How is a kitten’s immunity different from that of an adult cat?
Your kitten has a special defence system to help protect them as they grow and develop – it’s called the immune system, and its mission is to assess threats and fight pathogens.
The immune system consists of a network of organs, white blood cells, proteins (antibodies) and chemicals that constantly guard against bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other potentially harmful agents. It’s one of their most important defences in the early days of their development, when they are still really fragile.
As the kitten’s immune system is still developing, it can benefit from additional support. A newborn kitten receives their first immunity from the passive transfer of antibodies from their mother’s colostrum (mother’s first milk). This is the reason that it is critical for a kitten to receive this first milk and begin suckling immediately after birth.
Because the protection the kitten gets from their mother doesn't last forever. It’s like a temporary shield while they are at their most vulnerable, but the protection gradually declines after around 5-6 weeks. Your kitten’s first vaccines are essential to help protect them from common and dangerous diseases such as panleukopenia and viruses that cause upper respiratory infections, but the maternal protection they receive from colostrum can prevent them from forming their own immune response to vaccination. This leaves a vulnerable period of time called the ‘immunity gap’ when the kitten has lost much of the protection from their mother but doesn’t yet have protection from vaccines and from their own antibodies.
What type of food can help?
Your kitten’s diet can play a role in helping to support their immune system, and it can make the ‘immunity gap’ a lot easier to manage. The right food, specially crafted with key nutrients such as antioxidants and prebiotics (a type of fibre that “feeds” the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract), can help your kitten by helping to reinforce their natural defences.