Basic Health Check for your kitten

You’ve anticipated the new arrival by ‘kittenproofing’ your home and had lots of fun choosing the carrier, bed, blanket, toys and other supplies he or she will need. This adorable little bundle of fluff is sure to bring you much joy. In return, you can make a major contribution to your pet’s longevity, happiness and quality of life by providing him or her with good nutrition, loving attention in a safe, sanitary environment, and regular checkups at your veterinarian.

Congratulations – you have a new kitten!

Desexing your kitten
Many veterinarians believe that desexing not only helps solve the serious problem of a burgeoning population of unwanted cats, but also makes for friendlier, easier-to-live-with pets. Spayed female cats are more relaxed, playful and affectionate, while castrated males are calmer and less likely to ‘spray’ or urine-mark their territory, wander away from their home or fight. Plus, desexing has health benefits – it minimizes the risk for breast cancer in females and prostate problems in males.

Spaying removes the uterus and ovaries of a female cat, usually around the age of six months (but can be performed earlier). A major surgical procedure, it is performed under general anaesthesia and occasionally involves an overnight stay at the veterinary clinic. Complications are rare and recovery normally is complete within ten days.

Castrating, also carried out under general anaesthesia, removes the testicles of a male cat. The small wounds that result usually heal in about a week. Less complicated than spaying, it is usually performed on a ‘day surgery’ basis when the cat is approximately 6 months old, but can be performed earlier if required.

Your kitten’s basic health check

Your new kitten should visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. The first visit will probably include:

Thorough physical examination to determine his or her state of health.
Check for external parasites (fleas, ticks, lice, ear mites).
Check for internal parasites (tapeworm, roundworm, etc.), if you can bring a stool sample for analysis.
Initial vaccination and/or a discussion of the types of vaccinations your kitten needs and when they should be scheduled.
Discussion about whether your kitten should be desexed (spayed or castrated) and when.

This first health check will give your veterinarian the information they need to advise you on your kitten’s immediate diet and care. Plus, it will give them a “knowledge base” from which, on subsequent checkups throughout your cat’s life, they can better evaluate, monitor and manage your pet’s health.

Make your new kitten feel at home
With sensitive handling and friendly contact for at least an hour a day, your new kitten should soon be very comfortable with you and their new home. Be sure, if there are also young children in the home, that they are taught that a kitten is not a toy, but a living creature who must be treated with gentleness and respect. And provide your pet with lots of opportunities for interesting, challenging play that will satisfy their natural instincts. Toys that they can pretend to ‘hunt’ and capture and special posts that they can scratch (instead of your carpets and furniture) will help make your kitten a joy to live with.

Your Geriatric Cat
When is the best time to start caring for your ageing pet? When they're a kitten. Starting off your cat’s life with good nutrition, scheduled veterinary appointments and a happy home life sets the blueprint for a high quality of life in their older years. Most cats are considered geriatric by the age of 8 to 10. Much like humans, time takes its toll on vital organ functions as your cat ages. Cats are more subtle than dogs in showing you when they are sick or in pain. Paying attention to your cat’s behaviour will make detecting problems easier and help them live healthy lives well into their teens.

What you can do at home

Check your cat’s mouth, eyes or ears regularly. Watch for loose teeth, redness, swelling or discharges.
Keep your pet’s sleeping area clean and warm.
Make fresh water available at all times.
Maintain a regime of proper nutrition and loving attention.