Bringing a new kitten into your home is an exciting experience. However, kittens are susceptible to several ailments during their first year of life. In order to make sure your new kitten stays happy and healthy, it’s important to be aware of these illnesses and know how to identify them.
Below are the five most common kitten health issues to keep an eye out for:
- Upper respiratory infections are very common in kittens. Characterized by coughing, sneezing, runny eyes and nose, this highly infectious ailment can wreak havoc on a young kitten’s health. Infection is common because bacteria are spread through common activities kittens engage in, such as grooming, hissing, or spitting at one another. Nasal and eye secretions are easily transferred during these activities. Toys, food bowls, and common sleeping areas can also transmit bacteria. Even a human who has handled an infected cat can infect another cat if they do not wash their hands.
- Ear mites are responsible for over half of all ear infections diagnosed in kittens. Infection is caused by tiny mites feeding on the oils and waxes in the kitten’s ear, eventually producing a black and brown discharge accompanied by itchy sores, inflammation, and a strong odor. Ear mites are highly contagious and spread by casual, skin-to-skin contact. If left untreated, the mites can cause blood vessels in the ear to burst because of excessive scratching, called aural hematoma. Humans are immune to this type of mite.
- Intestinal parasites are a common problem for both kittens and puppies. The three most common parasites found in kittens are roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. Roundworms are the most common, prevalent in 25-75% of kittens. These worms are transmitted by feces, ingesting rodents infected with roundworms, and through the breast milk of an infected mother. Hookworms are tiny parasites that can cause anemia and bloody, tarry stool. Tapeworms burrow their heads into the intestinal wall and break off their end sections, filled with eggs, to be passed in the feces. Sections of the tapeworm are easily identifiable by small, white or brown pellets similar in appearance to dry rice on or around the anus and bedding. Tapeworms are transmitted by accidental ingestion of infected fleas or dried eggs during grooming.
- Fleas are a continuous threat for kittens. These insects can cause severe anemia in highly infested individuals due to the kitten’s small size. Treating a flea infestation with prescription products also becomes more complicated due to the kitten’s light weight. Fleas are commonly associated with the transfer of many illnesses and parasites.
- Diarrhea can leave kittens severely dehydrated and can be life-threatening if precautions aren’t taken. Unfortunately, diarrhea is caused by a multitude of factors ranging from stress associated with moving, meeting new people, and leaving their mother, to abrupt changes in diet. Minimizing stress when bringing your kitten home is important, as well as gradual changes in diet.
Contact your veterinarian if you are concerned your kitten is suffering from any of these conditions. Keeping your kitten healthy is an important factor in developing a relationship with your new companion!