Fleas and worming
Your kitten may arrive with some little ‘passengers’ which aren’t good for your health, so regular worming and flea control are essential.
She could have dog or cat fleas – fleas aren’t picky, they’ll feast off either species quite happily, and as well as causing itching, they also transmit worms, and will bite humans too. Your kitten’s previous owner should have treated the kittens before they left their Mum, but you should keep an eye out for any outbreaks – look out for black specks along your kitten’s spine, or when you comb her, wipe the comb on a damp tissue – red or black specks mean she has fleas.
If she has fleas, you’ll need to treat your kitten, her bed and the house itself, ideally with a product which ‘breaks’ the flea’s lifecycle, otherwise re-infestation will keep on occurring. The simplest method is one of the ‘spot-on’ products your vet recommends. Make sure whatever you use is specifically designed for felines – those for dogs can be harmful.
Worms are parasites which live in the kitten’s intestines, affecting how she digests her food and how much goodness she can extract from it. They are much more common if your kitten goes outdoors a lot, and especially if she turns out to be a hunter.
Round worms and tape worms are the commonest types, round worms lodge in the kitten's small intestine, form balls and can cause intestinal obstructions. They can be detected by the presence of eggs in the kitten's droppings or on anal areas. Tape worms which fix onto the intestinal wall and cause bloating, diarrhoea and sometimes damage to the coat. They can be detected by the presence in stools of white disks rather like grains of rice.
Both are easily treated using veterinary medicines. Don’t be tempted by non-veterinary products, although cheaper they are not nearly as effective.
Ticks are picked up almost exclusively outdoors, and kittens are less susceptible to ticks than adult cats. They prefer to attach themselves around the neck and ears.
Ticks can cause inflammatory reactions where they are attached. The kitten must be treated with a complete acaricide, as prescribed by your vet, which will eliminate ticks without pain. Never pull on a tick to remove it as you risk leaving the head of the tick under the skin which can cause a very painful reaction in the kitten.
This ear infection is caused by mites living in the ear canal. The presence of an abundant blackish and waxy discharge and shaking the head or rubbing with the paw are usually signs of ear mites. Your vet can advise you on treatments.
Ringworm is difficult to diagnose because of the numerous symptoms it can induce. It is resistant, widely spread and contagious (including humans). Ringworm can effect almost all animals. Treatment is long and complex because all the animals need to be treated as well as their environment, and you should follow your vet’s advice very carefully.