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Kitten Care - The Ins and Outs of Raising a Healthy Kitten



Dr. Kyoko Yoshida
Hudson Animal Hospital

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

The most important thing to know is to provide good nutrition to your kitten, fresh water, and of course veterinary care too. You want to make sure the kitten is vaccinated against certain viruses, so that is something that ... Depending on the lifestyle of the cat, we will recommend certain vaccination protocol.

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

You don't want to grab them by the scruff. That's something that we commonly maybe see as mommy cats carrying kittens. But as they get older, that gets very uncomfortable to kittens. So I would just gently put one of your arms under the belly and then gently hold the kitten. But probably not just picking them up by the scruff. Unfortunately, we do see that often, but I feel like that's just probably uncomfortable as they get older.

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

A healthy kitten would eat well, drink well, sleep well, and play well. I think those are the important things that you have to see. If you don't see that, and obviously if you see some other problems like vomiting, diarrhea, or something, then obviously you should let us know.

How should I feed my kitten?

For kittens that have been weaned, I do recommend meal feeding, depending on the age, three to four times a day...not for neonatal kittens. Those are different.

Most cats are indoor cats, especially in New York City, so I want them to learn that the meals are offered at certain times. Unfortunately, a lot of the time free-fed cats tend to get overweight in New York City because they are already having decreased activity. So meal feeding is very important.

What are some products I might need for my kitten?

You’ll definitely need a good litter box, litter, and then obviously some food. You should get the same food that the kitten was eating at the breeder or adoption place so that you don't have to shock their intestinal system. So try to ask the breeder or the adoption place just to see what kind of food they were eating. For cats, I do encourage feeding them wet food. At least half of the food should be wet food. I commonly recommend getting dry and wet food and a lot of toys. Kittens love to play so you want to make sure you have a lot of toys. Oh, and you’ll want a scratching post, of course. It's always good to get horizontal and vertical scratching posts because you never know which one your kitten likes, so just try to get two of them.

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

That depends on how many vaccines the kitten has gotten already, and when the kitten got the shot. It really depends on that, so I would ask the breeder or adoption place when your kitten should see the vet next. If you're not sure, of course, we can always let you know when to come in.

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

Just make sure that the vet is examining everything about the kitten from head to toe to the tail. Make sure everything is well, including the oral cavity, heart, bones, joints, skin, everything. Then a lot of times I do encourage my clients to write your questions so they don't forget to ask us on the first visit. Definitely bring all those questions so you can ask all those questions and hopefully that will be helpful.

What will the veterinarian look for during an initial kitten care visit?

Basically everything about the health. Kittens can't talk, so it's always good for us to just do a complete exam so we can make sure that everything is completely normal. And if something is abnormal, we can address that.

What are some early signs and symptoms that my kitten might have health issues?

Watch for diarrhea that does not go away after a few days, vomiting, and kittens not being interested in eating. Those are common signs. Also, you might see upper respiratory signs like sneezing and/or eye issues. Those are the common signs that you might see and, if you do see those, obviously let us know so we can figure out what's wrong with your kitten.

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

You could certainly misdiagnose what's going on by going to Dr. Google. So if you are seeing some sort of abnormal symptoms with your cat, just give us a call. My nurses can let you know if that's normal for the kitten and can just be monitored versus whether it needs to be addressed immediately.

I don't think it's a good idea to go online and Google what is wrong with your kitten because veterinarians have to lay their hands on them to see what's going on. So whenever you're concerned, it's just probably better to just call us or email us so we can make that judgment call.

When should my kitten start getting vaccinations?

Typically, we like to start the vaccines around six to eight weeks of age. Usually, it depends on when the vaccine was started. We might have to give three or four vaccines in total for the kitten vaccines. And we also certainly recommend the rabies vaccine. In New York City, the rabies vaccine is required after 12 weeks of age. So the schedules depend on how old your kitten is and how many vaccines they’ve gotten. Of course, let us know and we can just let you know when to come in.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (212) 706-4088.

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