The three-step kitten consultation
Feline-only clinics are becoming more popular and cat owners will often expect a customized approach for their pet. Here Cyril Berg describes how he welcomes new kittens to his cat-only practice.
Bonding new owners and their kittens to the practice should be planned carefully to ensure that all essential points relating to pet ownership are covered.
Offering a comprehensive preventative health program is beneficial to both the kitten and the practice.
Making a new kitten welcome to a veterinary clinic is very important, for three main reasons. It is beneficial for the cat‘s future health; it helps establish a good understanding between the pet and owner for their life together; and it aids in the development of the clinic. The veterinary team must be prepared to welcome each new kitten to the clinic using well-established procedures; it is essential that everyone knows their role and how to get the right messages across.
The different stages
|Age and gender
|Infectious disease and preventative medicine
|Behavioral and identification advice
|Third vaccination (if required)
|Good hygiene and health
|Behavioral and identification advice
|Virus tests and blood grouping
Box 1. The clinic aims to deal with the following factors during the three pediatric consultations.
Our clinic is accredited with the Cat Friendly Practice program, which has the aim of making “veterinary care less stressful for cats and their caregivers” 1. When the owner of a new kitten registers with our practice, we recommend three half-hour consultations when the kitten is between two and five months of age, with approximately one-month intervals between each one. We avoid longer consultations, as this can result in too much information being imparted, and which the new owners are unlikely to remember. Each consultation has specific aims and content (Box 1). If a planned subject is not covered during a consultation — e.g., because a medical problem is identified during the clinical examination — the clinician will record what has been discussed, and the point(s) which have not been addressed can be dealt with at a subsequent consultation.
We encourage all owners to sign up to our comprehensive medical monitoring service, which we call our “prevention plan” — this encompasses the three pediatric consults, vaccinations, parasite products, neutering, and a “kitten party”. This is a group session designed for owners with young (2-3.5 month old) kittens, with the idea of offering tips that help owners better understand and know their cat.
Visit 1: Introducing the idea of preventative medicine
Once we have welcomed the new kitten and owner to the practice, we start the first consultation by completing the patient‘s medical record, including information such as — Does the kitten have access to outdoors? What diet is fed? Is the cat insured? We discuss the principles of preventative medicine with the owner, explaining that cats grow quickly and that their needs will change as they mature. We explain that a cat may hide signs of illness or disease, and that it is essential for an owner to understand the issues involved in good medical monitoring, emphasizing that they should keep to our recommended program of visits to the clinic.
We then introduce the owner to our concept of the “health chain”, from kitten through to senior cat: this involves the three pediatric examinations, neutering, a health check at one year of age, and subsequent half-yearly examinations.
We then check the cat‘s age and gender — it is not uncommon for a “male” cat to be female, or vice versa — and undertake a full clinical exam. Assuming all is well, the first vaccination is administered and the kitten treated for internal and external parasites. We take this opportunity to show the owner how to give oral medication and how to place a pipette (with a flea treatment product) on the skin (Figure 1).
Identification of cats is compulsory in France, and we ensure that the owner is aware of this, and strongly recommend microchipping to help identify the cat if he/she strays from the house. We usually suggest that microchipping is done under anesthetic during neutering to minimize the chances of the kitten having unpleasant associations with the clinic.
We then provide some basic information on nutrition and advise that it is a good idea to introduce the kitten to different textures and smells. Owners are generally well aware of the importance of food in relation to their cat‘s health and will usually listen to our advice. However at our clinic, we prefer to go into full details regarding diet at the post-neutering check.
Lastly, during the first consultation we explain how to play with the kitten, the main idea being to discourage the kitten from playing with the owner’s hands or feet. The objective is for a kitten to respect its owners and not view them as potential prey. It is important that the kitten learns about touch, so we also ask the owners to gently handle their cat daily. Touching the cat’s mouth and teeth (Figure 2), holding the paws and extending the claws, and stroking the ventral abdomen and lower back are all recommended.
Visit 2: Territorial and behavioral aspects
We start the second consultation with the owner by reviewing their past month with the kitten. We confirm that the topics of the first consultation have been learned, in particular how to approach the kitten and how to react in the event of aggression, as well as how to play with him/her. We repeat the clinical examination, check for satisfactory growth — using both body condition scoring and weight — and observe the progress of his/her behavior. This allows us to recommend any changes that may be necessary. The second vaccine is administered, along with appropriate antiparasitic products, and we briefly advise about possible adverse reactions.
We recommend three half-hour consultations when the kitten is between two and five months of age; we avoid longer consultations, as this can result in too much information being imparted.
We then return to the idea that cats are territorial animals, and provide relevant advice (depending on whether the cat is indoor-only or has access to outside), such as emphasizing the benefits of environmental enrichment, and addressing issues regarding food intake, teaching a cat how to use a scratching post, etc.
Visit 3: Setting the stage for the future
Our last stage for the kitten involves a further medical examination, as well as monitoring its growth and behavior (Figure 3). If required, the final inoculation is given — depending on the vaccination protocol employed 2 — and we discuss the principles of good hygiene. This covers aspects such as skin and hair care (brushing and shampooing); brushing the teeth; cleaning the ears and eyes; and clipping the claws (Figure 4) (Figure 5).
We then give some tips on training, for example using food or treats to help teach the cat some simple commands, a few games, and how a clicker box can be used as a training aid.
We end by discussing neutering, explaining its advantages and drawbacks. The owner should be given all the information in order to make a decision about neutering. We describe the surgery, the anesthetic and pain management. We also suggest that the cat is microchipped whilst under anesthetic, and recommend that we carry out tests for FeLV and FIV viruses, and determine the blood group for possible future reference.
A kitten’s first visit to a veterinary clinic offers an ideal opportunity to educate the owner on how best to care for their pet. Key to this is the concept of preventative medicine, with an emphasis on regular clinical checks throughout the cat’s life to ensure optimal health. A structured approach to the initial consultations will ensure that all aspects of pet healthcare are covered, maximizing the likelihood that the owner is bonded to the practice.
https://www.catvets.com/cfp/cfp Accessed 10th October 2018.
Day MJ, Horzinek MC, Schultz RD, et al. Guidelines for the vaccinations of dogs and cats. J Small Anim Pract 2016;57;1. Available at; https://doi.org/10.1111/jsap.2_12431 Accessed 10th October 2018.