So you decided to get a kitten... this is an exciting and challenging time for your household! We realize you probably have a lot of questions on your mind and we're here to help you through the kitten raising process. At each visit we will try to cover different topics depending on your kitten's stage of development. Here are a few answers to some common (and very important!) questions:

What vaccines should my kitten receive and when should he/she receive them?

By the time you take your kitten home he/she may have already received one or two sets of vaccines. Vaccine schedules can be very confusing and are different for every pet depending on their age, previous vaccine history and lifestyle.

  • Distemper (Feline Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis, and Calicivirus): We recommend the "distemper" vaccine be given every 3-4 weeks, ideally beginning at 6-8 weeks of age with the last one given between 14-16 weeks of age. A booster must be given at 1 year of age and then annually or every 3 years, depending on the cat's lifestyle.

  • Rabies: This is the only vaccine required by law. We give the PureVax Rabies Vaccine that is formulated specifically for cats. Your kitten needs one vaccine at 12 weeks of age and then annually after that.

  • Leukemia (Feline leukemia virus): If you are intending on letting your kitten outdoors we recommend they are vaccinated for this virus. The initial vaccination is a series of two shots given 3-4 weeks apart starting after 8 weeks of age and then a booster annually for the life of the cat.  We recommend testing prior to vaccination.

  • FeLV/FIV Test (Feline Leukemia & Feline Immunodeficiency Virus): We recommend taking a small sample of blood from your kitten during one of its first visits with us to test for two potentially fatal viruses they may have been exposed to. This test is a combination test that is easily tested in our hospital or sent out to a nearby lab.

    • Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is a cancer-causing virus that often suppresses the ability to fight other infections. Kittens can be born with the virus (if the mother was infected or exposed) or they can contract it through saliva (close contact such as licking, sharing bowls and through cat bites) from infected cats. Cats can have the leukemia virus for years before showing signs of the disease and there is unfortunately no cure.

    • Feline AIDS (FIV) has similar signs to those in humans suffering from AIDS and includes swollen lymph nodes, severe weight loss, diarrhea, respiratory infections, anemia, and parasitic infections. The cat’s entire immune system is suppressed by the virus. This virus is contracted through cat fights and biting.

Why should my cat be tested?

Although there is no cure, early detection of infection will not only maintain the health of your own pet, but also allow you to prevent the spreading of the disease to other cats.

When should my cat be tested?

  1. If your cat has never been tested before.
  2. If your cat is sick, even if it may have been tested free of infection in the past.
  3. When cats are newly adopted, whether or not they will be entering a household with other cats.
  4. If your cat has been exposed to an infected cat or one that may be infected.
  5. If you are considering vaccinating against FELV for the first time.

Why should I bring a fecal to every visit?

Fecal analysis gives us an indication of the types of parasites your kitten may have. A negative fecal test does not mean that your kitten has not had worms or does not have worms in its body. Some parasites only shed eggs occasionally and the feces need to be tested frequently to catch them. If we find eggs we will treat accordingly and recheck to ensure treatment was successful.

Why should I use flea/tick and heartworm preventative in my cat?

Although tick borne disease and heartworm are not as frequently seen in cats there is still potential for them to become infected. We recommend that cats that go outdoors be treated with a monthly application of Revolution, which protects cats from heartworm, fleas, ear mites and intestinal parasites. Alternatively Frontline for fleas and ticks and an oral heartworm preventative can be used.

When should my kitten be spayed or neutered?

We recommend that cats be spayed or neutered at 6 months of age before the first heat cycle in females or when male cats begin spraying urine around the house. We require pre-anesthetic blood work within 4 weeks of the surgery to assess liver and kidney function. These organs are the two organs primarily responsible for metabolizing the anesthetic agents. At Salem Animal Hospital, your pet usually goes home with you the same day as the surgery.

These are just come of the common questions new pet owners have, please be sure to address any other questions or concerns you may have with the doctor. Congratulations on your new kitten!