Adding a new kitten to the family is always exciting. Sometimes it is a pre-planned and highly anticipated event, sometimes it is a spontaneous adoption or rescue. Either way, along with shopping for all of the new necessities like food, dishes, and litter boxes, be sure to make time for that first veterinary visit and the subsequent checkups.
The first vet visit can reveal underlying issues that can affect you, your family, and other pets. Some illnesses can suddenly become serious, so it's best to find out right away if your kitten needs special treatments. For the health of everyone in your home—including the new kitty—it's important that you don't put this off.
Before You Go
Your new kitten should see a vet as soon as possible so its overall health can be checked. There isn't a set age for the first vet visit, though it's recommended to have an exam within 24 to 72 hours after adopting the kitten. If you already have cats in your home, it's best to go to the vet before bringing the new kitten home. Your new kitten may have an illness that is not obvious to you.
Circumstances such as a rescued kitten or other urgent adoption may make a pre-adoption vet visit impossible. In this situation, keep the new arrival quarantined in a bathroom or similar space that is separate from your other pets. The kitten should have its own litter box, food bowl, and water bowl. This will reduce the chance of spreading disease or parasites to any resident cats.
What You Need
Whether you go straight to the vet from picking up your new kitten, or after a day or two at home, you'll need to have some things ready before the first checkup.
Provide Health Information
It's important for your vet to know if any and what types of treatments and vaccinations have been already been given to the kitten. When you take your kitten to the vet for the first time, be sure to bring along any paperwork you got at the adoption. If that's not available, write down the information you were told so you don't forget. Call the person you adopted the kitten from and ask any questions if necessary.
The Physical Exam
The staff and the vet will talk to you about your kitten's history and perform a physical examination. Your kitten will be weighed and may need a blood test to check for certain diseases. They will also look for other parasites such as fleas or mites.
The vet will examine your kitten's eyes, ears, mouth, skin, coat, and whole body. This includes palpating the abdomen to feel the organs and listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope.
A stool sample may be collected to check for intestinal parasites as well. It is often recommended to bring in a fecal sample with you if possible.
Ideally, kittens should be adopted out at the age of 8 to 10 weeks (or even older) for optimal health, weaning time, and socialization. If your kitten is young, especially 6 weeks or less, the vet will need to assess the kitten's nutrition and hydration status and provide assistance with any needed supplementation.
The first kitten vaccination is typically administered between the ages of 6 and 9 weeks. A healthy mother cat who is up to date on her vaccinations will afford her kittens the best start in life. If your kitten is sneezing or having any other health problems, the vet will wait to vaccinate until it is healthy.
Kitten vaccine boosters will need to be done at intervals of about three weeks until your kitten reaches age 16 to 20 weeks. The rabies vaccine is generally done once at the final kitten visit. Your kitten will also be given a dewormer at several visits to treat for common kitten intestinal parasites like roundworms.
Try to get these visits scheduled in advance so your kitten doesn't miss any essential vaccines or treatments.
Your veterinarian will discuss your kitten's health and preventive needs, such as heartworm prevention and flea and tick control. Recommendations for vaccines and preventive measures will be made based on your kitten's environment. Your vet is also there to help guide you through things like litter box training, nutrition, spay/neuter, and behavior.
Preventing Problems With Your Kitten During Vet Visits
As always, if you have any questions about your cat or wonder when you should schedule an exam, call your vet to discuss them. If your kitten becomes sick at any point, it is important to contact your vet without delay. Illnesses in kittens can become serious very quickly.
Establishing a relationship with your vet and a new pet is always smoother in a non-emergency situation. Finding out the clinic hours and who to call for emergencies will put you ahead of the game.