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Routine HealthCare Examination: Considerations for Kittens (0–6m)

Regular examinations

For Kittens, routine examinations will need to be frequent. Generally, Kittens should receive a minimum of 2 vaccinations before the age of 20 weeks, and there will be additional visits required as well. With vaccination, microchipping, neutering and parasite prophylaxis there are many opportunities to engage with owners of new kittens, but there is also a lot of information that needs to be imparted. Taking a structured approach to this can be very helpful to avoid overwhelming an owner with too much information at one visit, which is why we advise a monthly visit over this period. At this stage, every opportunity should be taken to develop a pattern of care and support that will last for the lifetime of the cat.


Vaccinations are routinely started at six to nine weeks of age, and all core vaccines should be given. FeLV vaccination is highly recommended for all Kittens (as their ultimate environment and lifestyle will not be known with certainty) and other non-core vaccines such as Rabies should be considered when appropriate for the local region.  

WSAVA (2016) and AAFP/AAHA (2020) vaccination guidelines both recommend that cats have three vaccinations 2-4 weeks apart finishing at 16-20 weeks of age. These guidelines now also 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. 

Because of their importance as a cause of disease and death, the retroviral status of all cats should ideally be known. Testing cats prior to vaccination for either FeLV or FIV is recommended, and early testing is also valuable when the background of Kittens is unknown. However, retrovirus testing may not always be appropriate (depending on the background and circumstances) and is not a pre-requisite to FeLV or FIV vaccination. Care is needed in interpreting FIV test results in Kittens younger than 5 – 6 months due to the potential interference of maternal-derived antibodies. Point of care FeLV testing should always be interpreted with knowledge of the health status of the Kitten and local prevalence of the disease. Additional conformational testing is often advised in healthy cats/kittens from areas where the FeLV incidence is low as false positives on point of care testing can occur. 

Parasite control

Worming is generally recommended every two weeks from three to nine weeks of age and then every 4 weeks until at least six months of age. Appropriate flea treatments should be started when needed. All Kittens should be treated for fleas before they start having access to the outdoors, and, if they’re living with other pets with outdoor access, then regular treatment should be considered from 8-9 weeks of age.   


Traditionally, neutering of cats has been carried out at around 6 months of age, but recent guidelines suggest that 4 months of age is more appropriate (for both male and female cats) to ensure neutering is performed before Kittens become sexually active and to avoid unwanted litters of Kittens. 

Studies have shown no significant concerns regarding anaesthesia, behavioural development, or physical growth from earlier neutering, and the cat may actually be more tolerable of neutering at this age. For further information on earlier neutering please see the Cat Group policy statement 

Nutrition and weight management

Record the bodyweight of the kitten at each visit. Body condition scoring (BCS) is not validated for Kittens but palpation of fat and muscle distribution can be performed to ensure the Kitten is developing appropriately. 

Because of their rapid growth, different nutritional requirements and maturation of their intestinal tract and immune system, kittens should receive a food specifically designed for their life stage. Discussions regarding feeding strategies and prevention of excess weight gain are also well worthwhile as the kitten gets older, especially after neutering.  

Additional points to consider include

Ensure every opportunity is taken to bond the owner to the clinic and embark on a lifelong partnership of preventive healthcare. Information on preventive healthcare should be provided in a structured way over at least 3 to 4 visits, to avoid overloading owners with too much information at one time, studies have shown that only 1-2 key points are recalled from each consultation.  

During examinations, particular attention should be paid to the possibility of any congenital defects (e.g., umbilical hernia, cleft palate, heart murmur). Remember that cats’ testicles are descended from birth so both should be palatable on Kitten examinations. With pedigree Kittens, consideration should be given to known inherited defects and genetic testing offered if available and appropriate. 

Inherited disorders in cats

Oral/dental examination and regular teeth brushing should be encouraged and is most likely to be successful if started at this 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.  

The need for permanent identification (microchipping) for all cats and, if an owner wishes to use a collar, ensuring that only safety (quick release) collars are used. 

Identifying your cat