We take all our kittens to the Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center for their veterinary care. Being a teaching center, the students thoroughly check every kitten and provide us with a very detailed description of their findings. Each kitten is then re-examined by an instructor who checks their work. Because of this, the students write down every observation including things that are generally considered very normal for healthy kittens and even adult cats. In our experience, most veterinarians would not report the following "common kitten findings" that you may see reported in your kitten's medical history: grade 1 luxating patellas, y-sutures, hyaloid artery remnants, grade 1 innocent heart murmur, mild ocular and nasal crusting, incipient cataracts, persistent pupillary membrane, mixed dentition, waxy debris in ears, barbered whiskers, mild overbite or underbite, and physiologic nystagmus.
The instructors at the veterinary school have assured us that a lot of these common findings are seen in many, if not most, kittens and even healthy adult cats. We send a copy of all medical records with your new kitten to ensure a smooth transition to your family vet. If you notice any common kitten findings in these records, please refer to the sections below for details. In all the kittens we have placed over the years, none of the common kitten findings have resulted in any health issues. In most cases these findings have resolved by the time the kitten arrives in his or her new home. If the veterinary students or instructors do find any issues that are a potential health concern, we will notify you after their appointment. Otherwise, rest assured that your kitten is very healthy and happy. Kitten health is one of our top priorities and over the years we have worked to ensure our breeders are healthy and free of any known genetic defects or diseases.
Luxating Patellas or Patellar laxity
Patella is a fancy name for knee caps. It can be common in kittens for there to be mild luxating patellas or patellar laxity. This just means that the knee caps are a little looser than would be normal in an adult cat. Most of the time these "loose knees" are gone by the time the kitten comes to you, but occasionally a little laxity remains. Luxating patellas are rated on a scale of 1 to 4, one being the tightest and four being the loosest. We have never had a kitten with a rating higher than a 1, which means that outside force is needed for the kneecap to move out of position. If your kitten has grade 1 luxating patellas it is nothing to be concerned about. We have never had a kitten that has not had their patellas firm up as they mature. Our vet just wants to make a note, so that your vet can continue to monitor the knees and make sure they continue to firm up normally. If for some reason your kitten had a higher rating of luxating patellas we would definitely let you know, since the higher ratings could mean more possibility of trouble in the future. As it is - our vet is confident that even if the mild form we usually see in our kittens remains, it is very unlikely to cause future problems for your kitten.
A kitten's eye lens forms by 3 pieces coming together to form the whole. The result is a y-joining where these pieces have come together. It is fairly common for the vet to see y-sutures when we take the kittens in for their first appointment. This is a remnant of where the lens has joined during development. These will commonly continue to fade to where they are barely visible. They will usually not cause future problems for your kitten unless they remain very prominent, which is not very common. It is again, something that our vet wants your vet to know, so that the kitten can be observed to make sure all continues to go well with their development.
Hyaloid Artery Remnant
The Hyaloid Artery feeds the lens of the eye as it is developing. After development is complete the artery recedes and disappears. It is fairly common that a little bit of this artery will still be seen by our vet. This artery normally continues to fade and go away completely, but sometimes a faint remnant remains. When this happens, there is a very small risk of cataract formation where it attaches.
Grade 1 or 2 heart murmur - or innocent kitten murmur
The first time we heard that one of our kittens had a heart murmur was a very scary time for us. We asked many questions and needed many reassurances from our vet. For this reason, we know how you might be feeling if you have found out that your kitten has a heart murmur. Since that first scare, we have come to realize that this is very common for kittens (and puppies, and even humans). We have had at least one kitten in every litter with a grade 1 heart murmur. Heart murmurs are graded 1 to 6 - with one being the softest and 6 being the loudest. All of the grade 1 heart murmurs that our kittens have had are gone before they are 6 months old. We've also had several kittens with grade 2 heart murmurs, which have all gone away as well (it just takes a little longer). The tendency for these murmurs to disappear is why vets will call them innocent kitten murmurs. For this reason - we consider a grade 1 or 2 murmur to be a common kitten finding that will go away with time. The following website has quotes from many sources about innocent murmurs, in the first section. It also talks about HCM which is a heart condition associated with Ragdolls. We can thankfully say that all our breeders have tested double negative for the HCM gene, so your kitten will not inherit the genetic form of HCM.
