Studies show that good preventive care is the key to disease prevention and early detection of health issues. Committing to a comprehensive yet customized wellness plan for your kitten or cat will keep them purring and playful for many years to come.
This guide covers everything you need to know about cat and kitten wellness, from vet visits and vaccines to nutrition, flea prevention and dental care.
Cat & Kitten Wellness 101: The Basics
1. Veterinary Exams
Examinations by a veterinarian are an essential tool in assessing your kitten's health and wellbeing, and invaluable in making proper decisions about your kitten's overall care from a young age. We recommend having exams performed at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age.
As your cat becomes older, regular physical exams by a veterinarian are an important part of a proactive and preventive approach to health and wellness. Checkups play a key role in the early detection of serious illnesses, especially since our pets can't tell us when there is something wrong.
Cats age more rapidly than people, and therefore changes in health status may occur more quickly. We recommend general physical exams every 6 months, especially for pets older than 5 years of age.
2. Core Vaccines
Core vaccines are those immunizations recommended for all cats regardless of life stage or lifestyle due to factors such as the likelihood of infection, the threat posed to the pet's health, or the risk of transmission to humans (zoonotic potential).
3. Spay / Neuter
- Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Panleukopenia, Calicivirus (FVRCP) - Recommend starting at the 8 week kitten visit with boosters at the 12-week and 16-week visits. Boosters need to be at least 3 weeks apart but not longer than 5 weeks apart to be effective. The last vaccine must be given at 16 weeks or older to be fully protective. Boosters should be given 1 year after completing initial kitten vaccines, and every 3 years thereafter.
- Rabies (RV) - A single dose, using non-adjuvant vaccine, at 12 weeks or older. A booster should be given 1 year after completing the initial kitten vaccine, and annually thereafter. Rabies vaccination is required by law.
We generally recommend that kittens be spayed or neutered at approximately 6 months of age, but some variations to this apply in certain circumstances. Consult with your veterinarian for specific recommendations.
4. Food / Nutrition
Your kitten or cat's health depends on nutrition. The foods you feed your cat will have a life-long impact on overall wellbeing. We recommend feeding your cat a healthy, all-natural, meat-based or grain-free food that is free of dyes, fillers and low-quality ingredients. Choosing a healthy food can be difficult, which is why we only carry healthy foods that our veterinarians feed their own pets.
We recommend that every kitten and cat be microchipped regardless of age. It can mean the difference in whether a lost pet is returned home safely or not. Microchipping is a simple procedure that can be done in the exam room or while under anesthesia for other procedures. Some cities require microchipping for pet registration.
Ongoing Cat & Kitten Care
1. Non-Core Vaccines
Non-core vaccines are given depending on your cat's exposure risk. Conversations with your veterinarian regarding the risks and benefits will help in determining a vaccine regimen that will provide the safest and best protection for your individual pet.
2. Dental Care
- Feline Leukemia (FeLV) - Recommended at 12 and 16 weeks of age (minimum of 2 boosters; one at or after 16 weeks using non-adjuvant vaccine). Given annually to at-risk cats (with outdoor exposure). We recommend the 1 year, non-adjuvant vaccine.
Dental cleanings are recommended annually starting as early as 2 years of age for all cats. Brushing your cat's teeth regularly promotes good oral health.
Learn more about how to care for your cat's teeth
3. Parasite Screening, Testing & Prevention
The following protocols should be based on the known prevalence of parasites for your region and will be performed accordingly by your local veterinarian.
Parasite Screening & De-worming
Cats can contract intestinal parasites from the environment in many different ways. Kittens, on the other hand, are most commonly infected with intestinal parasites from their mother in utero or from nursing. The best way to ensure your kitten is parasite-free is to have your veterinarian perform a fecal screening to identify any parasites that might be present. This is performed at the 8-week, 12-week, and 16-week visits.
As your cat ages, it is possible for them to become infected and show few or no signs of illness. Therefore, routine screening and early intervention are important to good health.
The use of a general deworming medication is a practice recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While this treatment will address most of the common parasites, it does not treat all parasites your kitten or cat may have; therefore, it is still recommended that deworming be accompanied by regular fecal screening.
All kittens should be tested for FeLV/FIV prior to being vaccinated to ensure negative status. We recommend that all outdoor cats be tested annually for FeLV/FIV.
Heartworm Testing & Prevention
Cats and kittens can be exposed to heartworms in almost any location where mosquitoes can be found. The risk of kittens getting heartworm disease is the same as that for adult cats.
The American Heartworm Society recommends kittens begin a heartworm preventative as early as the product label allows, and no later than 8 weeks of age.
All cats should be tested annually for heartworm infection during a routine visit for preventive care. Annual testing is necessary, even when cats are on heartworm prevention year-round, to ensure that the prevention program is working.
Flea Prevention and Tick Prevention
Most flea and tick medications are not safe to use on kittens until they have reached at least 7 to 8 weeks of age. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend a flea and tick medication that is most appropriate and advise you on when it is safe to begin administering it to your kitten.
Fleas and ticks can be found at any time of year and anywhere in the United States. They can cause irritation, discomfort, allergies and can carry disease. Due to their small size, ticks can be difficult to locate within the hair coat of your pet, but screening for fleas and ticks is part of your veterinarian's wellness exam.
Annual Blood Testing
Routine laboratory screening (blood testing) is recommended for all cats as part of a comprehensive preventive health care program. In young adults, normal values serve as a baseline against which changes can be measured as your cat ages and aids in early detection and management of many disease conditions. Annual health screens are especially important in senior pets and those with chronic medical conditions.
The CityVet Approach to Cat & Kitten Wellness
Our PetCare Plans
make providing the best care for
your cat or kitten simple, convenient and affordable. Only at CityVet can you receive:
- Top-quality veterinary care
- The healthiest foods
- The best flea/tick/heartworm prevention
- Quality pet supplies
- One-stop grooming, bathing, and boarding services overseen by your local veterinarian
All at costs well below the local, regional and national averages!
Our Complete PetCare Plans provide the very best for your
, while saving your money and time
along the way. Check them out today!