Before You Own Your Little Cat  

The excitement of bringing your new kitten home is hard to describe. There is nothing cuter than a baby cat and nothing more loving and playful, either. Whether your new one has come from a breeder of pedigreed cats, the local humane shelter, or from a friend whose family pet has delivered an unexpected litter, you will want to provide your new little family member the best possible start in life. Ideally, you should plan to pick up your new pet when you can be at home during the kitten’s first days in its new environment. The necessary bonding between the baby and its new family will happen swiftly if everyone is available to spend lots of quality time with the new kitten. 

The first stop after you’ve selected your new pet is your veterinarian’s office. If possible, make an appointment even before the day of the kitten’s arrival, and make sure your veterinarian knows your appointment is for a new pet’s examination and consultation. You will want the little one to receive any needed preventive or therapeutic care before you head home. Your kitten may need vaccinations at this initial medical exam. If you have documents from the breeder or shelter where the kitten grew up, those will probably show what vaccines and deworming treatments the kitten has already received. With this information, your veterinarian can advise you about any further preventive care that is needed and when. Today, vaccines are only given to cats after careful consideration of their risk factors for exposure to the diseases the vaccines protect against. Not all cats should receive all available vaccines every year. There are a great variety of vaccination programs and schedules that are appropriate under differing circumstances and kitty lifestyles.

During the first veterinary visit, be sure that you ask all of the questions you will undoubtedly have about the newest member of your family. If you don’t already have a strong working relationship with a veterinarian you trust to care for your cat and to answer all of your questions, find such a person even before you get your new kitty. Your relationship with your cat’s veterinarian will be one of the most important tools you possess for keeping your cat well for the next twenty-plus years. 

Having said that your new cat must have a thorough medical exam at the very beginning of your relationship together, I remind the reader that some veterinarians do not have up-to-the-minute information about cats. Beyond their skill in performing a good physical exam on your new cat, many veterinarians in general practice have much greater expertise with puppies and dogs than with cats. This is because canines are by far the most common patient in most practices. If you don’t already have a regular veterinarian for all of your pets, try to find a doctor who really enjoys cats and works with them frequently. A referral from another cat owner may be helpful, or you may seek a cat specialist in your area. Cat-only practices are growing in number all over the United States. 

To be the best possible partners with their veterinarians, cat owners themselves should have a thorough understanding of a number of basic cat care subjects, including cat-specific diseases, cat nutrition, vaccines, socializing training, and the like. A good veterinarian will answer all of your questions fully and patiently. There are a number of good reference books about cats, including this one, to give you the information you need. You may even learn things that your chosen veterinarian is unaware of. None of us knows everything. Do not hesitate to discuss cat care subjects with your veterinarian. Sometimes learning can be a two-way street!