The day you bring home your kitten is likely to be your kitten's first big life adventure. How you introduce him to his new home, family, and veterinarian can set the tone for the rest of his life. Here are a few tips to help your new kitten adjust to its new veterinarian, making sure it is an enjoyable experience for him, and ensure happy repeat visits.
Take Your Time –
Unless your cat is sick or will be meeting other cats in your home, give him a few days to get comfortable in your home. Most responsible breeders have a clause in their health guarantee of a few days in which to have your kitten seen by a veterinarian, so check your health guarantee to make sure you stay in compliance with this time limit. The Health Record booklet provided by the breeder reflects any wormings, vaccinations, veterinarian office visits, etc. your kitten may already have. Therefore, some if not all of the following tests may have to be performed at a first vet visit (your veterinarian can advise you best based on your kitten's Health Record booklet).
- Fecal exam (to test for parasites and worms).
- Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) test – should be negative. As a general rule, established and responsible breeders have already tested their breeding cats for FeLV prior to breeding them.
- Vaccinations – a vaccination schedule will be recommended by your veterinarian based on your kitten's Health Record booklet. NEVER get talked into repeating vaccinations already given - that is dangerous to the kitten!
Carrier Acclimation –
While your kitten is exploring your home (you did remember to confine him to one room and not give him the run of the house, right?), leave his carrier out. Put a few treats (or use kibbles of his existing dry food) and a toy inside the carrier, to get him used to going in and out of the carrier. Spritzing the inside and outside of the carrier with a pheromone spray about an hour before you leave your home will help to calm it. Additionally, you can spray this inside the carrier prior to a ride in the car. Studies have shown that cats and kittens are calmed by this pheromone spray and it can even reduce or eliminate aggressive behavior in multi-cat households. We use and recommend Feliway.
Comfort and Security -
Placing a towel or soft blanket, also sprayed with Feliway, can give your kitten a sense of security and will reduce travel anxiety. When in the veterinarian's exam room, place the blanket or towel on the examination table so your kitten does not have to lay or stand on the cold table.
Vet Clinic –
Briefly leave your kitten in your car (only if it is a cool day) and go inside the clinic and scope it out. Some clinics provide a separate entrance and/or waiting area for their cat and dog patients allowing you to go straight into the clinic without your kitty ever seeing a dog. If there is not an adequate separation and there are dog(s) in the lobby (and your kitten has never been exposed to dogs), after checking in, ask the receptionist to call or text you when an examination room is available and go back to your car. That way your kitten is not in the waiting room with a noisy or over-friendly dog. When the receptionist contacts you, you can bring your kitten right in and go straight into an examination room.
Stuff to Bring –
Always remember to bring your kitten's Health Record booklet to every veterinary appointment so that it is up-to-date with any vaccinations, wormings, tests, etc. The kitten's breeder or shelter will provide you with a Health Record book which has all the information regarding vaccinations, wormings, and other procedures/your kitten may have already had. When you make your first appointment, they may ask you to bring in a fecal sample. To collect a fecal sample, remove the feces from the litter box as quickly as possible (so it does not dry out or become covered with litter). Store the sample in a plastic baggie or plastic container in the refrigerator. The vet's office does not need a large amount of feces to test it. I have seen dog owner's bring in a whole pile for a sample!
Examination: What to expect -
A full, physical exam may include the following:
- taking the kitten's temperature with a rectal or ear thermometer,
- listening to the heart and lungs (and sometimes stomach) using a stethoscope,
- palpating the abdomen,
- examining the skin and fur for signs of fleas, ringworm (fungus) or sores,
- checking ears for presence of mites or other infections,
- examination of the eyes, and
- checking teeth to make sure the kitten has an appropriate number and type of teeth for his age.
A full examination will give you and your veterinarian a picture of your kitten's overall health. The veterinarian may ask you what food you are feeding your kitten. Our advice, do not change the kitten's diet from what the breeder advised you to feed, this can cause gastric upset in the kitten (diarrhea). If you choose to change the kitten's diet, do so over a two week period of time. Add more of the new food and less of the old food until at the end of two weeks the kitten is eating only the new food.
Questions and Answers –
Before going to your veterinarian, write down any questions or concerns you may have about your kitten's diet, safety, environment or activity level (how to mentally stimulate your kitten with food puzzles and other interactive toys). In all likelihood, a responsible breeder will have already provided you with information on these issues.