A kitten is a jumping, snoozing, rolling, playing ball of fun that can
provide hours of entertainment. But kittens also need proper care and attention
to ensure they grow up happy and healthy. So WebMD asked Drew Weigner, an
American Board of Veterinary Practitioners certified specialist in feline
medicine and a past president of the Academy of Feline Medicine, how to avoid
Q: Can my kitten get diseases from her mother?
A: Most definitely. They can get feline leukemia, FIV
(feline immunodeficiency virus), and any number of parasites. The list goes on
But because the test for FIV detects antibodies, kittens will sometimes test
positive from the antibodies they receive from their mother, without actually
having the disease. When they’re retested at six months of age, most will be
A: We tell our clients to bring any new kitten in within 24 hours of being
adopted, just so we can make sure it’s healthy and we can help them get it
started on the right foot.
Kittens are actually more fragile than they appear, and problems can arise
quickly. The big three things that I see are hypothermia, or low body temperature, hypoglycemia, or
low blood sugar, and dehydration. When a kitten
isn’t doing well, those are the three reasons we usually see. And they’re easy
to keep at bay, by keeping them warm and being sure they’re nursing or, if
they’re no longer nursing, being sure they’re eating. And that’s a problem we
see. People give kittens dry food when they’re very young and they don’t have
any teeth. They need canned food.
Q: At what age should my kitten start his vaccinations? Why is this important?
A: The first round of vaccinations should be given at about eight weeks of
age, because that’s when the immunity a kitten gets from its mothers starts to
Q: What are some diseases that could harm my kitten, and what can I do to
A: There are two big categories. One is parasites, which can be internal,
such as worms, or external, such as fleas. The other broad category is infectious diseases.
Distemper is not that common any more, but it’s devastating to kittens. Feline
leukemia everyone knows about, and there are many, many others. That’s why it’s
so important to have your veterinarian check your kittens at a very young
Q: Can my kitten be infected with parasites, such as roundworms, coccidian, and Giardia? How are those
A: Absolutely. Roundworms, hookworms, and others are
easily treated with medications that are very safe for kittens. Coccidia and
Giardia are protozoa, and there are anti-parasitic medications and antibiotics to treat them.