Kitten Basics: How to Keep Your Kitten in Good Health
Choose a Veterinarian
Choosing a veterinarian is really choosing a partner in your kitten's health care. Scheduled vaccinations and yearly examinations mean that you'll see your veterinarian on a regular basis, so choose wisely. Use our list to help pick the right veterinary clinic for your cat:
- Get recommendations from friends, coworkers, and other cat owners and compile an initial list of clinics. Ask them what they like about each one.
- Visit each clinic, introduce yourself as a potential client, and ask for a tour.
- Look for a clean, sterile hospital with up-to-date equipment.
- Ask about emergency care, hours, and any equipment or terms you don't understand.
- Ask what the fees are for basic shots and exams.
Spaying and Neutering
Owners should have their cats spayed or neutered unless they plan to show or breed them. Consider the following:
What Is It?
- "Fixing" is the common term for feline surgical sterilization or male neutering.
- In females, it's called spaying, which involves removal of the uterus and ovaries.
- In males, removal of the testicles is called neutering or castration.
- Veterinarians advise spaying or neutering by at least 6 months of age.
Why Spay or Neuter?
Each year, millions of cats are euthanized because the new cat population far exceeds the number of homes that can be found for them. Note the following advantages of spaying and neutering:
- Spaying eliminates behavior associated with heat cycles, such as wailing to attract males or spraying urine.
- Spaying helps prevent potential health problems, including breast tumors and uterine disease, possibly adding years to your cat's life.
- Spaying or neutering helps prevent the occurrence of unwanted litters.
- Neutering reduces the effects of puberty and hormones. A neutered male is less likely to mark territory by spraying urine and less apt to roam and get lost, and he won't congregate or fight with other toms over a female in heat.
Common Cat Ailments
Use our guide to some of the most common medical ailments that can affect kitten health. The more you know, the better you'll be able to notice when your kitten isn't feeling well.
Fleas: Description and Symptoms
These pinhead-size insects jump from your cat to your furniture to you looking for blood.
- Fleas are most common in warm weather (spring and summer).
- They can transmit parasitic or infectious diseases, including tapeworms.
- Flea infestation may, in turn, cause anemia (low red blood cell count) and/or allergic dermatitis, a skin allergy characterized by itching and irritation.
- Though some cats become irritable and scratch, others have no visible signs of discomfort.
Prevention and Treatment
- Flea collars, powders, and liquid baths are available in pet stores or from your veterinarian. Your veterinarian also can recommend monthly treatments to prevent fleas.
- Check your cat weekly by rolling her onto her back and looking closely at the belly and around the base of the tail for the small, dark insects, as well as for flea "dirt"—small, dark, pepper-like specks. If the dirt turns red when water is added, your cat has fleas.
- Choose treatments that contain IGRs (insect growth regulators), which interrupt a flea's life cycle. Without IGRs, flea eggs hatch every 21 days, making repeated treatments necessary.
- Treat your yard and house for eggs, larvae, and pupae. If you use a lawn-care company, include flea treatment as part of your maintenance plan.
- Plant marigolds and chrysanthemums in your yard. They contain natural insecticides that may repel fleas.
Hairballs: Description and Symptoms
Hairballs are tube-shaped, brown masses of hair fibers. When cats clean themselves, they swallow fur. Because hair isn't digestible, it either passes through and ends up in the litter box or it is vomited.
Cats that pass hairballs more than once a week or that pass foul-smelling hairballs may have a serious underlying health problem. See your veterinarian.
Prevention and Treatment
- Keep your cat well groomed with regular brushing.
- Brush all of your cats, not just the ones with hairballs, because cats often groom each other.
- Try this easy home remedy. Apply 1 teaspoon of petroleum jelly to the top of each paw. Rub it in before your cat can flick it away. Your cat will lick it off her paws, and it will help ease the hairball through the intestinal tract. Apply jelly for several days.
- Use one of our Hairball Care Formulas, which help reduce the likelihood that hairballs will form. They contain a natural fiber system that gently passes ingested hair through the digestive tract.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD): Description and Symptoms
Feline lower urinary tract disease is a potentially fatal, painful inflammation of the lower urinary tract caused by a variety of things, including viruses, bacteria, diet, decreased water consumption, and urine retention.
Symptoms include blood in the urine; difficult and frequent urination, often in small quantities; inappropriate urination; lack of energy; and loss of appetite.
Maintenance of Urinary Tract Health
- Maintain proper urinary acidity and magnesium levels through a properly balanced diet that helps promote urinary tract health.
Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice any symptoms.