Mild Ocular and Nasal Crusting
These are the dark crusty things (sometimes called "sleep") that cats and kittens can get in their eyes and/or nose. Our vet has said that this is perfectly normal and that our kittens have a lot less than most cats she sees. The herpes virus is most likely the cause of the "crust". It is estimated that 90% to 95% of all cats get the herpes virus, which is why most cats have ocular and/or nasal crusting. In most cats, a few minor cold-like symptoms appear (sneezing, etc.), but only for a short while. They usually continue to have the black "crust" for a little while longer, but then even those will go away. The crusting might return occasionally if the cat/kitten is under stress of some sort (transition to a new home, etc). This is because the herpes virus never really leaves their system and can flair up when they are under stress. For a human comparison, think of the virus that gives us cold sores or canker sores, which is also a herpes virus. Almost all of us have had it and it can flair up from time to time if we are under stress of some sort. Herpes in cats is very similar and shouldn’t cause any severe problems for your kitten. However, just like in humans, sometimes instead of the mild reaction cats will have severe reactions to the virus. When this happens it usually presents when they are kittens. Instead of the crusting, the severe reaction can lead to big ulcers forming in their eyes and nasal passage. Thankfully, none of our kittens have ever had a severe reaction. Nevertheless, I have asked our vet many times if there is any way I can prevent herpes or make our cats’ response to the herpes even better than it already is. She assured us that our cats have one of the mildest herpes responses that she sees and there is really nothing I can do except give l-lysine when they are old enough, which can help alleviate the symptoms more quickly. We do this on a regular basis for our kittens when they are old enough just to help them with the virus as much as we can, since we have no way of preventing it. Most of our cats get over the virus and never have any trouble again. But if your ragdoll has a flair-up later in life, l-lysine is always the best treatment to help them fight it off. Ask your vet about where you can get this treatment or contact us and we will give you the doses that our vet recommends.
Incipient cataracts are rarely a concern in cats, unlike in dogs and humans, because they rarely progress. Cats with cataracts should not be used as breeders in case they are hereditary, but cataracts in cats usually grow very slowly, if at all, and so rarely cause any vision problems and hardly ever require surgery. If an incipient cataract is found in our kittens it is usually very small and does not affect the kitten's vision. We had a board certified ophthalmologist check the incipient cataracts in a few kittens and in every case he agreed that they posed no health concern.
Remnant of the Pupillary Membrane
This may be noted if the pupillary membrane is still visible. This is a part of the eye that is present during development and then usually degrades by the time a kitten is born. However, we will occasionally still see it when they are young and it is likely to regress with age. If it doesn't, it should pose no health concerns.
This means the kitten is already getting his or her adult teeth!
If a kitten has barbered whiskers it is almost certainly because they are playing hard with the other kittens and so some of their whiskers may have broken off at the ends. Don't worry, they'll grow back!
The vets will occasionally mention that the kitten has some normal waxy debris in their ears (they really do write down everything!).
Mild Overbite or Underbite
In young kittens one jaw bone may occasionally grow a little faster than the other. If this occurs, the vets may note a mild over or under bite. This is very common and is rarely a concern. It is usually very slight and is corrected by the next vet appointment.
Physiologic nystagmus is normal for any blue eyed cat with oriental hereditary. If one of our kittens has a physiologic nystagmus, it is usually very mild and hard to see with the naked eye. Here is a video of a cat with physiologic nystagmus.
The cat in the video has a pretty large quiver (meaning it is very noticeable). In most cases the movement is much smaller and you have to look very closely to see it. You would not notice it across the room, for instance, and might not even notice it if you are looking into the cat's eyes. The caption under this video explains the nystagmus in this way:
"According to "ASPCA Complete Guide to Cats," Siamese are prone to a condition called nystagmus, also known as quivering eyes. This causes the cat's eyes to jerk back and forth as if they were watching a tennis match. In some cats, this movement is slight, giving the appearance the eyes are quivering. Most cat breeders will remove cats with this condition from their breeding programs. Bottom line...this is not a health concern for the cat...it just looks weird!"
We do not see the nystagmus much in our kittens, but we have seen it. Since it is common in oriental breeds it has never been a concern to our vets.