Your Kitten’s First Visit to the Vet
One of the first things you should do when you bring your kitten home is to introduce him to his new veterinarian. In fact, as soon as you know when you are going to pick up your kitten, schedule an appointment. This is the first and best step in caring for your kitten’s health and well-being.
There is a lot to learn about your new kitten. How to teach him, communicate with him and provide him a safe and healthy home are all very important. Knowing what to expect can help you have a more informative, comfortable and pleasant first visit to your kitten’s doctor.
When you first arrive at the veterinarian with your new kitten, you will probably have some paperwork to fill out. If you have never been to this particular veterinary hospital before, the paperwork will include information about you. You will be asked to list your address, telephone number and work place. The veterinary office will need this information to develop a medical record for your kitty. Since you will be paying for the services, the clinic will need your personal information.
The clinic will also need information about your pet. His name, age, sex, where he was obtained and what medical care he has already received. Some clinics also have various questionnaires for new kitten owners to fill out to help determine if there are behavior problems, house breaking problems or health concerns.
Next you will be led into the exam room where the technician will weigh your kitten, take his temperature and listen to his heart. Probably, when you made the appointment, you would have been asked to bring in a fresh stool sample. This sample can be given to the technician so she can begin the stool sample analysis.
After this, the veterinarian will begin to examine your kitten. He or she will begin by asking a variety of questions. These may include:
- How long have you owned your kitten?
- Where did you get him?
- What type of food is he eating?
- Are you having trouble with litter box training?
- How are you dealing with chewing?
- What type of toys does he play with?
- How is the kitten getting along with other family members, including other pets?
The veterinarian may then discuss tips on behavior and feeding and try to answer your questions. He or she will give you general information on what to expect as your kitten ages and discuss the pros and cons of letting your kitten spend time outdoors. If your kitten is a purebred, your veterinarian may be able to discuss breed specific topics such as health issues and behaviors. The veterinarian will also discuss spaying or neutering your kitten. She will let you know when her clinic prefers to do the procedure and the advantages of spaying or neutering.
The Physical Exam
After talking about your kitten, the exam will begin. The veterinarian will check the following:
- The kitten’s eyes, ears and teeth to look for any abnormalities
- The skin for abnormalities, dry skin, fleas or ticks
- The abdomen for pain, enlarged organs or other abnormalities
- The belly button for an umbilical hernia
- The heart and lungs to detect any heart murmurs, irregular heart rhythm or harsh lung sounds. A stethoscope will be used for this.
- The joints for normal movement and the knee caps will be checked to make sure they are not loose.
- The genitals for discharge or abnormal development
Your veterinarian may then discuss feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus testing with you. It is a good idea to test every kitten before he joins your family. Those kittens that test positive should be retested three months later in case there is some cross reaction due to the antibodies the kitten received from his mother. Unless the kitten is ill, it is not recommended to euthanize a kitten that tests positive on one feline leukemia/feline immunodeficiency virus test. Some are just transient infections and the kitten can test negative later.
Often, the kitten is first brought to the clinic when he is due for a vaccination. Kittens should be vaccinated beginning at six to eight weeks of age and every three to four weeks until 16 to 20 weeks of age. Sometimes, the breeder will have given the first vaccination and dewormer. The veterinarian will need to know when the breeder gave the vaccine so she can give the next dose at the appropriate time.
Typically, the kitten is given one vaccination that includes vaccines against several different organisms, including rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia. For kittens at risk such as outdoor kittens or multi-cat households, feline leukemia vaccine may be given. There are other vaccines that can be administered and those should be discussed with your veterinarian.
The veterinarian will also give a dewormer. Even if the stool sample is negative, nearly all kittens are born with roundworms so at least two doses of dewormer are recommended three weeks apart. Some veterinarians recommend dewormer every three weeks until the kitten has finished his series of kitten shots. When the kitten has reached at least 12 weeks of age, he can receive a rabies vaccination.
Your veterinarian will likely discuss parasite prevention. In the cat, this usually involved flea prevention, but it may also include heartworm prevention in some areas of the country. Nitenpyram (Capstar) can be administered to kittens over four weeks of age. Fipronil (Frontline) can be administered to kittens over 10 weeks of age and imidacloprid (Advantage) can be administered to kittens over 12 weeks of age. Milbemycin (Interceptor) can be administered to kittens over six weeks of age. Ivermectin (Heartgard) can be administered to kittens over six weeks of age.
At the end of the visit, your veterinarian will let you know when you should bring your kitten back for additional vaccinations. Usually, this is three to four weeks later. This continues until your kitten is 16 to 20 weeks of age. At that point, the vaccines become annual. The kitten will likely need to visit the veterinarian to be spayed or neutered at around four to six months of age. Then, visits usually become annual until he reaches 10 years of age, which is considered geriatric. At that point, twice yearly visits are recommended.