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Scratching Post: Kittens and Upper Respiratory Infections

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

Q. I recently adopted a kitten from the shelter and they said it had a minor URI? What does that mean, and do I need to come see you for it?

A. Ah yes…  the dreaded upper respiratory infection (URI) that each kitten seems to come with whether it is from a shelter or a rescue. And it’s normal!

It is not fault or lack of care to the cat at the shelter or rescue group. What you need to remember is that all babies have a less-than-stellar immune system. Just like human children, they tend to get sick quicker and sometimes often.

Many of the kittens that shelters or rescues receive come with very little to no background of the husbandry where they were found, such as if the mother cat was healthy, etc… The groups simply accept the babies for who they are and triage them accordingly. They do their best with making sure they are FeLV/FIV negative, start their vaccine series, de-flea them and even routinely deworm them.

So why is your kitten sick? Simply because they have a compromised immune system.

Kittens are under a lot of stress when they are separated from mom. While foster humans are great, they cannot replace what mama cat does. A kitten that has been well taken care of by their mother looks vastly different than a foster bottle baby in body weight, size, coat health etc.

When kittens are born, they have their mother’s immune system running around in their bodies, but as they get older, they develop their own immune system and the former immune system from mom eventually wears away. Some kittens have immune systems that simply cannot handle common infections that kittens get, and they need some extra help with supportive care and antibiotics. Some other kittens simply sneeze for a few weeks and the URI is gone on its own. URI symptoms can range from a bout of the sniffles to goopy eyes, runny nose, sneezing and difficulty breathing.

Now let’s get back to your new kitten. Does she need a visit to the vet because of this URI from the shelter? Yes!

Make an appointment. We want to make sure your new kitten’s lungs sound clear, that she doesn’t have conjunctivitis with the URI (many of them do develop it), and that we can catch any secondary infections quickly. Plus we can determine if it is safe for you to bring this kitten home to a multiple cat household. Just because your cats are current on vaccines does not necessarily mean your adult cats won’t catch what your kitten has (no vaccine is 100 percent, and your kitten may have something the vaccine does not even cover).

As soon as you adopt your new kitten, give us a call to set up an appointment or make an appointment with your regular veterinarian.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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