Your Kitten’s First Vet Visit: What To Expect

Preparing for a veterinary visit—especially a first one—involves more than just calling to make an appointment. We want to share some tips to help ensure that you provide your veterinarian with everything needed to give your kitten the best care and that you get the information you need about caring for her yourself.

When does your kitten need to go to the veterinarian? It’s usually recommended that kittens be seen within the first 48 hours of bringing them home from the shelter, breeder or pet store and some purchase and adoption contracts require that. It’s nice if you can give your kitten a couple of days to settle in at your home and become accustomed to exploring her carrier.

The exception is when your kitten won’t be an only cat. If you have other cats at home, your first duty is to protect them. A new kitten (or adult cat) should have a veterinary exam to make sure she doesn’t spread a respiratory infection to your current cats or share any intestinal parasites in the litter box. She should also test negative for feline leukemia virus; and have at least one set of the core vaccinations recommended for cats: feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus, feline panleukopenia, feline leukemia virus, and rabies.

Useful records to bring include vaccine or deworming paperwork from the shelter, breeder or pet store where you acquired your kitten. A fecal sample, less than 24 hours old, will allow your veterinarian to check for internal parasites such as roundworms that commonly affect kittens. Remove the stool sample from the litter box as quickly as possible so it doesn’t dry out, and store it in the refrigerator in a closed container.

After using Fear Free techniques to make friends with your kitten, the veterinarian will give a full physical exam. This usually includes taking the temperature; listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope; palpating the abdomen; testing the limbs’ range of motion; examining the skin and fur for signs of fleas, ringworm (a fungus) or sores; checking ears for the presence of mites or signs of infection; and checking dental health. Your veterinarian may also ask what your kitten eats, how much she eats, what her activity level is and how often she uses the litter box. Your answers, plus the physical assessment, will give your veterinarian a good picture of the kitten’s overall health and lifestyle.

During or after the exam, ask your veterinarian any questions you may have about your kitten’s food, litter box habits, play behavior, amount of time she sleeps or anything else you’re curious about. Write them down beforehand so you don’t forget anything. Your veterinarian may have tips on kitten-proofing your home or suggestions about ways to provide exercise and mental stimulation with food puzzles and other toys.

Mention whether your kitten will have access to the outdoors, either freely in your yard or in an enclosed “catio.” That information helps the veterinarian know whether your kitten is more likely to be exposed to certain parasites such as heartworms or infectious diseases such as feline leukemia virus so you can take the necessary precautions or give appropriate preventives. Don’t forget to make a follow-up appointment for spay/neuter surgery and vaccine booster shots.

This first visit will put your kitten on the path to a happy, healthy life. And that’s what Fear Free is all about.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.