Pet Connection: Kittens, vets can be pals

When you bring home a kitten, the experience is likely his first big adventure in life. How you introduce him to his new family, home and veterinarian can set the tone for the rest of his life.

The first veterinary visit can be a high hurdle for him, but we have some tips to help things go smoothly and ensure happy repeat visits.

Take your time: Unless your kitten has the sniffles or will be meeting other cats in your home, give him a few days to get comfortable. If you have other cats, your new kitten should have a fecal exam, a negative result for the feline leukemia virus and his first set of vaccinations before he comes in contact with them.

Carry on: While he’s exploring his new room at home – you are confining him at first and not giving him the run of the house, right? – leave his carrier out. Stash treats and a toy inside it so he will enjoy going into it. It’s also a good idea to spritz the inside of the carrier with a comforting pheromone spray about an hour before you leave. That will help your kitten relax during the car ride.

Scout out the clinic before you go in: Leave your kitten in his carrier in the car while you sign in with the receptionist. If there are dogs in the lobby, ask the receptionist to call or text you when it’s time to go into the exam room. Then you can go there straightaway from the car, eliminating any time spent in the lobby with dogs.

Comfort first: A towel or soft blanket, also spritzed with pheromone spray, can give your kitten a sense of security. Place it on the exam table so he doesn’t have to stand or lie on cold, slick metal.

What to bring: Have on hand any veterinary records from the kitten’s breeder or the shelter from which you adopted him. These should indicate vaccinations or de-worming treatments the kitten may have had already. A fresh fecal sample, less than 24 hours old, will allow your veterinarian to check for internal parasites commonly seen in kittens, such as roundworms. When you collect the sample, remove it from the litter box as quickly as possible so it doesn’t dry out, and store it in the refrigerator in a closed container.

The exam: A full physical exam includes taking the temperature with a rectal or ear thermometer; listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope; palpating the abdomen; examining the skin and fur for signs of fleas, ringworm (a fungus) or sores; checking ears for the presence of mites; and checking teeth. This assessment will give you and your veterinarian a good picture of the kitten’s overall health.

Ask and tell: You may have questions about your kitten’s diet, safety, environment or activity level. 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. This is the time to mention whether your kitten will have access to the outdoors. That information helps the veterinarian determine which vaccines to recommend and how often they are given.

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker