How is kittens' immunity different from adult cats?
Your kitten has a special defence system to help protect them as they grow and develop – its name is the immune system, and its mission is to assess threats and fight pathogens.
Luckily, the system is well thought out. It’s a network of organs, white blood cells, proteins (antibodies) and chemicals that constantly guard against bacteria, infections, viruses, parasites and harmful agents. It’s one of their most important defences against health conditions, especially in their early days of development, when they are still really fragile.
The immune system of an adult cat is much stronger than that of a kitten. that's why kittens need special support. The reason being that your kitten primarily gets their immunity from their mother’s colostrum (mother’s first milk) which serves to pass on some of the mother’s immune protection to the litter right after they’re born. Now this explains why it’s critical that a kitten starts suckling correctly immediately after birth.
Why do we need to assist kittens' immune system development?
Because the protection the kittens get from their mother doesn't last forever. It’s like a temporary shield to give them a kickstart in life but the protection gradually declines after around 5-6 weeks. Your kitten’s first vaccine will help them to be protected in their adult life against some of the most dangerous diseases (such as panleukopenia and cat flu) but their little body doesn’t ‘respond’ to vaccines until they’re around 9 weeks of age. This leaves a vulnerable 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.
During this time, which varies for each kitten, it’s critical that your kitten is kept in a hygienic place and fed with everything they need to grow stronger and healthier.
What type of food can help?
The quality of your kitten’s diet can play a big 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 (food for the good gut bacteria), can help your kitten by contributing to reinforce their natural defences.