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Health Problems Affecting Kittens & Young Cats Print E-mail

Health Problems Affecting Kittens & Young Cats - Newborn kittens are born with their eyes closed, and spend most of their time sleeping and nursing. In fact they spend up to eight hours a day nursing. They open their eyes after about eight days, and their ears begin to open at between five to eight days. Their welfare is looked after by their mother, who will keep the nest and the kittens clean. It is inadvisable to disturb the kittens by human contact for the first few weeks, but contact is quite important after about six weeks, so that they can adjust to their new role as pets.

The condition of the newborn kitten can be monitored by keeping an eye on their body temperature and weight. Healthy kittens are energetic, especially when nursing, but sick kittens are limp, cold; and show little interest in nursing. Whereas healthy kittens seldom cry, crying indicates that the kitten is cold, hungry, or in pain. Not all the kittens in a litter may survive, and such sickly kittens may be pushed out of the nest by the mother. A warm room is essential if the kittens are to survive, as kittens have little fat and cannot constrict their surface blood vessels to retain heat. The nest should be kept at between 29 and 32 degrees Celsius for the first week. Afterwards, it can be decreased by 2 degrees per week until it reaches 21 degrees Celsius. A chilled kitten can be warmed by a human body heat. Carefully take the kitten and put it next to your skin for two to three hours until it warms.

A healthy kitten should gain weight steadily, and double its birth weight after about seven to nine days. After five weeks it should weigh about 450 grams (one pound). The kittens should be weighed on a gram scale every day for the first two weeks, and then every three days until they are about a month old. If a kitten fails to gain weight, it indicates poor prospects of survival.

During the first two weeks of life kittens are at risk from various neonatal illnesses, i.e. illnesses related to their recent birth. From five to twelve weeks, the kittens are more susceptible to infections.

This section of our website considers some of the more common conditions that can affect a kitten’s health including inherited birth defects, septicaemia, newborn anemia, chlamydial infection, toxic milk, skin infections, umbilical infection and viral pneumonia.

Please note however that if suspect your kitten is ill you should seek advice from your veterinarian as soon as possible.

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