Maine Coon Kitten Health

Find all you need to know about vaccines, spaying and neutering, dental care and more for your new Maine Coon kitten.

By Elaine Wexler-Mitchell, DVM

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Maine Coon Cat Vet Visit
Your adorable, tuft-eared kitten will bring you years of companionship and fun — and all you need to do is ensure it stays healthy. Your kitten's first veterinary visit should take place within a day or two of new ownership. You want to be sure that your kitten is healthy and that you have veterinary care and advice you can count on.

If you already have a good relationship with a veterinarian, continue seeing that doctor. If you're looking for a new vet, consider getting a referral from friends, neighbors or coworkers. You want a trustworthy veterinarian who understands you and your cat. Your vet should be easy to communicate with and have a caring and helpful staff. Consider visiting a few clinics to check out their cleanliness and to see how friendly the staff members are.

During a kitten's first veterinary visit, there are a lot of issues to cover, including health, nutrition, behavior, grooming and husbandry. Even if you're an experienced cat owner, it's a good idea to get your veterinarian's opinion on these subjects. If you choose to look for information on the internet, remember that anyone can post anything on the internet. For every reliable internet source, there are even more sites offering untrue or incorrect information. Don't be afraid to go to your vet with a prepared list of questions. A good doctor wants to address all of your concerns and won't be offended by an organized owner.

Bring all of your kitten's records, including the purchase contract, and present them to the receptionist at the veterinary clinic. These items help the vet understand the care your kitten has previously received and will be the basis for further recommendations.

Testing Your Kitten
All kittens should be tested for internal parasites through a fecal examination. There are two parts to a proper fecal examination: a smear and a flotation. Most vets complete these tests while you wait, although some send them to an outside lab with results available the next day. You can bring a fecal sample to your visit, but a fresher sample obtained directly from the kitten (by a technician using a plastic loop) is preferable. The fecal exam checks for blood, bacteria, protozoa, worm segments and worm eggs.

Kittens should be checked for worms and dewormed whether or not they have diarrhea. The most common deworming treatments for kittens are oral medications. Depending on the type of worm, kittens are treated once or twice (three weeks apart). Protozoal parasites, such as Coccidia, Giardia and Trichomonas, have their own specific oral treatments.

All kittens should be tested for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). These viruses suppress a cat's immune system, and unfortunately, kittens that become sick from FeLV usually die. The viruses are passed from a queen to her kittens or by direct contact with an infected cat. Most breeders guarantee that their kittens are negative for these viruses in their contracts, and have tested all of their breeding queens and toms. If there's any question about your kitten's status, it should be tested by a quick, in-clinic blood test.

The Physical Exam
A thorough physical exam is very important to assessing your kitten's health. The vet will handle your Maine Coon kitten and check it from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail. During the exam, the vet will check the ears for mites and comb the coat to look for fleas or any skin problems. This is the external parasite exam. The vet will check the teeth to confirm the kitten's age and condition. A look under the tail will confirm the kitten's sex.

How the kitten responds to the exam tells the veterinarian some things about the kitten's temperament. Is the kitten easygoing and responsive? Is it timid? Is it aggressive? Will you as an owner need to work on handling it so it will be a better patient in the future? Cats can act differently at the veterinarian's office than they do at home, and this reaction indicates if the kitten has been well socialized.

Vaccinations
Breeders often vaccinate the kittens themselves, and if yours did this, bring the vaccine information to your kitten's first exam so your vet will know whether additional vaccination is necessary. If you acquire a kitten that's 16 weeks of age or older, the kitten vaccination series will likely have been completed.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners developed feline vaccination guidelines for veterinarians to use when making vaccination decisions, and these guidelines were updated in 2006. Numerous vaccines are available for cats, but your veterinarian's recommendations should be based on your individual kitten's lifestyle and risk factors. Vaccines aren't 100 percent effective, and vaccination is not without some minor risks, so vaccinating every cat with every vaccine is not recommended.

Vaccines are classified as core and non-core. The core vaccines recommended for all cats are the feline rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia combination vaccine (known as the three-way or FRCP vaccine), and the rabies vaccine (in states and municipalities where required).

Kittens can be vaccinated with the three-way vaccine as early as 6 weeks of age. The vaccine is repeated every three to four weeks until the kitten is 16 weeks of age. Rabies vaccines may be administered by a licensed veterinarian as early as 12 weeks of age.
Cats that are housed indoors have a low risk of being exposed to non-core infectious agents, but non-core feline vaccines might be appropriate in certain environmental situations. Non-core vaccines are available to protect against FeLV, FIV, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), Chlamydia felis, Bordetella and Giardia. If any of these vaccinations are recommended by your veterinarian, discuss the reasons why and make an educated decision.

Hopefully, your initial veterinary visit goes well and you and your healthy kitten are bonding and having fun. Your next veterinary visit will likely be to complete the vaccination series and for the spay or neuter surgery.

Sterilizing Your Kitten
There is no perfect age to sterilize your Maine Coon kitten. Surgery is possible from the age of 8 weeks on, but most veterinarians prefer to wait until at least 12 to 16 weeks, when the kitten is stronger, healthier and has completed its vaccination series. Female sterilization, called spaying, is the surgical removal the uterus and ovaries (ovariohysterectomy). Male sterilization, called neutering, removes the testes. These procedures are outpatient surgeries at most veterinary hospitals.

Maine Coon kittens reach puberty between 6 and 12 months of age. There are many good reasons to sterilize a kitten before it reaches puberty. Spaying before puberty significantly reduces the risk of mammary cancer in females, and spayed cats cannot develop inflamed or infected uteruses (metritis or pyometra). Sterilizing males before puberty helps prevent spraying, aggressive male behavior and the development of strong-smelling urine.

Breeding your cat may sound like fun, but it can be a lot of work and turn very expensive if things don't go as planned. The point of breeding purebreds is to produce beautiful, healthy cats. Good breeders look to improve traits and not propagate problems. They know about avoiding health and genetic issues. Not every cat in a litter will be show quality or have the perfect disposition.

It has become more common for breeders to sterilize kittens before selling them as pets, and if this is the case with your kitten, it's not a problem. It's a way for the breeder to be sure your cat will not reproduce.

Elaine Wexler-Mitchell, D.V.M., is the owner of The Cat Care Clinic, a feline-exclusive veterinary practice in Orange, California. In 1995, Dr. Wexler-Mitchell was board certified in feline practice. She is the former president of the Academy of Feline Medicine and was on the board of the American Association of Feline Practitioners for six years. Dr. Wexler-Mitchell has been a writer and editor for CAT FANCY magazine since 1993. She has written three books: The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Healthy Cat (Alpha, 1999), Guide to a Healthy Cat (Howell, 2003) and Ask the Vet for Cats (BowTie Press, 2004).
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