Routine HealthCare Examination: Considerations for Junior cats (7m–2y)
This life stage involves ensuring the aspects of health care covered in the Kitten visits have all been met, especially if the cat is newly acquired by an owner. Regular monitoring of cats during their Junior life stage is valuable, and checks should ideally be performed every 6 months to ensure the Kitten is growing and developing as they should be. Preventive healthcare should always be reviewed. While most cats will be relatively healthy at this stage, common problems are often related to infectious diseases, cat bites, dietary indiscretion, road traffic accidents or other trauma, and weight management.
Serious diseases (such as heart disease and infectious diseases including feline infectious peritonitis) can be seen during this life stage. Careful examination and monitoring at each visit are therefore important. Any owner concerns should be listened to carefully to maximise the chance of detecting serious problems at an early stage.
WSAVA (2016) and AAFP/AAHA (2020) vaccination guidelines both recommend that the first revaccination following on from the primary course of FPV, FHV-1 and FCV is performed at 6 months of age rather than the traditional 12 months to ensure that maternal-derived immunity has not interfered with vaccine uptake. After this, in some cases the frequency of vaccination (for at least some components) may be reduced – for example to every two to three years. The use of non-core vaccines should be considered based on individual assessment. Retroviral testing should be initiated and/or repeated as indicated.
Regular worming should be continued using products appropriate for likely endoparasite exposure. Frequency of worming should be based on a risk assessment. Based on ESCCAP guidelines, cats with outdoor access should be dewormed at least every three months and cats that share homes with children under 5 years of age or immunocompromised individuals should be treated monthly. Faecal examinations may be considered with treatment based on the findings but their limitations as well as their value must be kept in mind. Flea and tick therapy should be provided regularly (in line with the recommendations of the product used) as appropriate for the cat, geography and lifestyle.
Ensure neutering is performed. Cats are sexually mature by 6-months of age and often earlier so will be at risk of unwanted litters of Kittens by this age group. Most intact cats and around 10% of neutered cats mark their territory with urine. The earlier neutering is performed the less likely this will occur. For further information on earlier neutering please see the Cat Group policy statement.
Cats in this age group will be starting to explore further if they have access to the outdoors and there is the need for permanent identification. Microchipping should be considered for all cats and, if an owner wishes to use a collar, ensuring that only safety (quick release) collars are used.
Nutrition & weight management
Carefully monitor weight at each visit. Body condition scoring (BCS) should also be performed once the cat reaches maturity at around 12-18 months. Scheduling an examination 2-3 months after neutering is valuable to carefully monitor weight and identify excess weight gain at an early stage when intervention will be more successful. After the major growth period, especially in neutered cats, consider switching to a less energy dense diet with a higher protein to calorie ratio designed to help prevent excess weight gain.
Additional points to consider include
Continue to ensure every opportunity is taken to bond the owner to the clinic and embark on a lifelong partnership of preventive healthcare. With pedigree juniors, consideration should be given to known inherited defects and genetic testing offered, if available and appropriate.
Oral/dental examination and regular teeth brushing should be encouraged and is most likely to be successful if started at a young age. Brushing a cat’s teeth is likely to be the single most effective way to reduce dental plaque and maintain long-term oral health.
Minimising stress during trips to the veterinary clinic, you may consider prescribing anti-emetics in cats that develop motion sickness.