†††††††††† A new kitten is always an entertaining addition to any household.† Many people mistakenly think that cats donít need to go to the veterinarian, but just like puppies or even human children it is very important to get those first check-ups and vaccinations.† We usually like to start seeing kittens between six and eight weeks of age.† At this time we will perform a thorough physical exam to identify any problems, check a stool sample for worms, and start on a program of vaccinations for feline distemper and upper respiratory complex.† Some common problems that are identified in these first visits are ear mites, which can quickly spread to your other animals if not diagnosed and treated.† These tiny insects burrow into the skin of the ear canal and cause intense itching and production of a thick, dark brown or blackish discharge.† Another frequently seen problem is intestinal parasites, roundworms in particular.† About 85% of all kittens are born with roundworms, even if the mother has been treated since wormers will not kill the worms outside of the intestinal tract and they can be harbored in the mammary glands or placenta.† Roundworms may sometimes be seen in the stool and resemble spaghetti.† When you bring your kitten for a visit, a stool sample can be very helpful in identifying this problem.† The doctor will examine the stool under a microscope and look for the eggs which are laid by the worm.† Often one dose of wormer may be given even if no eggs are seen, since they are not passed during all stages of the wormís life cycle.† We recommend that a stool sample be checked at least twice, three weeks apart.
†††††††††† Vaccinating the kitten is extremely important in protecting from the important viral and chlamydial diseases.† The kitten receives a certain amount of immunity from its mother through the placenta and colostrum.† This immunity interferes with the vaccine and blocks it from stimulating the kittenís immune system to make antibodies.† At some point between six and fifteen weeks of age, this immunity will begin to drop off so that the kitten has no natural protection.† It is at this time that the vaccines are most effective.† Because we cannot predict exactly when this drop-off will occur in each individual kitten, and because it is important that the kitten not be left unprotected for any length of time, we vaccinate every three weeks during this period.† In addition, each added vaccine will stimulate the immune system further and give a stronger protection.† At twelve weeks we change to a combination vaccine which also protects against leukemia.† This is repeated at fifteen to sixteen weeks old, and at this visit we also give a rabies vaccine.† From this point on the cat will need an annual combination booster, called an FVRCP/FeLV vaccination.† The rabies vaccine will be repeated in one year and from that point on it will be given every three years.† (Not all states recognize the three year vaccine so if you move out of the area your veterinarianís recommendations may vary).
†††††††††† Feline leukemia is a viral disease which may be passed from mother to kitten; it also is spread between adult cats by bite wounds and breeding.† It is especially common in outdoor cats who tend to wander and fight a lot.† It is a good idea to test all kittens for leukemia, especially those which come from large catteries or have been strays.† If both parents were tested and vaccinated for leukemia it usually is not necessary to test their offspring (this is rarely the case however as most kittens that we see are strays, come from the animal shelter, or the fathers of the litter are unknown).† Many cats may show no sings of the disease for months or even years after they are exposed, so testing is especially important.† To perform the test, a small amount of blood is drawn.† If the cat is positive, the doctor will discuss the problem with you further, but usually we recommend returning the kitten.† If this is not an option and the cat is showing no clinical signs of disease we retest using a different method in about eight weeks, as occasionally a cat is able to throw off the virus.† A cat showing clinical signs or with two positive tests has a poor long-term prognosis.† However, an asymptomatic cat who tests positive may go as long as a year or two before becoming sick; in these cats the risk to other cats in the household must be taken into account when making decisions about how to proceed.† All positive cats should be indoor only cats so they do not continue to spread the disease to other cats.† Because this is such a serious disease and is always fatal, we recommend vaccinating all cats, even those who rarely go outside.
†††††††††† Good luck with your new kitten and please call should any questions or problems arise!
CARE OF YOUR NEW KITTEN
Edgewood Animal Clinic
3025 Dixie Highway
Edgewood, Kentucky† 41017