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Kitten Basics: How to Keep Your Kitten in Good Health
Kitten Basics: How to Keep Your Kitten in Good Health

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Kitten Basics: How to Keep Your Kitten in Good Health

So you have a new kitten — congratulations! You’re about to embark on a pet ownership journey that could span several decades. But if you’ve never owned a cat or kitten before, you may have questions about how to keep your kitten healthy and thriving. Use our guide to get started, and welcome to pet parenthood.

 

Choose a Veterinarian

When you choose a veterinarian, you’re choosing a partner in your kitten’s health care. Scheduled vaccinations and yearly examinations mean that you’ll see your veterinarian on a regular basis, so choose wisely. When researching veterinary clinics for your cat, make sure to do the following:

  • Get recommendations from friends, co-workers and other cat owners, and compile an initial list of clinics. Ask them what they like about each one.
  • Visit each clinic, introduce yourself as a potential client and ask for a tour.
  • Look for a clean, sterile hospital with up-to-date equipment.
  • Ask about emergency care, hours and any equipment or terms you don’t understand.
  • Ask about the fees for basic shots and exams.

 

Get Your Kitten Spayed or Neutered

Owners should have their cats spayed or neutered unless they plan to show or breed them. Veterinarians advise spaying or neutering by at least 6 months of age. Consider the following:

 

What Is Spaying or Neutering?

  • “Fixing” is the common term for feline surgical sterilization or male neutering.
  • In females, removal of the uterus and ovaries is called spaying.
  • In males, removal of the testicles is called neutering or castration.

 

Why Should You Spay or Neuter?

Each year, millions of cats are euthanized because the new cat population far exceeds the number of homes that can be found for them. Here’s why you should consider spaying or neutering your kitten:

  • Spaying eliminates behavior associated with heat cycles, such as wailing to attract males or spraying urine.
  • Spaying helps prevent potential health problems, including breast tumors and uterine disease, possibly adding years to your cat’s life.
  • Spaying or neutering helps prevent the occurrence of unwanted litters.
  • Neutering reduces the effects of puberty and hormones. A neutered male is less likely to mark territory by spraying urine and less apt to roam and get lost, and he won’t congregate or fight with other toms over a female in heat.

 

Learn about Common Cat Health Issues

While we hope your kitten experiences few, if any, health issues over the course of her life, it’s smart to familiarize yourself with common cat ailments. Use our guide to some of the most common medical issues that can affect kitten health. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to notice when your kitten isn’t feeling well.

 

Fleas

Most common in warm spring and summer months, these pinhead-size insects can be active all year long. Fleas can jump onto your cat, lay their eggs, breed, and spread to your furniture and to you, looking for blood. In addition to causing discomfort and scratching in many cats, fleas can transmit parasitic or infectious diseases, including tapeworms. A severe flea infestation may, in turn, cause anemia (low red blood cell count) and/or allergic dermatitis, a skin allergy characterized by itching and irritation. Though some cats become irritable and scratch, others have no visible signs of discomfort.
 

Luckily, flea prevention treatments are numerous and easy to give:

  • Flea collars, powders and liquid baths are available in pet stores or from your veterinarian. Your veterinarian also can recommend monthly treatments to prevent fleas.
  • Check your cat weekly by rolling her onto her back and looking closely at the belly and around the base of the tail for the small, dark insects, as well as for flea “dirt” — small, dark, pepper-like specks. If the dirt turns red when water is added, your cat has fleas.
  • Choose treatments that contain IGRs (insect growth regulators), which interrupt a flea’s life cycle. Without IGRs, flea eggs hatch every 21 days, making repeated treatments necessary.
  • Treat your yard and house for eggs, larvae and pupae. If you use a lawn-care company, include flea treatment as part of your maintenance plan.
  • Plant marigolds and chrysanthemums in your yard. They contain natural insecticides that may repel fleas.

 

Hairballs

Hairballs are tube-shaped, brown masses of hair fibers. When cats clean themselves, they swallow fur. Because hair isn’t digestible, it either passes through and ends up in the litter box or it is vomited.
 

Cats that pass hairballs more than once a week or that pass foul-smelling hairballs may have a serious underlying health problem. See your veterinarian if your cat experiences frequent hairballs.
 

Here’s how to help prevent hairballs in your kitten or cat:

  • Keep your cat well-groomed with regular brushing.
  • Brush all of your cats, not just the ones with hairballs, because cats often groom each other.
  • Try this easy home remedy: Apply 1 teaspoon of petroleum jelly to the top of each paw. Rub it in before your cat can flick it away. Your cat will lick it off her paws, and it will help ease the hairball through the intestinal tract. Apply jelly for several days.
  • When your kitten is fully grown, feed her IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Hairball Care, which helps reduce the likelihood that hairballs will form. It contains a natural fiber system that gently passes ingested hair through the digestive tract.

 

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

Feline lower urinary tract disease is a potentially fatal, painful inflammation of the lower urinary tract that can be caused by viruses, bacteria, diet, decreased water consumption or urine retention.
 

Symptoms include blood in the urine, difficult and frequent urination (often in small quantities), inappropriate urination, lack of energy and loss of appetite.
 

You can help your cat maintain proper urinary acidity and magnesium levels through a properly balanced diet that helps promote urinary tract health.

  • Is Your Cat a Picky Eater? Try These Cat Feeding Tips!
    Is Your Cat a Picky Eater? Try These Cat Feeding Tips!

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    Is Your Cat a Picky Eater? Try These Cat Feeding Tips!

    Cats are known for being a bit choosey about what they will and won’t do. And a little pickiness is fine when it comes to picking out toys and napping spots! But if your cat is or becomes extra-selective about what they’ll eat, it’s time to pay attention and perhaps talk to your vet. You and your vet know your cat best, so it’s always worth checking in if you think your cat isn’t eating enough and want their professional advice.

     

    Start by paying close attention to what your cat is eating and how they behave. This information will help you, your household and your vet work together to make sure your cat is living and eating well.

     

    Feeding Tips for the Truly Finicky Cat 

    Pay Attention to All the Cat Treats 

    Is your cat begging for table scraps or holding out on eating until you offer treats? Extras like these can be very disruptive to your cat’s appetite and diet. Think about them like snacks or desserts for you — tasty cravings that are easy to fill up on. A small portion may not seem like much, but it can make a big different for a cat-sized digestive system!

     

    Try dialing back how much you treat your cat to tasty extras and see if their interest in the food bowl starts to return. Remember, it’s generally all right for cats to skip a few meals, but if they haven’t eaten for 24-36 hours it’s time to call the vet (even if they’ve continued drinking water).

     

    Review Your Cat’s Food Routine 

    Humans often crave variety in their meals, but for cats, routine is king. It’s not likely they’d avoid their regular food out of boredom with it, but if you’ve recently changed the kind of food, the number of feedings or the times you feed your cat, they may be avoiding eating as a response.

     

    It's a good idea to change your cat’s diet gradually (unless your vet advises otherwise). Pickiness can often be resolved by helping your cat adjust and get comfortable with their updated diet!

     

    Help Your Cat Relax While Feeding 

    If your cat starts eating less, you may want to look for factors that could be causing stress. Seemingly unrelated changes to their environment can shift your cat’s stress levels enough to impact their interest in food. Has another animal or person joined or left the household? Has your cat been adapting to new surroundings due to a move or renovation? As the stress of that change begins to subside, your cat will probably go back to a normal diet.

     

    Talk to your vet about good ideas for reducing your cat’s stress levels and share any concerns you have about their diet then too. You’re both on the same team, so work together to help your cat feel better!

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