Kitten – Feline – Age 0 to 6 months
Our Preventative Healthcare Plans allow our attending veterinarians to offer a reward program for preventative screening. Your veterinarian will evaluate your pet’s condition, breed, age, medical history, and lifestyle to create a Health Risk Assessment (HRA)— identifying your our pet’s risk for potential disease. During this evaluation and family discussion we'll create actionable items which vaccinate your pet against infectious disease and allow us to manage other non-infectious diseases or conditions should they occur.
Components of Kitten Life-stage Preventative Healthcare
Physical Exam, Booster Reviews, & Care Counseling from Growth to Early Adulthood
Fecal Centrifugation or ParaTest Examination & Recheck
Initial Inoculations & Pediatric Boosters Against Common Viral Diseases
Total Parasite Protection & Prevention
Pre-Spay or Neuter Screening and Counseling
HomeAgain Pet Recovery and TempScan Microchip System
Annual Healthcare Planning (Based on Breed, Medical History, or Lifestyle)
The Physical Examination: The physical exam is important because it is the first step in diagnosing illnesses or structural problems. This is done by close scrutiny of all of the visible systems from the nose to the tail. A Veterinarian is as qualified as any medical doctor, to detect abnormalities that may not be apparent to the pet owner. Our medical training allows us to diagnose abnormalities. For example: feeling for abnormal abdominal structures--such as congenital hernias, listening to the heart and lungs and comparing current sounds to the previous visit, and examining the eyes and ears for discharge or breed differences that may reveal issues as your pet ages. Physical Exams for 6months are free with the Kitten Preventative Healthcare Plan.
Fecal Screening & Protection: A fecal exam is performed to check for intestinal parasites, microscopic protozoa, and occult blood. May parasites, particularly protozoan parasites, cannot be treated through over-the-counter "wormers" and most parasites can't be seen without the aid of the microscope. Parasites affect your Kitten's health and can put your family and other pets at risk. We will provide deworming medication for your kitten, but did we get them all? For pediatric patients, we perform an initial screen, and a re-screen for free in 6 months to catch any infection that may have been sub-clinical during the first screen, and to protect your household.
Inoculating your cat against danger: For all kittens, infectious diseases pose an even greater risk while the pet is young. Vaccinations must be boostered every three weeks between 6wks (when the kitten’s maternal antibodies are no longer effective) and 12/16wks of age depending on the start age. Diseases that are common in our area of the country include Panleukopenia, Feline Rhinotracheitis, and Calicivirus, as well as Feline Leukemia. While Rabies virus is not common in Indiana, state law and public health risk mandate that all kittens be vaccinated against this disease by 12 weeks of age.
Total Parasite Protection & Prevention: Who wants to worry about external or intestinal parasites (fleas, ticks, ear mites--hookworms & roundworms) or even heartworms? Not only can parasites pose discomfort and inconvenience in the household, but our pediatric patients are very vulnerable to the direct and indirect diseases unchecked infection can cause. Because your kitten grows so quickly with each passing month, it's important to weigh your kitten in the clinic and continue a parasite prevention program as he or she grows! We typically use Revolution, Revolution Plus, and Profender to help defend your cat.
Microchipping Provides Protection & Peace of Mind: 1 in 3 pets go missing during their lifetime, and without proper ID, 90% never return home. 67% of pet owners whose cats go missing identify their cat as an "indoor cat." Accidents happen, but a microchip for dogs & cats gives the best protection with a permanent ID that can never be removed or become impossible to read. Every month, HomeAgain reunites 10,000 pets with the people that love them. A microchip implant takes just seconds at our clinic, and then your pet has a permanent ID that will last its entire lifetime. HomeAgain TempScan is the only microchip with the benefit of allowing us to measure your pet's body temperature. The final step is to register your pet's microchip with HomeAgain, and we will do that for you in seconds over the internet. We insert the microchip once your pet is 16wks of age during his/her booster visit or discounted spay/neuter visit.
In addition to healthcare: Plan on re-assessing your cat’s enrichment and activity if your cat lives indoors. Your pet cat will grow in both size and learning ability (consider food puzzles, safe scratching items, and monitor your cat’s collar for the correct size).
Training should emphasize safe zones in the house and perching resources for the cat—particularly in multiple pet households or households with young children. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends households provide a litter pan per cat plus one. For example, if there are 3 cats in the household, a feline specialist would recommend 4 litter pans.
Kittens – Developmental Information
A lot happens during a kitten's first year. It's hard to believe that a tiny, mewing baby that fits in the palm of your hand can grow into a full-fledged adult cat in the length of only twelve months. A typical kitten growth chart shows that the most changes — and the most amazing ones — happen during the first eight weeks. Check out this kitten timeline to learn when to expect certain milestones on your kitten's journey to becoming a cat.
