You’ve Adopted a Kitten
In this episode of Vet Chat with Dr. Ryan Llera, it’s all about kittens! The joys of bringing home a cute cuddly kitten and what they sometimes come home with – it’s not all pretty!
Dr. Llera talks, worms, ear mites, upper respiratory infections, and behaviour concerns in kittens
Finish this sentence: “April showers brings ______.” If you said kitten season, you’re right! Not that there’s really a season but we veterinarians do tend to see more kittens in the springtime. And with those kittens can come all sorts of added features – worms, ear mites, respiratory infections, and behavior issues to name a few. So here’s the basics of what you need to know when adding a new cat to your home.
The basics of what you need to know when adding a new cat to your home
Worms in Kittens
If you think that pot belly is cute, it might not be a recent meal; it very well could be worms. Many kittens are born with them and sometimes when you get a baby cat, you will have been told it’s been dewormed. Multiple types of worms can be infecting the insides of your kitten and not all dewormers are created equally. Over the counter worm medications don’t tend to cover for all types. There’s also the matter of the life cycle of the worm. Many worms (roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms) have life cycles that can take weeks. Sometimes you won’t even seen the worms and scooting on their hind end is almost never a sign of worms. These parasites may attach to the intestines and might not allow them to pass but you could see a lack of weight gain, poor appetite, vomiting up a worm, loose stool, or blood in the stool as other signs. Deworming is best repeated 3 times at 2 week intervals to eliminate the pesky parasites.
Ear mites are another type of parasite that may not be noticeable when a new kitten arrives. It can take weeks for them to establish a full nest in kitty’s ear canal.. Imagine a bowl of Rice Krispies crackling in your ear…oh, and it itches like crazy. That is what these cats are experiencing. Aside from the scratching, you may also see a brown crusty accumulation in the ears. Your vet will help clean out the mites but we still need to prescribe a medication to kill off any stragglers and address any secondary infections. Why is this important?…because ear mites can be transmitted to your other pets.
Upper Respiratory Infection
Once your new feline friend has moved in, everything may seem normal but it’s possible they are incubating some type of upper respiratory infection. Largely, there can be a viral cause and often a bacterial component as well. Eye discharge, sneezing, and lack of appetite or energy are signs that may be seen. In some cases, these can be recurring issues that may worsen in times of stress and may need to be periodically managed symptomatically.
Adding a new cat into the home brings out a whole host of behaviour concerns… Will they use a litter box? Will they damage furniture, other pets, or people by scratching? How will my other pets react or get along? These are certainly some things to consider that might change how you introduce a new cat to the house. Fortunately, most cats are instinctively and easily trained to use the litter box. Kittens at an early age can learn to use a scratching post and be trained to get their nails trimmed regularly without much hassle. I don’t recommend declawing. A new pet can change how others might react in the house so it’s important to gradually introduce them, make sure the older residents get their usual amount of care & attention, and if they seem stressed, be prepared to make changes to give them some safe space.
Kittens and cats make wonderful pets and additions to a family. It’s important to remember that fitting them in may come with some surprises that may or may not be apparent at first. Budget appropriately and be sure to follow through on your veterinarian’s recommendations. Enjoy the many years ahead and be sure to have them checked up annually as cats are masters at hiding things!
Thank you to Dr. Llera for continuing to share and inform pet parents on the topic of pet health and wellness.
Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic in Kingston, Ontario. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with 2 cats, 2 dogs, 2 horses, and a rabbit. Ryan is also a regular guest writer for the Ontario SPCA blog. You can find more of his writing at drryanllera.com or see what else he is up to on Facebook & Instagram