Learning about kitten health is essential, since kittens are so fragile and susceptible to health issues. There are some common kitten health issues that every owner should be aware of.
Taking good care of your new kitten is essential if you want your cat to live a long and healthy life. The number one to do as a cat owner is to have your kitten vaccinated at a young age. When a kitten reaches around 9-12 weeks, they begin to lose the immunity they received from their mother.
Vaccinations are an important part of overall kitten health and should be started at around 8-9 weeks of age.
Here are some diseases that can affect kitten health.
Common Diseases Concerning Kitten Health
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) and Caliciviral Disease (FCV)
- These are severe viral diseases that can be fatal.
- These diseases affect the respiratory system.
- A combo shot called the FVRCP is given as a vaccination against these deadly diseases.
Feline Panleukopenia (FP) or feline distemper.
- This is a virus that attacks the cat's intestinal tract and bone marrow.
- It will break down the kitten's defenses leaving it open to a sudden illness, or even death.
- Sometimes no symptoms are apparent.
- The vaccine is given at nine weeks of age and is repeated three weeks later. Another shot is given a year later, and every three years after that.
Feline Leukemia (FeLV)
- The vaccine is given at nine weeks of age, repeated after three weeks, and given annually thereafter.
- The vaccine gives the kitten good protection, and is recommended to prevent this disease.
Learn more about feline leukemia here
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
- This is a fatal disease that can slowly destroy any part of the body.
- The peritoneum is most affected.
- Symptoms to look for are: depression, loss of appetite and a high fever.
- This is spread by animal bites or coming into contact with the saliva of an infected animal.
- This is a fatal disease and can be a great risk for you and your family.
- Vaccinations are given at 12 weeks, and every 1 to 3 years thereafter.
- If a kitten has not been vaccinated and has been bitten or scratched by a skunk, the kitten should be put to sleep.
- For proper kitten health, if a vaccinated cat comes into contact with a skunk, take him to the vet as soon as possible to have a rabies booster.
- This is a kitten health disease caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii).
- It can affect cats of any age.
- It will attack many parts of the body.
- It can cause serious illness, sometimes even death.
- Symptoms include fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. Treatment involves the use of antibiotics.
- Toxoplasmosis happens when a cat eats a rodent or any uncooked meat.
- This can be spread to humans or to other animals through the cat's feces.
- You can reduce your risk by wearing disposable gloves when cleaning the litter box.
- If you are pregnant, do not attempt to clean your kitten's litter box. Have someone else clean it for you.
Other Kitten Health Problems
Parasites are a common kitten health problem. Here are a few examples:
- These are generally hard to diagnose.
- Symptoms are hard to recognize. Coughing, wheezing and vomiting could be an indication.
- The cat could suffer from sudden death before any symptoms are noticed.
- Medication is available in monthly doses that are made to taste good for your cat.
- They are quite bothersome to your kitten, quite small and live inside the ear.
- You will notice your cat itching in excess, sometimes to the point of bleeding.
- In some extreme cases the eardrum will rupture. When this happens the kitten will be off-balance, lose coordination and possibly become deaf.
- If you see your kitten digging at his ears, scratching a lot or you see any brown crusty substance in ears, take him to the vet.
Roundworms, Hookworms, Coccidia
- These are all common intestinal parasites.
- They steal important nutrients from your kitten, making him vulnerable to illnesses.
- Coccidia can cause diarrhea, and presents a life threatening risk from dehydration. Luckily though, these parasites are easily treated.
- Most kittens will appear normal, which can be harmful if they are around children.
- This type of parasite can't be easily diagnosed. Because of this, kittens should always be wormed.
- Tapeworms are short little white worms that are about 1/2" or less in size.
- A tapeworm segment is dry and brown, and looks like a grain of rice. These can become stuck in your pet's fur.
- Dipylidium caninum is the most common, and can not hurt people. It is fairly harmless.
- For treatment, prescription medication is most effective with no painful side effects. However, non prescription treatments are not as effective, and can bring some discomfort.
- Ringworm, or the technical term, "Dermatophytosis" are the most common infectious skin disease of cats.
- They can be spread to humans.
- Look for signs, such as one or several crusty, patchy areas of fur gone. This is usually seen on the face, head and front legs.
- Long haired cats are especially prone to ringworm.
- Given its name, you may think ringworm is caused from some kind of worm, but this isn't the case. It is actually a skin fungus.
- Treatment involves an oral anti-fungal medication, shampoo and ointment.
With kitten health, a lot can be told by the color and texture of their urine and feces. Here's a guide that will help you to be aware of what is normal and what is not.
Range of Color for Feces
- Bloody - Actual blood in stool. This may indicate panleukepenia. This is not normal, and needs to be addressed by a vet ASAP.
- Mucous - A yellow/white/clear slimy substance. This is a sign of harsh bowel irritation. This is not normal, and needs to be addressed by a vet.
- Black - Stool is a dark black color. This means bleeding is happening higher up in the bowels. This is very serious and requires immediate attention.
- Brown - Normal
- Orange - Too much bile in the stool. This can be the cause of reflux. See your vet.
- Yellow - This could be a bacterial imbalance in the bowels. If diarrhoea is present it could be coccidia.
- White - This is not normal. This generally means that there is a bacterial imbalance and an infection in the bowels. There is a risk of death so you should get your cat to a vet immediately.
Consistency for Feces
- Dry/hard - Not normal. This indicates dehydration, which means that you need to seek care as soon as possible.
- Firm - normal
- Formed & soft - Low end of normal. If the stool goes from firm to soft, seek the advice of a vet.
- Toothpaste shape - The shape is tubular, but falls apart to the touch. This is not normal, see a vet.
- Cow Patty - Not formed, its consistency is thick and it's shaped like a patty. This is not normal and could mean the cat is at risk. This needs attention at once.
- Liquidity - Thin fluid may flow out, which could have mucous in it. This is not normal and there is severe risk. See a vet ASAP.
- Squirts - The kitten has no control over his bowel movements, and there are watery fluids coming out of the rectum. This is not normal so you should see a vet ASAP.
Color Range for Urine
- Red/Dark Orange - This is severe and not normal. Take to the cat to the vet ASAP
- Dark Yellow/Near Brown - This indicates dehydration and needs to be treated immediately.
- Deep Yellow - The urine is concentrated and your kitten or cat is not getting enough fluids. This requires care at once.
- Yellow - Urine is mildly concentrated. Check closely to see if other symptoms are present. If so, see the vet.
- Light Yellow - Urine is mildly diluted. Hydration is adequate (as long as there is no known kidney disease present).
- Pale Yellow - Urine is diluted. Hydration is excellent (as long as there is no known kidney disease present).
- Almost Clear - Urine is very diluted. There is a risk of over hydration. Urine should only be this diluted under supervision of a vet.
In kitten health it is important to always be alert, and to know your kitten. Look for signs of anything abnormal, remembering that it is always best to be on the safe side when it comes to your kitten's health. Take him to a vet if you have any suspicions.
Want to find out what, and how much you should be feeding your kitten or feral kitten? Read our feral kitten guide to learn everything you need to know to care for a kitten, from birth to adulthood, including recipes for kitten formula.
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