What is the most important thing to know about raising a healthy kitten?

The most important thing to know about raising a healthy kitten is that they need plenty of love, attention, and care. They thrive better with a lot of activity, exercise, and mental stimulation. They are definitely not pets that you can just leave at home and not pay attention to.

Dr. Deirdre Craven
Care First Animal Hospital

What are the right and wrong ways to pick up my kitten?

Ideally, you want to scoop from underneath the chest and then hold them against your body. You want to make sure that they feel safe and secure, and not like they're dangling in the air.

How can I tell if my kitten is happy and healthy?

A happy, healthy kitten will eat and groom regularly. They should be playful and inquisitive and want to spend time with you. Some kittens will take a little bit more time to warm up to you, so definitely give them time once you take them home, but you should start to see their personality come out with time.

How should I feed my kitten?

A kitten should be on a kitten-specific diet. You want to make sure that they're not eating adult formula or dog food because they require very specific nutrition in order to grow and be happy and healthy. Ideally, we like feeding a combination of dry and canned food, but you can do whatever is best for your family.

What are some products I might need for my kitten?

You'll definitely need to get food and water dishes and a litter box to cover their basic needs, but you also want some things to keep them happy and playful. Things like cat trees and toys for mental stimulation are really important. Items that help them to get some vertical height, like cat trees, can be really helpful, and then some things to let them scratch appropriately, like scratching boards, can help them to channel their energy better.

When should I bring my new kitten to the vet?

We would like to see them within a few days of arrival so that we can make sure that they are healthy and that they can get their necessary vaccines and check for things like intestinal parasites.

What will a veterinarian look for during an initial kitten care visit?

We're going to do a full physical exam, which means that we'll take all of their vitals, ensure there's no fever, that their heart and lungs are working properly, look at their eyes and ears, make sure there are no ear infections, we'll look at their teeth to ensure everything's coming in appropriately, we'll listen to the heart and lungs and feel their bellies just to make sure that they're generally healthy.

What are some early signs and symptoms of health issues in the kitten?

Some early symptoms can be a lack of appetite or weight gain. A lot of times with cats, they won't give you clear signs that something's wrong. So if they're hiding more or just seem not like themselves, that would be an indication that we need to see them right away.

Why is it important to avoid self-diagnosing possible kitten health problems?

For that same reason, sometimes cats are really good at not telling you exactly what's wrong. And so even if they don't seem like they're that bad at home, a lot of times we will find things on physical exam that you never really expected us to find. And so for that reason, we like to make sure that we're taking a look and that we're communicating with you so that we can make sure that everyone's on the same page.

When should my kitten get vaccinated?

We like to start vaccinating kittens around eight weeks old. We'll do vaccinations at 8, 12, and 16 weeks. Even if you don't get your kitten right at eight weeks old, whenever you bring them in, we'll start the vaccine series and talk to you about what that schedule will look like.

What do I need to know about kitten behavior?

One thing that's really important to know about kitten behavior is that they love to play. And a lot of their play is centered around normal cat behavior. And so a lot of it will be hunting behaviors and scratching behaviors. And so definitely trying to tap into that and playing with little toys that will help them to hunt, climb, play, and scratch is really important. Also, they are nocturnal, and so a lot of times they will be more active at night. So just something to be aware of as well.

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