By Heather Klaff, Veterinary Technician, River Cove Animal Hospital
This may be difficult to believe, but despite working in the veterinary field since I was sixteen, and despite growing up in a household full of animals, I had never lived with a kitten until 3 months ago…
…and I was a little unprepared for how three pounds of furry could disrupt my home. Luckily for me, my boyfriend was not unprepared. But he did quickly become accustomed to me asking him every night why he hadn’t warned me what this little bundle of energy would be like. And so, if you’re thinking of bringing home that adorable, irresistible kitten you saw the other day at the shelter, let’s go over some things you might wish to know.
First, that cuddly, calm little kitten you found is probably not going to stay that way. He’s going to knock your expensive TV over, chomp on your power cords, and attempt many times to climb your curtains. Kitten proofing is your best friend, if you want to avoid visiting us more than necessary! Power cords should be tied together and covered, large appliances should be stabilized as much as possible, and all string or yarn should be put away when unsupervised. That yarn she loves to play with so much could mean an expensive surgery if she decides to swallow it. Be careful opening recliners and shutting doors if the kitten is not in visual sight range (it’s amazing where they can go)!
You may also have other animals at home. We have an adult cat at home as well, and this was probably the trickiest part of bringing our kitten home. I could do an entire post on this, but in a short summary, the best thing to do is a very slow introduction. Start the kitten off in his own room, with his own litter box, water dish, food dish, and toys. Let them smell each other through the door. Either swap their bedding or switch areas to allow them to become acclimated with each other’s scent. Then begin to introduce them while supervised. You can slowly increase their time together until they become accustomed to each other. This may take time, but they will work out their differences. Expect some hissing and swatting at first until they figure themselves out (ours still do this sometimes…the kitten just never learns). Much of this interaction is typical communication but it can escalate. Don’t worry too much unless claws or teeth really come out. If so, separate again and give them another day or two.
The next thing on your agenda will likely be getting them to River Cove Animal Hospital to come meet us! This is definitely our favorite part. If you adopted from a shelter, it’s likely that they will have their first vaccines, will be spayed or neutered, will be dewormed, and may even be microchipped. Kittens usually require a few rounds of vaccines. Their first vaccine is given around 8 weeks. This is their RCP vaccine, sometimes also called the feline distemper vaccine. This vaccine needs to be boostered once 3-4 weeks later. So at around 12 weeks, we will do their second RCP vaccine, and, at the discretion of your doctor, we may do their first rabies vaccine. If your kitten will be going outdoors, we would recommend a feline leukemia vaccine as well, usually given at 12 weeks and 16 weeks. All kittens should also be tested for Feline Leukemia Virus (FLV) and Feline Immuno-Deficiency Virus (FIV). These are devastating viral diseases that can be rampant in feral cat populations.
The RCP or feline distemper vaccine will cover three things: 1) rhinotracheitis, which is a herpes virus that causes upper respiratory disease, 2) calicivirus, another virus that causes upper respiratory disease, 3) panleukopenia, also caused feline distemper, which is a deadly disease; it is a highly contagious viral disease in cats which will attack the gastrointestinal system.
The rabies vaccine is very important both for your kitten and for public health. It is a zoonotic (meaning transmittable to humans) viral disease that affects mammals and is nearly 100% fatal, causing neurological complications and eventually death. It is a vaccination that is required by law, and definitely one we don’t want to skip!
Feline leukemia is also a viral disease in cats that is highly contagious. It is able to be spread as easily as cats drinking from the same water source. It usually affects the immune system and most cats with it will die relatively young. Most indoor cats have very little risk of being exposed, but we definitely recommend it if your cat will be adventuring in the great outdoors and having contact with unknown felines.
Your kitten’s first visit to us will include plenty of cuddling of course!. We will make sure he or she is up to date on all of these vaccines, but most importantly an exam will be performed to make sure your kitten is healthy.We may also wish to check a stool sample for intestinal parasites, and give a round of dewormer if it hasn’t already been done. Many kittens have intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, or tapeworms that we will want to make sure are gone as quickly as possible. Parasites can cause an upset stomach and weight loss. Several of these parasites are also transmissible to people so it is important to be sure your kitten is parasite free…and I have yet to meet someone who enjoys finding worms in the litter box, that’s for sure.
Now that you’ve brought this new best friend home, we want nothing more than for him to be healthy, happy, and the best pet for you. Remember, that kitten who causes so much trouble and attacks your feet at night is also going to be a cuddly purring machine who wants nothing more than to be your best friend. We definitely can’t wait to meet him!