Have you implemented the AAFP-AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines? - Veterinary Medicine
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Have you implemented the AAFP-AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines?
Pointers for cat owners permeate this handy resource and help ensure that all your feline patients are receiving the best care.


Retrovirus testing

The retrovirus status of cats informs both wellness and illness care. The panel recommends testing all cats for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infections when they are adopted, regardless of age. Retrovirus testing can be performed even on kittens a few days old. Cats with negative test results should be retested a minimum of 30 days later for FeLV and at least 60 days later for FIV. Antibody tests for FIV can detect antibodies passed in colostrum from an infected or vaccinated mother, which can be mistaken for infection in the kitten. Kittens with positive results for FIV antibodies should be retested every 60 days up to 6 months of age because FIV tests can detect antibodies passed from an infected or a vaccinated queen and give a false positive result; if a kitten becomes seronegative, it most likely was not infected. Retrovirus tests can diagnose only infection, not clinical disease, and cats with FeLV or FIV infections may live for many years.

Cats should be retested after exposure to an infected cat or a cat of unknown infection status before vaccination against FeLV or FIV and before entering group housing with cats of unknown retrovirus status. Cats living in households with other cats infected with FeLV or FIV should be tested annually unless they are isolated. Sick cats should be tested even if they have had negative test results in the past.14


The panel recommends that panleukopenia virus, herpesvirus-1, calicivirus, and rabies virus vaccines be given to all cats. Administer panleukopenia virus, herpesvirus-1, and calicivirus vaccines to kittens beginning as early as 6 weeks of age every three to four weeks until they are at least 16 weeks of age. Revaccinate one year later and then every three years. Give rabies virus vaccinations in accordance with local or state statutes.

The FeLV vaccine is highly recommended for all kittens because of unknown future lifestyle and for cats that go outdoors, have direct contact with cats of unknown status or that live in high turnover situations such as foster homes or other group housing, and cats that live with cats infected with FeLV. These cats should be revaccinated annually.15

Dental care

Education about oral healthcare is crucial at all life stages to increase awareness that cats need both home and veterinary dental care, especially since many owners do not know how common dental disease is in cats, how painful it can be, and how it threatens their cats' health and welfare.

Emphasize the value of tooth brushing in cats, particularly to owners of kittens since cats are most receptive at this age. For clients with older cats, show how they can encourage tooth brushing with positive interactions and rewards.

In addition to tooth brushing, a variety of dental products for homecare are available, including diets, treats, and chews. Efficacy of products is not equivalent, and the only dental products known to be effective are those approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council, which requires extensive standards to be met before certification.


Excellent resources are available to facilitate the design of a comprehensive, life-stage-targeted wellness care plan for each cat. Veterinarians, staff, and pet owners must communicate clearly to promote adherence to wellness plans and improve the quality of feline healthcare.16 The AAFP-AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines may be used as a concise template for this purpose.

C.A. Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, DACVN
Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine
The Ohio State University
Columbus, OH 43210


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