Begin grooming your kitten as soon as possible. This will get her used to combing and bathing. Some longhaired kittens may benefit from clipping. Make sure mats and tangles are removed from the fur as soon as they develop. Longhaired kittens should be brushed daily. Shorthaired kittens benefit from weekly combing.
For more information, please see the related story Grooming Your Kitten.
Though keeping your kitten indoors at all times is the safest, some choose to allow their kittens periodic access to the outdoors. If you wish to allow your kitten outside time, make sure to supervise her. She will need help learning how to find her home and how to keep safe. Motor vehicle trauma, exposure to contagious disease and animal attacks are the primary dangers of the outdoors. You can prevent these by either taking your cat outdoors on a leash and harness or constructing an outdoor enclosure that your kitten can safely enjoy.
For more information, please see the related story Should You Let Your Cat Go Outside.