Your New Kitten Health Checklist

Kitten health check at Badger Veterinary Hospital in Janesville, Wisconsin

Reviewed by Dr. Kayla Rothstein

We’ve started to see our first litters of spring kittens at Badger Veterinary Hospital! Kitten season means that more homes will be welcoming new feline family members.

If you just brought home a new kitten or are planning on bringing one home soon, the following checklist will help you lay the foundation for a lifetime of good cat health.

1. Schedule Your Kitten’s First Veterinary Visit

Kitten health check at Badger Veterinary Hospital in Beloit, Wisconsin

One of the first things you should do when you get a new kitten is to bring him or her to the veterinarian.

During your kitten’s first veterinary visit, your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam to make sure he or she is healthy. This will include a check of your kitten’s teeth, ears, eyes, heart, and lungs. Your veterinarian will look for signs of any underlying medical problems.

In addition to the physical exam, your kitten’s first vet visit will include parasite control. Your veterinarian will perform a fecal exam to test for intestinal parasites (ex. roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, coccidia). This is the time to start medications to treat and prevent intestinal parasites and protect your kitten from fleas and ticks (and the diseases they carry). Your veterinarian will recommend appropriate parasite and flea/tick preventatives for your pet.

Another test your veterinarian may perform at this first exam is a blood test to screen for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Screening is especially important if your cat may be exposed to infected cats or if there are other cats in your household, as FeLV and FIV can be transmitted to them. These viral infections weaken your kitty’s immune system and make your kitten more vulnerable to opportunistic infections.

Your veterinarian will discuss spaying or neutering your kitten. Not only does spaying or neutering help with cat overpopulation problems, it has health and behavioral benefits.

When you do bring your kitten back for spay/neuter surgery, it’s a good time to have him or her microchipped. About the size of a grain of rice, a microchip is implanted under your kitten’s skin. It can be read by a scanner that links to a database with your contact information. Even if your cat will be indoors-only, accidents can happen and your kitty can escape and get lost. Microchips greatly improve the chances of reuniting with your cat should the worst happen.

2. Get Your Kitten Vaccinated

Another important part of your kitten’s first veterinary visit is vaccines. Your veterinarian will work with you to develop a vaccination program tailored to your cat’s age and risk exposure.

Core kitten vaccinations protect against diseases that have high rates of infection, are usually severe and life-threatening, and have the potential to be transmitted from animals to people. Core vaccines for cats are:

  • Rabies
  • Herpesvirus (feline viral rhinotracheitis), Calicivirus, and Feline Panleukopenia -- Given in combination with the HCP vaccination

Non-core vaccines are recommended for cats who may be exposed to the infectious diseases they protect against. We may recommend the feline leukemia vaccine for your kitten.

3. Choose a Quality Kitten Diet

Proper pet nutrition enhances your cat’s quality and quantity of life, and it plays a fundamental role in the prevention and treatment of disease. Nutritional needs vary with age and lifestyle. Your veterinarian will recommend a good quality food designed especially for kittens, such as Royal Canin’s Feline Development Kitten diet, as well as recommendations on how often to feed and portion sizes.

Don’t forget water! Water is vital to your cat’s health, so be sure to provide fresh water at all times.

4. Start Taking Good Care of Your Kitten’s Teeth

Did you know that 70% of cats have some form of dental disease by the age of 3? Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions our veterinarians see.

Help prevent dental disease in your kitten. Now, while your kitten is young, is the ideal time to get him or her used to routine dental care. This includes regular teeth brushing with pet-safe toothpaste and a toothbrush designed for pets. Daily brushing is best, but brushing several times a week can also be effective.

For more information, read Kitties Need Dentists, Too! Dental Care for Your Cat.

5. Watch for the Early Signs of Illness in Kittens

Kittens are more susceptible to illnesses, and it’s better to catch a health problem early. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms of illness in your kitten:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Poor weight gain
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen or painful abdomen
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Pale gums
  • Swollen, red eyes or eye discharge
  • Nasal discharge
  • Inability to pass urine or stool

Your veterinarian is your best partner in your kitten’s health. We encourage you to arrive at your veterinary appointments with a list of questions about your new kitty. And please don’t hesitate to call with questions or concerns.

Contact us today to schedule your kitten's first veterinary visit!