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

We're hopeful that you got your kitten when they're about seven or eight weeks. That's an excellent time for a kitten to be separated from their litter and mom. Behavior is really important, and parasite control and preventative care vaccinations. We'll also have discussions about making sure that an indoor kitty has an enriched and healthy life.

Dr. Michele Drake
The Drake Center

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

Oh, interesting question. I generally recommend picking up your kitten from the underneath side and maybe putting your hand up here to control the head a little bit. And scoop them underneath your arms. You can hold their little paws in the front, also. A football hold is probably the best way to do it.

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

Happy and healthy kittens have fun and energetic behaviors. They're curious and constantly playing. You don't need a television anymore when you get a kitten, as they are so fun. It's mostly about setting them up for correct boundaries in the household so that we can make sure that their behaviors are consistent with a happy life for everybody.

How should I feed my kitten?

For most kittens, we recommend some dry food, but also canned food. We want wet food to be part of the cat's experience. Remember, cats are carnivores, and so canned food resembles the type of food that they eat much more so than dry food. Dry food is more of a convenient kind of thing. I feed my cats a combination of both because it's convenient, but I make sure they get a can twice a day because I believe that canned food is super important.

What are some products I might need for my kitten?

You need to get kitty litter, some toys, a litter box, a bed, and then some canned food and dry food that you've talked over with your veterinarian as being a right choice.

How soon should I bring my new kitten to see a veterinarian?

We recommend that you bring your kitten in right away. We're going to want to start vaccinations, de-worming and set them up on a preventative plan. And then we're going to want to get a leukemia and AIDS test if your kitten has not already had that too.

How can I get the most out of my first vet visit with my new kittens?

When you come to the Drake Center, we spend a good 30 to 45 minutes with you on the first visit. We're going to provide you with a lot of information. We also have more on our website. But we're going to talk to you about all aspects of kitten care, including behavior, feeding, and litter box acclimation.

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

We're going to look at things like behavior and temperament, so we can have a conversation with you to make sure that that's consistent with how they're being handled at home. Sometimes I'll have a family come in with young kids, and we need to make sure that the kitten's being handled properly. So we're also going to give the kitten a complete physical. Eyes, ears, and nose are important in kitties. We see a lot of upper respiratory viruses in kittens. We'll listen to the chest to make sure that the lungs and the heart are good, so it's an overall exam.

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

As I said, kittens have a fair amount of upper respiratory infections, so sneezing, watery eyes, and clogged up noses can be signs of health issues. And many kittens can get through these fine, but they quite often will need help and supportive care from the veterinarian to help them through that because some of them get severe. They can have high fevers; they can get dehydrated, and they might not want to eat. And so we need to stay on top of things because kittens are tiny, and we need to support them through this. Also, diarrheas are common. And there are some terrible viruses that kittens perhaps have been exposed to before you've gotten them. Anything out of the norm should warrant a trip in here right away for us to have a look.

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

Again, kittens are tiny, and they can go from feeling okay to being critically ill pretty quickly. Their glucose levels, hydration, and other things like that can change dramatically over a short period. So if you think things are a little bit off, they're probably a little further off than what you realize because cats are good at hiding illness. So please come in sooner rather than later.

When should my kitten get vaccinations?

We're going to want to start vaccines as soon as you get your kitten, probably somewhere around eight weeks. And we'll put them on a series of vaccines. Core vaccines are the ones that all cats should get. And then there are some other vaccines outside of that. But generally, the core vaccines such as FVRCP, leukemia, and rabies, are an excellent place to start.

What do I need to know about kitten behavior?

There's a wide range of kitten behavior because all cats are different. I've had many cats over my lifetime, and they all have unique personalities. It's hard to give a short answer to this question. I will tell you that it is important that you do understand kitten behavior. There's so much information online, and we would direct you to the best place to go to get some good answers.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Kitten Care - FAQs

Dr. Michele Drake
The Drake Center

What should I expect at my kitten's first veterinary visit?

We're going to probably ask some questions of you about the kitten's vaccine history. Then we're going to do a thorough physical from their nose to their tail, and have a good look at the kitten to make sure that everything looks right there. We'll discuss behavioral issues, preventative care, parasites, and we'll do a fecal on your kitty and get the vaccines started.

What should I ask my veterinarian at my kitten's first appointment?

If you have any specific questions, save them till the end, because they may answer them before you even get there. We like to spend at least a good 30 minutes with clients that have a new kitten and make sure that all their questions are answered, and that they have access to information that they're going to need from home also.

How often does my kitten need to go to the veterinarian?

Your kitten should come to the veterinarian about every three weeks until they're about four months of age. We have a series of things we're going to want to talk about and a series of vaccines. Most importantly, we're going to follow the progress of your kitty behavior-wise and health-wise and make sure that they're headed in the right direction.

What vaccinations does my kitten need?

We're generally going to do the core vaccines for all cats, which is the FVRCP - the upper respiratory viruses, and panleukopenia. And we're also going to do the leukemia vaccine and rabies. But they're not all done at the same time. We spread them out over a series, but they're all very critical vaccines.

Does my kitten need vaccinations, even if I keep them inside?

Yes, we recommend core vaccines for your kitten because... I'll just tell you a personal story. My cats are indoor cats. My son left his door open, and a bat flew in, and my cat killed the bat. I think about 15% of bats in California carry rabies—maybe even higher than that. If my cat had not been vaccinated for rabies, we would have a potentially challenging situation on our hands. And cats get out all the time. We want them protected with the FVRCP and leukemia.

What kind of preventative care does my kitten need?

Your kitten will need to have a deworming protocol, a parasitic preventative plan going forward so that you guys don't have fleas or ticks in your houses or on your cat. In addition, kittens need vaccinations, optimal nutrition, and guidelines for good behavior.

When should I get my kitten spayed or neutered?

We generally recommend having kittens spayed and neutered by six months. We don't want them going into heat or starting to develop roaming behaviors. Six months is a great time to spay and neuter kittens if they haven't already had that done at the shelter.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.