When bringing home a newly adopted kitten, it is imperative that you get her checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible, not only for her own health but to ensure she doesn't bring with her any serious communicable diseases, such as FeLV or FIV. Ideally, it would be before you even bring her home, but you should aim for within 48 hours if the kitten appears to be healthy, and without delay, if it is showing symptoms of watery eyes, sneezing, respiratory distress or failure to eat.
Note: You will need to isolate your kitten from other cats until this veterinarian check is complete.
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough "hands-on" physical exam on the kitten, including
- Checking baby teeth (will determine approximate age) and mouth
- Taking temperature
- Palpating organs
- Listening to heart
- Testing muscles and joints for mobility
- Checking eyes
- Checking ears for mites
- Combing fur for evidence of fleas
In addition, your kitten will have several lab tests performed:
You will be asked to bring a fecal sample with you. The veterinary staff will place a bit of this sample into a device that blends it into a sort of "soup," which floats worm eggs so that they can be viewed under a microscope. Fecal floats are primarily used to detect worms - the "Big 3": hook worms, round worms and/or tapeworms. Many kittens from shelters have worms, because of their close contact with other cats.
In fact, some veterinarians will routinely "worm" kittens, e.g. treat them with de-worming medication, either with an injection and/or prescribing oral medication.
Fecal matter can also be viewed on a slide to detect Giardia or Hemobartonella if those are a concern.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends testing for FeLV and FIV on all newly-adopted cats, regardless of age, and whether or not there are other cats in their new home.
If your kitten is younger than nine weeks, your veterinarian may want to wait until he reaches that age for testing. However, if other cats are in the home, you'll either need to keep the kitten completely isolated or have the tests performed earlier.
Very young kittens may occasionally show "false positives" for FIV, because of the transfer of antibodies from a mother cat in the womb. It is suggested that these kittens be tested again at age 6 months. On the other hand, a negative FIV test will indicate a strong possibility that the kitten does not carry the virus.
With FeLV, an ELISA test is performed in the veterinary office. A positive test with ELISA should be followed up with a more sophisticated laboratory test, IFA. If the kitten tests negative with the IFA, he should be retested (IFA) in six months. The IFA test is considered to be 99% accurate, according to some sources.
At 9 to 10 weeks, your kitten will get the "3-way vaccine," which contains agents against feline calicivirus, herpesvirus and feline panleukopenia (FRCP), all given in one "shot." Kitten will need to return at 12 to 14 weeks for a booster, and for a Rabies vaccine, if required by law in your area, or if your cats are "at risk."
Spay or Neuter Appointment
Unless this was done prior to your kitten's adoption, you'll need to make an appointment for this essential surgery. Many veterinarians now practice early spay & neuter, as there are decided advantages to the cat. If your own veterinarian is the more traditional philosophy (of waiting until 6 months), you can check with your local humane society for references.
A Word About Declawing
Some veterinarians may offer to declaw at the same time as spay/neutering. Arm yourself with knowledge about the true nature of this surgery before making an irreversible decision.
You can take your kitten home now, confident that she has a good start on a long and healthy life.