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Norwegian Forest Cat kittens sat together in black and white

Taking care of your kitten’s health

The early months of your kitten's life are a time of incredible growth and development. By taking care of their health at this vital stage you'll set the foundations for a healthy future together.

Seven tips to keep your kitten healthy

There are lot of simple ways to take care of their health and happiness. Here are some top tips from Royal Canin’s vets and nutritionists.

1. Learn to read your kitten’s body language so you know when they might be feeling ill. If you sense something isn’t right, speak to your vet.

2. Make sure your kitten gets the right nutrition from a specialist, well-balanced kitten diet.

3. Kittens need lots of sleep, so make sure they have a comfortable, quiet place to rest.

4. Make sure to never wake a kitten while they're sleeping

5. Kittens also need to exercise and enjoy company, so make time to play with them.

6. Help to build your kitten’s confidence by ensuring they’re regularly handled by a variety of people.

7. Always follow your vet’s recommended vaccination schedule.

 Pack shot of kitten products

Kitten Growth Program

Discover our ROYAL CANIN® Kitten Growth Program, a 3-stage feeding program created for all kittens up to one year old to feed their specific needs.

Your kitten's first visit to the vet

It’s important to take your kitten to the vet soon after they come home with you. Your vet will need to carry out a number of important checks and treatments, such as vaccinations and worming. This is a great opportunity to learn about your kitten’s health and how to care for them.

First vet visit

Vaccinating your kitten

Vaccinations are vital to reinforce your kitten’s natural defences and protect them against a range of contagious, sometimes fatal, diseases.

The recommended kitten vaccinations protect against diseases including:

  • Feline leukaemia – weakens the immune system and dramatically increases vulnerability to infections.
  • Feline calicivirus (FCV) – highly contagious and a major cause of respiratory infections. This condition is transmitted by direct contact with eyes or nose of infected cats or contact of contaminated objects, such as bowls or toys.
  • Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) – an often-fatal viral disease that causes vomiting. A cat may also experience diarrhoea, but this is not always present.
  • Feline herpes virus (FHV-1) – a key cause of cat flu and eye disease.
  • Rabies virus (RV) – transmitted by saliva of an infected animal and can be introduced beneath the skin from bites wounds.

There are also other vaccinations that your kitten may need. Your vet can advise what’s best for them.

It’s really important your kitten has the right vaccinations at the right age to ensure their health and wellbeing as they grow. Your vet will be able to assess the risks your kitten faces and create a detailed kitten vaccination schedule to suit them and their needs.

The ideal age for your kitten’s first vaccination is when they’re between six and nine weeks. Check with your kitten’s previous owner, as they may already have had their first vaccination by the time you bring them home.

Your kitten’s vaccinations will be most effective if they have booster vaccinations at specific times. To maintain the cat’s immunity through adulthood, vaccines are repeated once every 1-3 years, depending on individual circumstances and vaccine type.

Your kitten may have some of these common symptoms after their vaccinations:

  • Mild fever.
  • Less interest in food or activity.
  • Discomfort or swelling where they were vaccinated.
  • Mild sneezing or coughing.

If these symptoms last for more than a day or two, it’s important to contact your vet.

You should also contact your vet immediately if your kitten has less common side effects. These can include:

  • Vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Swelling around the face, neck and mouth.
  • Difficulty breathing or severe coughing.

Worming and sterilisation in kittens

Preventing worms in kittens

As your kitten’s immune system is still developing, they’re more prone to catching worms than adult cats. Worms are internal parasites and there are two types commonly found in kittens and cats:

  • Roundworms lodge in a kitten’s small intestine and form balls that can cause obstructions.
  • Tapeworms – fix onto the intestine walls and cause bloating, diarrhoea and sometimes damage to the kitten’s coat.
Ginger kitten outdoors walking through grass

What are the symptoms of worms?

There are several symptoms that might indicate your kitten has worms, including: Sickness, diarrhoea, a bloated abdomen, weight loss, poor coat quality, weakness, loss of energy, a sore bottom, vomiting and blood in the stool. If a kitten has lungworm, they may also experience coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath.
Kitten sleeping on a grey carpet

Worm treatment for kittens

As part of your kitten’s initial vaccination programme, they should receive regular deworming treatments. Your vet can also recommend ongoing deworming treatments based on your cat’s lifestyle - especially focussing on whether they go outdoors and if they come into contact with other cats.
Ginger kitten standing on a table being examined by a vet

Does my kitten need sterilising?

Sterilisation in female cats is called spaying and in male cats it’s called neutering – both prevent your cat from reproducing by stopping the production of eggs or sperm. They involve your cat having a small operation, which must be done by a vet under complete anaesthesia.

Tabby kitten being examined by a vet

The wider benefits of kitten neutering and spaying

As well as preventing unwanted litters, sterilising your kitten offers several other health and behavioural benefits too. For example, a female cat will stop emitting sex hormones that attract males and the symptoms of being in heat are reduced or removed. Your cat will also be less likely to stray or fight.

Two kittens standing on a wall outdoors

Some health benefits of spaying and neutering

After sterilisation, there’s less risk of mammary gland tumours, ovarian and uterine infections, and worm infections in females. Sterilisation will also reduce the risk of testicular cancer in males. Other benefits include prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, less strong smelling urine and less spraying.

Maine Coon kitten sitting outdoors in long grass

The best age for your kitten to be neutered or spayed

Normally, a kitten can be sterilised when puberty begins at around six to seven months. Your vet will be able to provide guidance relating specifically to your kitten.

Kitten sitting on a windowsill looking outside

After a kitten’s been sterilised, they usually gain weight more easily because their appetite increases but they become less active. To prevent your kitten becoming overweight, and the health issues linked to that, it’s important to adjust their diet – something your vet can also advise on.

Spotting the symptoms of illness

Knowing the common health issues your kitten might face, and how to spot the early signs, can help you feel reassured and take better care of your kitten.

Common health issues
British Shorthair kitten standing in black and white on a white background

The right nutrition can help your kitten to stay healthy

One of the most important influences on your kitten’s health is their diet. Kittens and cats have different nutritional needs at different ages. So feeding your kitten the right nutrients for their age and individual needs plays a huge part in ensuring their bone strength, skin and coat health, digestive comfort and more.

Age-specific nutrition for kittens

Between around four and eight weeks, kittens are ready to move on from their milk-only diet and can be weaned. Dry food can be mixed with water and/or formula at a ratio of 1:3 to get them used to the new textures. They still have an immature digestive system though, so need easily digestible food that meets the specific nutritional needs for this stage of development.

Your kitten still won’t be able to digest some nutrients, so will need food tailored to their digestive stage. This will ensure they get the nutrients and energy they need to grow, develop and stay healthy.

Your kitten’s digestive and immune systems are strengthening but still fragile. Although their growth rate and energy needs begin to slow, they still need food specially designed for developing kittens.

As your kitten gets close to its full adult weight at around 12 months, it will need to begin eating adult cat food in adult portions. Their specific nutritional needs will depend on their size and other factors such as their activity levels and whether they’ve been neutered. It is worth getting advice from your vet to ensure you make the switch to adult food at the right time for your cat.

Sacred Birman kitten in black and white eating from a white dish

Feeding your kitten

Get a deeper understanding of your kitten's nutritional needs and how to make sure they gain healthy eating habits.

Further reading