Narrator: Faster than a buzzing fly. More powerful than a paper sack. Able to leap tall shelves in a single bound.
Man 1: Look! Up on the mantel! It’s a fur ball.
Woman: It’s a daredevil!
Man 2: It’s Super Kitten!
Narrator: Yes, it’s Super Kitten, precious pet and newest family member that came to your home with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Super Kitten can make humans squeal with delight with all her cuteness and charm. Pet parents are helpless to resist all the magical appeal of this adorable, little fluff bundle. Disguised during naptime as a mild-mannered young feline, Super Kitten lives to run, chase and play during the day. Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter of “The Adventures of Super Kitten” as she continues her never-ending quest for love, meal times and the American way.
Real talk: There’s no denying the appeal a new kitten has on their human family, but their “superpowers” (their being small and adorable) aren’t enough to promote good health, prevent illness, and fight off disease. Because of this, it’s up to us as pet owners to help ensure their happiness. This includes establishing and maintaining a relationship between your kitten and a licensed veterinarian. All new kittens should 1) see a vet as soon as they join your family and 2) continue to receive checkups for the rest of their lives.
Finding the right veterinarian
If this is your first cat, you may be wondering: How do I find know which veterinarian is the right veterinarian? Fortunately, in this day and age, it is very easy to do research and get recommendations. For instance, you can talk to the animal shelter or breeder where you got your cat. They often work with animal healthcare professionals and can likely recommend someone. You can also talk to fellow pet owners about the vets their animals see. And don’t forget: we live in the internet age, so there’s always the option of looking up veterinarians in your area and reading customer reviews.
Make an appointment ASAP
Think of a kitten as a newborn baby: they need a wellness check early on to check for pre-existing health conditions. So once you’ve picked out a veterinarian, make an appointment for them to see your cat as soon as possible.
Depending on where you got your cat, you may be legally required to make a vet appointment within a certain number of days. If your cat came from a breeder, your contract may require a full checkup by a licensed veterinarian within a certain number of days.
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Take measures to keep your cat calm during their first vet visit
It’s no secret that most pets don’t enjoy going to the vet, especially when they’re very young. It’s a new environment, full of strangers and other animals, and this can be very daunting to them. A lot of pets carry this general fear of the vet’s office well into adulthood; and while it’s hard to erase fears, there are measures you can take to make your cat’s first vet visit a little more comfortable.
When you take your kitten in for their checkup, try transporting them in a carrier. This offers them a greater sense of security, as they’re safe from other animal patients in the waiting room. It’s also easier on you, as trying to hold onto a scared kitten is little trying to wrestle an alligator. If you bring them in a carrier, you can rest assured that your cat is safe from other animals and will remain close to you while you handle paperwork and anything else that needs to be done ahead of time.
What will happen at your cat's first vet visit?
Bring any paperwork you have for the kitten, either from the breeder or the shelter, so this information can be included in your pet’s health record/file. If some vaccinations have already been given to the mini-feline, your vet will want to know the dates, dosages, manufacturers, and types of shots to avoid duplication. If possible, obtain and prepare the required information ahead of time for the veterinarian, especially if someone else other than you are taking the kitten in for her first appointment.
During the checkup, your veterinarian should perform a full examination, checking ears, the mouth, teeth, body weight, lymph nodes, skin, abdomen, bone structure, etc. They should also check the genital area for conditions like herpes, take temperature, and observe your cat walking to make sure their mobility is developing properly. Also super-important: checking for underlying congenital issues like heart and lung defects. The sooner you catch pre-existing conditions, the better! (Many heart defects can be surgically corrected if discovered early.)
Pests and vaccinations
Fleas, ticks, and ear mites leave traces of their existence on fur and skin inside ears. A vet will look for evidence of these parasites and will be able to treat the kitten if needed. They may also suggest starting a heartworm preventative. Internal parasites like worms will require a fecal examination, usually through a “fecal floatation” or feces smear on a glass slide. Deworming can take place again on a second visit to ensure any emerging worms are removed, too.
Your vet should also check for upper respiratory infection (URI), which is much like a human cold. Kittens should also undergo blood work-ups to test for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia (FeLV), two immunosuppression diseases. While young kittens inherit some natural immunity from their parents, they’ll need more immune protection as they grow. This is where vaccinations come into play. At six to eight weeks of age, kittens should receive shots for feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia (FVRCP) plus Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), and boosters for these viruses should follow at about 12 weeks. The rabies vaccination will be given between 12-16 weeks along with another booster for FVRCP and FeLV.
Remember: Any parasite a kitten has can easily be passed on to other animals in the household and sometimes even the human family.
Your vet may also discuss future cat health matters like spaying/neutering and adding a microchip for your new pet. In fact, inserting the microchip during the spaying/neutering surgery removes the need to restrain the kitten.
Avoid Sticker Shock
Plan ahead and ask your veterinarian for a service price list. Know what is expected of you and prepare your budget for the costs involved in raising a cat. The number of tests, services, shots, and medication will add to the total. Pet insurance is also available for pet parents. Your vet may be able to steer you to a good plan to keep excessive costs down. Several companies offer affordable monthly premiums for pet health care.
Now is the time to ask questions about cat care. Write down things you need answers to, like the best food to use, a proper feeding schedule, litter training, and whatever else you need a solution for in giving the new pet a good start. So break out a cape and start your kitten on the path to Super Life! Starting out with a proper veterinarian health protocol for your fur baby will keep her soaring to great heights long into the future.