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Kitten and Cat Health Checklist

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Having your cat health checklist prepared before you commit to getting a young cat or kitten is the best thing you can do for your new pet.

At around six weeks old, a kitten will stop drinking their mother’s milk, meaning their maternal antibodies will start to wear off. Preparation means your kitten can go smoothly from mummy-based healthcare to human-based care.

Here we’ll be going over your cat health care checklist for the first year of their life. From when to schedule vaccines and worming, to whether you should desex, and more! Read on to help set your cat up for the best health journey you can.

Cat health checklist timelines – the first year

A kitten should be ready to leave their mother and move into their forever homes from about 12 weeks old. However, some people do adopt earlier than this, at around eight weeks. And before the 12 week mark, there are quite a few health care milestones that should have been ticked off already.

Here’s a summary of an approximate timeline for your cat health checklist. Your vet might advise you on a slightly different schedule depending on your cat, but the general pattern is something like this:

Cat health checklist for the essentials

2 weeksWormingRoutine
6 weeksVaccinationsRoutine
8 weeks Flea and tick controlRoutine
12 weeksMicrochippingOne-off
16 weeksDesexingOne-off
24 weeksDental hygieneRoutine

Let’s look at each of these in a bit more detail.

three kittens together. A cat health checklist can help these kittens grow strong and healthy

2 weeks: the lowdown on worming

Worming is a major part of routine pet care because worm infestations can make your cat or kitten very sick. The exact dosage and schedule for worming will vary depending on your cat’s age, the type of wormer you use, and your cat’s lifestyle.

The most common worms found in Australian cats are tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Kittens are actually quite commonly born with worms, so getting them under control via worming medication is important. Some of these nasties can also lead to kitten diarrhoea – so prevention is best!

Here’s what most kitten worming schedules look like in the first year:

2-12 weeksApproximately every two weeks (usually a half dose)
12 weeks-6 monthsApproximately every month
6 months onwardsApproximately every three months

Oh, and if the thought of worms in your pet wasn’t bad enough, remember they can infect humans too. Urgh. So follow your vet’s advice for worming carefully!

Next up on the cat health checklist is your kitten’s vaccination schedule…

a woman holds her cat who is recovering from a bite from another cat - thankfully the other owner's third party liability helped pay for treatment costs

6 weeks: Start vaccinating

At six weeks old it’s time for their first jabs. Vaccinating is important because vaccines provide protection against all kinds of illnesses and take place of the immunity they initially receive through drinking their mother’s milk.  

Any cat health checklist will include core vaccinations, as well as maybe some optional or non-core vaccinations. This largely depends on your cat, their lifestyle, and where you live.

Core vaccines

Core vaccinations are the non-optional vaccines that your cat requires. In Australia, these are:

  • Feline panleukopenia virus/feline parvovirus (FPV). FPV is a contagious viral disease that can cause a range of symptoms from lethargy and loss of appetite to vomiting and death. FPV can affect cats of any age. However, symptoms are usually only seen in young, unvaccinated kittens.
  • Feline herpesvirus (FHV-1). Also called feline viral rhinotracheitis, this is one of the biggest causes of upper-respiratory-tract infections in cats.
  • Feline calicivirus (FCV). FCV is a contagious virus that can cause a range of illnesses from upper-respiratory infections to oral disease.

Your kitten’s core vaccination schedule will look something like this:

6-16 weeksEvery two to four weeksFPV, FHV-1, FCV
6-12 monthsOptional follow up boosterFPV, FHV-1, FCV
every 1-3 yearsAnnual boosterFPV, FHV-1, FCV

Non-core vaccines

Non-core vaccines aren’t always needed, but might be – depending on your cat’s individual circumstances. Your vet might recommend specific non-core vaccinations for your cat’s health checklist.  These could include feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV, which can cause feline AIDS) and feline chlamydiosis.

If you adopt a cat that is already older than a year, your vet might recommend an altered vaccination schedule to ensure their immunity. This depends on factors like their history and past kennelling environment.

Next up: fleas and ticks. We know, gross. But necessary.

8 weeks: Tick and flea treatments for cat health

Fleas are parasites that bite your cat and leave eggs and larvae not only on your cat, but around your home. They can cause itchy skin and even anaemia in severe cases. Plus, they can get into our furnishings and carpets, making your life a misery. Flea infestations are often at their worst during summer, but they can survive year round.

Ticks are another type of parasite and arguably far more dangerous. Other than tick bite fever they can also cause paralysis and ehrlichiosis in dogs and cats. So in short, tick bites can be very serious and even fatal.

Flea and tick treatments are often combined treatments. But remember, none is 100% effective against ticks so you still need to check your cat regularly and be vigilant. To make sure you understand the risks and know how to minimise them, read our article about tick and flea treatment for pets in Australia.

Depending on what your vet recommends, your kitten will usually start tick and flea treatment from around eight weeks old. This normally comes in the form of a gel you put on the back of your cat’s neck, like Bravecto.

8-12 weeksFirst treatment between eight and 12 weeks
every 3 monthsOngoing treatments every three months
According to The International Cat Association (TICA) there are 71 different kinds of felines.

12 weeks: Microchips keep your cat safe

Legally speaking, it’s compulsory to microchip your cat across Australia, except for the Northern Territory and South Australia. Each area has their own rules about what age a cat should be microchipped, but you can usually do it from around 12 weeks old.

And even if it’s not legally mandated in your area, it’s the safest choice. Microchipped cats are 20 times more likely to be returned home if they end up in a shelter than non-microchipped cats. Plus, it’s a quick and painless procedure.

For more details, find out what else you need to know about microchipping your cat.

16 weeks: Neutering and spaying

If nobody ever desexed their cats, imagine the way the cat population would grow. Even for cat lovers, that’s a bit of a nightmare – way too many cats would end up homeless and neglected. But overpopulation and unethical breeding isn’t the only reason desexing your cat is important.

In fact, there are some health benefits (and the occasional drawback) that desexing is related to. Read our article on spay and neuter for your cat to find out more about this procedure. Of course desexing isn’t mandatory, but it is advisable, especially if you aren’t planning to breed (responsibly) with your cat.

Four months is typically the earliest you should take your kitten for desexing.

dental care should be part of your cat health checklist

Six months: Sparkly whites

Dental hygiene isn’t only for humans. When your cat’s milk teeth have fallen out and been replaced by their adult teeth (which usually happens around six months) it’s time for a dental regime to start.

You might be surprised to hear your cat health checklist should include brushing their teeth daily. This is alongside an annual vet check up for a deep clean, of course. Read cat teeth to find out about how to brush your cat’s teeth, why it’s important, and what you’ll protect against.

Insurance for your cat health checklist

Routine care as well as emergency care is easy to provide if you have cat insurance.

Taking a policy out while they’re still young is usually recommended. Not only will you be covered for conditions before they develop (insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions), you’ll potentially save thousands in vet bills over your cat’s life.  

Plus, if you sign up online with us, you get one or more months of free insurance with no lock in contract!

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