Good healthcare starts at home
Why you're as important as the vet to your kitten's health
A good healthcare routine for your kitten starts at home. Just as in humans, prevention is much better than cure. As the person who knows your kitten best of all, nobody could be better qualified than you to become the 'eyes' and 'ears' of your vet.
Good habits start young
It's important you get your kitten used to being regularly handled and checked over by you. This makes life a lot easier for everyone. Here are some things to look out for:
Is your kitten getting fat?
You don't want your kitten piling on the pounds. But being underweight isn't good either and can be a sign of illness. Your vet should keep a record of your kitten's weight and growth. If you want to keep track yourself, download the Hill's Growth Chart here, and use it to plot her growth rate.
If you're at all worried about your kitten's weight, book an appointment with your vet.
Does your kitten's coat look healthy?
Your kitten's coat should gleam with health. Check it for flakes, scales or cuts. Are there any fleas or flea dirt in evidence? Is her coat dull or matted - this could indicate a nutrient deficiency or disease. Talk to your vet if you're worried.
Check your kitten's eyes and ears
Look closely at your kitten's eyes. Is there any discharge? Are the whites free of any redness? Gently pull down the lower eyelid - this area should be pink.
Now have a look at her ears. These should be clean, pink, free of dirt and free of any strong odour. Check for wax, especially dark wax, which may be a sign or ear mites or infection.
Any worries you have about your kitten's eyes or ears should be discussed with your vet.
Check your kitten's teeth and gums
Gently open your kitten's mouth. Do her gums look pink and healthy? Are her teeth free of tartar build-up (which looks yellow or brown in colour)? You shouldn't usually find any tartar deposits on kittens' teeth. Does her breath smell ok?
Dental problems in cats are very common. You can help by getting into the habit of cleaning your kitten's teeth three times a week. Meat and fish flavoured cat toothpaste can be bought from most vets and pet food shops. A small soft children's toothbrush is fine, just make sure you keep it completely separate from the rest of the family's brushes. Altenatively, you can buy special cat toothbrushes from your vet.
Once your kitten is an adult, your vet may recommend feeding Hill"s Prescription Diet t/d. This has been shown to significantly reduce the build up of plaque, tartar and stains.
Inspect your kitten's claws and footpads
Are they free of cuts and cracks?
Do her nails need a trim?
Know what's normal for your kitten
Perhaps the most important part of any home health check is simply learning what's 'normal' for your kitten. Are there any unusual lumps or bumps, for example? If there's anything that worries you, call your vet straight away.