Congratulations on your decision to add a new kitten to your family! Whether you’re a first time owner or have been down this road many times, it is always exciting to share your love and happiness with a fuzzy ball of fur that will return the favor ten fold.
With this new addition comes great responsibility on your part as a new owner. Because of this, the doctors and staff at Heartland Animal Hospital have designed an information packet to take you through the first year of your kitty’s life. The first few weeks that he or she is in your home are very critical for proper bonding, establishing your household hierarchy, and getting your kitten on track with optimal emotional and physical care.
Included in this packet you will find the hospital’s protocol and procedures on vaccination schedules, preventative care, house training, socialization, and much more. Please refer to this packet as often as needed and always feel free to call us with any questions you may have.
It is our goal to make every visit to Heartland Animal Hospital as comfortable, compassionate, and pleasing as possible. There is nothing we enjoy more than being greeted by a purr!
We hope your pet’s life will be a very long and happy one. We thank-you for entrusting their medical care to us and we look forward to helping you have the best time of your life with your new best friend!!
The following is a suggested list of supplies that you will need for your new kitten.
Feline Vaccination Schedule
- Kitten Food
- Kitty Litter, Litter box, and Scooper
- Carrying Crate
- Collar and Identification Tag
- Wire Brush and Comb
- Nail Trimmers (scissor type)
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
- Stain and Odor Remover
- Parasite Control Products (fleas, ticks, heartworm)
It is crucial during the first four months of your cat’s life that he or she receives vaccination to safeguard against many serious and potentially fatal upper respiratory, intestinal, and neurological diseases.
Kittens, like human babies, need to have a series of vaccinations in order to boost their immune systems. This helps fight off infections and viruses. They are vaccinated on a three-week schedule until they are four months of age, when their kitten series is complete.
Required Vaccination for All Cats, EVEN THOSE KEPT INDOORS!
6 weeks - FVRCP, Intestinal Parasite Exam, and Combo Test*
*retest at 6 months if positive
9 weeks - FVRCP
12 weeks - FVRCP
15 weeks - FVRCP *, Rabies, and Intestinal Parasite Exam
*previously unvaccinated cats older than 12 weeks must receive two FVRCP vaccinations three weeks apart
6 months - Spay/Neuter and ComboTest*
*if never tested or had an FIV or FeLV positive test as kitten
Annually - FVRCP**, Rabies, and Intestinal Parasite Exam***
**After the first annual FVRCP vaccine, this vaccine is given every 3 years
***Intestinal Parasite Exams are recommended every 6 months for outside cats
What does it mean?
- Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis
- an upper respiratory virus that causes sneezing, eye discharge, loss of appetite, and fever.
- an upper respiratory virus that can cause blisters on the mouth, tongue and lips
aka “Feline Distemper
”- a virus that can cause fever, gastrointestinal upset, and dehydration. It usually kills susceptible cats.
- a virus that causes a fatal neurological disease that can be transmitted to humans. This vaccine is required by state and city law
Intestinal Parasite Exam - a flotation test on a small sample of your cat’s feces. This test detects intestinal parasites (roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Coccidia, and Giardia).
– a simple blood test that detects the presence of Feline Leukemia Virus and antibodies to Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Young kittens that test positive should be tested again at six months of age as occasionally kittens will receive antibodies, but not the disease, from their mother’s milk (these antibodies will be cleared by 6 months).
Yearly boosters of the above vaccines are important in maintaining your cat’s protection from these dangerous diseases
For cats that will be allowed outside or will be in contact with infected cats.
9 weeks - FeLV #1*
12 weeks - FeLV #2
Annually - FeLV
*adult cats receiving these vaccinations for the first time must have a negative Triple (Combo) Test and receive two FeLV boosters 3-4 weeks apart, then one booster annually
What is FeLV?
Feline Leukemia Virus prevents a cat’s immune system from working properly. This virus is usually transmitted by casual contact with an infected cat.
Yearly boosters are important in maintaining your cat’s protection from this deadly disease, as well as routine medical care.
Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
Your cat’s biggest health concern isn’t dodging an oncoming car or the dog up the street, but instead is two viruses that kill more cats than any other disease. For your cat’s sake, learn the facts about these viruses and keep your cat happy and healthy for years to come.
FeLV and FIV affect your cat in similar ways. Both viruses attack the immune system. Both can hide inside your cat for a long time. Both can kill.
Fortunately both viruses can now be detected with a single blood test. In just minutes, your veterinarian can tell if your cat is infected. If free from the viruses, a vaccine is available for FeLV, which can help protect your cat from getting FeLV. A vaccine is available for FIV, but is not commonly given as it causes the combo test to always be positive for FIV following vaccination. This prevents us from knowing if the cat is naturally infected.
Spread of Disease
Typically, FeLV is spread when the saliva of an infected cat comes into contact with another cat. This can occur from mutual licking and grooming or shared food and water bowls. The virus can also be spread through the urine or feces, that is, sharing litter boxes.
Getting FIV is a little more difficult. As the virus lives in the blood of an infected cat, it is spread when one cat bites or scratches another. Therefore, outdoor cats, who are more likely to fight with other cats, are at higher risk for this disease.
Signs to Watch For
While some FeLV and FIV infected cats show no signs of disease at all, most have one or more or the following symptoms:
Cats at Risk
- Poor coat condition
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
- Sores in or around the mouth
All cats can contract either disease, but studies have shown that stray cats and unvaccinated cats that encounter stray cats are more at risk.
Fleas are insects (parasites) that feed on your pet’s blood and cause other serious problems. A flea bite may go unnoticed with some pets, cause slight irritation in others, or can cause a severe allergic reaction. Reactions include intense itching, red lesions, hair loss, and ulcers. Anemia is a serious concern in pets that are severely infested, especially with puppies and kittens. Prolonged anemia will eventually lead to death. Fleas can also transmit tapeworms and other diseases.
There are four stages in a flea life cycle: egg, pupae, larvae, and adult. Only one stage is found on your pet (the adult), the other three stages are found in the environment. The life cycle can be 12-180 days. Female fleas can lay 30-50 eggs a day and consume up to 15 times their body weight daily in blood. A flea can live from 2 weeks up to 2 years.
Preventing fleas is important and easier than treating an infested pet. The safest prevention can be found at your veterinary clinic. Over the counter flea products such as Biospot® and Hartz® are more toxic and are known to cause severe reactions in cats, ferrets, children, and some dogs. Over the counter flea collars also cause reactions and are not an effective solution to prevent or control fleas. If you desire a flea collar, there are effective versions available at our clinic. Over-the-counter flea shampoos are also ineffective at treating an infested pet. There are also safe and effective products to treat your home and yard. Knockout™ Area Treatment is an excellent product for treating your home. There are also various outdoor products available at your local home and garden center.
The following steps should be taken when treating all infested pets and the home (if one pet has fleas, they are in the house, yard, and on all pets in the household). Flea prevention should be applied for a minimum of three consecutive months. Before you begin treating your home, you should vacuum all carpeted areas. The vibrations will bring out the fleas. Spray floors with Knockout™ Area Treatment and then vacuum again. Remember to throw away the vacuum bag immediately. Repeat this process in three weeks. Also wash all bedding in hot water. Control and prevention consists of treating the pet with Frontline Gold®, Advantage Multi®, or a Seresto™ collar.
Interesting Facts on Fleas
Intestinal Parasite Exam
- One in seven dogs and one in three cats have fleas IN THE WINTER.
- There are 3,000 different types of fleas.
- Adult fleas can jump 600 times an hour. Each jump, in terms of flea size, is the equivalent of a person clearing a 50 story building.
- Record jump for a flea is 13 inches.
- In 30 days, 25 female fleas can multiply to 250,000 fleas.
- At any given time, only 5% of the flea population is in the adult stage.
Intestinal parasites and protozoa are easily transmitted from infested pets to people. Humans can also be infested with parasites through direct contact with infested fecal material. That is why it is important that a sample of your pet’s stool be examined at 6 and 15 weeks and then every six months after. If your pet is diagnosed with parasites, it is crucial that all medications be given as directed. Also, keep your yard free of fecal material while treating your pet, so reinfestation does not occur. Wash your hands thoroughly after discarding fecal material or interacting with your pet.
Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection caused by a one-celled organism (protozoa). Coccidia are microscopic parasites that spend part of their life cycle in the lining of the intestine. The most common problem caused by coccidiosis is diarrhea.
Roundworms are intestinal parasites that live freely in the intestine, feeding off of partially digested intestinal contents. They are tubular in shape, often described as “spaghetti-like.” Microscopic eggs are passed from infested pets in the feces. These are ingested by sniffing or licking infested feces, or licking contaminated dirt. Roundworms are most threatening to puppies and kittens. The common characteristic “pot-belly” is due to the growing roundworm burden instead of a growing abdomen. Diarrhea can be an indication of an infestation, and worms are sometimes seen in the stool or vomit.
Hookworms are parasites that get their name from the hook-like mouthparts they use to attach to the intestinal wall. Pets may be infested with hookworms by four routes: orally, through the skin, through the mother’s milk, and through the placenta before birth. The most significant problems are diarrhea and anemia.
Tapeworms are flattened intestinal worms that are made up of many small segments. The individual segments eventually shed and are passed in the feces. Diagnosis is often made by seeing tapeworm segments in the feces or around the anus. They often look like grains of rice. Control of fleas is very important in the management and prevention of tapeworm infestation as tapeworms must first pass through a flea (or rabbit) before they can infest your pet.
Spaying and Neutering Your Cat
What Every Owner Should Know
- Sexual activity will not mature your kitten either mentally or physically. A kitten will grow to its full potential of size, weight, and personality with proper diets, care, and love.
- A cat will not become obese or lethargic because of being either spayed or neutered. Cats become obese from lack of exercise and too much food (or too many treats!).
- Personality and temperament are a product of heredity and environment, NOT HORMONES. Altered pets will be less aggressive with other animals, but their basic reaction(s) to humans will remain the same.
- A cat that has never been allowed to be sexually active does not know any better. Cats do not have ‘feelings’ about sexual activity as humans do. Such actions are only a means of reproduction.
- The incidence of cancer is greatly reduced in cats that have been spayed or neutered. Spaying/neutering may give added years to your cat’s life.
- Spaying your cat is cost effective. If you take proper care of both the female and her litter, you will most likely lose money. Remember, for every kitten you place, you have taken away the chance of another being adopted from an animal shelter, which results in thousands of animals being euthanized annually.
- Neutering your male will eliminate the rancid smell of tomcat urine. Neutering or spaying will also reduce the likelihood of spraying/marking in the house.
Unsupervised mating can often cause physical damage to both male and female.
Each year, millions of lost or stolen pets never return home simply because they can not be identified.
Heartland Animal Hospital is proud to offer HomeAgain® Pet Microchip Identification System as part of a three-part program of responsible pet care. This three part program is simple: we believe that the best way to help ensure your pet remains happy, healthy, and safe is to have your pet spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped. By practicing these three simple steps with your pet, you can avoid unwanted litters, help prevent disease, and keep your pet from becoming one of the 10 million animals that are lost each year.
HomeAgain® Pet Microchip Identification System is the most completed nationwide system for recovering lost or stolen pets. It utilizes a tiny microchip, the size of a grain of rice, which is implanted between your pet’s shoulder blades. This procedure takes just seconds and is relatively painless. It is recommended for companion pets of all species, breeds, and ages. Individual numbers are registered in the national database. When a lost pet arrives at a participating animal shelter or veterinary clinic, a Universal Scanner is used to identify the unique encoded number on the implanted microchip and the owner is identified and contacted immediately. HomeAgain® microchips may be used on cats, dogs, ferrets, and other companion animals.
Remember, 1 in 3 pets is lost during their lifetime and only 1 in 10 is found.
Ensuring that your pet lives and grows well starts with a proper diet. At Heartland Animal Hospital, we carry several brands and types of food to meet the changing needs of your pet. There have been numerous advances in dietary health for your pet. Any problem from gastrointestinal upset to liver or kidney failure can be beneficially aided with a special diet.
Dry pet food is better for most pets because it has less chance of causing tarter build up. Canned food sticks to teeth and, after years of feeding, can contribute to periodontal disease and tooth loss.
It is strongly recommended that you do not feed human food to your pet. We know you may feel that a ‘treat’ once in a while will do no harm, but it does. Pets are creatures of habit and do not get bored with eating the same thing day after day. If you would like to give a treat (in moderation), there are several good treats for pets to choose from.
It is also important not to over feed your pet. All diets that are sold at Heartland Animal Hospital include feeding guidelines on the bag. These are only a guideline. Your pet may require a little less or a little more than average. Obesity is becoming a huge problem in the veterinary field; it is the most common nutritional disorder that occurs in pets.
A pet that is obese will develop many health problems over time. Joint problems such as ruptured ligaments and arthritis can occur. A pet that is overweight can also have breathing difficulties associated with heat intolerance. Obesity predisposes pets to heart disease, liver disease, and diabetes. An obese pet is also a greater anesthetic and surgical risk.
There are several ways that you can prevent obesity or help a pet lose weight.
Litter Box Training Your Kitten
- Do a family survey to be sure who feeds the pet, what they feed, and how often.
- Make sure to feed each pet separately so you know the exact amount fed. This can also help you to detect decreases in appetite sooner, which can indicate illness.
- Feed your pet more often. It takes energy to digest food. Dividing your pet’s daily ration into 2 or 3 feedings will help.
- Reducing your pet’s regular food amount by 25% will bring some results.
- Put pets in a separate room while you are eating to prevent begging.
- Substitute affection for treats. Give a pat or throw a toy when (s)he noses your hand.
- Break treats in half or use regular food kibbles.
- Most dogs and some cats enjoy fruits and vegetables (except grapes and onions) in addition to their regular diet.
- Many dogs also like ice cubes as a treat.
- Take your pet for a walk more often or play with them more.
Most kittens train easily when it comes to teaching them to use the litter box. The key to successful litter box training is understanding cat behavior and the hierarchy of a multiple cat household.
When you bring your kitten home, you will need to place him or her in a room by itself at night and while you are not home. You will need to keep your kitten confined for at least a week or until you feel comfortable leaving the kitten unsupervised. The reason behind confining your kitten is to get him or her used to the litter box. Due to the size of a 6-12 week old kitten, you may need to makeshift a litter box with shorter sides out of cardboard boxes and garbage bags. As most cats do not like to use a dirty litter box, scooping daily is recommended as well as completely changing the litter every 5-7 days.
If you have more than one cat in your home, it is important to lessen the stress on your older cat. Confining your kitten to the laundry room, bathroom or bedroom for a week will give the adult cat(s) a chance to smell the kitten under the door. Since cats are very territorial, a new cat using an older cat’s litter box may be seen as a very threatening/aggressive act. To eliminate some of the tension, it is important that every floor of the house have at least one litter box for each
The type of litter you choose depends on what your cat will use. We recommend that you start your kitten on litter that is odor free and scoopable. If you purchase a litter that has a strong perfume smell, it might be irritating to your kitten, causing them to not use the litter box. A dust free litter will lessen the chance of nasal irritation.
Hazardous Household Products
It’s only natural for animals to be curious. But their curiosity can get them into trouble when they get into areas where you store household items such as medicine and detergents. Many common household items that you use everyday can be harmful, and sometimes even lethal, to your pet.
Tomato and potato leaves and stems
Onions and onion powder
Pear and peach kernels
Mushrooms (if also toxic to humans)
Xylitol (artificial sweetener in sugar-free gum and candies)
Common household items
Antifreeze and other car fluids
Bleach and cleaning fluids
Nail polish and remover
Snail or slug bait
Prescription and non-Prescription medication
Symptoms of possible poisoning include: vomiting, diarrhea, difficult breathing, salivation and weakness. If your pet ingests harmful chemicals, contact us, an emergency clinic, or a poison
control center immediately. (changed wording – also please make sure this is at the bottom of the columns as its own separate paragraph, not within the column)
With recent advances in medical care, much has been learned about periodontal disease and the companion cat. Without a regular oral care program, your cat can be at risk for multiple organ failure later in life. This is because once the gums become infected; the bacteria that live below the gum line circulate throughout your pet’s body. It then deposits itself in organs such as heart, liver, and kidneys. The key to combating dental disease in your cat is to start early.
As a caregiver, there are several things you can do for your cat to reduce the buildup of plaque and tartar that will eventually lead to periodontal disease. This includes tooth brushing, oral hygiene solutions, providing a dental diet or dental treats, and regular dental cleaning.
When starting a dental program with your cat, short intervals are the key to success. You want him or her to warm up to the idea of having their teeth and gums brushed. Simply start out by letting the puppy lick the toothpaste off your finger. Gradually start rubbing the teeth and gums with your finger, eventually adding the toothbrush. It is very important that appropriate animal toothpaste be used. DO NOT USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE
as the fluoride content is too high and will cause GI upset. We carry C.E.T.â dental products and have a variety of flavors. Poultry, beef, salmon, and mint are just a few! For optimal oral health it is recommended that you brush your cat’s teeth daily. Realistically, several times weekly is better than nothing.
In conjunction with regular tooth brushing, adding Oxyfresh Pet Oral Hygiene Solution to your cat’s drinking water can significantly reduce plaque and tartar build up. Oxyfresh is an odorless, tasteless product that acts as a “mouthwash” every time your cat takes a drink of water. The Oxyfresh binds to and removes the bacteria that cause bad breath, plaque, and tartar. This product is easy to use (just add one teaspoon per quart of drinking water) and is safe for dogs, cats, ferrets, and other pets.
Even with preventative care, most pets will need to have a professional dental cleaning at some point in their life. A dental cleaning is an anesthetic procedure. Most pets will go home the same day. Before we start the procedure, a pre-anesthetic blood profile is done to ensure your pet can handle the anesthesia. During the dental cleaning, an ultrasonic scaler is used to remove tartar. Then the teeth are then fine detailed with a hand scaler and then the teeth are polished. Depending upon the condition of the teeth, some pets may also require extractions, have pockets filled, and antibiotics may be prescribed. While your pet is under anesthetic, we monitor their heart rate, respiration, blood oxygenation, blood pressure, and body temperature. Pets will also receive fluid therapy to help maintain normal blood pressure.
Yearly dental exams are important to maintaining your cat’s health.
The amount and type of grooming needed varies by owner preference, the breed, and the individual cat. Some owners prefer short, timed hair, while others like the look of long, flowing hair. Some breeds and individuals have long hair prone to matting while other cats have a tendency for getting dirty.
Finding a groomer is often like finding a hair stylist. You may go to a few before you find the right one. There are many groomers in the metro area, so remember, pick your groomer based on positive experiences you and your dog have had.
Bathing also depends on your cat. Most cats do not need to be bathed, unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian.
Brushing is another important aspect of coat care. If you have a medium to longhaired cat you will need to brush him or her on a daily basis. Cats with short coats can be brushed 3-4 times weekly. Brushing is great for the skin because it increases circulation and can be very relaxing for both you and your cat. Brushing also benefits your cat by keeping the coat free from mats that can be very painful.
It is also important to keep your cat’s nails trimmed as short as possible. You may be able to do this at home or you may need the assistance of our veterinary staff. Clipping your cat’s nails every three weeks allows for optimal nail health. Trimming nails will ensure that the quicks will not over grow. When nails become too long, they break easily and over time can damage your cat’s feet.
Many cat owners often overlook hairball prevention. Some cats chronically vomit food and owners believe it is not a hairball because they do not see hair in the vomit, but most likely it is hairball related. Even a small amount of hair in the cat’s stomach can create enough irritation to cause vomiting. If the hair is not vomited up, it usually passes through the intestinal tract and into the stool. Symptoms of hairballs include vomiting, poor appetite, weight loss, and constipation. If the hairball gets too large, it may not be able to pass and surgery will be required to remove it. If the hairball causes the cat to stop eating, the cat is at risk of developing a potentially fatal condition called hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver.
Using a product called Laxatone® can easily prevent hairballs. Starting cats on a preventative at a young age is ideal. Most cats, if started as kittens, think of the prevention as a treat and readily accept it. Most cats will lick Laxatone® off your finger or a dish. If your cat refuses to eat it, you may have to use a syringe and deliver it directly into the mouth. Ideally, you should give your cat 2-3cc of Laxatone® one to two times weekly as a preventative measure. Even if your cat enjoys Laxatone®, you may want to use a syringe so you are able to measure the needed amount. Laxatone® comes in both malt and a tuna flavors for cats to choose from.
Any diet that is high in fiber will also help with hairball control.
What is Toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the single-celled parasite Toxoplasma gondii.
Who gets it?
All species of animals, including humans.
Why are cats blamed?
Cats are the only animal species to shed the infectious
stage in their feces. All animals, however, can spread Toxoplasmosis if their infected meat is eaten.
How do cats get it?
By eating rodents, raw meat, cockroaches, flies, or by coming into contact with infected cats, infected cat feces, or contaminated soil.
What are the chances of my cat acquiring an infection?
Good, if your cat is allowed to hunt or is fed raw meat.
How will I know if my cat has Toxoplasmosis?
You probably won’t since most infected cats show no symptoms, although sometimes there is transient diarrhea, or more rarely, other symptoms such as pneumonia, hepatitis or neurologic disease.
Should I worry about getting Toxoplasmosis from my cat?
Chances are unlikely you will acquire the infection from your cat, but caution is advised for high risk groups.
Should I test my cat for Toxoplasmosis?
Probably not – test results in cats are questionable and interpretation is controversial. In fact, a positive, healthy cat is probably safer than a negative cat since it has already been exposed and is immune. A negative, healthy cat is more susceptible to infection, and thus prevention is most important.
How do I prevent my cat from getting it?
Don’t feed your cat raw meat, prevent your cat from hunting, and keep your cat indoors.
How do I get it?
Rarely from an infected cat. Most commonly through ingestion of undercooked meats, unwashed fruits and vegetables, or by not washing your hands after gardening or handling soil.
What happens if I get Toxoplasmosis?
If you’re healthy – Potentially flu-like symptoms or lymph node enlargement
If you are pregnant, and only if it’s your first exposure
– birth defects and possible fetal abortion/death
If you are immunocompromised – possible life threatening central nervous system disorders.
Important Phone Numbers
Iowa Veterinary Referral Center
(24hr/7days a week emergencies)
4631 Merle Hay Rd, Des Moines, IA 50322
Iowa Veterinary Specialties
(24 hr/7days a week emergencies)
6110 Creston Ave, Des Moines, IA 50321
Des Moines Animal Control
(515) 283-4811 (non-emergency dispatch)
Des Moines Animal Care and Control
West Des Moines Animal Control
Urbandale Animal Control
Windsor Heights Animal Control
Clive Animal Control
Animal Rescue League of Iowa, Des Moines
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
1-888-426-4435 (covered with HomeAgain membership