Kitten Development Guide
0-3weeks - Neonatal: Once kittens are delivered, they should naturally crawl towards their mother and start to suckle. In doing so, they will ingest colostrum, a component of their mother's milk that is rich in antibodies and enhances the immune system. This is why orphaned kittens have delicate immune systems and need such special care. Although kittens are born without the use of their ears or eyes, they exhibit a number of reflexive behaviors at this early stage. A kitten is already able to navigate their surroundings, relying on scent and touch. They are able to keep warm by nestling with their mother and gain nourishment by suckling. Kittens should be born at around 2 - 3% of their mother's weight. In the first days, the weight increases daily by approximately 10% of the birth weight. Males are often heavier and grow faster. Kittens are born blind and deaf. They will find their mother for shelter and nutrition. In the first days of life, a responsible caregiver should make sure that the kittens are checked by a vet. They will check for any birth defects or issues that need to be immediately addressed. Separation from their mother and litter-mates during the neonatal stage can lead to poor physical and mental development and problems with aggression. Their eyes open during the second week, but their vision isn't very good at this point, and they'll need to be kept out of bright light, says The Spruce Pets.
At this stage, a kitten will continue to rely heavily on their mother's milk to support their immune system and provide them with the key proteins needed to aid their development. In the first four weeks, a kitten may begin to drink water, so a shallow bowl should be kept on hand nearby. During this stage, kittens sleep for large parts of the day – around 90% of their time in the first few weeks. Movement is limited to crawling towards their mother for warmth and milk. Purring and other vocal traits are evident. A clean, calm, and warm environment is key in the first weeks. If there is too much noise and distraction, sleep and feeding patterns can be disrupted. Keeping a kitten's body temperature above 93.2 °F is vital. If a kitten's temperature drops below 93.2 °F they can no longer digest milk effectively, and when it drops below 89.6 °F the suckling reflex is lost, and normal feeding stops. The blue eyes that kittens are born with may start to change color during their third week, which is also when their ears begin to open and perk up, introducing them to a whole new world filled with sound.
3-5weeks - Weaning: Around three weeks of age is usually when kittens start to take their first shaky steps. While they start out wobbly and unsure, as balance begins to improve during the fourth week they become more confident and eager to explore their surroundings. This is a good time to start kitten-proofing your home if you haven't already done so. As a kitten's milk teeth develop, the weaning process begins. After a while, the kittens will begin to show an interest in their mother's solid food and they can begin to transition from a milk-only diet. Their immature digestive system means that it's important they get easily digestible food that meets the specific nutritional needs of this stage. During the fourth and fifth week of the kitten timeline, kittens are able to balance enough to go to the bathroom without any help from their mother. This is a good time to introduce them to the litter box, says Petful. Kittens typically learn what to do from watching mom, so all you really need to do is show them the box. Just keep in mind that they're still quite short, still learning, and accidents might happen from time to time. Responsible caregivers should practice impeccable litterbox hygiene at this time.
During weeks 4-6 the "immunity gap" begins to occur. At this time, when the level of antibodies provided by the mother are no longer enough to guarantee the kitten is protected, but too high to ensure a vaccination will be effective, the kitten is more vulnerable to disease. Also during weeks 4-8, a kitten's milk teeth develop, the weaning process begins. By the fourth week, the smell is fully mature and hearing is well-developed. Kittens will begin to show an interest in their mother's solid food and they can begin to transition from a milk-only diet. Their immature digestive system means that it's important they get easily digestible food that meets the specific nutritional needs of this stage. Sleep helps to strengthen their immune system, so ensuring kittens have a warm, comfortable and quiet place to sleep is vital.
6-8 weeks - Hello Kitten!: By the sixth and seventh weeks, they begin to develop adult sleeping patterns and motor abilities. Key social skills develop through interaction with litter-mates, and learning is achieved through observation of their mother’s behavior. As this stage progresses, kittens start to interact more with their litter-mates, and they begin mutual grooming. They will start to actively play, exhibiting running, pouncing, and stalking behaviors. At this stage, their sight is fully mature. By five weeks of age, kittens are confident enough in their newfound mobility that they become curious and playful, making it an excellent time to start socializing them. This is also a key learning stage, so making sure kittens have access to toys and other stimulation is key. Regular handling and interaction with different humans will aid their confidence as adults. Playing and cuddling with the kittens, introducing them to other people and pets, letting them explore their surroundings (under close supervision, of course), and experience new sights, sounds and smells will not only prepare them to go to their eventual forever homes but also help them grow into emotionally healthy, well-adjusted adult cats. The first round of vaccinations should be done between six and eight weeks on the kitten timeline. The core immunizations she'll need include panleukopenia (while this has been called distemper, the virus is actually a feline-specific type of parvovirus) and the respiratory diseases, feline viral rhinotracheitis, and feline calicivirus. Your veterinarian will place your kitten on a schedule for follow-up shots and boosters, and also discuss any additional shots for conditions she may be at risk for, including chlamydia and feline leukemia. By twelve weeks, kittens are ready to receive their first rabies vaccination. Feline baby teeth start coming in during the second week, but your kitten should have all of her baby teeth by about eight weeks of age. By four months, her adult teeth will start to come in.
