Kittens will have different health risks depending on their lifestyle and history, including exposure to other cats and the level of care provided. Vaccination and parasite control history, health status of related cats, if known, and clinical signs of upper respiratory or parasitic disease are all important areas of focus. Nutritional status and weaning history are also important areas of inquiry as orphaned or undersocialized kittens may have behavior concerns.24 Changes in demeanor, activity level, and behavior are additionally key to note and trend over time.

Asking specific questions as to whether the kitten is displaying any unwanted behaviors, counselling clients on normal kitten behavior, and giving advice on positive methods to modify unwanted behavior are critical discussion points at this stage. Breed-related predispositions, signs of genetic disease, and the availability and accuracy of genetic testing to detect disease should be discussed when relevant.

The physical examination for kittens typically focuses on detection of congenital issues such as a heart murmur, hernia, or cleft palate. A detailed oral examination is performed to detect abnormalities of dentition. The use of fecal scoring charts is very helpful to ensure that the client can accurately identify stool consistency.25,26

Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., CareCredit, Dechra Veterinary Products, Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc., IDEXX Laboratories, Inc., Merck Animal Health, and Zoetis Petcare supported the development of the 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines and resources through an educational grant to AAHA