Kittens are a lot like babies—fragile little things that need protection and care to grow big and strong. Because of their underdeveloped immune systems and lack of vaccinations, kittens are more susceptible to illnesses that might not affect adult cats as often. Additionally, these illnesses might have much more drastic consequences for your kitty if they’re not addressed.
Understanding the health problems that plague young kittens the most often will make it easier for you to spot their signs and get them help right away. The sooner you get your kitten to the vet, the faster they can be on the mend and get back to being their excited, playful, adorable selves!
Here are four health problems that tend to affect kittens.
1. Upper respiratory infections
Tiny kittens are quite susceptible to kitty colds caused by bacteria and viruses. Exposure from a shelter or an existing virus like feline herpesvirus can make your kitten feel run down—especially if they just went through the stress of moving into a new home!
Upper respiratory infections produce sneezing, watery/runny eyes, pink eye, a runny nose, lethargy and sometimes a lack of appetite. Fortunately, upper respiratory infections don’t always require intense treatment. Many kittens will recover on their own within a week. Just encourage your kitty to eat and drink like normal, let them sleep and wipe their eyes and nose with a damp cloth.
If your kitten refuses to eat, develops a cough or labored breathing or does not recover within two weeks, you’ll want to visit the vet. The infection might be developing into something more serious and will require veterinary intervention.
2. Intestinal worms
One of the first things your vet will recommend at your kitten’s first visit is a fecal examination to check for worms. Intestinal parasites like hookworms, roundworms and tapeworms are pretty common in kittens because they can be passed from mother cats through her milk. Shelters might also increase your kitten’s exposure to parasites.
If your kitty has worms, it’s usually not a big deal! Your cat might experience vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and a low appetite. Their fur might also appear a little dull. You will want to have the worms taken care of, though, because they can deprive your kitten of the nutrients they need to grow healthily. Fortunately, worms are easily rectified with a de-worming supplement or medication.
Diarrhea is an extremely common problem in kittens. However, the trouble with this problem is that it can stem from a lot of different ailments.
If your newly adopted kitten develops diarrhea for a few days, it might just be a result of the stress from the move! Adapting to a new home and new owners can be stressful for any cat, let alone a young, timid kitten!
Diarrhea might also be a side effect of changing your kitten’s food. Again, this tends to happen right after pet parents bring their little one home from a shelter and offer a brand-new food. It takes a few days for your cat’s tummy to adjust.
Unfortunately, diarrhea might also be caused by something more serious, whether it’s intestinal parasites, an infection or a serious disease. If your kitten is experiencing diarrhea for longer than two days, you’ll want to visit the vet and make sure they’re getting fluids and treatment.
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is an unfortunate reality for many kittens. This virus duplicates by inserting copies of its genetic material into your cat’s cells, meaning it’s impossible to get rid of entirely. The virus ultimately hampers the immune system and can create lifelong problems for cats.
Kittens can get FIV from their mothers during birth. Because their immune systems are already weak at a young age, kittens can get seriously ill because of FIV, and the disease might even be fatal. Your vet might test for FIV during your kitten’s initial visits and can help you create a management plan if they test positive.
Give your kitten the best shot at a healthy life
Sadly, it’s not always possible to prevent illnesses in young kittens. Because they might not be old enough for some vaccines and their immune systems are still developing, kittens may develop certain ailments no matter how much preventative care you offer. Some things that might help are to bolster your kitten’s immune system with natural immunity supplements and to feed them nutritious food designed for kitten growth.
It’s equally important to be on the lookout for signs of health problems in your kitten. Without your help, they might succumb to a treatable illness that prevents them from growing healthily. Give your kitten the best shot at a healthy life by learning what symptoms to look for and when to call your vet for treatment.