9-12 weeks - Hello World!: Kittens can begin to be moved away from their mother and introduced to new homes at around 8 weeks. Depending on the reader, this could be up to 12 weeks. In between eating and snuggling, kittens that are just a few weeks old are learning one important thing: how to act like a cat. The Spruce Pets notes that kittens need to be raised by their mother or a foster cat in order to learn the basics of hunting, kitty communication, playing with fellow cats, and using a litter box. If you are bringing a kitten home, it's important to make sure that their new environment is fully prepared, with electrical wires and outlets covered, windows, balconies, and stairs secured, and any sharp or small objects tidied away. This is the stage at which the kitten's behavior is most influenced by others, including littermates, other pets and humans. They also begin to understand their position within the household and may begin to form dominant and submissive behaviors depending on their experiences and training. How much and how often they eat will depend on whether you feed them canned or dry food. Canned food should be given in small amounts four times daily until they are three months old, after which it should be cut back to three times a day, says the Cornell Feline Health Center. When kittens are six months old, you can transition them to eating twice a day. If you are giving them dry food, you can simply leave a dish of food out and allow kittens to free feed when they're hungry, but in this case, you'll need to monitor their weight to make sure they're not overeating. We recommend feeding a combination of dry and canned foods as kittens develop individually. This is a key stage in its development of human relationships, so ensuring consistency and offering support and affection is key. Effective socialization at this stage is key to raising a well-behaved and happy cat.
4-6months - Tweens to Teens: During this period cats begin to scent mark through spraying and rubbing the glands on their cheeks against objects, other animals, and humans. This is the signal that puberty is starting. Neutering or spaying should now be discussed with your vet. Your pre-spay or neuter appointment is covered by the wellness plan whether or not you choose to have the actual procedure pursued by a spay/neuter clinic. Genetic health risk profiles are now also available for cats and kittens but this should be performed closer to 6 months of age. The Microchip we use can help monitor body temperature under anesthesia--in fact, the TempScan chip from Homeagain means your cat will likely never need to experience a rectal thermometer! A brief panel helps us know that your female cat is prepared to handle inhaled anesthesia and post-surgical pain control.
As your cat begins to approach physical maturity, there is an increased exploration of dominance within the household. This will include challenging the status of humans and other pets. It is important that as an owner you maintain the routines and behaviors set in the early months of their life to ensure consistency and manage stress. All cats will scratch with their claws whether they have them or not. This is both a natural behavior and a marking behavior. It is important to teach your cat during this phase what is ok to scratch, and what items are hands-off! You can read more about training methods for appropriate scratching resources here or here. At this stage, your kitten will begin to develop 30 adult teeth. If your kitten hasn't been surgically sterilized, sexual maturity is reached at six months, and sexual cycles and mating behaviors begin. By eight months the kitten will have reached 80% of its adult weight. Depending on the breed, adulthood is reached between 12 to 18months. If kittens have had all their vaccinations and once they reach around six months old, you can begin to introduce them to the outside world. A phased approach to this is best. Until kittens are confident in their surroundings, it is best to stay with them when they are outside. When they feel confident they will begin to venture further. As a rule, male cats have a wider range, while females stay closer to home. At this stage, consistent owner behavior and discipline are important. By the time she reaches her first birthday, a kitten is no longer considered a kitten but is now a full-grown cat. Although she may still engage in kittenish behavior and may still have some additional growing to do, your newly adult cat is ready to transition to a high-quality adult cat food formula. Follow the recommended feeding guidelines on your kitty's new cat food to determine how much and how often she should be fed.
Although a cat is considered an adult by one year of age, developmentally speaking, kitten adolescence typically lasts until a cat reaches eighteen months or so. During this time, a cat might still exhibit the energetic playfulness of a kitten, as well as typical "teenager" behavior, which may include testing boundaries and acts of rebellion like scratching the furniture or marking territory. According to the kitten growth chart at Raising Happy Kittens, your kitty may become less affectionate during this time. But not to worry. Usually, cats start to mature and settle down after the eighteen-month mark, and by her second birthday, your kitty will be fully grown into her adult personality.