Kittens pose less of a risk of zoonotic transmission than puppies because they are not infected with zoonotic agents prenatally.
Thus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that kittens be treated every two weeks beginning the
third week of life, with treatments at 3, 5, 7 and 9 weeks of age (The CDC suggests puppies begin treatment at 2 weeks of
age.). It should be noted that piperazine, which does not kill hookworms, is the only product labeled for administration to
cats at the age of 3 weeks. Thus, none of the labeled products are approved for the suggested age of first treatment. Also,
given the excellent potential control of internal and external parasites in cats by the administration of the broad spectrum
or combination products, it seems worthwhile to build these products into the control program for kittens because they have
been looked at relative to the safety of repeated administration. Any such program could be supplemented with Drontal as needed
to provide roundworm and tapeworm control. Again, it is essential that kittens be protected from fleas.
Table 3: Treatment of kittens with additional products if beginning at 6 weeks of age on one of the broad-spectrum products
that also prevents heartworms
Thus, the first thing to do is to ensure that the queen is already on some form of flea control to protect the neonates from
fleas. (She should also already be on some form of internal parasite control program.). Then, if it is deemed necessary to
treat cats early in life, they could be treated at 3 weeks and 5 weeks of age with Drontal. (This is a week before the labeled
first treatment at 4 weeks of age, but there is no reason to believe that the pyrantel and praziquantel in these tablets would
hurt the kittens). Drontal will remove hookworms and roundworms like pyrantel, but will also prevent any infections of cats
with Dipylidium caninum. Then, at week 6 or 8, the cats could start on one of the monthly products that have been tested as
to their safety for repeated regular administration (Table 3). Cats could be treated with Drontal during the third, fifth
and seventh week of life and then started on Revolution® on week eight. If a cat begins on Heartgard®, it will be necessary
to continue treatment with Drontal on weeks seven and nine to ensure roundworm control. If a cat begins on Interceptor®, additional
internal parasite control is probably not necessary. Flea control in Heartgard or Interceptor® cats could begin with Program®
at the time of first administration of the monthly product, or it could begin at eight weeks with Frontline® Plus or Advantage®.
If kittens are noted to be infested with fleas, they could be treated with Capstar® beginning at four weeks to remove the
adults. If ear mite treatment is needed for the Heartgard or Interceptor cats, it could be provided with Revolution, Acarexx
or Milbemite. Tapeworms can be treated with Drontal, Droncit, or Cestex if they are diagnosed. Revolution and Frontline both
probably have effects against mange and fur mites, and these two products and Advantage probably all have efficacy against
the feline louse, Felicola subrostratus.
Thus, it should now be relatively easy to develop a program that will prevent infections with parasites in kittens and provide
assurance to owners that there cats are not going to be sources of potentially zoonotic parasites. Any control program needs
to be backed up with regular physical examinations and with regular fecal examinations. Kittens are going to continue to get
sick from a number of protozoan parasites, and perhaps, someday, it may be possible to also protect kittens from these agents.
Dr. Bowman received a master's degree and a doctorate in parasitology from Tulane University. He joined the faculty at Cornell
University in 1987 as an assistant professor of parasitology. In 1993, he became an associate professor. Dr. Bowman has also
worked as a research associate at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Bowman has special interests in soil-transmitted parasites, soil-parasite interactions, nematodes, especially ascaridoids,
apicomplexan protozoa and zoonotic diseases, parasites of wildlife.