A reason mother cats (called queens) have lots of kittens dates back to their days in the wild. In those early times, predators, diseases, parasites, accidents and birth defects created a 20% mortality rate among kittens. If you are vigilant, you might be able to avoid some common kitten health problems.
To protect your kitten, be proactive about its care. Weigh your baby each morning. The weight should show a small increase each day. It should never decrease.
Keep the kitten away from other pets unless they are vaccinated and healthy. Always wash your hands before and after handling the kitten.
At three weeks old, she needs to go to the vet for vaccinations. At that time, get information as well about worming.
Your kitten can get feline leukemia (FIV) from its mother, as well as parasites. However, be aware that the kitten may sometimes test positive for FIV because of antibodies that they have from their mother, but may not have the disease. Get the kitten retested at six months of age, and most of them will test negative at that time.
When you get a new kitten, it is a good idea to take it to the vet within 24 hours of the adoption. Then the vet can make sure the kitten is healthy and off to a good start.
Three main problems that might arise early on are hypothermia, or low body temperature, hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and dehydration. Keep kittens warm and make sure that they are nursing. If they are not, make sure they are eating.
Don’t give a young kitten dry food, as they do not have the teeth to chew it. They need canned food, because this will give them needed moisture.
First vaccinations should occur at around eight weeks of age, as the immunity the kitten gets from its mother is starting to wear off by then.
Hartz.com supplies a list of signs that your kitten could be in trouble. This list is a valuable bit of information that can help you to know if your kitten is not well.
- Body temperature over 103 degrees F or under 99 degrees F
- Crying continually
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting repeatedly
- Diarrhea continuously
- Losing weight or failing to gain weight
- Pale gums
This term describes runny or watery poop. It can be caused by a series of factors, such as internal parasites, bacteria, or lack of beneficial bacteria that aid in the digestive tract, or viruses.
It could all be caused by diet change, stress, or overfeeding. If the kitten has mild diarrhea but acts happy and alert, the solution could be as simple as adding more water to the formula or cutting back the amount you feed her.
How Can You Tell If She Is Dehydrated?
Is her poop dry and hard? Do her gums and mouth feel sticky or gummy? The mouth should feel moist. Is her pee darker than usual? (dark yellow, red, or brown.)
If she is over six weeks old, pull up on the skin at the scruff of her neck. If it snaps back in place as soon as you let go, she is fine. If it takes longer to return or if it does not return to the muscle, she is dehydrated.
What About Constipation?
Dehydration is usually the cause. Add a bit more water to her formula, or to her gruel if you are weaning her. She could also have an intestinal blockage or foreign body. If she goes for 48 hours without passing a stool, get her to a vet. If she begins to vomit, take her to the vet immediately.
Watch For Upper Respiratory Infections (URI)
Kittens are more susceptible to diseases than adult cats. Kittens with no mother are at greater risk. Do not give her people medications, as they may contain aspirin or acetaminophen. These are toxic to cats.
If you see any signs of sniffles or sneezing, don’t waste any time. Take her to a vet. Kittens need early treatment because they are so vulnerable.
Keep the sick kitten away from other pets, as URIs are very contagious. You might keep her in the bathroom to isolate her.
Watch for these symptoms that the kitten may be experiencing: (Again, thanks to Hartz.com for this list.)
- nasal and eye discharge
- loss of appetite
- possible mouth ulcers
- limping, caused by joint pain
Your kitten’s cold must run its course. Your vet will treat the symptoms. You may have to give antibiotics or subcutaneous (under the skin) fluids.
Because they can’t smell their food if they are congested, you may have to force-feed or tube feed. Use a vaporizer to loosen the nasal congestion.
Besides URLs, here are common health problems to watch for in your new kitten:
If your kitten is scratching a lot and is perhaps losing some hair off his back end, you’d best check for fleas.
They are hard to see. If you see black spots in the kitten’s fur, these could be “flea dirt,” a nice name for flea poop.
Treat the fleas right away. You can use an over-the-counter medicine or a prescription medicine. There are also remedies online, if you prefer a natural fix.
Ringworm is a common fungal skin infection called “dermatophytosis.” It’s much easier to call it ringworm.
It received the name because it forms a unique ring-like pattern of red spots on the skin. Young cats are more predisposed to this condition. Check your kitten’s skin regularly.
Do be careful, as this condition is one that the cat can pass on to humans.
Watch for red, scaly skin spots, itchiness, dandruff, and patchy hair loss, as these may be symptoms of ringworm.
Ask your vet — he may recommend a specific shampoo or ointment to get rid of the infection. If it is a severe case, the vet may prescribe oral meds.
You can also naturally treat the ringworm with a homeopathic remedy if you would prefer.
3. INTESTINAL WORMS
The most common intestinal worms are the roundworm, tapeworm, hookworm, and whipworm. The kitten can get very sick from these parasites, with symptoms such as diarrhea and weight loss.
These intestinal worms can be life-threatening because they can absorb all the important nutrients in the digestive tract. They can also cause dehydration.
From eight weeks old on, you can get your kitten dewormed at your vet’s. Let the vet find out what kind of worm it is and then he can recommend the best medication.
4. EAR MITES
If you see your kitten scratching his ears excessively, he may have ear mites. These are very small parasites that invade cat’s ears. They are very small — smaller than a grain of salt — and they are white.
Ear mites are very contagious and should be treated promptly. It can spread to other pets. If left untreated, it can lead to coordination problems, middle ear inflammation and eardrum rupture.
Treatment includes cleaning the cat’s ears and then applying either topical medication or ear drops. Recovery should come in about a week.
Fading Kitten Syndrome
This condition usually happens within several weeks of birth. The kitten, who appears healthy, will begin to fade away for no apparent reason.
There are several possible causes: A virus, a birth defect, or blood incompatibility with the mother. The kitten appears healthy one day, then stops nursing, loses weight, and dies.
Fading Kitten Syndrome is more common among pedigreed cats than from the feline population at large.
Kittens are fragile little creatures. But, given the proper care and food, they can grow into remarkable, wonderful cats.
References I used for this article: