veterinarian Dr. Massic with a kitten at the Animal Clinic of Billings

Adopting a new kitten is an exciting event filled with joy and laughter. Kittens are playful, entertaining little scamps who require care and plenty of hands-on attention from their human family members. You can support your kitten’s healthy development in many ways. Introduce them to their new family; familiarize them with their new environment; and, pay attention to their physical wellbeing.

veterinarian Dr. Massic, Animal Clinic of Billings

The Animal Clinic of Billings loves kittens, and the staff’s combined clinical experience guarantees you will be well informed about your kitten’s needs. Kittens go through numerous phases, and understanding how your cat’s needs will change is essential.

Here are some vital kitten tips: Remember! Proper kitten care begins with an examination by a veterinarian, vaccinations, deworming, and other care that supports the kitten’s development through the various phases.

CARING FOR KITTENS – THE FIRST SIX MONTHS

veterinarian Dr. Massic, Animal Clinic of Billings

Here are essential tips on caring for a kitten in the first six months:

UNDER 4 WEEKS  

Newborn kittens (0-4 weeks) are developing coordination and motor skills. They are also working to balance their body temperature. Young kittens depend primarily on nutrition and warmth from the momma cat. If, however, the mother is still with the kittens, there is not much for human caregivers to do. 

veterinary cat clinic

If, however, the mother cat cannot care for the kittens, a lot of human care is necessary to help the them grow and thrive. We recommend you bring newborn kittens to the Animal Clinic of Billings shortly after they are born. It is crucial to have a veterinarian assess the kittens’ condition focusing mainly on feeding and developmental progress. This includes bottle feeding the kittens every 2-4 hours, keeping their environment warm and safe and helping the kittens to urinate and defecate.

cute kitten white backdropOnce you return home with the kittens, keep them warm and cozy with blankets – especially if they are separated from their mother and/or other kittens. You can hold the kittens during this time, but be extra gentle, as their bones are still forming.

professional cat photograph of a kitten

5-11 WEEKS 

By this time, young kittens should be weaned and feeding on a high protein, energy-dense diet. Your kitten’s motor skills and coordination should also be progressing. This is the age where your kitten will become a fireball of activity. Proper supervision will ensure your kitten’s newfound sense of adventure and bravado doesn’t lead your kitty into dangerous situations.

2-4 MONTHS

This is a time of rapid growth and development for your new kitten. Expect your kitten to have more energy than an adult cat and be prepared to be awakened at night by a kitten who is ready to play. Caring for a kitten during this phase includes plenty of bonding-based playtimes and feeding the kitten 3 or 4 high protein meals per day.

4-6 MONTHS

kittens eating cat foodAt this age of adolescents, kittens will reach, sexual maturity, resulting in an increase in energy. At times, your kitty’s behavioral changes will resemble that of a human teen entering puberty. Caring for your kitten during this phase includes hands-on bonding-based playtime. If your kitten is an indoor cat, enriching the kitty’s environment is extremely important. Talk to your veterinarian about ways to create an enhanced environment that provides the right amount of stimulation instinctively desired by cats.

At the six-month mark, plan for your kitten to be spayed or neutered. Most kittens experience puberty at 6-8 months, and it is recommended they are spayed or neutered just before then to avoid unwanted kittens.

NUTRITION TIPS FOR KITTENS

Proper kitten nutrition during this stage of growth is essential for happy, healthy, and thriving cats. Our veterinary staff is glad to discuss the proper feeding schedule for your kitten at your next veterinary appointment.

kitten foodThe mother cat should be feeding her kittens during the first four weeks of life. If the kitten is separated from its mother, use a special commercial milk-replacer formula and feed every 2-4 hours.  

  • From 3-5 weeks of age, kittens should be fed a milk-replacer formula in a shallow dish to encourage weaning. Add a moist, chewable diet of a warm milk-replacer and high quality canned or dried kitten food 4-6 times a day.
  • At 5-8 weeks old, your kitten should be chewing food, and you should provide a protein-rich and energy-filled diet, with feedings occurring 3-4 times daily.
  • There are a variety of kitten foods available, which you can discuss at your next veterinary appointment. Our veterinarians recommend canned food because it will mimic the natural diet both in consistency and formulation. However, a proper diet may also consist of a combination of canned and dry cat foods. 
  • After 6 months of age, feed your kitten 2-3 times a day.

SOCIALIZING YOUR KITTEN

Socializing is a significant part of a kitten’s development and applies to both human family members and any other pets in your household. Most dogs get along famously with cats. However, certain dogs possess a strong prey instinct and cannot decipher a cat from a rabbit.

kitten playing with veterinarianProper interspecies interaction and overall behavior require hands-on, responsible, and sustained social development, including the following:

  • Litter box training
  • Regular petting and cuddling
  • Toy introduction 
  • Exploration with boxes, paper bags.
  • Rewarding good behavior with cat treats
  • Time outs for bad behavior 
  • Diversions from biting and scratching
  • Meeting new people and animals in a controlled environment
  • Weekly grooming and combing
  • Monitored outdoor adventures (once kitten vaccinations have begun). 

Kitten development is fun but requires ongoing, hands-on care from you. It is critically important to think about the time commitment you must devote to ensure proper kitten development.

WHAT CAN GO WRONG WITH KITTENS

kitten veterinarianNewborn kittens, age 0 to four weeks, are a lot of work, and it is vital to know what can go wrong. Warning signs include:

  • Lack of appetite, especially for abandoned newborn kittens
  • Motor skills and coordination difficulties
  • Lethargy, diarrhea or vomiting

You can stop monitoring your kitten’s feeding habits and body temperature at four weeks old but continue watching for warning signs and behavioral issues. Contact your veterinarian if you have concerns on any topics listed below: 

  • Litter box use
  • Aggression and biting
  • Fears and other behaviors that need to be addressed while your kitten is still impressionable

Should you observe odd or concerning behavior in your kitten, please bring her in for a visit with the veterinarian.

PREVENTIVE CARE FOR KITTENS

Preventive care provides your kitten with the best opportunity to live a healthy life. Finding the right veterinarian that works for you is your best choice. Your veterinarian should administer wellness checkups, kitten vaccinations, and create a preventive maintenance schedule to ensure a happy and healthy cat.

Our experienced veterinarians notice subtle signs that something may not be quite right with your kitten. We love educating our clients about the best methods of recognizing and preventing worms, parasites, illnesses, and diseases in kittens. Animal Clinic of Billings is proud to care for young feline patients in and around the Billings.

YOUR KITTEN’S FIRST VETERINARY APPOINTMENT 

Schedule an exam for your kitten within the first week of adoption. Early and frequent visits help socialize your kitten and allows the veterinarian to establish an informed baseline of your kitten’s health and wellness. You can expect a thorough physical exam to uncover any health issues. The veterinarian will also check for birth defects (hernias, cleft palate, and heart defects) or infectious diseases (upper respiratory infections) and makes a plan to address any health issues.

INTESTINAL PARASITES, FLEAS, AND HEARTWORM IN KITTENS

All kittens require a regular deworming program to kill most intestinal parasites. Your kitten’s stool also will be checked for more uncommon parasites. Also, cats may contract heartworms, for which there is no treatment. We strongly urge heartworm prevention for all cat patients.

Fleas are one of the most common parasitic dangers to kittens. Providing your veterinarian with a history of your kitty’s lifestyle and administering proper flea and tick control are essential components of kitten care. We do not recommend over-the-counter sprays, powders, and collars to treat parasites. They are not as effective as prescription products and may be toxic to kittens. We are happy to discuss effective flea, tick, and parasite prevention with you at your next appointment.

SCHEDULE FOR KITTEN VACCINATIONS

Kitten vaccinations are crucial to proper kitten care and should begin shortly after you get your kitten. We recommend vaccines begin for kittens at 6 weeks of age, followed by booster shots every 3 – 4 weeks and ending booster shots at 16 – 20 weeks. Kitten vaccinations prevent feline leukemia, rabies, and distemper. These infectious diseases are devastating and preventable with vaccinations. We will work with you to establish a long-term plan for the rest of the cat’s adult life.

veterinarian with cat

WHEN SHOULD YOU SPAY OR NEUTER YOUR CAT?

Do you have a kitten that is in contact with other kittens or cats of the opposite sex? If so, it is essential you have them spayed or neutered as they reach 5-6 months of age. Three important reasons for spaying and neutering include avoiding unpleasant habits such as territorial scent spraying; preventing unplanned litters; and minimizing the chance of mammary or testicular cancer later in life.

SCHEDULE A KITTEN CARE APPOINTMENT WITH THE ANIMAL CLINIC OF BILLINGS TODAY!

Keep your frisky, playful, furry ball of joy healthy and happy. Don’t leave your kitten with a developmental disadvantage. For more information on the importance of your kitten’s overall care during its formative years, call us and make an appointment.

At the Animal Clinic of Billings, kitten care is one of our greatest joys. Our veterinary staff looks forward to spending time with you and your kitten to ensure your relationship will be healthy, happy, and rewarding.

Call our receptionists to schedule your first kitten care appointment with us today!

406-252-9499

REQUEST AN APPOINTMENT

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ANIMAL CLINIC OF BILLINGS AND ANIMAL SURGERY CLINIC

providing our region’s companion animals and their families what they need and deserve since 1981

1414 10th St. West, Billings MT 59102

406-252-9499

REQUEST AN APPOINTMENT